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Question: Which Florida Beaches Have the Most Beautiful, Clear Water and Balmy Weather

Question: Which beach in Florida do you think has the most beautiful water as far as breath taking color and clarity? I am unable to fly so we were looking something with as close to a tropical getaway as possible. Which is the best time to go to experience nice clear water and balmy conditions? We were thinking about going in May or September.

Answer: Yours is a tough question to answer because there are so many variables, however, I can give you some helpful advice.
For the best color and clarity, there are several areas worth considering:

  • Florida panhandle beaches – Panama City Beach to Pensacola Beach.
  • Southeast Florida beaches – Palm Beach south to Miami.
  • Florida Keys – Marathon, Bahia Honda, or Key West
  • Southwest Florida – Anna Maria, Longboat Key, Siesta Key, Naples, or Marco Island.

September and May are both excellent months to come to Florida’s beaches. Below I’ll offer some thoughts that might help you choose a beach:

In the month of May, water temperatures will not be at their warmest all over the state, but will be warm enough. Panhandle beaches will have water in the upper 70’s. South Florida will have water in the low 80’s.  During September, the water will be at its warmest on all beaches, generally somewhere in the low to mid 80’s, with southwestern Florida generally having the warmest water temperatures.

Air temperature and humidity will be highest from June through September. However, in southeast Florida (Ft. Lauderdale / Miami area) and the Keys, you’ll find it very tropical in most all months except perhaps December through late March. For the most tropical feeling I’d go for September. The summer rains will have everything looking very green and lush. For the clearest water, May is probably slightly better on the Gulf side, and September may be slightly better on the Atlantic side. It is mainly a function of wind. Stiff onshore breezes can stir up the sand and silt in the water near the beach, making it a milky green color.

As to water color and clarity:

The Florida panhandle beaches have some of the clearest and most beautiful water in the state. However, as of early 2013 there are still some issues with tarballs washing up on western panhandle beaches, so you’d want to consider more eastern locations such as Grayton Beach, Mexico Beach, or Panama City Beach. The panhandle beaches are brilliantly white and the water is clear and emerald green. It really is beautiful. But you won’t really get a “tropical” feel from those beaches. They have mostly pine trees, not palm trees.

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach as seen from the pier at St. Andrews State Park.

Southeastern Florida – Palm Beach to Miami:  These beaches have the most consistently clear water, the warmest weather, and the most tropical feel, with lots of coconut palms and tropical foliage. Your really can’t miss with these beaches. The water isn’t always crystal clear, but it has great color and good clarity overall. You might consider Delray Beach, Ft. Lauderdale Beach or Hollywood Beach.

View of Atlantic Ocean from Dania Pier in southeast Florida.

Hollywood Beach, FL. A fairly typical beach scene from southeast Florida.

Florida Keys beaches:  The Keys are not known for their beaches, but they do have a few really good ones. And the Keys are famous for clear water and a very tropical climate. With the exception of Smathers Beach in Key West, none of the beaches would be near a hotel or resort. They would all be public access beaches that you’d have to drive to. Some hotels advertise their own private beach, but all they amount to is some trucked-in sand covering a few thousand square feet at the most. The best public beaches would be Sombrero Beach on Marathon, Bahia Honda State Park Beaches, Smather’s Beach on Key West, and Zachary Taylor State Park on Key West.

Smathers Beach, Key West. The water was not at its best in this photo because of several days of onshore winds bringing in seaweed and stirring up the silt. This can happen on any beach.


Southwest Florida beaches: These beaches can offer some really beautiful, clear water, but it can be inconsistent. Sometimes the water clarity can be disappointing. The water with the best clarity is usually on Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key, Siesta Key beach, Naples beach, or Marco Island.

Gulf of Mexico on Anna Maria Island at its very best.

A somewhat more typical view of the green waters of Anna Maria Island.

Overall, either southwest or southeast Florida probably offers the best chance of finding what you’re looking for.