A peaceful barrier island in Southwest Florida, Sanibel Island is the perfect staycation destination this year for some winter sun. It doesn’t have the same tourist crowds as larger Florida resorts – despite still benefiting from the same gorgeous beaches. It’s also home to some fascinating nature reserves where you can learn more about native flora and fauna in Florida.
While the lack of tourists makes this an attractive proposition for travellers needing some peace and quiet, it can also make finding information about the destination online somewhat difficult. There are a few considerations you need to make before booking your trip, so it’s important to get your research right.
That’s where we come in! We’ve figured out the best places to stay in and around Sanibel Island, for anyone on any budget. We’ve combined our own experience with local tips from travel experts to bring you the lowdown on each of Sanibel’s neighborhoods.
So, let’s jump right into it!
- Where to Stay in Sanibel Island
- Sanibel Island Neighborhood Guide
- Top 4 Places to Stay on Sanibel Island
- 1. Sanibel – Best Place to Stay in Sanibel Island for your First Time
- 2. Fort Myers – Where to Stay near Sanibel Island on a Budget
- 3. Sanibel Town – Best Area in Sanibel Island for Families
- 4. Captiva Island – Peaceful Destination for a Laid-Back Vacation near Sanibel Island
- Final Thoughts on Where To Stay in Sanibel Island
Want a quick solution to where to stay in Sanibel Island? We’ve listed our top three accommodations below. For those that don’t care about a specific neighborhood, they’re the perfect options!
Family Paradise in Sanibel Island – Nerita Home
This quirky little house is the perfect option for families heading to Sanibel Island! Right in the heart of the main town, you’ll have quick access to all the main attractions and amenities. The real crowning glory of this holiday home is the huge conservatory with a heated pool, so you’ll get to enjoy a swim even on the odd rainy day.
Coastal Hideaway in Sanibel Island – Heated Pool
If you want to stay right on the beach, it doesn’t get any better than this secluded gem just outside of the main town! It comes with a heated pool, so you’ll also get to enjoy a dip in the evenings when it gets a little cooler. You can walk out your front door and be on the golden sands of Sanibel Island immediately.
Extravagant Hotel near Sanibel Island – South Seas Island Resort
Right in the middle of Captiva Island, South Seas Island Resort is a peaceful alternative to the tourist crowds of Sanibel. It comes with its own wildlife sanctuary, getting you up close and personal with the local flora and fauna. If you do decide to leave the resort, the huge beach that stretches along Captiva is only a one minute walk away.
The town of Sanibel, on the eastern edge of the eponymous island, is where you will find most of the tourist activity. For first time visitors, this is a great spot to get yourself acquainted with everything the island has to offer.
Over on the mainland, Fort Myers is your main gateway to Sanibel Island. Even if you’re not staying here you’ll probably pass by on your way – and we absolutely recommend spending a few hours.
Sanibel Island is often considered a family destination, so it’s no wonder the town itself takes our top spot for where those travelling with kids should stay. Aside from the great connections, you’ll feel right at home here mingling with other families enjoying a peaceful staycation.
North of Sanibel Island, Captiva is connected by a small bridge. This area is even more peaceful than its southern neighbor, making it the perfect spot to relax. Tourist numbers are severely limited, so you’ll have miles of beaches all to yourself.
Top 4 Places to Stay on Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island is a peaceful destination in Southwest Florida surrounded by gorgeous sandy beaches and fascinating nature reserves. It sees low rainfall every year, as well as steady temperatures. Staycations are the way to go at the moment, so why not escape somewhere a little off the beaten path?
Sanibel Island is quite small, with just the one town. For this reason, we recommend first-time visitors stay close to the centre of Sanibel. This will give you the chance to get your bearings before exploring further. It’s also where you will find a few excellent tour guides offering excursions across the island – perfect for those who want to check out the natural attractions.
And what about families? Sanibel Island’s lack of party-seeking tourists makes this the ideal family destination in Southern Florida. If you can, we recommend staying slightly outside central Sanibel. There are plenty of peaceful condos and quaint villas dotted along the coast, and getting around is super easy if you’re bringing the car.
Want something even more laid-back? Captiva Island is connected to Sanibel by bridge, and has a much more exclusive vibe. This means it can cost quite a bit, but we absolutely recommend treating yourself if relaxing in the sun is what you want out of your stay. It’s also a great destination for couples looking to avoid the family crowds.
Unfortunately, both Sanibel and Captiva Island can get super expensive – especially during peak tourist seasons. So what can you do if you’re on a budget? Fort Myers is well connected to the island chain, so day trips are totally possible. It’s on the mainland, so you’ll also get to enjoy cheaper dining and accommodation options.
