Captiva is quiet and laid back; Sanibel is busy with lots of restaurants and shops. Learn more about Sanibel and Captiva Island and plan your next trip now.
Sanibel and Captiva Island are truly the treasure of Southwest Florida. These Gulf islands are just 3 miles from Fort Myers and are both destinations to remember. But what makes Sanibel and Captiva so special?
Sanibel and Captiva Island are Gulf Coast gems. Sanibel is known for world-class resorts and beaches for shelling. Captiva is known for being a little more quiet and natural. However, both islands are known for abundant wildlife, fresh seafood, and so much more.
Let’s get into the details about what makes Sanibel and Captiva Island so special. Plan your next Southwest Florida vacation and start living on island time.
Sanibel and Captiva Island are both beautiful destinations perfect for enjoying what Southwest Florida has to offer. But which is better? It boils down to what kind of island you want to experience. The islands aren’t interchangeable and you’ll find a few differences between the two.
Sanibel Island might be better if you want to enjoy a place with a true beach resort feeling. There’s plenty to do here and you’ll find vibrant island culture around every corner.
Stroll down Periwinkle Way and find eclectic restaurants and shopping. See a live performance at BIG ARTS Stauss Theater. See the sights from above at Sanibel Lighthouse. Connect with wonders from the sea at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. No matter how you want to enjoy island life, you’re sure to find it on Sanibel Island.
Even will all the business and bustling, you’ll still find that Sanibel Island is a good place to relax. More than 70% of the island is dedicated to natural preservation and is nationally protected. The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge spans 52,000 acres on Sanibel Island.
The beaches on Sanibel Island are known for having more shells than Captiva. However, Sanibel’s beaches are more crushed shells than silky sand and might not be comfortable underfoot.
Captiva Island, on the other hand, is a little more laid back. Instead of busy city streets, you’ll find small pockets of commerce in village-like settings. Shops and restaurants here are known for being more quaint and unique, so you’re sure to experience things unlike anything else when you’re visiting Captiva Island.
The beaches on Captiva Island are beautiful. Captiva’s beaches are lined with white sand. Still known as a world-class destination for shelling, you’ll likely find fewer on Captiva than Sanibel because Captiva Island beaches have a slightly steeper slope to the water.
Jensen’s Twin Palm Marina and Cottages ™ is a Captiva Island staple and a local landmark. In operation since 1977, the marina here has been offering cottage rentals, island tours, and more for generations.
Sanibel and Captiva Island are both destinations to enjoy where you’ll make treasured memories.
Sanibel Island and Captiva Island have different amenities, but they also have a lot in common. The two sister islands are connected by Sanibel-Captiva Road. The Blind Pass Bridge crosses over the channel that sometimes separates the two islands.
The first Blind Pass Bridge was built to connect Sanibel and Captiva Islands in 1918. Today’s bridge has been standing since the 1980s.
You’ll notice one major thing missing from both Sanibel and Captiva Island: high-rise hotel buildings. That doesn’t mean you’re without island options, though. Let’s look at a few places to stay on both islands.
Sanibel Island is home to a number of hotels and resorts, many located right on the water. These hotels and resorts feature all kinds of amenities. Spas, golf and tennis courts, fine dining, and other creature comforts make Sanibel hotels and resorts popular. Resorts on Sanibel Island include:
If a buzzy resort isn’t quite your style, you can also find private vacation rentals that give you a peaceful island retreat.
Private vacation rentals are the top choice when vacationing on Captiva Island. This island lacks the commercial buzz you’ll find on Sanibel Island and lodging choices here are more secluded and relaxed.
Jensen’s Twin Palm Marina and Cottages ™ offers 14 historic cottages that make a perfect home base for your Captiva Island vacation. You’ll find everything from studio cottages to two-bedroom, two-bath cottages that sleep up to four.
Other places to stay on Captiva Island include:
With so many great places to stay, you’re sure to find the perfect accommodations for your needs on Sanibel and Captiva Island.
Sanibel Island is known for its mild weather and gulf breezes year-round. This means it’s always the perfect time of year to visit Sanibel Island. The same goes for Captiva Island, as the weather on both islands is often identical.
However, the most popular time of year to visit Sanibel and Captiva Island is between December and April. This is when the weather is mostly mild and driest. The average high temperature on Sanibel Island in January -- the coolest month of the year here -- is a balmy 75 degrees.
This also means that December through April are also usually the most expensive months of the year to visit Sanibel and Captiva Island. If you’re looking to keep a little money in your pocket, consider visiting in the summer or fall, which is considered the off-season.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands are both known for their beaches. Which island has nicer beaches? The answer depends on what you’re looking for.
Sanibel Island beaches include Sanibel Island Lighthouse Beach Park, Bowman’s Beach, Blind Pass Beach, and Gulfside City Park. These beaches are known for world-class shelling and breathtaking Gulf sunsets. However, the sand on Sanibel Beaches can be rough and is mostly made of crushed shells.
Captiva Island beaches include Turner Beach, Northern Captiva Beaches, at the beach at the end of Andy Rosse Lane. These beaches are known for having fine white sand. You’ll still find shells on Captiva Island’s beaches, but not as many as you’ll find on Sanibel.
Which beach is nicer: Sanibel or Captiva? To sum it up, Sanibel Island beaches are better for collecting shells. Captiva Island beaches are better for enjoying fine white sand. All beaches are great for fishing, watching the sunset, and enjoying gentle waves.
While dogs are allowed in some accommodations on Captiva Island, they are not allowed on the beaches here. This means that if you’re vacationing with your pup, you might find Sanibel Island more dog-friendly.
Pets are not allowed on Captiva Island’s beaches. But are Sanibel Island beaches dog-friendly? Yes! Sanibel Beaches are among the most dog-friendly beaches in Florida, if not the entire country.
Dogs on leashes no longer than 8 feet are welcome on all Sanibel Island beaches. This means you and your pup can frolic in the waves at Algiers Beach in Gulfside City Park, Bowman’s Beach, and other Sanibel waterfronts.
There’s nothing like a moonlight walk on the beach. Walking alone on the beach at night is a perfect time to reflect and nothing is more romantic than a moonlit stroll through the sand hand-in-hand with your sweetie.
Can you walk on the beach at night in Sanibel? Yes. Many Sanibel Island beaches are open past dusk, allowing you to step out in the sand and watch the stars.
There’s something about enjoying the beach with a pina colada in hand. Can you drink alcohol on Captiva Island?
While restaurants and stores sell alcohol here year-round, you can only drink on Captiva Island’s beaches in the summer and fall. Alcoholic drinks are prohibited on Captiva beaches from November through May, according to information from The Islands od Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce.
If you’re craving a cocktail on Captiva Island, you’ll find a few options. Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille on South Seas Plantation Road is known for mojitos. The Mucky Duck Restaurant has American eats that perfectly pair with a cold beer. Crow’s Nest Bar and Grille has a great wine list. You can even stock up on your favorite hard seltzers, wine, and beer at Jensen’s Marina™ on Captiva Island.
Jensen’s Marina and Twin Palm Cottages™ is the perfect place to enjoy what makes Sanibel and Captiva Island special. From a full-service marina to quaint and casual cottages, it’s easy to see why generations of visitors have loved making Captiva Island memories from Jensen’s Marina™.