How Safe Is Panama City Beach for Travel?

Panama City Beach, United States
Safety Index:
77

Panama City Beach, Florida, is so much more than Spring Break.

The panhandle beach town has been synonymous with the annual gathering of college students for years.

It might even be a deterrent for families looking for a getaway, but there’s so much more to this beach than just tequila shots and club music thumping from hot spots.

This is also a city that took a direct hit from Hurricane Michael in 2018, leaving millions of dollars in damage behind.

You’d never know it today, as the community spirit and dedicated crews took over, restoring the pristine beaches and buildings.

While March and April might be loaded with spring breakers, the rest of the year there’s a family-friendly destination waiting to be discovered, whether you want to swim among shipwrecks, shop ’til you drop, or just chill on the sandy white beaches.

Panama City Beach is locally and regionally known as PCB, so that’s how we’ll refer to it throughout the article.

*One note:

The crime statistics from Panama City Beach are calculated given the population vs. the crime numbers.

There are only 18,000 people who live there full time.

4.5 million people visit Panama City Beach each year, averaging 375,000 a month, so the crime numbers as calculated “officially” don’t mesh with the real population of the transient city.

I’ll break these down as we go along.

Warnings & Dangers in Panama City Beach

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM

I'm going to call it a medium overall risk, simply because this is a vacation getaway spot and there are always going to be people looking for a crime of opportunity. This can also be a party town if you choose to enjoy the nightlife, and that brings a certain danger as well.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW

You have several great, safe options so there's a low risk. The Bay Town Trolley is a great way to get around the city and it's only $4 for unlimited rides all day with discounts for students and seniors, while children under 5 ride free. Taxis and rideshares are also available and must follow city and country licensing processes.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW

3.5 million visitors and not a single report of pickpocketing or purse snatching in 2020. I was baffled when I saw that. By crime statistics alone, there's a low risk, but that number is held up by tourists being careful with their belongings.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

If you haven't seen the damage Hurricane Michael did to this area, I recommend you look it up. It was incredibly bad. Hurricanes are always a risk here, with its prime position on the Gulf, and thunderstorms also kick up in the summertime but can happen year-round. Because of this, there's a medium risk, but that's only because of the POSSIBLE severity. Day-to-day, it's a beautiful, sun-drenched location.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : LOW

Again, 3.5 million visitors and just 10 robberies. There's a low risk of it happening to you.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM

Tyndall Air Force Base is near PCB, so based on that we'll call it a medium risk. Plus, consider all the people who vacation here. This is a popular port area in the panhandle as well.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM

Your biggest scam concern here is a rental scam and there's medium risk. People will list a condo or home for an incredibly good deal and ask for a deposit. Then the traveler arrives and there's no rental and they lose the deposit. It's best to book through a major hotel chain or ask a local rental agency for guidance. Never put down a deposit with a money order. Use a credit card for deposits, so if you do get scammed you'll have protection.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : HIGH

There's a high risk for those coming here to party, and that's just because I've been to PCB many times (and I'm a woman) and the party life brings concerns about drink tampering, date rape, and intoxication dangers. There's a much lower risk if you are just hanging out at the beach and taking in tourist attractions.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

The water is safe in PCB and there's a low risk. The 2020 annual report even states at the very top "We are pleased to report that our drinking water meets all federal and state requirements."

Safest Places to Visit in Panama City Beach

There’s so much to do on this small slice of beach, so it’s best to plan your days out if you can.

I’m going to walk you through the Top 5 locations tourists visited in 2019 (avoiding 2020 due to the pandemic closures.)

The top draw year-round is St. Andrew’s State Park.

You can soak in rays on the 1.5 miles of beach or walk through a pine forest.

The emerald green waters provide some of the best snorkeling on the panhandle.

Migratory birds are abundant throughout the year, making for great wildlife viewing.

I highly recommend taking the ferry from the park to Shell Island.

Captain Anderson’s Marina is the place to go if you want a sightseeing or boating tour.

You can opt to swim with dolphins, scuba on shipwrecks, or do some deep-sea fishing.

