Best places to stay in Pensacola, Florida – TOP AREAS & HOTELS
Pensacola is today one of the best destinations to visit in Florida, thanks to its amazing beaches, lovely walks and unique history.
This city was the busiest port on the Gulf of Mexico between the 16th and 19th century.
But let me go straight to the point: the best place to stay in Pensacola Florida are certainly on Pensacola Beach where you will find the best hotels with the most amazing sea view.
Pensacola Beach offers a good overall experience.
However, there are other options that may suit your needs better if you’re looking for some private time, a secluded vacation spot, or a quiet family vacation.
Do you have a limited budget? Inland is the place to find great value for money hotels and vacation rentals.
Let’s break down each area and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Table of Contents
- 1 Pensacola Beach – The best place to stay in Pensacola overall
- 2 Luna Beach – Where to stay in Pensacola for a quiet time
- 3 Navarre Beach – Best place for a romantic stay
- 4 Gulf Breeze – Where to stay in Pensacola Florida for big families or group of friends
- 5 Pensacola Downtown – Great place for a short stay
- 6 Best places to stay in Pensacola beachfront
Pensacola Beach – The best place to stay in Pensacola overall
Pensacola Beach is the best place to stay in Pensacola because:
- You will be right in front of a beautiful beach with unique white sand and clear waters
- It has a good selection of restaurants, bar and cafes around to spend some easy night time
- Proximity to the Gulf Islands National Seashore Park with Fort Pickens right next door
- A lovely Pier to have a walk
- Easy access to Pensacola downtown and the Seville Historic District to experience 450 years of history
- It is one of the best areas to stay in Pensacola for some beach time
- It works well for both a short and long stay
The weakest points:
- unfortunately, this is the most expensive place to stay in Pensacola, as you can imagine
- if you drive there, make sure that parking is included in the accommodation, because finding a spot is not that easy
What makes Pensacola tick? Well, it already has plenty going for it, being part of the Florida’s Emerald Coast.
This is the 100-mile stretch of the Gulf Coast, including the unique Panama City, Destin, and even Fort Walton Beach, which is renowned for its white, sugary sand and turquoise waters.
The sand is so soft it’s almost like walking on baby powder.
The waters all along the Emerald Coast are so clear that you can see all the marine life swimming around your feet.
Now at Pensacola, you get all that beach experience – but with more open space and half the crowds.
For instance, Destin beach, being the most visited of the Emerald Coast, has seen it get backed with wall-to-wall restaurants, shopping arcades, condos and resorts.
Pensacola is more laid back, with few small shops, restaurants and a public tennis court, too.
So if you don’t mind being limited on shopping and dining options and simply want to kick back and relax on the beach, then this is the spot for you.
If you plan your stay in July, be sure to catch the incredible Blue Angels show – done by the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron.
From March through to October you can still see the pilots practise Tuesdays and Wednesdays at around 11:30am taking off from the Pensacola Naval Air Station.
Here below 3 great Pensacola Beach Hotels that work so well for both a short and a long stay
Margaritaville Beach Hotel ($$$)
Views of the ocean right from your bed – it doesn’t get any better than that.
The Margaritaville Beach Hotel gives you plenty of suite options with terrific bay views, and you can even go for those with the wrap-around balcony to view both the beach and the city.
The guest rooms themselves have large bathrooms with a separate tub and walk-in shower, flat-screen cable TV, refrigerator, and even a desk for those who want to get some work done while on their trip.
When it comes to meals, you’re spoiled for choice, from grabbing some seafood at Frank & Lola Love Pensacola Café , to having drinks and snacks right on the beach with the LandShark Landing Beach Bar.
There are even seasonal paddle board lessons here for guests who want to get extra-adventurous in Florida’s waters.
Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach ($$$)
Wake up to a continental breakfast, take a dip in the heated outdoor swimming pool, hit the game arcade on the premises – you get it all at the Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach.
The hammocks by the pool are a guest-favorite. The rooms themselves are large, breakfast is free, and you have easy access to the beach.
You can rent beach chairs here as well. Note that there is a daily $15 parking fee.
Holiday Inn Resort Pensacola Beach($$$)
The outdoor swimming pool here is right on the beach – and it comes with a cascading waterfall and lazy river. There is also a smaller indoor swimming pool – with both of them being heated.
A stocked breakfast buffet, fire pit, hot tubs, and even a PlayStation in the rooms that keep the kids entertained, as well as the pirate and mermaid shows that are a favorite for the little ones – your stay at the Holiday Inn Pensacola Beach will be worth it.
For the meals, the resort has an on-site restaurant.
Luna Beach – Where to stay in Pensacola for a quiet time
Luna Beach is the best place to stay in Pensacola because:
- You will have the quietest time of your life
- You want to forget about the busy life back in the city
- The beach is not busy, in fact, you will share it with just a bunch of people
- Well priced, although no cheap hotels around
- It is the best area to stay in Pensacola to relax
- It works well for an easy going long stay
The weakest points:
- there are no restaurants or bars, besides the ones in the resorts
- it is not the best option for a short stay, like a weekend away
We are technically still in Pensacola Beach, but on the eastern end side, 3.5 miles from the restaurants and bars area.
