Cool Cocktails at Cool Lido Key Beach Bars
What beach is complete without a beach bar? And when in paradise, and a beach is nearby, what better opportunity for cool refreshments than a beach bar? Fortunately, I've been in training over the course of my lifetime (aka I like a good cocktail) and have had the opportunity to libate at some of the Caribbeans best beach bars like Foxy's, Soggy Dollar, Sunshine's, Ricks, Cow Wreck and many others. If you're like me I find there's a draw to a beach bar and the interesting people that frequent them.
To qualify as a "beach bar" (to me) there must be a bar and you must be able to see the beach from the bar. Kinda of a broad definition I know, but maybe I like bars and beaches and even more the combination of the two. Fortunately on Lido Key there are several of them that fit my definition and I'll give a summary of them in this blog.
It should be noted that each bar has opened a little differently in the interest of safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are letting patrons sit at the bar with social distancing while others have bar seating closed off entirely and are using it as a service bar for pool and beach patrons. Check before you go.
Sandcastle Pool Bar at the Sandcastle Hotel
The Sandcastle Pool Bar is located in the Sandcastle Hotel at the south end of the Key. There's a parking garage and some visitor spots out front. The bar is accessed through the main lobby past the pool towards the beach.
The bar is steps from the beach and seats around 20 people and more at the surrounding tables and pool side lounge chairs. The bar is open air, which can be challenging when it rains as there's limited cover. Around the bar there are several covered high tops but otherwise not much cover from the sun and other elements. There are usually a couple of servers handling the bar and also serving the hotel guests around the pool and at the beach. The bar menu covers the gamut and has a good selection of drinks, beer, wine and food items.
What I like most about this bar is the open feel especially with the ocean breeze that's always prevalent. Also some good people watching with the pools and beach just steps way. This hotel is scheduled to be demolished in 2021 and a new hotel built in its place by the Opal Group. I'm already looking forward to the new bar and if it's like any of their newer properties that I've visited it will be a destination!
On a historical note this hotel was previously owned by New York hotel heiress Leona Helmsley who willed her Maltese dog named 'Trouble' $12M upon her death. The dog spent its final days in luxury at the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel until it's death in 2011. Read more about it here.
The Lido Key Tiki Bar at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club is the oldest beach bar on Lido Key and the only one actually on the beach. It's in a secretive location behind the Ritz-Carlton Beach Residences. You can only get there by walking to it via the beach or through a side alley located between the Ritz-Carlton and Mark Twain Condos. There is no parking, unless of course you're staying at the Ritz.
The bar is built in the classic Chickee Hut style which is made of logs and palm fronds. The bar does very well when it rains and there's plenty of cover even during a good downpour. The bar forms a large square with the bartenders in the middle and about 20+ seating around the bar and another 40+ at covered picnic benches and an adjacent Chickee area.
The bar also serves the Ritz sunbathers on the beach so there's plenty of good people watching. There are several TVs with sports on and sometimes music playing. They are a full service bar and serve a good drink. I personally like their Painkiller. It's truly a tropical drink that after a few make you feel like you are in the Caribbean. Their pool and beach menu has a variety of bar bites, salads and handhelds.
The bar was originally part of the Azure Tides hotel located on the site where the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club is today. Locals rebelled when it was slated to be torn down to make way for the the Ritz-Carlton. The developer reconsidered the demolition and now it's the oldest beach bar on Lido Key.
The Poolside Tiki Bar is located at the Lido Beach Resort at 700 Benjamin Franklin Drive. The bar is located through the lobby all the way to the back of the resort to the two pools that front the Gulf of Mexico. There's not much parking so you'll probably park on Benjamin Franklin Drive. You can also access the bar from the beach. Its common that the beach goers on the public beach pop over for cocktails during the day.
Technically the bar is not on the beach but you can get a glimpse of the gulf. This is a great bar and they have daily happy hour specials on drinks and food. It's similar to the Ritz in that it's the Chickee Style bar with exposed wooden beams and a palm frond thatch roof. The bar services the two pools plus the hotel guests on the beach so it's generally pretty busy which makes for good people watching. There's always a good vibe with music playing and TV's with sports on (maybe reruns these days).
They have a good selection of drinks, beers and wines and a full menu of starters, salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps and other typical items if you're looking to munch on something while having a cocktail.
Island bars that have limited views of the gulf include Drift Kitchen and Bar at Lido Beach Resort 8th Floor which recently was completely renovated. There are some beautiful views up island at sunset and they have a pretty good menu. Also Kokonuts Lounge and Tiki Bar at the Holiday Inn has a small inside lobby bar and a larger outside pool bar. And finally the The North Lido Beach Pavilion used to serve beer and wine when it was open. It's under renovation and with the corona virus it's unclear when it will reopen.
Let me know which one is your favorite and lets hope all of them fully open up sooner rather than later!