The M.B. Miller County Pier is another fishing favorite and, with 1550 feet to walk, it’s great just for sightseeing and a zen moment.

Gulf World is a great place to visit sea life without going on a boat.

There are daily shows with the wildlife and you can sign up for a special swimming session with dolphins.

If you want to go to Shipwreck Island, you don’t even have to leave PCB.

That’s a waterpark in the middle of town.

Places to Avoid in Panama City Beach

There aren’t any places to avoid in PCB. Crime maps show the highest levels are near the entrances to the island from the mainland.

It’s less about places to avoid and more about places to keep your wits about you.

There are plenty of tourist trap restaurants that you might want to experience just because they are the “cool place” to be, but these places also come with larger crowds and a lot of alcohol being consumed due to “signature drinks.”

Places like Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant and Pineapple Willy’s are in that grouping.

If you are going to be drinking, it’s best to have a sober friend with you.

For 11 months of the year you can drink alcohol on the beach (March being the only exception. Sorry, spring breakers.)

The beaches are open 24 hours a day, so a lot of people want to go stargazing or night swimming.

Now, I’m one of those people who went night swimming at PCB in the mid-90s, so I can’t cast judgment on that.

I also took all necessary steps for safety and since I’m a scaredy-cat, I only went knee-deep in the water.

You just have to be sober enough to be able to protect yourself if a bad situation happens.

It should go without saying, but you shouldn’t swim in the Gulf at night when drunk.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Panama City Beach

  1. There’s an algae bloom that can happen in June called June Grass. If you see social posts where people complain of murky green disgusting water in the summer, that is June Grass. It’s the way the beach nourishes itself and the animals above and below the sea feed off it to get nutrients. It can cause a wretched smell, but just know it’s part of nature, not part of a problem.
  2. Say it with me, “One water for every alcoholic beverage.” You have to stay hydrated if you’re chugging a Pineapple Willy’s signature drink. Drink a glass of water in between every alcoholic drink. You and your headache will thank me later.
  3. There are a plethora of scuba options here and Florida doesn’t require scuba certification. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get certified. Diving to shipwrecks involves a special level of training. The good news is, there are so many tours here that even beginners can still get a good, safe scuba trip. There is scuba training at many locations in PCB, and you can also get certified at home before you visit.
  4. Beach warning flags are posted as needed so beachgoers know the conditions of the water. You can get those ahead of time by texting PCBFlags to 888777. A double red flag means no swimming is allowed and you can get a $500 ticket for violating this ordinance.
  5. The Bay Town Trolley is a great way to get around, but service stops at 8:00 p.m. Plan your day around this so you don’t get stranded at a trolley stop miles from your beach home.
  6. If you see small streams of brown or green murky water along the beach, that’s not pollution. It’s called an outfall. This is excess freshwater pouring through a natural spring and making its way to the Gulf. The brown water is filled with organic material, not pollution.
  7. Download the Passport Parking app so you can pay for beach parking right on your mobile device. The price is $1 per hour. Don’t try to avoid parking as you can get ticketed or towed.
  8. From May through October, it’s sea turtle nesting season. You’ll see wooden stakes wrapped in caution tape when there is a sea turtle nest. Don’t disturb this area. Sea turtles come to shore to lay eggs, and when it’s time to hatch, the sea turtles crawl back to the sea. It’s a delicate balance of nature for survival and human interference makes survival rates lower. This is also why there’s very little light on the beach at night since light can confuse the baby sea turtles.
  9. The north side of PCB faces a bay filled with freshwater. That means there’s a good assumption that alligators live there. It’s part of life for Floridians, but it can catch a tourist off guard. They are not aggressive animals but don’t mess with them. Living in Florida, I once saw a sign that read “Do not feed or molest alligators.” I thought it went without saying that molesting an alligator was a bad idea, but what do I know?
  10. Nature helped you out with this safety tip. You don’t need to worry about burning your bare feet walking on the sand because it’s 99% quartz. That’s why the sand here is so white. It also doesn’t absorb the sun’s rays, so you can walk comfortably even when it’s during the oppressive summer heat. I lived near Siesta Key, which had the same kind of sand, and I can offer this advice. Unless the more coarse sand, the quartz sand doesn’t wash off so easily. It leaves a fine film of sand on you. It’s a little more difficult to wash off.

