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May 2009

Mojito Splash
304 65th Street
Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island, FL 34217
Mojito Splash Web Site

Welcome to www.weloveourlife.com. This is our page dedicated to our experiences while staying at a private residence called Mojito Splash in Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island, Florida.


Accommodations Amenities Food Bar/Lounge Service Attractions Dining Nightlife Weather Tips



Accommodations

We rented the house for the week – the third time we have done this on Anna Maria Island (and the second time we rented through Anna Maria Island Accommodations. The pictures on the website are pretty accurate – although they may want to update the one that shows a bed that isn’t put together. As before, it was very easy to deal with Anna Maria Island Accommodations (866-264-2226). We simply called and told them what property we were interested in and put a deposit down on credit card. We weren’t able to get our first choice because we waited too long – we reserved the property only 2 months before; next time we know to reserve earlier.

The house is in a good location. It is a short two-block walk to the beach, and the beach access is easier than at some locations on the island. This stretch of 65th Street was between Gulf Drive and Marina Drive (two main thoroughfares on the island) but was fairly quiet. The house is mint green in color with white accents – typical island style.

We got to the island too early to check in (which is 4 p.m.) so we went to the Sandbar Restaurant for lunch (see review below in dining section). Then we went to the office to pick up our keys. We were a little early (shortly after 3:30), but they checked and said the property was ready. It is their custom to give renters a cute little beach bag with island information, popcorn, coffee, laundry detergent, and two house keys on little flip-flop key chains. We drove to the house and went inside. The first thing we did was set the temperature lower on the air conditioning.

The house was brand new – we believe it had just been finished in January 2009, and it was built for the rental market. The property management company told us this house had the same owner as the house we rented the previous year. The first floor contains an entry with tile on the floor, a two-car garage (but no remote was provided so we couldn’t use it), a small storage room, and a room with a sliding door that contained a ping pong table and opened out to the pool area.
The main living area is on the second floor, which had tile floors throughout except for the master bedroom (hardwood floor). There was one large living area with a beautiful kitchen with marble counters and stainless appliances. The sink was on an island. Unfortunately it seemed a previous guest had already broken the garbage disposal so that could not be used (there was a sign). The refrigerator was side-by-side with an ice maker. There were plenty of glasses, plates, and silverware, and some plastic cups as well for use out by the pool. The dining area contained a very long table that looked like it seated 10.
The living area had a comfortable couch and loveseat and a large flat-screen TV. There was a ceiling fan in the living area. The walls throughout the house were painted yellow and all the windows had blinds on them. Of course there were was the requisite “beachy” décor and signs throughout, which is what one would expect of a rental such as this. We noted a lot of marble was used – even on all of the windowsills. The stereo system had speakers throughout the house.
There was a half bath on the main living level with opened into the laundry room. There were a couple large walk-in closets. The master bedroom is on the main level in the front of the house. It had a king-size bed, one night table, dresser, and flat-screen TV. The furniture was Tommy Bahama style. There was also a closet with sliding doors and plenty of space. The master bedroom opens out to a balcony on the front of the house with a ceiling fan and two chairs and a table.
The master bath was spacious and beautiful. The double vanity had a marble top and plenty of space underneath. The walk-in shower was double size. There was a long whirlpool tub that we could both fit in comfortably.
On the top (third level) is a second master bedroom with a king-size bed and flat screen TV. The en-suite bathroom had one sink in the vanity and a double walk-in shower (but no tub). There was another large walk-in closet. Also on this level were two bedrooms with queen-size beds, a hall bath with a tub/shower combination, and a small bedroom with a trundle bed. The house was very clean. The ventilation system is dual-zone with controls on both the third and second levels.

The house really was beautiful. Our main complaint is that there are no individual instructions for the house. They were an awful lot of switches and we couldn’t figure out easily; it would have been nice if there were labels on the switches since this was a rental house. We couldn’t get the lights to turn on in the living area and then we discovered they weren’t plugged in and one didn’t even have a light bulb in it! We didn’t figure out where the pool lights were until our last day (they were in the room with the ping pong table). As in previous rental houses, the supplies are somewhat bare-bones. There were plenty of towels at this house (including decent beach towels), but guests get one roll of toilet paper per bathroom, one roll of paper towels, and only one trash bag. Our solution was to go to the local supermarket and get more toilet paper, disposable plastic cups and paper plates, and use the plastic supermarket bags as trash bags.

