Cayo Costa is a very much off-the-beaten-track destination located just off the southwestern coast of Florida. It is part of the Cayo Costa State Park and is only reachable by boat. There are very few facilities on the island, and visitors need to plan ahead. Going to Cayo Costa State Park requires planning - especially if one is planning to spend the night there.
Cayo Costa offers some of the most stunning beaches on Flordia's Gulf coast. Florida may be famous for its tropical beaches, but it is so much more than that. Florida is also home to the Everglades, the theme parks of Orlando, an abundance of birds, and, unfortunately, the Burmese Python that is taking over the Everglades.
What To Know About Cayo Costa Island Before Going
The Cayo Costa island is around 7 miles long and is characterized by largely untouched natural wilderness. It is one of a chain of barrier islands that protect Pine Island Sounds and Charlotte Harbor.
- Entry Fee: $2.00
- Size: Over 2,400 Acres
If one is bringing along a pouch, then one is in luck. Dogs are permitted on the island, and the park is a pet-friendly state park. The one thing is that the dog needs to be on a leash at all times (they are permitted at the campsites, but not in the cabins).
Facilities and services are very limited on the island. There is no electricity or hot water on the island. There is, however, the camp store where visitors can buy some basic necessities.
- Camp Store: Open Daily from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm
- Ranger Station: Open Daily Until 4.00 pm
So if one is planning to stay for a few nights, bring all the food and other necessities one is likely to need - there's no guarantee that the Camp Store will have what one needs.
Accommodation-wise, there are a few rustic options on the island (rustic cabins and primitive campsites). The cabins also require a minimum stay of two nights. They offer cold water showers, flushing toilets, and a tram service that takes guests from the docks to the campsite and cabins.
Getting To Cayo Costa State Park
To get to Cayo Costa one will need to come by boat. If one doesn't have a private boat, then visitors need to rent a boat or take one of the island ferries.
- Access: By Boat & Ferry
The Cayo Costa passenger ferry services to the island are available at multiple places along the coast. They are available from the Sanibel Islands, Pine Island, and Punta Gorda. The ferries are listed on cayocostaferry.com. Each of the ferry services is different with different prices. For reference, the ferry from Punta Gorda costs $48 per adult.
- Ferry Points: Sanibel Islands, Pine Island, and Punta Gorda
One recommendation is to take a Captiva Island tour from Jensen’s Twin Palm Marina and Cottages to Cayo Costa.
If one is coming by boat, then there is an area to dock on the bayside of Cayo Costa (at the entrance to the state park). Over on the Gulfside, boats need to anchor just offshore.
Another option is to kayak over to Cayo Costa. However, this should only be attempted by very capable kayakers or those coming with a guide. Kayaks can be rented at Jensen's Marina off the island.
What To Do On Cayo Costa Island
Cayo Costa is all about getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnecting with nature. With no electricity at the campsites and cabins, modern attractions are very limited (also generators are prohibited).
Activities to enjoy include taking the bike trails all the way around the island. Bikes are available for rent - there are half and full-day rental options.
- Biking: Rent A Bicycle On The Island
- Camp: Stay At the Primitive Campsites And Gaze Up At The Stars
- Water Activities: If One Has A Boat, Then Enjoy The Water
- Sleep In A Hammock: Four Campsites Are Approved For Hammock Camping
- Go Fishing: Fishing Is Permitted In Some Areas, Fish Include Snook, Trout, Flounder, Redfish, And Snapper
- Hike: Explore The Nature Trails Throughout The Island
- Snorkeling: Don't Forget To Bring Snorkeling Equipment
- Shelling: Cayo Costa Is Famous for Shell Collecting
Here visitors wind the face pace of life back. Flop on the beach or go out on a boat and watch for dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and other wildlife.