by Hilarye Fuller
The Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach does an excellent job providing families a vacation they will remember. Kids will love hopping from the Aquaplaned water playground to the pool and to the beach while enjoying kid-friendly dining and snacks. Families enjoy the extras, such as evening entertainment of fire dancers, magicians and dive-in movies that feature kid-friendly choices. Parents can drop kids off at Splash’s Kids’ Club and enjoy the spa, while kids have pirate-themed lunches, arts and crafts, games and more.
Our Editor Loves
- Large pool and water playground
- Kids-eat-free dining options
- Easy access to the beach
- Theme Park
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Each room is equipped with a full-size refrigerator and freezer, microwave, DVD player, and a balcony with chairs and a small table. Every room at the Holiday Inn Resort has a beautiful ocean view, and free Wi-Fi is available. Connecting rooms, cribs and rollaway beds are available. Rollaways are $15 a night.
This room has two queen beds, and is perfect for a family of four.
For families of five or more, the Family Rooms are an excellent option. They have two sets of bunk beds that are semi-enclosed in a separate area, along with a queen bed for parents. Six people can easily and comfortably fit in the family rooms. There is no sleeper sofa.
Kid Suites are similar in setup to the Family Rooms, but instead of bunk beds, they come with two twin beds and a queen bed. The semi-enclosed area that houses the small beds also comes with its own TV and an Xbox. Families with young children will love the comfort and ease these rooms offer.
Choose from two different suites: Admiral's Quarters or Flamingo. The Admiral's Quarters has a full kitchen and two separate bedrooms, one with a king sized bed and one with two queen beds; it is beautifully decorated with upscale furniture. The Admiral's Quarters Suite sleeps six people. The Flamingo offers a kitchenette and a separate dining area, and a king bed. Each comes with spectacular ocean views from two private balconies. The Flamingo Suite sleeps two people.
Our trip to the Holiday Inn Resort this past summer was our first to this hotel, having stayed the previous few years at the Edgewater Resort.
Both have their advantages, but the Holiday Inn definitely edges past the Edgewater in many aspects. One notable difference is that the Edgewater, which is also home to residents, closes its shops, etc. at 9 p.m.
At the Holiday Inn Resort, the restaurants, shop, game room, etc., stay open until midnight, which is far more convenient.
Both play movies at night, but the game room and outdoor pool table at the Holiday Inn are a definite plus. Unfortunately, during our stay, the cue sticks outside lacked tips, but, it's still manageable to play billiards.
The game room is well-appointed and includes ping pong, pool tables and video games including my son's favorite, Fast & Furious.
Splash pad was also very nice and the kids had a great time there and in the pool.
The room was nice, did not have as many conveniences as the condo room at the Edgewater, but then again, who goes to the beach just to stay in the room? So that was not a problem for us.
Hotel is within walking distance to a cool little bar across the street, the name of which I have forgotten. Didn't go to the bar this year, but, maybe next year.
Staff are very polite, engaging and genuinely nice. Five stars for that.
The pizza kiosk turns out what is actually a very good pie, another bonus.
Live acts such as Tim Rushlow perform on weekends and during the day, live music and / or a DJ provide pop music for the guests. I'm not a pop music fan, so I had my trusty mp3 player and earbuds to listen to what I want.
The beach itself is nice and clean and some evenings there is a beach bonfire which is also illuminated nicely by laser and LED lights.
Now, the problem: My wife and I choose places to stay on the basis of pet policies in part.
I know I will surely prompt howls of protest (no pun intended), but despite the NO PETS policy as listed on the hotel's website, some dogs are in the hotel and also on the beach where they are also prohibited. None had service animal vests and are clearly anything but. And even if they had vests, anyone can purchase fake vests online anyway.
We would prefer a room that is potentially not tainted with pet hair and dander for starters. One of my children is skittish around dogs, another has been bitten. I have been bitten more than once and also was attacked by two large dogs while bicycle riding. I know I have to try to explain these things because many dog owners react to such objections with more outrage than if someone announced they are a serial killer.
I say all this as someone who grew up with dogs too, I will add.