There was a balcony off of the main living area that contained a table and four chairs and steps down to the pool area.
The pool area is stunning. There is a covered area that contains a tiki bar and six stools. In the tiki bar are a counter-height refrigerator, which came in handy. There is also a bar sink. There was an icemaker as well, but it was not functional. Mounted on the wall in this area was a flat-screen TV that you could see from the bar or the pool. Again, there were no instructions regarding the TV; we couldn’t find a remote and Keith finally figured out the controls were on top of the TV.
The pool had lots of tropical landscaping around it – almost too much as things were constantly dropping into the water and we were vigilant with trying to keep it clean. There is a shallow entry area to the pool and you can put chairs in there and dangle your feet in the water. There was a tile decoration in the pool of a bikini top and flip-flops.
It was a free-form pool with two waterfalls and one bench. It would have been nice if there had been another bench as the one that was there was right in front of a waterfall.
The hot tub is raised above the pool and has a bench going around it. The remote for the hot tub is $100 extra but it’s worth it. We generally used the hot tub at night.

We had major issues with the pool. When we first got there and looked down at it from the balcony, it was clear there was a problem as it was green. We could see the pool next door and that one was blue. We thought perhaps the pool was painted a light green but we noted there was a lot of debris floating in it. There was also a pool vacuum attached which was disappointing, as the instructions said to not detach it. When we went in the pool we could tell the vacuum was not working; in fact, the pool seemed to be on the dirty side. Later that night we wanted to use the hot tub and it just didn’t seem to work. Although it was late, we called the emergency number for the property management company and told them something was seriously wrong with the pool. He promised to have the pool company come out the following morning.

The pool dude showed up around 10 a.m. Sunday and took one look at the pool and said we were right to call. He said they had been having issues with this pool. He asked us if we could leave for a couple hours and he’d fix things, so we went out to lunch. When we came back it looked a lot better and by later that day it was completely different – and was blue. Unfortunately, we had some issues later in the week and had to call again. We ended up seeing the pool dude several times. He was funny and friendly and since we were somewhat knowledgeable about keeping water clean (having a spa at home) he would leave some chemicals with us and ask us to do a few things. Note that the day we checked out he and his partner planned to partially empty the pool and make things right.

Resort Food

We had breakfast at the house several days (used the Smart Ones frozen breakfast sandwiches) and got sandwich fixings for lunch. The first night we wanted to relax at the house so we simply made a frozen pizza (we figured we’d be going out for enough meals).

Resort Bar/Lounge

As mentioned above, there was that great tiki bar in the pool area, and having a refrigerator to store beverages in was wonderful.

Resort People/Service

As before, the people at Anna Maria Island Accommodations are very friendly. We felt bad about having to call them late at night a couple times because of the pool but they were responsive and handled the issue.

Area/Attractions

Anna Maria Island is located 1 hour southwest of Tampa and 30 minutes southwest of St. Petersburg. The island is divided into 3 towns – the City of Anna Maria in the north, Holmes Beach in the middle, and Bradenton Beach at the bottom. It is very easy to drive around the island, as you are never more than a few minutes away from anywhere you want to go.

There is also a trolley system that apparently has expanded service and now goes down to the beautiful public Coquina Beach down on the south end of the island. There are miles of beautiful beaches and the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. There are several well-maintained public beaches with good facilities. There are also deserted beaches. Vacationers can rent boats, go on boating excursions, go fishing, and countless other water-oriented endeavors.

We really just wanted to relax, and had no plans other than to enjoy beautiful weather and read by the pool, as well as having some good dinners. We managed to do all of that!

Dining

Sandbar - 100 Spring Avenue, Anna Maria, FL 34216 941-778-0444
Sandbar's Web Site
We’ve been to the Sandbar every time we’ve been to Anna Maria. We went there for lunch when we first got to the island. Sitting on their covered deck overlooking a beautiful stretch of beach and that lovely aqua water is a great way to start a visit. We kept it simple. They have great burgers there and that’s what we got – along with Corona. It was our way of getting ourselves on island time. It’s a great, scenic place to go for dinner as well; we recommend going to one of the beach-front restaurants as that’s what this place is all about.

Rotten Ralph’s - 200 Bridge Street, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217 941-778-1604
Rotten Ralph's Web Site
Rotten Ralph’s now has two locations. We had been to their original location, on the marina in Anna Maria, years ago, but just for a drink. When we saw they had a new location on the water we decided to check it out. Their new location is at the end of Bridge Street and juts out into the bay. We went there for lunch and ate outside on the deck. Unfortunately, it was a very hot day (95 degrees) so even though we were under an umbrella, we were sweating. Tip: if you go there and eat outside, ask for a table under the covered section where they are ceiling fans to move the air around. Keith had a chicken sandwich and fries for lunch, and Lori had shrimp salad (two generous scoops). Keith had some beer and Lori had white wine. We hadn’t been too impressed with their original location (which is why we didn’t eat there) so we ended up being pleasantly surprised by their new location. It was nice sitting out on the water and enjoying a leisurely lunch (even though it was hot). We went back later in the week and had breakfast. Lori had scrambled egg substitute and hash browns (they do their hash browns with peppers). Keith ordered eggs over easy (“dippy eggs”) and the server thoughtfully mentioned that the cook that day does eggs over easy where the whites are still runny; did he want them over medium? Indeed he did and he was grateful she mentioned that. He got to enjoy his dippy eggs and we had some very good iced tea. One thing to note: this location of Rotten Ralph’s only serves beer and wine (not hard liquor), if that matters to you.

