Does Panama City Beach, FL Have Jellyfish? (Types, Photos & Stings)

Panama City Beach, along the coast of Florida, is one of the top three beach destinations in the United States.

Today, the area is best known for its 27 miles of beautiful Gulf coastline beaches, boasting a variety of experiences.

Panama City Beach was originally a fishing village like many others along this part of the coast. The region was later known for its lumbering and naval stores, before becoming the beach destination it is known for today. Panama City Beach also neighbors Panama City, which is still a major military center and played an important role in American naval history, beginning during World War II. The port here was and still is the entry port to St. Andrews Bar. The region as a whole is a significant military center, with the Tyndall Air Force Base just to the southeast.

But if you’re planning a trip to Panama, you’ll be more interested in the wildlife you might find here, especially any creatures that might sting you while you’re enjoying the waves.

So does Panama City Beach, FL have jellyfish?

Photo by Kari Nousiainen/Flickr

Panama City Beach is home to many species of jellyfish, though overall numbers and stings are less frequent here than at some other Gulf coast beaches. Encounters with highly dangerous jellies are quite rare in Panama City. A few of the most common jellyfish you might find in the waters at Panama City Beach are:

  • Moon jellies
  • Sea nettles
  • Cannonball jellyfish
  • Pink meanies
  • Portuguese man o war
  • and blue buttons

Let’s take a look at Panama City jellyfish, photos, sting history, seasonality, and more!

Types of Jellyfish in Panama City Beach, FL

The Gulf of Mexico is teeming with marine life, and jellyfish are one of the types of creatures you could encounter on a trip to Florida, depending on the time of year. 

Panama City Beach jellyfish don’t have to be a cause to ruin a trip, however. Many jellyfish don’t pose a serious danger to humans, with stings that cause only moderate discomfort.

All jellyfish are capable of stings — but many of them are only dangerous to other, smaller, marine animals!

There are dozens of jellyfish species found in the Gulf. Some of the most common are moon jellyfish, Atlantic sea nettles, cannonball jellyfish, and pink meanies. There are a few others found here that are often mistaken for jellyfish, including the Portuguese man o’wars and blue buttons.

Moon Jellies

By Alexander Vasenin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Moon jellyfish are some of the most well-known jellyfish across the globe, and they’re found in a massive number of locations, ranging from subtropical waters to the sub-Arctic waters near Alaska!

They’re also some of the most abundant jellies in the Gulf of Mexico and around Panama City Beach.

Moon jellyfish are very translucent, and are identifiable by their four-leaf clover shape in the middle of their bells that gives them a characteristic beauty.

They can range dramatically in size, but no matter how big or small, they’re not considered harmful to humans. Their sting is barely noticeable, and is only dangerous to small marine animals.

Sea Nettles

Sea nettles are, unfortunately, a common sight in and around the Atlantic. If you’ve been looking up Panama City Beach jellyfish to be wary of, this species likely came up. Sea nettles have a rounded bell and long tentacles. Like many jellies, they’re mostly transparent, with dark brownish-red vertical stripes.

By Jarek Tuszyński / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GDFL, CC BY-SA 3.0

Sea nettles are the most common stinging jellyfish in the region.

They have a sharp sting, though it’s not the worst of jellyfish stings. It causes mild discomfort and skin irritation, and the sharp pain from a sea nettle sting usually lessens or disappears after an hour.

Cannonball Jellyfish

Judy Gallagher, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cannonball jellies are another one of the world’s more common species. They’re also known as cabbagehead jellyfish, but regardless of what you call them, their shape and appearance explain why.

They look like, well, cannonballs, with a round white bell and short tentacles. Often, they have brown or blue coloring near the rim of their bells.

Cannonballs are generally not considered dangerous. While they do have a mild sting, it’s uncommon to experience it even if you do brush up against one of these jellies!

Pink Meanies

By Liza Gomez DaglioCC BY-SA 4.0

Yes, that’s their real name.

Pink Meanies are actually a relatively new species of jellyfish! They appeared within the last 20 years, and shortly after they were classified as their own species.

These jellyfish are fairly easy to identify, and it’s easy to remember how, thanks to their name. They’re pink, ranging from light to dark, with fluffy, sometimes very long tentacles.

Another given from its name is that they’re not the most friendly jellyfish. Pink meanies have a potent, but manageable sting.

Portuguese Man O’ War

By Image courtesy of Islands in the Sea 2002, NOAA/OER. – U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Domain,

The Portuguese man o’ war is not technically a jellyfish, though it does share many characteristics with jellies — including its potent sting.

They’re identifiable by their deep blue or violet coloring, and while they’re very pretty, it’s best to avoid them.

Their sting can be very painful and, in rare cases, fatal.

Blue Buttons

By Bruce Moravchik (NOAA) – NOAA Photo Libraryen.wikipedia (w:Image:Porpita porpita.jpg), Public Domain

Another creature that isn’t technically a jelly but is often mistaken for one is the blue button. In fact, they’re not even a single organism, but rather a colony of smaller organisms.

