How To Choose Where To Stay in Destin, Florida

white sand beach with emerald green water in Destin, Florida

Located along Florida’s Panhandle between Pensacola Beach and Panama City Beach, Destin is a little slice of paradise with sprawling sugar-white sand beaches, turquoise waters and an abundance of family-friendly activities.  To truly appreciate its charm, let us help you discover some of the best beachfront hotels and vacation rentals in Destin and nearby areas where you can relax and unwind in this postcard-worthy vacation spot. 

Destin, Florida hotels and vacation rentals offer more than 13,000 rooms in a variety of accommodation types. How do you choose which one is right for you and your traveling companions? Here is a list of things to consider before choosing where to stay in Destin.

Top Four Things You Should Consider before booking your accommodations in Destin, Florida.

1. Read reviews from other travelers 

  • Read several reviews to get a consensus of what the hotel/condo is really like.  
    • One or two bad reviews doesn’t mean it’s not a good place. Try to gather the context of the review and the person writing the review. For instance, if the guests liked to party and be loud after hours, were they upset that the manager or other guests were trying to keep them quiet? If you like to party late at night, this would not be a good place for you.  
    • On the other hand, if there were things broken or not working in the condo and the management failed to address the situation in a timely manner or at all, maybe you want to keep looking for another place. 
    • When were the worst reviews written? If they are recent, definitely take them into consideration. If they are several months or years old, try to establish if positive changes have been made since then by reading more recent reviews.
 
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2. Beach Access

    • Many of the condos in Destin are directly on the sand or across the street from the sand with access to a private beach area. If you have small children, crossing a busy street to reach the beach may not be your first choice. Be sure to read the description thoroughly and/or speak with the management about the facility to better understand the location of the property. 

    • If you are staying in a facility without direct beach access, you may have to utilize a nearby public beach in order to be near the water. Several condo facilities allow beach service providers to begin setting up their chairs and umbrellas at the water’s edge very early in the morning making it nearly impossible for you to be near the water unless you use their equipment which can be as high as $40.00 a day or more. 

    • Ocean view can mean a lot of different things to people. If you are truly concerned with the view, make sure you are able to see a picture clearly marked “view from the balcony or patio.” Often times, a peek-a-boo view will be considered a “gulf view” but will require a visit to the chiropractor to reset your neck after straining to see the Gulf. Failing to clearly understand your view can make or break your trip to paradise. 

  • Public access friendly 
    • There are five public beach parks and eight public beach access points.  
winter in destin with white sand and cyrstal blue water

Beach Parks

    • Protected waters good for swimming and snorkeling with 27 parking spaces, showers and overlooks the east pass, restrooms coming soon. Learn more…

       

  • June White Decker Beach Park 
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Public Access Points

  • Barracuda Trail 
    • Barracuda & Hwy 98 (Crystal Beach) 

  • Calhoun Trail 
    • Scenic 98 (Restaurant Row), Destin, FL 32541
       
  • Crystal Beach Trail 
    • Crystal Beach Drive & Hwy 98 (Crystal Beach) 

  • Pompano Trail 
    • Pompano Street & Hwy 98 (Crystal Beach), Destin, FL 
  • Shirah Trail 
    • Shirah Street & Hwy 98 (Crystal Beach) 
  • O’Steen Trail  
    • Gulf Shore Drive (Holiday Isle), Destin, FL 32541, protected by the east jetty, this beach is great for swimming and snorkeling. Learn more…

  • Silver Shells Trail 
    • 7th Street & Scenic 98 (Restaurant Row), Destin, FL 32541 

  • Tarpon Trail   
    • Tarpon Street & Hwy 98, Destin, FL 32541 

To request a beach wheelchair, call the Destin Fire Control District at (850) 837-8413 

More information on public events and weddings 

aerial of HarborWalk Village in Destin

3. Location

  • For the most part, you will need a car in Destin unless you plan to spend most of your time at your resort or vacation rental or enjoy an enormous amount of walking. Except for a few restaurants, everything is driving distance away from Destin, Florida hotels and vacation rentals. If you choose not to have a car, you will need to budget enough for shared ride services.  

