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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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Free VIP Amenities and Discounts

As a frugal mom, I feel it’s my job to find the best prices for my family, especially when it comes to vacations. After all, going away even for a few days can be a major expense. I always look online for coupon codes and included free extras, and then I found this deal – when you BOOK DIRECT with ‘Tween Waters, you get the guaranteed best rate – AND a long list of freebies! It’s true! And, the included freebies are things your family can actually enjoy. Plus, when you book direct, you’ll avoid paying a daily resort fee. That can be quite the savings. Look at everything you get when you call ‘Tween Waters or go online to book your reservation:

  • Free Bikes
  • Free Kayaks
  • Free Tennis
  • Free Pickle Ball
  • Free Use of Rackets
  • Free Beach Volleyball
  • Free Shuffleboard
  • Free Cornhole
  • Free Bocce Ball
  • Free Fitness Center
  • Free Standard Wi-Fi
  • Free Parking
  • Free Local Paper

And did I mention, no resort fee? You’ll get a coupon book that could save you hundreds more. Get discounts on meals, beverages, spa treatments, activities like parasailing, clothing, and more. Take it from one frugal mom to another, Book Direct at www.Tween-Waters.com or call 800-223-5865 and get the most from your vacation dollars.

One more Innsider Tip: At check in, when they hand you the coupon book, put it in your purse or pocket right away. You’ll want it handy so you can save every chance you get!

 

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Stargazer the Seahorse

Have you met Stargazer? This five-foot tall beauty is always smiling, and greets everyone who enters the lobby at ‘Tween Waters Inn. Stargazer is actually a seahorse, maybe you’ve seen her (or him?), even taken a photo, but do you know its colorful history?

A seahorse on a mission

Starting out as a white fiberglass statue, Stargazer was one of 40 seahorses ‘born’ in Wisconsin and created for a fundraiser called “A Seahorse Dream,” to benefit the building of a new children’s hospital in Ft Myers.

Citizens and businesses ‘sponsored’ the seahorses, each hand-painted by a Florida artist. ‘Tween Waters Inn was a Gold sponsor, and the artist that brought their seahorse to life was Cathie Zurich-Wus.

 And breathe life into the seahorse, she did! Bright shades of pink and blue were chosen for their childlike vibrancy – and ability to promote joy – like the whimsical creatures on a carousel. To achieve such brilliancy, Cathie painted Stargazer three times, using house paint, which is very difficult to work with. Swarovsky crystals make her eyes sparkle and clear ornaments resemble bubbles from the sea. Once completed (in only two weeks!), it was clear-coated at an auto-body shop. Who knew?

Is Stargazer a boy or girl?

Cathie says the choice is in the eye of the beholder, and the pink and blue support whatever your choice. (I think she’s a girl, but my husband thinks he’s a boy.)

Where did the name come from?

Because Captiva is an ideal place to serenely gaze upon the stars, away from harsh city lights, in paradise, Cathie named him Stargazer. Stars can lead you through dark waters, and Stargazer is always there to calm fears.

Stargazer’s mission – complete

‘A Seahorse Dream’ raised more than $380,000 and the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida opened in May of this year. It took more than six years and $200 million to complete.

We hope you never need to go, but if you do, look for Stargazer’s royal brother and sister in the lobby – a King and Queen seahorse, complete with sparkling crowns, also painted by Cathie Zurich-Wus.

And next time you’re at ‘Tween Waters Inn, please come introduce your children to Stargazer!

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Finding the Ultimate Serenity at ‘Tween Waters Inn on Captiva Island

Serenity Pool at 'Tween Waters Inn Island Resort on Captiva Island

The change was uncanny. One moment I was surrounded by the happy sounds of families unabashedly enjoying the chill welcome of a mid-summer day at the pool. Two steps later, I had entered a different world. A different mindset. Serenity.

Enter Serenity

The Serenity Pool had opened just moments before on that Thursday in July, taking relaxation to a new depth at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa – about 4 feet in depths to be exact. Infinity edged, the pool itself invites slow, leisurely immersion to soak away the day’s mental detritus. Although only separated by low walls from the main pool, tumbling water and some kind of Zen magic make it feel deliciously sequestered.

A Cabana All Your Own

Four private cabanas named for island shells – Coquina, Junonia, Lion’s Paw, and Lightning Whelk – allow you to further shut out the world with curtains or canvas flaps. Rentable for $50 a day, they come furnished with a couple of cushioned lounge chairs and umbrella plus matching upright chairs and tables for enjoying food and beverage delivered from the Oasis Pool Bar. May I suggest the Caribbean Jerk Chicken Salad with a coconut-y Pirate Punch?

