Where to stay in Panama City Beach, Florida – TOP AREAS & HOTELS

So you are thinking about taking a vacation in Panama City Beach (PCB), with its beautiful beaches, lovely walks, peaceful neighborhoods but also superb nightlife.

This is the great thing about this destination. You can literally find all you want, based on which area you decide to stay.

But let me go straight to the point: the best place to stay in Panama City Beach is Long Beach where you will find all you need for your vacation, the best for an overall experience.

Best areas to stay in Panama City Beach
Best areas to stay in Panama City Beach

In saying that, there are other options you might want to consider if you’d like more private time, a secluded vacation location, or a quiet family getaway.

Are you planning the Panama City Beach Spring Break? I will give you more information down on that, because things are a bit different at that time of the year.

Are you on a limited budget? You can still find some good value for money in vacation rentals and hotels, and I will tell you where.

It’s now time to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each area of this top waterfront resort on the Florida Panhandle.

Best places to stay in Panama City Beach - Florida
Best places to stay in Panama City Beach – Florida

Where to stay in Panama City Beach – In a nutshell

Here is a short list of the best 3 accommodations to stay in Panama City Beach. However, for more information on the areas and other options, keep reading below.

  • πŸ₯‡ Holiday Inn Express & Suites is right in the heart of Long Beach, with an amazing view over the ocean and direct access to the beach. Best for location.
  • πŸ₯ˆ Panama Home 4BR is the perfect accommodation in Lower Grand Lagoon for a quiet vacation when traveling with a big family or group of friends.
  • πŸ₯‰ Brand New Calypso is a fabulous waterfront condo with direct access to the beach and a view to die for. Well located in Pier Park, you will also be a stone away from the shopping area and the iconic wheel.

There are no real cheap hotels in Panama City Beach. In saying that, surely is not as expensive as Pensacola Beach, 2 hours west of PCB.

In saying that, you can still find some amazing value for money stays and you will see them mostly in the Hathaway Area.

The M.B.Miller County Pier
The M.B.Miller County Pier

Long Beach

  • 🌎 Best area to stay in Panama City Beach for an overall experience 🏩 Holiday Inn Express & Suites is the recommended accommodation on this beach
  • πŸ‘ Pros
    • One of the most beautiful beaches in the US (to be honest, as most of the Florida coastline facing the Gulf of Mexico)
    • There is a wide choice of cafes, restaurants and bars, including a few clubs
    • It is the best area to stay in Panama City Beach for nightlife, however, book your hotel on the far east or west of Long Beach and you will have a quiet time
    • Direct access to Panama City, where you can explore the Historic Downtown and St. Andrews
    • It is the best place to stay in Panama City Beach for couples looking for a mix of beach time and bars/restaurants to spend the rest of the day.
    • It works well for both a short and long stay
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons
    • this area does not come cheap, although you can still find some bargains, but you need to lower your expectation on the quality side
    • crowded during the Spring Break, this may be a positive thing if you are down for party, otherwise it may be too overwhelming and other areas work better
    • it can be noisy in the central area, a place to avoid if traveling with kids
    • big condos are all along the beach (of course, if you sleep there you have a beautiful view πŸ˜‰ )
    • parking may be a problem
  • 🍷 Best restaurants and bars: Foghorn’s, Craft Beer Gastropub and Coco Locos Drink Paradise
  • πŸ§›β€β™‚οΈ Nightlife: La Vela
Long Beach - The best place to stay in Panama City Beach overall
Long Beach – The best place to stay in Panama City Beach overall

Before telling you more about this area, let me start by talking about the famous Panama City Beach Spring Break.

That is probably the busiest time of the year, with most accommodations booked out and bars/restaurants full.

Parties are organized everywhere, and the beach becomes crowded. Nightlife is at its best.

If this is what you want, then book your vacation as soon as you can, because good deals tend to disappear months in advance.

If that’s not really your idea of vacation, stay clear of Long Beach and book in the Lower Grand Lagoon area, on the southernmost side of the 9-miles Panama City Beach.

If you are not there for the Panama City Beach Spring Break, then it is all more livable, but still try to avoid the central area if you are after a quiet night.

Long Beach offers so much more than nightlife, and that is why I suggest it for the first-time visitors to Panama City Beach.

You can have a beautiful day in the amazing Shipwreck Island Waterpark, built for any age, down to babies activities.

And later, for sunset, have a walk along the M.B.Miller County Pier.

Another place to go if traveling with kids is the Beachfront Adventures.

