The Florida Keys is a subtropical archipelago known for its natural beauty, aquamarine water, mesmerizing sunsets, fishing, diving and an array of wildlife. You can expect year round sun and in winter (the Keys is the warmest region in the US), making it a great destination to escape cold weather.
Hawks Cay Resort is a Four Diamond resort located on the waterfront of Duck Key, a small island midway down the Keys. It recently reopened following a multi-million dollar revamp after being impacted by Hurricane Irma. The new and improved resort feels luxurious but laid back and it has great appeal for families thanks to top-notch cuisine, fabulous accommodations, superb facilities and activities for all ages. There's also a pod of resident dolphins that you can say hello to any time of day. This resort lends itself to being the ultimate vacation spot to bring the grandparents to and the villas are perfect for multi-gen families.
The 60-acre property feels wonderfully secluded. It's easy to enter full vacation mode as you kick back, relax and enjoy the stunning surroundings. It has an upscale vibe and a theme that is contemporary, coastal and tropical all rolled into one. Facilities include six restaurants, five pools (some 24-hour) that are heated/cooled depending on the season, a gym and a shop with a Starbucks coffee bar. There's also a marina with 85 slips, in case you feel like bringing your boat. Although the resort is walkable, you also have the option of taking a golf cart.
Hawks Cay features a never-ending list of activities on offer at the property. Alongside tennis and yoga, you can go kayaking, paddle boarding, kite boarding or book a fishing charter. There's also diving and snorkeling, as well as Snuba for nervous youngsters and grownups. If pampering is more your thing, there's an excellent spa, which has a special treatment menu just for kids and teens.
Although there's not a proper beach at the resort, there is a manmade saltwater lagoon ringed with sand that makes for a relaxing hideaway. The calm water is ideal for little ones and kids can snorkel or take out paddleboards.
The kids' activity center at Hawks Cay, Coral Cay Club, will wow kids of all ages (and their parents). It has a huge outdoor area with a large pool, pirate ship, swing set and volleyball and basketball courts. It is open 8am to 6pm and has a café open in high season. There's also an activity room with a touch tank. On top of this they put on pirate shows and have just introduced character appearances, so you might see the odd mermaid sashaying around.
For kids wanting to ditch their parents altogether, Camp Hawk is their drop off kids' camp for five to 12-year-olds, which offers half day and full day programs at extra cost. Mornings focus on interactive environmental-based activities, while afternoons are filled with camp games. For tweens and teens, there's a lounge and game room with foosball and video games plus Teen Night on Saturdays.
One of the biggest highlights for kids (and grownups) has to be the bottlenose dolphins. Who wouldn't want to hang around these amazing sea creatures? The Dolphin Connection offers dockside or in-water encounters.
Off the property, there are plenty of options to interact with the island's natural beauty, unique ecosystems and wildlife. Visiting The Turtle Hospital in Marathon is a must. You can take a tour of the hospital and find out all about the rescued turtles, although the tours might be a bit long for younger ones. The interactive Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters is also worth a visit.
The resort has 177 newly revamped rooms, most which come with balconies. Previously brown walls and carpet have been replaced by contemporary tropical interiors inspired by the natural surroundings and slick bathrooms. Welcome extras include decent hairdryers and lamps with USB sockets for charging your phones. Families should opt for the spacious Family Rooms with bunk beds (with a double bed on the bottom). Some of the Lanai Rooms have big patios that lead to the main pool.
Hawks Cay also 250 two-, three- or four-bed villas that come with a kitchen and laundry facilities. These are ideal for extended families, if you want to bring your boat, or if you just want more space. The Townhome Villas at Harbor Village are closest to the hotel. They back onto one of the waterways and the views are superb, but these are not recommended if you have young ones in tow as it is not fenced in. There's also an onsite store where you can stock up on groceries.
There is a great choice of dining options offered and we were very impressed with how good the food was at the resort. Highlights are the delicious breakfasts served at Marketplace; Sixty-One Prime, a fine dining restaurant specializing in steak and seafood; and the family-friendly Angler and Ale, down by the harbor. There's also a Starbucks coffee bar. Boxed lunches can be arranged when you're heading out for the day.
Although you are unlikely to get tired of the food on-site at Hawks Cay, we highly recommend a visit to Castaway Waterfront Restaurant & Sushi Bar, a popular local haunt with a laid-back vibe in nearby Marathon. They serve up the freshest seafood, sushi and other delights including Lion Fish, which the owner catches when he goes spearfishing, and, of course, the famous Key Lime Pie.
Duck Key is located between Miami and Key West. The closest airports are Fort Lauderdale or Miami, which is two hours away (a little longer when traffic is at its peak) and is a fabulous drive with almost non-stop ocean views on either side of the road.
By Janine Clements