Unique Serenity

Not only is this new pool a unique escape from the bustle of an active resort, it’s also unique in its construction as the only (besides ‘Tween Waters Inn’s main pool) geothermal heated and cooled pool on the islands keeping the temperature a constant 87 degrees.

Serenity Squared

An afternoon snooze and you’re ready for the final coup for your serenity afternoon. The ‘Tween Waters Spa lies only steps away, and a relaxation massage tenderizes away any lingering tension that stands in the way of you and ultimate serenity.

For a tour of the serenity pool watch out video here:

 

Cabana at the new Serenity Pool at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort on Captiva Island
A water wall separates Serenity from the main pool at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort on Captiva Island

 

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Getting Wild & Seeing Wildlife: A Girl’s Getaway to ‘Tween Waters Inn

Two frisky manatees
Karaoke crazed!

My gal pals and I plan our annual summer getaway to a place where we can park the car and walk everywhere we need to go. So ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa on Captiva Island made the perfect match this year. An easy stroll up the beach takes you to all the island’s shops, restaurants, and bars. But truth be told, we only left the resort once. We found all the entertainment we needed right on property.

That started the afternoon we arrived. I walked out on our balcony overlooking the bay and noticed a swirling disturbance that I immediately recognized as manatees mating – a summer romance ritual not uncommon to the islands. Those frisky manatees! They went at it for the entire weekend right off the sandy shore. I was able to get close enough to snap a couple of quick pictures (I kind of felt I was invading their privacy).

At nightfall, another kind of show grabbed our attention at Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille. It was Wednesday, Karaoke Night, and that usually means trouble. That third cocktail inevitably does it – lubricates our vocal chords and numbs our awareness of our lack of talent. So Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right, I May Be Crazy” seemed appropriate enough.

Following our usual pattern, the second day we spent in quieter pursuits – beaching, shopping, and a lovely dinner at Captiva House. Then a night-cap toast from our balcony to those feisty, amorous, and always loveable manatees – undoubtedly a highlight of our visit.

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Vacation Upgrades Worth Springing For

Whenever I’m planning our family vacations, I try to find a few things we can do to make them extra special. You know, those added little things that make the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. At ‘Tween Waters Inn, here are my top picks of extras and upgrades worth springing for:

Beach Cabanas

Sure, you can hang out on the beach and just sit on your towel, but imagine having your own beach cabana. It’s the ideal place for sitting, reading, relaxing, lounging, or napping. Rent one for the entire day for $15.

Souvenir Tervis Tumblers

Tervis tumblers keep your cold drinks cold, and your hot drinks hot. They’re also indestructible, making them the perfect souvenir. While onsite, purchase a customized ‘Tween Waters Inn Tervis for $19.95 +tax. As a bonus, each comes with a coupon for a free piña colada. (Innsider tip: avoid getting sunscreen on your Tervis; it will leave a cloudy mark.)

Upgraded WiFi

Yes, you get free WiFi when you stay at ‘Tween Waters Inn, which is great for browsing. But, if you’re a screen junkie, or you have kids with smart devices, you’ll want to upgrade. High speed Internet packages start at $7.95 a day. Multi-day packages are available.

Larger Accommodations

If you love extra space, a room upgrade is worth it. The suites are so roomy; they’re perfect for families. And, because they have a kitchen, you can actually save money. As a mom, I can tell you that having a separate living area and multiple bedrooms is priceless.

What’s your favorite extra worth springing for on vacation? Tell us on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.

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Mysterious Sand Sculptures and a Championship Festival

You never know what you’re going to find when you wander down the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva. Case in point, while out looking for seashells, I have stumbled upon some amazing sand sculptures (see photos). I have found them all over the island, every month of the year, from the tip of Captiva to the Sanibel lighthouse.

I don’t know who builds them, or why, or what their motivation is, but I do know that these creations create quite a stir among beachgoers. After all, who wouldn’t want to just happen upon a smiling dragon? Or an octopus where every little suction cup on every leg has been created by the placement of a perfectly shaped seashell? Whoever you are, thank you for leaving these treasures!

While these sculptures are exciting to find when you find them, if you want to be guaranteed the chance the see sand art, plan to visit the Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship that’s held each November on Fort Myers Beach. (This year it’s Nov 20-29.) Talk about jaw-dropping. It’s the largest sand sculpting competition in the state and it draws hundreds of amateurs (and 25 master sculptors) from all over. In fact, USA Today and CNN Travel have named this is a ‘must see’ and one of the 10 best sand sculpting competitions in the world. And, ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort is a short ride away from all the excitement. Here’s a You Tube video that my friend Lauren and fellow VISIT FLORIDA insider made about her visit.

