Sanibel Island kayaking is hard to beat. Whether you are renting from one of the companies on the island or on your own, this guide will have you covered. Let’s start assuming you are renting a kayak from one of the Sanibel Island kayak rental companies.
Where do I rent a kayak?
There are many smaller kayak rental upstarts scattered across South Florida but we are going to focus on 3 that are located on Sanibel, and these 3 you can always count on. You might be able to save a few bucks renting from a company in Ft Myers who claims free delivery, but they are notorious for being late or not showing up at all if the traffic is too bad getting on to the island.
Tarpon Bay Explorers: If you are looking for an easy way to get a few hours in kayaking Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay Explorers ( https://tarponbayexplorers.com/tour/kayak-canoe-rental/ ) is a great choice. They are directly located on Tarpon Bay, one of the best fishing and nature watching sanctuaries in South Florida. The staff at Tarpon Bay Explorers are top-notch and they can completely set you up for your paddle. If you want to fish you can rent fishing equipment and bait on-site, and they will load your kayak for you. As far as convenience goes, Tarpon Bay is as good as it gets. This is the perfect way to take families out exploring the many mangrove trails throughout the Tarpon Bay area. The convenience does come at a price, 4-hour rentals with fishing equipment will run about $100. If you just want to take a single seat standard kayak out for 2 hours it is about $30.
Finnimore’s Kayak Rentals and Adventure Kayak Rentals: If you are already an experienced paddler and are looking for a reasonably priced all day or multiple day rental there are two companies on Sanibel that really stand out. Finnimores Cycles and Kayak Rentals ( https://finnimores.com/paddleboard-kayak/ ) and Adventure Kayak Rentals ( http://www.captivaadventures.com/rentals/ ) are both outstanding choices. At Finnimore’s 1 day rentals for a fishing kayak start at $50, with free delivery on the island. A tandem kayak rents for $70. At Adventure (located at Tween Waters Inn on Captiva) a single kayak rents for $70 a day or $100 for 2 days. Both these Sanibel Island kayak rental companies offer huge discounts for rentals of multiple days. For example, a fully-loaded fishing kayak at Finnimore’s is $145 for a 7-day rental. You can save a lot of money by renting for longer periods of time. If you are renting from Finnimore’s or Adventure they need to know where you want the kayak delivered or picked up, which brings us to our next section!
Best Sanibel Island Kayak Launch Locations
There are a TON of places to launch kayaks on Sanibel Island, but not much information out there for people unfamiliar with the island. If the conditions are right and you either rent or have a kayak cart, you can launch your kayak from any of the public beach access points on the island, just be mindful of the surf. Here are the best kayak launches on Sanibel Island:
Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge: Ding Darling is one of the coolest places to kayak in the United States. Wildlife Drive is the name of the one-way road that runs through the refuge, and the name could not be more fitting. The amount of birds, fish, and sea life that occupy this space is astounding. Wildlife Drive zigzags through the refuge, with various bridges and passes throughout. At the entrance, there is a $5 charge per vehicle, and it is a one-way loop. A pro tip here is that you can get a year-long pass for around $15, so if you are going to come multiple times a trip this can be a good option. The left side of the road is off-limits for kayaking but everything on the right is open. There are several well-marked kayak launches along Wildlife Drive with steps and easy access to the water. I do urge you to take some form of GPS while kayaking Ding, as the refuge is nearly 5 miles of mangrove wilderness (paddling paradise!).
Bowman’s Beach Kayak Launch: Bowman’s Beach is another great spot for starting a Sanibel Island kayak adventure. Located at 1700 Bowmans Beach Road (just head South off San Cap Road by the fire station). They have a great launch point that you can pull your vehicle right up to the water to unload and plenty of longer parking stalls to accommodate kayak trailers. There is even an area to hose off yourself and your equipment as you exit the water. Parking is paid at electronic terminals here (cash or card) and is a fairly steep $5/hr like all city-owned beach facilities. Do not make the mistake of letting your meter lapse for even 15 minutes, the parking enforcement REALLY likes to write $30 tickets. You can actually access the gulf from this launch or stay in the calm bays and mangrove areas for a scenic paddle.
Castaway’s Marina (6460 Sanibel Captiva Rd): As much as I dislike the $20 fee they charge to launch a kayak and park here, it can definitely be worth it. This is about the only way to access Blind Pass and the West end of Sanibel via kayak. The backwaters in the area around Buck Key are pristine, it’s unlikely you will see many other paddlers in this area. If you are fishing this launch point is a must-do. Launching here puts you right next to the docks that line Blind Pass, and these docks are loaded with fish. These docks are unique because they are deeper, and there is current. The amount of Snook that hang out here will amaze you. There is also a fish cleaning station at Castaway’s. Bottom line: if you are fishing you need to give this spot a try.
Tarpon Bay Explorers: And last but certainly not least we are back to Tarpon Bay Explorers. Not only can you rent or purchase anything you need to have an amazing Sanibel Island kayaking adventure here, but you can also launch your own kayak. For about $10 you can launch from one of the nicest kayak launches I’ve ever seen. That fee includes parking. I saved this choice for last because it often gets overlooked by people who assume you can only rent kayaks here, not launch your own kayak. When you check-in at the office they will take your phone number to notify you if there is bad weather approaching. Everything at Tarpon Bay Explorers is a class act and I cannot recommend them enough, whether you want to rent their kayaks or take your own.