What to Look for in a Captiva or Sanibel Island Vacation Rental

Sanibel Surfside Condo VRBO
Sanibel Surfside Condo Unit 105

Last updated: 9/19/2022

If you’ve never rented a condo or house through places like HomeAway, VRBO, or AirBNB it can be a bit intimidating at first.  There are 500+ rentals available on Sanibel and Captiva listed on VRBO alone.  If you know a few ways to narrow down this list, it can be a lot easier to find the perfect Sanibel Island rental unit.

Learn how to use filters to narrow down search results

First let’s go to https://www.vrbo.com/ and type in Sanibel Island as our destination.  Depending on the dates you select there can be over 500 available rentals units.  It would be next to impossible to go through all these individual listings, but we can use filters to narrow this down.  Here is an example, I selected the filters for a 2+ bedroom beachfront house:

VRBO Sanibel FIlters Example

You will see that applying these filters took the list from over 500 to only 80.  There are many different filters you can apply on VRBO to make it easier to search.  If you know you want a condo or house with a pool simply check the box for “pool”.  If you want a beachfront villa simply check “beachfront” and “villa”.  Without using filters the sheer amount of different rentals available can be daunting.

Understand what the pictures are telling you

When someone lists their property on a rental site like VRBO they want the pictures shown on their listing to be as enticing as possible.  If they list a unit as “Ocean View” but don’t have any pictures showing the ocean view, that could be a red flag.  Technically there are many listings that could be “ocean view”, but it doesn’t do much good if you have to stand on a chair on the patio to see the ocean.

You can be sure that the VERY best a rental unit has looked is when the owners took the pictures.  With that in mind, if the unit doesn’t look good in the pictures, it probably is a lot worse in its current state.

Read the reviews for a unit

The reviews from guests that have stayed in a rental tell the story.  If there are reviews that vary wildly, like some 2 star reviews, some 4-5 star reviews it can be a sign that it isn’t well maintained.  Many times after receiving a bad review it will give the owner motivation to fix the issue.  If you see a unit like this don’t book it.  The last thing you need while on vacation is trying to track down someone to come fix a broken air conditioning unit that has been poorly maintained by the owner.

You want to look for a unit that has consistent positive reviews.  Check out this beauty of a property in the Sundial condo complex on Sanibel Island: https://www.vrbo.com/847622 It gets an average rating of 4.9/5.0 with 35 reviews.  This is the kind review feedback that you are looking for.

Sundial Sanibel Condo Rental
Sundial Condo Unit R204

Understand differences of locations on the island

Sanibel Island is 11 miles long, and there are condos along most of the beach.  The beaches on the eastern end of the island (by the lighthouse) are a lot different than the beaches on the west end (by Blind Pass and Captiva).  As you move west on the island, the beaches get a lot less crowded.  Likewise, as you move east towards the lighthouse they get much busier.

The area of beach around Middle Gulf Drive has several extremely large condo complexes as well as a public beach access.  Both of these contribute to a much busier beach area.  Moving west, West Gulf Drive has smaller complexes and no public beach access.  This is my favorite area of the island because the beach is so uncrowded and serene. There are very few beachfront house rentals on Sanibel, but the few that are available are usually in this area. If you are looking for one of these rentals there are usually more available on Captiva.  You can use the map on the VRBO search page for Sanibel Island Rentals (VRBO Search Page for Sanibel Island) to look for rentals by their location on the island.

I hope this tips help you in your search for the perfect Captiva or Sanibel Island rental unit!  Check out our other articles below for more guides on planning your vacation.

Happy islanding!

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