Sanibel Island: Best Snorkeling in Florida?
One of the most exciting things you can do in a barrier reef destination is go snorkeling.
It is undoubtedly way more than just the usual tradition of swimming and sunbathing at a beach.
And, as all snorkeling-enthusiasts would agree, when done right, it can be an incredibly fun experience.
But, the problem is that it can be a tough job to find a location that has all the required elements for snorkeling: Sun, sand, water, reef, but most importantly, safety measures and guided assistance.
What if I said that you could have it all at the splendid beaches of Sanibel Island, Florida, which is a haven for snorkel-lovers, scuba divers and sanctuary to some of the most exotic aquatic creatures you’ll ever meet?
My husband and I always have an immense wanderlust and love for snorkeling on stunning coral reefs so we nominated this blissful spot for our honeymoon vacation!
And today, I’m recommending a few of my absolute favorite snorkeling destinations on Sanibel Island for you to pick and go diving at!
When we first visited Bowman’s Beach in Sanibel, we were utterly blown away by the pristine and peaceful location, devoid of any hotels or encroachments. There are no street lights or bright neon signs. You could see little bunnies and other wildlife eating and roaming candidly alongside the pathway.
It is surprising to think that such a place could be secluded and popular at the same time, serving as one of the best snorkeling destinations in Sanibel! You just have to take a five-minute stroll from the parking area and walk over a bridge to reach this beautiful white beach.
It is located at 1700 Bowman’s Beach Road, a few miles from the man-made Belton Johnson’s Reef, which shelters numerous exotic species of fish and several other marine wildlife. This opens up some wholly stunning views while snorkeling at the reef, that is a short trip by boat, or even just off the Bowman shore.
The Bowman’s Beach is open from 7 am to 7 pm. You can also avail the facilities of the restrooms with public telephone service, changing rooms and outdoor showers that are provided right at the beach.
Other attractions include watersports like Canoe and Kayak launching, which had been quite an exhilarating experience for us, to say the least.
Oh and don’t miss the beautiful sunset when you are there in the late afternoon, or you will regret it!
Cayo Costa State Park
Located just north of Sanibel and on the Southwest coast of Florida near Cape Coral, the barrier island of Cayo Costa presents a nine-mile stretch of dazzling white sand, like delicate tulle on a wedding dress!
The Cayo Costa State Park, which takes up most of the island and the sparkling waters offer perfect conditions for snorkeling. This is mostly due to the gently sloping sea-bed that makes it a suitable and safe option for beginners.
Thanks to this, we were able to enjoy a fair share of time exploring the brilliant coral reef with its beautiful inhabitants.
The dry and breezy weather makes an ideal atmosphere for snorkeling in the waters of Cayo Costa. However, try avoiding the destination when there’s a westerly wind blowing.
We were lucky enough to spot pompanos and the sheepsheads amongst schools of whitebait and trouts while exploring the beautiful rocky region of the reef.
Having said that, we strictly advise you to be very careful as there can be a lot of stingrays in these waters. Try staying in at least four feet of water so that you’re well above them.
Since the park is only accessible by boats or ferries, it is preferable to take your own boat, charter or rental to reach the location. Or, you can choose to sign up for one of the ferries to the destination such as the Tropic Star or the Captiva Cruises.
The park is open from 8 am to sundown and strictly prohibits any swimming outside the designated area or any such activities that may disturb plants or animals in this region.
Also, do expect a per-vehicle fee to enter the park.
The Captiva Island in Lee County in southwest Florida is located just off the shore in the Gulf of Mexico, north of Sanibel Island.
On visiting the place, we were not at all surprised to learn that it has been nominated for the “Best Restored Beach” in three different categories by the ASBPA. The Captiva Beach offers a breathtaking view of the setting sun, and its pleasant waters make for another beautiful snorkeling destination.
The beach together with its joint territory with the Sanibel sands offers more than a dozen artificial reefs where you can get to meet residents like the nurse sharks, barracuda, amberjack, grouper, and moray eels. Our own snorkeling experience was nothing short of enchanting, full of pleasant and curious surprises!
You can also go for other tremendous sports on this beach such as parasailing, scuba-diving or riding the awesome wave-runner to look for manatees and dolphins!
Or, you can spend your time fishing or riding a bike along the coast.
However, the only downside to this place is that there are no permanent restroom facilities and the parking is very limited.
Lighthouse Beach Park
So I saved a personal favorite for the last. The Lighthouse Beach is located on the eastern tip of Sanibel and stretches around to the side of the bay.
It has an ancient yet, functioning 150 plus years old lighthouse overlooking the water and a T-dock fishing pier situated along the coastline.
The place once had a bridge connected to mainland Florida, and an artificial reef has now formed from the bridge’s ruins, teeming with life. All you have to do to get to this location is to turn left on Periwinkle Way from Causeway Road, located on the eastern side of the island.
The wildlife population and the calm, clear waters of the Lighthouse Beach Park make it an ideal snorkeling destination, embraced by a shoreline glittering with a myriad of colorful sea-shells. You could literally spend the whole afternoon collecting these sea-shells with your friends or loved one, and not get bored by it!
However, we advise you to mandatorily check up with the beach authorities before you go out snorkeling as the Causeway currents can make swimming a risky business on some days.
We also went on a pleasant bike road-trip along the boardwalk nature trail that winds through the native wetlands. You do get a bike rack at this location with no fee charged on bikes.
The beach has restrooms and outdoor shower facilities. You’ll have to pay $2 an hour for parking fee as it has a 24 hours paid parking policy.
And although it is a pity that we are unable to enter the historic lighthouse, the place itself is one of utmost serenity and scenic beauty that is totally worth a visit.
So, What Are You Waiting For?
Visiting the Sanibel Islands and its magnificent beaches has been one of the most vibrant and enriching experiences of our lives.
These beaches are not some cheesy touristy-looking areas, and they met our expectation of a place where hectic people can re-energize and escape from their everyday troubles.
And it has undeniably and immensely contributed to my journey of being a designer, as I firmly believe that all my traveling experiences should find expression in my illustrious patterns.
As per usual, I do recommend you to be prepared and seek professional assistance in every circumstance before and during any underwater activity that you choose to do, which is always available at these locations.
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