With road trips beckoning travelers in search of safe, drivable vacations, the iconic Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key might just be the ideal choice. Located halfway down the Florida Keys, Hawks Cay encompasses five secluded islands tucked between Key Largo and Key West. This gives guests a midway point for exploring the rest of the island chain. Known for decades as a top draw for families, couples and fishing enthusiasts, this AAA Four-Diamond resort reels you in with its charm, coastal elegance and array of activities that invite you to spend most of your vacation on property.
BEFORE AND AFTER
Around since 1960 (and originally known as the Ines Inn), Hawks Cay previously boasted a dark, West Indies-style décor throughout the property. From brown wicker fans to dark wooden tables and beds to rattan rockers, the property carried this British Colonial-style decorating theme from lobby to guest rooms to restaurants. Visitors came to know and love the ambience of Hawks Cay as they often returned for quintessential Florida Keys experiences such as fishing trips, laid-back family reunions, and summer vacations.
But when Hurricane Irma battered southwest Florida—especially the Keys—in 2017, the Category 4 storm caused so much damage that Hawks Cay closed for a year to renovate. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for the resort to launch a $50-million makeover. With renovations complete in 2018, Hawks Cay welcomed back guests with its redesigned main hotel and revitalized property featuring a sea-colored palette, contemporary furniture, and island-inspired design elements.
Whether you’re traveling here for a romantic getaway or you’ve got a multi-generational crew in tow, you’ll find an array of accommodations, with spacious guestrooms and suites and two- and three-bedroom villas. Most hotel accommodations offer balconies with ocean views. But for a more intimate stay, book a ground-floor room with a private porch giving you direct access to the adults-only Tranquility Pool. Most villas (perfect for groups) offer oversized decks with water views. The private outdoor space allows for a secluded getaway without sacrificing spectacular views.
LOTS TO DO
In August, Hawks Cay garnered a 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards by USA Today as the #1 Best Family Resort in the U.S., largely due to the sheer volume of family friendly activities. The resort’s spacious outdoor play area and indoor Coral Cay Club provides loads of kid- and teen-friendly fun. The activities center provides entertainment, environmental education, outdoor sports, crafts, scavenger hunts and more. (At press time, the popular Pirate Ship Pool was the only resort pool that was closed.)
But even if you don’t bring the kids, you’ll find plenty to do on land and water. Head to the saltwater lagoon for lounging. Take a morning yoga class. Book a kayaking trip through mangrove-lined channels. Splash around in the five swimming pools. Enjoy the Cliff Drysdale Tennis program where pros offer clinics, mixers and lessons for all skill levels. Or hop on a complimentary bike to cruise around the resort and soak in its tropical beauty.
A fan-favorite for years, the Dolphin Connection operates year-round, allowing you to learn about dolphins and (for a fee) interact with them either in the water or at the dock. You can also enjoy free public viewings of the bottlenose dolphins with an education-focused show at noon and during daily feedings.
The full-service marina gives you access to a slew of watersports, including diving, fishing, snorkeling, Snuba, stand-up paddleboarding and waterskiing. Anglers might already be familiar with the 85-slip marina through NBC Sports’ Saltwater Experience, the popular TV show for outdoor enthusiasts that films at the resort.
Due to COVID-19, Hawks Cay has implemented safety protocols, which means some offerings might be temporarily paused or modified. For example, the award-winning Calm Waters Spa is temporarily closed, but the fitness center remains open. While the sunset cruise still takes place nightly, it has limited seating to allow for social distancing (make reservations early).
For an upscale dining experience, head to Sixty-One Prime—known for its signature seafood creations and prime steaks. Under the helm of award-winning Executive Chef William Ryan, the restaurant delivers certified “Florida Fresh” dishes such as Key Lime Tuna Tartare, Watermelon Ceviche, and Florida Keys Seafood Pepperpot.
For more casual options, take your pick from five additional onsite eateries. For starters, try Hawks Cay Marketplace—perfect for a leisurely buffet breakfast or to-go lunch. (You can also grab a cup o’ joe and some pastries from Island Time for an in-room breakfast.) If you’ll be hanging by the pool, nosh on elevated poolside offerings from Oasis Cay (think grilled mahi tacos) or grab salads, sandwiches and drinks from Tiki Grill. For a fresh-off-the-hook seafood dinner, head to the well-themed Angler and Ale. If you’re hanging with the family, get kid-friendly fare at Coral Grill.
All restaurants currently offer limited seating and/or take-out options including boxed-lunches to-go (perfect for a day on the water) and in-room meals (the ultimate in private dining). You can access digital menus at all dining outlets or via your smartphone, making for a touch-free ordering experience.
If you crave a tropical island getaway that offers intimate accommodations and plenty of on-site amenities, look no further than Hawks Cay Resort for an indulgent escape. hawkscay.com
Duck Key is about a five-hour drive south of Orlando via I-4 and I-95. Don’t blindly follow your GPS, which might tell you to stay on I-95 as you approach Miami, taking you through the heart of downtown instead of around it. Instead, hop on the Ronald Reagan Turnpike for a shortcut to the Overseas Highway, the southernmost leg of U.S. 1. fla-keys.com
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Throughout the Florida Keys, officials require you to wear face coverings in businesses and other public settings, as well as outdoors when social distancing of six feet or more is not possible. In Key West, you must wear a mask everywhere outside a residence or lodging room, regardless of whether you maintain social distancing.
BEYOND THE RESORT
Venturing off property? Check out the colorful Florida Keys Brewing Company (floridakeysbrewingco.com) and Islamorada Beer Co. (islamoradabeerco.com). Cross the famous Seven-Mile Bridge to explore Bahia Honda State Park (floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda)—great for birding, shelling, snorkeling, or scuba diving. And stop in at The Rain Barrel, a quirky gift shop with Betsy, a giant sculpture of a Florida Spiny Lobster, guarding the entrance (rainbarrelvillage.com).