Best Florida Vacation Destinations
The quest for the best Florida vacation destinations is a common inquiry – and deeply researched topic – among our guests. So we did the legwork to deliver these curated selections tailored to various travel interests.
“Where in Florida should I plan my next vacation?” It’s a commonly asked question the concierges at Opal’s 20-plus Florida-based resorts receive when guests are departing our properties and already pondering their next getaway. Their answers? It’s not as straightforward as you think. After all, with 1,350 miles of sun-kissed shoreline, the Sunshine State serves up a multitude of diverse destinations that are home to it all: arts and culture, outdoor recreation, delicious dining, and family adventures. To provide a truly thoughtful answer, it requires some follow-up questions based on what kind of Florida travel experience guests are looking for. For example, are you planning a trip with your kids? Were you thinking about exploring a particular part of the state, like the Keys? Or are you looking to frame your Florida vacation around a particular experience, like golf, stone crab season, or scuba diving?
Drawing inspiration from our guests’ most common responses and interests, we’ve curated this list to spark a few Florida vacation ideas for your next trip.
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN FLORIDA FOR COUPLES
St. Augustine, Sanibel Island, and Vero Beach were all listed in an October 2023 U.S. News Travel’s article summarizing the most romantic getaway destinations in Florida. But another locale on that list that particularly stood out to us? The swanky city of Naples. Indeed, this Gulf Coast destination epitomizes romance with its secluded sugar-sand beaches, a plethora of intimate date-night venues, and some of the most spectacular sunsets in Southern Florida. And perhaps nothing is more romantic than strolling the seaside community’s historic main street – Fifth Avenue South – hand-in-hand among open-air sidewalk bistros, upscale boutiques, art galleries, and tropical landscaping. Not to mention, for adventurous outdoor-oriented couples, the city is your gateway to the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States: Everglades National Park.
- Related Reading: Romantic Getaways That Will Sweep You off Your Feet
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN FLORIDA KEYS
The Overseas Highway, stretching 113 miles from Miami to Key West, is a bit like a necklace, connecting a chain of 44 beautiful island gems – also known as the Florida Keys. The largest, Key Largo, is notable for its vast and varied diving sites (see “Best Places for Scuba Diving in Florida” highlighted below), Islamorada is known for its prime sportfishing, and Marathon boasts some of the best beaches you’ll find in this archipelago. But, in terms of popularity, the key that takes the cake (or, should we say, key lime pie) is definitely the southernmost sibling of Key West. With a diverse and colorful history that has molded this seven-square-mile island into an eclectic array of attractions, Key West is filled with quirky pastel-hued architecture, a free-spirited enthusiasm for life, and a seemingly never-ending merry-go-round of fun and funky bars and restaurants. Still, at the end of the day, nothing beats the rainbow of colors found in the famous Key West sunset celebration.
- Where to Stay in Key West: The Capitana Key West | The Laureate Key West | Opal Key Resort & Marina | Sunset Key Cottages
- Related Reading: The Top 2024 Key West Festivals You Won’t Want to Miss
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN FLORIDA WITH KIDS
When it comes to family-friendly vacations in Florida, the first place that likely jumps to mind is Orlando – specifically Disney World. But if theme-park-style amusement is on your list, then you should seriously look to Clearwater Beach as your family’s ultimate playground. Yes, it’s home to what has been rated as one of America’s top beaches, time and time again. But also because of the plethora of kid-friendly attractions within easy walking distance, from the evening carnival-like atmosphere at Pier 60 to the plethora of boat tours that make a big splash with kids, including Little Toot Dolphin Tours, Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruises, and Mega Bite Tours. And, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the rescue and rehab facility that saved a very special dolphin which became the star of family favorite films Dolphin Tale (2011) and Dolphin Tale 2 (2014). While Winter the dolphin passed in 2021, there are plenty of other stars to see here, including rescued residents like sea turtles, North American river otters, pelicans, and many more.
