| | | |

Where to Stay on Longboat Key, FL: Zota Beach Resort Review

There’s not many things I love in life more than a good beach vacation and for YEARS my family made an annual early summer trip to Longboat Key in Florida. I recently headed back to Longboat Key (just off Sarasota) for the first time in about 15 years. Since we used to vacation there, I have fond memories of the area and it’s a place I know pretty well. Honestly, not a ton had changed since I’d been there last (somewhat of a pleasant surprise) and it was pretty much exactly what I remembered. There’s something fun about revisiting places you vacationed as a child and seeing how the memories hold up. 

Where to Stay on Longboat Key

Sadly, my beloved Colony Beach and Tennis Resort (home to many childhood summers) is no more.  After many years of sitting abandoned, the property has recently been cleared to make way for a St Regis resort. And I’m not exactly mad about it. Honestly, when the St Regis finally opens, I think it’s going to make Longboat Key a REAL destination. This whole area is severely lacking a super nice place to stay. And the St Regis is definitely going to fill that void. I think it will ultimately draw people to this area that hadn’t considered it before. But alas, that looks like it’s still probably a couple of years away. So for now…here’s the scoop on where to stay on Longboat Key. 

Zota Beach Resort

This trip I stayed at the Zota Beach Resort. I must say, I had high hopes for this place (I’m always looking for the perfect beach resort in Florida) but it fell a little flat. Self advertised as Longboat Key’s newest “luxury resort,” the recently renovated property (previously the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort) makes a good first impression. The entry, lobby, and pool area all have a modern, polished vibe and visually pleasing aesthetic and that must be where they get the “luxury” tagline because there wasn’t anything else to suggest it. The room was ok but a little shabby and worn (this was actually the vibe in the lobby and common areas too…couches, furniture, anything upholstered, etc.) with a teeny tiny balcony. We stayed in the north tower which is the renovated tower, whereas the south tower is a new build. Maybe the rooms in the south tower were nicer? The balconies were considerably larger so just judging from the outside, you’re probably better off paying more to stay in the new south tower. 

All of that aside, the rest of my negative impressions may be due to COVID (or they may not since this was my only stay). Service everywhere was pretty lackluster and in general there were just waaaaaaayyyy too few people working there. There was no housekeeping and after 5 nights with three adults in a hotel room we found ourselves avoiding being in the room as much as possible. There was a provision where you could request to schedule a cleaning after the third night, but they were unable to get anyone to clean our room for the last two nights. Bummer. They were good about bringing fresh towels when we requested, but here’s the deal…changing out your towels, taking out the trash, making the beds, etc felt an awful lot like staying in a condo except we were in a small hotel room and it wasn’t exactly cheap. 

The food situation at the resort also wasn’t great. There’s one restaurant and a pool bar. We had a $50 credit daily to spend on food as part of our room rate and we struggled to be able to spend it! The first night we were there we just wanted a casual dinner (everyone had been in the pool) but the pool bar closed and they couldn’t seat us in the restaurant (it was crazy loud in there anyways) and no one would answer the phone to order room service. We ended up having to go back to the restaurant to see what was going on (turns out the hostess was also covering as a waitress and she was the one answering the phone for room service : ) In the end we were able to order take out from the restaurant and take it back to our room but it was just such an ordeal. We ended up just trying to use our credit on drinks from the bar in the afternoons (none of us ever had a drink that was halfway decent) so that credit ended up feeling pretty wasted. 

Long story short, if you’re going to stay here, you’ve got to have a car and plan to either leave property for every meal or go to Publix and stock up so you’ll have stuff for breakfast and lunch if you don’t want to leave. 

The service from the valet (mandatory valet parking is included in your resort fee) and the beach concierge (arranging umbrellas and chairs) was top notch. Bonus tip: if you’re traveling with kids, they have a ton of beach toys at the beach concierge hut for you to use (mostly stuff that’s been left behind by other guests). 

So, overall: this place is in no way, shape, or form on a “luxury” level especially if your definition of luxury is comparable to Four Seasons, St Regis, Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott, etc. I would say it was more like a high end Courtyard Marriott. So if you go in with those expectations, you’ll probably be happy. But if you’re expecting a true luxury resort, just know that this isn’t it. I think price also plays a big factor in expectations. The price for this stay averaged out to be $340/night and that was AFTER they removed three nights of resort fees (an extra $40/night). If this place had been about $200/night (INCLUDING the resort fee) I would have been pretty happy. But $340-380/night is in the ballpark of what I paid the month before to stay at the Don Cesar Hotel on St Pete Beach and there is absolutely no comparison. 

I’m really not sure how much weight to give the “COVID effect” here.  I understand that staffing is hard right now and there are a lot of extra challenges in the tourism industry so I get why they’re struggling. But I’ve also stayed at other places where the guest experience was handled much better. Part of traveling right now is paying more and getting a lot less. In my experience (as a pretty frequent traveler) it’s not as extreme everywhere but this was definitely a case of paying more and getting less. 

That being said, there just aren’t a whole lot of options for true hotel/resort like accommodations on Longboat Key, so if you can find it at a decent price, it’s worth a look at. 

Check pricing and read reviews here.

Other Places to Stay on Longboat Key

The Resort at Longboat Key Club: This is where I would stay next time. It was a little more expensive than the Zota Beach Resort for this trip so I went the other way but this place seems to be a true resort. It’s been recently renovated and it’s a pretty large property with full amenities (plus amazing golf, tennis, spa, etc.). Check pricing and read reviews here.

Longboat Key Condos & Vacation Rentals

Longboat Key is a GREAT place to find condos and vacation rentals. There are so many options from small cottages to luxury homes to upscale condo complexes, etc. And at all different price points! I book all of my condos and vacation rentals with Vrbo.

Click here to find the best condos and rentals on Longboat Key. You can filter for your wishlist (exact location, price, # of rooms, pet friendly, etc.). And if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll be pleased to find many options under $100/night.

Search for Longboat Key condos and vacation rentals here

I’ve rounded up a couple of places that I like the look of: 

Luxury Condo at L’Ambiance: Anything at L’Ambiance is divine (it’s part of the Longboat Key Club), but this luxury unit looks particularly lovely. Check it out here.

Chic Two-Bedroom with Resort Amenities: Perfect for longer stays (10-30 days), this condo is soooo chic plus the amenities at the complex are pretty swanky. Check it out here.

More posts about this area:

Siesta Key vs Anna Maria Island vs Longboat Key

Things to Do on Longboat Key

Where to Eat around Sarasota: My Favorite Spots

Things to Do on Anna Maria Island

The Ringling, Sarasota

P.S. If you want to follow along on my travel adventures in real time, you can follow me on Instagram (@caitylincoln). My post captions are full of travel tips and I have a ton of story highlights and videos with great info. And share my account with your travel loving friends! Your support really helps me keep this blog running!