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Captiva, FL

About CaptivaAs you drive down Captiva Road, the 5-mile-long island's main thoroughfare, you'll be entranced by the overwhelming proliferation of manicured but lush green landscaping and brilliantly hued flowers that appear to blanket the entire island. Hidden behind much of the beautiful foliage are the homes of well-to-do, privacy-loving residents (some quite famous) as well as vacation rental homes with amusing signs at the driveways announcing paradise-inspired names such as Happy Daze and Blue Heaven.

In Captiva's downtown, which fills just a few narrow streets, a handful of island shops and restaurants have managed to emerge from behind the foliage. In the tradition of many townspeople, enjoy a light meal as daylight dissipates; then, as night falls, join the stream of walkers heading for the beach to gaze at the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.

Banyan trees, exotic flowers and lush vegetation line a walking path along the island's central ridge. The Barbara Sumwalt Museum, located on Useppa Island and accessible only by boat, traces local history through detailed exhibits about archeology, the Calusa Indians, Civil War activities, tarpon fishing and the Bay of Pigs connection; phone (239) 283-9600.

Captiva's small-town ambience, surreal tropical setting and air of refinement give it a reputation of being somewhat exclusive. But even those on a small budget can find a way to experience the island and its beaches. Despite its size, Captiva has a selection of lodgings in all price ranges, from small bed-and-breakfasts and cottages to houses-for-hire and a high-end resort. No matter where you stay, it's likely that the time you actually spend in your room will be minimal, as you'll want to imbibe the sweet tropical air, salty Gulf of Mexico waters and plush-sand beaches to the maximum. Opportunities for seashell hunting; fishing for tarpon, redfish, or snook; catching the breeze on a sailboat; or just baking in the sun slathered in sunscreen are there for the taking in this idyllic tropical paradise.

ShoppingIf tiny Captiva Island were large enough to house a shopping mall, it would take over most of the island. Besides, a mall just wouldn't fit in here. Downtown Captiva Village, along Andy Rosse Lane and Captiva Drive, is a much better fit with its cluster of quaint shops, galleries and bistros that complement the island's slow-paced way of life. An old-fashioned general store completes the postcard-perfect setting for this diminutive downtown, just footsteps away from the beach and the Gulf of Mexico.

Check out Jungle Drums, 11532 Andy Rosse Ln., purveyor of nature-themed affordable art, jewelry and décor in such mediums as wood, bronze, glass and clay; phone (239) 395-2266. Just around the corner is Albert Meadow Antiques, 15000 Captiva Dr., which has a collection to rival antiques shops in much larger cities. Expect to happen upon Art Deco and Art Nouveau pieces, antique jewelry, Tiffany glass and American fine art among the plethora of high-quality antiques. The store is open seasonally; phone (239) 472-8442.

Forgot to pack that teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikini? The fittingly named Beach Stuff is where you can get stuff for the beach, including bikinis. It's located halfway between downtown Captiva and South Seas Island Resort at Captiva Village Square; phone (239) 472-3544.

Walk in the shade of tall palm trees at Chadwick's Square, part of the luxurious South Seas Island Resort at 5400 Plantation Rd., and pop into a small collection of shops selling jewelry, art, and clothing and accessories for the entire family; phone (239) 472-5111.

Things to Do Captiva Cruises

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Captiva, FL

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

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Harbourside Hotel at South Seas Island Resort

5400 Plantation Rd. Captiva, FL 33924

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