Want to take a swim on the wild side during your time in Panama City Beach? Donning a snorkel, mask, and fins is the ultimate way to make that happen. And while you can just step into the water with snorkel gear at any beach to see what there is to see, a bit of directed planning–and an excursion to the best snorkel spots–is the way to go. The good news? PCB is home to many great outfitters that’ll set you up with rental gear that fits you well and direction (or even a boat ride) to the best snorkeling spots in the Gulf. These are our favorite PCB snorkeling outfitters and locations. They’re sure to make for a fun, memorable ocean adventure.
1. Shell Island Shuttle
Shell island spans several miles of pristine, white-sand beach. Not a true island, Shell Island is a protected peninsula reaching into St. Andrews Bay. It’s one of the best spots to snorkel, spot dolphins, and enjoy other local wildlife. The Shell Island Shuttle is the most straightforward, fun way to get to Shell Island from PCB, and it functions as the official shuttle service of St. Andrews State Park. You can bring your own gear or rent snorkel gear through the Shell Island Shuttle. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with unspoiled beaches and beautiful clear water.
2. Island Time Sailing
Island Time Sailing also offers gear rental and excursion to Shell Island–with a few extra perks. You’ll enjoy three hours on a catamaran, snorkeling right off the deck, with an informative local guide. They’ll be able to answer questions about the wildlife you’re seeing around you and help point out prime locations for finding great seashells; they also bring stand-up paddleboards along for the ride that you’re welcome to try out. Island Time’s great customer service, well-maintained, spacious catamarans, and famous rum punch make them a serious contender if you’re looking for a guided snorkel tour.
3. Dolphin and Snorkel Tours
PCB’s Dolphin and Snorkel Tours enjoys repeat business from vacationers who come back year after year for their friendly, down-to-earth captains and crew. Their three-hour tours to Shell Island include your snorkel gear rental, and you’ll love the low-key, uncrowded atmosphere; they max out each tour group at 6 passengers, so you won’t have to wait in line to get your questions answered. The captains seem to have a knack for spotting dolphins while they’re out on the water. While you’re out, enjoy the use of a cooler that’s stocked with ice-cold drinks, and unlike many local outfitters, you’re welcome to bring your own drinks or snacks aboard, as well.
4. Paradise Adventures PCB
Paradise Adventures offers another Shell Island boat tour, coupled with a ride out into the Gulf of Mexico to spot dolphins and other sea life. Your trip includes a gorgeous scenic ride out to the calm, shallow waters of St. Andrews Bay, your snorkel gear rental, and one beer or non-alcoholic drink per trip. Paradise guides are friendly and professional, true experts on the local area. And a well-stocked snack and drink bar offers a slew of options for the whole family.
5. Shell Island Boat Rentals and Tours
Small groups of visitors and a promise of an attempt at swimming with dolphins make Shell Island Boat Rentals a favorite. Opt for a snorkeling tour or rent your own pontoon for a day on the water, and you’ll be able to explore the jewel-like green waters of PCB at your leisure. Great captains and crews, a seamless booking process, and hundreds of satisfied customers make Shell Island Boat Rentals and Tours an attractive choice for a three-hour dolphin and snorkel tour or a full boat and snorkel gear rental.
As you’ve seen, some of the best snorkeling and aquatic adventuring near PCB happens in St. Andrews Bay or off the Gulf Coast of Shell Island. No matter what outfitter you go with, you’ll make memories that last a lifetime–and might even find yourself swimming with dolphins, rays, and sea turtles as you explore.