Florida beach vacation tips
No matter what the season, a Florida beach vacation offers the perfect getaway with simmering sunsets and sand between your toes. According to the Florida Department of State, there are more than 660 miles of beaches for visitors to explore. Covering both the Atlantic (east) and Gulf (west) coasts, there’s a perfect Florida beach for everyone.
Florida Quick Info Guide
Language: English (Spanish also widely spoken)
Capital city: Tallahassee
Visa: To enter to Florida, visitors need to obtain either visa, visa waiver depending on their citizenship. The VWP Visa Waiver Program is available for 39 countries at the moment. With an approved ESTA one can stay maximum 90 days per visit in a 180-day period. Those who are not eligible for the VWP can apply for B category visa.
Safety: The crime rate in Florida is on a steady downtrend in the past years, and all tourist areas are safe to visit if you practice common sense. But like other states, Florida has some challenges too. The main risks are weather-related: hurricanes, flooding and extreme heat. Due to the high number of cars, traffic can be also more dangerous than driving in your home-town (make sure to get the right insurance if you plan to rent a vehicle). The state has a rich wildlife too including gators, crocodiles, black bears and snakes. Take the necessary precautions when visiting such places.
Why is Florida perfect for a beach vacation?
With its warm and sunny winters, Florida has been a tourist destination since the late 1800s. Originally a haven for the well-to-do, investment in railways made it easier for all visitors to travel to Florida.
Tourism is a major state industry and offers something for everyone. There are multiple theme parks, including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World. There are also historic cities, such as St. Augustine, to take you back in time. If you prefer to view the future, there is always the Kennedy Space Center. The state is also full of wildlife and wildlands that are well worth a visit for those interested in nature. Above all else, as a peninsula bathed in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, a Florida beach vacation is a must for all those who visit the Sunshine State.
Florida’s best 5 beaches
With a huge selection of beaches, there is always another Florida beach vacation to come back for. Here are five beautiful beaches to start with:
Panama City Beach
Nestles on Florida’s Emerald Coast southwest of Tallahassee. The sugary white sand and frolicking bottlenose dolphins are highlights. Camp Helen State Park offers fishing and snorkeling, while St. Andrew’s State Park is known for surfing, swimming and wildlife viewing.
Lies off the coast of Ft. Meyers on the west coast. On this serene and scenic island, beaches attract seashell gatherers. Wildlife viewing is also recommended, since more than half the island is dedicated to wildlife refuges, the largest being the J.N.’ Ding’ Darling Wildlife Refuge. Also, consider a visit to Lighthouse Beach to see the 19th Century lighthouse.
Lies across the bridge from Tampa on the Gulf of Mexico in St. Petersburg, this lovely beach is a haven for windsurfing, parasailing, and kite-boarding. For a little splash of culture, the Dalí Museum and Museum of Fine Arts are within easy reach.
Miami’s South Beach
This is a vibrant city beach perfect for sunbathing and people watching on Florida’s Atlantic coast. The beautiful nearby Art Deco neighborhood is also worth a visit. There is always something to see and do here, day and night.
Sitting at the southernmost end of U.S. Route 1, Key West is known for famous residents, such as Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffet. Key West is a beloved beach wedding destination in Florida but offers several fine beaches for those who seek relaxing. In addition to the popular Smather’s beach, smaller spots include pet-friendly Higg’s beach and Ft. Zachary Taylor Historic Park, which boasts a Civil War fort.
Beach activities in Florida
The more than 1300 miles long coastline offers perfect conditions from various types of activities at the beach and in the ocean.
If you always wanted to learn how to surf, make sure to do it on your Florida beach vacation! With comfortable sea temperatures, easy water access and light to moderate waves, The Sunshine State is an ideal place to get on the board.
The beautiful waterways make this destination a haven for paddle boarding too! It is an exciting and fun activity for the whole family while you can discover the local flora and fauna as well as the rich wildlife including turtles and manatees.
Florida has various paddling trails including springs, creeks, rivers and also some calm water beach areas. Rent a kayak or canoe and let the adventure begin; this is the best way of exploring the coastline’s natural beauty.
Florida is a top fishing destination There are numerous fishing piers along the coast that offer pole and equipment rental, or you can head out to the ocean for a deep-sea fishing experience.
Hunting for seashells is one of most popular things to do in Florida that can be enjoyed by young and old. One can find the best shells on the Gulf Coast beaches, but shelling on the East Coast is also possible.
Florida waters host one of the largest barrier reef systems of the world with excellent conditions for underwater activities. The best snorkeling beaches feature colorful natural reefs or artificial snorkel trails where a wide variety of marine species can be seen.
Best time for Florida beach vacation
The Sunshine State is a year-round holiday destination. Florida’s climate is sub-tropical meaning the summers are hot, rainy and humid while the winters are mild with short cold spells. The southern regions (Miami and Key West) have tropical climate.
For the best conditions, schedule your Florida vacation between March and May when the weather is pleasantly sunny with low chance of rain and the sea is warm enough for swimming. The period between December and Eastern is also popular, but sometimes it can get cold.
The summer is also a good time for a beach holiday in terms of sea temperatures, but it can be extremely hot with high humidity, and also thunderstorms (even hurricanes) are frequent. The best is to avoid the peak rainy months, June, July and September. April, May and November are dry.
