Why We Love It
This Gulf Coast barrier island, where seashells and wildlife are the star attractions, is paradise for eco-adventurers. Dolphins leap in the spray of the Sanibel Thriller high-speed catamaran, a fun option for tweens (sanibelthriller.com). Bike paths wind throughout—pedal, hike or drive the iNature trail in J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge to spot gators, spoonbills and other residents, scanning smartphone codes to learn more (fws.gov/dingdarling). Watch for manatees on Tarpon Bay Explorers' guided kayak tours (tarponbayexplorers.com), then celebrate sunset at the Mucky Duck restaurant, on sister island Captiva.
Where to Stay
The Gulf-front Sundial is the largest condo resort on the island and has the most amenities—golf, tennis, kayaking, biking, a fitness center and several restaurants. Easily zip from beach to pool and back for family volleyball games and logrolling contests. Nightly rates from $179 for fully equipped one-bedroom condos (sanibelcollection.com/sundial_resort). The more sedate West Wind Inn offers simple motel-style rooms (some with kitchenettes) just steps from the beach; the pool's casual snack bar is perfect for eating in your swimsuit. Nightly rates from $149 (westwindinn.com).
Fun Side Trip
Kids on nature overload will enjoy spending a day in Fort Myers, just across the causeway. At Skatium's ice rink, admission includes rental skates on Saturday evening, which is teen night (cityftmyers.com/fmskatium). Or BYOB (in this case, board) to Fort Myers Skate Park (cityftmyers.com/skatepark).