Best places to stay in Sanibel Island, Florida – Top areas, beaches and hotels tips
Most of the best places to stay in Sanibel Island, in southwest Florida, are on the sandy west coast.
However, there is a difference between the southern part and the northern part.
There are also beaches and areas that work better for the whole family and others, more secluded, for couples.
This is an island without the typical condos that you can find in many resorts places in Florida.
In fact, from the water, Sanibel Island seems almost uninhabited.
Booking a beachfront resort is really a dream come true. And luckily there is a great choice of them, offering all kinds of facilities like tennis courts and full kitchens, outdoor pool and private beach.
And, if traveling on a tight budget, you can still appreciate the beautiful sandy beaches but on daily trips (I will explain you how later).
I have organized this guide to show you the best areas and beaches, including also a few hotel tips on where to stay.
But let’s get into the juicy stuff.
South-West Coast – Best place to stay in Sanibel Island for families
Located in Florida, Sanibel Island is an all year-round destination because of the never stopping warm climate and sunshine.
The azure blue water and white sandy beaches are any vacationer’s dream.
It is not unusual to see dolphins and pelicans along the shoreline.
The south-west coast and the village area are the busiest part of the island, by Sanibel standards, which means quiet but still with a few facilities, restaurants and shops.
It works very well for a family vacation, thanks also to its 3 great beaches: Lighthouse Beach Park, Gulfside City Park Beach and Tarpon Bay Road Beach Park.
It is also a good destination for couples that want to have a peaceful stay with a few restaurants around, but probably not the seclusion that the remaining part of the island offers.
The easternmost beach is Lighthouse Beach Park, that families will love because it’s wide and with shallow water.
For some fun fishing, head to the short pier that reaches into San Carlos Bay.
Aside from the parking spots, the beach has an exclusive access road, the Periwinkle Way, that will take you to the Sanibel Lighthouse.
You will find bike racks, picnic areas, a shade pavilion and restrooms.
The Gulfside City Park Beach was named after a steamship that was turned into a home on location.
If you want to see some loggerhead turtles, this is the beach to visit. Be careful though, this is a nesting site.
On this beach, you will find a picnic area, bike racks, restrooms, outdoor showers, barbecue grills and a shade pavilion. The parking lot is limited to 46 slots.
The Tarpon Bay Road Beach Park is at the end of Tarpon Bay Road, with lots of space for vacationers for sunbathing, a stroll or some jogging.
As with other Sanibel Beach parks, you will find outdoor showers, restrooms, bike racks and drinking fountains.
You should check out my guide to all the Sanibel Beaches, including practical information as numbers of parking, cost, on-site facilities., etc.
Here are three of the best hotels and accommodations in Sanibel Island
The Seaside Inn is a quaint beachfront island inn with amenities and activities that will please both couples and families.
Located about 1.2 miles from the town center, there are 32 newly renovated guest rooms, cottages and executive suites.
The guestrooms and suites all have spacious king or queen beds. Each room has a beautiful view of the beach or the swimming pool.
You get a complimentary continental breakfast which is delivered to your doorstep.
In the cottages there is a full kitchen with all the utensils you need to whip up a meal. All rooms have private bathrooms, free wi-fi, free infant beds and premium TV channels.
The Sundial Beach Resort & Spa was voted for many years in a row as one of the best Sanibel Island hotels for its Full Service Resort style.
The resort includes 200 non-smoking condos with a full kitchen, living room and dining space.
There are awards winning restaurants on site like the sushi market and Japanese Steakhouse.
Other amenities include heated swimming pools, a kids club,a spa, tennis and pickle ball courts, sea school, fitness centre and, of course, Wifi.
You can pay a small daily fee to the resort for activity equipment like kayaks and bikes.
The Shalimar Cottages are vacation rentals located directly on the beach facing the Gulf of Mexico.
It has 33 guestrooms on 2 floors. Each room has a kitchenette, a great view and easy beach access.
The studios and cottages have a full kitchen, with the refrigerator and all the cookware and utensils you need, very handy for families.
You will love the light wood furniture and brightly colored rooms.
While at the resort, you can rent bicycles and kayaks. There are more amenities like shuffleboard, a basketball court and an outdoor heated pool.
Where to eat around the South-West Coast
You will love the restaurants in this area. They offer a combination of Caribbean and native Florida dishes.
Here is a short list of 3 restaurants that you should not miss.:
- Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille: Located near South Seas Island resort. Visit this restaurant for indoor and outdoor dining. You can enjoy Caribbean dishes, island cocktails and even a sports game on screen.
- Cips Place Restaurant: It has a boat-shaped bar. Enjoy outdoor dining of a variety of American dishes and cocktails.
- Gramma Dot’s Restaurant: Visit this restaurant for an array of sandwiches and salads. Enjoy some open air seating on the docks while sipping on your favorite drink.
North-West Coast – Best place to stay in Sanibel Island for seclusion
If you are looking for some seclusion and time away, then the north-west coast of Sanibel Island is the perfect place for you, with 3 beautiful beaches: Silver Key Beach, Bowman’s Beach and Blind Pass Beach.
Bowman’s Beach is one of the more secluded and isolated beaches on Sanibel Island.
You can access it by car (parking is $5 per hour) or by bike, or stay locally for a peaceful walk.
There is a nature trail that you can follow to pass the small bridge over the inlet.
Silver Key Beach is another hidden gem of Sanibel Island, tucked away between Blind Pass and Bowman’s beaches.
The only way to access it is by walking from one of the two neighboring beaches.
For this reason, you will be very likely to share the beach with only a small amount of people, if any.
