by Karon Warren
On the heels of a $6.5-million hotel-wide renovation, the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa welcomes families to stay awhile in one of 598 guest rooms as they enjoy the sun and surf of the Florida Panhandle. Touted as North Florida’s largest full-service beachfront hotel, the Hilton Sandestin Beach is situated on more than 2,500 acres. The hotel contains everything families could want from a property during a family vacation. In their free time, guests enjoy four swimming pools, four golf courses, 15 tennis courts and a day spa. A wide array of kid’s activities and kid-friendly cuisine all combine to make this a family vacation destination all its own. A Kids’ programs as well as a variety of on-site restaurants means families never have to leave once they arrive.
A variety of oversized guest rooms are available. Executive rooms feature two double or king beds with sleeper sofas, junior deluxe suites feature two double beds, as well as bunk beds hidden in an alcove for the kids, and Parlour Suites provide a separated bedroom.
Our Editor Loves
- Four onsite pools plus the beach and ocean
- The bunk bed alcoves in the junior suites
- Many dining options
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
At the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, guests will find four types of oversized accommodations: guest rooms, deluxe junior suites, parlor suites and presidential suites. All rooms feature a refrigerator, microwave, wet bar, coffeemaker, complimentary coffee and tea, complimentary Internet access, sleeper sofa, sitting area, and private balcony. Entertainment options are available via Lodgenet in-room movies and video games.
Measuring 460-square-feet, guest rooms contain either a king or two double beds. At 575-square-feet, the deluxe junior suites offer plenty of room for families, especially with the private alcove with bunk beds and a flat-screen TV, which works with portable gaming and DVD devices. If more room is desired, at 768-square-feet, the parlor suites are quite spacious, with a separate bedroom, bathroom, large, open seating area and dining area.
For the ultimate space, book one of the two presidential suites (approximately 1,500-square-feet each). Each one has a living and dining area with a kitchenette, plus a separate bedroom with master bath.
The balconies are a great place to enjoy the view, but if you have small children, keep a close eye on them near the railing, which has fairly wide spacing between rails.
I decided at the last minute to take my family on a short vacation. Our summer was hectic and didn't allow for a traditional get-a-way. We opted for a quick trip to AL to visit Orange Beach. I decided to see how far I was from San Destin because I kept seeing all these 30A stickers in my town. When I saw that it was only a two hour drive, I decided to go for it last minute. I am so glad I did. We stayed in the Emerald Tower (large family, needed two rooms) and we had superb views. The rooms were clean and the towels plentiful. I really didn't have to lift a finger and as a mother of a large family this was just the little treat I needed. I ordered room services and we thoroughly enjoyed the beach. We also came in to enjoy the indoor pool and the hot tub. Jennifer was super helpful to me (upon arrival) & I can't thank her enough. I didn't get a chance to visit the spa or the diamond star onsite restaurant (the steak house restaurant was closed on a Monday during this season). The room service food was on point with large portions and well-seasoned which is not usually the case for hotel room service food. This is a great place for families (and I assume for couples too)...we all felt very safe! Now, I didn't leave the resort so I can't speak to the area per se but this resort is a GEM!
I will not stay at this property again. It was quite disappointing. The cleanliness and condition of the property are not to the typical Hilton standards. The rooms are not well kept nor were they cleaned each day. The beach service staff was less than accommodating. In general, it seems that much of the staff do not seem to enjoy the hospitality industry. The front desk staff and bellmen were wonderful but after checking, all of the housekeeping, food/wait staff and beach service staff were less than friendly. The rooms need updating and a good cleaning. The accommodations and staff were both just very disappointing. The positive is that it is a wonderful location and the beach is very nice. My next visit to this area however, WILL NOT include a stay at the San Destin Hilton resort. After this experience, I think I will be hesitant before staying at any Hilton resort again. It’s just not worth the cost.
Beach and Pools
The Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa has two outdoor swimming pools onsite, plus one indoor pool and one toddler pool. The largest pool ranges from three to eight feet deep, the middle pool ranges from three to six feet deep, and the toddler pool very shallow. The indoor pool is three feet to six feet deep. Pool hours are from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. for the outdoor pools, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the toddler pool, and 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. for the indoor pool. The pool deck area is large and the bathrooms are off to one side of the largest pool. Therefore, keep this in mind when searching for a place to hang out for the day. The hotel also provides pool towels to hotel guests so there's no need to pack beach towels unless you prefer to have your own towels with you.
The beach and ocean are easily accessible right from the pool deck. There are beach chairs and umbrellas available for rent; however, given the easy, short access to the beach, you may just want to bring your own.
Other onsite activities available include kayaking, flatboard paddling and beach volleyball. Arrangements to rent sports equipment can be handled at the Pool and Beach Services Hut located between the pool deck and the beach. Should you need any essentials, the hotel operates two onsite gift shops, one in the lobby of the hotel and another (primarily for sun needs) on the pool deck just outside the hotel.
For children ages 5 to 12, the hotel offers Kids Krew, a children's program filled with activities such as swimming, arts and crafts, games, and more. Each child receives a T-shirt and lunch. The seasonal program (Spring Break through Labor Day with some seasonal holidays) hours are 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Kids Krew is available during other times of the year, too.
Children also can enjoy a night with their peers as part of Kids Night Out, where they enjoy dinner together and participate in fun activities like watching movies, playing games, making arts and crafts, crab hunting, and more. This seasonal event takes place Monday through Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. for kids ages 5 to 12. This program cost includes dinner and a T-shirt.
