Captiva (like its sister isle of Sanibel) is a barrier island, built of sand and sculpted by coastal wave patterns along Southwest Florida. Captiva, the story goes, gets its name from the activities of the famed—and quite possibly apocryphal—pirate captain José Gaspar, aka Gasparilla, said to have prowled and plundered the coast of Southwest Florida
back in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The deeper, firmer human history of the island dates to the indigenous Calusa people, resident in Southwest Florida into the 18th century. The Calusas tapped into the rich bounty of the area’s estuarine and marine resources, catching fish and turtles with palm-fiber nets and spears, gathering shellfish, erecting open-sided shelters roofed with palmetto fronds.
An Austrian-born man, Binder, shipwrecked on Upper Captiva in the 19th century; he built a raft to escape to Pine Island. Binder eventually returned to the island to homestead here in 1888 as a naturalized citizen (and a U.S. Army veteran). He was Captiva’s sole inhabitant for a time, and is buried on the island.
Today, some 500 people call Captiva year-round home. Guests to Sea Palms Estate get to experience island living at its most luxurious away from home.