For 4,000 or more years before the arrival of Europeans in Florida, a succession of Native American fishing cultures lived and worked in the Charlotte Harbor area. Several of their shell mounds are located on Cayo Costa, which means 'Key by the Coast' or barrier island. In the early 1800s, Spanish fishermen from Cuba established 'fishing ranchos' on islands along Florida's west coast.
Fish were caught, dried and then transported to Cuban markets. A quarantine station was established on the northern end of Cayo Costa for immigrants entering the country through Boca Grande Pass in the late 1800s.
Approximately 20 fishing families lived on Cayo Costa in the early 1900s, where they established a school, a post office and a grocery store.
Hundreds of nesting sea turtles come to the island during the summer months to lay their eggs. You may see a ranger in the earlier morning hours patrolling the beach to mark these nests. Park rangers do this to ensure the future of the species.