Framed by dazzling sunshine, crystal-clear water and sugar-white sand, Pensacola shows the most magical side of the Florida Panhandle. Take full advantage of the picture-perfect environment with these beautiful options for where to stay in the Pensacola area.
Pensacola Beach — the big-ticket item — offers both that stunning shoreline and a fun after-beach scene. This is a classic beach hub catering to all from couples looking for seclusion to families with young kids to those craving vibrancy.
Downtown Pensacola provides a surprisingly lively entertainment scene, complete with museums, restaurants and bars. Additionally, other appreciated options for where to stay when visiting the Pensacola area are Gulf Breeze and Navarre Beach.
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A crowd-pleaser of almost unthinkable scale, Pensacola Beach features mile after mile of glistening dunes. Here, on Santa Rosa Island, you find the seemingly endless Gulf Islands National Seashore, where the sand is as white as sand comes and the water as clear as water comes.
Because Santa Rosa Island is a long (40 mi/64 km) and thin island, you’re always really close to those inviting dunes. But to make a stay extra memorable, there are several beachfront hotels, such as the awe-inspiring Pensacola Beach Resort.
On top of that beach landscape, Pensacola Beach has a quirky selection of restaurants, bars and shops demanding your attention. So, if you don’t want to, you don’t need to leave the island during your visit.
But where to stay in Pensacola Beach then?
The busiest part of Pensacola Beach is the area around Casino Beach, where you find the highest density of beachside establishments as well as the Pensacola Beach Pier. Therefore, Casino Beach is the best area to stay for access to the island’s entertainment scene.
If you go east or west from Casino Beach, the ambience gets quieter and quieter for every step you take. There’re miles of placid stretches of shoreline in both directions. So, for a quieter time, the best area to stay in Pensacola Beach is either further east or west on Santa Rosa Island.
Marking the eastern end of Pensacola Beach, the sprawling Portofino Island Resort captures this dreamy tranquility brilliantly.
- Pick Pensacola Beach for: Classic beach getaway.
Best Pensacola Beach hotels
- The Pensacola Beach Resort – The oceanfront Pensacola Beach Resort sits strategically just steps from Casino Beach and surrounding attractions, meaning walking distance to the Pensacola Beach Pier and restaurants. Despite this central vantage point, The Pensacola Beach Resort feels secluded thanks to its location on Fort Pickens Road, off the main drag. Add to that lovely facilities, including a beach-facing pool, and you have one of the best places to stay in Pensacola Beach.
- Holiday Inn Pensacola Beach – Neighboring The Pensacola Beach Resort, Holiday Inn Express embraces its position near Casino Beach but still away from the liveliness. While the comfy beds and top amenities are spot on, the breathtaking Gulf of Mexico view is the biggest drawcard, making each Gulf-front room appear like untouchable five-star luxury.
- Portofino Island Resort – Portofino Island Resort puts you at the very eastern end of Pensacola Beach, framed by undulating Gulf Islands National Seashore. Choose from a beachy range of spacious, self-contained apartments boasting a rare blend of peacefulness and luxury.
Charming Downtown Pensacola has more than 450 years of history behind it; the Spanish founded the city, claimed to be America’s first European settlement, already in 1559. Today, its historic downtown area is the city’s pumping heart and a great alternative for where to stay in Pensacola.
In Downtown Pensacola, you find an eclectic selection of educational museums, fun shops, cozy cafes, award-winning eateries and watering holes ready to cool you off. And as the area is walkable, you don’t have to rely on your car while exploring its offerings.
For a memorable night out, make your way over to the sprawling Seville Quarter, featuring seven differently themed rooms of high-spirited enjoyment. Or, stroll down the north-south Palafox Street, downtown’s main drag, to choose from an atmospheric lineup of mouthwatering and thirst-quenching joints.
Sure, you don’t have direct beach access when staying in Downtown Pensacola. But if you want to trade the city for the beach for a change, those white dunes are only a 9-mile (14 km), 20-minute drive away.
Pick Downtown Pensacola for: City vibe.
Best Downtown Pensacola hotels
- Pensacola Victorian Bed & Breakfast – What’s there not to like about a carefully furnished and decorated house from the 1800s? Check in at Pensacola Victorian Bed & Breakfast to enjoy a delightful home away from home, where a hearty complimentary breakfast is served each morning.
- Holiday Inn Downtown Pensacola – Set in a red-brick, amenity-rich building, Holiday Inn provides modern accommodations with unbeatable access to Downtown Pensacola attractions. Just cross the street to get to Pensacola Museum of Art; cross another to arrive at Pensacola Museum of History.
Between Pensacola Beach, to the south, and Downtown Pensacola, to the north, Gulf Breeze puts you a short drive from both. Sheltered from the Gulf of Mexico, this is the Fairpoint Peninsula, surrounded by the glittering Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound.
Presenting one of the area’s most cherished family experiences, Gulf Breeze Zoo is home to zebras, alligators and many more animal species. Come to meet them all, and maybe feed a few of them.
Although Gulf Breeze is close to the beach (just cross the Pensacola Beach Toll Bridge, and you’re there), the location away from the Gulf of Mexico means that hotel rates typically are lower in Gulf Breeze, compared to in Pensacola Beach. Therefore, Gulf Breeze is a popular option for where to stay when visiting Pensacola on a budget.
Pick Gulf Breeze for: A convenient, budget-friendly base.
Want to stay on the beach but prefer something more off the beaten path than Pensacola Beach? Then consider the Santa Rosa Island-neighbor Navarre Beach, hidden a 30-minute drive to the east of Pensacola Beach.
The beach is just as pretty in Navarre Beach as in Pensacola Beach. Instead, the main difference is that Navarre Beach is quieter, with smaller crowds, less things to do and fewer places to eat.
This serenity is the cherished result of efforts to protect and preserve: Navarre Beach is framed by Navarre Beach Marine Park to its east and Gulf Islands National Seashore to its west, making sure that Navarre Beach forever will be a place to get back to the basics.
All in all, Navarre Beach is an option for where to stay near Pensacola that knows all about relaxation. Flanked by long, wide beaches, Navarre Beach sets a gorgeous scene for those who prefer the road less traveled.
Pick Navarre Beach for: A quieter beach scene.
Best Navarre Beach hotels
- SpringHill Suites by Marriott – Where the Mexican Gulf laps Navarre Beach, Springhill Suites by Marriott is a hub for simplicity and solitude. Enjoy immaculate rooms, the beachside pool area and, best of all, priceless ocean views.
There’s more: See all the best places to stay in the Florida Panhandle.
Where to stay in Pensacola FAQ
For a traditional beach vacation, nothing beats the combo of the beautiful shoreline and fun distractions of Pensacola Beach. However, Downtown Pensacola is a great alternative if you’re after a relaxed city vibe not far from that breathtaking beach.
Stay near Casino Beach if you want to base yourself near Pensacola Beach entertainment. If you want a more secluded stay, stay either further east or west on Santa Rosa Island.
The beachfront Pensacola Beach Resort provides effortless access to Pensacola Beach’s most popular beach, buzzing Casino Beach. For a quieter Pensacola Beach take, with the Mexican Gulf across the road and Gulf Islands National Seashore as your neighbor, settle in at the the jaw-dropping Portofino Island Resort.
There’s no shortage of nightlife opportunities in Downtown Pensacola, with the Seville Quarter complex and north-south Palafox Street as vibrating hubs. To savor a breezy beach-bar scene, let Pensacola Beach show you a good time.
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