Sanibel/Captiva, FL Experts Needed

Old Nov 29th, 2007, 10:28 AM
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Sanibel/Captiva, FL Experts Needed

My husband, toddler child and I want to spend a week in a warm, beach-front part of FL in February. We'd like a laid-back atmosphere with "natural" attractions (we've gone to Kiawah Island, SC the past two Septembers and loved it) - several people have suggested Sanibel/Captiva. I'm reading up on these areas, but am having a hard time getting an overall picture of what they are like/where to stay on these islands given our preferences. At a minimum, since we will be with our toddler child, we want to stay in a place right on the beach with a heated pool (preferably w/ a kiddie pool) and a kitchenette. Below are my questions - there are a lot so I appreciate in advance responses to any of them!

- In Feb, is the air temp in this area consistently warm enough for shorts? Weather.com reports average temp in Feb as 77 deg, but e.g. there could be a cool breeze on these islands that makes it feel colder.

- In Feb, is the ocean temp in this area warm enough for swimming? I am used to mid-Atlantic ocean temps (not in Feb, of course) so doesn't need to be bathwater.

- Is the ocean in this area relatively calm, or are there a lot of waves?

- I keep reading about the abundance of shells on the beaches which sounds charming but are the beaches really so shell-strewn that one (a child in particular) must wear shoes when walking on the beach and/or standing in the surf line of the ocean?

- We need access to a grocery store - is there a grocery store or even a small market on either island? (We certainly don't need a gourmet market but due to a food allergy I need to be able to get soy milk, so the grocery store would need to carry a notch above the "basics").

- While we want to stay beach-front, ideally it would also be nice to be able to walk or bike to nearby restaurants - is that an option on either island? If so, can you please let me know the resorts and/or areas of the islands where you think this would work best.

- Last, given my thoughts/questions, do you have any rec's for places to stay -- I've looked at some resorts (i.e. Casa Ybel, Sundial, South Seas) and also some owner-owned properties on vrbo.com, but the problem with the latter is that since I've never been to either island, it's hard for me to get a sense of their location on the island. I like the idea of having the amenities of the resorts but frankly I picture us mainly enjoying the beach and pool so really don't "need" all the extras, other than from a convenience standpoint.

Much thanks in advance to all!
lakers is offline  
Old Nov 29th, 2007, 12:04 PM
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I've only been to Sanibel twice, but I prefer the West Gulf Drive area of Sanibel. The tip out near the lighthouse point is more dense, with a large marina thing going on. W Gulf is quiet, with the condo projects nicely separated and quiet.

I do not think you can bet on warm weather in Feb. It might be, or it might not be.

The ocean is relatively calm. The beach is a little hard on the feet. Lots of people wear shoes/Tevas. All depends on how wimpy your feet are.

Sanibel has a little grocery store. The traffic getting to it is a little fierce (stop and go - it's real slow). As I recall it is on the corner of Tarpon and Periwinkle. You will not lack for basic goods on Sanibel.

It seems like there are bike trails everywhere. Here is a map I found.
http://www.sanibeltrails.com/

I can't comment on precise condo locations. Both times I went I stayed with friends. I prefer smaller, more private condos, but then I don't have little kids. (Although there are lots of kids there visiting grandparents). I also don't know much about Captiva. We drove around it once, but I didn't like it as much.

I adore Sanibel. You can not go wrong there. I mostly birdwatch while there. Be sure to take a kayak tour out of Tarpon Bay. They'll help you accommodate a toddler. It's really easy, the water is shallow and the wildlife is amazing. Also be sure to tour Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve. It is amazing and easy to do with a kid - you can do it in your car, stopping along the way. Or you could do it on a bike.

http://www.fws.gov/dingdarling/

Make your plans soon and try to miss the week a lot of northern kids have off from school! Have a great trip.



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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 12:48 PM
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We've stayed at Casa Ybel a couple of times and feel it would be perfect for your needs. We get a one bedroom unit, and with a crib, you could use the same. All units face the water.

Kitchenettes are well furnished.

There is a screen porch for enjoying evenings or sitting out on while your toddler is napping.

They do have a pool, but honestly, we aren't pool people and I don't remember much about it.

Shelling is wonderful fun...no matter how many shells I already have, as we lived in FL, I can't help assuming the "Sanibel Stoop" when I'm there. I have heard people complain about the shells and their feet. I'm normally barefoot year long anyway, so perhaps I have tough feet. They did not bother mine. Your toddler would most likely need something on his feet.

Weather...most likely warm enough to enjoy the outdoors in shirtsleeves but the occasional cold front can make it that far south. They are short lived.

We lived in Tampa...even there we saw people in the water year long. How they did it, I don't know. Water will be cool. If you are used to New England water, it wouldn't bother you.

To me, Sanibel is more laid back than Kiawah...way more. Kiawah more structured, and formal. People, on the Gulf coast anyway, tend to be very casual. It's the beach, not the country club, which may have meaning to you when comparing with Kiawah.
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 01:12 PM
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lakers, for the best, up-to-date info on Sanibel/Captiva, go to tripadvisor.com, and go to their Sanibel Island forums. Outstanding, up-to-the-minute info, with a very good "local" expert leading it.

