Myrtle Beach vs Panama City Beach - Which is Better for Vacation?
Myrtle Beach or Panama City Beach? Discover the best vacation spot for your preferences and budget. Compare attractions, places to stay, weather, affordability, and more.
Panama City Beach is more expensive compared to Myrtle Beach, making Myrtle Beach the better choice for people looking for a budget-friendly destination. However, Panama City Beach has warmer weather year-round versus Myrtle Beach, making it the better choice for people who enjoy a hotter climate.
It's important to note that despite the differences, both destinations have a substantial amount of similarities between them.
Overall, it's hard to go wrong when choosing either of these destinations. But, before we get into the full details of our comparison of Myrtle Beach vs Panama City Beach, here's a quick overview about each:
Myrtle Beach, a popular vacation destination in South Carolina, is renowned for its affordability, making it an ideal choice for families and individuals seeking a budget-friendly getaway. It's home to a variety of beautiful beaches nearby, including North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, and Garden City, each offering a unique coastal experience to its visitors.
Myrtle Beach is best known for its stunning 60-mile stretch of sandy beaches (known as the Grand Strand), vibrant nightlife, water activities and the iconic Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. Based on tourism research conducted by a leading U.S. consumer travel research firm, Myrtle Beach attracted over 17 million visitors in 2022.
Panama City Beach, located in the Florida Panhandle, and part of the "Emerald Coast", offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy over 27 miles of sugary-white sandy beaches and the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. PCB is home to a variety of neighborhoods, each offering their own unique experience, including Laguna Beach, Long Beach and Lower Grand Lagoon.
Aside from the beach, Panama City Beach is best known for its natural beauty, great food, kid friendly activities, variety of water activities and the iconic Pier Park. According to tourism data published by the local government, over 4.5 million people visit PCB each year.
Things to Do
A major upside to Myrtle Beach as a beach vacation destination is that it offers plenty of things to do for every age group.
One of the most popular attractions in the area is the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, a vibrant 1.2-mile long oceanfront promenade, with a variety of restaurants, shops, and attractions. Whether you're traveling with family or as a couple, this is a great spot for a morning bike ride or nighttime stroll.
Another must-visit attraction is Broadway at the Beach, a bustling complex with a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants arranged around a picturesque lake.
Related: Watch Live: Myrtle Beach Webcams
Of course, no trip to Myrtle Beach is complete without a ride on the iconic SkyWheel, recognized as one of the tallest ferris wheels on the East Coast.
If water-activities are more your speed, you can choose from jet skiing, kayaking, deep sea fishing, parasailing or even rent a pontoon boat and cruise the IntraCoastal Waterway for the afternoon.
Panama City Beach has more of a laid-back atmosphere, but also has diverse attractions for a memorable vacation experience.
Pier Park is synonymous with PCB. As a vibrant outdoor mall in Panama City Beach, it's a hub for shopping, dining, entertainment, offering family-friendly activities day and night.
Another must-visit attraction is Gulf World Marine Park, a marine park and aquarium where visitors can watch daily live dolphin and sea lion shows, interact with stingrays, walk through the indoor and outdoor gardens and even swim with dolphins. It's a great place for the whole family to explore.
If nature and hiking are on your to do list, St. Andrew's State Park is your best option. Located at the Eastern end of Panama City Beach, there's not much that you can't see or do here. Activities include swimming, kayaking, nature trail hiking and bird watching. The park also offers camping facilities and has a pier.
"French Kiss" beach house rental in Panama City Beach via VRBO
Myrtle Beach offers a wide range of accommodation options, catering to all types of travelers and budgets.
For those seeking the full resort experience, Myrtle Beach is home to numerous resorts that offer stunning oceanfront views, spacious rooms, and amenities such as pools, spas, and on-site dining.
Here are a few popular resorts in the area:
Vacation rentals are popular in Myrtle Beach, with many condos and beach houses available for rent. These are great for families or larger groups, offering more space, privacy, and the convenience of home-like amenities such as full kitchens and laundry facilities.
Regardless of which type of accommodations you choose, many of them are conveniently located near popular attractions and offer basic amenities for a comfortable stay.
Comparatively, Panama City Beach also has a large amount of beachfront hotels and resorts to choose from.
Here are two local resorts we recommend:
Like Myrtle Beach, visitors looking for more spacious accommodations in Panama City Beach often opt for vacation rentals. There is a wide selection of condos and private beach houses available for rent, many of which are situated on or near the beach.
Myrtle Beach and Panama City Beach both have hot summers, mild winters, with enjoyable temperatures during both the fall and spring.
