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Once I decided we were headed to Sanibel Island, FL, the next thing I had to figure out was where to stay! There are SO many awesome options in Sanibel and quite frankly it was overwhelming.
There are TONS of accommodations on Sanibel and the great news is that no matter where you stay you are always fairly close to the water and the activities due to the shape and size of the island.
I think when you are planning a family vacation one of the most important components is the hotel/resort/condo where you and your family will stay. This can REALLY set the tone of the trip. There have been times when I have opted for a cheaper and less nice accommodation and only ended up saving just a small amount of money and sometimes you can spend a bit more but get A LOT more for the money. When researching beach accommodations there are a few things that I look for:
–proximity to the beach ( for us we like ocean front or ocean view)
–kitchen (if possible)
–onsite restaurants &activities ( or options within walking distance)
–good value for the money
–proximity to other activities
–established history of positive reviews via orbitz, trip advisor, booking.com, travelocity ect.( VIP READ said reviews).
After doing extensive research on orbitz ( I usually jump around between all of the options listed above) I had narrowed it down to two or three really good options that had the majority of my “wish list” from above. BUT, there was only one of the options that hit EVERY single item- The Sundial Resort and Spa.
It had every.single.thing. that I felt our family needed for this trip and turns out it offered A LOT of benefits I had not even considered. I initially booked the room through Orbitz and got what I consider a good price for a one bedroom condo that was around 800 sq ft. There were not a lot of pictures however on orbitz on the actual room which made me little nervous.
I decided to venture over to the actual hotel website to see if I could get an idea of the pictures and layout of the actual room there. Once I did I learned that the hotel had A LOT of different style rooms beyond what Orbitz had available from a studio all the way to a 3 bedroom and everything in between.
**FUN TIP** that I did not know until semi-recently, when you book a room through Orbitz, Travelocity, Book.com ect they are often given only a certain number of rooms to sell and once those rooms are sold then it will indicate there are none available. Make SURE to check with the hotel directly.**
So, as I was saying when I checked the hotel’s website I found a style room that I liked MORE that had a partial ocean view, was about 400 sq ft larger, AND was cheaper. I then found a deal on their list of incentives where you bought two nights and got the third night free!!!! Even sweeter this deal gave you a $50 food and beverage credit AND a free poolside cabana for one day. My inner deal loving diva was turning cartwheels. I quickly canceled the orbitz reservation – WITHOUT penalty- and booked the bigger cheaper rule with bonuses.
I say all that to say this, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. The independent sites won’t always be the best, the direct hotel websites won’t always be the best, but if you don’t check you will not know 🙂
When we finally arrived to Sanibel and the Sundial I was impressed with how huge the resort was! The property is landscaped to perfection. Checkin staff provide detailed directions around the property, maps, pamphlets, and happily answer questions. In the lobby are also the entrances to Shima Japanese Steakhouse, The Sea Breeze Cafe, and the Shima “grab and go” sushi shop ( More on these shortly). I could not wait to try all of these restaurants and explore more!
Our building, H, was a short walking distance from the lobby. Parking is ample in front of each building and we had no issues ever finding a place to park. As soon as we got to our room I immediately noticed it was SO clean, smelled so good, was decorated SO well.
The condo we stayed in had a huge gourmet style kitchen with all stainless appliances, granite countertops, and almost every kitchen necessity as far as plates, glasses and cookware were concerned. There was a very nice sized dining area, large living room with a queen and full sized pullout beds, and amazing views of the Gulf of Mexico. The living room wall facing the ocean was entirely glass and had the most screen porch.
Our unit had one nice full bath that had plenty of space for what we needed and was again very well designed and decorated. The master bedroom was very large and had a super soft king bed complete with huge closet and lots of storage. The entire wall of the master also opened onto the balcony and faced the ocean too which I loved. For two adults and two kids this unit was the perfect size.
It was a pretty short walk from our building to the beach. There was the most picturesque little path between all of the dune’s vegetation and all of a sudden it opens up to turquoise green waters, sand, and SHELLS! Everywhere we looked were shells. The kids took off and left us in the dust hurriedly running from shell to shell and were honestly more enthusiastic than Christmas day.
We walked alot on the beach and rarely saw other people. I had assumed based on the size of the resort to see tons of people and there were certainly days that were busier than others but we continued to feel like we were one of the only families there. It was heaven on earth.
The pool was actually only one of the five pools on the property but was very large and heated!
The Sundial Resort has five on properties restaurants. This is so nice after a long day at the beach to not have to go very far for food! It is one of the most important amenities for me.
The Sea Breeze Cafe is located in the main lobby of the resort and has an attractive bar area and main dining room that all look out over the gulf. They also offer outdoor dining with a killer view. I tried the grilled mahi which was delicious and hubby had shrimp over pasta which also looked amazing. The kids had chicken fingers and spaghetti respectively with zero complaints from them.