Still undecided? We’ve got some more information about each area below – including our top accommodation and activity picks in each!
1. Sanibel – Best Place to Stay in Sanibel Island for your First Time
The town of Sanibel, on the eastern edge of the eponymous island, is where you will find most of the tourist activity. For first time visitors, this is a great spot to get yourself acquainted with everything the island has to offer. The beaches here are covered with shells, driftwood, and other coastal delights waiting to be discovered.
It’s also home to the main excursion providers, so if you don’t have a car with you, this is your best chance of getting to see everything else on the island. Even if you do have a car, Sanibel has direct routes to both Fort Myers in the east and Captiva Island to the Northwest.
Pet Friendly House in Sanibel: Sanibel Umbrella
Bringing the dog along? They’ll feel right at home in this chilled out holiday home. It comes with a small conservatory where you can enjoy the verdant gardens and abundant sunshine over breakfast. Bowman’s Beach – one of the quieter beaches on the island – is only a two minute walk away. Perfect for evening dog walks!
Stylish Beachfront Condo in Sanibel: Heated Pool
This stunning holiday home is located right on the beach! Simply take a few steps outside and immediately enjoy the sand beneath your feet. The complex also has a heated pool which is regularly maintained. The condo has a colorful charm, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere throughout the year. You’ll also have access to complimentary beach gear – including coolers and fishing poles.
Adults Only Hotel in Sanibel: Seahorse Cottages
Sanibel Island is known as a family destination – but what about a romantic couples getaway? Seahorse Cottages is an adult-only resort where you will get to enjoy peace and quiet under the Floridian sun. These self-catering apartments come with spacious rooms, charming garden views, and a laid-back atmosphere.
Things to See and Do in Sanibel:
- Take a walk along the beach and go hunting for the shells, sand dollars, and small critters that define the Sanibel Coast
- The Historic Lighthouse on the eastern tip of the island is a fascinating photo spot and has an interesting history that you can learn about during daytime tours
- Fishing is a popular activity on the island – with Captain Greg Hood offering a series of excursions for both experienced and inexperienced guests
- Head to the Bean of Sanibel in the morning for the best coffee on the island and some delectable light bites
2. Fort Myers – Where to Stay near Sanibel Island on a Budget
Over on the mainland, Fort Myers is your main gateway to Sanibel Island. Even if you’re not staying here you’ll probably end up passing through – and we absolutely recommend spending a few hours to make the most of it. The stores and restaurants are much cheaper here, so if you’re a budget traveller staying on the island, stock up on supplies here first.
If you do stay in Fort Myers, you’ll be pleased to know there are plenty of great day trips to Sanibel Island on offer. It isn’t too long for a self-guided trip, but you can also hire a local guide so you can get a little more out of your excursion.
Rustic Retreat in Fort Myers: The Mermaid Lodge
This stunning lodge is the perfect little hideaway in the heart of Fort Myers. The garden is where this property truly shines, with leafy landscaping and a cute little dining area. Downtown is only a short walk away – perfect if for checking out the nightlife and culinary scene. Pets are allowed, but keep in mind the owners (who are also your neighbors) have a dog of their own.
Modern Hideaway in Fort Myers: Industrial Retreat
If you’re on a really strict budget, this modern apartment is super affordable and still totally stylish. The kitchenette is a bit on the small side, but completely manageable for a short stay in Fort Myers. Dean Park Historic District is right on your doorstep, and you’ll also find regular shuttles to Sanibel Island within a couple of minutes on foot.
Welcoming Hotel in Fort Myers: Best Western Fort Myers
Best Western are known across the world for their mid-range comfort, and their Fort Myers hotel is one of the most affordable in the region. It’s right on the coast in North Fort Myers, so you’ll have gorgeous views towards the city centre. There’s a private pier for guests – so bring your boat along if you fancy exploring the river and islands at your own pace.
Things to See and Do in Fort Myers:
- It might be a city, but that doesn’t mean the people of Fort Myers don’t know how to relax – take a leisurely stroll along the riverside and soak up the atmosphere
- Sanibel Island isn’t the only day trip on offer from Fort Myers, you can also head to the world-famous Everglades with Everglades Adventures
- Butterfly Estates has a large collection of every butterfly native to Florida, plus some exotic plants (visit on Fridays for the best variety on offer)
- Bennett’s Fresh Road is a bit of a hidden gem, offering the best breakfast you’ll find in Florida
3. Sanibel Town – Best Area in Sanibel Island for Families
Sanibel Island is often considered a family destination, so it’s no wonder the town itself takes our top spot for those travelling with kids. Aside from the great connections, you’ll feel right at home here mingling with other families enjoying a peaceful staycation. It never gets too noisy, so you’ll get to kick back and relax.
