TRAVEL + LEISURE: Sanibel & Captiva: The Easiest Vacation in America

TRAVEL + LEISURE: Sanibel & Captiva: The Easiest Vacation in America

Eager to break out of the somewhat bland bubble of the resort, on our last afternoon we chartered a motorboat and set out to explore the unpeopled islands to Captiva’s north. Our second adventure-by-water wound up being easily as memorable as the first. Our captain, Brian Holaway, not only knows the local waters intimately, but is also up on botany, shells, birds, fish, geology, history, archaeology, and Indian lore; plus, he has a deft touch with kids. As we motored north toward Cayo Costa—where the shelling was unrivaled, we’d heard (by now we too were hooked)—the boat threaded its way through go-slow manatee zones, between pods of arcing dolphins, and past great blue herons fishing intently in the tidal flats. After a half-hour ride, Brian tied up at a rickety dock on Cayo Costa, a paring of pristine land that’s a state park. We crossed the pencil-thin island on a boardwalk raised above a shadowy mangrove swamp. Within minutes the boardwalk abruptly ended in a breathtaking crescent of beach we had all to ourselves. Isaac and I went for a swim, joined by a trio of dolphins drawing lazy loops in the water with their dorsal fins no more than 30 yards away.


Brian Holaway

I have been a Shelling Guide to Cayo Costa State Park since 1995. Many people know me as the Shelling Guide and Captain with Captiva Cruises over the past 20 years. In 2016 I began solely offering private small boat charters to the islands of Pine Island Sound including Cayo Costa State Park, Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, Pine Island and North Captiva. I am a certified Florida Master Naturalist, licensed USCG Captain, avocational photographer, seashell enthusiast and passionate about the history, people and culture of Southwest Florida, especially Cayo Costa. I volunteer as a member of Friends of Cayo Costa State Park and have great respect for the heritage of Cayo Costa. My goal is to provide guests with an overall experience and appreciation for the waters, islands, shells, plants, marine life, wildlife, history and people of this unique area of Southwest Florida.

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