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How to Plan a Cayo Costa State Park Adventure

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Cayo Costa State Park is a great way to enjoy your Florida vacation. You just need a boat ride to get there. Jensen’s Twin Palm Marina and Cottages™ can help you with your boating needs today.

By Kurt Schultheis | April 16, 2021

A trip to Southwest Florida is not complete until you get to experience it with a trip on a boat to a beautiful barrier island. There’s nothing like renting a boat and experiencing a trip on the Gulf of Mexico to Cayo Costa State Park. 

Planning a Cayo Costa State Park Adventure is a great way to experience Florida. You have to rent a boat from the mainland, reserve an island tour and pack your belongings to enjoy a day of sun, beach, walking trails and even overnight camping. 

We have everything you need below to help you plan a boat trip adventure to Cayo Costa. 

How to Get to Cayo Costa State Park

how to get to cayo costa state park

Cayo Costa State Park is accessible only by boat or a Cayo Costa passenger ferry service. That makes it unique and a great place to visit a peaceful barrier island protected by the Florida State Park System. 

You have to find a marina that has rental boat offerings and water taxi services to get to islands that have no bridges like Cayo Costa. 

Can You Drive to Cayo Costa?

The answer is no. Cayo Costa is only accessible by boat and we have the tips and tricks that can help you get there while you are on vacation. 

Where Can I Dock My Boat at Cayo Costa?

On the bayside of Cayo Costa is where you will find the entrance to Cayo Costa State Park and an area to dock boats. On the Gulfside, boats can anchor just offshore.

How to Get to Cayo Costa from Captiva Island? 

Cayo Costa is only accessible from Captiva Island by boat and we recommend renting a boat at Jensen’s Marina™ or scheduling a water taxi ride to the island. Read on to learn more. 

Are There Ferries to Cayo Costa State Park?

Absolutely. We prefer scheduling a water taxi or Captiva Island tour from Jensen’s Twin Palm Marina and Cottages™ to get to Cayo Costa. It’s the best way to schedule your own trip with family and friends, while getting exclusive access to charter boat captains that can offer you a history lesson of life on the barrier islands and give you some fishing tips too. 

How Do You Pronounce Cayo Costa? 

Let’s make you sound like you really know the area and the history of this beautiful barrier island by getting the pronunciation right to start!

The correct pronunciation is: kei yow kaa stuh

How Long is Cayo Costa Island?

Cayo Costa is a 7-mile long island full of natural wilderness. It is just one island of a chain of barrier islands sheltering Pine Island Sounds and Charlotte Harbor. 

In total, Cayo Costa State Park makes up more than 2,400 acres of protected Florida nature for you to explore for just a $2 use fee!

Are Dogs Allowed on Cayo Costa?

Good news, pet lovers. You can bring your dog with you on the boat to come to Cayo Costa State Park for no additional fee.

It’s a pet-friendly state park.  However, your dogs must stay leashed at all times, be well-mannered and you must pick up after your dog. 

Dogs are allowed in tents at the Cayo Costa camping area but are not allowed to stay overnight in the cabins. Dogs are not allowed on the beach or in the food service areas either. 

Where to Shell on Cayo Costa

where to shell on cayo costa

You can explore the island’s beaches and find shells anywhere you like on Cayo Costa! Since the island is not accessible by car, there are less visitors and more shells for you to find! In total, there is 9 miles of beach to explore.

Cayo Costa shelling tip: Take a trip down to the beach in the area where the shuttle drops you off to get to the campgrounds. This is a great place to do some shelling at low tide!

Can You Kayak to Cayo Costa State Park?

A question people ask all the time is: “Can I kayak to Cayo Costa?” 

Yes, it is possible to kayak to Cayo Costa. We would say that only very capable kayakers or those with a guide to help you along should make the journey by kayak if it’s your first time kayaking to the island. 

To get to the island by kayak, we recommend renting a one-person or two-person kayak at Jensen’s Marina™.

Even better? There are also kayak rentals and a canoe kayak launch available through the gift shop. 

Making Cayo Costa State Park Camping Reservations

how to plan a cayo costa camping trip

You can make Cayo Costa State Park camping reservations by calling Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521. You can also book a camping reservation online

How to Plan a Cayo Costa Camping Trip

The best way to plan a Cayo Costa camping trip is to start by renting a boat at Jensen’s Marina™. That’s because your trip begins and ends on a boat because as we mentioned above, the island is only accessible by boat. 