This is one of the quietest area of Pensacola, just peace and relax.
There are no cafes or restaurants, and that is why it is important to pick up the right resort (see suggestions below).
In saying that, you can always take a taxi or make a short drive to the restaurant area (3-5 minutes) for a dinner date
You will hardly find people at the beach, except in the weekend when locals come, although in small number, to have a swim.
You can access the beach from Via de Luna Drive, unless you book in a beachfront hotel, of course, with private access.
One must experience is a sunset walk through the isolated dunes.
Do you want to forget about the car?
Rent an electric bike at Pedego, and explore Pensacola and the Gulf Islands National Seashore Park at your own pace.
Take some food with you to organize your lunch at one of the many picnic pavilions. A real heaven.
This is also one of the best places to stay in Pensacola for families with small kids, that prefer having a quiet time at the pool or build sand castles at the beach.
Here below 2 great accommodation options that work so well for a long stay
Gulf Front Condo with Pool 1BR
This is the perfect place to relax in Pensacola. You don’t even need to take the elevator to your apartment.
Located on the ground floor, facing the garden area and the beach, this condo has all you need for a long stay.
The kitchen is fully fitted; you have free Wi-Fi and a flat-screen TV and the usual amenities as dishwasher and washing machine.
The outdoor swimming pool is perfect for some sunbathing. At the beach they offer sunbeds and umbrella for a small fee, or bring your own.
Check price at Gulf Front Condo
Portofino Five Condos (2BR & 3BR)
The condos in Portofino Five have lovely views, and some of the units have a seating area or patio.
Floor to ceiling sliding doors give you more of the picturesque setting outside. Be sure to catch the sunset from the balcony.
You can also have meals at the restaurants here, get snacks brought to you as you lounge by the pool, or even cook up your own dishes in the fully equipped kitchen.
Portofino Island Resort
The apartments in Portofino Island Resort come with spacious sitting areas, a well-equipped kitchen, multiple pools (each tower has one), access to the beach on both sides, and an onsite bar and restaurant.
The grounds have been well manicured; you get a beautiful view of the Gulf, and since the beach area here is next to the state park, it technically secludes it from the rest of the visitors to Pensacola beach – giving you more room to enjoy the soft sand and clear waters.
The Adventure Cove Water Park is also part of this resort, where you can hire boats, kayaks, or paddle boards.
Check price at Portofino Island
Navarre Beach is the best place to stay in Pensacola because:
- You are looking for an isolated and remote place to stay
- Luna Beach is too quiet and Pensacola Beach Village is too busy
- You want to have a couple of beach bars/restaurants around
- You prefer to avoid any busy beach
- It is the best area to stay in Pensacola for a romantic, isolated getaway
- It works well if you are driving the car to Pensacola
The weakest points:
- It may be too remote for a few people. In fact, there are only a few condos, a couple of resorts, a few big houses and plenty of sand around.
- Impossible to get there without a car
Located between the Gulf Islands National Seashore and the Marine Park (Santa Rosa Island), Navarre Beach is a small beach community 17 miles east (30 minutes) of the Pensacola Beach shopping streets.
It is probably the most isolated place in the area, but it has a couple of restaurants and bars to have dinner or spend the night.
And in this respect, it is a better choice than Luna Beach if you are looking for a quiet spot but you still want nearby food and drinks options.
There is a long pier, similar to the Pensacola Beach pier, the perfect place to go for sunset and to spot the sea turtles.
You can join here a dolphin cruise, or why not visiting the Sea Turtles Conservation Center, a stone away from the pier.
For a romantic stay, I suggest booking at the SpringHill Suites
With the SpringHill Suites, you can choose between going for rooms with an island or Gulf view.
Here, there’s an outdoor pool that features a lazy river – complete with sun loungers and lounge chairs, and you can also relax in the indoor hot tub.
These suites include a refrigerator, microwave, and coffee makers to whip up a quick brew. Grab a bite as you enjoy the water views at the Beach House Bar and Grille, which is on site.
Bike rentals are also available for guests.
Gulf Breeze – Where to stay in Pensacola Florida for big families or group of friends
Gulf Breeze is the best place to stay in Pensacola because:
- there is a good choice of big homes available for rent
- it is close to both Pensacola Downtown and Pensacola Beach restaurants/bars area
- perfect if you are driving your car, plenty of space
- good value for money
The weakest points:
- you are not at the beach, and you would need either a car or bike to reach it
- it is a residential area, without that feeling of vacation
Gulf Breeze is the perfect place to stay in Pensacola if you are looking for a big house to rent and possibly share with another family or group of friends.
Its location is strategic as you will be just half way between the Seville Historic District of Pensacola, and the shore.
The drawback with this position is that you have either to ride your bike or drive your car to have a day at the beach.