For families specifically, we do recommend heading further west. The outer neighborhoods of Sanibel are even quieter, but still have fast connections to the centre. The further you travel along the island, the more nature reserves you will encounter – which are exciting and educational destinations for kids.
Unique Holiday Home in Sanibel: Nerita Home
This upscale holiday home is only a two minute walk from the beach on one side – and the main shopping strip on the other! The adjoining conservatory not only has a swimming pool, but also a sunbathing area and small dining set. The house can sleep up to eight guests across four bedrooms, making it a great pick for larger families.
Gorgeous Views in Sanibel: Sand Pointe 212
Located right on the southern coast, this holiday home is also only a short walk from Tarpon Bay! The stylish interiors blend contemporary design with traditional furnishings to create a bright and airy space. There’s enough room for six guests, making this a great choice for small to medium families in the area. It is part of a condo complex, so you’ll also have access to a heated pool and courtyard.
Luxurious Hotel in Sanibel: Casa Ybel Resort
Sometimes you just need the convenience of a hotel – and this four star resort strikes a great balance between luxurious extras and reasonable prices. The rooms are massive, and all of them come with their own private balcony and views across the Gulf of Mexico. You can also opt for in-room spa services, including massages and facials. We also love the on-site tennis courts.
Things to See and Do in Sanibel:
- Sanibel Sea School is a small non-profit on the island that offers excursions where adults and kids alike can learn about the natural history of the area
- Head to Tarpon Bay – a beautiful natural space on the north side of the island where you can hire a kayak and explore at your own pace
- In central Sanibel you’ll be able to hire a bicycle, which is a super fun way for the whole family to take in the sights along the coast
- As a family friendly destination, there are plenty of great restaurants on the island to keep the kids happy; but we love Cheeburger Cheeburger in particular
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4. Captiva Island – Peaceful Destination for a Laid-Back Vacation near Sanibel Island
Captiva is connected by a small bridge just North of Sanibel Island. This area is even more peaceful than its southern neighbor, making it the perfect spot to relax. Tourist numbers are pretty limited here, so you’ll have miles of beaches to yourself.
It does have a more exclusive feel, which is great for unwinding, but will also hit your wallet a little harder. We think it’s totally worth it, but you should keep that in mind. Couples looking for a romantic getaway should definitely consider splurging on Captiva Island.
Luxurious Villa in Captiva Island: Sea Oats
Airbnb Luxe is the most exclusive range of properties on the site. These not only embody style and class, they also come with a whole suite of added extras to make you feel truly pampered during your stay. Sea Oats comes with a private chef, child care and airport transfers to just name a few. We also love the gorgeous swimming pool in the courtyard.
Luxurious Coastal Home in Captiva Island: Sandcastle
This rustic villa is on the southern tip of Captiva Island – so you’ll also only be a short drive away from the main attractions on Sanibel Island. Nearby Andy Ross Lane is home to some of the best nightlife options in the area, making this a great choice for groups of young visitors. Within the holiday home you’ll also find a small pool and hot tub.
Awe-Inspiring Hotel in Captiva Island: South Seas Island Resort
Sometimes you just need a resort holiday – and South Seas Island Resort has everything you could ever need! They have their own section of beach, regular guided excursions, and daily yoga sessions. You’ll be spoiled for choice with their selection of three pools. The centre of the main town is only a couple of minutes away on foot.
Things to See and Do in Captiva Island:
- Fishing, kayaking and cycling are all available on Captiva Island – bring your own if you can, but hiring equipment is possible in central Captiva
- Up on Captiva Drive you will find a huge selection of antique shops with some hidden gems
- Nightlife isn’t really the reason you visit this area, but Andy Ross Lane has some good options – especially during the peak seasons
- South Seas Island Resort, one of our accommodation picks, is also home to our favorite restaurant on the island
Final Thoughts on Where To Stay in Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island is an idyllic destination, not to be missed if you’re travelling the USA! This isn’t the place for party goers – but it’s absolutely worth considering if you’re looking for a relaxing escape. The charming nature reserves here have some fascinating natural history, whilst the unspoiled beaches stretch for miles along the coast.
If we had to pick our favourite place, it would of course be the town of Sanibel itself. It’s well connected with the rest of the island, as well as Captiva Island and Fort Myers. Sanibel gives you a great base for exploring, and has enough amenities to mean you won’t have to travel far if you don’t want to. Plus it’s a super safe destination, so you can happily relax at ease.
That being said, all three areas mentioned in this guide have their charms – the best place for you really depends on what you want to get out of your stay. We hope we’ve managed to help you narrow down your options.
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