If you don’t want to take a boat, consider hiring a water taxi or reserve a boat tour to Cayo Costa and back from Jensen’s Marina™

Next, decide if you are spending the day or plan on spending a few nights there in a cabin without electricity and hot water. If that is outside of your comfort zone, plan for a day trip. 

The Cayo Costa State Park campground and cabins are open. The camp store is also open daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Access the Cayo Costa State Park map for help with visuals and planning.

Read below to find out more about what you can do on your Cayo Costa boat trip adventure. 

Things to Do in Cayo Costa State Park

things to do in cayo costa state park

While some of Cayo Costa State Park is closed right now due to state park pandemic protocols state-wide, most of Cayo Costa State Park is open for visitors! Masks are mandated and people are expected to maintain distances of at least six feet apart. There are so many park offerings available. 

Hours are 8 a.m. to sundown every day and the Ranger station is open daily until 4 p.m. Cost of entry is just $2 per person. 

Things to do in Cayo Costa State Park include: 

Biking on Cayo Costa

Did you know Cayo Costa State Park has bike trails that wind through the entire barrier island? You can rent a bike at the gift shop with half-and full-day rental options. Helmets are always recommended for bicyclists ages 16 and under. 

Park Your Boat Overnight

Having fun at Cayo Costa? Come stay awhile. The state park allows you to dock your boat at Bayside Park and use the Bayside Restroom Facilities. Reservations are required for boat docking and are on a first come, first serve basis. 

A camping boat area is not available at this time.

Camp at Primitive Tent Sites

There are 30 tent sites available on site for your use. Each site has a picnic table, a grill and potable water access. None of the sites have electricity outlets though so you have to be ready to rough it! Campsites and cabins are near the beach and are close to restroom facilities that offer sinks, toilets and cold water showers to wake you up!

There is also a Tram service from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help you carry your camping gear to and from the boat docks to your camping sites. It’s a one mile trip from the boat docks to the camping area so take advantage of this service. 

Remember that no tent lines, wires, hammocks, ropes, etc. can be affixed to the island’s vegetation. Generators are also not allowed in the campsites. This helps protect the island’s natural characteristics. 

Hammock camping is also available in primitive campsites numbered as 8, 9, 15 and 22. Campers are allowed to hang their hammocks on approved posts in designated areas. 

Reservations may be made 11 months ahead of your trip by calling 800-326-3521 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Go Fishing

At the park, surf fishing is allowed in designated areas. Fishers are known to catch the following off the shore of Cayo Costa: Snook, trout, flounder, redfish, snapper, whiting, tarpon and sheepshead.

A Florida fishing license may be required and more information on state fishing requirements is available with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Cayo Costa Hiking and Nature Trails

You can take a relaxing walk along Cayo Cost nature trails that are throughout the secluded island. Look for species of birds, fish and more. 

Have a Picnic

Cayo Costa State Park has a picnic pavilion, restroom facility and grills for the perfect park picnic!

Any food that you bring over from the mainland should arrive in a cooler on your boat. All food that comes ashore from Cayo Costa must be removed and taken with you when you leave. Here’s some beach picnic tips for your trip:

  • Bring a large blanket or tablecloth
  • Use an umbrella or a tent for shade
  • Prepare your food ahead of time
  • Bring hand wipes or napkins
  • Pack the food in Tupperware
  • Avoid food that spoils easily like ice cream, cheese, mayonnaise and sushi
  • Bring a cooler with ice packs to keep the food cold all day
  • Bring water for every member of their party

Swimming, Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

Swim all day, every day in the beautiful Gulf of Mexico just offshore from the island’s nine miles of beaches. You can also scuba dive and do some snorkeling, provided you bring your own equipment. 

Cayo Costa Shelling

We highly recommend doing some shelling on Cayo Costa. Shell collectors can find a large variety of shells on the shoreline. Also keep an eye out for oysters, scallops, clams and olives. 

Cayo Costa shelling tip: If you plan your shelling adventure around low tide, your chances of finding wonderful shells increases as the shoreline becomes more exposed. 

