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Times of the Islands Magazine

Fall Into the Subtropics: This Place Makes Your Senses Come Alive

Aug 28, 2017 12:15PM ● By Kevin

Cayo Costa is a 2,426-acre state park with an amphitheater, cabins, camp/picnic grounds, a ranger station, hiking/nature trails and other conveniences. The island in the 19th century was used for trade stops and was a fishing village. Still only accessible by boat, modern Cayo Costa remains largely unspoiled. Photo by Capt. Brian Holaway.

For many reasons, Southwest Florida is a unique place in the United States. It is the northern range of tropical plant life, for instance. Yes, the same tropical plants that grow in the Caribbean grow right here in Southwest Florida. The northern range for many of these tropical plants is Cayo Costa island.

A walk along this 9-mile stretch of beach on any given day of the year will make your senses come alive. The smell of the salt air takes on a whole new fragrance as you walk miles of beach only accessible by boat. The smells seem to attach themselves more as you walk. Looking at the seashell-lined beach with tiny footprints from the shore birds makes you remember you are not the only living thing out here. The sounds of the waves can be hard to talk over during an October cold front. When the wind finally decides to take a vacation to other parts of the tropics, the quiet can be as intense as the sound and rhythms of the shore break. The sound of the island has a cadence of its own. It will hypnotize as you walk.

Quietly and unbeknownst to you, you will fall into this tropic trance of Cayo Costa. You will hear things you have never heard before ... and they will seem loud―like the sound of a willet before it takes flight by the seashore or the osprey overhead―the sounds of nature that will soon envelope you as you walk, defining your own rhythm in nature.

One more step, sand beneath your feet, another step, seashells under your feet, another step, the tides rising and splashing your ankles … stepping into nature without any awareness.

The island of Cayo Costa mesmerizes all of the senses while walking and listening to what the
tropics have to say.

I hope this fall you find yourself in a tropical trance on the beaches of Cayo Costa.

Written by Captain Brian Holaway, a Florida master naturalist and has been a Southwest Florida shelling and ecotour guide since 1995. His charters visit the islands of Pine Island Sound, including Cayo Costa State Park, Cabbage Key, Pine Island and North Captiva.

At a Glance

Cayo Costa Island is a Florida state park accessible by charter or private boat, ferry or helicopter. Spaniards brought traders to the west coast of Florida to barter with the natives as early as the 17th century. In their wake came men who started fish ranches on the out islands such as Cayo Costa before Florida was opened to American settlers. Cayo Costa is one of a chain of barrier islands that shelters Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound.