Timing Your Visit
There is no bad time to visit Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Whichever time of year you choose, your stay here will be a great adventure, and later, a wonderful memory. Here are some helpful tips, including average Air and Gulf Temperatures to take into consideration for timing your visit.
December through February
Our delightful winter climate is consistently the best in the nation. While short dips in temperature can make islanders reach for a sweater, most winter days are still pleasant for tennis, golf, beach-walking and boating. Sanibel and Captiva enjoy tremendous amounts of sunshine and there is usually little rain in these months. Pack a few layers of clothing and you will be fine. Boating in particular, will require heavier apparel - offshore winds and forward motion can lower temperature by up to 20 degrees. Evening low temperature averages 55 degrees in January, while daytime highs average 72.
If you're budget-minded, plan to visit in the first two weeks of December. Rates generally increase for high season during the third week of December, although the largest crowds don't arrive until February or March. Early December, you will find lots of options on accommodations, and the islands will not be crowded at all.
The island's Christmas decorations will take your breath away, and are always up prior to Island Luminary Celebration the first full weekend in December. Get in the holiday spirit, tropical-style! While Christmas week is always a busy one, the islands are once again quiet the first two weeks of January. From then on, the number of visitors increases weekly through Easter.
Several cultural opportunites await you, December through February, including professional theater, B.I.G. Arts musical events and art exhibits.
March and AprilConsidered "high season", March and April are the two most crowded months on the islands. Visit during this these months, and you'll certainly understand why. The weather is gorgeous, both during the daytime and the evening. Sanibel has become a popular spring break destination, but not in the rowdy sense of the word. Many families bring their children here for the few spring weeks when school breaks.
Do realize that large seasonal crowds mean waits in all the restaurants, so plan on making reservations or packing snacks for small children, just in case. Traffic will be heavy; abandon plans of making a left turn now. Shopping and errands are best done in the mornings.
Room rates drop approximately two weeks after Easter, and the crowds diminish somewhat at this time. The weeks following the rate drop, however, have become increasingly popular - the weather is ideal, and accommodations are easier to find.
MayEarly May is terrific on the islands. Winter residents start to go north, and the lessening of traffic reflects their departure. It's much easier to get into the many great restaurants. You'll enjoy terrific temperatures and nice breezes. The first two weeks of May are optimal.
The weather the second half of the month becomes substantially warmer; normal high is 86 degrees. Sanibel and Captiva do have mosquitos and a little bug called the no-see-um (which is hardly visible but deposits an oil on the skin which causes a ferocious itch). Both make their annual appearance in May, but are usually only a nuisance near sunset, when the breeze begins to die. Good planning (buying and applying the right bug spray) can eliminate the problem. Those people without perfume, cologne or scented lotions give themselves an advantage.
Shoppers will begin to see end-of-season sales at several appealing island shops.
June, July and AugustThe summer months have started to become a "season" all their own on the islands. What used to be a sleepy time for locals has become increasingly busy, as visitors discover that our warmer southern temperatures are offset by terrific seabreezes.
Not only do we have much cooler temperatures than several inland Florida locations, Sanibel and Captiva are more comfortable in the southern months than most southern US states. Highs in July and August are about 90 degrees, yet we have an on-shore breeze, the key to comfort. Still think it's hot? Jump in a pool, or the Gulf of Mexico. A little bug spray will be necessary in the evening hours, but most people agree that the lack of crowds more than makes up for a few bugs.
While hurricane season starts in June, the height of activity is historically not until September and October. What you can expect are the late afternoon thunderstorms that build up over the mainland, then blow out our way to cool everything down. Head in from the beach, get cleaned-up for dinner and by the time you're ready to go, the sun will be back out.
Everyone loves the island fireworks show (over the waters of Pine Island Sound) for the Fourth of July.
September and OctoberIf you like to hide out in uncrowded places of magnificent beauty, then the months of September and October are for you. The islands are so sleepy in September that several restaurants close for part of the month, but don't despair - we have eateries galore. Simple pleasures await you in these months. A moonlight bicycle ride down a deserted road. The heady smell of seagrapes as they crunch underfoot. Amazing sunsets, empty golf courses, and, of course, far less competition for all those seashells on the beach!
While these months are when hurricanes are most likely to occur, the odds of one ruining a visit here are minimal. Just come with a flexible mindset - should a storm threaten the islands, there are fascinating destinations in every direction, and just a few hours by car.
In late September and early October, there are often hints that moderate temperatures are on the way - mini cool fronts which last a day or two and feel terrific. Late October is magical, as high temperatures drop below the 80 degree mark for the rest of the year. Evenings are extremely comfortable. A bonus in late October: our bugs usually take a hike.
NovemberNovember is a lot like May. Room rates are down, the weather is terrific and the crowds aren't here yet. All the shops have new inventory for the season ahead. With the exception of Thanksgiving weekend, you'll have no trouble finding accommodations. This is the last month of Hurricane Season, but there's typically not much tropical weather. Average high temperature is a fabulous 77 degrees. We like November and so will you.
You can check average Air and Gulf Temperatures here.