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Booking.com; Trip Advisor; Alyssa Powell/Business Insider
- Destin, Florida is a popular vacation retreat on the state’s Gulf Coast, renowned for excellent deep-sea fishing.
- With stunning beaches and plenty of outdoor activities, Destin is good for a socially distant vacation, particularly during the summer off-season when hot temperatures keep most tourists away.
- Many Destin hotels have reopened with new social distancing guidelines; we rounded up the best picks with details on their COVID-19 policies.
- Our top Destin hotels are mostly rated four- or five-stars, are well-reviewed on Trip Advisor, Booking.com, and Hotels.com, and start at $139 per night.
Located on Florida’s Emerald Coast, Destin boasts stunning white sand beaches, gem-hued waters, and a secluded feel that makes it easy to vacation while social distancing.
Billed as “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin is named for a northeastern fishing captain who settled there, and is relatively uncrowded outside of tourist season in winter and early spring. The local population checks in at just over 14,000.
Five beachfront parks, including Henderson Beach State Park, provide friendly spaces to swim, fish, bike, hike, camp, explore, and more in safe, socially distanced family/friend huddles that will easily appeal to US travelers looking to stick closer to home with domestic options.
And if you’re wondering if it’s safe to travel and stay in hotels, it’s important to understand the risks. Without a vaccine, there is no firm guarantee on safety, and it’s crucial to follow guidelines from organizations such as the CDC and WHO, and wear a mask, wash your hands, and maintain social distancing.
Additionally, check current state travel restrictions before booking. In Florida, a mandatory 14-day quarantine has been lifted for travelers arriving from Louisiana but is still in effect for those coming by plane from the tri-state area. New COVID-19 outbreaks may cause policy changes, and some lodgings could require proof of in-state quarantine or refuse to accommodate clientele from certain areas. For up-to-date COVID-19 information, check the city website.
However, hotels, restaurants, gyms, salons and spas, retail locations, marinas, and parks in Destin are now allowed to operate (although not all choose to), with social distancing and disinfecting guidelines in accordance to the Plan for Florida’s Recovery Phase 2.
It’s also hurricane season, and experts at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center warn that this year could be busier than average, with a possibility of 13-19 named storms, of which 1o could become hurricanes. Those of us who live in the storm belt year-round know these prognostications aren’t set in stone, still, travelers should always keep an eye on the Atlantic while booking arrangements.
But if weather and pandemic allow, Destin is a tranquil small-town escape. It’s only about an eight-square-mile town, so the number of finer hotels is limited (there are a couple more if you include neighboring Fort Walton Beach). For the uninitiated, it can be difficult to distinguish between a hotel and a rental or managed property, because, the latter often bear names with “resort” or “spa.” One good clue: If you can’t book for just a few nights, you’re looking at a managed property with minimum-stay requirements.
Our best Destin hotels all offer more flexible bookings and have weathered both hurricanes and repeat visits with grace, receiving the best reviews from trusted traveler sites such as Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Trip Advisor.
Prices begin at $139 in the hottest part of the summer and after school has begun, but rise several hundred dollars per night when the fishing and seafood festivals kick in during October, and after hurricane season ends on November 30. Florida also institutes a resort tax on top of hotel room fees.
Options trading To learn about other safe vacation ideas during COVID that are close to home, click on a link below to jump directly to more coverage:
- The best beach hotels in the US
- The best hotels for families in the US
- The best hotels near US national parks
- The best US island hotels that don’t require a passport
Options trading These are the best hotels in Destin, Florida sorted by price from low to high.
- Hyatt Place Sandestin/at Grand Boulevard
- Home2Suites by Hilton Destin
- The Island Fort Walton Destin
- Henderson Park Inn
- The Henderson, A Salamander Beach & Spa Resort
- Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
Options trading Hyatt Place Sandestin/at Grand Boulevard
Modern and funky, Hyatt Place Sandestin is situated in Grand Boulevard Town Center, which is on the Miramar Beach end of town. It’s a great pick for guests who have been already been isolated for months, and are looking for more of a central location to get reacquainted with dining, shopping, and adventuring through places like Topsail Hill Preserve State Park (beach and trails open as of June 10, with possible limited restroom availability).
