Holiday Inn Resort – Panama City Beach, FL

image courtesy of TripAdvisor

Destination: Panama City Beach, Florida and Port St. Joe/San Blas
Date: June 2014
Hotel: Holiday Inn Resort
Brand: IHG
Status: Gold
# of travelers: 2

Hotel & Brand – Making the Decision

Justin's family was going down to Port St. Joe/San Blas for a week long family vacation at the beginning of summer right after we had returned from Europe. Knowing that all of this was happening, I researched and booked our hotel (the Holiday Inn Resort) in April giving us a discount for booking 30 days prior to our stay. While PCB is actually over an hour away from San Blas, Justin and I were working off the thought that his family was staying in Port St. Joe, which is approximately 30 minutes closer to PCB than San Blas is. Furthermore, if you have ever researched or looked for hotels in the Port St. Joe area, you would not be surprised to discover that there aren't very many … if there are any at all. Port St. Joe is a tiny little town on the cost of Florida with only a handful of restaurants and perhaps one or two gas stations within the whole vicinity. If you didn't get gas on your way into San Blas, you could very well get stranded. Finding food whether in a restaurant or grocery store was also limited. San Blas is a very small area indeed.

Due to the location of the family's escapade into Florida, Justin and I decided to take advantage of my status with IHG and stay at the resort. I had read on FlyerTalk that even with status, you weren't guaranteed an upgrade, but I was also reassured that even without an upgrade you would get a room facing the beach on the beach. That sounded good enough to me, and since Justin and I were arriving in Florida a good day and a half before his family came down, we decided the hour drive from a hotel on the beach was okay with us.

Getting There

image from Destination360

We drove from Georgia a good 6 hours to get there, I believe. The fun bit was seeing on Waze that our arrival time was an hour earlier than expected … or at least that was fun until we realized that we were changing time zones. We changed time zones at least twice before our arrival. It was a lot of fun living an hour behind our usual time zone of EST for a weekend.

As for other arrival methods … I have no idea. This hotel is located in the states which really limits transportation possibilities. Unlike previous hotels I've reviewed located in Europe where you could arrive by train, the US does not provide that much alternative transportation. I'd say you have access to the PCB area via car or bus … and perhaps boat, but that's it.

Price, Location, Rooms & View

image from

Usually I relate price to the room size or amenities, but in this specific circumstance, I feel it is necessary to talk about it in relation to the location. PCB would never have been my first choice of location due to the large number of bikers (motorcyclists) and college students that flock there for spring break. I'm not big into drinking to get drunk nor am I a partier. To top all of this off, I am not really a beach fanatic. When I go to the beach, I like being able to leave the salt water and sand to go somewhere decent for dinner, visit a museum … or go shopping at a real store. If I am at the beach, I do not want postcards of half naked women, all of the swimsuits, a new pet, or a magnet. (I might want a sundress and sunscreen, but that's a different story.)

I digress…

Anyway, the Holiday Inn Resort is one of the fancier hotels on (in my opinion) the nicer side of PCB. You can pay less and stay in one of the many smaller, less fancy hotels on the north side of PCB or you can go south, pay a bit more, and have a bit more room to walk on the beach without stepping over beach towels and high school/college students. Also, the further down the strip you get, the less motorcycles you'll see. This is not to say you won't see any, but you will see less. All of this meant that I was able to enjoy my stay at the beach making the extra I was paying worth it, to me. It won't be worth it for everyone who ventures to the coastal waters of PCB though. You will have to decide it's worth to you based on my review and others like it.

For clarity's sake, the Holiday Inn Resort is located on the southern isle of PCB. It is a few miles away from the local mall, but it is right on the beach. From what I've read, all rooms face the beach; in other words, you cannot get a bad room. Don't take my word on that though; I recommend contacting the hotel and asking specifically for a beach facing room if that is what you want. They may laugh, but at least you'll know you are getting what you want. :) The rooms are all crazy huge and include a fridge, an ironing board, toiletries, a safe, and a balcony. Obviously the higher up you can get, the better the view will be from your room.

Amenities, Disability Access, Parking, & Staff

image from Expedia

The hotel had so many amenities to take advantage of! Not only was the room fantastic and huge, but the pool was also almost grandiose! If European hotels are small and quaint, this hotel was an American's dream! With lemon and lime infused water as well as tea in the main lobby, a restaurant, strawberry and pineapple infused water at the pool, a kid's water park, a game room, a gift shop (selling the all important postage and everything you could have possibly forgotten), two bars (one located in a second building, one located near the pool), a place to order pizza and ice cream while sunning out on the pool deck, characters that walk around the pool during the morning providing balloons to all of the kids, music and karaoke provided by a disc jockey on the pool deck, a fitness center, a business center, free wi-fi, and chairs/umbrellas you can rent to take out on the beach, there is almost nothing this hotel doesn't have or offer. In fact, I was a bit disappointed to miss out on seeing flame throwers our one night there. There is quite literally something for everyone.

If the hotel is overwhelming with all of it's entertainment possibilities, the staff is right up there with it providing amazing service even over the course of our very short weekend. We arrived late, but they made sure we had a room … and even when I called two days after leaving the hotel thinking that I may have left my ipod there, they were courteous and took a look in the room just to check. Obviously they didn't find it since I later found it in my jacket pocket, but I sincerely appreciated the effort they put into looking for it and contacting me to say they had not yet found it.

As with many of the other hotels I have reviewed I cannot say with any certainty that this hotel is incredibly friendly towards those with disabilities, but nothing stood out to me as being unfriendly. In fact, given that the hotel has multiple elevators and nearly everything you could possibly want within close proximity, I would imagine that this hotel is actually incredibly disability-friendly. In fact, despite the fact that parking is across the street, they have a tunnel that goes under the road to get to it so that you don't have to cross the dangerous, busy street. They also provide handicap parking right in front of the hotel and provide golf cart rides to the parking lot for all those who are feeling a bit lazy. It's like the Holiday Inn Resort thought of everything!

Status & the Upstairs Bar (in the fitness building)

While I did not receive a major room upgrade (I'm not sure if they have those) or a room on a higher floor, the front desk did provide my husband and I with coupons to get a free drink at the bar. It was not a crazy spectacular benefit and the bar was practically empty when we went at around 10PM on a Saturday night, but the bartender was friendly and the drinks were good albeit typical. Justin had a scotch and I had a frozen daiquiri. Unfortunately the view from the bar left a lot to be desired. You could watch tv, but the windows were cloudy and made it difficult to see the only thing that existed below – the pool.

Overall Review

image from IHG


The only thing that stood out to me that I did not like was the lack of free breakfast options in the hotel. At $200 a room (even if it is during the busy season) without much around the hotel, it would have been nice to have a free breakfast. Other than that, the hotel was fantastic. Despite my lack of interest in going to PCB, I would definitely consider going again if I were to stay in this hotel. In fact, according to TripAdvisor, the price rates sinking down below $100 into December ($68 on 12/12) make this a fantastic hotel to stay at for the money, especially if you are going for business and not as interested in the pool/beach during the colder winter months.

Your Turn

Are you more of a party person or a resort person? Would you be content never having to leave the hotel property during a summer visit to PCB? Is there anything I've missed that you want to know?

For those interested, here is a list of things Justin and I did during our weekend stay in PCB at the Holiday Inn Resort.

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