I Stayed at 2 of Florida's Most Luxurious Island Vacation Home Rentals — Here's What They Were Like

Sea Palms Estate and Sea Oats Luxury Estate come fully equipped with everything you'd need for a beach vacation.

Exterior and pool at Sea Oats Luxury Estate
Photo: Rick Bethem/Courtesy of Sea Oats Luxury Estate

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues and infection rates remain in flux depending on destination, making social plans this summer means facing the different comfort levels of our loved ones. It's a conundrum that's given birth to the latest travel trend that sees friend groups and extended families renting out large vacation homes so they can spend time together all under one roof, while maintaining as much of a "bubble"-like environment as they see fit.

It's a perfect idea for the times we're living in, and I know this firsthand as I recently gathered with my closest friends and family to vacation in exactly this way. With all the adults fully vaccinated and feeling more comfortable with traveling, especially with a multigenerational group, we made our way to Captiva Island, just off the southwestern coast of Florida.

There are many vacation homes available in Captiva, but we checked out two of the best and biggest properties on the island: Sea Oats Luxury Estate and Sea Palms Estate. Both are owned by the husband-wife team behind Drip Castle Management, so there are many similarities between the offerings of these luxury homes, but also some key differences.

Sea Oats Luxury Estate

Living room interior at Sea Oats Luxury Estate
Rick Bethem/Courtesy of Sea Oats Luxury Estate

For the group that wants to be together, but also appreciates some alone time, Sea Oats Luxury Estate fits the bill. This four-acre waterfront estate boasts 11 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms — most of which are ensuite. With only two rooms per wing in the main house, and three rooms in a separate guest cottage, each of the accommodations feels like a private retreat. When it comes time for everyone to hang out, there's plenty of gathering space with a cozy TV room, two different fire pits, a hot tub, a spacious great room with a fully equipped bar, and outdoor living rooms by both the pool and the dock.

A beach with kayaks at Sea Oats Luxury Estate
Rick Bethem/Courtesy of Sea Oats Luxury Estate

If the group wants to stay on property and maintain their "bubble," there are several activities to pass the time. Sea Oats has kayaks and stand-up paddle boards that we launched straight from our backyard and used to explore the nearby mangrove trail. A two-minute ride on the property's golf cart takes you to the beach, while fishing enthusiasts can stick to the dock, where they'll find all the necessary equipment for a big catch. There's also a tennis court that doubles as a half basketball court.

And all this is in the setting of an impressive home that's luxuriously furnished — but not to the point of being unwelcoming for children.

SeaPalms Estate

Exterior of Sea Palms Estate
Rick Bethem/Courtesy of Sea Palms Estate

Just a few doors down is the equally stunning Sea Palms Estate, a beachfront villa with nine bedrooms and 10 bathrooms — many of which are also ensuite. Here, the main draw is that most accommodations have balconies with oceanfront views or patios that lead straight to the pool. The master suite feels like its own apartment, with top-notch amenities like his and her bathrooms, a separate soaking tub, and even an outdoor shower — not to mention the best beach views in the house. Like its sister property, Sea Palms also makes it easy for guests to stay onsite and keep themselves entertained. Beyond all the beach activities — volleyball, cornhole, frisbee, stand-up paddle boarding, and kayaking — Sea Palms also has a fire pit, a TV room, a pool, and a hot tub, as well as a game room with puzzles, board games, and an arcade machine.

View from a balcony at Sea Palms Estate
Courtesy of Sea Palms Estate

With wood floors throughout most of the house and massive windows that let in the natural light, Sea Palms is a beauty. And since Captiva is on the west coast of the Florida peninsula, the outdoor decks are the perfect spot to watch the sun set over the water.

Luxury in Service

While everything about both Sea Palms and Sea Oats exudes an approachable kind of extravagance, what made our vacation truly luxurious was the everything-done-for-you service.

A bedroom at Sea Palms Estate
Rick Bethem/Courtesy of Sea Palms Estate

In the weeks leading up to our trip, I worked with our dedicated concierge to arrange everything we would need for our stay, including groceries delivered and stored before our arrival and private chefs to prepare dinner.

At Sea Palms, Jamie's Cuisine treated us to elegant charcuterie boards every night before really showing off their culinary chops with casual dinners, as well as a formal four-course meal that included curried chicken croquettes with Thai basil coconut cream. While at Sea Oats, the crew behind Paper Fig Kitchen started strong with melt-in-your-mouth cheese puffs in the appetizer round, and ended on a high note with a key lime pie so perfectly sweet and tart that we literally fought for seconds.

Beyond making sure we were well fed, the concierge also organized several activities for us. We enjoyed a private yoga class on the beach just steps away from Sea Palms; a sunset cruise departing from the local marina; tennis lessons on the court at Sea Oats; and an eco-tour, where the boat pulled up to Sea Oats' private dock to pick us up.

And that's just the beginning when it comes to the high-level service you can expect at Sea Oats Luxury Estate and Sea Palms Estate. No matter which property your group chooses, one thing is certain: a stress-free vacation awaits.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but always on the lookout for the next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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