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Review of Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village – Unspoiled Florida Paradise

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I was not a big fan of Florida. Sure, I had been through Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Miami but apart from Disney World, Southwest Florida had only served as a stopover for cruises and Caribbean vacations.

Kayaking near Cape Coral Resort

Kayaking Cape Coral (Photo courtesy of Westin at Cape Coral Resort)

When I was invited to give a review of Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village, I admittedly wasn’t interested in yet another beach hotel. But this 263-room resort is so much more—it is perched overlooking the Caloosahatchee River, Gulf of Mexico and Tarpon Point Marina with 400 miles of canals, more than any other city in the world.

Take that, Venice.

Review of Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village

View of canals with Caloosahatchee River and Sanibel and Captiva Islands in the distance (Photo by Amber Johnson)

Rooms with a View

It had been a long day. I left Denver early that morning and almost missed my connection to Southwest Florida International Airport. One mad dash later, I narrowly made it on-board and collapsed in my seat for the duration of the flight. Then it was another 18 miles from the airport in Fort Myers to the Westin at Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village.

I was greeted in the lobby with the Westin’s signature scent: a heady white-tea perfume that seeped into my senses like a drug to remind me I was on vacation. But it hadn’t woven its magic just yet.

I raced up to my one-bedroom suite, planning to drop off my luggage and quickly freshen up before tearing down for dinner at Marker 92.

I walked into room 1712 and stopped. I’ve stayed in plenty of waterfront hotels but none have made quite the same impact. With the kitchen’s granite countertops and luxurious sitting-room in my peripheral vision, I was lured out to the private screened-in deck like the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

It was the kind of view that makes you want to curl up into the simplest possible ball of existence and let the world rush along without you. Narrow canals slithered through the mangrove forests. These support a wealth of life as one of the most biologically complex ecosystems on Earth. The mighty Caloosahatchee River and Sanibel and Captiva Islands loomed just beyond.

Later that night, I would sit on the deck listening to the crickets and birds bid their good nights in the canopy of trees. Fort Myers framed a perimeter of lights around the dark void of land and water.

Authentic Florida

If you’re looking for an authentic Florida vacation, the nearby 50 miles of white-sand beaches of Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva provide unspoiled island paradise. Cape Coral is a laid-back residential community—where people come to retire or relax.

And, according to Lee Rose of the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau, where families come to connect.“Nearby Sanibel and Captiva Islands are some of the best places in the country for shell collecting with more than 400 species of shells,” he said. “The fishing is outstanding. We’re a top birding destination and our population of Atlantic bottleneck dolphins is one of the largest in the world. Nature and history are the two biggest draws to this area.”

Westin at Cape Coral Resort and Marina Village Lobby

A luxurious lobby (Photo courtesy of Westin at Cape Coral Resort)

The Westin’s Heaven

It’s no wonder that Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. recently acquired this resort, which originally opened in 2009. It has been transformed to fit the Westin brand and “heavenly” is the key word—from the Westin’s signature (and glorious) “Heavenly Bed” to their “Heavenly Bath.”

And those waterfront views? A touch of heaven as well.

Pool at Westin at Cape Coral Resort

The heavenly pool (Photo courtesy of Westin at Cape Coral Resort)

Families can enjoy three outdoor pools, tennis, complimentary bicycle rentals (be sure to go to the Tom Allen Memorial Butterfly House at Rotary Park), the 24-hour Westin WORKOUT gym, three- and five-mile running trails, a water taxi to Fort Myers Beach and kayak or boat rentals from the adjacent marina to explore all those canals.

The Westin Kids Club headquarters are currently under construction, as are a number of fine boutiques and specialty stores along the promenade. Kids are temporarily congregating in the Poolside Activity Hut until its June 2013 completion. Daily activities include hula hoop contests, lawn games (bocce or horse shoes, anyone?), water balloon toss, geocaching adventure, postcard creations, making sun catchers, plus kite painting and flying. Board games and playing cards may also be checked out.

