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Cayo Costa State Park is an isolated retreat

On a foggy evening, beachgoers enjoy the waterfront near the island’s cabins at Cayo Costa State Park. Cayo Costa’s beaches give visitors the chance to fish, hunt for seashells, snorkel and just lounge on the sand with a book.
On a foggy evening, beachgoers enjoy the waterfront near the island’s cabins at Cayo Costa State Park. Cayo Costa’s beaches give visitors the chance to fish, hunt for seashells, snorkel and just lounge on the sand with a book.
Published Mar. 8, 2017

In the age of TripAdvisor and Instagram, there are few unspoiled gems. Cayo Costa State Park, a southwest Florida barrier island directly west of Pine Island, is a rare exception.

Isolated from the mainland by Pine Island Sound and reachable only by boat, Cayo Costa is an island the 21st century left behind.

Accommodations consist of tent camping or rustic cabins without electricity, running water or private bathrooms. (There are shared bathrooms, cold showers and potable water spigots centrally located.) While the cabins have mats for padding, plan on bringing sleeping bags and pillows.

Sleeping among the mosquitoes and sandflies without air conditioning may sound like a bad deal, but after gazing at the brilliant night sky unimpeded by light pollution, and waking up to a stroll on Cayo Costa's white sand beaches and lapping turquoise waters, you're likely to change your mind. It doesn't hurt that with taxes and fees, a private cabin costs a modest $46.70.

Miles of beaches and mangrove-lined estuaries provide endless exploration with fishing, shelling, kayaking and snorkeling. Dolphins, manatees and myriad bird species are some of the wildlife you might spy.

Whether you're looking to unwind on a secluded beach, or fish for redfish and snook from dawn until dusk, Cayo Costa is about as good as it gets. There's no need to go all the way to the Bahamas to find postcard-perfect beaches and tropical seclusion. Cayo Costa offers it all.

Contact Loren Elliott at lelliott@tampabay.com.