Rainbow over Shell Island, Panama City Beach, FL.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Shell Island

Top choice in Gulf Coast

Offshore from St Andrews State Park, this sandy 'desert' island is fantastic for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling. There are neither facilities nor shade: wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen. To get here, buy tickets for the Shell Island Shuttle at Pier Marketplace in the park; there's a trolley service to the boat. Snorkeling packages ($28) and kayak rental (single/tandem $65/75 per day) are available – the price includes your shuttle trip to the island. Check website for details and schedules.