Site Inspection: Meet With a ‘Porpoise’ in Fort Myers

Hotels & Destinations

There are dolphin sightings aplenty in Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva

The Fort Myers, Florida, area is like nature’s aquarium: You’re almost guaranteed to see dolphins frolicking freely in their natural environment when you meet at waterfront hotels in Bonita Springs, Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. If dolphins are your spirit animal, the five major meeting hotels found in the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel are calling for you.

“There are no buildings taller than a palm tree on Sanibel Island,” says Jackie Parker, communications manager for Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau.

Meet and Sleep

From Nov. 28 to 30, resorts and CVBs from throughout the Sunshine State, as well as planners, convened upon Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs for Visit Florida’s 2018 Florida Encounter trade show. Over the course of three days, the official meetings show for Florida utilized the resort’s 82,500 sq. ft. of meeting space, including Calusa Ballroom.

The opening reception was held outdoors on a chilly night in the lakeside Cypress Courtyard, which can hold up to 737 people. Branded images were projected onto the adjacent Waterfall Pool Deck, understandably the most photographed spot at the resort. The hotel has 454 guest rooms and the largest poolscape in the state, south of Orlando.

One thing that sets Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa apart from the area’s other fantastic meeting hotels is its 100-foot luxury yacht, Sanibel Harbour Princess, available for nightly dinner cruises and Sunday brunch. It can be chartered for private events with up to 120 passengers. The hotel has a total of 45,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor function space, 347 guest rooms and a must-see sandcastle in the lobby.

Guests’ breaths will be taken away upon entering The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village as they’re greeted by a spectacular water feature raining through the center of the lobby’s statement-making spiral staircase. The hotel’s Admiral Suite is a unique spot for a cocktail reception and other small gatherings. The two-story suite features a pool table, a 42-inch flat screen TV, a 20-seat outdoor bar with panoramic views, living room furniture, a dining table and a full kitchen. The Westin has 50,120 sq. ft. of flexible event space, including a new conference center, and 293 guest rooms.

Eat

If you’re planning an upscale dinner for an incentive group, FAM trip or executives, Angelina’s Ristorante in Bonita Springs serves an unforgettable, multicourse Italian meal. The sommelier assists with selecting a perfectly paired wine from Angelina’s thick, bible-like book of vino. The restaurant has three private dining rooms, ranging in size for 24 to 50 guests.

The rhythm is going to get you at Tarpon Bay, one of Hyatt Regency Coconut Point’s five restaurants. Chef de cuisine Gaston Sanchez used to be the personal chef for Gloria Estefan. The eatery is open nightly for dinner and is known for its weekend jazz brunch. The adjacent Cove at Tarpon Bay is a private dining room that can accommodate up to 40 guests. Hidden behind a display wall of wine bottles, a television monitor is available for presentations.

Park your group at Ford’s Garage, which has locations throughout the region, including at Miromar Outlets. Set among classic Ford vehicles, tires and gas pumps, Ford’s Garage can refuel your group with specialty burgers and American cuisine.

Do

At Pelican Landing Community Association Beach Park on Big Hickory Island, channel your “inner Gilligan” and get lost, even if just for an hour, and take a complimentary ferry across Estero Bay from Hyatt Regency Coconut Point to collect shells, and spot dolphins and manatees along the way. All Water Excursions, which operates the boat, also offers sunset cruises, pontoons, fishing, kayaks, paddleboards and wave runners.

As a team-building exercise or an incentive trip, you can book lessons taught by Offshore Sailing School. Groups work together to learn the intricacies of sailing. Classes depart from multiple docks in the area, including the marina at South Seas Island Resort, Captiva. The resort has more than 31,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 471 guest rooms.

Arrange a fun pickleball tournament or clinic for your group at Sundial Beach Resort & Spa in Sanibel. With 12 courts, it’s the largest pickleball facility in Southwest Florida. Quickly gaining popularity, the burgeoning sport combines tennis, badminton and table tennis. Sundial has 23,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor and outdoor event space and 215 guest rooms.

Natural light floods the 7,200-square-foot atrium of Miromar Design Center, which is available for private rental for up to 1,000 guests. Looking down from an aerial perspective, the dotted floor tile looks like a board game. There’s also a 9,500-square-foot seminar and event space.

Exhale after a long day of meetings at tranquil Shangri-La Springs Resort & Spa for treatments or private events in its lush gardens and historic buildings.

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