Top 10 Pensacola Beach Hotels Are Pretty Wonderful
To understand the Gulf Coast of the United States, you have to visit Pensacola Beach. The barrier island in the far northwest corner of Florida kicks off 100 miles of sugar-sand beaches known as the Emerald Coast and stretches east, all the way to Panama City Beach.
It's a beautiful place. But what you won't get from just visiting Pensacola Beach is a clear understanding of where the best places to stay are in this wonderful spot and the finer points for your next trip.
These are the 10 best Pensacola Beach hotels and what you need to know about them, from beachfront access to the best hotel bars and tiki bar hideaways.
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10. Surf & Sand Hotel
Amenities: Pool, free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, equipment rentals
Number of rooms: 99
Bottom line: The Surf & Sand Hotel underwent a major renovation in 2022, which was its first since being purchased by Innisfree Hotels in 2015. The new-look Surf & Sand reportedly had a spike in customer satisfaction from around 50 percent to approximately 82 percent following the almost top-to-bottom refab. It was much needed after years of being in a state of disrepair.
As far as location, no hotel on Pensacola Beach is at a bigger disadvantage compared to the others than the Surf & Sand. None of the rooms have a clear, direct view of the Gulf of Mexico, and one entire side of the hotel is buttressed up against the world-famous Sandshaker Lounge, where the party doesn't stop until the wee hours of the morning on some nights.
Book it: Surf & Sand Hotel
9. Paradise Inn
Amenities: Pool, free Wi-Fi, free parking, free breakfast
Number of rooms: 56
Bottom line: I cannot tell you how much of a full-throttle, you-have-to-go recommendation needs to be put in place for visiting the Paradise Inn Bar and Grill, which shares the premises with the quaint, classic (i.e., thin-walled) hotel.
While the bar and grill will satisfy any beachgoer needs you may have in terms of food and entertainment — it's pretty much the beach bar of your dreams —staying here leaves something to be desired. The pool setup is just about nonexistent, and it's kind of a disjointed property, with some of the rooms on an inner courtyard facing the bar and grill area and others to the side and out back, facing a dirt parking lot. The back part of the hotel was hit hard during Hurricane Sally in 2020, and the roof was almost completely ripped off.
Like I said, whatever you do, don't skip the bar and grill, which opens up to a luscious bay and has a long fishing pier that's really unrivaled in the area as far as eating or drinking establishments. It's the real deal.
Book it: Paradise Inn
8. Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach
Amenities: Pool, beachfront access, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, fitness center, business center
Number of rooms: 181
Bottom line: As far as beachfront hotels, you could do a lot worse than the Hampton Inn on Pensacola Beach. But you might find yourself with a little jealous glance at your neighbors to the east as you look toward the Hilton and the Holiday Inn Express Resort.
Another drawback to the Hampton Inn is it is the hotel that's closest to a row of Pensacola Beach businesses. They are located directly on famed Casino Beach and draw an immense amount of people starting with Crabs, a popular local restaurant, then The Dock, which transforms into a nightclub starting on Thursday nights during the tourist season.
That's not to mention the people who are gulf front on the beach itself. It can be a lot to deal with.
Book it: Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach
7. SpringHill Suites by Marriott Pensacola Beach
Amenities: Pools, kids pool, hot tub, free breakfast, tiki bar, business center, free Wi-FI, beachfront access
Number of rooms: 117
Bottom line: The SpringHill Suites by Marriott Pensacola Beach is a totally underrated spot to stay at on Pensacola Beach. They've got multiple pools, including a kid-friendly pool with the huge buckets that fill up and dump on the kids every few minutes.
The SpringHill Suites is pretty basic as far as its setup and amenities but is also pretty affordable compared to the other hotels on the beach. The real draw here is the back, pool area with a more-than-decent tiki bar that overlooks several pools and the entrance to the beach and the Gulf of Mexico.
Book it: SpringHill Suites by Marriott Pensacola Beach
6. Margaritaville Beach Hotel
Amenities: Pool, multiple bars, restaurant, Margaritaville gift shop, business center, free Wi-Fi, beachfront access, equipment rentals,
Number of rooms: 162
Bottom line: The man himself, Jimmy Buffett, established the Margaritaville Beach Hotel on Pensacola Beach in 2010. And you can see where the money went the moment you walk in, with expansive views of the Gulf of Mexico from the lobby and one of those long, stretched-out pools once you walk out of the bar to luxuriate in all day.
