Captiva Island sits off of Florida’s Gulf Coast, around an hour’s drive from Fort Myers. The short trip to the island from the mainland involves crossing the Sanibel Causeway onto Sanibel Island, and then driving the entire length of this scenic strip of land before crossing over Blind Pass Bridge. Stretches of white sand dotted with shells, and bordered by blue seas and lush forests, await outdoor enthusiasts. Book a stay at a Captiva Island vacation rental to enjoy your own place in paradise. Waterfront villas and cottages abound. Kick back on the front porch and enjoy spectacular sunrises before setting out for a day full of fun. At night, snuggle in and relax to the sound of gentle waves lapping ashore. Check out the top family-friendly activities in Captiva Island.

1. Take a Wildlife Cruise

A great way to get to know your home-from-home area is to hop aboard one of Captiva Cruises family-friendly excursions, sailing out from McCarthy’s Marina. A family favorite is the 90-minute Dolphin Watch and Wildlife Adventure narrated by volunteers from the Sanibel and Captiva Conservation Foundation. During the trip, you have a 95-percent chance of spotting dolphins. For a longer trip, the half or full-day Cayo Costa Beach and Shelling Cruise sails out to explore quiet beaches for swimming, shelling, and bird watching. Be sure to take a picnic and a cooler full of drinks as there are no facilities on the unspoiled state park islands.

2. Enjoy the Beach

It’s easy to find your own space on Captiva’s wide stretches of white sand. If you have a vacation rental in a waterfront location, enjoy relaxing on your own deck while the kids build sandcastles and search for shells. Alternatively, pack up the beach chairs, umbrellas, and towels and make the short trip to an idyllic spot beneath a shady canopy of trees, staking your claim by the sea.

3. Go Fishing

Remember to pack your fishing gear as the island features many places to drop a line. For a real thrill, take the kids out on a fishing adventure with Captain Randy Barfield’s Fishy Business Charters. This kid-friendly 25-foot boat sets out from ‘Tween Waters Marina on Captiva Drive. Expect to catch redfish, tarpon, snook, and snapper while also spotting shark and dolphin. The company also operates shell-collecting trips and dolphin-watching tours.

4. Take a Kayaking Tour

If you prefer to make your own way across the water, hire a set of kayaks from Captiva Kayaks. Experienced kayakers can pursue their own adventures through the bays, bayous, and mangrove trails, looking out for wildlife. Alternatively, join a guided tours to explore and learn more about the area. The tours set out directly from their location on Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve through shallow waters that are ideal for beginners. The Back Bay ecology tour takes you through historic Buck Key Island, an unspoiled mangrove island with opportunities for bird watching and spotting manatee, dolphins, and otters.

5. Learn to Sail

Equip the family with an exhilarating skill for life at the Offshore Sailing School, operating out of South Seas Island Resort at the north end of the island. Their ‘Buy the Boat’ options for families and friends let groups take over an entire boat to learn sailing skills, while also having a fabulous opportunity to bond.

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6. Get a Bird’s-eye View of the Area as you Parasail

For more water-based adventure, check out Captiva Watersports based at ‘Tween Waters Inn Marina. The parasailing experience takes you out in a 12-person boat for single-person, double, or triple harness parasailing fun that lasts around 12 minutes per session. As you rise up into the air, relax and enjoy the amazing aerial views. Parasailing participants must weigh at least 45 pounds, and parent-child teams create memorable thrills. Flyers take priority on boats, but non-flyers can observe the action from the boat deck for an additional charge.

7. Hike the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Strap on your walking boots and head out to the Ding Darling Nature Reserve on Sanibel Island. Stop by the Visitor and Education Center to view the interactive exhibits before setting out on one of the foot trails. The two-mile Indigo Trail begins at the visitor center. As you walk, keep an eye out for alligators and wading birds. If you have small tykes, skip some of the walkings by taking a car drive along the four-mile long Wildlife Drive to the Wulfert Keys trail, or choose the Shell Mound trail. These shorter scenic trails are just one-third of a mile long. When planning a visit to the Wildlife Drive trail, keep in mind that it’s closed to all access on Fridays.

8. Go for a Bike Ride

Explore this wonderfully flat area by bike. Bring your own bicycles, or call YOLO Watersports to check out their bicycle rentals. In addition to beach cruisers, tandems, and kids’ bikes, you can choose tag-a-longs, trailers, and baby seats for a complete biking experience. Rentals include lots, helmet, and a basket. While there, check out the full range of water sports rentals for more fun on the water.

9. Learn Stand-up Paddle Boarding

Some of the quiet waters in and around Captiva Island provide the ideal opportunity to learn stand-up paddle boarding or spend time improving your board techniques. YOLO Watersports has a range of paddle boards suitable for every age and ability. Beginners enjoy learning on the YOLO Yak. Shaped like a kayak, this board has a recessed deck for additional stability. Experienced SUP riders have a blast on the Advanced Bic Sports Wing. Boards are rented by hourly or daily rates, and you’ll save time by having YOLO deliver boards to your vacation rental home. Alternatively, ask them to supply soft top racks for easy transport to other areas.

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