During high season, “budget accommodations” on Sanibel and Captiva is a relative term. Many places offer incredible values during the scorching summer months, but when the snowbirds descend November–April, overnight rates go through the roof. At many places there are minimum stay requirements.
As with many small beach towns, one of the best lodging options on Sanibel and Captiva is to rent a house; unlike many other beach towns the rentals can climb to astronomically high rates. Still, you can explore the copious listings at SanibelRent (www.sanibelrent.com), where weekly condo rentals can be found during the winter for as low as $900.
Anchor Inn (1245 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, 239/395-9688, from $169 d) is a centrally located property with a variety of guest room options available, ranging from basic hotel accommodations and one- and two-room efficiencies to a two-bedroom cottage. Guest rooms are cute and tidy with tropical color schemes; the bright-yellow two-story cottages have sleeping lofts and bedrooms. There’s a heated pool and a grilling and picnicking area.
The tropical foliage that engulfs the Kona Kai (1539 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, 239/472-1001, from $159 d) does an admirable job of masking the traditional motel feel of this property, and in addition to a handful of regular guest rooms there are also efficiency and suite accommodations as well as two small cottages. All of the guest rooms have garden views, with the exception of the pool cottage, which overlooks the pool. Furnishings are not as heavy on the tropical rattan-and-pastels theme that many other properties go for; instead they’re clean and contemporary, if basic.
Located right on the beach, the aptly named
Beachview Cottages (3325 W. Gulf Dr., Sanibel, 239/472-1202, from $195 d) is a great reasonably priced option. A handful of cottages are lined up along a sandy pathway to the beach, and although they’re not exactly luxury accommodations, the small 1960s-era lodgings are comfortable, clean, and have full kitchens. Although the location isn’t really isolated—the resort is situated among the condos along West Gulf Drive—the self-contained vibe of the Beachview makes it feel like its own private village.
Jensen’s “On the Gulf” (15300 Captiva Dr., Captiva, 239/472-4684, from $165 d) is a unique collection of ten villas, cottages, suites, and beach houses, giving it an intimate boutique vibe. Each guest room is decorated differently, but all the furnishings are very nice and comfortable. One of the most interesting spots is the “Post Office Sweet,” originally the Captiva Post Office but now a semiprivate cottage. This is one of the few properties on Captiva that is directly on the beach. The Jensen family also operates the nearby Twin Palm Marina.
Located on the mainland side of the Sanibel Causeway, the Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa (17260 Harbour Point Dr., Fort Myers, 239/466-4000, from $299 d) is a large well-appointed resort that offers beautiful views of San Carlos Bay and Sanibel Island. Most accommodations are in the 240-room hotel, which offers traditional guest rooms as well as a variety of suites; all of the guest rooms have private balconies, coffeemakers, mini-fridges, and microwaves and are decorated in a light tropical style. Suites range from studio-sized, which add a sleeper sofa and a bit more space, to 1,400-square-foot mini-apartments.
Guest rooms in the Grande Bay section of the resort are similar to those in the main hotel but are more secluded and offer a more upscale service-driven experience. Condo rentals are also available. The resort features a large spa and fitness facility, five restaurants, an evening dinner cruise, and tennis and golf facilities. The overall atmosphere is one of isolated luxury; you’ll have to traverse the bridge over to Sanibel Island to commune with nonguests, as the property at Sanibel Harbour is self-contained.
The Seaside Inn (541 E. Gulf Dr., Sanibel, 239/472-1400, from $349 d) manages to combine a casual classic beach feel with subtly upscale appointments and highly attentive service, resulting in one of the most luxurious and comfortable places to stay on Sanibel Island. Built in the 1960s, the Inn was completely renovated in the mid-2000s to reflect the highbrow expectations of many of the island’s well-to-do visitors. From the daily in-room delivery of a continental breakfast—a basket of pastries, fresh fruit, juice, and coffee—to the plush in-room appointments, the Seaside is simultaneously charming and posh.
The 32 units are spacious, ranging from standard guest rooms to studio cottages and three-bedroom suites, and they’re all decorated tastefully with muted tropical tones and contemporary furnishings. All guest rooms have at least a mini-kitchen, and the cottages have full kitchens; DVD players (and a free rental library) and Wi-Fi are also available, but with the gorgeous blue waters just outside your window, staring at an electronic screen might seem like a waste of time.
Like Sanibel’s Seaside Inn, the ‘Tween Waters Inn (15951 Captiva Dr., Captiva, 239/472-5161, from $290 d) on Captiva has a decades-old past that has been updated to suit the needs of contemporary travelers. The property’s history goes back to the 1930s, and even though there are more than 100 units, it’s the 19 cottages in 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom configurations that exude the most nostalgic ambiance. With vibrant paint schemes outside, the interiors of the cottages are decorated in rustic hunting-lodge tones and are equipped with full kitchens, living and dining rooms, and separate bedrooms. Slightly less expensive and less character-rich are the spacious and contemporary hotel-style accommodations, available as regular guest rooms and suites. The well-groomed beach is where most folks will spend their day, but there’s also a large sparkling pool, tennis courts, and discounted access to the Beachview Golf Club available to guests.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition