Florida

8 Best Destin Beach Hotels and Resorts with Easy Beach Access

Enjoy an extended stay in a condominium-style resort or check into one of the few Destin beach hotels and resorts with easy beach access.

My first memory of Destin is from the mid-1970s when I was a little kid noticing the construction of a new large resort that straddled U.S. 98 called Sandestin. This was the beginning of the new Destin that would see a great bloom of resort development in the ’80s. My family vacationed in the Destin area every year, so I saw it blossom from a sleepy fishing village into one of the more prominent tourist destinations along the Gulf Coast of the Florida Panhandle. Every year, another high-rise or two would appear. We stayed in many of them. An important thing to know about Destin beachfront hotels is that, with few exceptions, they aren’t really hotels but condominium-style resorts, mostly catering to families looking to take a beach vacation, places where one-night stays aren’t doable because of minimum-stay requirements.

If you’ve never been to Destin, you’ll soon see what all the fuss is about. The beach here has sugar-white sand so silky that it squeaks beneath your bare feet. The emerald-hued water is so clear that it’s sometimes hard to take your eyes away, especially when looking at it from the balconies of one of those many high-rises. Despite all the development, it’s still possible to see vestiges of that old fishing village along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk where the charter fishing fleet still docks. And, as an old-timer once put it, you can always see what Destin used to look like when you’re on the beach looking out at the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a view that hasn’t changed since the area was first settled by fishermen in the mid-1800s and would later become known as “the Luckiest Fishing Village in the World,” a tag line still used by the city.

Sleep in the Sky Next to the Beach

Not only is Pelican Beach Resort directly on the beach, it’s situated in the heart of Destin. Plentiful shopping, dining and nightlife options are a short walk or drive away. The main building at Pelican Beach stands a whooping 19 stories high and offers 340 one or two-bedroom condos units steps away from the velvety white sands. All units have balconies overlooking the beach and the emerald Gulf waters.

Three swimming pools are on the resort property, including one indoor pool for when the weather’s not co-operating with your beach plans, and one right next to the beach. Also on site are a cafe serving morning coffee, breakfast and lunch, and a tiki bar adjacent to the beachside pool. Beach services are also available to rent chairs, umbrellas, kayaks and paddleboards for your idyllic days on the sand and in the surf.

Pelican Beach Resort & Conference Center

Destin
8.3 Very good (852 reviews)

Get Cozy at This Friendly Spot

One of the few true hotel properties at the beach in a land of giant condo resorts, Beachside Inn is adjacent to a public beach access along a lesser-traveled road off the main highway.

It’s a smaller, more affordable property, notable for its coziness, cleanliness, friendly staff, and being pet-friendly. Even though it’s more old-Florida motel than condo resort, all the rooms have kitchenettes with mini-fridges, microwaves and in-room coffee. The inn has done a good job of competing with the mega resorts by adding two on-site restaurants, a two-tiered swimming pool and transforming its rooms into artistically-inspired retreats with beachy décor and plush comfort, so much so that it’s now sought out by those who don’t want to take a long elevator ride to their accommodations because they prefer the cozy, old-school charm and service.

Beachside Inn

Top rated
Destin
9.3 Excellent (448 reviews)

Indulge Yourself in Grand Southern Charm

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is by far the largest resort in the Destin area. At 2,400 acres, it’s pretty much a city within a city. Founded in the 1970s, it’s the resort that helped transform Destin from a sleepy fishing village into a major tourist beach destination. Beachfront and bayfront accommodations of all sorts are available, including the Grand Sandestin. The Grand is the resort’s signature property, a luxury condominium-style hotel with studios and suites. All studios have kitchenettes and the suites have full kitchens, living rooms, and dining areas.

Another plus of staying at the Grand is its location next to the Village of Baytowne Wharf, a local hotspot for nightlife, dining, shopping, amusements, and water activities in a tranquil resort setting. Though it’s on the bayside of the resort, complimentary shuttle bus service makes getting to the beach easy. Hotel guests are also provided golf carts if they’d like to transport themselves. Golf carts are the primary mode of transportation for guests inside the resort grounds, and not just for golfers on the many courses available. The local grocery store even has special parking for golf carts.