While most hotels on Pensacola Beach were more in line with Florida's, um, "less restrictive," rules during the pandemic, Margaritaville was not. And that restrictive nature has extended past the pandemic with locals no longer allowed access to the lobby or indoor restaurant and bar.
What Margaritaville does have that's unique is it's own outdoor seasonal bar and restaurant attached to the property with Landshark Landing, which includes live music, hammocks and multiple fire pits spilling out to the Gulf of Mexico. It's pretty wonderful on the right night.
Book it: Margaritaville Beach Hotel
5. Holiday Inn Express Pensacola Beach
Amenities: Pool (indoor/outdoor), beachfront access, free breakfast, bike rental
Number of rooms: 76
Bottom line: The younger sibling of the Holiday Inn resort on the other side of Pensacola Beach is the Holiday Inn Express Pensacola Beach. It has a way more chilled-out vibe, with all of the rooms facing the Gulf of Mexico, and got a recent refurbishment while the hotel closed for more than a year following Hurricane Sally in 2020.
This location is interesting because it's across from residential condos and a large residential neighborhood on Little Sabine Bay that features some of the more expensive homes on Pensacola Beach. It's added an extra feature recently with pay-by-card bike rentals in a rack out front.
Book it: Holiday Inn Express Pensacola Beach
4. Fairfield Inn & Suites Pensacola Beach
Amenities: Pool, beachfront access, fitness center, free breakfast, hot tub, dry cleaning service
Number of rooms: 209
Bottom line: This is so close to completion we decided to include it on the list. The 209-room Fairfield Inn & Suites is scheduled to open in the spring of 2023 and will be among the larger hotels on Pensacola Beach.
While initial rumblings were that the hotel being built in this space was a "boutique," the construction quickly revealed a much more ambitious project that's going to be more in line with the Holiday Inn Resort next door.
The most unique feature? A second-floor lobby that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico.
Book it: Fairfield Inn & Suites Pensacola Beach
3. Holiday Inn Pensacola Beach Resort Gulf Front
Amenities: Lazy river, tiki bar, restaurant/bar, indoor/outdoor pool, beachfront access, fitness center, business center, free Wi-Fi, hot tubs
Number of rooms: 206
Bottom line: It's almost a guaranteed good time, every time, when you stay at the Holiday Inn Pensacola Beach Resort Gulf Front. Thanks to its massive outdoor area, there is a pool and a lazy river that sits just below Riptides, which is one of the better tiki bars on the island and has some pretty wonderful views of the Gulf of Mexico. The restaurant and bar inside the hotel itself is nothing special, but it's serviceable.
This place can get pretty overwhelming in the spring and summer, but that's not unique to this particular hotel. What is unique to it is the size, with 206 rooms, although things will get a little more crowded on this block in the spring of 2023 with the addition of Fairfield Inn & Suites.
Really though, the lazy river is the big sell here. It's really chill.
Book it: Holiday Inn Pensacola Beach Resort Gulf Front
2. Pensacola Beach RV Resort
Amenities: Sneaky Tiki Bar, bayfront access, playground, pool
Number of spaces: 72
Bottom line: So we are fudging a bit here on the whole "hotel" aspect thing, but I can't make this list of places to stay on Pensacola Beach without including the best RV resort on the Gulf Coast. And it's smack dab in the middle of all the hotels I've been talking about.
The reason the Pensacola Beach RV Resort is a can't miss if you're traveling by those means is the sense of community — campground style — you feel once you're staying there. In recent years, this place has the added bonus of encompassing the most popular hidden spot during the tourist season with the Sneaky Tiki Bar, nestled right up to the bay.
You won't believe it until you see it.
Book it: Pensacola Beach RV Resort
1. Hilton Pensacola Beach
Amenities: Pool (indoor and outdoor), beachfront access, hot tub, multiple restaurants and bars, salon, Starbucks, gift shop, equipment rentals, fitness center, business center
Number of rooms: 275
Bottom line: The nicest hotel on Pensacola Beach is also its biggest. The Hilton Pensacola Beach has its own sushi restaurant with a killer view of the Gulf of Mexico — Bonsai — along with its own Starbucks and a massive bar and restaurant area attached to its lounge. This massive, two-building structure has its own salon as well. And that's just touching on what's inside.
It's located just outside the grasp of the main part of Pensacola Beach with the boardwalk and the Casino Beach area to give it enough breathing room so you don't feel overwhelmed with people when you walk out the front, onto Via De Luna Drive, or out the back and into the sugar sands of the Gulf of Mexico.
Pretty wonderful place to stay.
Book it: Hilton Pensacola Beach