The rooms are smart, with plenty of light wood and gray hues. They’re also spacious, ranging between 374 to 454 square feet, and many come with an extra sleeper sofa in the corner to accommodate another family member or friend. There are only 84 rooms total so you won’t feel overrun by crowds, either. Book a high-floor room for a terrific view of the area’s natural attractions.
Due to COVID-19, some dining options such as The Breakfast Bar, The Bar, and The Market might be limited. But restaurants within feet of the hotel are open for take-out or delivery, including the highly recommended, local-and-seasonal Everkrisp.
Trip Advisor ranking: 1 out of 9 hotels in Sandestin
Booking.com rating: 9.4 out of 10
Pros: The artsy lobby, commodious even during regular times, is airy, open, and a good place to relax with a glass of something.
Cons: Because this is a high rise, you’ll have to deal with hallways and elevators. Elevator limits could make your wait longer.
COVID status and policies: This hotel is currently open and taking reservations. Company-wide, Hyatt says, “Our recently announced Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment focuses on the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and guests, and builds on existing rigorous safety and cleanliness protocols.” In short, this means (subject to change):
- Check-in and check-out are mobile and room entry is digital.
- Hand sanitizer stations and social distancing signage are placed throughout the hotel.
- As many high-touch items as possible have been removed from guest rooms.
- Enhanced hygiene protocols have been instituted and staff has been extensively trained to receive GBAC STARTM accreditation and wear personal protection equipment, including masks and gloves, in accordance with local guidelines.
- The staff receives wellness and temperature checks.
- The elevator, fitness center, and meeting rooms have capacity limits.
- Meals are grab-and-go.
Options trading Home2Suites by Hilton Destin
Options trading Book Home2Suites by Hilton Destin starting at $163 per night
A hotel experience that feels closer to condo living, Home2Suites makes it easy to keep your distance, even allowing for contactless food delivery.
As a company, Hilton has been a great partner to guests needing transparency about COVID-19 policies, putting a lot of thought into its CleanStay program (see below). As an individual location, Home2Suites makes it easy to implement your own safety precautions, given that bedroom suites function like little apartments.
Indeed, aside from the bedroom – which boasts a pretty comfortable Serta Suite Dreams® bed – a completely separate kitchen includes small and large appliances ranging from a coffeemaker and toaster oven to a refrigerator and dishwasher. You can make your own meals or order in dinner with contactless delivery.
Family-friendly, Home2Suites is also close to attractions including The Track (think go-karts and bumper boats) and Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park. Buy online ahead of time for contactless purchases.
Trip Advisor ranking: 9 out of 37 hotels in Destin
Booking.com rating: 8.9 out of 10
Pros: The pool is saline, not chlorine, and boasts a fountain and fire pit. Outdoor tables and lounge chairs with umbrellas are properly socially distanced, although this may not be reflected in the images.
Cons: The fitness center doubles as the laundry facility. It’s literally called Spin2Cycle. You might be serious about your training when someone else is concerned about fluffing and folding.
COVID status and policies: The hotel is currently open and taking reservations. For all of its 18 brands, Hilton has “partnered with RB, makers of Lysol® & Dettol®*, to help deliver an even cleaner stay for our guests with the creation of the Hilton CleanStay program.” In addition, guests should expect the following (subject to change):
- Digital check-in, check-out, and room key access are available via the Hilton Honors mobile app.
- Disinfecting stations with wipes and hand sanitizer are placed throughout the properties.
- Hourly maintenance of high-touch areas like elevators and bathrooms, and other public amenities and staff areas are cleaned at scheduled or frequent intervals.
- Housekeeping room protocol includes removal of all used items from the room such as bedding and towels; vacuuming the carpet, mopping floors, and wiping down all surfaces and bathroom fixtures with hospital-grade cleaners; and additional disinfecting sweep with Lysol products on all switches and electronic controls, handles and knobs, the safe, the remote control, and more; replacement of linens; inspection.
- Additional linens and toiletries are delivered in protective packaging and left at the door.
- Spacing of tables and chairs encourage social distancing.
- Biodegradable, disposable dishware and flatware are on request.
- Grab & Go, pre-plated, and individually portioned options replace open breakfast and buffet service. Where in-room dining is provided, contactless deliveries replace rolling cart deliveries.
- Guests are encouraged to take advantage of contactless food delivery with designated pick-up spots at each property.
