by Terry Ward
The first thing to know when planning a family vacation at Destin West Beach and Bay Resort is that the property’s name is a bit misleading. For starters, the complex is located in Fort Walton Beach and not in Destin, which is 6 miles east of the property. Secondly, the property is more like a collection of condos than a typical hotel or resort. That said, for families looking to vacation someplace with the comforts of home and lots of room for everyone to stretch out, this is precisely the kind of vacation stay that appeals.
The property is a collection of seven-story buildings located on both the bayside and gulfside of the main road; gulfside means fronting the sugary sandy beach along the Gulf of Mexico, while bayside is on an interior waterway, Choctawhatchee Bay.
All of the condos here — with one, two and three bedroom options, in addition to studio-style villas — are individually owned. So you should be aware that dÃ©cor is not standard throughout (some owners are more style savvy than others, but all are suitably decorated and up to date with amenities).
Of the over 300 condos on property, Destin West Beach and Bay Resort only manages 137 units here. That means that the people you might meet staying here could range from vacationers staying for a night or longer and owners visiting for a holiday, to guests who have found the condos through VRBO listings online and even year-round residents who call this place home.
If your idea of a fun Florida vacation is plenty of pool and beach time, this property is perfect. Fort Walton Beach is a sugar-sand paradise with clear turquoise water and calm seas that more resemble a lake, most of the time. Guests at Destin West Beach and Bay Resort also have access to the sister property next door, the Ramada Plaza Fort Walton Beach Resort, with a total of seven pools between the properties to enjoy (there are a fun water fall pool and swim-up bar at the Ramada that are worth the walk over). Onsite at Destin West Beach and Bay Resort, families love the lazy river and zero-entry pool. And a sky bridge walkway from the bayside to the gulfside condos and beach means that you can avoid crossing traffic on the main street to get between the resort’s two areas.
The condo-style units here offer all of the comforts of home, with separate bedrooms, sleeper sofas, fully equipped kitchens for making meals and washers and dryers in most units. Summed up, as long as you don’t want all the entertainment and coddling of a proper hotel/resort, this is the perfect place to settle in and stay a while for a taste of the Florida good life.
Our Editor Loves
- Condo-style units with full kitchens
- Lazy river and waterfall pools
- Beachfront location
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Save for the studio-style villa accommodations on the gulfside of the property, all of the accommodations here are condominium-style, with the option of one, two or three bedrooms. Only one and two-bedroom condos are available on the gulfside (beach side) of the property, with all three (one, two and three bedrooms) available in the horseshoe-shaped buildings on the bayside.
Except for the villas (which have small kitchenettes only), all of the units have fully equipped kitchens with stoves, ovens, a full-size fridge/freezer combo and all your cooking utensils. All units except villas also have full-size washers and dryers, making it a cinch to keep bathing suits and towels ready for another day. DVD players are also standard in all units. Be aware that all of the units here have individual owners, so dÃ©cor varies in each condo and villa.
Connecting units are not available, but you can request rooms next door to each other. First-floor rooms on the gulf side have handrails in the bathrooms but no roll-in showers, so there are no fully compliant ADA rooms here. Rollaway beds are available free of charge (limit one per room); cribs are not available so you'll need to bring your own.
The villa units, on the gulf side of the property, are the smallest accommodations here and are really more like studios, with a very open floor plan and no privacy for parents from their kids. Consider it like an upgraded hotel room, with a queen bed and a queen sleeper sofa to sleep a maximum of four people. These rooms have a two-burner stove and convection microwave, as well as all utensils, so you can easily prepare meals in. Villas all have balconies with resort or pool or ocean views.
Available with views of Choctawhatchee Bay on the bayside or with Gulf of Mexico views on the gulf side, these units sleep a maximum of six guests, with a king bed in the master bedroom, a queen sleeper sofa in the living room and a set of bunk beds in the corridor. There are two full bathrooms in these units, including one that has just a shower and another with a tub and shower. A full kitchen and washer and dryer are included in all units.
You can sleep up to eight people in these units, available with views of Choctawhatchee Bay on the bayside or with Gulf of Mexico views on the gulf side. There is a king bed in the master bedroom, a queen bed in a second bedroom, bunks in the corridor and a queen sleeper sofa in the living room. Two full bathrooms, a full kitchen and washer and dryer are also standard.
Found only on the bayside of the property, these units are the largest available and can sleep up to eight people (you just get a lot more room to stretch out here compared to the two-bedroom units, which also sleep eight). The layout here is a king bed in the master, a queen bed in a second bedroom, and either bunks or a queen bed in the third bedroom (be sure to specify when booking if that matters to you). There is a queen sleeper sofa in the living room. The two full bathrooms in this unit both have a tub and a shower. And there's the usual full kitchen and washer and dryer.
We stay in Wyndham Bay Club which was beautiful. The ocean was beautiful but we had to be shuttle bussed to the beach. Was suppose to be close to the beach but was a mile away. Was told it would be ocean or bay side.