This one seems like a no brainer but here’s something to keep in mind. Yes, most of the watercraft rental companies are located at the Destin Marina. However, Destin, Florida hotels and vacation rentals stretch from the marina and to the east for several miles. There is only one main hwy (thoroughfare in Destin). During the summer months and on holidays, it can’t take thirty minutes or longer to drive a very short distance. If you plan on renting boats, jet skis, kayaks, or taking a dolphin tour, etc., be sure and allow enough time to get from your resort to the rental company and get checked in. If you miss your reservation time, there are no refunds. Plan accordingly.

4. Nearby Activities

There are several ways to get out on the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and see the dolphins. Let the captain take you, and up to five of your friends, on a private sailing charter, hop aboard a high-speed boat and make some waves for the dolphins to swim along beside you in, take a jet ski tour, or if you like a little more calm and relaxed way to experience the marine life, take a dolphin tour of crab island and do some snorkeling. Whichever way you choose to experience the marine life in their natural habitat, you will not be disappointed. Learn more…

Mardi gras Fat Tuesday Parades in Destin

Shopping & Entertainment

When visiting Destin, most likely the beach will be your biggest attraction. However, the shopping in Destin and surrounding areas will provide endless hours of fun while exploring a collection of village shops, outlet malls, boutique stores, and more.   

  • Destin Commons, located at 4100 Legendary Dr, Destin, FL 32541, is an award-winning outdoor lifestyle center with nearly 100 retail stores and restaurants offering the finest shopping, dining and entertainment, including anchor stores such as Bass Pro Shops, Belk, H&M and Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill. With its elegant fountains, outdoor music, and palm trees draped in lights, Destin Commons is a fantastic place to walk around or let the kids cool off at the Splash Pad and Pirates Play Cove or take a ride around the center on the Mini Choo Choo – Cubby Caboose. The mall also features an AMC movie theater with state-of-the-art digital projection and sound.

  • Grand Boulevard at Sandestin, located at 495 Grand Blvd, Miramar Beach, FL 32550, is the closest large shopping area to Hilton Sandestin Beach. Its shops sell beauty products, home furnishings, décor, wine, and men, women and children’s clothing. Examples include Brooks Brothers, J. Crew-at-the-beach, Chico’s, Tommy Bahama, The Orvis Company and Billabong. There is also a 10-screen movie theater, art galleries, salons and a park, all set in a pedestrian-friendly layout. Restaurants include some of near Destin’s fine dining options like P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Tommy Bahama’s Restaurant & Bar and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.

  • Destin’s Silver Sands Premium Outlets, located at 10562 Emerald Coast Pkwy W, Miramar Beach, FL 32550, is one of the country’s best outlet centers. There are over 100 designer and name brand outlet stores, as well as several dining options including Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Panera Bread. Some favorite brands, include J. Crew, Polo Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Vera Bradley, Zales, and Brooks Brothers. Guests of Hilton Sandestin Beach have complimentary shuttle service to and from Silver Sands.

  • The Village of Baytowne Wharf is more than a shopping center. Located at 9100 Baytowne Blvd. #120 Miramar Beach, FL 32550, you’ll find, restaurants, nightlife, attractions, festivals, parades, concerts and other special events.  Some of the shops include Aloha Surf Company, American Doll, a Lilly Pulitzer Signature Store, Baytowne Jewelers, The Candymaker and Toys & Treasures. The charming village is located near the Hilton Sandestin which provides regular shuttle service to and from the resort. The village is also home to Baytowne Adventure Zone’s zip line and ropes course, arcades, a carousel, playground and 22 restaurants and nightlife venues.

  • HarborWalk Village, located at 10 Harbor Blvd. Destin, FL 32541, is where shoppers can enjoy waterfront shopping with a view of the Destin Harbor and Destin’s Fishing Fleet. Stores include Aloha Surf Company, Sunglass World, Kitty Hawk Kites, Life is Good, Sunset Lifestyles, Naples Soap Company, Nautical Treasures, and more. If you want to take a look at everything Harborwalk Village offers, check out their virtual walking tour! 

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