Its official name is the Porpita Porpita, but it takes its common name from its appearance — a brown center surrounded by lacy, turquoise tentacles.

Unlike the Portuguese man o’war, these guys aren’t dangerous. They can sting, but it’s unusual, and even then a blue button sting causes only mild skin irritation.

How Common Are Jellyfish Stings in Panama City Beach?

Jellyfish are a common sight in Gulf waters, especially during their peak in late summer.

But even with high regional numbers, dangerous encounters with Panama City Beach jellyfish are not common.

Folks who make regular trips to the area often report no problems with jellies at all for most weeks out of the year, though there can be some larger peeks that last for a week or so.

This is unlike many other warm-weather beaches, where jellies are known to swarm beaches and lead to dozens of stings per day.

There are a few reasons that Panama City Beach has fewer jellyfish stings than other similar areas.

One is that the beach sits within the Gulf of Mexico, where large scale ocean currents are different from those along the Atlantic coast, for example. Paired with weather patterns, this means that jellyfish are less likely to be washed close to shore here than along the Atlantic seaboard.

Another reason for fewer jellyfish stings is the systems in place to prevent them.

While day to day weather patterns tend to keep jellies away from beaches and shallow water, hurricanes and rough weather can bring them in.

These types of events (and any day with jellyfish danger) are well documented with “purple flag” advisories — if jellyfish are a concern on any beach day, Florida lifeguards will display a purple flag to warn beachgoers to be careful, or avoid the water entirely.

(Purple flags could also indicate sharks at Panama City Beach.)

While it’s no fun to be told not to go in the water, it’s less fun to be stung, and these advisories keep stings from being common even when jellies are around.

Does Panama City Beach have a Jellyfish Season?

Jellyfish season is a phenomenon in many of the world’s oceans. Some parts of this pattern are well-understood, like warm, tropical water being friendlier to jellyfish year-round and the influence that weather and surf patterns have on driving jellyfish closer to shore and into beach areas.

Some coasts experience regular swarms of jellyfish, sometimes dubbed a “jellyfish invasion,” due to regional weather patterns. This can happen anywhere, regardless of the season.

In the warm Gulf of Mexico — including beaches along Florida like Panama City Beach — jellyfish season is considered to be a whopping six months, from late March to early September.

The peak, though, is generally through July and August.

During the peak, the region experiences higher numbers of all jellyfish — the cute ones as well as the dangerous species that people watch out for. The peak of Panama City Beach jellyfish season is the most important time to be cautious of jellies.

Outside of July and August, the chances of encountering a dangerous jelly are much lower.

All in all, though, terms like “jellyfish season” refer to the volume of jellies in the water.

In Panama City Beach, there usually isn’t much of a problem of jellies harming people — partly due to weather patterns rarely bringing jellies onto the beaches, and partly due to the rigid safety measures mentioned above.

Avoiding Panama City Jellyfish Stings (Tips & Things to Know)

Jellyfish stings are a common beachgoer’s fear, and unfortunately, it can be difficult to prevent jellyfish stings. Many jellies are hard to spot, and often, you won’t know a jelly is there until it stings.

The best way to avoid stings altogether is to avoid the water.

Considering that not going in the water isn’t exactly enjoyable on a Floridian beach getaway, the next best thing is to always heed warnings from officials and pay attention to posted advisories.

Do research ahead of time if you’ll be in an area that may not have either of these things, like asking officials about certain areas.

You may also consider wearing protective clothing, like wetsuits, rashguards, or even pantyhose. Layers like this (even thin ones!) that cover exposed skin can reduce the dangers and effects of a jellyfish sting.

While you can’t necessarily prevent a jellyfish sting, there are a few things you can prepare for in the event that you or someone with you is stung:

  1. Remove any barbs or tentacles — as long as these are in contact with skin, they’ll continue to release toxins. Don’t do this with bare hands! Tweezers are best, but a credit card will work to “shave” them off.
  2. Prepare a solution in a spray bottle ahead of time. The best treatment is a mixture of hot water and vinegar, which will take the initial sting out. All lifeguards will also have a treatment solution on hand.
  3. Know when to seek medical attention. Most stings cause only mild discomfort and can be treated at home; however, if the person stung is showing signs of an allergic reaction, it can lead to a medical emergency very quickly. It’s good practice to check in with a lifeguard after even a minor sting.

Wrapping Up

While jellyfish are abundant in the Gulf of Mexico (as they are in any ocean waters), they don’t pose an aggressive threat to beachgoers at Panama City Beach.

This is mostly due to the nearby ocean currents, which control the movement of jellyfish. Currents here rarely bring jellyfish close to shore in large numbers, though choppy water from a storm can.

Regardless, so long as vacationers here heed official warnings and know what to prepare, a Panama City Beach getaway is the perfect choice.

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Hope this helps!