We love the West Wind Inn, wonderful quiet location on Sanibel, with a big, immaculate pool and pool bar/eatery, and a restaurant onsite. I think they have a tiny baby pool ... They have kitchenettes with some rooms. We really liked the Driftwood building. You could not walk to nearby restaurants (short drive) but the beach is the best! Great shelling ... I probably would have sandals for the beach on a little one on Sanibel, and there are two *supermarkets* on Sanibel, Jerry's, as well as Bailey's General Store, that have everything your little heart could desire.

I think, once you go to Sanibel/Captiva, you'll love it! Do try tripadvisor.com ... you will get a wealth of info there.
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 01:27 PM
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Wow elsiemoo...! That seemed sort of a slap at this Fodors group in general, compared to the Trip Advisor group. Perhaps I just misread you. I hope.

Actually I far, far, far, prefer getting my info here, rather than from Trip Advisor. We get to know each other and what sort of a traveler other posters here are. Are their tastes similar to mine or dissimilar...how reliable are they, etc. I've read some pretty atrocious recommendations by locals for the area we currently live in, as well as for the Tampa area on TA. On a couple of TA sites I've noticed that the "Local Experts" aren't even from that area. What's with that? How can you be a local expert if you live elsewhere? One TA "Local Expert" for one of the areas I frequent doesn't even live in this country! LOL
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 01:39 PM
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I'm a little unsure by the original post due to the references to walking, surely you're planning on having a car there, right? You really do need one.

And minor point -- but you may get called on it when you go. There is no "ocean" there. It is the Gulf of Mexico. And the "waves" are seldom more than three or four inches high!
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 01:50 PM
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OO, you said,

"Wow elsiemoo...! That seemed sort of a slap at this Fodors group in general, compared to the Trip Advisor group. Perhaps I just misread you. I hope."

I didn't mean it as a slap to Fodor's, OO. Not at all ... but when I planned two different trips to Sanibel, I found the tripadvisor.com forum the most helpful for the nitty-gritty, very current details regarding Sanibel. The Sanibel section of TA actually has two or three posters, one who visits often (the expert) and two other locals, who are a wealth of info. If you ask a question about the conditions at a beach, they often visit and report back by the next day, and their restaurant info is terrific.

Not every TA forum is like that; some are dormant for months at a time, but Sanibel/Captiva is really lively! (I love Fodors but must give credit where credit is due, in this case! )
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 01:57 PM
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"If you ask a question about the conditions at a beach, they often visit and report back by the next day, and their restaurant info is terrific."

Interesting. I don't think I've ever looked at TripAdvisor regarding Sanibel, but I do know that people have frequently asked about beach conditions here on Fodors -- especially relating to red tide, and if I'm not mistaken they have always gotten up to date information immediately.
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 02:43 PM
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Patrick, I'm not saying you don't get info reported back here. I'm saying that the Sanibel forum on TA provides the most current info I've seen for that area, time and again. That is my experience.
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 03:16 PM
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Yes most all of FL is astoundingly lively, and for good reason, but I don't agree that you get the best information there at all. I do not follow the Sanibel forum, but I do the Tampa Bay area and some of it is just plain abysmal. Like the Hurricane. Yekch! Makes me wonder where people eat normally that some of these places come up as great places to eat!!

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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 03:49 PM
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OO, I'm talking strictly about Sanibel in Florida. Charleston, SC is another good forum there.
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Old Nov 29th, 2007, 05:22 PM
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Sanibel is a wonderful place to spend time. I've been in Jan. and April. The weather can be warm or cool in Feb. as far as I know. The area near the tip of the lighthouse may be "more dense" according to Shoefly but you don't need to worry about it being too crowded. That's the area where we always stay and just love it. I would not call the marina large either. I guess it's large if you are used to solitude but it does not take over the place at all. I think that it add charm to an already very charming place.
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Old Dec 1st, 2007, 01:04 AM
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I'm definitely not an expert but we've been to Sanibel/Captiva several times and lived in south Florida for many years.

You can usually wear shorts in February but there is the occasional cold snap. February is mostly clear and sunny.

Probably too cold for swimming that time of year especially for your toddler. It will be breezy.

The Gulf is typically calm unless there has been a storm.

The shell situation varies greatly depending on the waves. We have been there after a storm when there were so many shells that it was really uncomfortable to walk without shoes. (of course this is also the best time for shelling) However, the shells are concentrated along the water line and the beaches are wide so there will still be plenty of soft sand for your little one.

We found the closed "water shoes" didn't work well for our toddlers as shells were always washing into them and they had to be removed frequently to empty them out. Open sandals seemed to work better.

Depending on where you stay you may be able to walk to a few places but count on needing to use a car for most things.

Sanibel and Captiva are very quiet and casual. Families and retirees. Not known for nightlife. More about nature, kayaking, shelling, birdwatching, seafood eating. Beautiful and relaxing.

Have fun
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