One yappy little dog in the hallway downstairs was on one of those retractable leashes that of course, stretches very long and was straining from side to side while barking at nearly everyone. You can't blame the dog either as this is just a poor dumb animal in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people, smells and sights. The problem is the self-entitled owners who don't believe rules apply to them. And before anyone says it, ESAs are not service animals, just as the website explains.
When I asked at the front desk about the presence of dogs, I was met with a very friendly and patient explanation that they can't really do anything about it.
So it is with some reluctance that I post my one objection as I do so knowing the risk of inviting others to ignore the rules and bring their dogs to the hotel.
Would I stay there again? Yes, definitely would like to.
I just would like to see them enforce their rules as they should, or barring that, change the hotel to a pet-friendly policy and I can pick somewhere else to stay. Humble advice to IHG: Please don't list a NO PETS policy and then permit guests to bring pets.
Summary: Save yourself the stress and book somewhere else until this place reopens fully. Sans construction, the resort makes for a nice 2-3 star standard hotel with beach access. Construction makes this not a place to stay until they're done. I generally travel for business in the IHG chain and as a result, do not frequent their resorts. This experience makes me much less likely to do so in the future.
The Holiday Inn Resort is undergoing construction currently. We were not notified of this fact prior to booking. However, we received a call prior to our stay notifying us that the resort was under construction and that noise should be expected from 7AM-7PM. They are correct! The noise is constant and ranges from pounding/slamming/loud talking to annoying constant vibrations for the entire day. The constant vibrations are especially endearing and could probably be sold to the military as a method for making people talk. Several days the noise has started well prior to 7 and ended after 7. On Wednesday of our stay, the work started around 5AM, continuing merrily on. Also, when you check-in there is a form which, in large red print, notifies you of a large cancellation fee should you desire to end your stay early. On your first day, you'll feel some shaking in the walls and think "man, I hope they're reviewing the structural diagram for these changes", by the last day after becoming close enemies with the vibrations and noises you'll be saying "maybe death by collapse isn't so bad".
Rooms: Large guest rooms are dated but clean (they are working on updating these).
Amenities: Multiple Pools including a kids mini water-park and large hot tub. None of the pools were heated, making swimming a very "cool" experience. There is scaffolding, around the pool are and the construction crew is working on re-facing the stucco around the pool area. Gym is clean, included several treadmills, but was small and would likely have issues accommodating your workout during busy season
Food: Generally higher-priced meals, typical of resorts. Multiple restaurants on-site.
Customer Service: Friendly, helpful staff answered several questions promptly.
Wireless Internet: Terrible. Speed tested around 1MB/s.
Bathrooms: Clean. Small items in disrepair.
Tropical Pool Deckâ€¨
It's a tough choice between the pool and the beach, but families love relaxing poolside and soaking up some sun before taking a dip in one of two pools, or warming up in the over-sized hot tub. The main focal point of the pool deck is the large pool with a cascading waterfall that allows for plenty of room to float undisturbed, even on the busiest of days. It is 4.5 feet deep. Adjacent to the large pool, you will find the kiddie pool, which ranges in depth from about 3 to 4.5 feet. The pool deck hours are 8 a.m. to midnight. There is no lifeguard on duty.
What kid wouldn't love to splash about in the pool and get to watch a family-friendly movie at the same time? Dive-in movies are offered nightly as long as weather cooperates after dark. Hotel guests can either float around the pool or curl up in a lounge chair and enjoy complimentary popcorn. It's a great way to unwind from a long day in the sun.
Shows and Entertainment
There are a variety of shows and entertainment offered at the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach -- a free added amenity for all guests. After a day of splashing at the pool or out on the beach, Holiday Inn offers seasonal entertainment including magic shows, fire dancers, Las Vegas style shows and much more. Shows take place either on the pool deck, the stage next to the Bamboo Grill, or at the kids' club's Under the Sea Activities Center. Shows usually start mid-April and run through October.
Kids of all ages adore the 3,600-square-foot water playground located right off the tropical pool deck and with beautiful views of the ocean. All day long, you will see toddlers to grade school-age children running around and being dumped on by towering buckets, running up and down the slides and more. There is plenty of seating around the water playground area, and it is also fenced off so younger kids can't run off by themselves. During the summer months, a team of friendly pirates will play games with the kids.
