Tucked in the middle of the Florida Keys on Duck Key, you’ll find the family-friendly Hawks Cay Resort. It was the perfect spot for our family to relax for four nights on the second half of our Florida Keys vacation. What makes this resort so special? How about 5 pools, a saltwater lagoon, access to water sports, walking/bike paths, and daily activities, along with the popular Dolphin Connection program. Here’s what you need to know to have a great stay at Hawks Cay, especially with older teens.
Hawks Cay offers accommodations that range from guestrooms with bunk beds and outdoor porches, to villas and suites with full kitchens to accommodate larger families and groups. Our 3 bedroom villa in the Marina Village allowed each of my kids to have their own bed, along with 3 bathrooms (essential for teens to spread out their stuff!). The villa also came with a full size kitchen along with a washer & dryer. The best part was the peaceful view overlooking the marina from both our upper balcony off our bedroom and the lower porch.
No matter where you stay in the resort, all the amenities are easily accessible, either by walking or tram ride. Teens can also rent bikes and use the paths that run throughout the property.
Land activities are constant at Hawks Cay, with a schedule posted every day (you can take a look at the schedule here). We happened to visit the week leading up to the 4th of July so the resort was quite busy. In addition to the long list of activities, the resort has volleyball & basketball courts, pool-side activities for non-stop action, plus special teen events (a great option for younger teens). For us, we mainly wanted to just hang out by the water, play card games and relax, so we probably didn't take full advantage of all the resort had to offer. We did try family volleyball, the Scavenger Hunt (fun, but we lost to 8 year olds!), and the Friday night Paradise Beach Party with Live Music (not quite as lively as I expected). It would have been helpful to know in advance that there were additional fees for many things (like the s'mores kits you had to buy for the bonfire) but, like most resorts, they make it easy to charge everything back to your room. For older teens, if you want to splurge, the spa also offers teen services like manicures, pedicures and massages.
Water, Water Everywhere
With multiple pools, the saltwater lagoon, and marina access for boaters, it’s easy to find a place to cool off. Typically we found the lagoon and the Coral Cay pool to be the least crowded, so we spent most of our time there. The lagoon water comes straight from the ocean, so it's fun to find small fish and other sea creatures, especially with a snorkeling mask (essential in the Florida Keys). My husband and I found the lagoon to be a quiet early morning spot to relax under the thatched roof umbrella (note to husband - always use sunscreen in Florida, even under an umbrella!).
Other popular activities for kids at Hawks Cay are the on-site Dolphin Connection program and the many water sports that are available. Visitors can choose one of three options for the dolphin program, which started at $60 and up per person. We opted out of doing any of the programs, but were able to watch the dolphins interacting from the nearby dock. Read more about the Dolphin Connection Program and their commitment to conservation and education.
Renting paddle boards is a perfect option for older teens, since it doesn’t require any special skills other than a bit of balance. While there are paddle boards available for rent on the protected lagoon, if you are looking to get out on the open water, head over to the on-site marina. The folks there were very patient and helpful in getting all five of us moving, and provided very specific directions as to where to take the boards to avoid the boat traffic and currents. My kids are all comfortable in the open water which was helpful; however, a strong current under one of the bridges did cause two of our boards to flip so life jackets are essential. On a side note, know that there might be large tarpon in the marina area which my daughters thought were sharks!
Two other must-do activities that I would recommend for anyone in the Florida Keys are the Sunset Cruise and snorkel trips to the reef. Excursions can be arranged through Sundance Watersports right at the resort. Since we had already done both earlier in the week while in Key West, we didn't take advantage of these activities. Even if you don’t go on the Sunset Cruise, you can still catch colorful views of the fiery sunsets like the one below from the resort pool deck. Sundance also offers kayak and boat rentals, jet ski adventures and parasailing.
Food & Drink
Guests will find several dining options to choose from at Hawks Cay, although I thought the breakfast and lunch options were a bit pricey. If a big breakfast is your thing, Ocean offers both an adult and children’s buffet. We ate dinner there the first night, trying the pizza and fish sandwiches. Our plan was to visit the newer Angler and Ale on our last night, but we ended up touring the Turtle Hospital (definitely worth doing!) in Marathon so decided to eat at the nearby Keys Fisheries. The Angler and Ale offers plenty of options, including dinner sandwiches like the lobster reuben and fish tacos, along with local starters like Conch Fritters and Local Chips with Sea Salt Tater Tots. If you prefer to get off property, Marathon is an easy drive, with plenty of local restaurants (the deep fried Key Lime Pie is a must try at The Island Fish Co. Restaurant & Tiki Bar). We also stocked up on breakfast and lunch food, drinks and snacks at the Publix grocery store in Marathon before we arrived at the resort.
Hawks Cay is fun place to create lasting vacation memories. And be sure to check back soon for my related post, 10 Things to Do with Teens in the Florida Keys.
Disclaimer: My kids received complimentary paddle board rentals during our stay. However all opinions expressed are my own.