Bridgetender Inn - 135 Bridge Street, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217 941-778-4849
Bridgetender Inn Web Site
We’ve been to the Bridgetender before. We had a nice dinner there the previous year and decided to return. It was a hot day and we ate inside in the air conditioning. They have a decent wine list that isn’t over-priced so we ordered a bottle of wine (we went for a nice bottle of Camelot white for $21). It was a chicken night for Keith – he had the chicken bites in an oriental sauce as an appetizer and chicken schnitzel as his entrée. Lori had two appetizers for her dinner: scallops Florentine and shrimp hosea. As always, decent food at reasonable prices.

Minnie’s Café - 5360 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, FL 941-778-4140
We went to Minnie’s when we visited the island a year earlier. This is a breakfast and lunch place. It’s decorated in a casual, beachy style, and the two women who work there are very friendly. On weekends people wait in line for breakfast at this place, so we went on a weekday. Be forewarned: the portions are huge. Also, they don’t accept credit cards. They make the most delicious hash browns – shredded potatoes, with a nice crispy crust on top. Keith had a ham and cheese omelet and it looked like it could have fed a family of four. He said next time he’s going to try something else that hopefully won’t be so big! Lori had scrambled egg substitute, and English muffin, and those wonderful hash browns.

Sign of the Mermaid - 9707 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, FL 941-778-9399
Sign of the Mermaid Web Site
This year we decided to finally try this place. We’d read good things. Reservations are a must – it is not a large restaurant. Dining here was one of our favorite things about this trip. We liked it so much we went back three nights later (we made the reservation on the way out the door). The amazing thing is it looks so tiny outside but when you go inside, there are several rooms. The décor is eclectic, sort of shabby chic. Both servers we had were amazing, really – the service stood out. They accept credit cards, but you get a 10% discount off your bill if you pay cash (really, it’s probably more of a 10% penalty to pay by card, but it’s understandable, as it is a small business and it costs them to process credit cards).

They have a very large selection of wines by the glass and on our first visit Lori went with a Third Wife Chardonnay and Keith had a shiraz. Keith had their special salad – an amazing mixture of lettuce, pine nuts, fresh mozzarella, and asiago – topped by a truly spectacular tomato vinaigrette house-made dressing. It was delicious. The rolls they serve are individually made and mouth-watering. Keith had their filet for his entrée – it was one of the largest and best cuts of filet we had ever seen. It was topped with a gorgonzola cheese sauce. He managed to eat it all and declared it one of the best steaks he has ever had. Lori went for two appetizers for her dinner: three sautéed crab cakes with a house-made heavenly honey mustard dressing, accompanied by a shrimp appetizer. The crab cakes alone were enough for an entrée.

On our second visit we split a bottle of wine. Keith again had the special salad with the tomato dressing. He decided to take a risk and went with one of the specials of the night – cobia (a kind of fish that was not unlike mahi mahi) with a sauce suggested by our server. It was a huge portion of fish and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Lori went for the lobster thermidor. She figured if anyplace was the place to get it, this was it, and it was wonderful – the sauce was exactly what a thermidor should be. We were so full on both occasions that we did not order dessert. For key lime pie fans, their key lime pie won a national award. We highly recommend this restaurant. Even though it is a bit of a “foodie” place the food is not outrageously expensive, and you get plenty of gourmet cuisine for the money.

Sign of the Mermaid has been awarded a "best of ..." weloveourlife.com award.