- Related Reading: Our One-Day Itinerary to the Best of Clearwater Beach’s Pier 60
BEST PLACES FOR GOLF IN FLORIDA
With approximately 1,200 courses scattered across the state, Florida stands as the global hub for golf, offering something for all skill levels under the sun. In fact, you’ll find top-rated courses – many designed by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye, and Donald Ross – in locations like Orlando, Naples, and Vero Beach. However, Palm Beach County proudly asserts itself as the undisputed golf capital of the state, boasting year-round play on 160 courses, many designed by some of the greatest architects in the game (naturally, it’s also the preferred residence for numerous current and former golf pros). Whether you’re seeking a PGA-style course or public links located by the beach, the world is your fairway in Palm Beach County.
- Where to Stay in Palm Beach County: Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa
- Related Reading: 4 Links to Linger on in Jupiter, Florida
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN FLORIDA FOR NIGHTLIFE
Miami, Daytona, Key West, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando – these destinations may be the undisputed kings of the Florida nightlife scene. In the last decade, however, the Palm Beach County community of Delray Beach has made a name for itself in the after-dark entertainment arena, transforming its Atlantic Avenue-based strip of formerly drab dusty shops into a walkable sizzling hotspot begged to be sipped, savored, and explored. Sure, Delray isn’t just defined by its nightlife – it’s awash with art galleries, studios, boutiques and stellar natural attractions, including a top-rated public beach – but it’s hard to miss the influx of swanky bars and restaurants that keep getting better. We’re talking more than just fancy cocktails on famed Atlantic Avenue but a garage-turned-arts enclave, a speakeasy-style social club, a bright-pink flamingo-themed “socializing center,” and many other ways to make your night out one you’ll remember for a long time.
- Where to Stay in Delray Beach: The Atlantic Suites on The Ave | Delray Sands Resort | Opal Grand Oceanfront Resort & Spa
- Related Reading: What to Do in Delray Beach after Dark
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN FLORIDA FOR STONE CRAB SEASON
Everglades City is known as the “Stone Crab Capital of the World.” Naples is home to the annual Stone Crab Festival. Clearwater Beach also serves up a delicious two-day block party dedicated to celebrating the crustacean. But come October through May – better known as the season of the Sunshine State’s most famous shellfish – you’d be surprised to learn how many establishments in the Gulf Coast destination of Sarasota serve up delightful spins on the sustainable seafood, known for its Popeye-sized claws. For example, Columbia Restaurant in St. Armands Circle offers their stone crab three ways: chilled with mustard sauce and lemon, steamed with butter, or broiled. Mar Vista Dockside on Longboat Key serves their crab cold but pre-cracked for easy eating and with a house-made mustard sauce inspired by the same recipe as the world-famous Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach. And Dry Dock Waterfront Grill (also on Longboat Key) serves their platter of fresh claws cold but with an accompanying spinach salad studded with strawberries, glazed pecans, and dried cranberries.
- Related Reading: Your Guide to Sarasota, Florida
BEST PLACES FOR SCUBA DIVING (& SNORKELING) IN FLORIDA
Google “where to scuba dive in Florida” and the results will tout places like the Florida Panhandle for its famous Shipwreck Trail, Miami for its abundant coral shelves and patch reefs, and even the freshwater springs of Central Florida. Still, most of the listings will be dominated by one destination in particular: the first of the fabulous Florida Keys, Key Largo. And for good reason. Dubbed the “Dive Capital of the World,” Key Largo is renowned not only for its numerous dive sites – such as the world’s second-largest artificial reef, the 510-foot USS Spiegel Grove, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the iconic Christ of the Abyss underwater statue – but also for the easy access to these sites that cater to divers of all skill levels. The result? A mind-numbing profusion of colorful sea life always at your fingertips. Not a certified diver? Not a problem: Snorkeling is just as popular of a pastime here for the beginner-friendly reefs that reside in waters averaging around six to eight feet deep.
- Where to Stay in Key Largo: Reefhouse Resort & Marina
- Related Reading: 3 Ways to Get Up Close with Coral in Key Largo