(Above) © Beril Gutierrez

Why this is the year to reacquaint yourself with Sandpearl Resort and its surrounding attractions in Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

New at Sandpearl Resort

Newly Appointed Executive Chef

Chef Lahma LaFon, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate, has been with the culinary team at Sandpearl Resort for several years, starting as a line cook and quickly rising through its ranks. So much so, in 2019, he was appointed the executive chef in Caretta on the Gulf, the resort’s on-site AAA Four-Diamond restaurant (the only one in Clearwater), where he oversees the dining room, sushi, and raw bar. His cooking style is described as being based on simplicity, where he allows the regionally sourced foods to shine through rather than being overwhelmed with dozens of other flavors. That’s seen in items like the Diver scallops appetizer and main courses such as Golf grouper and butter-poached Maine lobster flown fresh daily.

A Renovated Gift Shop

Collections, the resort’s on-site boutique, was recently renovated to create a more inviting space and to better showcase its wares. Featuring new wooden floors, lighting, and furniture, the boutique goes beyond just resort wear for men and women but carries a hand-selected collection of items including art and jewelry by local artisans.

Collections gift shop

Girlfriend Getaway Packages

PopSugar.com ranked Clearwater Beach one of the Best Girlfriend Getaways for 2019, calling Sandpearl Resort the perfect home base. And for good reason too: The four-star, full-service resort offers suites that sleep up to six, private pool cabanas, four-star dining, and a 12,000-square-foot spa that was declared one of the top spas in North America by Condé Nast Traveler. Not to mention, new to The Spa at Sandpearl for 2019, three different Girlfriends Getaway Packages roll together a variety of spa amenities and offerings, including a variety of treatments, complimentary smoothies and yoga sessions, daily access to the spa sanctuary, and mimosas.

The pool at Sandpearl Resort

© The League Collective

A New Spa Skincare Line that Saves Animals

There are a couple of reasons why The Spa at Sandpearl can’t seem to keep its newest product line, FarmHouse Fresh, on the shelves. For one: The cult-favorite brand is truly what you would call “farm-to-treatment,” using fruits, vegetables, milks, and more from United States farms – including their own in McKinney, Texas – to create products that have made their brand a favorite body care line of numerous spas, hotels, and resorts. The second? Profits from product purchases are used to fund, rescue, and rehabilitate abused animals – dogs, cats, bunnies, horses, donkeys, and even turtles – that eventually come to live and be cared for at FarmHouse Fresh Ranch Headquarters, which doubles as a five-acre animal sanctuary run by the employees.

New in Clearwater & St Petersburg, Florida

Expanding the Ruth Eckerd Hall Experience

While the multi-phase $34 million renovation and expansion started on this 73,000-square-foot performing arts venue in Clearwater in 2015, the cultural institution just revealed its most extensive facelift to date in November of 2019. We’re talking about the $12-million 6,000-square-foot Grand Lobby. Designed by Clearwater’s Klar and Klar Architects, the airy, high-ceiling space features flowing lines, buxom swoops, glass walls, and a small cabaret stage surrounded by lounge tables. But perhaps the most Instagram-worthy feature? The splashy mural by Seminole artist Stephen Palladino that depicts a wall of paparazzi snapping shots as if the viewer was a celebrity walking down the red carpet – perfect for iPhone-toting patrons.

The new lobby at Ruth Eckerd Hall

Digital Experiences at The Dalí Museum

As if St. Petersburg’s Salvador Dalí Museum wasn’t impressive enough with its unparalleled collection of more than 2,400 Salvador Dalí works (including nearly 300 oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings), now there’s even more to be amazed by. New in 2019, on the 30th anniversary of the artist’s death, the iconic museum unveiled “Dalí Lives,” an exhibit that brings the iconic artist back to life using augmented and virtual reality. Essentially, visitors have the opportunity to learn more about Dalí’s life and work from the person who knew him best – the artist himself – through high-tech offerings that create a version of Dalí’s likeness.

New Residents at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

While the bottlenose dolphins may be the best-known residents of this aquarium dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sick and injured marine animals, it recently acquired some new feathered friends. If you’ve ever seen the Dolphin Tale movies (which are based on the animals of this aquarium), you might be familiar with the fun-loving Great White Pelican named Rufus. Well, Rufus – known as Ricky at the aquarium – was joined by three more pelicans in the new aviary habitat called Rufus Beach. Named Matthew, Tyndall, and Skylar Ann, the new pelicans are all named in honor of people who mean a lot to the aquarium – read their stories here.

Tyndall at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium

26 New Mural Artworks

Each year, in conjunction with downtown St. Pete’s annual two-week long SHINE Mural Festival, roughly 15 new murals are commissioned and produced. In 2019, however, a whopping 26 local and international artists were selected, with a call going out to the St. Pete art scene for local artists to be featured and selected. While it includes new work from international artists like Germany’s Low Bros, Jamaica’s Taj Tenfold, and Mexico’s Paola Delfin, some of the locally produced pieces you’ll want to seek out are by Palehorse, Princess Smith, and David Charlton. Want help finding them? Book a guided tour with St. Pete Mural Tour, offered every Saturday morning and visiting over 30 murals found in a four-block stretch.

Where to Stay Sandpearl Resort