Gulf Breeze provides great value for money, probably the best you can find in Pensacola, considering the size of the houses.
It is a nice residential area, with plenty of green, including parks and playgrounds, handy if you travel with kids.
The restaurants are mostly of the Gulf Breeze Parkway, the main road that continues east to Oriole Beach and south to Pensacola Beach.
That is where you will find also the shopping area, with supermarkets, shops, banks and the post office
These three vacation rentals below may be just all you need for your holiday.
Gulf Breeze Paradise (3BR)
Bring all you need for your water adventures during your stay at Gulf Breeze Paradise – where the driveway is even big enough for a boat to fit.
This spot is spacious and comfortable enough for families, comes with a private pool in the backyard, and there’s even a water and skate park for the little ones just a short distance away.
It’s close to the beach, owners are friendly, and you can even bring along your pets for the trip.
Life is a Breeze (3BR)
Privacy is king in this 3-bedroom home, which comes with its garden and terrace, ample parking, and well-furnished interiors – from the lounge area to the stocked kitchen.
The owner keeps the property clean, and there’s lots of space for entire families to come on over for the holiday.
Proximity to the Gulf Breeze Shopping Center, Shoreline Park, and Woodland Park add to the convenience of checking in here.
Check price at Life is a Breeze
Casanana Manor at Fairpoint Place (4BR)
This is a family getaway, complete with a private pool.
The Casanana Manor has enough room to house the numbers, from the 4 bedrooms, 8-seater dining room table to the well-equipped kitchen that also includes a crock-pot, blender, and toaster to whip up those meals and snacks during your stay.
Whether you want to unwind in the garden, lounge by the pool, or are looking for a place close enough to explore Pensacola with your family or group of friends,Casanana Manor will give you value for your money .
Pensacola Downtown – Great place for a short stay
Downtown is the best place to stay in Pensacola because:
- you prefer to stay between historical buildings
- it works well for a short stay like a weekend breakaway
- good value for money (read low average price)
- you are around for the Pensacola JazzFest or the Pensacola Seafood Festival
The weakest points:
- you are 10 miles from the beach
- you may not feel you are on vacation, with more of a city vibe (although in a beautiful historic downtown)
Downtown Pensacola, with its rich history, may be the best place to stay if you want to step back in time.
A few of the buildings are, in fact, over 250 years old, with the St. Michael’s Cemetery, now an open-air museum, the oldest one, from the 18th century.
There is a good selection of cafes, bars and restaurants around to spend the day and night.
Special mention to Restaurant Iron, Carmen’s Lunch Bar & Tapas, Dharma Blue and the Cafe Single Fin.
It works also great if you are planning to attend the Pensacola JazzFest or the Pensacola Seafood Festival
You will find that accommodations in this area provide also better value for money.
If you are planning to visit Pensacola for a short weekend, then the historic downtown may be just the perfect place to stay. If sunbathing is not your thing, of course.
In saying that, if your vacation is about the beach, you will find quite inconvenient to drive every day 20 miles (return) for a swim in the sea.
There are two accommodation options that stand out
Holiday Inn Express Pensacola Downtown
This is one of the most popular hotels in the downtown area, within walking distance of local attractions, and there is free parking available on site (behind the hotel).
A hot start breakfast awaits you here each morning – as well as free coffee in the lobby.
The rooms and facilities are clean and well maintained, and the management keeps in line with celebrations, decorating the inn to match the holiday season.
Pensacola Victorian B&B
Accommodation here comes with free WiFi, and guests have access to a shared lounge and garden.
At this B&B, you will have a private bathroom, complete with free toiletries to use on your stay.
In line with its name, the setup throws you back to the Victorian era, which is quite a unique experience.
Convenient location, sumptuous breakfast – they all add to the value you get from checking in here.
Check price at the Victorian B&B
Best places to stay in Pensacola beachfront
These beachfront hotels and resorts below will give you the best vacation for a stay directly on the coast.
It’s not only about the direct access to the beach but also about the pools facing the Gulf of Mexico and the private rooms with spacious balconies, great views of the ocean and a nice gulf breeze.
I have actually mentioned before the Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach, with an exclusive outdoor pool facing the Gulf of Mexico
Here below, you will find another 2 accommodation options.
Hilton Pensacola Beach ($$$+)
This beach hotel goes big – from the indoor and outdoor pools, spacious comfortable rooms, to having 3 on-site restaurants for you to dine at, a fitness center and even a 24-hour business center with meeting rooms, which is ideal for people on business trips.
Room service is only per request – so you won’t have to worry about being interrupted during your stay.
The views here are superb, especially from the large balconies.
Springhill Suites Pensacola Beach ($$$+)
Wake up to a buffet breakfast, take a dip in the outdoor pool, get direct access to the beach itself, come back and relax in the jacuzzi, and enjoy panoramic views of the Gulf right from your room – your stay at the SpringHill Suites will be worth it.
The staff keep things squeaky clean, down to the little things. Such a friendly hotel too.
The guest rooms themselves are large, and the location gives you bang for your buck.