We stayed on the Bay side b/c I figured the kids (10, 8, & 4) would be more interested in the big pool area. We had a bay and a gulf patio, along with the rooftop option in the Sandpiper building. The views were awesome, the resort was well kept and clean, and the workers were friendly. We enjoyed the pools on the bay and gulf side, and the beach was awesome! We went to all 3 almost everyday. The gulf water was warmer than the pool water, in my opinion. The pools were chlorine and NOT heated. It was great to have access to both resorts and the bridge connecting the two helped out so much (the road is always busy). Overall I would definitely stay here again! Just wish they'd either heat the pools on cold days or switch to salt water =)
There are five pools onsite, spread between the villas and condos. The highlight for kids is the lazy river, which sits at the center of the bayside condominiums as the focal point of this side of the resort. Yellow tubes are available for floating along the 700-foot-long river route from roughly 9 a.m. to sunset, year-round. And while the lazy river itself isn't heated (and it can get chilly during the winter months!), the small waterfall pool at its center is, and there's a hot tub here, too.
The lazy river is entered via a zero-entry "beach area" (concrete) where little kids feel comfortable splashing around. And there are two additional small free-form pools on the bayside, right by the water, that are not heated.
Over on the gulf side of the property, there is one large geometric-shaped pool in front of the gulfside condos (not heated) and a smaller heated pool at the center of the villas.
Should those pools not be enough for you and your crew, you can always wander next door to the Ramada to check out the kiddy pool and oceanfront "splash garden," as well as the property's heated outdoor pool, with a five-story waterfall and swim-up bar that begs for a frozen adult beverage. There's a hot tub at the Ramada, too.
Beach and Water Sports
An outside vendor, Coastal Beach Service, provides all kinds of rentals for you down on the sand. Two chairs and an umbrella cost $30 for a full day and $15 for a half-day (after 1 p.m.). Just an umbrella will run you $15 for the day. Other rentals include Wave Runners ($100 per hour or $65 for 30 minutes), single kayaks ($15 per hour or $30 for a half day), double kayaks ($20 per hour or $40 for a half day), stand-up paddleboards ($20 per hour) or boogie boards ($5 per hour or $10 for half a day). Items can be rented from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There's no kids' camp here, but during the summer months (Memorial Day to Labor Day) the hotel arranges "dive-in movie nights" with an inflatable screen in the gulfside pool and fun contests kids, love such as jell-o slurping competitions, sandcastle building, pool games, face painting and arts and crafts. Activities are free of charge. Also during the summer months over at the Ramada, you can sign your kids up for the weekly hour-long "Kid's Night Out" program. For $4, you'll have an hour of reprieve while they watch a movie and eat popcorn in a supervised environment.
If your kids love the chance to try their fishing luck, the pier on the bayside of the property is a prime place to try to snag a redfish or speckled trout. Gear is not provided onsite, so bring your own or pick up a new rod at the nearby Walmart or fishing store (which is also where you'll need to head to buy your permit, required for inshore fishing).
Most families staying here either cook meals in, making use of their full kitchens and the well-equipped kitchenettes in the condos and villas. Or else they enjoy a stroll to nearby restaurants on and around Fort Walton's boardwalk, which is a short walk from the property.
The Garden Cafe
No meals are included with your room rate here, but there's a restaurant onsite next door (The Garden Cafe) at the sister property, the Ramada, if you're in a pinch for a close place for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Open daily from 6 a.m. to around 10 p.m., with continuing service between breakfast, lunch and dinner, this simple restaurant in the Ramada has kid-pleasers such as pancakes, cereals, cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, pastas and grilled cheese sandwiches for around $5 to $8.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Wi-Fi is free throughout the property.
A one-time reservation fee of $20 will be applied to your bill. Because this is more of a condo-resort than a hotel, there is no daily housekeeping service. A one-time cleaning fee is applied to your rate as follows: $75 for villas, $95 for one-bedroom condos, $105 for two-bedroom condos and $135 for three-bedroom condos.
There is a small onsite gym on the gulf side of the property with treadmills, weights, an elliptical machine and stationary bikes.
The Art of Smart Timing
Pools are open year round, but only a few are heated. So during the colder months (January and February and sometimes into March), you won't likely want to swim in them.
Weather in this part of Florida is very hot for much of the year, from about April through October. The winter months of January and February can see downright chilly cold fronts whip through, and when they hit, you'll need to be bundled up on the beach. High season is December through March and also July and August. If you're here over the holiday season in December or during March, spring break, expect the property to be packed. Summer months are also crowded. For the best deals on rates, aim to book during the first two weeks of June and in September.
The nearest airport to the resort is 20 minutes away, Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, which is serviced by regional airlines operated by American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines and US Airways. Pensacola International Airport is about one hour west of the property, and is serviced by most of the major US airlines, including budget carrier Southwest. And you can also check flights into Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, about an hour away near Panama City and serviced by Silver Airways and United.
If you fly here instead of drive in on your own, you're best off renting a car to get from the airport to the property as shuttle services are very expensive. A car is also infinitely useful for checking out nearby Destin and surrounding beaches, and free parking is available in a secure lot at the hotel.
The Emerald Coast Rider bus is your sole option for public transport around Fort Walton Beach and Destin. Fares cost $1.50 per ride and kids shorter than the fare box (cute rule!) ride for free. Exact change is required to purchase tickets onboard.
For Mom and Dad
With no spa or romantic restaurant to enjoy onsite, you'll need to get off property for a proper date night. It's worth heading over to South Walton to experience a couples' massage at the 14,500-square-foot Serenity by the Sea Spa, located inside South Walton Miramar Beach, Hilton Sandestin. And for flopping-fresh redfish (locally caught!), great shrimp and dreamy sunset views along the water, plan dinner a deux at the Original Waterfront Crab Shack, a local seafood institution in Fort Walton.