“We live where you vacation” is a well-worn cliché about the Tampa Bay area, but it’s based in undeniable reality. Especially at this time of year — after the spring break crowds have gone home but before the breathtaking summer humidity truly sets in — there’s no better place to plan a vacation than your own city.
Whether you’ve introduced COVID-conscious traveling to your lifestyle or not, staycations have become a great break from the everyday with some tangible benefits for a local hospitality industry that is only beginning to recover from the pandemic. We could all use a little break after this past year. So pack a bag and plan a weekend or more exploring new places and spaces in Tampa, starting with these three new luxury hotels.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
A stay here is a step back in time to Cigar City’s early days with all the luxuries of 2021 Tampa. Hotel Haya was named for Ignacio Haya’s Haya y Sanchez cigar factory, and they’re keeping the tradition alive with a custom humidor right in the lobby and a cigar program curated by the J.C. Newman Cigar Company, Tampa’s last original family-run cigar business. “Our goal was always to serve as the hub of the neighborhood for both the local community and travelers searching for a differentiated and authentic experience,” says the hotel’s general manager, Pablo Molinari.
The décor pulls primarily on Spanish and Cuban influences, with Francisco Goya art lining the walls and warm color palettes. On the fourth floor, the Floridian Suite specifically calls upon Havana’s 1950s Golden Age with midcentury furniture and tiling, rich blues, brown and red tones, and a full wet bar, dining area and living area. Balconies overlook Seventh Avenue, so you can get as close to (or as far from) the brick-lined streets as you want.
Hotel Haya occupies a city block between Seventh and Eighth that has lots of new and interesting opportunities for exploration. The neighboring Florida Cane Distillery and Cigar City Cider & Mead have lots of options to try locally made beverages, while the Barterhouse and Copper Shaker are both independent spots to grab dinner and a craft cocktail.
Back at the hotel, James Beard Award nominee chef Douglas Rodriguez combined Ybor City’s Spanish, Cuban and Italian heritage to create the menu at Flor Fina. It’s a dream for seafood lovers, as Rodriguez is known as the “King of Ceviche.” He serves up four variations of the dish, including a tuna and watermelon version with yuzu, calamansi, tarragon, Thai basil and sesame seeds.
If you’re staying over a weekend, check the events calendar to see what the hotel has happening. Hotel Haya has just launched “chicken yoga” — a spin on the popular goat yoga, incorporating Ybor City’s most famous residents — in partnership with the spin and yoga studio Union Three. Followed by build-your-own-mimosas at brunch, it makes for a staycation to remember.
If you haven’t spent much time downtown in the past year, you may not recognize your own city. The new four-star JW Marriott is one of the first pieces of the 56-acre Water Street Tampa development around Amalie Arena to open, and it might make you forget you’re in Tampa.
At 27 stories, the tower cuts an imposing figure and allows for a soaring four-story lobby atrium and a massive wrap-around marble bar and lounge connected to the Driftlight restaurant. It’s a great spot to unwind (or people-watch) with one of the bar’s lightly Southern-inspired bar snacks and a cocktail (like the Sunshine Skyway, with Grey Goose, honey, ginger beer and citrus). The restaurant is currently only open for full breakfast service, with dinner expected to start this spring.
Snag one of the 1,200-square-foot JW Suites and have plenty of space to spread out and take in the skyline; these suites provide a 270-degree view of downtown, Harbour Island and the Hillsborough River, plus a separate living room and dining area, a soaking tub and a glass-walled shower. Aim high for the presidential suite, which features a full outdoor terrace, bar and meeting area fit for showing off your temporary home to family and friends.
After a morning stroll on the nearby Tampa Riverwalk, head to the JW’s sixth-floor rooftop for a dip in the heated pool, or really unwind at the spa. With a lounge, 10 treatment rooms, a retail boutique and yet-to-open rooftop warm mineral pools, the Spa by JW’s full menu of massages, facials, body exfoliation treatments and nail services is for the luxury staycationer. Once you’ve been thoroughly pampered and sit down to a light poolside dinner at the hotel’s SIX, you’ll hardly remember you’re a short drive from home.
BY THE SEASHORE
A little bit beachy chic, a little bit cosmopolitan cool, the Current Hotel sits on Rocky Point and reﬂects both sides of Tampa Bay’s personality. The Current embraces its waterside location, so you can unwind beside the waves at the bayfront pool or on its small private beach. In the evening, you don’t have to go far to catch one of the Bay area’s famous sunsets. Just head up to Rox, the rooftop bar on the Current’s 11th ﬂoor, for a smoked cocktail or craft beer and grab a seat by the full-length windows or out on the patio.
In addition to the typical creature comforts you expect from a luxury hotel, the Current also features Tampa favorites throughout the property to put the “stay” in staycation. Buddy Brew runs the coffee bar, while the “gift shop” is instead an Oxford Exchange boutique. And nameless, bland lobby art is gone; the hotel’s collection is curated to highlight local artists, with pieces rotating throughout the year. Then the hotel’s restaurant, Julian, takes its name from Julian H. Lifsey Jr., the developer of Rocky Point. The menu is simple but takes inspiration from Tampa’s cuisine, with dishes like short rib empanadas and jerk scallops, and incorporates local ingredients like Mike’s hot honey.
Upstairs, every room features water views through the ﬂoor-to-ceiling windows, so you can catch a glimpse of Tampa Bay from every angle. Sea-inspired gray, blue and light wood tones throughout the space are soothing and homey, while the chaise lounge overlooking the water will let you just watch the world go by — and maybe ﬁnd a little bit of peace while you’re at it.