Captiva Island Florida in A Day

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Oooh yeah, baby! We're back in the sunny southern state that holds a big piece of our hearts. If you haven't been to Captiva Island Florida yet, brace yourself for the best day EVER. You're in for lots of Key lime pie, swimming, crab races and shells as far as the eye can see.

The Ultimate Captiva Island Florida Itinerary

Seahorse

The lovely people over at The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel hosted us and helped lay out the ultimate itinerary to maximize our time on the island. Are you ready for this? In case you can't tell, we're pretty excited!

Getting to Captiva Island Florida

  • We fly right into Fort Myers (airport code: RSW), rent a car at the airport and drive about an hour.
  • You'll drive past Fort Myers Beach and over Sanibel Island to get to Captiva Island, paying one unavoidable toll along the way. It's not much, and totally worth it when you see the view on the island!
  • In the past we've stayed at a beautiful resort in Fort Myers Beach and driven back and forth, but this time we booked at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa on Captiva to maximize our time on the island.
Boy with pizza

Plan out Your Meals on Captiva

We were eager to check out our two-bedroom suite (with a full kitchen!) and weren't in the mood to roll into any sort of sit-down spot after a long travel day. Don't forget, though, that you're on island time here. Some restaurants here have hours that are more limited than what you may be used to in big cities, so it's best to look up hours before you go and plan ahead so you don't miss any must-try specialities.

In our case, for night one, it was pizza for the win! We ordered a couple delicious pies for pick-up from Captiva Island Pizza. They even deliver on select days each week AND have gluten-free options.

Key lime pie at Key Lime Bistro

The next morning we were up BRIGHT and early, waiting at Keylime Bistro the moment they opened. “Three Key lime pies and two cups of coffee, please, and we'll go ahead and take the check because we're in a huge rush!” Their doors opened at 8am and we were scheduled to check in for a half-day cruise across the street at 8:30. We normally don't cut things that close, but the server was fast as lightning, and this pie was the best breakfast we've had in a good long while.

We knew there were several renowned restaurants we wanted to try on Captiva Island, and we'd only get to them all if we squeezed in frequent stops with little bites. The aptly-named Keylime Bistro is famous for their award winning Key lime pie, which features a baked AND a frozen layer that incorporates cream cheese sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream. Trust me, it's worth planning ahead for.

Don't Miss the Cayo Costa Cruise

I've done a half-day to Southern Cayo Costa and a full-day cruise that included a stop at Cabbage Key – both with Captiva Cruises and both phenomenally amazing. With young kids, I'd recommend the shorter trip. It's the perfect amount of time to get out to a beautiful stretch of Cayo Costa. You can book easily online (book ahead, they fill up fast!) and park in the parking lot at the address they give you, check in at the little shop and board.

On the way out, try to sit at the waaay back where there's no shade. That's where you'll get to see dolphins spouting, and where a crew mate will share helpful historical information. On the way back, nab a seat under the shade, up toward the front of the boat if you can because that's where all the action's at in the other direction. We grabbed that seat and had dolphins popping up right along side of us! If you're lucky, the captain might even let you steer the boat for a bit. Elich was a little overwhelmed with the responsibility, in case you can't tell, but the toddler was MORE than happy to yank the wheel all sorts of directions.

Cayo Costa

You step off the boat and walk on a short boardwalk through a jungly, mosquito-filled marsh before landing on the most pristine beach I've ever laid eyes on. This area is only accessible by boat and doesn't have any tourist services on this side of the island, so it's secluded and undisturbed. You'll want to bring along towels, water, sunscreen, a watch to keep track of time and bags to collect shells. This is THE destination for sea shelling. Read my post on sea shelling 101 to brush up on rules and information to be aware of while you're gathering sea shells.

Chips at Bubble Room

Bubble Room on Captiva is an absolute Must-See

Conveniently across the street from the cruise place, Captiva Island Florida is basically synonymous with Bubble Room. This world-renowned eatery is decorated for Christmas year-round! The decor is FANTASTIC, spread across multiple levels, and worth the trip on its own. Their Carolina Moons (thin-sliced potato chips, with optional cheese and bacon) are a tasty classic that the waiter will insist you try – and he or she is sooo right. They also have a wide variety of entrees, drinks, and drool-worthy cake options.

We actually opted for a shared appetizer, drink and dessert at Bubble Room, and THEN hopped down the road over to The Green Flash for some fine dining mid-afternoon to take in the atmosphere without committing to a huge meal with kids. We ordered some oysters and some more appetizers to keep it short and sweet. That's our trick for squeezing in multiple restaurant stops when there are a ton of well-reviewed spots but we're short on time. Plus, it's the perfect solution for enjoying upscale places with little kids who may not tolerate long periods of sitting.

Make Sure to RELAX at your Captiva Island Resort

Tween Waters Inn Island Resort

Back at ‘Tween Waters, we took a little nap and then went swimming. One thing to note is that lightning storms in the late afternoon are fairly common in the summer, so keep an eye on the weather (we use the Dark Sky app for a minute-by-minute forecast). We saw our window and we dove right in! The resort also has a marina, if you're looking to participate in some water sports.

If you want a nice meal at the resort, Old Captiva House is another fine dining spot that lives up to ALL the hype. They specialize in fresh fish (and sushi!) and are the go-to spot for anniversaries, birthdays, and whatever other celebration you may have in mind.

That said, if you're a little tired and worn out from all the swimming and beaching and are looking for a bit more of a laid-back experience, you HAVE to check out the Crow's Nest Bar & Grill. It's still on-property at ‘Tween Waters, right next to Old Captiva House.

Crab races

Every Monday and Thursday (check with the front desk to confirm current times) the restaurant hosts crab races. They have two times each night: one family-friendly and one all-adult, and you'll want to arrive at least an hour before race time to make sure you get a seat at the table. When we went, there was a suggested donation of a couple dollars that went towards a pot for the winner and also gets split with a charity. The MC assigns each participant a crab that they can name, and then all the crabs…basically…race. It's quite a sight to behold.

Florida sunset

Sunsets on Captiva Island Florida are Mind-Blowing

Make sure to look up sunset time before you schedule everything else. For us, the sunset happened right after the crab races, wrapping up our perfect day in Captiva Island Florida. We walked right across the street from the property

Looking for more vacay ideas around Fort Myers and Captiva Island Florida? Check out the destination's own blog, as well as our past articles about Fort Myers.

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