Options trading The Island Fort Walton Destin
Options trading Book The Island Fort Walton Destin starting at $234 per night
Ratings at this resort might look a little lower than the rest at first glance, but the property recently completed a $15+ million renovation. Add in new efforts to ensure safe interactions between staff and guests at the two pools, beach, signature restaurant Fish House, and elsewhere, and the numbers are bound to rise. The good kind of numbers, that is.
Located just a little west of Destin on Okaloosa Island, The Island Fort Walton Destin offers 600 feet of beachfront property to get away from stress, pressure, and viruses. If you need a change of pace, check out the five-story Grotto waterfall in one of the two heated pools. The swim-up bars depend on the season (they generally operate from Memorial Day to Labor Day) and, of course, COVID-19.
Rooms are clean-lined and bright with wood floors, white linens, and royal blue accents. While not all rooms have a patio or balcony, it’s worth a $50 upgrade to request a first-floor room with both a patio and a beachfront view.
Trip Advisor ranking: 15 out of 33 hotels in Fort Walton Beach
Booking.com rating: 7.9 out of 10
Pros: While lines are a little longer these days thanks to the six-foot rule, waiting on this one will be worth it: The Signature Hotel RL Coffee Truck features single-origin bean brews sourced by Victrola Coffee Roasters.
Cons: While the resort offers access to all sorts of configurations of beach chairs, beach beds, umbrellas, and water sports gear, it’s all for rental from the on-site venue La Dolce Vita, and will cost extra.
COVID status and policies: This hotel is currently open and taking reservations. As a franchisee under the RHL Corporation license, it takes its recommendations from both RHL and the state of Florida. In short, guests should expect some or all of the following:
- Mobile check-in and digital keys are used where available.
- Signage reminds guests and staff about physical distancing protocols.
- Plexiglass shields are installed at the front desk and credit card terminals limit physical contact, where possible.
- Hand sanitizers are stationed throughout the property in public spaces. There is hourly disinfection of public areas and the surfaces within them.
- Collateral like reading material and high-touch surfaces such as pillows have been removed from guestrooms.
- Housekeeping disinfects high-touch surfaces within a guestroom, including but not limited to desks, counters, phones, TV remotes, thermostats, cabinets, doors, restroom hardware, windows, lighting controls, and closet hangers.
- Food and beverage service modifications include table spacing, reduced group numbers, use of single-use servings for condiments and other items, suspension of self-serve food options, and prohibiting the re-use of cups at self-serve beverage stations.
Options trading Henderson Park Inn
Options trading Book the Henderson Park Inn starting at $239 per night
There’s a reason this property trends at #1. It’s mostly-inclusive (more on that in a minute), is adults-only (fun fact: Every guest must be 25+, unless you’re younger than that but married), and is private and romantic. And during these worrisome COVID-19 times, being taken care of in such a luxe manner feels equally indulgent and a relief.
After a good night’s snooze in the pale green-and-ivory room – some with balconies overlooking the Gulf – take included breakfast in the socially distanced dining room, while lunch is served as a picnic, packed to enjoy on the beach in the lounges. Or take it for a ride using the complimentary bicycles. Return from the sand or explorations of the local parks and preserves for happy hour at the tiki bar or with snacks delivered to your room.
Dinner is the only meal not included in the overall cost. Beach Walk Café, located on the property, commands high prices but is worth it, especially if you choose the VIP “toes in the sand” experience and consume your meal at a white linen-covered table set up directly on the beach.
Trip Advisor ranking: 1 out of 37 hotels in Destin
Pros: Some rooms have stair access only. In normal times, this might be a con. During COVID-19, this means no elevator buttons to push and fewer germs to contract.
Cons: Don’t be confused by the word “suite,” especially when “mini” or “junior” is in front of it. Everything is a suite. What it really means is that rooms vary in size, from a very small 140-square feet to a much more spacious 427 square feet.
COVID status and policies: This hotel is currently open and taking reservations. Note: Guests with “significant community spread” are not being accepted for reservations at this time and are being placed on a waitlist. These communities include Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Guests should also expect the following COVID policies (subject to change):
- “Behavior requirements” are emailed to guests with confirmation prior to arrival. Guests are asked to follow all hand-washing, social distancing, mask-wearing, and recommended CDC policies.