Look for Cayo Costa Wildlife

There is so much to see on and just offshore of Cayo Costa. Be prepared to see the following: 

  • Dolphins
  • Manatees
  • Variety of Shorebirds
  • Sea turtles
  • Several species of fish

Enjoy the Beach on Cayo Costa

enjoy the beach on cayo costa

While there are some restrictions on what is open and what you can do at Florida state parks during a pandemic, the good news is the beach is open at Cayo Costa State Park! The restroom facilities at the park are also open, as well as limited Tram rides. 

Cayo Costa State Park Amenities

Cayo Costa State Park has so many amenities to enjoy. These include: 

Cayo Costa Amphitheater

The Cayo Costa Amphitheater is located in the day-use area of the park and offers a variety of interpretative programs for guests that are presented by rangers and park volunteers. These programs discuss the history of Cayo Costa and its natural resources. 

Cayo Costa Cabins

Cayo Costa offers one-room rustic cabins to unwind and enjoy island time in Old Florida. Spend your days on the beach and your nights in the cabin. 

Cabins are located close to the beach and nature trails. Each cabin sleeps a maximum of six people, which includes a table and three bunk beds. We said rustic, right? 

The cabins have no electricity but offer outdoor grills for your cooking needs. 

Cabin tips include: 

  • Restrooms and cold showers that are nearby
  • Food must be carried in from your boat and taken back with you. 
  • Tram service is available to help with your luggage to and from the cabins
  • Cabins 1, 2, 3, 7, and 12 offer a large screen porch
  • Cabins 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11 have non-screened spacious porches
  • There is a minimum 2-night stay for cabins on weekends and holidays. 

Head to the Ranger Station to view an Interpretive Exhibit. You can also find educational films for sale there. 

Make sure you enjoy the two circle fires in the middle of the camping area to enjoy a nice evening fire. 

Cayo Costa Restroom Facilities and Shower Station

There are several restroom facilities available at Cayo Costa, including ADA accessible bathrooms. Restrooms are also located at the bayside boat slip area and near boat campers. 

Cayo Costa State Park also offers a cold water shower station, as well as flushing toilets and camping area facilities. 

Find a Nearby Marina for Your Vacation

Here at Jensen’s Twin Palm Marina and Cottages™, we have the rental boats and other Captiva watersports you need to have a great vacation. Marina services and amenities include: 

  • Boat rentals to Cayo Costa
  • Kayak rentals
  • North Captiva water taxi trips
  • Bimini tops for Pontoon boats
  • Livewell pumps to hold fish and bait on the boat
  • 35 wet slips
  • Ice
  • Gas
  • Bait
  • Tackle
  • Fishing off our private dock for guests
  • A quaint museum that shows you the history of fishing on Captiva Island
  • Coolers
  • Close to nearby restaurants, galleries and shops
  • T-Shirts, hats and more at the Ship Store 
  • Free WiFi
  • Impromptu live music events in the evenings

Rent a Boat to Cayo Costa Today

You are now ready for your Cayo Costa State Park boat trip adventure! The last thing to check off your list is to plan your Florida boat rental or schedule a private boat tour to the island for a fun day at a tranquil state park. 

Our boat choices include: 

Pontoon Leisure Boats

Rent a pontoon boat for a nice Captiva cruise to Cayo Costa State Park with a group of up to 12 people. ON your way to Cayo Costa, keep a lookout for dolphins and manatees. 

Our 24-foot Sylvan Pontoon boats have Bimini tops to keep you cool and refreshed in the shade and these boats also offer livewell pumps to hold your fresh bait for fishing adventures.

Boston Whaler

Jensen Marina™’s 18-foot Boston Whaler with a 150-horsepower Yamaha four-stroke motor is the perfect Florida boat rental for up to six people looking to take an adventure to Cayo Costa State Park. 

Center Console Boats

Center console boats can also head into the Gulf of Mexico for a short trip to Cayo Costa from Captiva Island. The 18-foot center console boat can hold up to five people and is a nice boat for a boat cruise to beautiful barrier islands like Cayo Costa. 

Rent a boat to Cayo Costa, schedule a charter with an experienced boat captain and reserve a sightseeing boat tour today at Jensen’s Marina Twin Palm Marina and Cottages™ on Captiva Island!

Jensen’s Twin Palm Marina and Cottages™

15107 Captiva Drive
Captiva, FL 33924

(833) 668-7768
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