For weeks I drooled over the pictures on the website for the Holiday Inn Resort in Pensacola Beach. I read reviews and the overwhelming majority of them were very, very positive. So we packed our bags and headed south the 1st week of August.
Pensacola has changed a lot since the last time that I visited with my mom when I was in high school. Let’s just say a lot has changed since then!
Our hotel was located on a very busy commercial street and was nestled between two other hotels. Across the street from the hotel were plenty of commercial shops and restaurants.
The restaurant inside of the hotel offered a kids eat free option for kids 12 and under who are dining with an adult. This is such a nice bonus because it can get very pricey eating out for every meal while you are on vacation.
In the lobby complimentary coffee is provided in the morning and in the afternoon a very large water dispenser is set out with fresh fruit infused water. It was so refreshing to grab a cup on the way in or out to the pool.
There was a very fun social media promotion going on when we were staying at the hotel. If you snapped a picture and posted it to social media with a designated hashtag and showed it to the front desk, you got a free drink coupon.
The room had a pretty good sized fridge which is a great feature. Your dining out budget can catch a break if your family is willing to eat sandwiches for lunch.
During the peak season the hotel has pirates and mermaids who make appearances during the day. The pirates interact with the children organizing games and sword fights. The mermaids swim with the kids and give them their undivided attention while they are in the pool.
There is a snack bar/little swim shop located in the pool area selling very reasonably priced pool toys and sunscreen. They also have the option for grabbing a hot dog combo meal for lunch for $7.
Every night there is a ‘dive in’ movie played out by the pool with family-friendly favorites. We stayed down for the movie a few nights but the kids were so tired that we weren’t able to stay for the whole movie. From our room we sat on our balcony and finished the movie in our pjs. The volume was just right allowing us to hear from our balcony but not disturb us inside the room. If the weather is bad the movie is moved indoors.
The view of the ocean from our room enough to make you never want to leave the porch.
We arrived on the day of check in, secured our room keys and headed up to the room. As we were changing to go out to the pool/beach my husband came out of the bathroom holding the tray that the toiletries sat on. There was a unused cigarette on the tray. Neither one of us smoke. Our balcony was littered with ashes and a cigarette butt.
Not a fun way to start our trip. I made my way downstairs to the front desk and explained my situation and asked for the room to be cleaned again. I had questions about the overall cleanliness of the room considering what we found upon arrival, specifically asking for the beds to be changed. I am weird about hotel beds. I was assured that it would be taken care of and was given complimentary breakfast vouchers for the stay, which was very nice.
When we arrived back to our room from swimming our room had been cleaned, and by cleaned I mean the evidence of the cigarettes were removed and the beds untouched. Back downstairs I went and this time I was given a $75 credit for the restaurant located inside the hotel. Again it was a very nice gesture, but didn’t make me feel any better about my room.
The pool area is extremely busy during their peak season. My children aren’t very strong swimmers and there were people in the hotel provided floats (used for the lazy river) all over the pool, most oblivious to what is going on around them. My husband and I had to constantly stay on top of the boys and weren’t able to give them much freedom.
The pool area in general, especially the lazy river, had trash all around it. People are allowed to eat and drink in the pool and there were hardly any trash receptacles so there was trash all around the pool.
The restaurant was incredibly slow. When arriving to dinner to a pretty empty restaurant we were informed that the wait for food would be 30 -45 minutes. This is difficult for families who are traveling with small children like we were.
The hotel rooms are very small, it was very cramped for our family of 4. The cost during peak season can range from upwards of $400 per night, which can be quite cost prohibitive for a family vacation.
If I was to go back it would be during off season, and quite possibly without children. I thought several times during the trip that it would be a fun girlfriends trip. I would be sure no matter if I was returning with children or going with girlfriends, to visit during the off season. Personally, crowds aren’t really my thing so knowing that the hotel gets booked during peak season, I would opt for more of the ‘off season.’
The rest of our trip:
We opted most days to eat at the restaurant inside the hotel (kids ate free ya’ll!) but we visited two restaurants that we absolutely adored
The first was Native Cafe a little place tucked into a strip mall that you would totally miss if you weren’t looking for it. The seafood was amazing and the prices were reasonable. The second restaurant that we really enjoyed was Red Fish Blue Fish. We ate there on the way to the Pensacola Pirate Ship, the view was amazing and the food was equally spectacular.
We drove to the boardwalk to check things out and ended up turning around because it cost $1.50 per person to admission to the boardwalk. While that isn’t an outrageous price it seemed a bit silly to venture out there for our children to quite possibly say “let’s leave now.”
The Pensacola area in general is pretty busy, parking is at a premium at the area attractions so I would suggest walking if possible.
Tell us: Have you been to Pensacola before? What did you enjoy?