Splash's Kids' Club
Family vacations are fantastic for spending quality time together, but every once in awhile, it's nice for parents to have a rest. Splash's Kids' Club is for ages 5 to 14 years old and has a variety of different programming and themed meals throughout the day to appeal to different age groups. Some activities require a reservation and come with a fee, including Kids Night Out and Splash's Tuck In, the latter of which includes Splash the dolphin mascot tucking the kids in to bed with milk and cookies. Fees vary depending on time of year and occupancy.
Under the Sea Activities Center
Many of the activities for Splash's Kids' Club take place in the Under the Sea Activities Center. It's an ideal place for kids ages 5 to 14 to take a break from the heat and meet other kids while enjoying arts and crafts, board games, playing X-box or watching a movie on the 180-inch movie screen. Other activities include group-led games with the opportunity to win prizes; themed lunches and dinners; and a D.J. that will come in and lead dancing and games.
Pirates Den Game Room
Sometimes the Gulf Coast sun gets too hot, even with a pool nearby. That's why the Pirates Den Game Room is a perfect escape for older children and teens. Equipped with pool tables, Ping-Pong tables and lots of arcade games, it's a fun and safe place for teens to hang out and make new friends.
Open for breakfast and lunch, The View restaurant is a great option for families. Families with kids up to age 12 will want to take advantage of Holiday Inn's kids-eat-free promotion. The kids' menu comes with the typical choice of cheeseburgers, grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese, and kids can choose from sides such as a vegetable, fruit cup or French fries. They also receive a frozen treat at the end of their meal. Parents will enjoy daily specials and grown-up options on the regular menu like surf and turf and gourmet burgers. Reservations are not necessary. Hours are 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.
â€¨â€¨The Bamboo Grill
For those looking for a more casual spot to grub on sandwiches, burgers and salads, the Bamboo Grill on the pool deck is the perfect place. You can order lunch and dinner quickly and easily while wearing your swimsuits. Take it back to your lounge chair to enjoy or sit under one of the many tables with umbrellas. Families love that the kids-eat-free promotion also works at the Bamboo Grill (when accompanied by an adult). Bamboo Grill hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Pizza Shackâ€¨
Also located directly on the pool deck is the Pizza Shack. Enjoy a fresh pizza, nachos or soft pretzel for a quick lunch or snack while you lounge by the pool. The pizza shack is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
For those times when you feel like relaxing in your room, Holiday Inn Resort offers room service. A surcharge is added to every order and the kids-eat-free promotion does not apply to in-room dining. Kids' options are available, however. There are two menus offered, one for breakfast and one for lunch/dinner, with some late-night snack options added. Hours of room service operation are 7 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
There's a resort fee of $25 per night. The resort fee covers entertainment, fitness room access, activity centers, and sauna, pool and towel service.
Check-in is guaranteed at 3 p.m. and check out is at 11 a.m.
Pets aren't permitted at the resort.
The Art of Smart Timing
The hotel's high season starts in March and goes through September. Families should plan their vacation to the hotel around the college spring break peak period (March to mid-April).
The nearest airports are Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, which is about 25 minutes from the Holiday Inn Resort, or Pensacola International Airport, which is about 2 hours and 20 minutes from the hotel. Most travelers arrive by their own car from regional areas. The hotel is located on the main strip of hotels and condos on Front Beach Boulevard. Traffic seems to flow fairly well, but it can be a little slow in the mornings and evenings at rush hour.
Parking is located across the street from the hotel, on Beach Front Road. When checking in, pull into the hotel's loading zone in front of the hotel. There are bellhops there to help and direct you, but note that they can get overloaded when everyone is checking in around 3 p.m. You will be issued a parking pass and a shuttle will take you back and forth between the parking lot and hotel as needed.
For Mom and Dadâ€¨
Drop the kids off at Splash's Kids' Club and enjoy cocktails and views at the Sunset Lounge on the third floor of the SeaWatch Conference and Entertainment Center. You can also head to the Oasis bar, located right off of the beach. If you'd like a spa treatment, visit the hotel's Gulf Front Spa.