PCB Bucket List: The Best Things to Do in Panama City Beach

Last updated on:
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure policy here.

Here's the situation I'm in: it's already mid-August, and I am NOT ready for summer to be over yet.

I mean, I haven't gone to enough bonfires, or on enough bike rides. I only went to an amusement park once, and haven't eaten any deep-fried fair food. I missed out on fireworks, haven't been on nearly enough hikes, and don't even have a hint of a tan.

In fact, this summer is the first in the past 3 or 4 that I didn't go to a SINGLE beach – in fact, I don't think I even wore a bathing suit.

So, when Elliot and I started brainstorming a combined birthday trip for late September/early October, we both decided that we want to extend our summers. We both agreed that we should go somewhere warm. Somewhere sunny. Somewhere… beachy.

St. Joe Beach
Port St. Joe Beach

We have a handful of options already jotted down. But, from a budget standpoint, the Gulf Coast of the US makes the most sense. And, the more I started thinking about the Gulf Coast, the more I decided that going to a bigger city would probably be ideal for the sort of active beach vacation we're hoping to plan.

I've spent time in small beachy Gulf cities like Port St. Joe and Apalachicola before, and, while they are great, there's not a whole lot to do in them.

Then Panama City Beach's Bucket List campaign fell into my email inbox.

It was almost as if they were reading my mind and KNEW that I was considering a Florida beach vacation.

Photo from travelmindset.com

I've been to Panama City Beach before (and NO, not for Spring Break — though it's a popular destination that time of year, too).

My family has held reunions in Mexico Beach in the past, and my mom, sister and I would always head to Panama City Beach for a day of shopping and movie-watching at Pier Park. My sister and I even took a standup paddleboarding/surfing lesson there one summer.

But now I'm kind of thinking it would be the perfect place to extend our summer and cross a lot of things off our beachy bucket lists in the process.

Here's a look at the top things to do during a getaway to Panama City Beach.

The best things to do in Panama City Beach, Florida

1. Try SUP/surfing

Like I mentioned, I've actually done this before; the beaches at Panama City Beach are great for beginner surfers/SUP'ers. My lesson actually started off as a standup paddleboarding lesson, and then ended with us riding the waves on the giant boards.

It was a lot of fun, and I would definitely do it again. They even have some paddleboarding companies that offer yoga lessons on the water. I'm pretty sure I would be terrible at that, but it might be fun to try anyway!

SUP surfing in PCB
Me paddleboarding in PCB

2. Take a helicopter ride

After seeing photos of Panama City Beach and the surrounding area from above (and after knowing first-hand how fun a helicopter ride can be), I would really like to fly high above the beach here, too.

The water is so clear in places that there's a good chance you would get to see marine life like dolphins and sharks.

3. Go shopping at Pier Park

Every time I've been to Panama City Beach in the past, I've gone shopping, had dinner, and saw a movie at Pier Park. It's a nice outdoor shopping complex with plenty of stores to check out. And hey, Margaritaville is kinda fun.

Pier Park

4. Go on a dolphin tour

Panama City Beach and its waters are home to a pod of bottlenose dolphins. These curious creatures are always fun to see in the wild, and there are plenty of tour companies in Panama City Beach that will take you out to see and interact with them in their natural habitat.

Many companies will also provide snorkeling gear and will let you hop in the water when the dolphins are nearby (which is really the only way you should ever swim with dolphins!).

Here are some tours to check out:

5. Visit Shell Island

Not far from Panama City Beach lies Shell Island, a barrier island covered in sand dunes and forests that are home to lots of native Florida wildlife.

If you're looking to escape the touristy streets of the city, Shell Island is the place to go. I definitely wouldn't mind spending a few hours on the natural beaches here.

6. Watch a sunset from a pier

Sunsets across the Gulf of Mexico are always great to watch because you can see the sun sinking into the sea. I would love to catch one of these sunsets from one of Panama City Beach's piers; maybe the Russell-Fields Pier across the street from Pier Park.

Russell-Fields Pier

7. Go sailing

I have a thing about sailboats – basically, I love them. So sailing out in the Gulf definitely goes on this list! Several companies offer sunset sails on catamarans, which is a great way to end a beach day.

8. Attend Pirate Fest

I didn't know about the “Pirates of the High Seas Fest” before doing some research on things to do in Panama City Beach, but it just so happens that it's an annual festival that takes place in mid-October. Sounds like tons of swashbuckling fun.

9. Take a day trip to Mexico Beach

Lastly, I couldn't be in the Panhandle and NOT visit some of my favorite beaches in the US. A day trip to Mexico Beach would definitely be in order. The sand there is soft and white, and there are hardly any people around. Perfect for a mini getaway.


Looking to stay in Panama City Beach? Here are some of the best hotel options:

The beachfront Hampton Inn & Suites is the top-rated hotel in Panama City Beach on TripAdvisor, followed by the Osprey on the Gulf. Or you can check out the Sheraton Bay Point Resort, which also has great ratings.

If a vacation rental is more your speed, check out this corner condo with ocean views and pool access, this beachy cottage with a small private pool, or this beachfront home that can sleep up to 16.

You can also search for more PCB vacation rentals here.

READ NEXT: 5 Awesome Things to do in Crystal River, Florida

What else would you add to this beachy bucket list of ours?

Pin it for later:

*Note: This post was brought to you by Visit Panama City Beach, however all opinions and suggestions are entirely my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

Join the ADB Community!
Sign up here to get exclusive travel tips, deals, and other inspiring goodies delivered to your inbox.

15 Comments on “PCB Bucket List: The Best Things to Do in Panama City Beach

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I have lived in Panama City for 3 years, survived Hurricane Michael in 2018, live in a beautiful home on a Bay, and can see Dolphins just a mile from my front porch. I agree this is a GREAT place to visit and the sand is beautiful but not a great place to live full time – especially if you want to get things done, expect great customer service and for goods/services to be available, affordable, and high quality. Healthcare is also sub-par (there are a few exceptions). Panama City is the place for vacations and 1 maybe 2 full days of activities. Then just lounging around.

    Did you ever make it to Panama Beach City? My family and I are heading there this summer and I was trying to find stuff for us to do. I definitely want to do a Dolphin Tour. Can’t wait. It will be my first trip to Florida.

      Yes I´ve been there! And basically everything in this post can be done from there. 🙂

    PCB is ahhmazing. I need to go back in the fall! I’m so glad you used one of my photos in your post (the top one)!

      That whole part of Florida is gorrrrrgeous!

    As you can tell by the name of our blog, we love beaches too! In two weeks we will be in Turks and Caicos, then Florida for a month before spending 3 months in the Bahamas. So yeah… we love beaches!

    Have fun on your beach break 🙂

      I’ve not been to the Turks and Caicos, but I would love to go someday!

    Ahoy, Amanda!

    WOW! Thank you for sharing! PCB is a very magical place and it’s perfect to relax on the beach! Hope you visit the Gulf Coast again, soon!

    At your service!
    Relax on the Beach
    Social Media Services

      I hope I find myself back on the Gulf Coast again soon, too!

    I have heard that Panama Beach is meant to be amazing, I only made it to southern Florida but hope to see more of the State one day

      The Gulf Coast is pretty amazing!

    Florida Girl here!, just went to Panama City for the first time last weekend! GORGEOUS beaches, and perfect for the 100 degree weather! Hope you have fun! 🙂

      From my short visits there, I never really realized how much there is to do!

As Seen On

As Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen On