Enjoy a Sanibel Island Boat Tour on Your Next Trip

You can’t go wrong when you vacation at one of the “Top 10 Best Florida Beach Towns” (USA Today) and a #1 top tourist destination (Frommer’s Travel Guide). But, of course, we’re talking about Sanibel Island, one of the barrier islands found west of Fort Myers, FL. There are so many things to do on Sanibel Island! 

A favorite activity is to take Sanibel Island boat tours. There are sunset tours, dolphin tours, kayak tours…so many to choose from. There are also lots of Sanibel Island condo rentals to choose from, so once you’ve selected from these Sanibel Island rentals, be sure to set up a boat tour so you can get the most out of your vacation in southwest Florida.

We’ll take a detailed look at the companies and the boat tours they offer so you can choose the one (or more!) that interest you and your family most.

Sanibel Thriller Tour

Pack some non-alcoholic beverages and sunscreen, secure a hat on your head, and be sure your phone is fully charged so you can take lots of pictures: you’re going on a narrated, sightseeing tour—hailed as the area’s “most exciting boat tour”—through the waters of Gulf of Mexico and Pine Island Sound waters, around Sanibel and Captiva Islands, on a 55-foot diesel-powered super catamaran: the Sanibel Thriller. 

Join 42 other passengers for this thrilling one-and-a-half-hour Sanibel Island Thriller boat tour: you’ll see dolphins and exotic birds as well as other marine and island wildlife in addition to Sanibel Lighthouse, or the Sanibel Island Light as it is also known: one of the first lighthouses on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

dolphins swimming in ocean

On a windy day, the air might carry some of the spray from the boat into your face as you listen to the informative tour guide give you details about the history and people of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, fun local stories, and facts about the dolphin and other wildlife you’re witnessing.

The boat is piloted by a Merchant Marine Officer licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard, so you’re in the best hands. This tour, departing from Sanibel Marina, is available year-round, except on Christmas Day and a few select dates in September.

Captiva Cruises

Offering eight different boat tours with a fleet of four vessels, Captiva Cruises has been operating since 1986. Tours run one-and-a-half, three, and five hours depending on which cruise you select.

Captiva Cruises boat tours include:

  • Cabbage Key Cruise (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.): a cruise to hide-a-way Cabbage Key Island. Eat at the Inn & Restaurant and enjoy the view of Pine Island Sound. Take a walk on the nature trail and climb the water tower!
  • Useppa Island Cruise (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.): being a passenger of Captiva Cruises is one of the only ways, besides being a club member or club member-guest, to visit the private island club community of Useppa Island. Walk through lush gardens, visit a historical museum and have lunch at the popular Collier Inn.
ocean wake by sanibel island
  • Cayo Costa State Park (half-day and full-day options): bring the sunscreen, cooler, chairs, and fishing rods and enjoy a full (Northern Cayo Costa) or half-day (Southern Cayo Costa) at this park; gather shells from the “best” collection in the world! Go fishing, birdwatching, and snorkeling. The only way to get to this location is by boat!
  • Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.): this is the tarpon fishing capital of the world! This seaside village offers historic buildings and architecture, including the 100-year-old Gasparilla Inn. Be sure to visit the state park and lighthouse.
  • Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.): learn about the ancient Calusa Indians and tarpon sport fishing on this educational and exciting tour. Eat at historic Tarpon Lodge and visit a historical, archaeological site.
  • Dolphin & Wildlife, Sunset, and Sailing Cruises: watch bottlenose dolphins at play; watch ospreys, white pelicans, and bald eagles; spend 90 minutes as the sun sets; or take a sailing cruise (days and times vary), great for a romantic sail for two or a family sea adventure.

 Prices typically range between $45 and $55, $30 for children ages 12 and under.

Tarpon Bay Explorers

If variety is the spice of life, Tarpon Bay Explorers is spicy! This company offers not only boat tours but paddleboard and kayak tours as well.

One of their most popular boat tours is the Nature and Sealife Tour. Ride in a covered pontoon boat as you learn about the ecosystem and wildlife around Tarpon Bay. This tour includes a Touch Tank aquarium, learning about life at the bottom of the bay (horseshoe crabs, oysters, more!), and an hour simply cruising around the bay, where you might spot manatees and dolphins. You’ll spend 90 minutes aboard.

You can also embark on the Evening Nature Cruise, where you can watch the birds fly as the sunsets! This tour includes Touch Tank aquarium and learning about the wildlife as in the previous tour, and it lasts two hours. 

kayaks on the sanibel shore

For something a little different, you might enjoy the Kayak Trail Tour. Paddle through a mangrove forest and enjoy the rich ecosystem. Better than a kayak rental because tour members keep the kayak for a full day for NO additional charge! Tour lasts for 90 minutes. There’s also the Sunset Rookery Paddle. So many different species of birds roost for the night, and you can see them all on this truly unique, 2-hour sunset paddle tour. 

Finally, the Stand Up Paddleboard Tour includes a lesson, so you learn basic techniques as a beginner or more advanced strokes as an experienced paddleboarder before setting off on this eco-tour. It’s a naturalist-guided tour, so you learn about the wildlife throughout the mangrove forest. A half-hour, 45-, and 90-minute tours are available.

Plan Your Next Adventure

Once you’re through with one or more boat tours in Sanibel Island, it’s back to the Sanibel Island beachfront rental you are staying at. Sit back and take in the stunning Gulf view, make a gourmet meal in your fully stocked, chef-worthy kitchen, and rest up for your next water or land adventure.

Adventures in Paradise

Vacationers have been cruising around Sanibel and Captiva Islands with Adventures in Paradise for 34 years!

Dolphin tours are available as morning, afternoon, or sunset cruises: sit back and listen to the tour guide and tropical music, see and learn about other wildlife, and even sip complimentary beverages as you go.

paddleboard on water

The Paddleboard Eco Boat Tour starts on a 45-foot catamaran, then the anchor drops when you hit the mangrove islands and sandbars, and it’s off on paddleboards to explore up-close. Say hi to turtles, fish, manatees, and dolphins as the naturalist guides you through this unforgettable experience.

Suppose you’re spending a holiday on Sanibel Island. In that case, you can enjoy any one of Adventure in Paradise’s holiday tours, like their Thanksgiving Cruise, Santa’s Dolphin & Wildlife Cruise, Christmas Eve Sunset Cruise, New Year’s Eve Sunset Dolphin Cruise, Easter Cruise, Fourth of July Cruise, and Valentine’s Day Cruise.

Other fun tours offered by this company include a Shelling & Lunch Cruise (visit a remote barrier island to collect shells, get a narrated wildlife tour, and dine at the Mainsail Restaurant), the Sea Life Encounter Excursion (join a marine biologist as you go scoop netting off the shores of a nearby uninhabited island), and the Cayo Costa Beach Escape Cruise, an extended visit to a remote island where you bring your own packed lunch, collect shells, and listen to the narration about the potential wildlife you’ll experience: dolphins, sea turtles, manatees, and a variety of birds.



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