Florida’s Gulf Coast Has a New Family-friendly Beachfront Hotel — Here’s Our Review

Located just outside Tampa, Mello on the Beach channels Palm Springs in the Sunshine State.

<p>Courtesy of Mello on the Beach</p>

Courtesy of Mello on the Beach

Living near downtown Tampa, I don’t get out to the beaches in the Tampa Bay area nearly as often as you might think. (Read: life.) But when I do, I usually set my sights on a day trip to the sublime stretch of sand along Anna Maria Island, about an hour’s drive south of my home and another world entirely.

My recent weekend stay with my husband and our two young kids at the newly-opened Mello on the Beach was nothing short of transporting. From the outside, the two-story hotel fronting Manatee Beach (at the southern end of Anna Maria Island in the area called Holmes Beach) looks a lot like other low-rise, retro Gulf Coast motels you find along much of this stretch of the Florida coast.

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

But when we pushed open the gate from the parking area and strolled onto the property to find colorful outdoor furnishings and cozy sitting areas shaded with palms greeting us outside our three-bedroom apartment, High Tide, we were all smiles.

Inside, there are even more colorful and fun design touches, starting with the spacious eat-in kitchen with a colorful terrazzo countertop and retro tiling on the walls. The living room, overlooking the hotel’s boomerang-shaped pool, had an oversized L-shaped couch, bright throw pillows surrounded by mid-century-inspired furnishings, and a retro rotary-style phone (that actually worked!) that my kids instantly gravitated to.

Jennifer Rosenthal, principal of Miami and New York City-based Studio J & Co, is behind the hotel’s playful design, which she says is “meant to reimagine what a Palm Springs hotel could feel like in a small beachside community like Anna Maria Island.”

“We wanted to create a retro yet elevated getaway with lots of Instagrammable moments for all guests alike,” Rosenthal says.

It’s a design and feel that works, as I felt at once whisked away to a mid-century Palm Springs mindset while also very grounded in a classic Florida beach getaway at the same time.

The hotel opened in July 2023 and has 11 units, all with full kitchens and private patios, spread between two stories and surrounded by tropical landscaping and a white picket fence. You can be down on the beach within a minute of closing the door to your unit — accessible via a code, so you don’t need to keep track of a card or key.

I found cheerfulness in just being at this hotel, thanks to the decor’s expert melding of color pops in the fresh white spaces and abstract patterns on the wall coverings mixed with soft and beachy textures throughout. (My kids clearly felt similarly and asked why High Tide couldn’t be our home.)

Anna Maria Island, loaded with vacation rentals, was lacking a stylish and modern beachfront stay like this one, and it’s clear Mello on the Beach filled a clear need. Locals living in the area who wandered by commented that they loved what had been done with the place, a result of demolishing the 1975 building that sat on the site previously.

While the comfort of our apartment was hard to leave, I loved making a coffee in the morning and walking down to the beach for a stroll alongside the water’s edge, lined with shore birds, at sunrise. My family and I spent days rotating between the pool, beach, and activity lawn for Jenga and ladder ball competitions, while the firepit was the perfect place to sit with a cocktail after catching the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.

Here, read on for Travel + Leisure's full review of Mello on the Beach.

Mello on the Beach

  • The hotel has a prime location with direct beach access and several laid-back, beachy restaurants within walking distance.

  • Accommodations include one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments with full kitchens and luxe linens in the bright and cheerful bedrooms.

  • An outdoor “activity lawn,” set just back from the dunes, has lawn games (corn hole, Jenga, and the like), tables, and Adirondack chairs around a giant fire pit for alfresco hangs.

  • The retro boomerang-shaped heated pool has giant inflatables, colorful tubes to relax on, and plenty of lounge chairs shaded by umbrellas.

  • The hotel’s vibrant, retro-inspired color pop design instantly boosts mood. 

The Rooms

The hotel’s one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments all have full kitchens with colorful terrazzo countertops, custom concrete tiling, and full-size washing machines and dryers, making them perfect for a night or much longer stay.

Units have playful names like Sol Mate, Hip Nautic, and Vitamin Sea, and the bedrooms each take on a unique color scheme, with white furnishings livened up with color-pop custom wall coverings and pretty wooden headboards. Touches like throw-back rotary phones in candy colors, beautiful coffee table books, and throw pillows with fun messages like Chill Pill add a homey touch.

Units also have private outdoor spaces with chairs and lawn furniture for relaxing in addition to the hotel’s public hangout areas, including the large pool deck and outdoor lawn games. All rentals include pool and beach towels, beach chairs, beach umbrellas, and personal coolers. The hotel even throws in pet accessories for four-legged friends, who are also welcome to stay the night.

Food and Drink

The hotel has no onsite restaurants or bars, but all units have full kitchens with all the utensils, pots, and pans you need for cooking meals.

Alternatively, an inexpensive little burger and hot dog joint, Skinny’s Place, is right across the street from the hotel and serves buffalo chicken, chili and grilled cheese. You don’t even need to cross the street to reach Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe, beachfront on the block just north of the hotel, with a happening little tiki bar, all-you-can-eat pancakes for breakfast every day of the week, and all kinds of salads, seafood platters, burgers, and sandwiches on the menu.

Activities and Amenities

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

With beach chairs, umbrellas, and a cooler all provided for you here, it’s just a few steps from your accommodations at Mello on the Beach to the sand, where towering pine trees shade a pretty picnic area alongside the dunes, and a wide beach awaits.

For guests who prefer to hang poolside, the property’s boomerang-shaped heated pool is lined with palm trees and lounge chairs shaded by umbrellas. Oversized inflatables add to the Instagram-friendly scene, along with poppy striped umbrellas — there’s a gorgeous tiled outdoor shower, too. The hotel’s activity lawn, set just back from the dunes and with beach views, is a fun place to gather off the sand on an astroturf surface stocked with lawn games surrounding a huge firepit and available barbecue grills. You can rent bicycles on the property to pedal north to Anna Maria Island’s top sights, including the fishing pier and many more beachfront cafes.

Family-Friendly Offerings

<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

With onsite bike rentals and an activity lawn stocked with free games, the property is designed to make family fun intuitive. My kids loved splashing around on the giant inflatables in the pool. That I could sit on High Tide’s patio with a coffee while watching them do a dawn patrol pool swim was a nice perk, too. An hour’s worth of free bike rentals is also included with your stay.

Accessibility and Sustainability

For an ADA-compliant room, book the ground-floor three-bedroom suite with a roll-in shower.


<p>Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure</p>

Terry Ward/Travel + Leisure

Right on Manatee Beach at the southern end of Anna Maria Island, the hotel fronts one of the Tampa Bay area’s prettiest stretches of sand. You’re about an hour’s drive south of Tampa, 45 minutes from downtown St. Petersburg and about 40 minutes north of Sarasota here. If your main vacation goal is to beach it, you could do without a car here most of the time, taking advantage of the free Island Trolley that stops right near the hotel to visit Bradenton Beach to the south and sights to the north on Anna Maria Island. However, it’s handy to have your own wheels to explore further afield in the area.

How to Get the Most Value Out of Your Stay

Mello on the Beach partners with Homes and Villas by Marriott, through which individual units can be rented. All Marriott Bonvoy members can earn or redeem points when booking through HVMI.

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