Captiva Island

Come to Captiva Island and you’ll be charmed by the quaint, eclectic beauty of Sanibel’s sister island. Read on for the best tips to make your stay a memorable one with suggestions on where to stay, where to eat, and how to explore the beaches.

What sets Captiva Island apart from other Florida vacation spots?

Travel experts say a Captiva sunset is the most romantic in the world. Same goes for the island’s long stretch of soft, white beach. Captiva Island is known as Sanibel Island’s little sister island. they are joined by the bridge at Blind Pass. Captiva is the smaller island and a more intimate place to spend your vacation. The island has fewer stores and restaurants in its quaint downtown area which is perfect for walking. Since it is located near Sanibel Island, visitors have easy access to all that both islands have to offer. The Captiva Island restaurants are typically quirky and some are waterfront. You can choose from beach or bay dining views. Live music and outdoor seating can be found in many of the restaurants lining Andy Rosse Lane, Captiva’s “main street”.

What are the best Captiva Island beaches?

Captiva beaches are internationally recognized for their beauty, soft sand, and bountiful shelling. The island has two public beaches, Turner Beach which is located on the southern end and Alison Hagerup Beach Park at the northern end. Turner Beach is ideal for shelling and fishing, however, swimming is not advised because of swift currents. It’s located on the Captiva side of the Blind Pass Bridge on Sanibel-Captiva Rd.
Alison Hagerup Beach Park is a terrific place to watch the sunset. Parking is limited and Port-o-Lets serve as restrooms.  Captiva public beach, parking is $5 an hour. Pets, open fires, collecting of live seashells, and alcoholic beverages are not permitted on the beach.  Captiva Island is so close to Sanibel it makes visiting their popular beaches a hop, skip and a jump from each other.

What is the history of Captiva Island?

Geology indicates Captiva and Sanibel Islands were formed about 6,000 years ago as one land mass followed by the islands eroding to form two separate islands. Archeologists believe the Calusa Indians, “shell people,” are the first inhabitants dating back about 2,500 years. They harvested and consumed conchs, clams, whelks and other seafood and converted the emptied seashells into tools. They built shell mounds, many of which are still intact in Southwest Florida, and built their housing on the mounds to avoid flooding.

Historians believe Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered nearby Sanibel Island in 1513, which he named “Santa Isybella” after Queen Isabella. He and his Spanish conquistadors battled the Calusas for years, and Ponce de Leon was eventually felled by a Calusa arrow in 1523. Although the Spanish were not able to establish a settlement in this part of Florida, they brought with them diseases that eventually led to the extinction of the Calusa people in the 18th century.

Local lore says Captiva Island earned its name because notorious pirate Jose Gaspar built a prison on the land mass and held female prisoners “captive” while he buried his stolen treasure on Sanibel Island. The U.S. Navy captured him 1821 but rather than face imprisonment, he wrapped himself in chains and jumped off his ship. Other lore states Jose Gaspar was fabricated for an early 20th century real estate brochure.

Captiva Island’s first European settler was an Austrian named Binder who washed up after the ship he in crashed off Boca Grande on its way to New Orleans in the 1880s. After living on the island for several weeks, he built a raft and drifted to Pine Island. In 1888, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen and was permitted to homestead on the island, where he was its only resident for 10 years.

Is Captiva Island a good place to hold a wedding?

Captiva Island is a natural choice to hold a wedding because of its full-service fantasy resorts, pristine-white sands, and avant-garde style found throughout the eccentric island. Artist Robert Rauschenberg, who passed away in 2008, was considered the greatest living contemporary artist and called Captiva Island home and is credited with the island’s artsy flavor which adds to romance.

What are things to do in Captiva Island?

In addition to combing and sunbathing on Captiva Island beaches, there is plenty to do during a Florida vacation with some of these things to do:

Biking – Although Captiva Island does not have any bike paths, on nearby Sanibel Island, there are 25 miles of paved, family-friendly multi-use biking paths. The paths weave through shopping districts, back roads, neighborhoods and along waterways. Wildlife Drive at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and Dixie Beach Road are popular rides. If you don’t bring your own, rent one on Sanibel Island.