And surely the ZooWorld Zoological Park, with over 260 animals, is another destination once staying in Long Beach.

Wonderworks is another must attraction, with its many hands-on scientific experiments and the possibility of organizing laser fights too.

Wonderworks - The Science museum and so much move venue
Wonderworks – The Science museum and so much more venue

For some adrenaline, head to Race City for the roller coast and the steep go-kart track.

There are so many other water activities you can do at the beach itself, starting from a jet-ski adventure (rentals available at the beach) or riding a big banana toboggan.

For a few beers, check out Foghorn’s, a sport bar with live music too. Alternatively, the Craft Beer Gastropub is another great spot for both food and craft beer.

Are you after an easy going tropical drink? Then the Coco Locos Drink Paradise has to be, right in front of the beach

The most famous club is, of course, La Vela, billed as the largest nightclub in the United States.

For all of these options I suggest PCB for both families and couples (even for a romantic getaway).

Plenty to do and enjoy for everyone (but not during the Spring Break where partying is the main thing)

Here below 4 of the best hotels in Long Beach, including a couple of options for families in a quiet area, next to the beach

  • The Holiday Inn Express & Suites ($$$) gives you direct beach access, and since you will have ocean-facing rooms each with a private balcony, you get to enjoy spectacular beachfront views during your stay. For the facilities in the rooms, these range from the entertainment features including cable TV, kitchen appliances like the Keurig Coffee maker, refrigerator, and microwave, all through to grooming units like the hair dryer. When you’re not at the beach, you can take a breather at the outdoor pool of this IHG Hotel – with poolside chairs available as well. The bar and grill on the premises gives you convenience when it comes to grabbing a bite – and speaking of which a continental free breakfast is served each morning.

Check price at Holiday Inn

  • Days Inn by Wyndham Panama City Beach($$)Wake up to Gulf views and fill up on the packed continental breakfast provided here before you start your day’s activities. One of these should include hitting the outdoor pool and enjoying some drinks under the rock waterfall, where there is an on-site bar. Plenty of activities for kids here – including a mermaid show for kids at the pool. You can rent beach chairs for your time on the sand. The rooms themselves are large and well maintained – and include the standard coffee machine, refrigerator and microwave, as well as nifty features like a safe deposit box for your valuables.  There is a 24h reception to address any of your needs. Free parking is available.

Check price at Margaritaville

  • At the Majestic Beach Resort 3BR ($$$) you get a spacious, family friendly condo – with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, and all the expected accompaniments for your stay – from a fully equipped kitchen, furnished lounge and dining areas, air conditioning, free WiFi, to entertainment like the flat-screen TVs with satellite channels. The patio gives you magnificent ocean views. Parking is a breeze as well, with reserved space on 3rd Floor Walk-Over.

Check price at Majestic Beach Resort

  • The Gulf Islands 2-bedroom apartment($$-$$$) comes with a well-equipped kitchen, complete with a microwave and dishwasher, flat-screen TV, dining area, as well as direct access to a private outdoor pool. The rooms give you lovely views of the garden. You can even get into some sports at the tennis courts or rent clubs and balls for some mini golf. The resort itself is just a walking distance from the beach.

Check price at Gulf Islands

Long Beach looking west
Long Beach looking west

Lower Grand Lagoon

  • 🌎 Best area to stay in Panama City Beach for a quiet time 🏩 Panama Home 4BR is the recommended accommodation on this beach
  • πŸ‘ Pros
    • You are looking for a quieter place than Long Beach, but still be close to bars and restaurants
    • Nice beach vibe, with mostly homes around and just a bunch of condos
    • It is the perfect place for a nature lover, with access to the St. Andrews State Park and the pristine Shell Island
    • This is one of the best neighborhoods to stay in PCB for families looking for a quiet time
    • Starting point for lots of marine adventure
    • It works well for a long stay
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons
    • you will not be in the center of the action (this may work as both a drawback or advantage, based on your kind of trip)
    • lack of hotels, you can find mostly holiday homes and a few condos
  • 🍷 Best restaurants and bars: Schooners and Outlaws Bar-B-Que
  • πŸ§›β€β™‚οΈ Nightlife: take a short taxi to Long Beach
Lower Grand Lagoon - Where to stay in Panama City Beach for a quiet time
Lower Grand Lagoon – Where to stay in Panama City Beach for a quiet time

Lower Grand Lagoon is the perfect place to stay if Long Beach is a bit too much (too busy, too expensive, too many condos etc)

It is only 3-4 miles east of Long Beach but as you approach Lower Grand Lagoon, you can feel the change, especially in the landscape, no more dominated by condos.