Parents wanting extra time alone can extend Kids Night Out with Midnight Madness. This extra add-on program to Kids Night Out runs from 10:15 p.m. to 1 a.m. for a per-hour fee for each child.
Hilton Sandestin Beach also holds special kids activities outside of the Kids Krew, such as Tie-Dye Tuesdays from noon to 2 p.m. Each child can create his or her own souvenir T-shirt. Every Saturday from noon to 2 p.m., children can take part in complimentary face painting and balloon creations from the hotel's stilt walker.
For teenagers, Hotel Sandestin Beach hosts Hilton Teen Night every Thursday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. for teens ages 13 to 17. This event includes a beach volleyball tournament and teens-only party as well as pizza and soft drinks.
The hotel also maintains a game room suited to older children and teens. Each video game requires a token, which may be purchased through the onsite token machine. The game room is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
For guests venturing off-property, you will find many nearby attractions as well. Just across the highway from the Hilton Sandestin Beach is The Village of Baytowne Wharf, home to a collection of activities and restaurants. Activities include a zipline, a ropes course, a Eurobungy (think bungee on a trampoline) and rock-climbing wall, among others. Cuisine choices run the spectrum from a burger, fries and milkshake all the way to fine dining.
Also in the nearby vicinity, the Big Kahuna's Water Park is comprised of more than 40 water rides and slides for both children and adults. In addition, Big Kahuna's offers an Adventure Park with mini golf, go-karts and thrill rides. No outside food or beverage is permitted inside the park.
The Track Family Recreation Center keeps visitors entertained with go-karts, mini golf, bumper rides, thrill rides and a special kids section for younger children. Tickets are required for each ride. Local, military and senior discounts also are available.
Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, where they can bike, bird, canoe, kayak, fish, hike, picnic and swim. There is an admission fee per vehicle with two to eight occupants. Other attractions of interest include the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center, the Destin History and Fishing Museum, Air Force Armament Museum, and National Naval Aviation Museum.
Located off the hotel lobby, Sandcastles serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. Breakfast is a buffet full of fresh fruit, a selection of breads and cereals, hot items such as biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, corned beef hash, and more. There's also a made-to-order omelet station. Lunch and dinner is made up of a variety of local seafood, steaks and other specialties, as well as a full salad bar. Breakfast is served every day from 7 to 11 a.m. (Sunday until 1 p.m.), lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and dinner from 6 to 9 p.m.
Barefoot's Beachside Bar & Grill
Poolside, guests can enjoy lunch and an early dinner at Barefoot's Beachside Bar & Grill. Menu items include seafood specialties, salads and sandwiches. Open seasonally, the restaurant is open every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Guests also can enjoy Barefoot's menu on the beach; just place your order at The Sand Bar, which is located between the beach and the pool deck.
Picnix Poolside Market
Also out by the pool, there is Picnix Poolside Market, which offers Pizza Hut pizza, chef-prepared sandwiches, fried chicken, Edy's ice cream treats, soft serve yogurt and more. The market is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closing time changes seasonally).
Seagar's Prime Steaks & Seafood
The hotel also is home to Seagar's Prime Steaks & Seafood, a low-key fine dining restaurant and Destin's only AAA, Four-Diamond restaurant. While children are not turned away from the restaurant, this is one better left for mom and dad. The restaurant operates under seasonal hours, generally Sunday through Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. and 6 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Reservations are recommended.
The Coffee Shop
For a small nibble or beverage, guests can stop in at The Coffee Shop off the main lobby, which is open every day from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. during high season and 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. during low season. Or you can opt for some sushi and sake at Hadashi Sushi Bar located across from Sandcastles. Hadashi is open Monday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m.
If you prefer to dine in the comfort of your room, the hotel offers room service 24 hours a day.
Offsite, families will find many dining options as well. There are many choices in The Village at Baytowne Wharf, which is just across the highway from the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. Just a brief drive west into Destin, there are a variety of choices, such as McGuire's Irish Pub, which offers a very large menu including a huge burger selection and a kids menu, and Harbor Docks, a sushi and seafood eatery.
Planning & Tips
The Art of Smart Timing
When planning a visit to the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, keep in mind the summer is, obviously, high season. The most crowded times are during spring break and from Memorial Day through Labor Day. For the best bargains, look at dates from August through February, which also is the least crowded time of the year. Keep in mind, however, that all beach facilities operate seasonally so some or all may not be available during the off-season months.
Three airports serve the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa: Northwest Florida Regional Airport in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (24 miles away); Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City, Fla. (40 miles away); and Pensacola Regional Municipal Airport in Pensacola, Fla. (65 miles away). Although the hotel does not provide any complimentary shuttle service, airport transportation can be arranged if needed. The property also is easily accessible from Interstate 10.
For Mom and Dad
For those times when mom and dad have arranged childcare, Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa offers the ideal pastimes: golf for dad and spa for mom. There are four championship Sandestin golf courses right outside the hotel. At Serenity by the Sea, mom can choose from a number of treatments, including body treatments, massages, facials, nail and hair services, and makeup application. Mom and dad even can visit together, and enjoy a couple's massage. In the evening, enjoy a romantic dinner in the secluded wine room at Seagar's. Finish off the day with a quiet walk along the beach.