- Guest Service professionals check the temperature of all arriving guests, then escort them to check-in, where a Plexi-Glass sneeze guard has been installed, maintaining proper social distancing. If too many guests arrive at once, some are asked to wait.
- Valet or self-park is available. If valet is chosen, the masked-and-gloved valet drives with windows open and wipes down high-touch spots before and after.
- A complimentary mask is offered to guests upon check-in.
- Luggage is left outside. If assistance with luggage is requested, it’s sprayed with hospital-grade VitalOxide before being touched.
- Guest Service professionals disinfect their hands before and after handing or taking anything from guests and wipe down key cards and debit cards. No more than two Guest Service professionals are allowed behind the desk at any time. They must wear masks, gloves for cleaning, and wash or sanitize their hands at least every 30 minutes.
- Hard surfaces are wiped down continually throughout the day with a professional assigned to the door controls that access the building as well as sanitizing door handles, handrails, porch chairs, and more.
- Guest rooms are deep-cleaned before arrival by a lead housekeeper outfitted in goggles, gloves, and a mask who sprays the room with VitalOxide first, then removes bed linens (closed in bags), cups/glassware, remote covers, and trash. The room is then cleaned starting from the balcony, with special attention paid to high-touch areas. VitalOxide is sprayed in each area after cleaning. The housekeeper changes gloves, then replaces linens, towels, amenities, and the remote cover. The room is inspected, then sprayed with VitalOxide again before being sealed to await the guest.
- Room items in general have been reduced as much as possible.
- Maintenance professionals will not enter a room unless it is an emergency. Instructions will be communicated verbally.
- Snacks are offered on request only. They are delivered through contactless methods, in a plastic bag outside the door.
- Cash is not accepted throughout the property. Only credit and debit cards may be used.
- Hand-sanitizing stations are available throughout the property.
- No more than six guests are allowed in the lobby at one time.
- No one who is not a guest at Henderson Park Inn is allowed on the property.
- Breakfast and dinner follow social distancing and disinfecting guidelines. Menus have been laminated for disinfecting. Lunch is pick-up only.
- Happy Hour drinks are served in disposable cups. Guests are not permitted to gather around the Tiki Bar.
- Beach chairs are wiped down with VitalOxide and set up by attendants, who also provide beach towels and beverages on request. They collect towels after use.
- Guests can request bicycles with a key code to unlock it. Bicycles are sanitized upon return. Helmets are not provided.
- Check-out is by dropbox and email.
Options trading The Henderson, A Salamander Beach & Spa Resort
Options trading Book The Henderson starting at $244 per night
Wood-shingled and wind-swept, The Henderson looks like it should be perched on a moor. Instead, it overlooks a mile of one of the more underdeveloped beaches in Destin, affording guests the most privacy possible in town.
Take advantage of all the usual beach activities (or non-activities), practice getting your zen on in the adult pool cabanas, or float on the lazy river.
The 178 coastal-inspired rooms and suites are designed in hues of sand and sea blue, with four-poster beds and patterned carpets that give off a romantic manor house vibe. This lovely property, with a spa that includes a Himalayan Salt Suite, is ideal for taking a breather from the tumult that 2020 has offered so far.
Located next to the Henderson Beach Preserve, the resort features plenty of resources for the nature lover, but it’s also deeply invested in the arts, highlighting the works of 13 local artists throughout the property. Learn about them, visit their galleries in town, and cap with a meal at signature restaurant Primrose.
Trip Advisor ranking: 4 out of 37 hotels in Destin
Booking.com rating: 9.2 out of 10
Pros: There are 16 “spa rooms” that have access to a private elevator, which leads directly to the spa.
Cons: The second floor of the hotel is dedicated to dog-friendly accommodations, with a limit of two pups per room. Dogs are not allowed in common areas, however, so getting them in and out can be a little tricky.
COVID status and policies: This hotel is currently open and taking reservations. Guests should expect the following COVID policies (subject to change):
- Signage outlining policies and CDC recommendations are prominent throughout the property.
- Upon arrival through propped-open or automated doors, guests are provided with masks and gloves.
- Furniture has been adjusted in public spaces for social distancing and occupancy limits in retail spaces are enforced. Any area where queuing is required is marked for distancing.
- Hand-sanitizing stations are provided for guests and staff.
