A Tropical Travel Blog
by Cate Lincoln

Want a getaway that has white sand beaches, plenty of activities, and is easy to get to? Let me introduce you to Marco Island, Florida. 

Just south of Naples on the Gulf Coast (the southwest part of Florida), Marco Island is known for its laid back vibe, beautiful beaches (excellent shelling), and close proximity to the Everglades.

To get to Marco, you’ll most likely fly into Fort Myers (an airport with a lot of flight options), rent a car, and make the hour or so drive south.

In this post I’ll let you know some of my favorite things to do on Marco Island, share some of the best restaurants, and breakdown where to stay on Marco Island.

This post may contain some affiliate links, which means I’ll make a little money on anything you choose to purchase. But of course, I only recommend my absolute favorites to you. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Hulaland possible.

Things to Do on Marco Island, Florida

Go shelling: Though not as well known as Sanibel Island to the north, Marco is pretty famous for its shelling. Sand dollars aren’t uncommon. I found over 30 small conch shells on a walk one morning and it’s easy to spend hours beach combing. Pack flip flops to walk near the water as the beaches are usually filled with shells and broken fragments. And remember…the early bird finds the sand dollars!

Things to Do Marco Island Florida

Take an eco tour: This is probably the most popular thing to do on Marco. Dozens of companies run boat tours through the 10,000 islands to spot dolphins and manatees and many make stops at uninhabited islands for world class shelling. Marco Island Water Sports runs tours on the Calusa Spirit which leaves from the JW Marriot.

Tigertail Beach & Sand Dollar Spit: This is the most popular beach on Marco, because it’s beautiful and it has great amenities. There’s plenty of public parking, a cute café, and it’s the perfect place to kayak and paddleboard. If you wade across the inlet (or paddle!), you’ll be on Sand Dollar Spit, which…you guessed it…is a great place to find sand dollars.

Things to Do Marco Island Florida

Take a sailing trip or a luxury cruise: There’s nothing like being out on a catamaran (or luxury yacht)! Cruise on the Marco Island Princess. The Key West Express also leaves from Marco Island.

Visit Old Marco Island: This tiny fishing village is home to several cute shops and yummy restaurants and it’s just picture perfect!

Things to Do Marco Island Florida

Airboat tour of the Everglades: The Everglades are super close to Marco Island so it’s a popular daytrip (or half a day really). We went with Jungle Erv’s instead of one of the outfits out of Everglade City. While they run boats every 20 minutes or so, we never saw another boat. Our captain told us that the first tour of the day sees the most wildlife (birds and other critters) as they start to clear out once the boats start coming through. We did see an alligator though!

Things to Do Marco Island Florida

Kayak the Everglades: As a quieter and more natural alternate, consider kayaking through the Everglades. Everglades Area Tours runs boat assisted tours so you’ll ride in on a boat and then start kayaking when you get to the good stuff.

Bicycle through the Everglades: And if that’s not enough Everglades for you, consider a guided bike tour. Book with Naples Bicycle Tours.

Things to Do Marco Island Florida

Rent a boat: Captain your own boat for the day and go in search of dolphins, manatees, and the perfect shelling beach.  Rentals are available at Rose Marina and Dolphin Cove Marina.

Take a day trip to Naples: The Naples Zoo and Botanic Gardens are great if you’re looking for non-beach activities.

Go out on the Dolphin research boat: If you’re serious about seeing dolphins and learning more about them, the Dolphin Explorer is the trip for you. You’ll learn all about the Dolphin Project and rumor is if you encounter an unrecorded dolphin, they’ll let the youngest person on the boat name it.

Take a wave runner tour: Several companies run dolphin/eco tours on wave runners. What a fun way to get around! Try Captain Ron’s or Marco Island Watersports.

Things to Do Marco Island Florida

Eat stone crab claws: Stone crab claws are the must try food in this area of Florida and you’ll see them on the menu at a lot of places. Head to City Seafood in Everglade City for some of the best seafood you’ll find in Florida. It’s right on the water and you can sit in the open-air restaurant and watch all the airboats head in and out.

