Forget Key West, and put your lips together and blow goodbye kisses to Key Largo. The only Florida Key you’ll ever need doesn’t have a sexy Lauren Bacall story or rowdy frat-boy reputation. The Sunshine State’s best-kept- secret spot is Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key, just outside the beachy little Florida Keys town of Marathon. Hawks Cay is the Keys’ most perfect R&R resort, a 60-acre island escape.
I’ll always remember my first visit. A friend and I flew to Florida to do a television travel segment several years ago. As we hurried down US Hwy 1 toward the Keys, a policeman pulled me over. “Apparently, speeding is just not done in Florida, “said my friend with a sheepish grin as I climbed back in the driver’s seat, ticket in hand. “Slow down. What’s the rush? You’re in the Keys!” He did his best-perturbed policeman impersonation—it was hilarious. So we slowed down and laughed all the way to Marathon, where we stopped for a bite to eat. There I asked why he thought we should film our segment on Duck Key.
“It’ll be great, I promise,” he said.
I was skeptical. “Who’s ever heard of Duck Key?”
“Exactly,” said my friend with a wink.
And so we rolled into Duck Key. Made up of five small islands with bridges spanning several broad, jet ski-friendly canals, welcoming blue waters glistened in the afternoon sun. My friend was right; tucked away from the troubles and stresses of the city life, Duck Key felt like a secluded secret hideaway.
There, Hawks Cay Resort’s West Indies-style lobby looked inviting with its great brown wicker fans, rattan rockers and oversized sofas. After an easy check in, we found our rooms in the main building with wide private patios overlooking the adults-only swimming pool. Soon, we planted ourselves at an outdoor Tiki hut with views of Hawks’ private saltwater lagoon with its sandy shore and thatched umbrellas.
“I think I’m going to like it here,” I said.
“Told you,” he smiled.
And that was the start of a beautiful friendship with the Florida Keys.
We spent the next few days’ deep-sea fishing, scuba diving and lounging by the pool. After that, I set off on my own, heading to Hyatt Key West Resort & Spa hotel, within walking distance of Duvall Street and Hemingway’s house in Key West. I treated myself to a massage at the Hyatt’s Jala Spa and fell into the easy wave-driven rhythm of the Keys.
Hawks Cay Revisited
This January I went back to see if the Keys still held the same magic. They did. But this time I decided to forget Key West and spend the whole time at Hawks Cay—“The only key you need,” as their slogan claims. With lovely well-appointed rooms and a large-scale renovation just underway throughout the resort, Hawks Cay Resort was every bit as wonderful as I’d remembered.
Besides having 177 large West Indies style hotel rooms, Hawks also offers 255 spacious villas—privately owned townhouses with restful garden or water views, 30 of which are Duck Key Vacation Rentals. With an active 85-slip marina within easy walking-distance of the resort’s three fine dining restaurants, the serene Calm Waters Spa, and exciting kids and teen clubs and shops, Hawks Cay has it all. There’s even a game room, five swimming pools and a new Putting Course and Sports Field. New renovations throughout the resort mean every area at Hawks Cay means guests will be treated to a fresh, clean, modern coastal-casual atmosphere sure to please.
Dine in Style
Guests never go hungry at Hawks Cay. Alma, its fine-dining eatery features Latin-themed dishes and an array of fine wines. Ocean, the large, bright casual restaurant with bountiful buffets is a favorite of families. The Indes Grill offers kid-friendly foods even picky eaters will enjoy. A new restaurant at the marina’s edge is currently being built there, too.
At Hawks, I loved taking a thrilling Jet Ski tour. Guests can also enjoy deep sea fishing, or Tarpon fishing from a bridge, or snorkeling, scuba or snuba diving, kayaking, paddle0boarding, kiteboarding or parasailing. Landlubbers enjoy the tennis and golf courses and the award-winning Calm Waters Spa.
Best of all, the Hawks Cay Dolphin Connection program allows guests of all ages to view, feed, swim with—and even train —Atlantic bottlenose dolphins at the resort’s onsite research facility (the only one of its kind in the continental USA). The nearby town of Marathon also offers the chance to visit the Keys’ Sea Turtle Hospital, the only state-certified veterinary hospital in the world for sea turtles.
Key to the Perfect Vacation
When I think of my visits to Hawks Cay, I recall the highway patrol officer’s sage advice. “Slow down. Relax”— words we would all do well to heed. So take it easy and take a Florida Keys vacation. Hawks Cay is the only key you’ll need.
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