About a two-hour drive south of Sarasota, Sanibel Island is a beautiful destination on the southwest coast of Florida. Sanibel (along with its sister island, Captiva) is beloved for its serene setting; spectacular sunsets; and sandy, secluded-feeling Gulf of Mexico beaches — which happen to be some of the best shelling beaches in the world. For travelers on a budget, these Sanibel Island hotels and rental properties can be great deals.
Vacationing couples and families can feel at home in this resort's one-, two-, and three-bedroom condos. All have a full kitchen, dining area and living room, and a screened lanai (porch). The six-acre property is nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and a canal, and its tropical-garden grounds are so beautifully maintained that even non-guests come here to explore. Sanibel Moorings' other big draw is the white-sand beach, which is home to some of the world's best shelling. While the resort is quiet and laid-back, activities are plentiful: There are two pools (plus a shallow kids' pool), a tennis court, a book and movie library, bike rentals, kayaks, fishing off the docks, and barbecues. There are also art and shelling workshops. Coin-operated laundry machines are available for guest use.
Seahorse Cottages is a quaint budget boutique hotel with just four cottages and limited availability, typically. The cottages are nestled in a quiet area of Old Town Sanibel, just 200 feet from the beach -- it's a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle. Cottages all have full kitchens, living rooms, and patios, and there are studios, and one- and two-bedroom options available. Decor is somewhat dated, with floral patterns and seashell kitsch. There is a tiny pool surrounded by beautiful tropical landscaping and trees, with cozy places to sit throughout the small grounds. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi, barbecue facilities, and parking, as well as bicycles, beach chairs, beach umbrellas, and wagons (all free) for guests' use. There's also a seashell cleaning station, as Sanibel is known for having beautiful seashells. Compared with other hotels nearby, the property offers comparable rates.
The 56-room Sanibel Siesta on the Beach is a mid-range condo rental property with a wonderful garden and pond area and direct beach access. The large, beach-themed condos -- all two-bedroom, two-bathroom -- offer full kitchens, screened-in porches, and private garages. Some units have gorgeous ocean views, granite countertops, and rainfall showerheads. Sanibel Siesta's lovely outdoor pool with seating is surrounded by greenery, and there are tennis and shuffleboard courts, plus a barbecue area. Downsides include booking and housekeeping fees. Wi-Fi and parking are both free, and bike rentals and laundry facilities are available for a fee.
Shalimar Cottages and Motel is geared toward couples and families who want a beachfront getaway on a budget. Built in 1948, the well-maintained property features clapboard siding and striped awnings that blend into the beach setting. A pathway leads to the beautiful, seashell-rich beach, which has a waterfront picnic area with barbecue grills, tables, and colorful Adirondack chairs. Shalimar's 33 units range from Motel Efficiency Rooms to gulf-facing cottages with beautiful beach views. All have flat-screens TVs and DVD players, furnished screened-in patios, and kitchens. Note that daily housekeeping is not included in the rates. Throughout the property there are shuffleboard and basketball courts, an outdoor pool, bike and kayak rentals, and laundry machines.
Sundial Beach Resort & Spa is a well-kept property located on a private beachfront. The resort’s 210 condo-style units are individually owned, which means decor standards can be inconsistent from room to room, but most are bright and contemporary and all feature full kitchens plus large living areas. The property delivers the wide-ranging amenities and dining options typical of an upper-middle-range resort, including five pools, multiple dining options, spa and fitness facilities, along with plenty of entertainment. The daily resort fee is pricey, but it covers lots of extras like beach chairs and bike, paddleboard, and kayak rentals. Parking and Wi-Fi are both free.
A simple budget property, Anchor Inn benefits from cheery design and attractive green (but not beachfront) grounds. The nine inn rooms are basic but tidy, offering kitchenettes or full kitchens, while the three cottages amp up the charm with their A-frame roofs, lemon-yellow facades, and old-school Florida appeal (although decor could use an update in all room categories). Buildings are framed by verdant plant-life and picnic tables are set under shady trees. There’s a sizable outdoor pool, as well as a reasonable number of restaurants within walking distance. The relaxed vibe throughout draws easy-going couples and families on a budget, and those that set their expectations accordingly may find this basic property meets all their needs.