It's one of Florida's most closely guarded secrets, but we're letting the cat out of the bag at last. If you want an exceptional holiday experience during your USA holiday, then head to Captiva Island, just off the southwestern coast of Florida. You'll find miles of sand, an abundance of nature, fantastic food and a friendly local community. At just 12 miles long and three miles wide, you'd be forgiven for thinking there isn't much to do in such a small place. However, there's easily enough to fill every single day of your holiday. Forget high-rise buildings and noise; here it's all about unwinding and relaxing. It's an idyllic place where the emphasis is on living a natural and outdoorsy lifestyle. Captiva is often associated with its sister island, Sanibel, but it certainly has its own style and character. Here's our guide of things to do and activities on Captiva.
BeachesThere are miles and miles of beautiful beaches for you to lie on, walk along and paddle around. Some beaches belong to hotel resorts, but there are plenty of public beaches dotted around the island including Turner beach, Blind Pass beach, Bowman's beach and Captiva beach. Turner beach is the island's main shoreline, with magnificent views across the bay. You'll find parking, showers, and changing facilities, making it ideal for a family day out. Bowman's beach is known for its wildlife and peace and quiet. You'll discover nesting birds, sea turtles and beautiful shells along the shoreline. Alternatively, if you want a glimpse of a spellbinding sunset, head to Captiva beach. However, you spend your beach days, the island's beaches are both beautiful and quiet.
ShellingYou can't spend a day on a Captiva beach without going shelling. The currents from the Caribbean and Gulf seas bring brightly coloured and unbroken shells to Captiva's shores. Why not take the family for a morning's low tide walk to gather the shells that washed up overnight? Or, if you don't want to go hunting for shells yourself, you can shop for a seashell souvenir in one of Captiva Florida's many craft shops.
WildlifeCaptiva is a haven for nature and nature lovers alike. Take your binoculars and camera with you wherever you go, and you'll spot beautiful birds including egrets, royal terns, and herons. Inland, you might see woodpeckers and hawks too. The fishing here's excellent, and keen anglers frequently catch sea trout, snapper or grouper. If you're keen on diving, you've got clear waters and the chance to see dolphins, barracuda, and moray eels. One of the loveliest ways to explore the wildlife and nature on Captiva is to lace up your walking shoes and follow one of the many designated trails either by foot or bike. There are plenty of walks you can take to get close to nature, or just walk along the seashore and take in the stunning ocean views.
Water sportsHad your fill of shelling on the seashore or hopping on a tour boat to hook a fish? There's also kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing and sailing, so if you're into your water sports, you'll never be bored.
ShoppingThe island's a magnet and an inspiration for creative artists, and you'll find examples of their talent to take home with you. Head to islands gallery, where you'll find plenty of souvenirs created by local artists. Choose from silk painted scarves, jewellery, pottery, ceramics and paintings. Or, try Captiva Village Square to find everything a souvenir hunter needs.
Dining outCaptiva's a real community with plenty of quirky and individual places to eat. You'll find fish and seafood are at the top of most menus. A local farmer's market supplies most of the eateries with homegrown produce, which you can wash down with delicious cocktails like mojitos, daiquiris, and Pina Coladas. If you fancy a combination of cocktails, food and sunsets, head to the Mucky Duck restaurant located right by the beach.
Visit the neighboursCaptiva's big sister, island Sanibel, is literally next door and connected by a bridge, so it's easy to get to. Don't miss the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum while you're there. Alternatively, you can explore 25 miles of designated walking and cycling paths.
SightseeingIf you're interested in the island's heritage, spend a few hours at Captiva's Historical Society's History Gallery. Just next door to the library, the museum has more than 10,000 archives that chronicle the island's history. Close by is Captiva Florida's Chapel by the Sea. Built back in 1903 as a one-roomed schoolhouse, it has evolved into a chapel and now holds non-denominational services between November and April.