At the beach you will see a higher percentage of family with kids and the entire environment is much quieter, with fewer people around.

You can still find a bunch of bars and restaurants, but they are not predominant in the area.

Have a check at the Schooners bar/restaurant, right in front of the beach, with incredible beachfront views of the Gulf of Mexico, with an excellent selection of beers and wine, open till late.

For a simple and inexpensive dinner, head to Outlaws Bar-B-Que, a barbeque restaurant preparing exquisite meat with happy hour between 4pm and 7pm

Overall, it is a great area to stay in Panama City Beach for family, and it’s a short drive to the zoo, the Shipwreck Island Waterpark, the roller coaster, the golf course and all you can think of.

For an even quieter stay, you may also want to check out Cedar Key (4 hours east) with its charming rentals and Inns that will take you back to the old Florida, as it used to be

You can also do some water sports while there, including snorkeling and diving.

For a brief stay, like a weekend away, I suggest more Long Beach, however for a long stay, Lower Grand Lagoon is a great place to be based.

These 3 accommodations work great for a quiet stay.

  • Panama Home 4BR ($$$)Here you have a cozy holiday home in a family-friendly setting. The cottage style beach house features spacious rooms – capable of holding up to 18 guests, with highlights ranging from the convenience of proximity to local attractions to on-site facilities like the terrace and private pool. Your entertainment options range from the massive 65″ TV in the living room, the 55″ TVs that are in every bedroom, and even a foosball table. 

Check price at Panama Home

 

  • Treasure Island 2BR ($$$)The beautiful view from this condo, located between the front beach road and the sea, can be enjoyed from the master bedroom, living rooms, and, of course, from the private balcony. The fully-equipped kitchen allows you to prepare your own dishes, and the condo also comes with a washing machine to take care of the laundry. Want to learn how to water ski on your trip? There’s a ski school right on site. The accommodation has free WiFi and private parking, as well as a 24-hour front desk to address any issues that you may have.

Check price at Treasure Island

 

  • Regency Tower Beachfront 3BR ($$)This condo is great for families, set in a secure gated community, with easy beach access. You get lovely views of the Gulf from your condo. There are actually 3 outdoor pools – the heated pool, children’s pool and cool pool. Spacious rooms, the convenient elevator, site restaurant and bar, a patio that comes with pool views – it all makes for a relaxing holiday.

Check price at Regency Tower

From Long Beach to Lower Grand Lagoon
From Long Beach to Lower Grand Lagoon

Pier Park

  • 🌎 Best area to stay in Panama City Beach for entertainment and shopping 🏩 Brand New Calypso 3BR is the recommended accommodation on this beach
  • πŸ‘ Pros
    • It is a quiet place to spend a vacation
    • There are plenty of options for local entertainment and shopping, including the famous Gulf World Marine Park
    • Wide choice of restaurants and bars to spend your time with kids or just the partner
    • Lovely white sand beach
    • It is the best place to stay in PCB for a family vacation with grown up kids
    • It also works great for a short stay made of beach time and shopping
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons
    • it is a busy area (but quieter than Long Beach)
  • 🍷 Best restaurants and bars: Tiki Bar, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and The Craft Bar
  • πŸ§›β€β™‚οΈ Nightlife: take a short taxi to Long Beach for late hours nightlife
 
Pier Park - Where to stay in Panama City Beach for entertainment and shopping
Pier Park – Where to stay in Panama City Beach for entertainment and shopping

Pier Park has it all – whether you want casual or fine site dining, extensive shopping for your wardrobe, home decor, or gifting your loved ones, or even if you’re after entertainment – be it live music, catching movies at the Grand IMAX movie theater and games like laser tag. 

The Pier Park outdoor shopping mall is at the heart of Panama City Beach, featuring over 100 stores and restaurants, where there is something for everyone in the family.

While here, be sure to hop on a ride on Sky Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel that takes you 200 feet into the air for a bird’s-eye view of the entire Panama City Beach.

And don’t forget a visit to the Gulf World Marine Park, for a closer encounter to sharks, dolphins and sea lions, and the Frank Brown Park, the largest park in the city including an aquatic center.

Retail clothing stores, souvenir gift shops, novelty stores, and beach shops – you can find them here.

Virtual reality games, arcades are part of Pier Park as well, which is open throughout the year, and it also has large and free parking areas.

