Life is full of tough decisions, and where you’re going to stay on vacation shouldn’t be one of them.
Choosing between two tropical paradises sounds like a pretty luxurious decision, right? We are going to give you the low-down on Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, so when you’re looking to book your next vacation your only decision should be which SPF to wear.
Sanibel Island is a happily eclectic mix of wildlife and tourist destinations. Here you will find the typical musings of any small town: grocery stores, schools, farmers market, and shops. What you will not find, however, are chain restaurants (unless grandfathered in, looking at you, Dairy Queen!) traffic lights, or street lights. Sanibel locals have fought aggressively to keep their slice of paradise as nature friendly as possible. In fact, about 70% of Sanibel Island is designated as conservation land.
Sanibel Island has a bustling social life. There are plenty of shopping destinations that have been established for years, as well as restaurants ranging from island casual to tropical trendsetting. Sanibel Island is world-famous for its emerald waters and plentiful shelling. Due to the island’s east-west orientation, Sanibel Island is the perfect sift for the Gulf tides and over 250 types of shells. A popular way to get around Sanibel Island is by bicycle. Extensive multi-use path systems give bicyclists and walkers access to most of the destinations on the island including the wildlife refuge and most of the beaches. The paths are well marked and almost flat. There are a number of places to rent bikes at reasonable daily or weekly rates, and guests staying at Periwinkle Cottages and The Parrot Nest receive free bikes with their stays.
Captiva Island is the little sister to Sanibel and has taken Sanibel’s laid back life approach and managed to kick it up a notch while adding an elegant take on Island casual. Everyone and everything on Captiva Island is a welcoming reminder of just how serene, relaxing, and satisfying that existing in harmony with nature can be.
The beaches of Captiva are a bit less shelly, less crowded, and you’ll find the sands a bit softer than on Sanibel. The water is also typically clearer and less sandy. As you approach the northern part of Captiva, you’ll find a small assortment of restaurants and shops, as well as the post office, a bank, and a small library. Largely different from the bike-ability of Sanibel Island, Captiva has a 3-foot “safety shoulder” that runs along each side of Captiva Rd, so inexperienced bicyclists and children should use extra caution. You can rent wave runners and go parasailing and as well as canoe and kayak rentals, or catch a prizewinning fish off of the beach. Historic Captiva Village is alive with abundant golf carts, visitors and residents strolling to their favorite restaurants or shops with live outdoor entertainment, or walking the docks of the marinas to spot friendly Manatees and Dolphins.