Marco Island: a Relaxing, Wildlife-Viewing Vacation

Work is exhausting, you need a break, and you have some vacation time coming to you. You decide you want a nice, relaxing beach vacation: nothing to do but lie on a beach lounger with a drink in your hand.

Disclosure: I wrote this article for Hipmunk as part of the #HipmunkCityLove Project. Hipmunk no longer exists, so I’ve revised it a bit. It contains affilliate links, which means if you click on any of them and spend money, I will receive a small percentage of what you spend. This will not affect your price.

Marco Island sunset, by Alice Piraneo at
Marco Island sunset, by Alice Piraneo at

After some googling (at work, while your boss is away from the office), you hit on a place you’ve never heard of before: Marco Island, Florida. For you, it’s not too hard to get to, and it looks wonderful. With a long, white-sand beach facing west, you could watch the sun set every day. The Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa, along with many other Marco Island hotels, has everything you’d enjoy for this vacation: sun, sand, and spa. Perfect. You book it, and you’re on your way.

Going to Florida but not into the whole Disney thing? Read “Visiting Orlando: 8 ideas that aren’t Disney

view overlooking the pool and beach with palm trees, etc. on Marco Island
a view from the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, by Helene Colon on

The first couple of days on Marco Island are magical. You drift from your room to the restaurant to the pool to the spa to the beach and back again. You read the book you brought from start to finish. You drink a cocktail (or several) in the evening, relishing the beauty of the sunset.

If you’re like me, though, by day 3 you start feeling restless. All of this lazing around has been great, but you’re ready for something else. At the same time, you don’t want to do anything too strenuous, or to have to drive a long way.

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Maybe you didn’t know it when you booked, but Marco Island is the biggest of the “Ten Thousand Islands” that range along the west coast of Florida. Most are uninhabited; some are as small as a clump of mangroves. A lot of the area is protected as part of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge or Everglades National Park.

What this all means is that you can have your relaxing, luxurious, lazing-on-the-beach holiday, and also explore the nature and wildlife of the region.

a water bird in the Everglades near Marco Island
great birdwatching in the Everglades! photo by Road it Up on

Rent a boat or take a tour?

Most of the islands are only accessible by boat, so you’ll need to do one or the other. Taking a tour, such as Marco Island Boat Tours or Marco Island Princess, is the easiest option. Instead of relaxing on the beach, you would get to relax on a boat. Many tours include stops for shelling or fishing. Various companies also offer motorboats or sailboats for private charter, if you would prefer to avoid the crowds.

The disadvantage of a tour, though, is that they’ll only visit the islands that are most accommodating to their boats and their boatloads of visitors. If you feel competent to operate a motorboat or sailboat, rent one and you can do the choosing. For a listing of the best spots for wildlife viewing, click here.

an alligator and a bird in a marsh area of the Everglades near Marco Island
an alligator in the Everglades, by Beatriz Castillo on

What to bring?

  • Binoculars for wildlife sighting: Watch for dolphins, birds, and, if you’re lucky, a manatee or an alligator!
  • A camera
  • Sunscreen: Don’t forget to reapply it often!
  • Water: Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Sunglasses: The sun glares as it reflects off the water.


Please, if you have visited the area, add your observations below!


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