And for a great night out, including outstanding food and impressive live entertainment, head to the Tiki Bar at the Sandpiper Beacon (direction Laguna Beach), one of the coolest venues in the city, without being too crazy cool.

Here are 3 places that you will love around the Pier Park area.

  • Brand New Calypso 3BR ($$-$$$)The spacious apartment has 3  bedrooms, with a sleeping space for 8, which is great for a family vacation or a getaway with a group of friends. While here, you have access to the outdoor swimming pool area on the premises, and during your stay you get to enjoy elegant gulf views from the private balcony. Since it’s close to everything- from the beach, fishing pier and even Pier Park, you don’t have to go driving around. Free WiFi and parking available.

Check price at Calypso

 

  • Aqua Resort By BlueSwell 2BR ($$$): Here you get air-conditioned units with a private bathroom, free WiFi, and a fully-equipped kitchen – complete with a refrigerator, microwave, oven and toaster. Depending on the accommodation selected, the unit can handle 10 or 8 guests. The TVs come with satellite channels, and for some units, a DVD player is part of the entertainment package. The beachfront property has 2 swimming pools, and free parking as well.

Check price at Aqua Resort

  • Hampton Inn & Suites ($$-$$$)Beachfront hotel with daily buffet breakfast, balconies with sea views, a bar on site, heated pool as well as private parking – that’s Hampton Inn & Suites for you. WiFi coverage extends across the entire property, and there’s an ATM as well for you to grab more cash for your activities in Panama City Beach. The hotel room comes with a hot tub, staff are known to be very friendly.

Check price at Hampton Inn

Amazing view from my accommodation. I had so many spectacular sunsets over there
Amazing view from my accommodation. I had so many spectacular sunsets over there

Hathaway Bridge

  • 🌎 Best area to stay in Panama City Beach for a budget stay 🏩 La Quinta by Wyndham is the recommended accommodation on this beach
  • πŸ‘ Pros
    • It is the area with a few budget motels
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons
    • far from the beach
  • 🍷 Best restaurants and bars: Go to Long Beach
  • πŸ§›β€β™‚οΈ Nightlife: Go to Long Beach
Hathaway Bridge - Best area to stay in PCB on a budget
Hathaway Bridge – One of the best neighborhoods to stay in PCB on a budget

Panama City Beach is not a cheap place to have your vacation, but you can still find some good deals around.

With a limited budget, as I also mentioned for Clearwater, you need to stay more inland, in this case towards the Hathaway Bridge that takes you to the historic district of Panama City.

This is where you find the best prices. However, keep in mind that there are no bars or restaurants around.

Moreover, you will need either a car or a taxi to get to Long Beach, the closest of all places I previously mentioned.

And this is the biggest drawback of staying in this area

These 2 cheap hotels below provide a tremendous value for money

  • La Quinta by Wyndham ($)Business or leisure travelers will have a comfortable stay here. A hearty continental free breakfast awaits you each morning, and the hot tub and outdoor swimming pool area will relax those muscles. Each hotel room comes with its refrigerator, microwave, private bathroom, and even work desk. Launderette facilities are also available in the La Quinta Inn & Suites, as well as access to the fitness center. The beach itself is a brisk 20-minute walk away – or a quick drive.

Check price at La Quinta

  • The homestay Beach room ($) is designed to make your vacation cozy, with its kitchenette where you can prepare your meals, TV with satellite channels, as well as a terrace outside that adds to the ambience. The house has been well decorated, and the owners keep it clean – including the shared bathroom. The owners are also friendly and accommodating to guests. They will give you directions and tips on local sites. Laundry facilities are available as well.

Check price for the Beach Room

The Hathaway Bridge from Panama City to Panama City Beach
The Hathaway Bridge from Panama City to Panama City Beach

Still undecided on your stay in the Florida West Coast?

Check out instead the lovely hotels and rentals of Pensacola Beach

Clearwater is another option, with its wide selection of accommodations, although a few miles away

The remote Cedar Key with its charming rentals and Inns will take you back to the old Florida, as it used to be

More photos of Panama City Beach

Entering Panama City Beach
Another amazing sunset in Panama City Beach
The white sand on Long Beach is so wonderful
Under the M.B.Miller County Pier
The far west part of Long Beach
One of the many access points to Long Beach
Entry point to Pier Park
The main street of Pier Park
The iconic Wheel of Pier Park
Hotels in the Pier Park area connected to the Parking area on the other side of the road
You will be captured by the many wonderful sunsets
And there is space also for an early sunrise – or late night back to the hotel

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