I have fond memories of camping on Cayo Costa as a child. Exploring the remote beach, I collected all manner of seashore life in my bucket while wading on shallow sandbars. I ventured alone down wooded trails and was scared breathless disturbing a huge flock of roosting shore birds as they suddenly launched into the sky with a great cacophony of honks. The night sky was alive with brilliant twinkling stars and the Milky Way painted from horizon to horizon.
I recently had a chance to revisit Cayo Costa with my son, when a friend invited us to join them for an overnight get-away. I was pleased to find the beaches, trails, birds and stars virtually unchanged from my memory.
From the Sanibel Marina, it was a pleasant hour cruising along the bay side of our barrier islands Sanibel, Captiva, Upper Captiva, then arriving at Cayo Costa. After securing our boat, a ranger driven tram shuttled us and our gear from the bay side docks directly to our primitive cabin we reserved for the night.
The kids immediately ran for the beach. The undeveloped shoreline stretched in both directions as far as you could see. Aside from a few fellow campers, I imagine this was the scene Ponce de Leon encountered upon arriving to these same shores 500 years ago.
The kids enjoyed the freedom of the place, playing on the beach, hunting ghost crabs in the dark, and eating s’mores next to the campfire. Unfortunately, our time on the island was brief, so we will have plenty to explore on our next visit.