Picture yourself on the warm shores of Sanibel Island. You just went paddle boarding on Lighthouse Beach, spent time browsing family-run bookstores, toured a nature preserve, swam with dolphins, and now you're developing an appetite for something to help make your day even better.

After spending years traveling around Sanibel Island, I've come to be familiar with many of its hidden nooks and crannies. I've narrowed down all my favorite restaurants and cafés to five of the best that are a must whenever you're visiting the tropical beaches of Sanibel.

1. Island Cow

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The Island Cow has perhaps one of the most extensive menu on Sanibel Island. You can enjoy a Loaded Seafood Omelet or Pigs In a Blanket Pancakes for breakfast while you lounge in the comfortable outdoor seating and sip fresh mimosas. You can try the Tuna Oh Luna or the Blackened Mahi Tacos for lunch as you listen to the live entertainment.

You can munch on Cowrazy Kabobs or the Mack Daddy Shrimp Dinner as you relax outside on a warm night. Island Cow provides a fun, tropical atmosphere that keeps visitors coming back for more. With outdoor games, cheap drinks, and unbeatable food, there's always a reason to stop by the Island Cow. Plus, you can even bring your four-legged friend along with you!

2. Pinocchio's Ice Cream 

fudge, cream, ice cream, ice
Holly Tishfield

For most of us, warm days = a serious sweet tooth. If you're one of those people, Pinocchio's Ice Cream will satisfy you on your first bite. This homemade ice cream shop serves over 130 impressive flavors, including Dirty Sand Dollar, Couch Potato, and Flying Pig.

Pinocchio's is the other half of Geppetto's Beach Foodies, and the two stores are connected on the inside to allow for easy access to an array of sweet treats. One of the most distinguishable features of Pinocchio's, besides the out-of-the-box flavors, is the addition of an animal cracker to every order. No matter the size, Pinocchio's adorns each cup or cone with a signature animal cracker.

3. The Bubble Room

chocolate, cheese, buttercream, cream cheese, strawberry, raspberry, red velvet cake, cake
Holly Tishfield

When you visit the Bubble Room, be prepared for a dining experience unlike any you've had before. This two-story house turned restaurant is known for its bubbly good times and its passion for a never ending Christmas. Any time of year, you can visit the Bubble Room and expect to see it decorated bottom to top with extensive Christmas decorations. The menu holds everything from burgers and shrimp to over 10 flavors of freshly made pie.

Created in 1979, the Bubble Room started out as a small restaurant based in the Farqhuarson family's home, and even though it has grown substantially, the location has never changed. Over the years, the popularity of this once small-town establishment has sky rocketed. Celebrities from far and wide come to visit the unusual restaurant, and with good reason.  Before you leave, be sure to stop in their Bubble Room Emporium to purchase souvenirs and take silly photos in their fake gorilla cage.

4. Geppetto's Beach Foodies

dough, bread
Holly Tishfield

To start your day off right, or to keep your day at its best, head to Geppetto's Beach Foodies. Geppetto's is a homemade bakery owned by Donna and Tom Puma, who opened up the bakery in 2012. The shop offers pastries from places around the world such as New York, Tuscany, and Paris.

Their signature pastry, the Sanibel Blossom, is baked until flaky and coated in a sweet glaze, then topped with fruit. It's the store's bestseller, so if you're looking to try one, be sure to get there bright and early before they sell out.

Geppetto's also offers freshly baked croissants, doughnut holes, and (my personal favorite) a selection of pies. Not only is their food one-of-a-kind, but the location of the shop makes it the perfect place to grab a warm croissant straight from the oven and head down to the white sand beaches across the street to enjoy it.

5. The Green Flash

To end your day with a sunset dinner, head over to The Green Flash. Named after a natural phenomenon that happens when sun rays spread in air with increasing density, The Green Flash is an island favorite. Guests are able to dine with a direct view of the ocean and all who visit hope to catch a glimpse of the famed green flash.

Enjoy fresh seafood platters, such as Coconut Shrimp or Stuffed Grouper, as you watch dolphins swim in the ocean just steps away from where you sit. Have a plate of Raspberry Crème Brûlée or Rainbow Sherbet brought over and relish in the tropical flavors of Sanibel Island. Either way you slice it, The Green Flash never disappoints.

My favorite part about visiting Sanibel is discovering new places, and being able to brag to my friends back home about the café I found that serves coffee with milk designs or the bakery that sells cookies shaped like seashells. These five places are without a doubt a must if you go to the island, and I can only hope you find as much satisfaction in them as I did.