Boating –Marinas throughout the island supply all a visitor needs for an adventure vacation, including water taxis, kayaks, island-hopping by yacht, boat rentals, and fishing charters. Captiva serves as a springboard for boating trips to the upper, unbridged islands of North Captiva, Cabbage Key, and Cayo Costa.

Cruises – Several tour boat operators offer a variety of cruises ranging from shelling expeditions to sunset sails and dolphin tours. Whatever your adventure level is, you are certain to find a cruise that floats your boat.

Canoeing, Kayaking and Standup Paddleboarding – Lee County, in which Captiva Island is located, is home to the 190-mile Calusa Blueway Trail. Head to Andy Rosse Lane Park in the middle of the island to launch your canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard to access the Trail. If you don’t have your own kayak or SUP, operators rent them and offer guided tours.

Fishing – Captiva Island offers access to fantastic fishing whether it is offshore or inshore/back bay fishing. Redfish Pass, which connects the Gulf of Mexico with Pine Island Sound at the north end of Captiva Island, is a popular spot with anglers for its abundance of fish such as snook, redfish and sea trout. Head out about 20 to 30 miles into the Gulf of Mexico for deep sea action such as gag grouper, permit and cobia. Fishing from the beach is also productive but if you want to get out on the water and don’t have a boat, you can either rent one or better yet, hire an experienced fishing guide to navigate Captiva Island’s waters.

Nature & Wildlife Tours – From birdwatching to dolphin spotting, nature and wildlife tours abound in Captiva Island. Set out on foot along a beach to comb through thousands of seashells or hop in a boat and join a captain for a cruise through local waters to spot wildlife such as anhinga, dolphins and maybe a manatee. Nature photography tours are also available.

Snorkeling & Scuba Diving – Within a 15-mile radius of Captiva and Sanibel Island lies more than a dozen artificial reefs with Edison Reef is one of the largest. Because of the proximity to many artificial reefs, this part of Southwest Florida is popular for scuba diving and snorkeling. Charters are available for snorkeling adventures.

Shopping   Head to Andy Rosse Lane and the north end of Captiva Drive to visit galleries, boutiques and antique shops to find the perfect, one-of-a-kind gift or souvenir. Stroll through the village and shop for fashion, antiques, pottery, paintings, and other unexpected treasures. Luckily, you’ll be able to rest up at a local eatery.  

Golf –  Play on the nine-hole Captiva Island Golf Club at South Seas Resort. Located on nearby Sanibel Island are two public golf courses which are in natural island settings and are Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses sanctioned courses, designated as such for preserving the natural golf heritage and protecting the environment.

What types of Captiva Island Restaurants are available?

Fitting in with the area’s eccentric vibe, you will be pleased with the selection of Captiva Island restaurants, most of which are award-winning and independently owned. They have fun names such as the Mucky Duck and the Bubble Room. Equally as fun and memorable are the memorable dining experiences. There are family-friendly Captiva Island restaurants along with dog-friendly eateries, too.

What is the toll to enter Sanibel Island and Captiva Island?

In order to access Captiva Island by car, you must drive over the Sanibel Causeway which connects Punta Rassa, (mainland Florida), with Sanibel Island. Sanibel Island’s bridge toll is $6 for cars and $2 for motorcycles. For larger vehicles, there is a $3 per axle fee. Bicycles are free and there is no toll when leaving Sanibel and Captiva.

What tips for vacation rentals should we consider in Captiva Island?

If you prefer staying in a Captiva Island vacation rental rather than one of the Captiva Island resorts, you have a variety to choose from throughout the year. Some vacation rentals are booked through property management companies while others are privately owned. Selection to book a Captiva Island rental comes down to preference and your choice comes down to personal preference with factors such as proximity to the beach, budget and location. Whichever you choose, we recommend you research your rental which includes reading reviews from peer review sites and contacting the owners. There are many scams out there, especially online, and under no circumstance should you wire transfer money, especially to someone overseas, to secure or pay for your Captiva Island vacation rental. Protect your vacation investment by educating yourself with the right information and do not be afraid to walk away from a deal too good to be true. Most likely, it is.

Is Captiva Island a good spring break destination?

Warm and sunny days, comfortable evenings, white sand beaches and golden sunsets make Captiva Island a perfect spring break destination. The island is ideal for families, couples, and solo travelers looking to hunt for seashells, enjoy nature and soak up the sun. Traffic is typically heavy during spring break so plan accordingly.

