Turquoise water, white sandy beaches, walkways through canopies of palm trees… It’s the vacation we all daydream about. But even the most magical and tropical destinations come with its own reality of everyday hustle and tourist traps. Not North Captiva. An island that is only reached by boat, an island with NO cars, it is paradise. But that level of seclusion means preparedness is extremely important. So lets snorkel through all of the details, shall we?
Note: Staying on North Captiva requires planning. All houses and rental companies listed below book up very quick. I highly recommend making all bookings and arrangements a year in advance. I also want to add that our group received zero compensation for anything during our stay from anyone. We had a total of 3 families equalling 12 people: 6 adults and 6 kids. We met up with another family of five, that was also vacationing on North Captiva during our stay.
How to get there:
There are ferry services available on the mainland that will take you to North Captiva. If you are booking through North Captiva Island Resort, their website offers a one stop shop of directions, instructions, ferry information, vacation rentals, grocery delivery services and more. This is not the route that our family chose but this company is a great option and makes for easier planning.
No matter how you get there, your car will require a parking fee for each night. We paid $11 a day at Safe Harbor Pineland marina for our minivan. Our friends who brought their own boat were required to pay $20 a day for their truck and boat trailer. So keep that in mind when comparing costs.
Getting their by your own boat does not necessarily save you money. Though you will not have the pricey ferry costs per person, you will need to consider gas for your boat, as well as a boat slip that has a daily fee for keeping your boat at the dock each day/night. And as mentioned above, a truck with a trailer cost more than a car to park at the mainland marina each day.
Admittedly, having your own boat is fantastic for exploring and fishing on your own time. If you are considering bringing your own boat, be sure to search a beach house that has its own private dock. Our house did not. Our friend's boat slip space that he paid for was actually given to someone else during our stay. Basically a double booking mistake that the dock staff was not very helpful with correcting, though eventually it was corrected. The dock where the boat slip was purchased was not affiliated with our beach house at all.
How to get around:
There are NO cars on this island. Talk about maximum relaxation. There are only golf cart paths. Most houses that you rent on the island come with golf carts. Our house came with two! However, Boats and Fun was a company on the island that offered additional golf cart rentals as well as boat rentals and tours. One family in our house rented a third golf cart from Boats and Fun since our house was a bit further from the beaches and they wanted us to all ride to the beaches together instead of shuttling our stuff back and forth in multiple trips.
Where to eat:
The area we stayed on North Captiva had four restaurants near our beach house. Eating on the island can be quite expensive. For this reason, meal planning and grocery shopping is very important. On our last night, we ate at Mainstay and Barnacles Bar to save from making a messy kitchen in our house the night before departure. It is a small indoor and larger outdoor seating style restaurant with views of the dock and has an ice cream shop located upstairs. Our service was fantastic and the food was ok. The menu offers seafood platters, burgers, and tacos. Our party of 17 ordered just about everything off of the menu, including drinks. The "boom boom shrimp" was our favorite by far. Mainstay is definitely the easiest place to eat for larger parties. Smaller parties should try the other restaurants as well but with reservations strongly encouraged and much easier to obtain than with larger groups.
As mentioned before, there is a grocery delivery service for the island. We did not use this service. (See the North Captiva website) We chose to do our own grocery shopping before arriving to the island. Each family had a cooler and a large plastic container that we filled with food. Prior to the trip, we planned meals for each night and bought accordingly. Some of our meals included: taco night, low country boil, and steaks. Our friends also cooked breakfast each morning. So huge shoutout to the chefs on our trip!
There are different beaches all around North Captiva. Dolphin beach was a favorite amongst the kids who were able to swim within 10 feet of wild dolphins for hours. One even decided to put on a show and jump out of the water multiple times. It was wild to just see how much the dolphins loved us being there. A local did tell us that if you do NOT see the dolphins on Dolphin beach, beware: sharks may be near. But thankfully, this did not happen during our stay.
Be sure to hop on your golf cart and chase the sunrises and sunsets around the island each day. There is nothing quite like it.
Seashell hunting is nothing short of fun on North Captiva. Some beaches were covered in them while others offered old sea urchins that had washed up and dried out. So be sure to bring those buckets and maybe even plan a fun seashell craft for when you get home.
Where to stay:
Our group was fortunate to stay at the Peace of Paradise beach house. Pros and cons: lets start with the cons... There was only one for me: location. The house itself, is fairly close to the marina and one of the beaches but the other beaches were a bit of a hike. Golf carts make this less of an issue, of course, but nothing beats that "step out and onto the beach" feeling and having your own dock for your boat. But the owners of Peace of Paradise make up for this in a big way.
Now for the pros: So many pros to this house!! This house is great for families with children. Almost every house is elevated for weather/island reasons, so no children should be outside, unsupervised on any type of balcony or elevated porch, ever. With that being said, Peace of Paradise offers a wrap around porch that offered luscious green views around the entire house during our trip. The decor inside is perfection and the owners keep the house stocked with movies, games, and all that you will need to prepare your meals throughout the week. And that is only the upstairs! Below the house is a fully covered, outdoor area, finished with a shiplapped center as well as hanging string lights and an outdoor shower made of surfboards. There is a large table for dining, card games, or just fun dialog among friends. Once you step out from under the house, you are only steps from a fully gated pool that has a rock waterfall that offers tranquil background sounds and relaxing lounge chairs to sunbathe on. The name of this house could not have been chosen any better. It truly is a piece of paradise. I really hope to visit their Wyoming vacation rental someday. You can visit their Instagram, @cowboysandmermaidsvacation to see photos of both stunning properties. To get the best pricing, email the owners directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is it all worth the price?:
YES! I will say, you must make this a 5 to 7 day trip. So much planning, meal prepping, and transporting goes into this trip so you definitely want to enjoy the rewards. If you choose to do no tours, no charters, and no excursions during your stay, you can still enjoy a different beach each day. I also encourage you to find a beach house that has a pool for those moments of beach burn outs.
I hope this helps with your decisions on whether or not a North Captiva vacation is right for you. Feel free to leave comments below! Cheers!
The Adventurous Alfords