I hope these photos encourage you to come build your own sandcastles and other fun creatures. All you need is your imagination – we’ll supply the sand and water. If you do get creative, post your pics to our Facebook page. Build on!

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Take a Walk, See the World

Orange Bird of Paradise from South Africa. Bougainvillea from Brazil. Yellow Trumpet from Paraguay. You can take a botanical trip around the world at ‘Tween Waters Inn and you don’t need a passport, just a comfy pair of shoes (or flip flops). 

Read moreTake a Walk, See the World

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Coffees, Ice Cream, Smoothies & More at ‘Tween’s Beans Coffee Shop

This is Amin, one of the baristas at 'Tween's Beans Coffee Shop.
This is Amin, one of the baristas at ‘Tween’s Beans Coffee Shop.

Last weekend, I met my brother Jeff and his family at ‘Tween Waters Inn for a little rest and relaxation. We were catching up over cheeseburgers at the Oasis Pool Bar (sitting at that hidden high top table mentioned in Michele Anderson’s blog), enjoying the warm, March weather when the afternoon sleepies started to set in. The cure? A walk across the pool deck to ‘Tween’s Beans Coffee Shop.

Walk on over for daily happy hour and more at 'Tween's Beans Coffee Shop.
Walk on over for daily happy hour and more at ‘Tween’s Beans Coffee Shop.

This is so much more than the place to pick up and return your pool towels. Think of it as your window of great opportunity. The menu features about 40 choices of milkshakes, fruit smoothies, and illy Italian Gourmet Coffees and Teas. And for those of us adults who prefer a little mo in our Jo, your friendly barista can kick it up with a shot of your favorite top shelf liqueur. (Frangelica for me, please.)

My son Devon and his cousins get an afternoon pick-me-up at 'Tween's Beans.
The cousins get an afternoon pick-me-up at ‘Tween’s Beans.

For the kids or kids at heart, sip a frozen Banana Split, a Burst O’Berry or a Cookie Monster (made with ice cream, Oreos, and chocolate syrup). Baristas Chelsey and Amin will take great care of you and are more than happy to make you a custom creation – just ask.

Did someone say Happy Hour? You bet. Every day from 3:30-5:30, you’ll find ‘Tween’s Beans drink specials. You’ll also find an assortment of ice cream treats, along with shirts, hats, beach toys, and those Tervis tumblers that I love so much. (Seriously, they are the ideal souvenir – they’re indestructible and they’re guaranteed for life!) So, stop by ‘Tween’s Beans Coffee Shop, and see what fun you can stir up.

My brother Jeff and his family snagged the corner table at Oasis Pool Bar for lunch at 'Tween Waters Inn.
My brother Jeff snagged the corner table at Oasis Pool Bar.
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Lighten Your Load: Baby Gear at ‘Tween Waters Inn

If you’ve ever thought, “We can’t go on vacation with the baby, how would we ever get all this stuff there?” The high chair, the crib, that vibrating bouncy seat, baby’s bath tub…how can such a small person need so many big things?

One of your options from Island Rental Services for baby gear rental.
One of your options from Island Rental Services for baby gear rental.

‘Tween Waters Inn understands your traveling dilemma, so they’re happy to offer items like complimentary cribs and Pack n Plays. They also have established relationships with local baby equipment rental companies, like Sanibel Rental Service and Island Rentals, so you won’t have to be without any of the conveniences that you have at home.

In fact, this might be a great time to try out that jogging stroller you’ve been thinking about, or that baby swing. Try it before you buy it. Car seats, booster seats, bounce seats, wash tubs, high chairs, baby swings, even beach wagons – all delivered to your room. (Note that choosing larger accommodations will benefit you greatly when traveling with little ones and will enable you to fit all the gear you need inside your room.)

For things like diapers, wipes, and formula, there are grocery stores on-island; there are even a few baby boutiques with adorable island wear.

Onsite, the shaded toddler wading pool is the place to hang out with your little one. You don’t even have to pack Swim Diapers; they’re sold onsite right next to the pool.

Traveling with little ones doesn’t have to stink. Ha ha. You just have to stay at the right family friendly place, like ‘Tween Waters Inn. I hope this gives you the courage to come visit.

Parents can rent all kinds of baby gear, including exersaucers, while at 'Tween Waters Inn.
Parents can rent all kinds of baby gear, including exersaucers, while at ‘Tween Waters Inn.
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