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Finding Sand Dollars on Captiva

If you love sand dollars, you’ll be pleased to hear that beach goers have been finding lots of them washed up on the shores of Captiva and Sanibel lately. I’ve been blessed to find a few, nearly white from being faded by the sun. I’ve also found lots of live sand dollars, which are illegal to keep, in Lee County. Do you know how to tell the difference?

How to Tell if a Sand Dollar is Alive:

Movement: Put the sand dollar in your palm. If its little hairs are moving, it’s alive. Those hairs or spines are called cilia.

Yellowing: Hold the sand dollar in your palm for a minute. If it leaves a yellow mark, it’s alive. (That substance is called echinochrome and it’s harmless to humans.)

Color: Sand dollars turn gray or white when they die.  When alive, they can be dark brown to purplish-reddish.

Smooth or Hairy: If it’s smooth, it’s ok to keep. Sand dollars shed their spines/hairs when they die. If it’s hairy, place it back in the water.

Here are few more fun facts to share with your kids:

  • Sand dollars move by using their spines/hairs (cilia).
  • They live from 6 to 10 years.
  • Sand dollars have teeth, five to be exact. (Have you ever shaken a sand dollar and heard it rattle? Those are the teeth!
  • In the Legend of the Sand Dollar poem, the five doves are actually the sand dollar’s teeth.
  • The mouth of the sand dollar is called “Aristotle’s Lantern.”

If you find sand dollars and want to pack them safely to bring home, wrap each one with paper towels, toilet paper or tissue and place inside a Tupperware-style container about the same size.

Also, a shelling charter to the out-islands may be just the ticket to finding a secret stash of sand dollars.

Happy hunting!

Live Sand Dollar.
Full moon and a perfect sand dollar.
Fingers stained yellow from live sand dollar.
seashells and sand dollar on Captiva.
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Sunrise Walks at ‘Tween Waters Inn

Beautiful shells found on my morning walk on Captiva Island.
Beautiful shells found on my morning walk on Captiva Island.

It’s no secret that moms don’t get much time for themselves, so I wanted to share how to sneak in some free therapy while you’re staying at ‘Tween Waters Inn with your family. These magical moments of solidarity happen early in the morning but are so worth getting out of bed for. Before the sun rises, slip into your shorts and water shoes and head to the beach. Behold the beauty! Stars are still twinkling in the pre-dawn sky, the beach has no footprints but yours, and the seashells are waiting for you to scoop them up. You can walk left or right, it matters not. You could potentially walk for miles. (One morning, I walked two miles to Blind Pass and found a rare lion’s paw shell on the high tide line!

The early bird gets the lion's paw seashell!
The early bird gets the lion’s paw seashell!

Sunrise walks are not only an easy way to sneak in some exercise, but are simply good for the soul. And for those who are nature-lovers, keep your eyes and ears open! You can see all kinds of birds including ospreys, egrets and herons; dolphins hunting for their breakfast of baitfish; and the pink hues that paint the sky are spectacular.

You'll love having the beach to yourself in the early morning on Captiva.
You’ll love having the beach to yourself in the early morning on Captiva.

If you’re on the hunt for manatees, walk to the marina. They tend to hang out there, especially in the winter months. The winter months also bring in more seashells, if that’s possible! I recommend getting a mesh, shelling bag to hold all of your treasures. You can purchase one at the marina or any local grocery store. I hope you get to experience a sunrise walk at least once while you visit. If you do, post your photos to our Facebook page! I’d love to see your morning memories.

You never know what you'll see on your sunrise walk.
You never know what you’ll see on your sunrise walk.
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