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Destin
7.7 Good (3377 reviews)

Get Beachy and Fancy at This Signature Hotel

It’s rated as the number one hotel in Destin for a reason. Hilton Sandestin Beach and Golf Resort provides all the service and comforts one would expect from the time-honored Hilton brand. It’s also one of the few actual true hotels on the beach that isn’t a condo resort. It’s located inside the grounds of the Sandestin resort but operates independently. The rooms have balconies and many of them have bunk bed nooks for families with young kids.

In the middle of the complex a large pool area faces the beach with an open-air bar and private cabanas available. Another big draw is Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, a New York-style steakhouse in the hotel and the only AAA Four-Diamond restaurant along this stretch of the Gulf Coast. It’s high-end dining at it’s best, with an unparalleled wine list, popular with locals as well as vacationers, so reservations are highly recommended. You’ll need to change out of your swimwear and flip flops when dining at Seagar’s.

Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa

Top rated
Destin
8.5 Excellent (1806 reviews)

Racquet-Heads and Nature-Lovers Rejoice

The 52-acre Tops’l Beach and Racquet Resort at the eastern edge of the Destin area will appeal to tennis lovers for its award-winning, multi-court tennis center that includes racquetball facilities. The resort has multiple condo buildings, including two on the beach, as well as villas surrounding the tennis center. One-to-five-bedroom units are available.

Three restaurants are on the property. There’s a beachside grill next to the pool and a tiki lounge for resort guests only, as well as a fine-dining establishment open to the public. Another feature that sets Tops’l apart from the pack is its prime location next to a nature preserve. Book a room on a higher floor in the Summit or Tides buildings and you’ll have one of the best views in the area overlooking the preserve, a state park, and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s one of the few spots along this stretch of coast where it’s possible see miles of pristine shoreline free of development.

Tops'l Beach & Racquet Resort by Wyndham Vacation Rentals

Top rated
Miramar Beach
8.5 Excellent (813 reviews)

Take In the View on Sandy Destin Point

Located on the sandy point of a peninsula where the inlet connects the Gulf of Mexico to Destin Harbor, Inlet Reef by Holiday Isle provides incredible beach and water views. It helps that the balconies on the seven-story building are so large and include wet bars. There’s plenty of room inside the condo units, as well, from large kitchen and living areas to master bedrooms with private vanity areas.

This is a great spot for families who need lots of room to spread out. Outside the units, other perks include a sun deck overlooking the beach and pool, a game room for the kids, separate saunas for men and women, and shuffleboard courts. It’s a short walk along the beach down to the jetty at the inlet to watch all the fishing boats come into the harbor with the day’s catch.

Inlet Reef By Holiday Isle

Destin
9.0 Excellent (80 reviews)

Have Room to Roam on Holiday Isle

This is that rare Destin property where every unit directly faces the beach, and the upper units have great harbor views, too. All units at Oceania Destin by Holiday Isle are three-bedroom-three-bath with 60-foot long balconies. Inside, floor-ceiling windows perfectly frame the white sands and shimmering blue-green water. All master bedrooms have jetted whirlpool tubs.

The on-site pool is heated during the fall months, one of the best times to visit Destin because the temps are still mild and the beaches much less crowded. This is a generally less-crowded strip of sand because of it’s location on the Holiday Isle peninsula off the main highway, but it’s a short drive to all the action along the harbor boardwalk. Beach services are provided so you don’t have to worry about dragging chairs and umbrellas downstairs each day.

Oceania Destin Rental By Holiday Isle

Destin
8.6 Excellent (40 reviews)

Stay in a Cottage and Enjoy a Private Beach and Boardwalk

Sandpiper Cove is a unique Destin vacation experience compared to other resorts on this list for a couple of reasons. First, the beachfront accommodations at this popular, longstanding 43-acre property aren’t in soaring buildings, they’re low-rise beach cottage-style condominiums, so you’re even closer to sand and surf and don’t have to deal with waiting on an elevator. Second, the resort straddles the road and connects to the harbor with accommodations on the canal system. So, if you’re traveling with your own boat, you can dock it on the canal and have access to the Gulf.

You’ll find all the amenities expected at a large resort such as swimming pools, hot tubs, exercise rooms, tennis courts, a par-3 golf course, and on-site restaurants. The beach at Sandpiper is private with it’s own boardwalk and pavilion where affordable food and drinks are served. Across the road, Louisiana Lagniappe overlooks the harbor and has a strong local following for serving the freshest seafood and steaks with a Creole flair in a casual waterside setting.

Hotel Sandpiper Cove

Destin
8.4 Very good (237 reviews)