Northwest Florida’s 30A is a scenic stretch of coastal highway dotted with distinct beach communities, each with its own style of vacation rentals, restaurants and coffee shops. But one thing you’ll struggle to find on this gorgeous section of South Walton’s Emerald Coast is a hotel located right on the beach. If you’re looking for private beach access at one of the best family resorts in Florida, follow the Florida Panhandle a few miles west to Miramar Beach for a stay at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa.
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About Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
Hilton Sandestin has all the ingredients for a memorable group trip: beautiful beachfront location, huge family-friendly suites with bunk beds and balconies, heated indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, access to four golf courses and six onsite dining options.
The white quartz sand on the resort’s private beach is so pure it squeaks beneath your feet and the Gulf of Mexico water is so striking it rivals the Caribbean.
Whether you’re planning a girls’ weekend, wedding, vacation with kids or are on the hunt for the perfect family reunion destination, Hilton Sandestin checks all the boxes for a dreamy beach getaway.
Hilton Sandestin Rooms and Suites
Currently undergoing a $35 million renovation, Hilton Sandestin is revamping all of its 590 guest suites, as well as the lobby, restaurants, meeting spaces, indoor pool, spa and hotel exterior. About half of the guest suites have already been completely refreshed and are available to book.
If you’re traveling with children, book a Deluxe Junior Suite in the Emerald Tower. These spacious rooms have a separate sleeping area for kids, with bunk beds and their own TV. You’ll also have a mini fridge and a balcony with stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico.
For even more space, there are one-bedroom family suites that come with a separate bedroom and bathroom in addition to the bunk beds and a sofa bed. If you’ll be traveling with extended family, ask about adjoining rooms.
Family Fun at Hilton Sandestin
Bring your own pool floats to inflate at the poolside air pump, or borrow one from the pile of toys guests have left behind. Then hop into one of two outdoor heated pools or follow one of the three short boardwalks down to the beach. The gulf water is warm and clear, which is perfect for snorkeling, and the powdery sand makes great sandcastles.
Take a break at Picnix Poolside Market to grab a personal pan pizza and an ice cream cone. This will give you the energy to hop aboard the free tram to explore Choctawhatchee Bay and The Village of Baytown Wharf.
Tip: Reserve a poolside cabana when you book your stay — there are only eight and they can get snapped up months in advance.
Relax and Unwind by the Sea
Start your morning at Hilton Sandestin with a stroll along the resort’s private beach to the neighboring Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. This quiet beachside park is home to dune lakes, birds and natural landscapes.
After breakfast, try gentle yoga and vinyasa flow with a resort instructor. There are two free classes each week and you can request to take your mat outside for yoga on the deck. It’s relaxing to stretch to the sounds of the ocean below.
And of course, to reward yourself for exercising, you should book a massage service at Serenity by the Sea Spa. Take your time here — decompress in the steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and lounges. You can order lunch to be delivered to the spa so you can stay longer.
When you’re ready to head back outside, grab a lounge chair on the pool deck or head down to the ocean. You can reserve a beach setup of two beach chairs and an umbrella in advance of your stay and you won’t be charged until you check in with the recreation staff.
Tip: You must check in with the recreation team on the day of your beach setup rental by 11 a.m. or you will lose your reservation. The earlier you check in, the better spot you can claim on the beach.
Hilton Sandestin Restaurants
There are several onsite dining options at Hilton Sandestin, including in-room dining.
In the morning, grab a Starbucks from The Coffee Bar or enjoy a daily buffet of fresh fruits and pastries at Sandcastles Restaurant and Lounge. You can return to Sandcastles later in the day for pizza, salads and sandwiches, or order Hadashi Sushi menu items.
For lunch with a view, head outside to Barefoot’s Beachside Bar and Grill for a grouper sandwich or firecracker shrimp wrap. Add a frozen Tito’s handmade lemonade or a spicy blood orange margarita to drink while wave-watching. This restaurant is seasonal and closes during the winter months.
When you’re ready for a special evening meal, order the Chef Specialty Sashimi Plate from Hadashi Sushi Bar or make a reservation at Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood. The latter, a AAA Four-Diamond steakhouse, is popular with hotel guests and locals alike. Request a song from the pianist and settle in for a relaxing meal.
Seagar’s Executive Chef Fleetwood Covington was once a concert pianist himself. He’s now a food artist who aims for the wow factor with his creations, like translucent key lime pie and dishes adorned with edible carrot paint.
Order the tableside Caesar salad, melt-in-your-mouth Japanese A-5 wagyu and flambéed bananas or peach foster. You can also share decadent sides like truffle fries, macaroni and cheese and creamed corn.
Ways To Save on Your Hilton Sandestin Stay
- Check out current offers on the Hilton Sandestin website.
- Sign up on the offers page to receive emails with deals.
- Visit in low season. October is a great month, when it’s typically still warm enough to swim and Barefoot’s has not yet closed for winter.
- Invest in a Barefoot’s sports bottle for $25 — you’ll get free refills of soda or tea from Barefoot’s, Sandcastles, Picnix and The Coffee Shop for your entire stay.
- Take a free shuttle to Silver Sands Premium Outlets and a free resort tram throughout the 2,100-acre property.
- Try the free yoga classes. Call the spa to register.
- Bring your own gear for offshore fishing. Barefoot’s will cook your catch.
- Use the guest laundry room, located around the corner from Seagar’s.
- Bring your own pool floats, or borrow some from the poolside left-behind pile.
- Order groceries online from the Publix in Sandestin. You can keep perishables in the mini-fridge in your room.
- Take the family to Sandcastles for breakfast. Kids 12 and under eat free breakfast with the purchase of an adult meal.
How To Get to Hilton Sandestin
Hilton Sandestin is only 20 minutes east of Destin, Florida making it an easy destination to reach by car. There are also three airports nearby. If you fly, you’ll need to arrange your own transportation to the resort because there is no airport shuttle.
- Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) is a small airport that’s only 24 miles from the resort. You can rent a car here or take Uber or Lyft to the hotel.
- Pensacola International Airport (PNS) is farther but has more direct flights. It will take you about an hour and a half to get from the airport to Hilton Sandestin, so a rental car or car service will be your best bet.
- Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) is another option that is about an hour from the resort.
*All photos credited to Heidi Gollum.
About the author: Heidi Gollub has been a freelance travel writer for 14 years, contributing to publications such as Forbes, Fodor’s and Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She’s also an award-winning editor who has worked at U.S. News and World Report, Forbes Advisor and USA TODAY.