Snorkeling On Sanibel Island: Our Top Beaches And Marine Life

sanibel island snorkeling


This article is part of our Top 9 Snorkel Spots In Florida.

Sanibel Island is located in Lee County, Florida. Many people are attracted to the island because of it’s shell beaches and impressive wildlife. The activity of snorkeling can therefore be combined with visiting a Wildlife Refuge.

How to get there

Southwest Florida International Airport is the closest airport to Sanibel Island. From there you could either hire a car, grab a taxi or use public transportation.

We always use Skyscanner, especially because there’s an option to combine your flight with some great deals on airport car hire. If you don’t have specific travel dates in mind, try their “Flexible dates” function (you’ll get this option once you select your departure date). That’s where we often find some great deals!


Our Top Locations

1. Bowman’s Beach

Bowman’s Beach is just a few miles away from Belton Johnson’s Reef. It’s a man-made (artificial) reef with a huge variety of fish species. The area is quite secluded so don’t worry about skyscrapers or late night disco music. A few picnic tables are available in this pretty “chill” location. Here’s a short video that provides a good impression:

2. Captiva Beach

Although the parking is somewhat limited and there are no permanent restrooms, this beach located just north of Sanibel Island is home to more than a dozen artificial reefs. Expect to observe barracuda, grouper, nurse sharks, amberjacks and moray eels. Again, a video explains it better:

3. Cayo Costa State Park

Cayo Costa is a barrier island just north of Sanibel Island. 9 miles of beautiful white sand and gorgeous blue water make this a stunning place to visit, even for beginners (on calm days). One of the main attractions for snorkelers are the stingrays, even though you need to keep a safe distance. Last but not least, you need to jump on a boat in order to visit the park.

4. Lighthouse Beach Park

With a functional 150 year old lighthouse and a great fishing pier situated along the coastline, this park is one of our favorites. There used to be a bridge connection with mainland Florida. Nowadays, the remains of that bridge resulted in a stunning artificial reef. One of the downsides are possible currents. Furthermore, tehse currents can become pretty wild. So check with the lifeguards if snorkeling is possible. Even a life vest or large fins won’t do the trick under certain conditions!

Tip: If it helps, feel free to also read our guide about snorkeling in the morning vs snorkeling in the afternoon.


For a full climate chart feel free to visit the website of Time And Date.

August is usually the hottest month on Sanibel Island with an average temperature of around 84°F. However, it is also the wettest month. Sure, you can snorkel in the rain, but it’s usually less fun.

The coldest month is January with an average temperature of around 64°F. In March you’ll experience the most winds which aren’t ideal for snorkeling. Winds often result in blurry water which makes swimming both hard and dangerous.

You can spot dolphins on Sanibel Island


Our 3 Favorite Restaurants On Sanibel Island

If you’d like to grab a great meal after snorkeling, or if you’re visiting the island for other purposes, enjoying local and delicious snacks are often part of living life to its fullest. Fresh seafood is one of Sanibel Island’s best kept secrets, really, they master the art of fish cuisine like a pro.

1. Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille

Appetizers include shrimp, spinach, chicken, calamari, mussels and fish fingers. They also offer a good amount of soups and salads, like Caesar and mozzarella for example. Main fish dishes to consider are baked oysters and various options for shrimp (like Yucatan, Cocktail, boiled or simply peel-n-eat). Popular meals for kids include hot dogs, chicken fingers, pizza and fried shrimp.

Here’s the link to their online menu.

2. Cielo

Cielo regularly offers live piano music. You’ll find a restaurant and a bar. If you’re up for lunch, some options include the soup of the day, fish tacos, Caesar salad, calamari , chicken, ribs, wraps and tacos. A few dinner possibilities include octopus, tuna, salmon, pork, beef, burgers, ravioli, shrimp, lamb, BBQ ribs and more. For children they offer meatballs, chicken, salmon and a few other meals that include fries.

Here’s the link to their online menu.

3. Mudbugs

Besides fresh oysters, appetizers include shrimp, various fish bites, calamari, chicken wings, pork rinds and loads more. You could also go for one of their soups or salads. The best part of Mudbugs is that they serve a so called “Fresh Catch”, so inquire about that. Other seafood includes shrimp, oyster and catfish. If you’re not a fan of fish, consider to grab one of their pastas. Kid menu’s are fried shrimp, mac & cheese, chicken fingers or grilled cheese (all served with fries or white rice.

Here’s the link to their online menu.

Final Thoughts

Sanibel Island is unique in its own way. The best snorkel spots require you to join a boat tour. A total of 7 public beaches allow you to spot various fish species of Florida.

Final Tip: If you can, bring your camera. Our Giant Guide For Snorkeling With A GoPro is packed with loads of photography information.

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