Waterfront Restaurant - 11 South Bay Boulevard, Anna Maria, FL 941-778-1515
Waterfront's Web Site
We’ve had wonderful experiences at this restaurant and were looking forward to our return visit. They have a large covered front porch where you can dine and look out on the bay; you can see the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, St. Petersburg, and Tampa in the distance on a clear day. We got there around 5 and there was only one table available outside (last year we had gone at 4:30). People know this place is good. They also hire excellent servers. We ordered a nicely chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc. Keith got the Grilled Romaine salad – they actually brush the ribs of heart romaine with olive oil and char grill them, and serve it with green apple, crumbled bacon, and gorgonzola vinaigrette. Lori had the steamed clams with the garlic cream sauce (she’s had this before – they serve it with toasted bread for dipping). Keith then had the Pollo Calabrese (boneless chicken breast stuffed with spinach, sun-dried tomato and goat cheese, seared, roasted and sliced, drizzled with lemon butter). Lori had the Mediterranean Scallops (jumbo dry pack Maine sea scallops tossed in Italian breadcrumbs, lightly fried, and served over the wonderful garlic cream sauce that had accompanied the scallops). As we were finishing up our dinner, the wind picked up and we started to see black clouds moving towards us across the bay. The wind got quite heavy and diners were ushered inside. We’d never actually eaten inside – it’s extremely nice yet casual. We took a high-top table in the bar and ordered our dessert – a cheese plate – and two glasses of Riesling. This place is upscale yet not ridiculously priced and serves consistently good food in a beautiful setting with wonderful service. We always highly recommend this place.

Beach House Restaurant - 200 Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach, FL 941-779-2222
Beach House Web Site
This place (sister restaurant to the Sandbar) is a staple and a must. Honestly, it’s not the best food on the island (see some of our other reviews) but you go for the scenery and the experience, as it is right on the beach and is a great place for viewing the sunset. We went on the early side so we could get a decent, covered seat; we didn’t plan to stay for the sunset as we’ve seen so many there. We split a bottle of Turnbull sauvignon blanc ($27). We’ve learned that if you order an appetizer and an entrée at this place that they don’t seem capable of pacing themselves – you’ll get the appetizer and a couple minutes later the entrée will show up. So what we do is order something and hold onto a menu saying we’ll be ordering something else. It’s what we did again this time. Lori had the shrimp and crab ceviche – it was actually very good. Keith had a wedge of lettuce with bleu cheese dressing. We then ordered the next course – a chicken quesadilla for Keith and peel and eat shrimp for Lori. The nice thing about this place is you can get practically anything – a burger, a salad, an entrée, etc. – so there is something for everyone. We did note our server was not the best – she actually seemed a little surly and definitely not happy to be there. All this aside, do make sure you check out either this place or the Sandbar so you get the authentic island experience.

Island Gourmet - 5910 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, FL 941-778-0333
On our last night we decided we wanted to enjoy our pool area, so we quickly put shorts on and drove the few blocks to Island Gourmet to pick up a pizza. We had gotten pizza on our last night from this place a year earlier; they had since moved to a bigger (and better) location. The people who work at this place are very friendly. We walked in and simply said we wanted to order a pizza to take with us and they took the order and invited us to sit down. They have a small bar so we sat and each ordered a glass of wine (they serve wine and beer). We looked around and noted the place was busy. You cannot beat the prices at this place and besides pizza (they deliver), they also offer pasta dishes as well as shrimp, veal, chicken, and pork entrees. We decided next time we will dine in at this place.

Peach’s Restaurant - 3240 East Bay Drive (Anna Maria Shopping Center), Holmes Beach, FL 941-779-0738
Peach’s is actually a chain of local restaurants that serve breakfast and lunch. We’ve been to this place several times and the food, service, and value is superb. This was our last meal on the island (we had just checked out) so Lori splurged on an egg, cheese, and sausage croissant and Keith had eggs Benedict. They have delicious home fries – they actually seem like they are almost in a beer batter. Yum! You can’t go wrong with this place.

Nightlife

This is a quiet island, not really the place to go for nightlife. There is entertainment at several places, but it tends to be singer/songwriters and acoustic guitar, not rock bands, which would probably seem out-of-place here anyway. Anna Maria nightlife is watching the sunset over the beach. If that’s not your idea of vacation, then this may not be the place for you. That’s fine with us, as we like it the way it is! A walk on the beach as the sun is setting is all you need.

Weather

We’ve learned to avoid this area in late summer/early fall (duh – hurricanes and extreme heat and humidity). May is a nice time of year to go – it gets up in the high 80s (and 90s a couple days we were there) and down to around 70 at night. There is very little rain this time of year. The island was actually in a drought – there hadn’t been any real rain for a month. We did get a brief thunderstorm on our last night but that was it.

Tips/Suggestions

Sun protection is a must here – apply often and liberally. It is very easy to drive here – it’s impossible to get lost. There are only a few lights on the island and the drivers seem courteous. We always rent a car. This isn’t like big crowded shore towns – there is generally parking wherever you want to go. There is also a free trolley – we’ve never tried it so we can’t say how often it runs. The property management company we rented from has a great links page. Also check out the island's Chamber of Commerce site. If you go and fall in love with this island (as we have), try not to tell too many people about this amazing place! We love it the way it is! Some people say it is one of the last remaining places you can experience old Florida. By the way, May 1 is the official start of their summer season. What that means is you can generally rent houses and rooms for a cheaper price.