Black Pearl Pirate Boat: For a unique experience, set sail on the Black Pearl for an hour-long interactive pirate experience. This is great for families and they do sunset cruises too!

Standup Paddleboarding: Test out new skills and take a paddleboard out for a spin. I suggest renting one at Tigertail Beach, as it’s a calm and protected place for beginners.

Take a deep sea fishing trip: Book a full day fishing trip with Six Chuter Charters and bring in all the grouper and snapper your can manage. Most places will let you take your catch with you to cook up. There are plenty of restaurants on the island that will cook it for you! Try Capri Fish House, Cocomo’s, Crazy Flamingo, Little Bar, Mango’s Dockside Bistro, The Snook Inn, and the Speak Easy.

Things to Do Marco Island Florida

Take a day trip to Keewaydin Island: This uninhabited barrier island near Marco is a popular spot for boaters and those seeking a bit of seclusion. Hemingway’s Water Shuttle ferries visitors over and will even provide you with chair and umbrella rentals.

Best Restaurants on Marco Island

For breakfast: Hoot’s, Empire Bagel Factory, and Wake Up Marco

For lunch: Tigertail Café, Quinn’s on the Beach, Mango’s Dockside Bistro

For happy hour: Capri Fish House, Cocomo’s, Crazy Flamingo, The Oyster Society, The Speak Easy, Sunset Grille

For a casual dinner: Leee Fish Inc., Sami’s Pizza and Grill, Quinn’s on the Beach, Snook Inn

For a nice dinner: Café de Marco, Davinci’s, Marco’s Prime Steak and Seafood, Fin Bistro, Sale e Pepe

Things to Do Marco Island Florida

Where to Stay on Marco Island

JW Marriot Marco Island Beach Resort: This is THE place to stay on Marco. This fabulous resort has multiple pools, a half dozen restaurants and bars, and everything you need for an absolutely fabulous vacation. Read reviews and check rates here.

Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort: If you’re looking for a great beach resort for a bit cheaper, check out the Hilton. It’s a beautiful resort. Read reviews and check rates here.

Marco Beach Ocean Resort: Great place to stay for the full resort experience. The beach and pool are both great here. Read reviews and check rates here.

Marriott’s Crystal Shores: A gorgeous and modern resort with all the amenities you expect from a Marriott Vacation Club property. Read reviews and check rates here.

Olde Marco Island Inn & Suites: This quaint little inn in the heart of old Marco Island is perfect if you want a more charming and local place to stay. Read reviews and check rates here.

Marco Island Lakeside Inn: This great affordable property is perfect if you’re trying to do Marco on a budget. Read reviews and check rates here.

My Favorite Marco Beach Vacation Rentals

I think the best place to find (and book) Marco Island vacation rentals is Vrbo. They’ve been around forever and are probably the most reputable booking platform online (with owners and vacationers alike), which means that you’ll find more quality properties listed on Vrbo than anywhere else online. I used to book more often with Airbnb, but I’ve begun to find that they often don’t have what I’m looking for (plus I had a less than great experience dealing with corporate last time I used them). 

Overall on Vrbo you’re going to find properties listed by owners who take their rental business very seriously and are committed to providing you the best accommodations possible.

How does it work? By doing a simple search by specific area (in this case Marco Island), you’ll be able to find a wide (price and type) range of accommodations. You can refine your search to fit certain criteria (price, space, style, etc.) before you start weeding through specific properties.

The number of search results you’ll find can be extremely overwhelming, so I would suggest putting as many filters as possible (especially price and number of bedrooms) and then viewing the results on a map so you can get an idea for where everything is located.

I know what people are looking for specifically varies greatly, but I often get asked for the best (i.e. cheapest, nicest, cleanest) beachfront rentals, so I’ve rounded up a few specific properties that I like the looks of:

Luxurious Beachfront Condo! Amazing ocean views. Price starts at $156/night.

Stylish Beachfront Condo! Access to heated pool. Price starts at $126/night.

Two Bedroom Beachfront Condo! Newly remodeled. Price starts at $286/night.

These rates are STARTING rates, meaning that’s the cheapest rate you’ll find during the slow season (usually September through April) so if you’re putting in dates for high season (summer months and spring break), the rates may be higher.