Make a Splash! Discover the Best Water Sports in Panama City Beach

If you’re seeking adventures on the water, Florida’s Panama City Beach is the place to be. You’d be hard-pressed to find a place with so many fun water activities packed into 27 miles of spectacular beaches located on the calm, clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico. From being the captain of your own pontoon boat and getting up close with dolphins to zipping along on a jet ski, Panama City Beach is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.

In an area jam-packed with incredible beaches, perhaps the ones at Shell Island, a barrier island that’s part of the natural preserve of St. Andrews State Park, are the best. A haven for wildlife and marine animals, Shell Island features unspoiled beaches and inshore waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Accessible only by boat, Shell Island Shuttle is the official shuttle of the island and has been dropping guests off in the peaceful cove behind Shell Island Jetty for years. Add to the experience and rent a kayak or snorkeling gear. Pontoon boat rentals are available too, including double-decker ones, which feature seating for 12, plenty of sunbathing space and twin water slides.

For 35 years, Shell Island Boat Rentals & Tours has been specializing in – you guessed it – boat rentals and tours and has plenty of positive guest reviews to show for it. Offering the largest fleet of new boats in the area, Shell Island Boat Rentals is located at the Treasure Island Marina just off Thomas drive (look for the yellow flags and umbrellas). In addition to pontoon rentals, including a luxury model, they also feature Boston Whalers, the only company in the area to do so. These boats are great for fishing enthusiasts and experienced boaters. For an up-close look at the area’s ubiquitous bottle-nosed dolphins, book an intimate snorkeling tour.

With close to 30 years of experience, ScottyBoat Rentals has earned plenty of diehard fans for its pontoon and fishing boat selection, as well as friendly, knowledgeable staff who can help you select the perfect boat to suit your needs, whether you want to cruise the bays and visit nearby Shell Island or head out further into the Gulf. Looking to do a little entertaining while you glide on the water? Easy-to-navigate pontoon boats are perfect for cruising with family and friends. With the ability to accommodate up to 10 people, these pontoon boats are ideally suited for large groups and rougher waters. Fishing enthusiasts will appreciate full- and half-day fishing boat rentals, complete with a GPS map, stereo, T-top for shade and a fish finder.

One of the newer kids on the PCB block, Papa Joe’s Bayside, is as much about its water-activity rentals as it is the other goodies it offers at its beachside location overlooking St. Andrew’s Bay. Food, cocktails and live entertainment are part of the fun too. With an inventory of brand-new pontoon boats, Papa Joe’s offers full- and half-day rentals for up to 12 passengers. Papa Joe’s is conveniently located near the Hathaway Bridge, making your trip to Shell Island or anywhere in the bay a quick trip. For those looking to get even closer to the turquoise water, there are guided jet ski tours. Get the best of both watery worlds with a group dolphin and snorkeling tour. Or if catching fish is more your idea of a great day on the water, book a charter with an experienced, locally known inshore fishing guide.

Inspired by a catamaran cruise they took on their Jamaican honeymoon, owning and running Paradise Adventures is a dream come true for Donnie and Tracey Coker. With a goal to create lasting memories for their customers, the couple offers a variety of on-the-water adventures. Their flagship catamaran, called the Privateer, is a 52-footer that can carry up to 78 passengers and offers seating, sunning nets, wind and rain coverage, an attached slide, and a fully stocked bar. Tours on the multi-hulled watercraft include sunset cruises, dolphin sightseeing and snorkeling. Pontoon boat rentals come in two sizes, both perfect for exploring nearby Shell Island and Grand Lagoon. You can also rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard.

If it can be done in or around the water, Adventures at Sea pretty much has the rentals and appropriate equipment to make it happen. Pontoon boat rentals, both standard and double-decker, are available for full- and half-day rentals. Shell Island boat tours allow you to sit back and relax as you take in the sights of St. Andrews Bay, with snorkeling in shallow waters as part of the fun. Those looking for something more romantic can book their last trip of the day for stunning sunset views. Zip across the Gulf of Mexico waters with the family on an inflatable banana boat ride or soar to new heights (literally!) with a parasailing ride. Adventures at Sea also offers jet ski rentals, wave runner tours and fishing charters. Lounge chair rentals are also available for those looking to relax and soak up the sun.

Since 1999, Island Time Sailing has been offering its fun-filled catamaran cruises, including a dolphin sunset cruise and Shell Island snorkeling and sailing cruise, which pair perfectly with their signature rum punch. Whether you opt for their Island Time or Island Time II catamarans, you can be assured that either double-hulled craft, 50- and 53-feet long, respectively, will provide a smooth ride. Over at sister company Lagoon Pontoons, standard and double-decker pontoons are available for rent and jet skis for self-guided adventures or group dolphin tours.

From quick weekend getaways to week-long family trips, Panama City Beach provides all the water-centric activities to ensure your time away from the daily grind is as fun-filled as possible. Where will your adventures take you?

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