Finding a hidden paradise at a price you can afford in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Has anyone really looked into how much a vacation really costs for the normal everyday family? I can tell you that a hotel room doesn’t meet the needs of a family our size… So what do we do?

Rent a Condo in my opinion is by far the best option. It includes a Kitchen, Laundry, and so much more. You will have more money in your pocket to enjoy the best your vacation has to offer. Booking our condo in advance we wanted to have an up close view of the ocean. Calypso Resort by Royal American Beach Getaways is located right on the Beach with a semi private beach setting and two luxurious swimming pools. To get the best pricing make sure to book months ahead of time as the prices go up, up, up the longer you wait.

As we arrived in Panama City Beach, Florida we were greeted by the sun shining in our faces and the cool breeze of the wind blowing off of the blissful salty waters of the gulf coast. The first day we headed across the street to a small local shop that has a lot to offer including beach wear, accessories, bike rentals and golf cart rentals. We rented our bicycles from Bike the Beach and Tony got us all set up with free delivery on arrival and pick up after we leave. A no brainer!

Bicycling up and down the strip is a must. And while you are out, bike your way just a few blocks to Pier Park where you can see several stores, pubs, shops and even have some family fun at Emerald Coast Mirror Maze where you can try to make your way through the laser beams to beat your family or friends in a timed mission impossible-style maze. Once you bend or move in ways that you thought wasn’t possible, you will then take a trip through the maze of mirrors with color-changing lights. Try not to walk into a wall. You will twist and turn; maybe you will even think that you’re lost at times. Don’t worry. Everyone makes it out sooner or later. Once you have made it to the finish line, they will send you in and count how many mirrors you or your team touches, either one on one or boy’s vs girl’s. The team that touches the least will be the winner. You are guaranteed to be laughing about all the great times you had during your visit.

With a full day ahead of us tomorrow we want to get our bellies full today. So now we are off to visit some of PCB’s Famous Restaurants.  One of our favorites is The Shrimp Basket.Include in your itinerary for anyone who loves seafood. The “Shrimp Coleslaw is just amazing,it tastes so good” said Michele, my better half. “You can order a variety of fresh seafood and they even have a kids menu.”

Maybe a Spacious, no-frills restaurant is your forte featuring a huge selection of all-you-can-eat Asian fare. Try Chow Time Grill and Buffet. The buffet is always overflowing with authentic goodness and even offers some local favorites like crab legs and crawdads as well.

 

Before you head back to your room make sure to take a little trip down to Publix Grocery to pick up your breakfast for the rest of your trip. When you stay in a condo with a full kitchen you can $ave anywhere from $50 to $100 a day by just making breakfast before you head out on your daily adventures. We ended up getting the normal cereal, milk, eggs, bacon, potatoes, pancakes, syrup, butter, and some soft drinks, for less than $60. We had a great breakfast every morning and even had leftovers. 2 adults and 6 children for 4 days.

Off to bed as we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow…

Now I am not really the sort of water outdoorsy person to say. And I had never been kayaking or canoeing before; so I really didn’t know what I was about to get myself into. We had booked our adventure with Coldwater Excursions, known as the premier eco tour and outdoor activity operator on 30A and Panama City Beach. They provide tourists and locals with the best guided eco tours of Cypress Springs on Holmes Creek and beach gear rentals in PCB. This is an amazing experience with things to do for people of all ages – from canoeing and kayaking trails to snorkeling in a natural spring, to relaxing on a hidden beach. I never knew how much I would love this type of adventure until I tried it.

Taylor is an amazing host and guide. We started the day with Taylor and Vince picking us up from our location. We rode for a little while, talking about the area and the fully-planned day we were about to experience. We only had to bring bathing suits and sunglasses. Taylor at Coldwater provided everything else we needed for the day including beach chairs, kayaks, canoes or paddle boards, underwater scooters, snorkeling gear, life jackets, GoPro cameras, water and beverages, a lunch of your choice, sunscreen, and even towels. Once the Kayaks and canoes were unloaded, we soon began to paddle up river to Cypress Springs. The water was so calm and peaceful that you could feel relaxation starting to creep in. The children were excited to be in charge of their own vessels. Looking around and seeing the green trees, Taylor explained, “Over to your left there are 3 turtles sitting on a tree which has fallen over the water”. The nature in this area is remarkable and filled with beauty. Little did I know I really hadn’t seen anything yet.

We arrived at the spring and the water is clear and has a light blue color, one of the prettiest I have ever seen. “We just don’t see that in Ohio”. “It is remarkable”. The spring water stays around 71 degrees year round. The Cypress Spring pool is roughly circular, measuring 114 ft to 132 ft. The main vent is near the center of the pool with a depth of 26 ft. where you can take the provided under water scooters and snorkel your way around looking all the way to the bottom where limestone is exposed over much of the areas of sand. There are a few small patches of native aquatic grasses and some schools of fish will occasionally swim by. The spring run flows south approximately 1,400 ft into Holmes Creek. The run is swift-flowing and shallow, averaging approximately 2 ft deep, and it often is wider than the spring pool. Once you take a look around the kids swimming and kayaking, it’s like a piece of paradise sent from above. I promise you won’t be disappointed with this adventure. Make sure to call Coldwater Excursions. “This was one of the greatest days ever”

If you are a beach fan, then you will want to take the short drive to Saint Andrews State Park. Well-known for its sugar white sands and emerald green waters, this former military reservation has over one-and-a-half miles of beaches on the Gulf of Mexico and Grand Lagoon. Water sports enthusiasts can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and canoeing. Two fishing piers, a jetty, and a boat ramp provide ample fishing opportunities for anglers. Two nature trails wind through a rich diversity of coastal plant communities – a splendid opportunity for bird-watching. Those wanting to relax can sunbathe on the beach or enjoy a leisurely lunch under the shade of a picnic pavilion. A campground for RVers and tent campers, as well as a primitive group camping area, make this park a popular overnight destination. A concession offers snacks, souvenirs and fishing amenities, they even have an over look to see some live Gators in their natural habitat.

Now, lets’ cool off with Wild Thang Air Boat Rides located just five minutes from the beach. These amazing boats can tour the backwater creeks or slide through the marshes in just inches of water, where no other boats dare to go. When we arrived to the dock, owner Julie greeted us holding her live baby gator named Smorez! The kids were excited to witness a live gator and they were able to hold him for pictures to add to the memories of this great vacation.

Loaded up! Captain Russell will then thrill you with 360 degree spins, all the while searching for alligators, dolphins, herons, & birds of prey! The water will mist across your face as you travel through the marsh. Captain Russell is a U.S.C.G. Master and the most experienced Airboat Captain in the area. He can show you just what an airboat can do, how much fun they can be, and knows how to get up close and personal with the local wildlife. On your way out, visit their Gift Shop for T-shirts, jewelry and souvenirs.

After our adventures everyone was ready for a relaxing evening at the condo, before we made our way back home. The evening tide rolls in as the sun begins to set behind the pier. We sit poolside watching the kids play as we look off to the ocean and remember all the good times we have had.


Check out the article in our May Weekender Magazine…

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