Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
By Linda Holloway, photography by www.larryhollowayphotography.com
Nothing bonds a family like a trip to the beach. Just the mention of sun and sand sends kids packing shovels and buckets, teen girls searching for the perfect bathing suit, and guys searching for the coolest wake board. Often parents are still car-pooling kids for day-trips after they arrive at their vacation destination—leaving couples too little time for relaxation. Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa has captured the market on a one stop, fun for all ages, worthy to write home about…perfect beach vacation.
Known as the largest full-service beach front luxury resort along Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, Hilton Sandestin Beach is located directly on the sugar-white sands and emerald-green waters in South Walton. Families will want to book a junior suite (574 sq. feet.) for extra space that includes an alcove with bunk beds and a media center – ideal for the kids. Parents appreciate the amenities in the bathroom and a separate dressing area with an additional vanity. My personal star attraction—a private balcony with stunning beach front views.
If only kids would get ready for school as fast they do for the beach. You know the drill, “please x 100” while jumping up and down, and finally you race to the beach with them. After all, there are sandcastles to be built, and treasures to be found. Norman Rockwell could have painted the beach scene we witnessed from our Hilton chairs and umbrella. Wave-chasing was a favorite for tots, and the older set was maneuvering kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. A dad and son were throwing a football, and a group of young guys (I am sure girls would have been welcomed) were playing beach volleyball. My favorite activity... relaxing to the sound of beach music.
When you are ready for pool time, step onto Hilton Beach’s 20,000 ft. deck which features two pools, a kiddie pool, Jacuzzi and Barefoot’s Beachside Bar & Grill overlooking the Gulf. The grouper sandwich is a hot item, and there is plenty of food with children’s appetites in mind. Also, perfect for pool time is the Picnix Market offering quick food you can take back to your poolside lounge chairs and tables. Colorful cabanas dot the deck for shade…thank you Hilton Sandestin! You will also find one indoor pool and whirlpool.
For fun on the high seas, a complimentary tram will deliver you to Sandestin’s Baytowne Marina for boating, sailing and fishing charter excursions along the Choctawhatchee Bay. Biking is popular where whizzing through a tunnel is an adventure. Ask the concierge about arranging SCUBA diving, dolphin watch cruises and snorkeling. Picnic baskets are also available for outings. For tennis lovers, enjoy the Tennis Center, with 12 HydroGrid clay and three hard courts.
Repeat after me, “It is okay to indulge in “me & couple” time on the family vacation. Guilt free adult time is made easy with the resort’s Kids Krew (ages 5-12.) This supervised (fee-based) program takes place in the mornings and evenings. Alex Rowe, recreation manager at Hilton Beach said, “In just one morning, children become Kids Krew Pirates! Our little buccaneers play fun pirate games, eat a pirate’s lunch, go on a pirate treasure parade, and even get a special visit from a real pirate for a magic show.”
Kids Krew offers a range of exciting activities including safari hunts, a camping adventure, karaoke, and creative crafts. Kids Krew outdoor activities include kite-flying, and sand-sculpting. Playing with water balloons, squirt guns and slip-and-slides are favorites also. Kids will appreciate the themed days, such as Sweet Tooth Day, when kids learn how to make ice cream or cookies.
Check out the colorful Clubhouse-style hangout that is home to Kids Krew. There is never a bad day at the beach where an impressive group of camp counselors are trained to “save the day” even if it is raining outside. The clubhouse is pure entertainment. During the summer months, enjoy twice-weekly family fun on the Veranda from noon to 2 p.m. On Tuesdays, join in the fun for wicked good tie-dye time and Saturdays for face painting, balloon creations and stilt-walking wackiness.
“After the sun sets, the recreation team help make it easy for grownups to relax and have some fun on their own, knowing their children are watching—or making—movies, capturing spies, solving crimes or having silly pillow fights, all under the watchful eye of experienced counselors,” said Alex. The kids especially enjoy activities including camp-outs on the beach, roasting marshmallows over a bonfire for s’mores, searching for constellations and secret-agent training. Be sure to register at the resort’s Activities Desk for Kids Krew.
Dining, Spa, and Golfing
While the kids are off in Kids Krew (land of make-believe) for the evening, make some magic of your own by dining at the resort’s “AAA Four Diamond” award-winning Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood. Reservations are recommended, and ask for the private dining in the wine room. Try the Steak Diane prepared tableside, or enjoy fresh seasonal fish and shellfish—straight from the Gulf. Sandcastles is another fabulous evening dining experience for couples and kids. Return with the family in the morning for the famous hearty breakfast buffet.
The award-winning Serenity by the sea Spa is perfect for a spa couple’s message, or bond with your teen daughter with the new HydraFacial which utilizes powerful antioxidants to revitalize and protect your skin. I can honestly say it was the best treatment I have ever experienced. Be sure and check-out the whirlpool and sauna. Little wonder USA Today tagged this spa on their “10 Best Spa Treatments under the Sun,” 2015 list. Warning: if you ever kick back in the spa’s relaxing Zero Gravity Recliners, you will fall asleep in less than a minute.
If you are a golfing family, you are in luck. Hilton Beach guests have access to Sandestin Beach & Golf Resort’s golf courses. Choose from world-class golf offerings such as Raven Golf Club, Burnt Pine Golf Club, Baytowne Golf Club and The Links. Another short tram ride away is Sandestin Beach & Golf Resort’s, The Village of Baytowne Wharf. Here, the Baytowne Adventure Zone is where you can soar across the lagoon on the Baytowne Zipline, and if you are brave—maneuver the Sky Trail. Bring the entire family to Baytowne’s Wednesday Night Concert Series where live music under the stars is a great memory-maker.
Fast Facts: Hilton Sandestin: 800-559-1805, www.SandestinBeachHilton.com
Tourist information: 800-822-6877, www.visitsouthwalton.com