Best Hotels and Resorts in the Florida Panhandle

Spots like beautiful Henderson Beach have long lured travelers to the Florida Panhandle, but the resorts do their part by adding to the fun. (Shutterstock/)

Saying yes to visiting the beaches of the Florida Panhandle is a no-brainer. After all, this area continually ranks first when it comes to the country’s most scenic white-sand shorelines. But, choosing where to base yourself during your getaway takes time—after all, the options are many: adults-only, kid-friendly, swim-up bars, room service, bicycle rentals, etc. Every property is a perfect fit for a different kind of beach traveler.

Here are our top picks—and we’re sure one will be a fit for you.

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Henderson Park Inn

You had us at adults-only. This resort, sitting right next to Henderson Beach State Park, caters to a clientele seeking rest and back-to-nature relaxation. We also appreciate Henderson Park Inn’s stately, weathered grey cedar shake shingle exterior—a nod to the Cape Cod vibe, and whose understate colors don’t compete with the greens of the dunes and the blues of the Gulf.

This property is more or less in the heart of Destin, so guests have access to countless restaurants—but they can also choose to stay in. Rooms have coffeemakers, mini-fridges and microwaves, and the inn serves free breakfast, lunch, welcome wine and chocolates. The Beach Walk Café offers an a la carte dinner—which can also be served on the beach by special request.

Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort

For travelers looking for amenities in Panama City Beach, it’s hard to beat the Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort, a compound offering more than 500 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, as well as a golf course, shuffleboard courts and an on-property market. Standout amenities include the resort’s app that lets you reserve beach chairs.

We also like the pool—thick with palm trees and other landscaping to create an exotic paradise, all steps from the Gulf and its white beaches.

Portofino Island Resort

If you like beach views with some verticality, Portofino Island in Pensacola Beach is the place. These five Mediterranean-inspired towers offer private luxury condos—called Sky Homes—that let you choose between sunrise- and sunset-facing views. All grant sweeping, epic views of the Gulf of Mexico.

Onsite, you’ll also find seven pools, hot tubs, a full spa, five tennis courts and two onsite rental facilities where guests can book bicycles, electric bicycles, golf carts and two-seater open-air mini cars calls scoot coupes.

Blue Mountain Villas

Part of the reason the Blue Mountain Villas—a community of 30 condos set right on the beach—are so quiet is that they’re not located in a particular town but sit just off 30A on South Walton.

For travelers who can skip the amenities in favor of a self-contained beach experience, this low-key setting is everything. Note that units are individually owned, with some more updated and refreshed than others.

Hotel Effie

The Emerald Coast’s only rooftop pool is certainly the new place to be. (Hotel Effie/)

Clean, simple and sophisticated, the 250-room Hotel Effie in the town of Miramar Beach caters to guests who appreciate modern coastal design along with high-end linens and pillow-top mattresses. You know this property is courting a grown-up clientele when you visit the Ara Rooftop Pool and Lounge, sitting down to a sparkling pomegranate margarita and nibbles like grilled halloumi cheese ciabatta or pickled shrimp salad.

We also like the Spa Lilliana, onsite, offering treatments such as the vagus nerve meditative massage. Note that, no, this property is not located on the beach; however, trams run every 30 minutes, shuttling guests the 8 minutes to the white sands.

Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village

Not every traveler wants to sit still on a beach. For those who need more, there’s the Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village, located on Destin’s boardwalk. Here, active types can do it all: Jet ski rentals, parasailing, dolphin tours, ziplines, zorbing, spa visits and more.

As for the rooms themselves, we definitely appreciate vertical living, with views of the harbor and the sandbars that make this area so famous. Choose from one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units.

WaterColor Inn and Resort

This tasteful, elegant gem on Scenic Highway 30A perches atop the dunes just behind a white sand beach where serenity rules. We love that the WaterColor Inn and Resort offers a golf course, spa, tennis courts, room service and seven pools—including a quiet pool, a swim-up bar and poolside drink service.

Bike rentals are free for guests, making it easy to explore the charming town of Santa Rosa Beach—home of Yolo Paddle Boards. If you’re looking for that something extra, the hotel staff can arrange anything you need, from a beach bonfire to renting a surfboard, paddle board, boogie board or more.

The Pearl Hotel

Upscale and intimate, The Pearl Hotel in the heart of Rosemary Beach offers a romantic, adult-oriented escape. What they call an elegant, coastal vibe feels like a crisp, modern European style: think black-and-white striped awnings and ample lounge seating in the hotel courtyard, where the rectangular pool sits center.

The boutique property offers 55 rooms, including 41 standard rooms, nine suites, four cabana suites and The Pearl Suite. In-room technology in each lets you make dinner reservations, order room service or make concierge requests with a touch screen.

The Henderson Beach Resort

Spacious and spectacular, the Henderson Beach Resort is ideal for everything from a family getaway to a wellness retreat. (Salamander Hotels and Resorts/)

We love the vibe of the Henderson Beach Resort, the most upscale property in Destin proper. A midsize resort, it offers 170 rooms and eight suites, all with sofas, balconies, soaking tubs and enough space to spread out. We also like that resort guests are welcome to bring their dog, provided it’s less than 85 pounds.

Beyond the room, we love all the extras of this experience, from the lazy river at the pool to the fire pits spread along the property. The included fitness classes are the kind you’d pay for at home: spin classes, as well as morning and sunset yoga. You can also try paddle board yoga or meditation.

Plus—and this is a big plus—it’s one of the few properties in the area with an in-house spa.

Alys Beach

This New Urbanism project is hailed for its white, stark architecture—a mix of stucco design that pulls inspiration from Greece, Antigua and beyond. The town of Alys (pronounced “Alice”) Beach, just west of Rosemary Beach, does not offer a hotel or resort.

Rather, it’s a collection of vacation properties spread along the 1,500 feet of beachfront, the town and the Caliza pool complex—offering an additional swimming option to the pools that many rental properties contain.

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