If the sixties sitcom Gilligan’s Island ever made a reboot the cast of Thurston Howell the third, Lovey, Mary Ann, Ginger, Gilligan alongside the Professor and the Skipper should seriously cast their eyes onto this wee isle and hunker down at The Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key.
Only a 2.5 hour drive south from Miami’s glam scene the kind of folks who venture to this family-friendly resort compound tucked away midway in the fabled Florida Keys arrive by rubber tire or by boat. Your choice.
But once you made it to this marine paradise wedged on Mile Marker 61 you won’t want to leave.
Part of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts Lifestyle Collection, the AAA Four Diamond resort which boasts 177 guest rooms and an additional 250 villa rooms has undergone a major $50-million refurb due to Hurricane Irma that pummeled the Florida Keys. The completely re-imagined tropical hideaway reopened in August 2018.
The longstanding iconic property has favorite touches like the tiki huts, resort activities and the only continental resort with a dolphinarium that offers free public viewing of trained dolphins. Five Atlantic bottlenose dolphins call Hawks Cay home.
A friend mentioned how virtually every activity known above and below water is possible at the Hawks Cay Resort. So in the middle of a Polar Vortex I tossed my ice scraper to the side, shut off my Vitamin D sun lamp and packed my carry-on for one sensational girl’s getaway trip that saw me chasing dolphins, paddling in mangroves and doing yoga tricks under an ancient Banyan tree. No regrets.
Now why should you go?
The Hawks Cay Resort Highlights
The biggest stand alone feature evident on a daily basis was the superb personal friendly service. One day hanging out at the spa lounge relaxing to the mood music of conch shell sounds I hear the cue, “Ma’am would you like a glass of wine?”which perfectly primed me for the Sip, Shop, Spa time…
Another day by the poolside beneath my shady white umbrella listening to the splashing surf I hear a pool concierge on cue ask, “Ma’am would you like the Drink of the Day?” It was a white rum infused cranberry, pineapple pool cocktail on the house. At my morning yoga class by the biggest banyan tree around, the yoga instructor dead pans, “Pick any yoga mat you want, they’re all brand new.”
Marine wildlife encounters, you bet. One morning I woke up to the lunging looks of pelicans making a beeline for their sushi-by-the-sea breakfast. In the afternoon the playful kisses of a bottlenose dolphin named Chinook made my day when I signed up for the resort’s Dolphin Discovery program. Of course, in the late afternoon, the lazy lizards and resident iguana named Billy (he’s got this label for obvious reasons) was off doing their things.
It’s part family fun and part adults only. Aquamarine water all around with the most glorious sunrise and sunset, it’s total Hawks Cay magic.Suite Pluses
Hawks Cay Resort caters to couples, families and corporate travel guests so there’s a nice mix of living accommodations. For maximum space, choose from four gated villa areas among them the Sanctuary Village with private pools or the Sunset Village with idyllic Caribbean sunsets, both of which are located a short walk from the main resort. These two-story villa builds channel a Cape Cod effect with mellow yellow clapboard facades. Find the vacation home room rentals from 2 to 4 bedrooms furnished in coastal cool colors equipped with a full kitchen and a living room and other perks depending on the location.
At the resort select room categories like the standard 376 square feet guestrooms which have either 1 King or 2 Queen beds. These rooms are known as Water View or Hawks Cay. The Family guestroom (480 sq. ft) with its king sized bed also has a bunk bed with a full sized bed at the bottom and a double bed at the top. A King Junior Suite sleeps 3 guests comfortably. For the ultimate Thurston Howell tribute hang out in the 960 sq. ft 1-bedroom Presidential Suite or one of the two all new Penthouse Suites like the Stargazer Suite or the Coastal Suite in its coastal casual designs.
My suite was the Water View Lanai King guestroom. Located by the Adults-only Tranquility pool there was no loud music banging on but only the sweet tranquility silence as per the pool’s moniker. The walk-out over sized private deck was convenient for really spreading out your personal belongings staking out your slice of pool heaven. For folks who insist on being plugged into their digital devices the rooms have ample charging station areas even built into the bedside lamps, plugs and more outlets than any property I have seen to date.
My morning brew with the complimentary in-room coffeemaker was brilliant, allowing me more time to enjoy my private deck.
As resorts go a resort fee is charged daily. Included however is a long list of activities and services. You get wireless Internet access; transportation throughout the resort; self and valet parking; daily access to the Coral Cay Kids Club and Calm Waters Fitness Center with the Calm Waters Spa; 5 pools; unlimited use of the resort’s putting course, a sports field, a hard and clay court tennis facility; free local and toll free phone calls; kayaks and paddleboards in the saltwater lagoon; and additional seasonal inclusions like those complimentary drinks.
During my stay at the Calm Waters Spa a shop and wine hour of complimentary wine was a nice touch.
Hidden on the edge of the sea, yet within walking distance to a variety of resort places like the Calm Waters Spa, Coral Cay Kids Club, and the Hawks Cay Marina, fun and relaxation are everywhere. At the Saltwater Lagoon, the beach area of the resort which is one of the rare beaches you’ll find in the Middle Keys, go for the paddle boards or kayaks. Lie on a lounge chair in the sand. Get the cardio going with a good tennis match or hit the trails with a good walk, jog or use the complimentary bikes at Coral Cay Kids Club.
The resort has a local partner Sole Watersports for additional water excursions (extra charges). Enjoy sunset cruises, rent a boat or take your pick on the SUP experience. Go for the standard paddle boards or the Rolls Royce of paddleboards, the double board good for stabilizing. The kayak tour is phenomenal. We paddled past a ribbon of mangroves, saw a hawk overhead and a nesting osprey, more pelicans and should I ever return it’ll be for the quest of the manatees which are known to frolic in these waves in manatee season when the water is warmer.
For the wellness crowd, nothing beats the aquamarine hue of the water, the warm Caribbean sun and a visit to the Calm Waters Spa. One sunny afternoon I had a tropical breeze theme going on. I kayaked mid-way around the island against tropical breezes that had me paddle harder but the finale was worth it. I capped off the breezy kayak experience with a 50-minute spa treatment. It was aptly called, “Tropical Breeze,” a full body massage using my choice of pressure that helps increase circulation and calm the mind. Divine!
Hawks Cay Resort isn’t over-run with those lofty all-inclusive mega-huge restaurants so don’t worry about getting lost on the dining scene. Like the rest of the refurbished resort, all restaurants have been renovated with new seating areas. Sixty-One Prime is the steak and seafood restaurant next to the main lobby bar.
If it’s toes-in-the-sand lunch you’re after Oasis Cay overlooking the lagoon offers incredible fish tacos with chilled beverages. Head to the property’s newest resto Angler and Ale by complimentary golf cart service or an easy walk. With 20 beers on tap, many of which are Florida craft beer suds, and enough bottled labels to get you asking for a Budweiser or Guinness Draught depending on your taste buds, this casual eatery will certainly reel you in. Fine waterfront views and fine fare.
The resort’s anchor resto, Hawks Cay Marketplace is the preferred breakfast nook. Find an extensive selection of hot and cold food items as well as a chef station for omelettes and DIY waffles packed with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and other sprinkled sweets.
Prepare for a sun getaway that feels like you walked off the earth to discover a seaside paradise full of bliss, beauty and the only resort of its kind in America to showcase bottlenose dolphins in this captivating setting.
You can make your reservations at Hawks Cay Resort, Travelocity or Expedia. Rates in the hotel start from $249 in the low season and $349 in the high season. Taxes and the daily resort fee are additional costs.
Photography by Ilona Kauremszky and supplied.