Is Captiva Island a safe Florida vacation spot?

When considering a Florida vacation spot, safety is an important factor and our best advice is for you to conduct research rather than rely on the advice of others. There are several resources available to check if Captiva Island is safe. According to, Captiva is safer than 21 percent of American cities. You can also visit the Lee County Sheriff’s Department for crime activity. While at the beach, heed warnings, and while enjoying watersports, exercise common sense. Importantly, lock your car doors and ensure valuables are out of sight in your car and hotel to ensure a positive Captiva Island vacation experience.

What are the best points of interest in Captiva Island?

According to the local Chamber of Commerce and tourism office, here are the best places to visit while you vacation in Captiva Island:

Captiva Chapel By The Sea –On the National Register of Historic Places, Captiva Chapel By The Sea is an interdenominational ministry where everyone is welcome. Services begin the second Sunday of November through April. Located next to the beach, the original building was built in 1903 as a schoolhouse. In 1921, it was purchased by the Methodist Church and Captiva Chapel By The Sea incorporated in 1952. Nearby is the historic Captiva Cemetery.

Crab Races – Get ready to laugh and cheer on your favorite crustacean during the Crab Races at the ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa’s Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille. The races are held Monday and Thursday evenings Oct. – Aug. Half the proceeds are donated to United Way.

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum – Located on Sanibel Island, this is the only museum in the United States entirely devoted to seashells. Learn about the science of seashells as well as their history and how people have been incorporating them into their lives throughout the centuries.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge – The 6,400-acre national wildlife refuge is a must. It is known for its birdlife with the best birding months to visit being December through March. Low tide is the best time to view wildlife because birds are feeding on exposed mud flats. Begin a visit at the refuge’s visitor and education center for a refuge orientation.  The Wildlife Drive is a must and terrific opportunity to view some of the refuge’s wildlife and is open Saturday through Thursday and closed every Friday. The refuge offers hiking and biking trails as well as canoe/kayak launches. Guided canoe and kayak tours as well as sealife and tram tours are offered by Tarpon Bay Explorers. Bicycles, canoes, kayaks and pontoon boats are available for rent and saltwater fishing is a popular activity along the Wildlife Drive. Located on Sanibel Island, there is a $5 per vehicle and $1 per hiker or biker fee to enter the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (C.R.O.W.) – See the gentle care of injured, abandoned or orphaned Florida wildlife. The facility treats more than 3,000 patients annually.

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation – Visit the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Nature Center and learn about the island’s ecosystems along 4.5 miles of trails. Located on nearby Sanibel Island, you’ll also find a butterfly exhibit and observation tower and butterfly exhibit.

Old Town Sanibel – Find quaint village inns, restaurants and inns in this historic area located on Sanibel Island’s east end. Pick up a walking and biking tour map to stroll along 2.5 miles of “yesteryear” produced by the Sanibel Historical Society.

Sanibel Lighthouse (Point Ybel Light) – The Sanibel Lighthouse was first lit in 1884 and although the U.S. Coast Guard had planned to extinguish the light in 1972, the public demanded it stay lit. Today, the Florida Coast Guard maintains the lighthouse which is not open to the public but is probably the most iconic structure on Sanibel Island.

What are the best Captiva Island resorts?

Because of the island’s quaintness, there are a handful of Captiva Island resorts to select and book your dream vacation. There are family-friendly resorts and romantic inns all with convenient beach access. If you are seeking longer-term accommodations such as a week or longer, there are many vacation rentals to choose from ranging from comfortable homes to chic condos. The advantage of booking a vacation rental is the opportunity to live like an islander.

How is the weather in Captiva Island?

You will find there many weather apps and websites available to give you the current Southwest Florida weather along with 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15-day forecast. For averages, visit

Captiva Island has a sub-tropical climate making mild winters from January to March. The rainy season is June – September and on average, these months receive 8.3 – 10” of rain. The “off months” will range between 1.7 – 2.9” per month. January is typically the coolest month with June being the warmest. Various seasons make a difference when planning a Captiva beach vacation. The rainy season also has the highest temperatures with highs averaging 90+ and the lows in the mid-70s.