Sunday, December 16, 2012

50 Shades of Blue on Captiva Island

Say yes to this wedding arrangement, if you are crazy enough to tie the knot!
Who wouldn't want to get married or fall in love here?

The words "50 Shades of Blue" were emblazoned across the quaint trolley. “Does this have anything to do with the racy trilogy 50 Shades of Grey?” I asked. “No,” replied the media contact at South Seas Island Resort.

It’s a pity that the phrase "50 shades of something" -- insert your own fetish or preferred word here -- is associated with an erotic novel and a hilarious Lady Chatterly style parody with Selena Gomez. In fact, I shouldn’t even introduce this article with the phrase, but you know it would raise eyebrows, if not something else.

Because at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island on Florida's gulf coast, the phrase “50 Shades of Blue” is appropriate and not smutty at all, but lovely, tasteful, utterly elegant and very romantic, truly inspiring tranquility -- although, according to legend -- the island got its name most likely from semi-fictional pirate José Gaspar who is said to have dominated and kept female prisoners on the sandy strands for ransom.

50 shades of blue captiva south seas island resort
I wasn't kidding.

But let's forget about pirates, domination and submission and get back to the simple color blue.

Blue is everywhere. There’s the sky and the water, as well as the interior and exterior décor that celebrates blue, my favorite color -- think azure, cyan, turquoise -- every hue imaginable. Here, you'll be literally surrounded by many shades of blue and soothing, complimentary colors. Add to this canvas radiant tropical flowers, green lawns and outrageous sunsets of beaming oranges and reds, and the palette completes the experience -- shades of an Impressionist painting provided by Mother Nature and savvy designers.  If Paul Gauguin had been here during the reign of Calusa Indians, he may have been inspired.

South Seas sits on the tip of Captiva Island facing Redfish Pass and North Captiva: to the east, Pine Island Sound and to the west, the Gulf of Mexico.  The energy and power of water here is evident, as the tides dance their tango back and forth in between the sound and the gulf, with ripping, strong currents and eddies of shallow, calm waters.

South Seas Island Resort, Captiva
Oleanders blooming on the lawn by the salty gulf.

South Seas Island Resort, Captiva
This heron never got spooked. It walked "with" me for about half an hour.

This is nature. Nature surrounded by luxury without abusing nature, calming to inner nature. Poet Derek Walcott once wrote "islands can only live if we have loved in them," and while he wasn't referring to Captiva, this particular island captures the sentiment.

Shelling at South Seas Island Resort, Captiva
Low tide provides amazing shelling on Sanibel and Captiva Islands.

It’s here where you’ll also find a sense of remoteness that would make any couple enjoy a quiet, intimate getaway. At night, there’s no light pollution. You can actually gaze upon a canopy of stars and no boom-boom music disturbs the moment in the background; it’s just the two of you with a deliciously cozy bed steps away and breezes as soundtrack.

Hold hands during a gulf coast sunset. Sip on cocktails as you watch dozens of dolphins corral baitfish close to shore – an amazing sight to behold. Go for long walks on the endless beach -- no high-rise condos or loud noises will interfere with your visual feast or sense of peace. Go shelling along Redfish Pass at low tide in the morning. Take a sunset cruise on a catamaran with Captiva Cruises.  Get a couple’s massage at the Kay Casperson Spa at Chadwick's Square.

Shelling at South Seas Island Resort, Captiva
Redfish Pass is particularly beautiful.

Sailing with Captiva Cruises at Seas Island Resort, Captiva
A sunset cruise is a must for a romantic afternoon.

These handmade soaps smell SO good!
You'll want to take a few of these home, trust me.

And no matter what you do, make sure you buy some hand-made soaps at Captiva Provision Company to lather up good in that generously sized en-suite tub during your stay. The soaps are aromatic and leave the skin soft and smooth. The Himalayan Salt soap should not be rubbed directly on the skin, which -- wink, wink -- means you’ll need a partner and a pair of gentle hands to help you with the sensual bathing experience. This is a grand souvenir; I’ve been enjoying it every day since my trip in mid-November.

You can also pick up a few provisions here, including fine wines, spirits, sandwiches and gourmet snacks. A mini-fridge is available in the room and you may also request a microwave.

Harbourside Grille - South Seas Island Resort, Captiva
Blackened local red snapper with a tangy watermelon slaw.

For dining, go to Harbourside Grille and enjoy a romantic meal outdoors, which serves local fish in a sustainability program. Try the crab cake, fish spread and yes, I know fish is the focus here, but if you’re a meat lover, the filet mignon with broccolini, so tender in the mouth, made me say the “o” word out loud. Not that I’m shy about saying “orgasm,” but when I blurt it out, it’s because I really mean it!

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. South Seas is mainly a family-friendly resort, but for couples looking for an island escape, the best bet is to stay at the hotel at the Harbourside Marina section, walking distance from the beach, restaurants and amenities. Go in the fall, when kids are in school.

View of North Captiva from South Seas Island Resort, Captiva
South Seas also offers a sailing school, but who cares when you can smooch at this outlook?

There are many accommodations in Captiva, but bet you a dollar nothing beats a kiss on the north tip of the island. It’s just that damn beautiful.

If you’re looking for a South Beach experience, with obnoxious music, model types in thongs gorging on mojitos from a pitcher and dudes with gold chains hitting on babes, this isn’t the resort for you. Expect people with pasty skin and regular bodies here. Also expect civilized, respectful behavior.

South Seas Island Resort, Captiva
Cabanas are available and include a mini-fridge, snacks and wi-fi.

For those who want a relaxed day poolside, rent a cabana. Appropriately attired pool boys serve cocktails and snacks. One of the pools has streaming fountains – perfect for a shoulder massage. But rug rats may be around. Just be forewarned.

And for parents with kids tagging along, there are plenty of activities to keep them busy while you have “me” and “us” time. A whole section of the resort is devoted to children’s activities, including an arcade as well as the eco-friendly Sanibel Sea School where wee ones, tweens and even grown-ups enjoy educational field trips in the resort, much of which is treated as a nature sanctuary.

In fact, while I was there, I tried to rescue an injured anhinga. Nearby, Sanibel also boasts one of southwest Florida's most impressive bird refuges, the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

South Seas also offers bike rentals, but they seemed rather wonky; the gears didn’t seem to work right. Take the trolley instead if you wish to roam about the resort, although you may be tempted to never leave the room or the beach area.  The resort fee includes chairs, towels and umbrellas, so the only thing you have to worry about is what cocktail to order. This is a no-cash resort, so the wallet doesn't come with.

Smile while you take the trolley, thinking about the phrase 50 shades of blue.

South Seas Island Resort, Captiva
Oh dear, what to do today?

This tropical paradise is just about a three-hour drive from Miami if you time it right and offers a great Florida getaway at a pristine location. While featuring luxe comfort, the resort is all about less is more -- feel your heart beat, listen to the surf, gaze at the stars as you get away from the hectic busyness of life. Indulge in moments of intimacy.

50 shades of blue, indeed.

To learn more, visit South Seas Island Resort.

More photos on Flickr.

Disclosure: some parts of this experience were sponsored by the resort, others paid out of my own pocket, including some of the room nights, meals, all personal purchases and transportation.  All opinions my own. I'd have written the same review even if it was completely sponsored.

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