For families looking for an upscale Florida resort with an exceptionally rich array of kid-friendly things to do, South Seas Island Resort is a marvelous choice. This tropical retreat on gorgeous Captiva Island feels like a world away, yet it's less than four hours from Orlando and about an hour's drive from Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers. (See Sanibel and Captiva Islands on a map.)
Covering about half of the barrier island, the sprawling 330-acre resort is surrounded on three sides by water and offers such a diverse array of wildlife and lush vegetation that if you didn't know you were in Florida, you might assume you'd been dropped on a Caribbean isle.
Upscale but unstuffy, luxurious yet laid-back, South Seas Island Resort is a truly fabulous place to relax and unwind. The place feels like a beautiful, well-tended gated community minus any whiff of snobbery. Yes, you'll find tennis courts, a nine-hole executive golf course, a spa and fitness center, and a marina full of yachts, but flip flops are the footwear of choice and the vibe is palpably kid-friendly.
Families love options and this resort delivers in spades. There are nearly two dozen pools, including some with zero entries and water slides. You can explore the resort on bikes, rent kayaks and paddleboards, take banana boat rides, go parasailing, and fish off the pier.
The on-site sailing school has been deemed the best in the country, and the resort's outstanding kids' programming includes a traditional daycamp activity center, a self-guided scavenger hunt that teaches kids about local flora and fauna, plus an outpost of the awesome Sanibel Sea School, which teaches kids ages 6 to 13 about marine conservation through hands-on lessons with crabs, wading birds, and sea turtles.
For kids who love spotting animals in the wild (dolphins and manatees and pelicans—oh my!), this resort—and this part of Florida in general—is heaven on Earth.
Hungry? Families needn't feel nickel and dimed here because there are so many dining options. There's a nice array of casual eateries where you can sit down for a meal at a reasonable price, and alternatively you can grab a sandwich at the gift shop-cum-general store or a pizza (gluten-free, if you like) at Scoops & Slices, a fun, 50s-style ice cream parlor that also sells penny candy.
Even with hundreds of accommodation units, the resort doesn't feel overdeveloped because so much of the grounds remain wild. The two main hubs are the South Village and North Village, both of which offer a slew of spacious accommodation ranging from hotel rooms and suites to condos, villas, cottages, and palatial beach homes. With the exception of the hotel rooms, every accommodation features a kitchen (a big plus if you want to save on meals) and separate sleeping and living spaces.
Rates start at around $170 a night in low season but can nearly triple in high season. Be sure to check the resort's web site for special offers, which can include a free night or other money-saving promotions.
Unfortunately, many families will wince at the egregious $19-per-person-per-day resort fee (ouch!), which applies to all guests age 13 and up. The resort says the fee covers the property-wide trolley service; wifi; self parking; tennis; beach chairs, towels, and umbrellas; and the 24/7 fitness center. Still, for a family of four with two teens, that's $ per day, or a whopping $272 for a four-day visit. It's a shame that for some families the fee will be a deal breaker at a resort that's otherwise quite value-oriented. (We'd always rather see more straightforward pricing with a higher room rates and no resort fee.)
Best rooms: With so many options, there's a place for every family large and small. Value hunters might consider the Bayside Villas in the South Village, which start at around $210 a night for a one-bedroom, 850-square-foot unit, and offer water views and a great pool just a stone's throw away.
There is free wi-fi throughout the resort and flatscreen TVs with cable in every accommodation.
Best season: South Seas Island Resort is open year-round, with high season falling during the family spring break period, summertime, and the holiday period. Deal hunters should consider low and shoulder seasons such as post-Labor Day, January, and May.
Visited: May 2015
Disclaimer: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.