It only took two weeks on the picturesque shores of Tahiti and Moorea to send Craig Stewart into a tailspin. He and wife Evelyn fell in love with the South Pacific’s crystalline waters and beachy breezes, so much so that the prospect of remaining in their native Oklahoma turned gloomy. Six years after the Stewarts’ Pacific vacation, they stumbled upon Sanibel Island. With a love for the waters still coursing through their veins, they uprooted and moved there, making it home base for Adventures in Paradise. In 1986, they started out with one boat—Miss Paradise—and one tour, the sunset dolphin cruise. Today, the Stewart family maintains a much larger operation. Their tour topics range from fishing and shelling to dolphin watching to historical sightseeing on a trolley.
J.C. Cruises welcomes fete-ready sailors aboard a 600-person paddlewheeler for a three-hour cruise of the Caloosahatchee River enlivened by music, dancing, and a cash bar. Two climate-controlled enclosed decks encourage partygoers to mingle without fear of being caught in sudden anvil showers, and an open deck facilitates manatee spotting and cigarette breaks. Sips and snacks from a cash bar (not included with this Groupon) fuel the night of wave-top revelry as guests embrace the holiday spirit by hobnobbing with new friends or bear-hugging the Ghost of Christmas Past.
At Wheel Fun Rentals, visitors can traverse surrounding areas in fun paddle- and pedal-propelled vessels while soaking in oft-overlooked scenery. Established in 1999, Wheel Fun Rentals has since provided locals and tourists with an engaging way to sightsee while promoting a healthy lifestyle. With their $27 credit, customers are able to rent a wide range of vehicles for up to two hours, including a pedal boat, surrey, hydro bike, or double kayak. Because rental fees apply toward the entire land or sea vessel and are not per person, Groupon holders can grab some friends and rent three single kayaks for one hour, or multiple single bikes for one hour.
At the helm of Mangrove Masters is Florida native and USCG-certified Captain Jack Boutchyard, who loves to introduce visitors to the waters he calls home—specifically those surrounding Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Captain Jack brings along all gear, including fishing licenses, rods, and bait for flats fishing charters that chase trout near the grass flats and redfish when the tide goes out. For a hands-off outing, the sunset cruise charts course toward a horizon bathed in soft pinks and purples, presenting a colorful backdrop for dolphins and manatees at play. Treasure hunters can also opt to meet Captain Jack on the dock for a short jaunt to the white, sandy shores of North Captiva Island, which is only accessible by boat and teems with riches such as conch shells, sand dollars, and buried chests filled with pirate baseball-card collections.
Captain Larry Conley has been fishing since he was young boy, angling with his grandpop and friends on New Jersey's Barnegat Bay. At the age of 20, he bought his first boat and began competing in largemouth-bass and saltwater tournaments, earning a name for himself in the world of competitive fishing. Today, he imparts his insights and know-how to budding fishermen and tourists alike through Reel-Ality Sportfishing Charters, plying the waves of the Gulf of Mexico on chartered inshore and offshore fishing trips. From his sleek 28-foot, diesel-powered vessel, up to six visitors cast off for tropical creatures such as barracuda, mahi-mahi, tarpon, and even sharks. Below deck, passengers enjoy the comforts of a bathroom with running water, a fridge, and a television playing Jaws on an endless loop.