From a distance, the manatees, dolphins, and bald eagles that populate Estero Island make quite an impression. But the staff at Holiday Water Sports of Fort Myers Beach believes up-close encounters are not only the sole way to determine if the animals can talk, but also the best way to enjoy them. To that end, they guide tours and rent out myriad watercraft, from Yamaha 4 waverunners and 10-passenger pontoon boats to paddle bikes, which resemble oversized tricycles as they surge through nimbuses of sea foam. The staff hoists parasailers over their water-bound peers, letting out up to 1,200 feet of slack and allowing riders to plunge into free falls with houses and piers blurring into a cubist painting beneath them. Captains certified by the United States Coast Guard guide the ships back toward the sun-bleached sands, where the company’s rental umbrellas rustle in the breeze above lounge chairs.
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.
Mid Island Water Sports set up shop along the aqua shorelines of Ostego Bay to give everyone easy access to the Gulf, while also giving them enough room to ride free. From two locations, the crew hooks up aquatic adventurers with WaveRunners for freestyle rides along sandy beaches in one of the largest riding areas in the Gulf. Longtime locals lead tours via WaveRunner to spot dolphins breaking the sea's surface and manatees playing with sea kittens. To give locals and visitors an exhilarating new way to take in the Gulf's scenic vistas, the shop's US Coast Guard?certified captain sends them soaring behind him during parasail rides tethered to his high-tech, winch-style parasail boat for an adventuresome trip along the south end of Fort Myers Beach.
To say that Captain Peter Williamson has been a scuba fanatic his whole life is somewhat untrue—he lived six whole years before even discovering what scuba diving was. A fan of the sport since the ripe old age of six and an avid diver since the age of 12, Captain Pete has attained three teaching certifications and a USCG 50-ton master’s license to captain a dive boat. When he’s not exploring coral or unpopular Atari game cartridges at the bottom of the ocean, he slings gear from all the major producers of scuba equipment in his dive shop.
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.
Trek Bicycle Store aspires to be the core of the cycling community, and its staff exhibits a company-wide passion for wheeled recreation through its services, knowledge, and extensive inventory. Inside Trek stores, riders browse all-purpose bikes including those for road cycling, triathlons, and kids. In addition, clothing and accessories from manufacturers such as Garmin, Shimano, and Bontrager fill hangers and shelves. Trek's experts tweak and twist parts during basic tune-ups and major overhauls, and their professional fitting service ensures every customer maintains a high level of comfort, even in rare cases where their bike ends up riding them. When not dishing out advice or making repairs, Trek leads several group rides and outings per week.