During our stay we also checked out Slice of Paradice which is the Sundial’s resident pizzeria. We called and ordered delivery to our room and for around $40 got two of the biggest and tastiest Chicago style pizza I have ever seen. The pizzas were enormous. The four of us were barely able to eat one.
Turtle’s pool & beach bar is located in a huge tiki hut poolside near the main resort pool. I checked out the happy hour specials (3-5pm daily) and sampled their famous pina colada. I am a self proclaimed pina colada critic and this one did me proud! Their menu featured the “no woman, no cry” burger. They had various soups, salads, and other sandwiches.
There were TONS of options that you could eat at the bar under the tiki hut, order to take poolside, or take back to the room. How convenient mid beach day or after a long morning at the pool. That is what I am talking about- EASY!
During our visit we also decided to check out another onsite dining option which was Shima Japanese Steakhouse. This restaurant is also located in the main lobby of the resort. If you plan well in advance check for specials on various nights. They had an offer while we were visiting for buy one get one deal on specific nights and it is VERY popular.
Shima is the only Japanese steakhouse on the island and is popular with sundial guests and draws people from other resorts to eat here as well. You definitely need an advance reservation regardless of what day you plan to go. The food was very good here and provided lots of entertainment for the kids. While a bit on the pricey side if you don’t catch the BOGO, I feel Shima is a must do. Shima also offers a grab and go shop in the lobby that sells fresh sushi to go.
Another Sundial treasure is Bailey’s Marketplace. At the Sundial they have their very own general store, Bailey’s. This is just the neatest little store and I am not exaggerating. They have fresh bakery goods, fresh salads and sandwhiches, any kind of sweet you can imagine ( fudge, brownies ect), coffee and other specialty drinks, all the best grocery staples, souvenirs, bathings suits, beach essentials, and things people commonly forget. I mean they seriously have it all and I am not kidding. I was amazed how MUCH they have organized in a somewhat smaller size building. The people that worked in there were SO kind and helpful. I found their prices to be very reasonable and in line with what I would pay at Publix ect. Also, a wonderful tip is that you can pre-order your groceries from Bailey’s and they will have them waiting for you in your room upon check in. This is almost too good to be true.
The onsite restaurants, pool, and beach are just the tip of the iceberg of the Sundial’s offerings. In addition other amenities they offer include:
Full spa & salon onsite– I tried to make an appointment here for a pedicure but they were full the only day I could go. It looks wonderful and I love that they have this option available but I definitely suggest booking in advance. Massage- YES PLEASE!
Sanibel Sea School– another onsite offering. The Sanibel Sea School looks SO neat. We were originally supposed to take a class on Wednesday but due to some scheduling conflicts we ended up not being able to attend. We were able to watch the class daily on the beach though and the children looked to be really enjoying it and finding tons of shells. I would say this is a must do and will be a priority when we return for sure.
Volleyball Courts- complimentary for guests.
Pickleball– I am not familiar but I do know this is an up and coming super popular sport. The Sundial recently constructed state of the art pickleball courts and are supposed to be some of the nicest in all of Florida. They also have a pickleball pro and lessons are offered.
Tennis courts and tennis pro
Complimentary bicycle rentals, kayaks, and paddle boards– all included with your stay!!! Need I say more?!?! That would cost a lot to go rent all of the above for a family of four but no worries, The Sundial has you covered.
Fitness Room– Hey if this is your thing on Vacay you are all set. Just don’t expect to find me there!!
Complimentary umbrellas, chairs, and beach towels – it can really save you a TON of headache not to have to deal with all of the chairs and umbrellas!!!!
Shelling– FREE!!! There is over a mile of beach in front of the resort and over 250 species of shells here. This is a free activity and you can get as much of it as you want. I can’t tell you how much of our trip the four of us spent scouring the shores for treasures. The kids loved it and it was so nice to find something to drag them away from screen time and get them engaged in nature. This was probably my favorite thing we did at the Sundial and it did not cost a dime!!
There are a few details that were important to me and that I would be remiss to not mention in this review:
The housekeeping staff was phenomenal and came every single day and did an outstanding job. It was so nice to come in after a long day at the beach to a clean room with fresh towels and fresh sheets. I have stayed in lots of condo style accommodations that did not offer daily housekeeping and so with two small kids I especially appreciated this detail.
The staff at this resort were all SO kind, accommodating, and friendly. Any request we made was addressed above and beyond my expectation and with friendliness and efficiency. I can’t say enough about the staff or endorse it high enough.
We used the kitchen a lot and I was really pleased with the kitchen and kitchen items in our room. There are not washer/dryers in the room but there are washing machines and dryers on each floor. This is a really nice feature to have available especially with all of the wet/sandy clothing items from the beach.
You could really stay at The Sundial for a month and not do everything there that there is to do, not to even mention the things off the property. I hope if you find yourself on this gorgeous island you will check out The Sundial Resort. I know you will not be disappointed. You can read more about our trip to Sanibel Island here. Also you can find more information on Captiva Island here and here.