Cayo Costa State Park hasn’t always been a state park. 4,000 years ago it was home to Native Americans who used this and several other barrier islands to catch fish from the Charlotte Harbor area. Midden and shell mounds are evident on the island. Called Cayo Costa which means”Key by the Coast” by the Spanish, it was also home to a Cuban Fish Rancheros in the early 1800’s. By the late 1800’s this small fishing camp had turned into a village as Cuban immigrants flowed into Florida. In the early 1900’s, resident populations peaked and as many as 20 families lived on the island.
Today, the remains of this once thriving fishing village can still be seen on this beautiful state park barrier island. While times may have changed since then, the area is still host to some of Florida’s most secluded beaches, pristine coastlines and some of the best beachcombing in the world. Shell enthusiasts flock to this area in the winter months when rare and beautiful shells wash up on the shore for you to take home.
But don’t expect throngs of visitors to come over on the causeway like so many other Florida barrier islands. This Florida state park is by boat or ferry crossing only. No vehicles are allowed on this island that is home to this Florida wonder of natural beauty. Reservations are required if you’re planning on boarding the ferry. Visit the Tropic Star Cruises website here for more information about reservations, costs and departure times. The water taxi departs from Pine Island, Florida.
With over nine miles of beaches and limited human contact, you can easily find your own section of beachfront real estate for the day. Swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving can all be done in the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. South Florida waters are well known for there clarity, warmth and tropical wildlife.
Manatees can be seen from time to time as well as the occasional dolphin pod in these temperate waters. Many shorebirds call this barrier island home with the southbound winter travelers stopping by on their way to the warmer climates of Mexico, Cuba and beyond. Sea turtles nest here during the summer form May all the way until September.
Over night camping is permitted and one room rustic cabins are available for rent as well, making this state park the perfect place to spend the day and night.
For more information on entrance fees, camping reservations and other park amenities, visit the website here.