So... How Safe Is Panama City Beach Really?

This is a city where you can’t go on raw crime numbers alone vs the population.

For example:

  • Theft (using just population vs crime): 1 in 26 chance of being a victim
  • Theft (factoring in tourist numbers): 1 in 534 chance of being a victim

There are definitely times PCB is more crowded than normal, but it’s never a ghost town.

The crime statistics are never going to hold true using the typical crime rate math.

With PCB being more crowded, there will be more risk of people looking for crimes of opportunity, like you leaving a backpack on the beach while snorkeling, or leaving a purse at the table when you go to the bathroom.

Never accept a drink from a stranger you didn’t see poured yourself.

Don’t go to a private party you heard about from someone at the bar.

These are just the basic safety tips anyone should follow, but we always need reminders.

How Does Panama City Beach Compare?

CitySafety Index
Panama City Beach77
Philadelphia60
Houston59
Atlanta58
St Louis58
La Paz (Bolivia)52
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43

Useful Information

  • Visas - The Visa information will be handled at the airport or port of entry. Nothing else is needed to be in PCB.
  • Currency - You'll use the U.S. Dollar at all PCB locations and across the state of Florida. Don't carry around large wads of cash. Use credit cards as they provide the best protection against identity theft or overcharging. Always keep your receipts and shred them before throwing them out so your credit card information isn't easy to steal.
  • Weather - Even though it's in Florida, PCB isn't quite the tropical paradise you'd get in Miami. Winter highs can only make it to the low 60s and lows dip into the 40s, so bring a warm jacket. In spring and fall, you'll get highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. Summer heats up to the 90s for highs and 70s for lows.
  • Airports - Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is just 30 minutes away, but it is a smaller airport. Pensacola International Airport is two hours west and a much bigger airport option. Tallahassee International Airport is two hours east.
  • Travel Insurance - You'll need travel insurance in case of any weather delays or other unforeseen travel problems. Even a winter storm in the northwest can have a ripple effect on flights nationwide.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Panama City Beach Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 12° C
Feb 14° C
Mar 17° C
Apr 20° C
May 25° C
Jun 27° C
Jul 28° C
Aug 28° C
Sep 27° C
Oct 22° C
Nov 18° C
Dec 13° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
171922252931323231272318
Low
°C
791215202324242217128
High
°F
636672778488909088817364
Low
°F
454854596873757572635446

Where to Next?

1 Review on Panama City Beach

  1. So safe and fun to visit

    If you travel with your family and are looking for a good spot for 3+ people then please consider Panama City Beach as well. This is mostly a place you would visit in the summer as it has many, many water attractions and outdoor ones.

    Considering there are many tourists coming here, you would expect there to be more crime in the area but believe it or not, this is quite a safe place. I never felt threatened when here nor did I see or hear about any incident like muggings, pickpockets or other petty crime.

    Pier Park is one of the best places to visit with kids, especially if you encounter a rainy day. There’s shopping to be done, food to be enjoyed, an IMAX theater and plenty of amusement opportunities.

    Try to SkyWheel which is a huge Ferris wheel that will spin you round and round. There’s also a ropes course, ziplining in the SkyRail that is decently challenging (you will be secured with a safety line). I’ve also tried (and had fun with) the mini-golf course found here. Your kids will enjoy playing against you – don’t forget to take pictures and make some video memories.

    Gulf World Marine Park is a hands-on kind of place, with interactive experiences like snorkeling with stingrays. Swimming with dolphins is amazing every time you do it, seeing harbor seals up close or just admiring alligators, sharks, penguins or sea lions.

    I highly recommend the Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise which is a pirate ship for kids that goes on a 2 hour trip in which time the kids will have plenty of fun. My kids really enjoyed this and want to come back as soon as possible.

    The Sunset Catamaran Sail is a boat excursion that can be taken either as a family with kids or as a romantic trip for couples.

Rated 5 / 5 based on 1 user reviews.

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