Overall, Myrtle Beach has lower temperatures year-round compared to Panama City Beach. Additionally, on average, Panama City Beach is 6 degrees warmer during the winter months.
The table below shows the difference in average monthly high and low temperatures in Myrtle Beach vs Panama City Beach.
|Month||Myrtle Beach||Panama City Beach|
|High (°F)||Low (°F)||High (°F)||Low (°F)|
Photo credit: Myrtle Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Myrtle Beach is serviced by Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR), which offers numerous non-stop flights from various cities in the United States. The airport is conveniently located just a few miles from the central part of Myrtle Beach, making it a quick and easy transition from air travel to vacation mode.
Driving to Myrtle Beach is also a popular option for many travelers, especially those coming from Midwestern and Southeastern states. Major highways leading into the city include U.S. 501, which connects to Interstate 95, and U.S. 17, which runs along the East Coast.
Panama City Beach is serviced by Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP). The airport is located in the center of Northwestern Florida, just 20 minutes from PCB.
For travelers who prefer to drive, Panama City Beach is easily accessible from major interstates like I-65 and I-10. If you're coming from Northeast Florida, U.S. Route 98 will lead you directly into the city.
Additionally, other popular nearby beaches like Destin, Miramar Beach and Fort Walton Beach are within an hour away using Highway 30A.
Cost and Affordability
Myrtle Beach has a reputation for being an affordable beach vacation destination.
The chart below shows the Average Daily Rate (ADR) for vacation rentals in Myrtle Beach. It's no surprise that rental costs drop significantly during the winter months (off-season) and rise drastically during summer months (peak-season) when vacation home rentals are in high demand.
Like Myrtle Beach, Panama City Beach is also known for being a budget-friendly destination.
Visiting during the shoulder and off seasons, when rental rates for accommodations are lower, is a quick way to reduce your costs and stay within your budget.
The chart below shows the Average Daily Rate (ADR) for vacation rentals in Panama City Beach. Like Myrtle Beach, rental rates are highest in the peak season and drop significantly during the winter months (off-season).
The table below, sourced from data provided by AirDNA, compares the Average Daily Rate of short-term rentals in both destinations, showing the price difference and highlighting the more affordable option.
Even though both destinations can cater to a wide range of budgets, when compared to Panama City Beach, Myrtle Beach is cheaper.
|Month/Year||PCB Avg. Daily Rate||Myrtle Beach Avg. Daily Rate||Price Difference||Who's Cheaper|
|October 2022||$270||$206||$64||Myrtle Beach|
|November 2022||$254||$204||$50||Myrtle Beach|
|December 2022||$256||$196||$60||Myrtle Beach|
|January 2023||$224||$186||$38||Myrtle Beach|
|February 2023||$231||$192||$39||Myrtle Beach|
|March 2023||$292||$213||$79||Myrtle Beach|
|April 2023||$297||$237||$60||Myrtle Beach|
|May 2023||$305||$253||$52||Myrtle Beach|
|June 2023||$343||$289||$54||Myrtle Beach|
|July 2023||$341||$303||$38||Myrtle Beach|
|August 2023||$289||$270||$19||Myrtle Beach|
|September 2023||$274||$237||$37||Myrtle Beach|
Popularity by State
We analyzed tourism data to identify the preferred vacation destination of visitors from different states, when choosing between Myrtle Beach and Panama City Beach.
Key Findings From Our Research
- The primary Feeder Markets for Panama City Beach are Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee.
- The primary Feeder Markets for Myrtle Beach are South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.
- According to a survey by Visit Panama City Beach, many recent visitors to PCB indicated that Myrtle Beach was their top alternative choice for a vacation destination.
Based on tourism statistics published by Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Panama City Beach, SoCoastal compared the top "Feeder Markets" for each destination and determined a winner based on a sum comparison of visitors each destination received from each state during 2022 and 2023.
The Final Verdict
Panama City Beach and Myrtle Beach offer very similar, yet different experiences. The "better" option is going to depend on your personal preferences, interests and most importantly, your budget.
Here's a quick recap of what the data shows us about each destination:
- Year-round, the weather is warmer in Panama City Beach.
- The sand on the beaches of Panama City Beach is softer.
- The Gulf of Mexico has clearer water than the Atlantic Ocean.
- Vacation rentals are more affordable in Myrtle Beach.
- Myrtle Beach is bigger.
- Myrtle Beach has more attractions and activities to choose from.
- Both Myrtle Beach and PCB are considered to be kid-friendly destinations.
- Both Myrtle Beach and Panama City Beach are commercialized.
- Both Myrtle Beach and Panama City Beach are popular summer and Spring Break destinations.