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Cayo Costa State Park

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Cayo Costa State Park

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Difficulty: Advanced Scenery: Excellent
Location: Pine Island,
Lee County
Distance: 16 miles round trip from Pine Island to Cayo Costa
Atlas: Page 104 C-1
Last Update: December 2002 Canoe OK: No


Cayo Costa is a Florida State Park located at the north end of Lacosta Island. This island, along with its better-known cousins, Sanibel and Captiva, form a barrier island chain that protects Charlotte Harbor from storms in the Gulf of Mexico. Lacosta and Cayo Costa State Park are accessible only by boat and offer tremendous opportunities for those adventurous enough to make the trip. The Gulf side of Lacosta features miles of unspoiled beaches, sparkling white sand and blue water. The mainland side of the island exposes many mangrove islands and shallow green water.

The trip from Pine Island to Cayo Costa is not difficult during good weather, but could quickly become a challenge as fast moving storms appear. The number of miles and exposed open water is what gives this trip its advanced rating.

Important Hurricane Note: On August 13, 2004 Hurricane Charley made landfall at Cayo Costa. Most mangroves, trees and other large vegetation were destroyed, changing the tropical landscape for many years.

Cayo Costa;Mangrove Tunnels.
Exploring mangrove tunnels at
Part Island.
Cayo Costa;Smoke in the distance.
John and Penny watch a sailboat
on fire.


From I-75 and SR 78 (Pine Island Road - exit 143, old#26) in Fort Myers go 13 miles towards Matlacha. You may want to stop at Gulf Coast Kayak (941-283-1125) in Matlacha for information on Cayo Costa and the surrounding area. Continue west for five miles to Pine Island Center. Turn north (right) and go four miles to Mattson Marine (941-283-4334) in Pineland. The parking fee is about $8.00 per day. Overnight parking may be extra.

Important Items

Boat, Paddle, PFD
Camping Gear (overnight trips)
Money- Overnight trip with parking, camping & lunch at Cabbage Key, $50.
[Optional] Marine Radio


Barrier Islands
White Sand Beach
Pine Forests

Cayo Costa;Collier Inn;Useppa.
The exclusive Collier Inn on
Useppa Island.

Tour: Pine Island to Cayo Costa State Park (16 miles)

Begin at the boat launch at Mattson Marine in Pineland. Proceed west following the boat channel being careful to stay out of the way of boat traffic. During low tide boats move quickly through this area to avoid running aground. Paddle approximately 2.5 miles to Part Island. Halfway up the island you'll see the entrance to a lagoon. At the far south end of the lagoon is a wonderfully large mangrove tunnel that takes you through the rest of the island. After passing through the mangrove tunnel, head west toward Useppa Island. This island features many expensive homes and a very nice upscale bed and breakfast, the Collier Inn. Before stopping for a quick bite to eat, have a change of clothes and your credit card handy.

Follow Useppa Island to southern tip and continue west to cross the Intercoastal waterway. The Cabbage Key Inn can be found at marker 60. From Cabbage Key, paddle west to Cayo Costa, then follow the coast north until you see the ranger station and boat dock at Pelican Bay. If you are camping at Cayo Costa, you can leave your boat at the ranger station (be sure to take your PFD and paddles). A park ranger will drive you across the island to the campground and pick you up the next morning for a trip back to your boat.

Overnight Camping

Cayo Costa;Cabins. An overnight stay at Cayo Costa is an experience that you don't want to miss. Camping is tightly controlled and is limited to established campsites on the north end of the island. The park service has an office on Pelican Bay (mainland side of Lacosta). Camping facilities include small cabins that sleep 4-6, Yurts (canvas-sided "cabins"), restrooms, showers, BBQ grills and an area for tent camping. Be sure to make reservations before your trip and check in with the park ranger no later than 4:00pm. Reservations for Florida State Parks are handled by Reserve America at 800-326-3521.

Special Interest

Half of the fun of an overnight trip to Cayo Costa State Park is in getting there. If you have time before or after your paddling adventure, be sure to explore the little towns of Matlacha (Mat-la-shay) and Bokeelia (Bo-keel-ya). Matlacha is an old Florida fishing community that features quite a number of shops, restaurants, a kayak eco-tour business and many cottages and cabins for rent.

Bokeelia, at the very northern tip of Pine Island, is definitely the fisherman's dream come true. The town features several marinas with water taxi service, cruises and fishing charters. You won't find the fancy restaurants of Sanibel and Captiva here. Just good home-style cooking and lots of fresh fish. Bokellia is also known for its subtropical agricultural business where you can find citrus fruit, mangoes and pineapples.

No trip to Cayo Costa would be complete without stopping at the world-famous Cabbage Key Inn on Cabbage Key. For the paddler, this restaurant (and Inn) is about as close to heaven as you can possibly get. The beer is cold and the food is so good that it's been said Jimmy Buffett wrote "Cheeseburger in Paradise" here. Try the cheeseburger and Key Lime pie - you won't be disappointed!

The Inn features unusual wall coverings - U.S. dollars. It's estimated that over 20,000 signed dollar bills are pinned, stapled and taped on the walls. When the bills fall off they're donated to charity. If you're really lucky, you can get overnight reservations at the Cabbage Key Inn by calling 941-283-2278. Your non-paddling friends can meet you here by taking a water taxi from Fort Myers, Pine Island or Captiva Island.

Cayo Costa;Morning.
A Cayo Costa morning.
Cayo Costa;Sunset.
Sunset on the island.

GPS Location Aid


Pine Insland Put-In
Boat Ramp
Mangrove Tunnels
Useppa Island
Cabbage Key
Cayo Camp Registration
Camping Area