Sun and Fun along Florida’s Southwest Coast

Most likely when you think of vacationing in Florida you think of the hot spots of Miami, the Keys, Ft. Lauderdale, or the tourist mecca known as Orlando. For several years I have enjoyed traveling to the Southwest region of Florida to take in the charm of the area and the warmth of the sun.  I have visited up and down the Gulf Coast, from Sarasota to Sanibel, and Naples to Key West, and the draw for me is that each area has its own cool vibe that keeps me coming back for more.

Flying into Southwest Florida International (RSW) always gets my vacation off on the right foot. Perhaps one of the cleanest and most enjoyable airports in America, RSW sets the tone of rest and relaxation from the moment one lands. With a dedicated area on the ground level of the airport, getting a rental car is as easy as renting a car can be; and I’m off on vacation!

A stay at the Hyatt Regency – Coconut Point is always my hotel of choice when in Southwest Florida. Located between Ft. Myers and Naples, just off the Tamiami Trail, Coconut is centrally located for loads of shopping, dining, and fun activities.  A stay at the Hyatt Coconut Point wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Hyatt’s private island, Big Hickory Island, across Estero Bay.  A free water taxi takes guests from the resort’s dock to the island every 30-minutes. While on your way you are likely to see dolphins and rays swimming alongside the boat. Once at the island, a two-minute walk to the other side brings you to the Gulf of Mexico in all her glory. (Wait, see the sunbeams shine down and hear the angels sing from above.) Privacy and more relaxation is the order of the day when spending time at this beach. With complimentary lounge chairs, umbrellas, and ice-filled coolers for your favorite beverages and snacks, a day at Big Hickory Island beach is perfect for saltwater swimming, sunbathing, and seashell collecting; and will surely spoil you for future excursions.

When in the Bonita Springs area visitors must visit the amazing Coconut Point shopping destination. This outdoor shopping and eating experience is rivaled by few. With condos above the stores, known as The Residences, to designer shops such as Coach and Aldo, and chain stores like Target and Champs, Coconut Point has shopping covered. The complex also has great restaurants such as The Grape, Stir Crazy, Tony Sacco’s, and California Pizza Kitchen. With hundreds of famous name stores, dozens of restaurants, and luxury living accommodations, the community of Coconut Point is a modern twist on an early 1900′s city.

The Gulf Coast offers an array of fun options for all interests.  The city of Naples is about 15 miles south of Coconut, and their pristine beaches, unique shopping, and outdoor restaurants make this a must-stop every time I’m in the area. Whether shopping along Naples’ historic Fifth Avenue, enjoying an afternoon bite to eat at the Bayside Restaurant overlooking Venetian Bay, or soaking in the sand and sun at one of its public beaches, luxury can be found in every corner of this Gulf coast city.

The famous Fort Myers Beach area is always ready to offer up fun til the early morning hours. Picking shells on the beaches, taking in the sunsets at the pier, and great food and drink at the famous Yukatan is a typical afternoon and evening at FMB. Branching out from its hub, known as Times Square and The Pier, Fort Myers Beach is home to many stores, restaurants, and nightspots to keep your vacation in high gear when not at the beach. With its many beachside hotels, FMB reminds me of the days of Gidget, Elvis, and Frankie & Annette at the beach. Fun times!

Across the bridge from Fort Myers sits the quiet little island community of Sanibel Island. Know worldwide for its seashell collecting and glorious beaches, Sanibel is one of the best places I know to get away from it all. Though there are plenty of restaurants and shopping opportunities to be found on this island, the tone and pace of Sanibel is much more laid back and easy-going. With several public beaches scattered around the perimeter of the island, taking in the warmth of the sun and searching for that elusive perfect seashell are all in a day’s pleasure on Sanibel Island.

If you’re looking for rest and relaxation in a peaceful, luxurious setting, Florida’s Southwest region may be beckoning you. With incredible weather year-round, true southern hospitality, and a slow-paced way of life, the Gulf Coast region is one of my favorite places to get away to. Whether its Naples to the south, Fort Myers to the north, or Sanibel on an island of its own, Southwest Florida is truly a slice of paradise.