Beat the Heat: 10 Places to Cool Off in Destin This Summer

No question: It can get steamy along the Emerald Coast in the summer. Good thing there are so many ready places to cool off, then! From Gulf surf off white-sand beaches to mega-scale waterparks, here are 10 suggestions for places to beat the heat on a Destin getaway.

Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park

This huge waterpark, which also includes some “terrestrial” rides, encompasses more than 40 attractions running the gamut from kiddie pools and lazy rivers to tall, fast, high-thrills slides. Brave the four-lane, nearly five-story Kowabunga Racer and take the towering dark plunge of Jumanji, or ease along a less-heart-pounding tubing trip down the Humunga River. The associated Adventure Park includes the Honolulu Half Pipe for a little board-riding action.

Henderson Beach State Park

Equally wonderful for nature appreciation, outdoor recreation, and full-on, surf-side lounging, Henderson Beach State Park includes mighty dunes and a pearly, sugar-sand beachfront that stretches better than a mile: an ideal place to take a dip in the famous emerald waters of the Florida Panhandle. Don’t neglect to explore the park’s beautiful expanse of coastal scrub, a rare remnant saved from development; when you work up a sweat just steer those (bare) toes to the beach. 

June White Decker Park

On a part of Destin’s oceanfront otherwise dominated by hotel and resort beaches, June White Decker Park offers a precious swath of white sand free to the public right along Scenic US Highway 98. It’s only about 1,000 feet or so, but you’ll be thankful for the access—and for the inviting waters on a hot, sun-splashed afternoon. (There’s no lifeguard here, heads up.)

Destin Snorkel

Photo credit @meganlack

Get an underwater view of the Emerald Coast—and enjoy a full-body cool-off—on a guided trip with Destin Snorkel, which offers snorkeling expeditions and other tours perfect for any skill and experience level. In addition to snorkeling itself, you can try your hand at the SCUBA/snorkel hybrid called SNUBA, or take a dip in the shallows on one of the company’s popular, family-friendly shelling outings.

Boogies Watersports

– @flkitty_life

Time to hit the water? Head down to Harborwalk Village and avail yourself of the refreshing rentals and rides at Boogie Watersports. Go cruising on a jet ski, rent a pontoon boat—complete with an easy-water-access ladder—and hit up Crab Island for some laidback sandbar lounging, or give parasailing a go!

Thrills Laser Tag & Arcade

When you want to not only ditch the sultry temperatures but also that glaring Emerald Coast sun, head for Thrills Laster Tag & Arcade, the perfect indoor fun zone when the mercury’s really pushing it. Along with a full suite of addictive arcade games, you’ve got the awesomeness of the Temple of Doom—the joint’s top-class, two-story laser tag arena—to experience.

Destin Water Fun

best. day. ever. – @haileyskipper

The company’s name is straight to the point and accurate: Destin Water Fun rents pontoon boats and jet skis by the hour and by the day, giving you your own private watercraft for soaking up the charms of the Emerald Coast. The 24-foot pontoons come with a retractable Bimini top and a ladder for swimming and snorkeling: the ideal summertime fun vessels. (You can also charter a fishing trip with Destin Water Fun, by the way.)

Grayton Beach State Park

Freebird?! – @indierosejackson_

Down the scenic Emerald Coast from Destin in the Santa Rosa Beach area, Grayton Beach State Park offers another beautiful stretch of sugar sands as well as frontage along the largest of Walton County’s celebrated dune lakes. Take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico—staying alert and aware, as there aren’t lifeguards here—or cast for pompano, red drum, and whiting in the surf. Western Lake calls out for a paddle in a kayak, canoe, or atop a SUP, meanwhile.

Silver Sands Premium Outlets

Another indoor escape, Silver Sands Premium Outlets lets you wile away an oppressively hot day in Destin shopping till you drop—and snagging some killer discounts in the process. You’ll find a slew of stores here, including a Columbia Factory Store and Zales Outlets, as well as a few restaurants for fueling up in the middle of your retail therapy.

Captain Jambo’s Parasailing & Sailing Tours

Right next to June White Decker Beach, Captain Jambo’s offers a wealth of watersports and leisure activities, including parasailing experiences that loft you some 500 feet over the emerald waters. (Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles far below.) You can also take out one of the snazzy catamarans, equipped with ice coolers and complimentary onboard snorkeling gear.

Stay Cool This Summer in Destin

Well, there you have it: 10 standout options for dealing with Destin’s high summer temps and, not incidentally, having a blast while you’re doing so!