There's little doubt you're wearing shades if you're in the islands, but here's the rub: if your eyewear isn't polarized, you're missing a whole spectrum of beauty. The most sensational views in the islands lie on the other side of a polarized lens. For as little as $12, you can greatly enhance the quality of a day on the beach, an entire vacation, and everyday life.
Gulf and bay waters here are particularly shallow, varying in depth. A simple pair of polarized glasses eliminates glare you're probably not even aware of, and beautifully defines sandbars, seagrass, shallow water, and more. You'll see variations in color you've only dreamed of - rich swaths of Caribbean blues and greens right here on the Gulf coast. (Underwater seashells are more visible, too!) Eyestrain is measurably reduced; chances are high you'll notice the difference as soon as you slip on a pair, no matter how dark your current glasses are. While beach-goers will rejoice in a whole new view of the wet world beckoning them, boaters (and pilots) will be in heaven. Times of the Islands has done the legwork for you and turned up some great options.
We found a great selection of shades at Eckerd Drugs on Palm Ridge Road. While everyone's decided to get a piece of this lucrative pie - we saw glasses by Rolling Stone, ABC Sports, Revlon, Panama Jack, and Coppertone - it was only the old reliables, Foster Grant and Polaroid, who offered a selection of polarized lenses. Look for a colored tag or a sticker on the lenses that says Polaroid or 'polarized,' and be careful: 'UV Protection' is not the same thing, although many glasses claim this as their main selling point. Don't be fooled into thinking they're all alike. Eckerd also sells polarized clip-ons for use over prescription glasses.
Bailey's General Store carries a selection of polarized glasses, as well as a line of polarized shades for children. (We know of one reader who takes a pair of tiny gift-wrapped sunglasses to each island baby shower that she attends!) We also spotted bifocal sun-shades, a novel idea for poolside readers. Look in Bailey's health aids aisle for eyewear. 2477 Periwinkle Way.
Huxter's Market and Deli, 1203 Periwinkle Way, also has a great selection of polarized sunglasses for under $15. Look for the Polaroid tag.
Some of us lose sunglasses on a fairly regular basis. If this sounds depressingly familiar, you should stick to the $12 to $20 price range. If, however, you're one of those remarkable people who can hold on to important objects indefinitely, then consider this. The Cadillac of sunglasses is available on Sanibel and Captiva. A company called Costa del Mar has figured out how to manufacture the finest pair of polarized glasses we've found, and they're so sure you'll love their product, they guarantee it. A good selection of Costas can be found at Sanibel Light Tackle Outfitters in the Forever Green Shops, 2055 Periwinkle Way, and at Footloose, in Jerry's Shopping Center at the Periwinkle-Casa Ybel intersection.
Well worth the price of just over $100, these remarkable glasses are the shades of a lifetime. Take a look around the islands and you'll see several professional fishing guides wearing Costas; most will tell you they wouldn't leave home without them. Coming from guys who make a living working on the water, that's a weighty recommendation.
We consider an investment in polarized glasses a gigantic boost in quality to your stay on the islands - and a phenomenal value. If you're not sure the pair of shades you're considering is polarized, here's an easy test: put them on and look at a tinted window. If you see a strange, moir pattern of texture and/or color, the lenses are polarized.
Enjoy the new view!
-compiled by Libby Boren McMillan