To check the current water temperatures, visit seatemperature.org.
Average sea temperature:
Summer: 27-29C / 81-84F
Winter: 21-25C / 70-77F
November – April
June – September
Florida beach vacation costs
A Florida beach vacation offers something for all budgets. If you sleep in motels, buy your food from the supermarket, use public transport or explore by walking, a 1-week holiday in Florida is around 1000 USD for 2 persons excluding flight tickets. Staying at 3-star hotel in the popular South Beach and eating out will double the costs, while if you choose the luxurious way of traveling, the sky is the limit. If you have a limited budget skip the most popular cities and choose an affordable Florida beach town to stay at.
Due to the big distances within the state, you should calculate with travel expenses too. You can use trains (Amtrak) or buses, but of course boats, and planes (multiple carriers) too. If you are planning to visit more than one of Florida’s beautiful beaches, a car will likely necessary. However, you can also choose one beachside spot and stroll to the sand each day for free.
In essence, the costs depend on your travel style and priorities, but here are some approximates on the daily budget including accommodation, meals and transportation:
Places to stay in Florida
Lodging options range from modest hotels to top-end luxury destinations, such as the Miami Beach EDITION. At the most popular tourist areas such as the Miami South Beach, Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota or Naples, several 3 or 4-star hotel offers are available at moderate prices, but one can find good quality apartments too in safe neighborhoods. Should you plan a road-trip like holiday, there are cheap motels near the main roads that are acceptable for an overnight stay.
Accommodation prices may vary considerably throughout the year. The most expensive periods are the popular winter and summer holiday months, from December to March and from June to mid-August. It is worth checking booking sites to estimate costs so that you can find the perfect time and place for your vacation.
Average accommodation prices per night in Florida:
Hostel or simple hotel: 30-40 USD
3-star hotel or apartment: 70-90 USD
4 and 5-star hotels and resorts: 200-400 USD
Use reliable sites with 24/7 customer support to book your accommodation, most of the time we choose Expedia.com or Booking.com.
Beach etiquette in Florida
There is a perfect place for all types of beachgoers in the Sunshine State. Being the beaches extremely wide and long, everyone can find a spot to relax and enjoy the sun, but there are some rules to follow:
- don’t listen to loud music, leave your boombox at home
- don’t litter and don’t smoke
- leave enough free space between yourself and the next closest group
Florida is a beach country so wearing beachwear is common not only when at the beach, but almost everywhere. However, dressing up according to the area’s unwritten etiquette is always a nice thing. Generally, in the areas where mostly young people gather -like Miami South Beach or Daytona Beach- walking in bikinis and flip-flops is accepted outside the beach too, while some conservative regions such as West Palm Beach, Boca Raton or Naples in the Gulf Coast require proper clothing when not on the beach. Put a t-shirt, sarong or a nice sundress and you will be okay.
Nudity is not allowed on public beaches except some nude beaches and naturist-friendly resorts.
Famous Florida foods and drinks
With Southern, Caribbean, and Latin influences, Florida is rich with delicious local specialties to try.
Fresh orange juice: if it’s a beverage you’re after, why not enjoy the Sunshine State’s official fruit, the orange. Served fresh-pressed, you can enjoy this healthy drink with or without pulp.
Margarita: a different kind of fruit juice, Margaritas include Tequila and lime juice. A beverage immortalized by Jimmy Buffett, this is one to sip at sunset in Key West.
Key Lime Pie:this tasty treat is traditionally made with the juice of Key limes. Often topped with whipped cream and garnished with a slice of local lime, this is an iconic dessert that artfully combines tart flavors with just the right amount of sweetness.
Fresh fish: with all that coastline, seafood is an obvious choice. Local favorites include snapper or drum.
Gator tail: a particularly Floridian delicacy, these bite-sized chunks have a flavor similar to that of chicken when they are deep-fried and served either as an appetizer or entrée.
Southern ‘pit’ barbecue: Floridians take pride in their barbecue skills and sauces. So, don’t miss an opportunity to experience the flavor of the South served with Floridian flair.
Conch fritters: Another hearty southern classic, these juicy yet crunchy deep-fried seafood morsels can be dipped in tartar sauce or eaten all on their own.
‘Cuban’ sandwich or ‘Cubano’: this delicious sandwich layers tender roasted pork and ham with melted Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles on warm Cuban bread. Irresistibly comforting and deliciously filling.
Useful Florida phrases
However English is the official language, Florida has some unique expressions and sayings you won’t hear in any other places in the world. Learn a few now so you will know what to ask or how to answer when vacationing in the Sunshine State!
Literally – literally is used in every possible way. It is often needlessly inserted into many statements, and is used incorrectly, but it is part of the Florida Slang, so use it to describe something that actually happens or exists.
SoFla – when someone suggests you to go to SoFla, it is not a fancy beach club or resort but the abbreviation of South Florida.
I’ll pass – talking about the weather is always a good topic, especially in the rainy season when the rain comes in short intervals. Floridians don’t cancel any holiday plans because of the possibility of rain, they just say It’ll pass.
West coast – when people talk about the West coast, they usually mean the Californian coast, but if you hear a Floridan is mentioning West Coast, they mean the Florida Gulf Coast.
Bobo – the local way to express if you are disappointed with a service or product. Bobo means in Florida bad-quality, below average.
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