Silver Key Beach is probably not that practical if you need to carry with you heavy things.
Finally, Blind Pass Beach, on the westernmost side of the island, overlooking Captiva Island.
It is one of the most untouched beaches on the island, with plenty of shelling possibility.
The water is calm and warm, and the white sandy beach is something out of a romance novel.
This is another beach with limited parking, unfortunately. You can read more on my Practical Guide to the Sanibel beaches, including available parking slots, cost, available facilities etc.
Looking for a beautiful place to stay on a cool budget?
Try out the Tropical Winds Beachfront Motel and Cottages, with its studios, 1BRs and 2BRs cottages with a patio, each equipped with a full kitchen, dining area and free wifi.
The living area has cable TV and a sofa bed for more relaxation spaces.
Here you can enjoy an outdoor pool and, within walking distance (3 minutes), the private beach.
Where to eat along the North-West Coast
These are 2 restaurants that you should add to your bucket list:
- Sunset Grill Restaurant, located along Pine Avenue. If you are looking for a secluded spot for couples, this is a lovely diner with a small patio. Visit this restaurant for seafood and vegetarian dishes. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch. It is a busy establishment that is booked well in advance, so plan ahead.
- Lazy Flamingo Restaurant, also located along Pine Avenue. The restaurant has a bar and offers local and American-style seafood and vegan dishes in an outdoor area.
Captiva Island – Best area to stay for a romantic getaway
I like to mention here Captiva Island, just across the Blind Pass Bridge, north of Sanibel Island, literally a stone away.
It is a much smaller island, 4 miles long, with a unique feel and vibe that couples will appreciate.
You can easily walk from the southern end to the northern end in 1 hour.
Couples will love how small, beautiful and romantic it is.
The west coast of the island that starts from Turner Beach to continue into Alison Hagerup Beach Park, is a great spot for sunset
While at Captiva Island, there are some resorts that will crown the breakaway with your partner:
South Seas Island Resort is the main Captiva Island resort with a whopping 465 non-smoking guestrooms.
In addition, there are cottages and villas with 1 to 3 bedrooms each.
You will also find tennis courts, water sports programs, fitness center, 3 lagoon-style pools, cabanas, hot tub and fun water slides. Basically all the facilities and amenities you would expect from the luxury hotels.
The Captiva Shores 6C is a beachfront condo with two bedrooms, located just minutes from the Captiva shops and restaurants area.
There is an elevator service, a full kitchen, living room, dining area and a screened lanai with gorgeous views of the Gulf Coast.
The master room has a large king-size bed with ensuite bathroom while the guest room has two twin beds and bathroom.
This condo has a minimum booking timeframe of 7 days.
Where to eat and what to do on Captiva Island
- Shelling on the beach is a must do activity on this island. You will be surprised by both the quantity and quality
- Couples can get some pampering at the Kay Casperson Lifestyle Spa, located in the southern part of the Captiva Village.
- Have a walk at the McCarthy’s Marina
- Enjoy your dinner at one of these 4 restaurants
- South Seas Island Resort followed by drinks at The Harbourside Bar and Grill or an ice-cream at Scoops & Slices.
- Sunshine Cafe, a restaurant and wine bar with great indoor and outdoor seating. Here you can enjoy American-style and local seafood and vegan dishes. The wine bar, opened till late, has a cool ambience and a great list of wines.
- Keylime Bistro, a restaurant that offers also a variety of seafood dishes. At the bar area, you can enjoy drinks with live music as you spend time with your loved one.
- Old Captiva House, an award-winning fine dining establishment. If you want to pamper yourselves as a couple, this is the spot to try out. It is located at the Tween Waters Island Resort and offers great Florida cuisine. Hang around after dinner for some delicious cocktails and romantic ambience.
Fort Myers – The budget option
You may already know that Sanibel Island is an outstanding, exceptionally beautiful island, however, it is not a cheap destination.
If you are traveling on a budget, Fort Myers, just 20 miles north of Sanibel Island, may be the right choice for you.
And it’s not just about cheaper accommodations, it is also about cheaper restaurants, bars, cafes etc.
Surely, it does not have miles of beaches. In fact, no beach at all. But it has definitely a better nightlife than the quiet Sanibel Island.
In Fort Myers, you can book a real bargain for your stay, the Rock Lake Resort
The Rock Lake Resort is located near the Caloosahatchee River and about 4 miles from Fort Myers.
Guest rooms provide an excellent value for money option. Add a few dollars and book a cottage overlooking the lake.
All rooms have a full kitchen, furnished patio and cable TV. You will love the heated pool
Still undecided on your stay in the Florida West Coast?
Best places to stay in Sanibel Island – FAQ
What part of Sanibel Island is the best to stay?
I would personally opt for the South-West Coast where you can find 3 amazing beaches and easy access to bars and restaurants.
Is it better to stay in Sanibel or Captiva?
They are two different options. Captiva is more for a romantic and secluded stay. Meanwhile, Sanibel is more for a traveler looking for a beautiful beach but also easy access to a village, restaurants and other activities.
Is there a downtown on Sanibel Island?
No, the so-called village is actually only a more populated area with a bunch of restaurants/bars and a small shopping center. Far from any idea of downtown.
What can I do on Sanibel Island?
Aside from the beach, you can visit the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village
Take a walk or ride a bike on the 23 miles of paved nature trails.
You can also visit the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge to see mangroves, tropical birds, manatees and alligators, among other animals.
Enjoy the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum which is just 2 miles from the Sanibel Village
Have a game at Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, an 18 holes sitting on 75 acres with a natural lake view.