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Voted the best water park on the Emerald Coast, Big Kahuna’s has slides and rides for everyone. Groups, birthdays and parties are catered to. Rent a cabana and be pampered your own server. Outrageous Go Karts, Tropical Mini Golf, untamed thrill rides, no matter the type of fun, we’ve got it.
The sand in Destin is so white you could mistake it for snow. But winter isn’t really a thing here on the Emerald Coast, where the sun shines on 24 miles of beaches along the fish-filled Gulf of Mexico, drawing vacationers year-round. Watersports and deep-sea fishing are main attractions, and you might even hear locals describe Destin as “the world’s luckiest fishing village.”
The town is developed, with high-rise condos, small amusement parks, and strip malls flanking the street, and an eclectic restaurant scene. Destin gets its share of Spring Breakers, but holds equal appeal for families and retirees who just want to hang out on the quartz-colored sands of Henderson Beach State Park, Crystal Beach, Miramar Beach, or neighboring Fort Walton Beach.
About 45 miles west of Panama City Beach and 47 miles east of Pensacola, Destin is mainly served by the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS). Two other airports, Pensacola International Airport (PNS) and Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP), are also fairly close, and quite a few vacationers arrive from the north by car. If you drive to Destin, you’ll need to pay tolls to use Spence Parkway and/or the Mid-Bay Bridge.
You’ll definitely want wheels to get around town, but not necessarily a car: low-speed vehicles resembling golf carts (which are also known as “street legal” golf carts) are very popular in the area. Note that parking near beach access points can be a frustrating endeavor.
The Gulf of Mexico lends a breeze in the summer, while its warm water keeps Destin from getting too chilly in winter. This means visitors can enjoy a moderate climate — and about 225 sunny days — throughout the year. Summers are hotter, with mostly 80-degree days and high humidity, though it’s not unheard of for the temperature to inch into the 90s. Late summer and early fall see the most heat but also rain, and in winter, temperatures hover around 65 degrees during the day and drop into the low 40s at night.
Most people prefer to visit in April and May, when conditions are perfect and summertime crowds — and peak prices — have yet to arrive. Regardless of when you’re traveling, be sure to pack your sunscreen, sunglasses, and sunhat.
For a leisurely stroll past fishing charters, water activity kiosks, tasty restaurants, and boutiques, there’s Destin Harbor’s quarter-mile boardwalk. This is the hub of commercial and tourist activity in Destin, and also a great spot to enjoy watching the boats coming in and out. An extension of the boardwalk continues into the HarborWalk Village, an epicenter of family fun and waterfront restaurants and pubs.
The area’s best beach has a natural feel and 6,000 feet of flawless white sand right up against the emerald-green Gulf of Mexico. There’s a short nature trail through a coastal dune ecosystem, and a boardwalk that leads to the beach (which is accessible and offers beach wheelchairs). Throw a chair down in the sand and stay all day; the sunsets are often epic.
A family favorite, this pristine beach park is an ideal spot for building sandcastles and frolicking in the relatively tame sea, while also providing restrooms, showers, and shaded pavilions. Consider grabbing a to-go lunch from a local sandwich shop and taking advantage of the serene picnic area.