Hotel at a Glance: Emerald Beach Resort
A white-sand beach meets the Gulf of Mexico just footsteps from your door at Emerald Beach Resort. The shore provides a quiet place for families to kick back between visits to ZooWorld, which is just a short drive away.
- Gulf views can be enjoyed from the balcony of one-, two-, and three-bedroom condos, which feature full kitchens, separate living areas, and washer/dryers.
- Beat the heat in one of two pools, including one along the beach.
- Fore!: The resort is also a short drive from Hombre Golf Club, where guests get preferred access.
- Things to do: The resort can help set you up with a number of water sports, including kayaking and paddleboarding.
Panama City Beach, Florida: Sugar-White Beaches, Spring Breakers, and Scuba-Diving Spots
Panama City Beach’s slogan—“The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches”—may seem boastful. But TripAdvisor helped back up this claim in 2013, naming the local St. Andrews State Park as having 1 of the top 25 beaches in the United States. The park also has two fishing piers, a jetty, and a boat ramp, plus nature trails for bird watching. Elsewhere in town, you can arrange a scuba-diving trip to explore the area’s dozens of natural and artificial reefs.
Every March and April, spring breakers descend on the white-sand beaches and fill the streets outside dance clubs. The rest of the year, however, the atmosphere is more relaxed and geared toward families. There are numerous amusement parks along the 20-plus miles of shoreline. Many of the popular seafood restaurants and bars here overlook the Gulf of Mexico.
If you’re looking to escape the crowds, take the ferry to Shell Island, an uninhabited, 7-mile-long barrier island. On the ride over, you might see some of the bottlenose dolphins that frequent these warm waters. Once there, you can soak in the sun on the empty beaches and go snorkeling. It’s also worth it to visit the nature preserve at Conservation Park, which has 24 miles of trails. One 11-mile trek goes past wooden boardwalks and wetlands; keep your eyes peeled and you might see woodpeckers in the trees and alligators lurking beside cypresses.