Fountain at Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village

Fountain at Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village (Photo by Amber Johnson)

For adults, try yoga on the Gazebo Lawn ($10; mats and water are provided), a facility tour or grab the kids for an evening to remember aboard the Dolphin Sunset Tour ($27 for adults; $10 for kids 12 and under).

Glorious Food

Dining options are limited but delicious. The Westin’s signature restaurant Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro features delights like fresh seafood, oak-grilled steaks and coconut shrimp with green papaya slaw. Next door, the Nauti (yep, pronounced “naughty”) Mermaid Dockside Bar & Grill is a more casual outdoor dining option and a deli will soon be opening along the promenade.

Kitchen in Westin suite

The kitchen in my Westin suite (Photo by Amber Johnson)

But that’s it for dining choices. There are no other restaurants within walking distance so renting a car is almost a necessity. It would be great to see the Westin implement shuttle services to popular restaurant and beach areas because the hotel is a bit removed, which is also part of its allure.

Families may want to consider an upgrade from a traditional room to the Westin’s one-, two- or three-bedroom suites, which contain a kitchen for your own meal prep with a full-size refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, microwave, coffee maker and washer and dryer.

Off to a Great Start

The property was originally intended to be sold as condos but a few locals divulged to me that the recession hit at the same time the original owners were trying (unsuccessfully) to sell the units. Bad for them, good for guests—the rooms are larger with better amenities than you’d find at a standard hotel.

Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village’s management team has many plans for the resort, including special events and festivals that will make the hotel a destination unto itself.

They’re off to a pretty great start.

Are you a fan of Florida? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks to the Westin Cape Coral for hosting me and making me a fan of Southwest Florida. Stay tuned for my story about the nearby beach that was rated the top beach in the world by Frommer’s and where you will literally find thousands of sea shells.

About Amber Johnson, The Outdoorsy Travel Mama

Amber Johnson is a fun-loving mom of two. After a whirlwind career as an adventure-travel writer and publicist in Utah’s ski industry, she married and moved to Denver where her family loves skiing, biking, hiking and climbing 14ers (14,000-foot peaks). She is the founder of The Denver Post’s Mile High Mamas, writes a regular “Family Cents” column for the newspaper and has been blogging since 2005 (you can find her at Amber is excited to be a part of the Travel Mamas team and looks forward to chronicling her occasionally-painful but always-hilarious misadventures! You can connect with Amber on Twitter as @TheMileHighMama.

  1. Lisa Goodmurphy says

    The resort looks lovely! Our Florida visits have also been limited to theme parks and overnights at airport hotels prior to cruises. I had been thinking that I should look into other Florida destinations where we could escape Canadian winter without doing a theme park. This area would suit us perfectly – I love the idea of searching for seashells on the beach.

  2. Amber's The Mile High Mama says

    It *is* a much different Florida, one I preferred in every way!

  3. I totally agree with you, we are NY transplants moving to FL right after hurricane Sandy. Before that I would always say “Us live in FL, NO WAY”! I always had the images of us sweating and being in a crowed theme park with our daughter and that was the “idea” of FL I had engraved in my head. We have family in FL from Jacksonville all the way to Miami and didn’t know where we would be happy. Hubby is a young Cancer survivor that had a new zest for life and the way he imagine life now was to be somewhere near the beach, plenty of sun and outdoor activities, sunsets, dolphin watching the works. We were in SWFL for our Honeymoon 10 years prior visiting family in their home since we were Honeymooning in Orlando doing all the Theme parks (young love, LOL). Never thinking that 10 years later we’d live & work in SWFL and LOVE it, we are 15 mins from beaches in the Gulf and there’s always some type of event every weekend. I never thought I’d LOVE FL, more specifically South West FL, Sanibel Island at Periwinkle Park is our Daughters favorite place. I tell my husband with all that FL has to offer we can “stay cation” here and never get sick of it. I would encourage everyone to do their homework sign up for alerts on events from the different cities Chamber of Commerce and come down, the theme parks are great but it gets really hot and crowded during the summer months. And September – June is just Devine weather wise so far, we love SWFL!!!!


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