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Marco Island, Florida: Your Ultimate Beach Vacation Checklist

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Marco Island, Florida, is one of my family’s favorite beach spots, especially when we’re ready to escape long overcast Midwest winters.

It seems like everyone wants to go to Florida in 2021 and if you’re looking for a gorgeous, warm, family-friendly beach destination, it’s a great choice.

Marco is a beautiful island with crystal clear blue waters near Naples, Florida, and is about as far south as you can go in the state before reaching the Everglades.

With several beach resorts on the island, this laid back community makes for the perfect beach vacation: sunny, warm, natural and luxurious.

TripAdvisor has even named it the No. 1 Island in the U.S.!

Marco Island Florida Ultimate Beach Vacation Checklist
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Here’s your Marco Island beach vacation checklist…

My family saves more than $8,000 every year flying free (to places like Marco Island!) and I can show your family how to do it, too! Join my  Families Fly Free program to learn my simple process to both fly free AND stay free, so you can start making more priceless travel memories before your kids leave home. Learn more below…

 

Where Is Marco Island, Florida?

Marco Island beach

Marco Island is located along the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Everglades.

It’s just south of Ft. Myers and Naples, which together are known as the “Paradise Coast.”

It’s also the largest inhabited island within Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands.

Here are some other great West Coast of Florida beaches.

 

How to Get There

Southwest Florida International Airport
Southwest Florida International Airport

 

Flying to Marco Island

 Southwest Airlines plane

To get to Marco Island, it’s easiest to fly into Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Fort Myers.

This is a small and fantastic airport that’s easy to get into and out of with usually short check-in and security lines.

From there, you’ll need to rent a car or take a private shuttle, taxi or Uber onto the island itself, which is about an hour’s distance south.

Some private shuttle companies include:

  • A 1 Royal Transportation
  • Classic Transportation
  • Collier Coach
  • Dolphin Transportation Specialists
  • Majestic Transportation
  • Palm Air Transportation
  • Sunshine Limousine
  • Surfside Shuttle

You can find lots of cheap flights on Southwest Airlines to Fort Myers, and you can even fly there free on Southwest using Southwest points + a Southwest Companion Pass!

If you want to learn how to do that, we advise joining our Families Fly Free program where you can learn not just how to fly free, but get personal help and a customized plan for your family, in addition to a course on how to stay in hotels free.

Alternately, you can take a charter flight into Naples Executive Airport or Marco Island Executive Airport. Learn more about the different charter companies who operate out of that airport.

 

Driving to Marco Island

It’s convenient to drive onto the island and to Naples via I-75, which runs from Ohio down through Florida.

Take Exit 101 for State Road 84 off I-75 to get to the island. Coming from Miami, drivers can take US 41.

Whether driving or flying, here are some great travel games for kids and some top road trip games while you’re headed to your destination.

 

Marco Island Hotels and Resorts

JW Marriott Marco Island Marriott
Credit Jeff Herron; JW Marco Island Marriott – We love the wide beaches on Marco Island, and getting a beach hut for the day makes it even more awesome!

There are several Marco Island resorts, and my personal favorite is the JW Marriott Marco Island.

The resort became a JW Marriott in 2017 and is absolutely first class. You truly never have to leave this Balinese-style resort (reminds me of the Polynesian at Walt Disney World) to be entertained for a week!

Marco Island Marriott exterior

Nearly all 700+ rooms have ocean views with decks (don’t miss the sunset from your deck!), and rooms have been newly refurbished with modern design and amenities, including deluxe bathrooms and showers.

Choose a suite for a top floor view with an extra large deck and bathroom.

In 2018, they completely renovated their Lanai Suites, which had been closed since 2015 while under construction.

If you really want to have a nice stay at Marco, these are the accommodations to book!

The one- and two-bedroom suites, up to 1,200 square feet in size, have a cabana-like feel with airy decor, spacious living rooms, dining areas and a wet bar and kitchenette, as well as fun details like suspended rattan lounge chairs.

Each comes with a private patio with beach and pool access.

Lanai Suites JW Marriott Marco Island
The spacious Lanai Suites; Credit JW Marriott Marco Island

If you’re traveling on a kids-free vacation, opt for Paradise by Sirene, their adults-only facility.

Its Balinese-style rooms are gorgeous, guests receive a wrist band for keyless room access and to access other adults-only amenities.

Paradise by Sirene building at Marco Island Marriott
The Paradise by Sirene building at the JW Marco Island Marriott

These include a private rooftop pool, separate beach area with Beach Butler, free breakfast daily, concierge by text, restaurant, fitness center and other more.

Sirene guest room Marco Island Marriott
Guest room at Paradise by Sirene

The JW Marriott Marco Island offers multiple restaurants, ranging from 5-Star options to beach-side dining to a rum and Tiki bar.

There’s even a very kid-friendly walk-up Italian restaurant if you’re on the go.

Kane Tiki Bar JW Marriott Marco Island
Kane Tiki Bar at the JW Marriott Marco Island

Restaurant options include:

  • Quinn’s on the Beach – Casual beachfront dining
  • Kane Tiki Bar & Grill – Casual beachfront dining with an excellent rum selection
  • Maia (great buffet breakfast!)
  • 10K Alley – Super fun restaurant with bowling alley and other games and activities
  • Ario – Delicious elegant restaurant for dinner
  • Tesoro – Mediterranean cuisine with a view
  • Korals Sushi and Cocktail Lobby Bar
  • 400 Pazzi’s – Great sit-down or take-out pizza; very kid-friendly
  • Cafe San Marco – This is where you’ll get your coffee in the morning!
  • Rookery Grill – On the golf course
  • Hammock Bay Grill – Also on the golf course
Marco Island Marriott
Our kids love the pools at JW Marriott Marco Island

You’ll find four pools, including two very family-friendly options, one with water slides, waterfalls and more.

