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By annaheekang
January 20, 2016
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach
Getty Images

See the 2016 Travel Calendar at a Glance

Why now
The sugar-white sand fills up with spring breakers in March, but the crowds drop by 14% come October. One thing that doesn’t drop: the temperature, with highs hovering around 80° F.
What to do
Sign up for a half-day trip with Dolphin and Snorkel Tours ($70). It guarantees dolphin sightings (or you get a voucher for another trip). If you strap on some snorkeling gear, you might spy schools of sea stars, puffer fish, and colorful reef fish, says the boat’s captain, Lorraine Frasier. Two-hour sunset tours are $49.
Catching the sunset on Panama city beach
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This coastline faces west, which makes it easy to time your happy hour with sunset views at Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant. Go a little early—from 2 to 5 p.m. weekdays—and appetizers are half price. For dinner, head to J Michael’s (dinner, $25) for Cajun cuisine, suggests Mike Bennett, owner of the city’s Seahaven Beach Resorts. If you have a good day of fishing, it will also cook what you catch.
How to save
March rates at the Edgewater Beach & Golf Resort, a row of beachfront towers with 11 pools and six tennis courts, start at $405 for a one bedroom; in October rates dip to $287, a 30% savings. You’ll save even more by booking a stay off the beach. Rooms overlooking placid Lake Carillon—and just a few blocks from the Gulf—start at $139 at the pastel-colored Carillon Beach Resort Inn.
Local's tip
If you’re looking for stretch of sand to call your own, shuttle out to Shell Island, an undeveloped, seven-mile barrier isle that’s ideal for private waterfront picnics (shuttle, $17).

November: Sup and Shop in Austin