By Allison Tibaldi, Taking the Kids correspondent
The Florida Keys is a 125-mile-long chain of islands that begins just south of Miami. Natural beauty, aquatic adventures and a laid-back atmosphere feel a world away from the theme parks. The islands are connected by a series of bridges, with scenic views throughout the drive.
It’s an eco-paradise with white herons, pelicans, sea gulls, ospreys and sea turtles. Blue sea and tall palms round out the scenery.
Hawks Cay has been the quintessential Florida Keys resort for decades. It’s a classic vacation spot midway down the chain of Keys. Families come here to spend time together splashing in the pools, fishing and basking in the warm sunshine. All this serenity was interrupted in 2017 when Hurricane Irma swept through and devastated the resort. It took nearly a year of hard work and 50 million dollars but the resort reopened in August 2018 with numerous improvements. It’s looking better than ever.
Walk into the light-filled lobby, past the comfy rocking chairs on the front porch, and you’re greeted with a color palette as cheerful as a bowl of tropical fruit.
The hotel has 177 guestrooms, most with private terraces and water views. There are 250 two-and three-bedroom villas, perfect for multi-generational families. Most villas have kitchens. They’re decorated with low-key, modern furnishings that suit the resort’s casual feel.
It might be easier to ask what activities aren’t available. There’s a saltwater lagoon, five swimming pools and an onsite marina with options such as snorkeling, fishing and diving. Eight tennis courts plus lessons and clinics make the resort a favorite with the tennis set. The top-notch spa is a treat for grownups.
Swim with the Dolphins
Hawks Cay is the only resort in the mainland U.S. that offers dolphin interactions. Four adorable, well-trained Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins call Hawks Cay home and several more of these lovable, intelligent mammals will be arriving soon. Stand on the dock and watch them play. For an up-close treat book an in-water experience.
Kids Will Love Coral Cay Activity Center
Coral Cay is a magnet for the resort’s youngest guests. The big draw is the Pirate Ship Pool, with slides, tunnels and water shooting cannons. It’s shallow enough for toddlers to safely romp while older children may pretend to helm the ship.
Camp Hawk, a drop-off program for ages 5-12, is based here. The program includes an educational component as young participants learn about the fragile Florida Key’s ecosystem. Snorkeling, scavenger hunts and dockside fish feedings area also scheduled.
Teens have their own separate drop-in space with Wii, Guitar Hero, Baja Speedway and more. Pizza parties and other age-appropriate events should keep them entertained.
Food is outstanding at Hawks Cay. With six dining venues, there are plenty of options, with fresh flavors the unifying element. Don’t leave without sampling the resort’s luscious Key Lime pie.