Cruise Alternative Itinerary: Day 5 - Sea Day
Updated: Jan 28
Welcome back! Today we're continuing our series on a vacation in Panama City Beach, FL that hits all the best notes of a Caribbean cruise. If you're just joining us, you might want to start at the beginning.
After full days of excursions the last couple of days, today you'll likely be ready for a slower "sea day". This might be a good day to rest, maybe do some laundry, and take it a little slower. The lovely thing about staying in Panama City Beach is that even a slower day will easily offer amazing experiences you won't get at home.
As we mentioned on your first "sea day", beach service in 2021 is included when you stay at the Joy Coastal condo. So, whenever you're ready, you'll have chairs and an umbrella waiting for you on the beach. Build a sand castle. Stroll along the beach. Collect seashells. There's so much to do right at the Dunes of Panama. You don't even have to leave the grounds!
If the water is calm, you might consider renting a paddle board from Zach at the beach rental hut.
You really do want to wait until the water is calm and clear for paddle boarding, but when the conditions are just right it's an amazing experience! My daughter saw a giant manta ray swim by her one day. Who has experiences like this as a child?!?! Honestly, I might not have believed her, but Zach was on a board in the same area and saw it as well.
If the waves are bigger and the conditions aren't right for paddle boarding, stop by Jaws across the street and pick up some boogie boards so you can body surf with the waves.
When you're ready for lunch, there is a snack shack called Suds Weezers on site. They're located on the first floor of the E building right by the pool. They serve casual food (think hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza) you can eat on the pool deck or out at the beach. They also have ice cream treats, frozen drinks, and ice cold beer. They usually run a "happy hour" special in the late afternoon each day.
Between the expansive beach and the three pools at Dunes of Panama, you'll have plenty of opportunities to get your fill of sun and sand!
When you're sufficiently sun-drenched, maybe you'll get cleaned up and ready for a special dinner. If you're like us, sometimes cruises are planned to celebrate milestone events - birthdays, anniversaries, or retirement. On a cruise ship, you might celebrate with dinner at a steakhouse or other speciality restaurant. Panama City Beach has no shortage of high-end restaurants to help you celebrate those milestones. Here are a few of our favorites:
Salt Water Grill
Salt Water Grill specializes in delicious and ultra-fresh seafood. While they’re not located right on the water, they make up for it with amazing saltwater tanks housing tropical fish. They also have an early-bird dinner and happy hour menu daily from 4:00-5:30. Make sure to try the diver scallops!
Captain Anderson's is located at the Treasure Island Marina. They have been serving unbelievably fresh seafood in Panama City Beach since 1967. They have been name one of America's Top 50 Restaurants and awarded the "Best Seafood Restaurant" designation by Southern Living Magazine. The location on the bay is lovely and the service is impeccable. They also have early bird specials - the locals often take advantage of this so they can see the fishing boats unload the catch of the day. Dishes that shouldn't be missed include the stuffed grouper, lobster thermidor, and the tomahawk ribeye. A word to the wise, when you see the dessert tray, you'll wish you had known about it since the beginning of your meal. You've been warned. ;)
As the name suggests, the ambiance at Firefly is reminiscent of an evening walk through an enchanted summer forest. The food here is thoughtful, current, and fresh. It ranges from seafood and steaks to sushi. So there really is something here for everyone. The she-crab soup, pepper crusted stuffed fillet, diver scallops, and creme brûlée are definite winners at Firefly.
*You might have noticed that the restaurants we recommended are not on the Gulf. For tonight's dinner we chose to prioritize the food slightly higher than the location. If you're set on a Gulf-front location for your special evening, I don't blame you. We've had lovely dinners at Runaway Island and I think the food there is the best of the restaurants right on the beach.
Another Day in Panama City Beach draws to an end! Join us tomorrow for our last "port day" and a trip to the Ponce De Leon State Park!