A trip to the beach is without a doubt one of the most popular vacations for families. The sun, sand and surf all make for a stunning playground for active families in search of outdoor fun.

If your family is like mine, when visiting Pensacola area beaches, you enjoy playing in the waves, walking the shoreline to hunt for seashells or just soaking in the rays while the kids play in the sand. It’s the beach. It’s what you do.

While many times this sort of relaxing day at the beach may be just what your family needs, it is also fun to plan some more exciting and memorable activities during your stay. Why settle for a week of pedestrian beach activities when you can parasail high in the sky or zip through the waves on a jet ski?

Here are 5 activities families can try to bring a new level of fun to their Pensacola area beach excursions.


#1 Go Parasailing: Experience Amazing Views of Pensacola Beach

Photo by @lauraeslava

Get a bird’s eye view of Pensacola beaches when you soar above the coastline on a parasail. You will go out into the gulf by boat, where you will put on a life vest and harness with an attached parachute. Guides will instruct you each step of the way to make your aerial adventure fun and safe. At Pensacola Beach, Key Sailing offers single, double and triple flights – all within certain weight parameters up to 450 pounds. Costs range from $100 for a single ride to $55 per person for a double or triple ride. Riders can expect to be in the air 10-12 minutes. Radical Rides, another Pensacola Beach parasail and watercraft rental company, advises riders must be 3 years of age or older, and they recommend asking a crew member to take your photo in the air, unless you bring a single-use camera because there is always a chance you (and anything you are carrying) may get wet. With up to 12 people allowed on each parasail boat, every member of the family can take their turn in flight.


#2 Dolphin Cruise: Enjoy The Smiles

Dolphin by @katie.bodden
Photo by @katie.bodden

For a leisurely but fun time on the water, book a dolphin cruise for the whole family. Pack your sunscreen and a cooler, find a few good seats on board and get ready for the “oohs” and “ahs” you will hear as your boat encounter pods of dolphins swimming and leaping out of the water. You will definitely want to have your camera ready to capture the close-up glimpses of these beautiful creatures. My daughters and a few of their friends loved the dolphin cruise we took a few years ago. It was a sunset cruise that left from Pensacola Beach Marina. Dolphin Express is one cruise company you might try. Key Sailing offers a glass-bottom boat dolphin cruise.


#3 Paddleboard: Paddle in Paradise

Paddleboard on Pensacola Beach

Another way to take in the Pensacola scenery is floating atop a stand-up paddleboard. If you have seen what looks like a surfer standing and holding a paddle on the water, you have seen a paddle boarder. It takes a little effort to get on the board and balance as a beginner, but once you master the basic skills, you can enjoy steering yourself around. Most rental companies offer basic instruction for beginners, too. Rent boards by the hour or by the day. Many of the rental companies located on Pensacola Beach will deliver boards to you at a beach house, condo or wherever you want to paddle. Little Sabine Bay is a popular place for paddling because it is not as windy and choppy as the gulf waters. If you are ready to paddle check out these paddleboard companies

#4 Jet Ski: Zoom, Zoom 

Jet Ski in Perdido Key

Hold on tight and get ready for some serious splash! Riding a personal watercraft is a fun way to get around Pensacola area waterways. Families with older children especially may enjoy the thrill of a jet ski ride. You must be age 14 or over to operate a jet ski in the state of Florida, and most companies require picture ID, a boating safety certificate offered on-site, as well as parental permission for anyone age 17 or under to ride, but don’t let that scare you away. After the paperwork is complete, it’s time to get out on the water and have a blast.

#5 Boating & Sailing: Explore Amazing Waterways

Sail Boat

One of our favorite activities when we have family in town is to rent a pontoon boat. You can cruise Pensacola Bay or the Santa Rosa Sound, and bring snorkels along if you plan to anchor down near shallow water and peek in on the local sea life. If you are feeling adventurous, park the pontoon and explore places only accessible by boat like Fort McRee or Robertson Island, also known as Sand Island. Some boats are even outfitted with water slides so you can splash right into the water from the top of your boat. Get on board on check out these sailing businesses


With so many options for families to have fun on the water, there is always something to do in Pensacola.