Cayo Costa is a barrier Island off the Southwest coast of Florida near Cape Coral. You can only get there by boat. It’s worth the trip.
Cayo Costa State Park
The Cayo Costa State Park’s 2,426 acres take up most of the island. There’s seven miles of white sand beach. There’s also coast line boarding Pine Island Sound which provides beautiful protected water for kayaks, and a great anchorage for sailboats. Nearly six miles of trails run through the park begging to be explored. Kayak and bike are available.
The soft white sand is great for the usual beach activities. It’s also an outstanding beach for shelling. You’ll have better luck on a low tide and a better chance of discovering a rare find if you’re away from the more heavily frequented stretches. Competition for unusual shells is much less on Cayo Costa than the more crowed beaches of Sanibel.
Bring your own food and drinks. Also chairs and anything else you may need. There are no restaurants on the island. There are showers, restrooms and shaded pavilions in which to take a break from the sun and have a picnic. There’s a $2 fee to enter the park.
This state maintained island boasts:
- nine miles of white sand beaches,
- over five miles of nature trails through beautiful pine forests, oak-palm hammocks and mangrove swamps,
- bike rentals,
- bird watching (for those with no children or very quiet children) that can include osprey and bald eagles,
- trash receptacles,
- limited boat dockage ($1 per person), and
- transport from the boat docks to the Gulf beaches.
The park is located north-northwest of Captiva Island and west of Pine Island. It is only accessible by boat, so its beach is pretty empty relative to other area beaches.
There are 12 cabins for rent. They’re one room with a table and three bunk beds, so they can sleep six. There’s no electricity or plumbing. There are public restrooms and cold water showers and outdoor grills near by as well, as potable water. Ice is available at $4 a bag. A minimum of two nights is required if you’re staying Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night as well as holidays. The nightly rental rate is $40 including taxes.
There are 30 camp sites. None have electricity. Each site has a table and grill. There are no generators allowed at the camp sites or cabins. They’re $20 a night. A warning, it gets hot and buggy during the summer.
The best way to get to Cayo Costa is vie your own boat, a charter boat or rental. These options give you the ability to land on the beach away from everyone else. You can have a long stretch of beach all to yourself. It also lets you arrive and leave on your own schedule. The remaining choice is to take one of the ferries. Most ferries land at a dock on the back side of Cayo Costa. There’s a free tram that will take you and your gear across to the cabins, camp sites and Gulf side beach. We’ve gathered information on three of them.
- Leaves from Jug Creek Marina in Bokeelia on Pine Island.
- Round trip costs $32 per adult, children under 12 are $25. The park fee is included.
- There is a $6 parking fee at the marina, $9 if it’s overnight.
- Camper transport is $42 for an adult, $32 for a child, including 50 lbs per person.
- A photo of the Tropic Star is at the top of the page.
King Fisher Fleet
- Leaves from Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda.
- Round trip costs $32.95 per adult, children under 12 are $16.48. The park fee is not included.
- Trips are only available on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
- There is an additional $10 charge if arriving and leaving on different days.
- Leaves from Captiva Island.
- Round trip costs $50 per adult, children under 12 are $35. The park fee is not included.
- There is a $5 parking fee at the marina.
- Half day trips are available at $40 per adult and $25 per child.
There is a boat dock that the boats in the anchorage, the local ferry and those visiting by private boat rental Cape Coral can utilize for a fee ($1 per person). One time we had to wait about 20 minutes for someone to leave in order to get a slip at the dock – but for the most part we have had no trouble docking our boat there.
By the boat dock there are restroom facilities as well as a rangers’ office where they rent bikes. This is also where you can wait for the shuttle (a tractor that pulls an open trailer with bench seating) to the beach on the Gulf side of the island.
We’ve walked to the beach a couple of times when the shuttle wasn’t running or we had just missed the shuttle and didn’t want to wait (usually they run one tractor at time and other times they run two – it can be a fifteen or thirty minute wait – if you start walking and one catches up to you, you can flag it down and hop on mid-island). It’s actually a pretty fun hike across the island if you are not carrying too much . . . my boys prefer to ride bikes, but they see more animals when we walk.
I must confess that when we take one of our rental boats to the Cayo Costa for a day trip (as opposed to anchoring out in our sailboat), I wait for the tractor. Hauling drinks and lunch and all our gear to the beach is a bit much. (But then, we kind resemble the Griswald’s when we travel . . . it’s something about having all these boys.)
Anyhow, when you get to the beach side on the Gulf of Mexico, there are camping places and little rentable cabins (advance reservation with the State Park system is required), fire pits, picnic tables, trash cans and restrooms.
The beach has beautiful sand and great shelling when the tide goes out, especially in the winter months.
While we have spent lots of time on the beach on Cayo Costa, one time we anchored in the little cove on the southwest end of Punta Blanca Island. This is a very shallow and tricky place to anchor – but the island is very fun to explore. It used to be home to a shipbuilding enterprise and the ruins of the buildings and dock are still there.
We sent our boys off on a little adventure there with a soft-sided lunchbox and their walkie-talkie once. Suddenly we received a panicked transmission from Gunnar, who was seven at the time, “Mom! A pig stole our lunchbox! It’s eating our lunch!!” The lunch and the lunchbox were a complete loss, but what bothered the boys the most was that the mommy pig did not share their lunch with her baby pig. I love the family adventures you can have by boat rental Cape Coral.
NOTE: Stay clear and do not attempt to feed the pigs if you see them. I have just learned that a recent visitor got bit when doing this.
Boating directions: Take the ICW to just before unlighted red day beacon #74 (note the shoal that abuts the channel and stay to the westerly side of the channel). The entrance to Cayo Costa is called the Pelican Pass and it has depths of 4’ to 4.5’. Check the draft of your boat (how deep it sits in the water) before attempting this entrance. If your draw is more, you can time our entrance with high tide, but take careful note of the depths on your chart. Stay closer to the shore of Cayo Costa and away from Punta Blanca Island on the southeast – the water is really just 3’ deep there. We were amazed just how close we had to hug the shoreline of Cayo Costa to get our big sailboat in.
The barrier islands with no road access have a unique feel to them. When in Florida everybody should visit one at least once. The important thing isn’t how you get there, but that you get there.
Cayo Costa State Park
941-964-0375, P.O. Box 1150
Boca Grand, FL 33921