There’s a separate adults pool by the spa if you’re looking for a quiet getaway, as well as one at Sirene.

And, of course, there’s the very wide beach with tons of shells and a range of water activities.

All guests get chairs and an umbrella as part of their resort fee.

Marco Island spas
This is one of the most awesome chair massages you’ll ever experience!

The Spa at JW on the property is top-notch with workout facilities offering spin, yoga and other classes every week by video or live instructor, as well as all the classic spa offerings and even 12-minute walk-up massages in the most high-tech massage chair you’ve ever seen (there are literally only a few in the world!).

The resort also has two golf courses.

And don’t miss the fun at 10K Alley, which offers a bowling alley, virtual reality games, tons of other games, as well as food and drinks, like specialty bourbons and craft beers.

Oh, and their milk shakes are to die for!

10k Alley restaurant sign

 

10K Alley sandwich

Other hotels, resorts and accommodation options include:

  • Marco Beach Ocean Resort
  • Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa
  • Holiday Inn Club Vacations Sunset Cove Resort
  • Vacation rental homes or condos through companies like Vrbo, one of our favorites!

 

Beach Activities

Marco Island beach activities
Hop a jet ski right off the JW Marriott Marco Island beach for an amazing tour of the Ten Thousand Islands with dolphins galore!

So what’s there to do on the island? So much if you love the outdoors!

One of our favorite activities is hopping a jet ski right off the beach at the JW Marriott for a guided tour of the Ten Thousand Islands.

Older kids can ride with adults, and you’re very likely to spot tons of dolphins, sometimes RIGHT NEXT to your jet ski. So very cool!

We’ve also seen many birds (the area boasts 200 species), including Bald Eagles, but have yet to spot a manatee, though many people do.

You can also parasail, kayak (the waters of the Gulf of Mexico tend to be calm unless it’s stormy), stand-up paddleboard, rent a sailboat or take a guided shelling excursion.

Boating is a popular activity on Marco, as well, with lots to see and do around the area.

Be sure to take a trip out to Cape Romano, the unusual remains of a home now surrounded by water that looks like a scene out of Star Wars!

Cape Romano Marco Island
The super creepy Cape Romano ruins off Marco Island

Of course, it’s tons of fun just to splash around the beach or spend hours collecting the abundance of shells the waters in this area produce.

chickee hut Florida

One of our favorite things to do is rent a Chickee Hut (above) at the JW Marriott, order some frozen drinks and simply relax!

 

Where to Eat on Marco Island

The JW Marriott has some of the best Marco Island restaurants, including the high-end Ario.

Enjoy an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at Maia with made-to-order pancakes, waffles, crepes and omelets.

Marco Island Restaurants
Choose from a variety of restaurants — and movies — just down the street from the main hotels and resorts.

Just a 10-minute walk and near most of the resorts, you’ll find a shopping center with numerous dining options.

We ventured out for a lovely walk one evening to dine at DaVinci’s Italian restaurant, which makes its own sodas.

I highly recommend their lasagna and chicken Parmesan.

Ario Marco Island seafood appetizer
Seafood is abundant on Marco Island!

Other options for dining include:

  • Nacho Mamas Tex Mex
  • Rookies Bar & Grill
  • Pinchers seafood restaurant
  • Marco Prime Steakhouse
  • Beebe’s Ice Cream for dessert
  • Snook Inn
  • Cafe de Marco
  • Verdi’s 
  • CJ’s on the Bay

There’s also several shops in the shopping center near the JW Marriott, as well as a movie theater should you want something to do on a rainy day or during the evening.

 

What’s the Weather?

Marco Island Resorts
Marco Island has one of the mildest climates in the U.S.!

The island boasts an amazing 264 sunny days a year and one of the country’s mildest climates.

We’ve been to the area in December and January and enjoyed 70-degree temperatures warm enough to take a dip in the ocean.

Average highs during those months are 71-73 with January the coldest month.

Pools are heated, so they are plenty comfy any time of year.

View from the JW Marriott Marco Island
View from the JW Marriott Marco Island

The best times of year to visit may be spring or fall as holiday months and summer months tend to be the most crowded.

Temperatures get pretty warm in the summertime with average highs of 88 in July and August, the two hottest months.

My advice? Enjoy all the water activities!

 

Churches on Marco Island

There are multiple churches on the island.

San Marco Catholic Church is the only Catholic church on the island and is about a 10-minute walk from the resorts.

It’s large enough to hold large crowds during busier months.  

Find Mass times at MassTimes.org or via the Mass Times app.

You’ll also find:

Are you planning a Marco Island vacation? Let us know what questions you have!

Here are even more great Florida beaches for vacation.

And in case you needed more reasons to visit Florida, the Scenic Suitcase blog has you covered!

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5 thoughts on “Marco Island, Florida: Your Ultimate Beach Vacation Checklist”

  1. I’m intrigued by this article and have never visited Marco Island. Do you know anything about spring break crowds there? We try to avoid those.

    Reply
  2. Hi Diane-
    We went on Spring Break last year and found it to be perfectly manageable. We, too, tend to avoid places with large crowds. It’s a lovely place, especially the JW Marriott!

    Reply
  3. I thought you were going to have an actual checklist here. I would like to know what you know about snorkeling in Marco Island. We plan to take our two grandchildren ages 13 and 10 and would like for them to see some really colorful fish. Any suggestions?

    Reply

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