Wow, Sanibel-Captiva Islands quickly became one of our favorite Florida weekend getaways! It's about three hours from our house in Palm Beach County—a straight drive across Alligator Alley.
If you’ve never been to the Sanibel-Captiva Islands area, I cannot recommend it enough. It’s truly the best shelling beach in North America.
Friday: Sanibel-Captiva Islands
We checked into the Westin Cape Coral resort Friday afternoon. We used some Marriott points and a free suite upgrade and found ourselves in a beautiful two-bedroom suite that was way too big for the two of us. The entire staff is so friendly and the property sits right on the marina and is truly beautiful.
We left about 5 pm to get over to Sanibel and Captiva Islands—it’s about a 40-minute drive from the Westin to the islands in moderate traffic. Next time we go, we’ll stay closer to the islands since that’s the area we enjoyed the most.
This first trip was exploratory for us—what areas did we like? Where would we want to stay next time? What should we pack for the next trip? Tray is a camper, so he called it our “shakedown trip.”
From our hotel, we had to take two bridges to get to Sanibel-Captiva Islands, both of which have a toll. Each bridge, however, only charges you one way. With our Sunpass transponder, we paid $2 for the Cape Coral bridge and $6 for the Sanibel-Captiva bridge. So, the trip cost us $8 in tolls.
Without a transponder, the Cape Coral bridge toll is $5 and the Sanibel-Captiva Islands bridge is $9.
We can see why so many people rent a vacation home on one of the islands. Once they get to the island, they don’t leave until it’s time to drive home and only pay the tolls once.
A good friend recommended several amazing restaurants on Captiva Island for us, so that made it super easy! We had dinner at Mucky Duck’s Friday night, which is literally right off the beach and has a beautiful sunset view.
We shared a few appetizers, I had an amazing grouper dish and a margarita, and Tray had a spicy shrimp dish. The key lime pie is a must! It’s closer to a frozen treat than a pie—even though it’s shaped and served like pie.
I really liked the casual atmosphere. Most people came in straight off the beach in their bathing suits and coverups for dinner.
After dinner, we drove to the opposite end of the two islands to get to the Sanibel Lighthouse. Tray timed it got there a bit before sunset, and it was absolutely beautiful!
Saturday: Sanibel-Captiva Islands
We started our Saturday morning with coffee on the screened porch of our suite. We went to Penny’s Coffee in Cape Coral. Both of our coffees were great, my bagel and cream cheese was really good and Tray said his grilled cheese was great.
Then we drove back over to Sanibel-Captiva Islands to do some shelling. We parked at Bowman’s Beach. The parking rate is $5 an hour, so we stayed for about 2.5 hours. We strolled the whole beach and someone told us to walk north around the bend and we should find some good shells because no one typically walks that far. She was totally right! I found beautiful, smaller conch shells, and others without even having to work hard to find them.
It was super hot Saturday, so after we finished shelling we took a dip in the Gulf, packed up our stuff and headed to Cantina Captiva for a late lunch. At 3 pm, we were able to walk right in and get seated. The service was beyond fabulous, we shared chips, queso, and salsa and Tray and I both had chimichangas. We will definitely be back!
The heat and sun wiped us out, so we had an early evening back in our hotel.
Sunday: Naples and Marco Island
A rainstorm woke us up Sunday morning, so we had a slow morning on the screened porch, drinking our coffee, and watching the rain.
For breakfast, we went to Perk & Brew, a cute breakfast spot and coffee shop in one. Highly recommend this little place. We had the best breakfast—French toast and bacon, and bacon, eggs, and a pancake—on top of really great coffee. We typically find that we can either get a great breakfast and mediocre coffee or we can get great coffee and mediocre breakfast. Neither is the case at Perk & Brew. Both breakfast and our coffee were so good.
After breakfast, we left the Sanibel-Captiva island area to drive south and check out Naples and Marco Island to see if we’d want to stay or visit those areas in the future.
Naples is about an hour from the Westin in Cape Coral, and Marco Island is another 30 minutes south of Naples. Since we live in Palm Beach county, we had to go south anyway to take Tamiami Trail back to the east coast, so we didn’t go out of our way.
We drove through the 5th Ave. area of Naples and stopped so I could pop my head in Blue Mercury and we got a drink from The Brick Coffee & Bar. We were there mid-day and it was super hot and no breeze, so we didn’t walk around much. Most of the restaurants in Naples seem to be in that 5th Ave. area, and those were all pretty busy.
The 3rd Ave. district of Naples is super cute; we drove over there after we left 5th Ave. There are a bunch of cute shops, a few restaurants, and coffee. We ducked our heads into the Tommy Bahama store and restaurant. I found a really cute linen dress in the women’s shop.
Across the street is the Old Naples Surf Shop, and we highly recommend stopping there. It has a huge selection of beach items, sunscreen, hats, coolers, surf and skim boards, clothing, activewear, and swimsuits.
Right next store is a Bad Ass Coffee, which might be our favorite coffee spot ever. It’s a chain, and we first found it in 30A. The frozen coffee cooler is the best drink on the menu!
After Naples, we drove down to Marco Island, and we were so disappointed. It’s a bunch of high-rise and mid-rise condo buildings, lots of pavement, strip shopping plazas, and no beach view from the road. It wasn’t at all what we expected; we didn’t even get out of the car anywhere.
To get back home, we took Tamiami Trail, or highway 41, through Big Cypress and The Everglades. For dinner, we stopped in Wynwood to get burritos from one of our favorite casual restaurants in Miami—The Taco Stand.
Sanibel-Captiva Island Trip Itinerary
4 p.m. hotel check-in
Drove through Sanibel-Captiva Islands
Dinner at Mucky Duck on Captiva Island
Sunset at the Sanibel Lighthouse
Penny’s Coffee Shop for breakfast and coffee
Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel Island, for shelling
Cantina Captiva, Captiva Island, for late lunch
Perk & Brew for breakfast and coffee
Drive down to Naples for an afternoon of shopping
Read more about our other travel destinations.