- Service staff are screened upon entrance for temperature and trained to notice and report symptoms of COVID-19, among other more comprehensive training.
- Service staff do not open car doors and luggage is handled by gloved staff members.
- No more than four guests per elevator with buttons sanitized at least every hour.
- No more than six guests at tables in restaurants and bars.
- Frequent sanitation of public areas with a concentration on (but not limited to): “front desk check-in counters, bell desks, elevators and elevator buttons, door handles, public bathrooms, room keys and locks, ATMs, and stair handrails, gym equipment, dining surfaces and seating areas.”
- Industry-standard sanitation of guest rooms with a concentration on (but not limited to): “television remote controls, toilet seats and handles, door and furniture handles, water faucet handles, nightstands, telephones, in-room control panels, light switches, temperature control panels, alarm clocks, luggage racks and flooring.”
- All bed linen and laundry are changed daily and continue to be washed at a high temperature and in accordance with CDC guidelines. Dirty linen is bagged in the guest room to eliminate excess contact while being transported to the laundry facility.
- Air filter replacement and HVAC system cleaning will be increased, and fresh air exchange maximized.
- If there’s a presumptive case of COVID-19, that guest’s room will be quarantined until confirmed or cleared. If confirmed, the room will undergo “an enhanced sanitization protocol by a licensed third-party expert” before being used again.
Options trading Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
This beachside resort provides all the Emerald Coast views and toes-digging-in-the-sand opportunities one could want. Snorkel, paddleboard, kayak – the Walton County vending kiosks provide equipment right then and there, along with lounge chairs and umbrellas.
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But if you desire more action, the resort is known for access to Raven Golf Club, Burnt Pine Golf Club, Baytowne Golf Club, and The Links Golf Club, as well as The Dunes putting course at nearby Sandestin.
After a full day in the sun, choose from multiple dining options ranging from steaks to sushi. At the moment, only Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood is open to the public. If that worries you, opt for delivery in rooms that begin at 460 square feet. If you’re comfortable with more contact, Serenity by the sea Spa is open with social distancing protocols, as is the fitness center. Try a Barre class or early morning yoga on the Sunrise Deck.
Trip Advisor ranking: 5 out of 9 hotels in Sandestin
Booking.com rating: 8.7 out of 10
Pros: The Sandestin Resort Tram (currently limited to nine guests) takes you to tennis courts, Baytowne Marina to book fishing charters and the like, and to The Village of Baytowne Wharf to shop or dine.
Cons: Because this is a family-style place with something for everyone, it can get pretty busy, and reservations for restaurants and popular times for dining are competitive.
COVID status and policies: This hotel is currently open and is taking reservations to operate at 75 percent capacity. In addition to its brand-wide CleanStay policies, this Hilton location has instituted several procedures (subject to change):
- All staff are outfitted with gloves and masks. However, guests are asked to supply their own.
- Beaches in Walton County are open and vendors are allowed to provide rentals. The hotel’s team will sanitize chairs, boards, kayaks, and other equipment in between guest usage.
- Guests are politely requested to follow six feet of social distancing on the beach. This rule will be enforced by staff and Walton County Code Enforcement.
- Outdoor deck and pool seating has been reduced and spaced out in accordance to CDC guidelines.
- All guests using the on-site pools, deck, and beach space will be required to show their Hilton Sandestin wristband at entry points.
- Pools, hot tubs, and spa whirlpools are cleaned and sanitized throughout the day to ensure cleanliness and monitored 24/7 by Ecolab and Hilton Sandestin staff.
- Sanitizer stations are located in each individual elevator car. Elevator capacity is reduced.
- Guest rooms are cleaned and disinfected using commercial-grade cleaning solutions and products, then sealed off prior to arrival. Cleaning includes all frequently touched objects and surfaces such as door handles, remote controls, telephones, and more.
- Housekeeping services are limited. Amenities are placed in sealed single-use bags placed outside the door of an individual’s guest room.
- On-site restaurants with indoor seating will continue operating at 50% capacity but are not open to the public.
- Serenity by the sea Spa is open for all treatments. Service providers will wear masks and gloves and have the right of refusal to any guest who makes them uncomfortable.
- Kids Krew is currently closed.
- Valet services are available with cleansing protocols for high tough points outside and inside door handles, steering wheel, gear shifter, and start button or key starter.
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