Hotel at a Glance: Portofino Island Resort
Portofino Island Resort lies right on the white sand of Pensacola Beach, a thin barrier island that stretches for miles along the coast of northwest Florida. The Mediterranean-style resort encompasses seven outdoor pools, including a centrally located infinity pool, as well as an indoor Olympic-size pool. Of course, you can always spend your days on the beach; head a few steps north to check out the beaches along Santa Rosa Sound or south to spend some time along the Gulf Coast.
- Fun in the sun: Kayak, paddleboard, and surfboard rentals are available onsite at Adventure Beach.
- Feast on Gulf seafood: The resort's restaurant, Terracotta, serves Andouille-crusted grouper and the 17 Mile fresh catch of the day.
- Spacious condos: Two- and three-bedroom sky homes—1,500 and 2,200 square feet, respectively—feature gourmet kitchens and private balconies with views of the gulf or bay.
- Book a spa day: Spa Portofino offers treatments such as organic body wraps, anti-aging facials, and massages.
Pensacola Beach, Florida: Protected White-Sand Beaches and Iconic Water Tower
The first thing most visitors notice when they cross the bridge to Pensacola Beach isn't the bright-white sands or the sparkling, azure waters, though the barrier island has copious amounts of both. Instead, what catches most eyes is a water tower painted like a giant beach ball. This iconic symbol of Pensacola Beach sits right at the end of the bridge, alongside one of the island's most popular spots: Casino Beach. Here, you'll find open-air seafood restaurants, a wooden boardwalk lined with boutiques and gift shops, and a long fishing pier, where you can often catch glimpses of dolphins, manatees, and rays.
A short drive west along the coast brings you into the Gulf Islands National Seashore, part of a 12-unit park spread across Florida and Mississippi. These protected beaches are usually less crowded, since they're off the beaten path and offer fewer amenities than the island's more trafficked sands. While you're here, check out the circa-1830s Fort Pickens, one of only four forts in the South never occupied by Confederate troops.