Just over half an hour’s drive from Fort Myers, the island of Sanibel attracts vacationers to its stunning, sun-splashed shores. Almost 70 per cent of Sanibel is protected by the government to help preserve its delicate ecosystem. Sanibel City upholds its responsibility to care for the island’s environment by living in harmony with the diverse wildlife and natural surroundings. Even hotels in Sanibel play their part, with many taking steps to reduce their impact on their surroundings.
However, just because most Sanibel hotels are ‘green’ it doesn’t mean any compromise on their comfort or quality. Hotels in Sanibel are as luxurious or as rustic as you want them to be, with something to suit all tastes and budgets.
The beaches on Sanibel are a major attraction, drawing visitors to kick-back on their white, powder-soft sands or take a dip in the sapphire-blue waters. However, there’s another reason that Sanibel’s beaches are such a draw.
Sanibel sets itself apart from the other islands by running from East to West, as opposed to running from North to South. As a result, its ladle-shaped coastline acts as a geological scoop for shells carried along by the Gulf Stream. Sanibel has become known as ‘Costa de Caracoles’ (Coast of the Seashells), with more than 400 species of shell deposited along its seashores.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Sanibel, you won’t find any along the beachfront; these are left pristine and untouched, such is the island’s commitment to their preservation. Despite this, most of the hotels in Sanibel are only a short walk from the swathes of sun-bleached sand.
For families, Bowman’s Beach is the most popular. The shallow waters are safe for paddling and it’s protected from the sea winds. Blind Pass Beach is better for those who want to enjoy water sports and is favored by those who enjoy surfing and windsurfing. The currents here can be strong, so it’s not recommended for swimming in or for those with young children.
With its lush, dense vegetation and shell-strewn shores, the island is a natural playground. One of the best attractions is JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Within easy access of most Sanibel hotels and spanning more than 6,400 acres of subtropical untamed mangrove forests, it’s a haven for almost 250 species of bird, some of which are the last of their kind. There are kayaking trails for those who want to see the abundant wildlife at close quarters, which includes turtles, alligators, tree-frogs, bobcats and racoons.
If you’re taking a break with the whole family and the little ones are getting restless, jump in your car and drive to Busch Gardens. An African-themed adventure park, it’s packed with thrills and spills for visitors of all ages. Little ones will enjoy age-appropriate rides, such as the Air Grover, featuring well-known characters from TV’s Sesame Street. The Stanley Falls log-flume ensures a wet and wild time, while the Serengeti Express train ride is sure to leave young explorers starry-eyed.
For grown-ups and older children, there are some nerve-shredding attractions at Busch Park. Test your need for speed on the Cobra’s Curse rollercoaster, or get an upside-down view of the park as you hurtle along the Cheetah Hunt ride. If roller coasters aren’t your thing, the Congo River Rapids is enormous fun. This theme park is just a short drive from most Sanibel hotels, so you’re never far from family-friendly entertainment and a great day out.