Luxurious Island Resort with Onsite Dolphin-Research Center
In the continental United States, there is only one resort with an onsite dolphin-research facility where visitors are allowed to observe, feed, and swim with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. The facility, known as Dolphin Connection, is located at Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key, Florida. Guests of the resort have the rare chance to get up close to the friendly, intelligent creatures while playing with them in the water or even learning to train them in a private saltwater lagoon.
Hawks Cay Resort has enough amenities and activities to keep you busy for weeks. There are five pools, ranging from the tranquil, palm-flanked Sunset pool to the kid-oriented Pirate Ship pool, which features a giant slide, water cannons, and raining palm trees. At the resort's five onsite restaurants, you’ll have your choice of fresh, casual fare, upscale dining, and fruity tropical drinks. There's an intimate, romantic atmosphere at Alma, a Latin-inspired restaurant serving fresh, local seafood, such as crispy Florida snapper. Dinner at Ocean—serving Mediterranean dishes and sustainable seafood—can be experienced outdoors by the Resort pool and fire pit, accompanied by live music. At the outdoor Beach Grill, you can bury your toes in the sand while noshing on classic American cuisine.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, younger visitors can keep busy with kids’ and teens’ clubs voted the Best Hotel Kids’ Program by Travel + Leisure magazine. Nature hikes and kayaking are just a sample of the activities on the agenda. For those seeking a less strenuous getaway, the award-winning Calm Waters Spa offers relaxing sea-stone massages and pineapple sugar scrubs.
The 85-slip onsite marina and private lagoon, along with the nearby dockside ice-cream shop, are great places to watch one of the famous sunsets. When it’s time for bed, you'll retire to a spacious two-bedroom villa. Each villa is outfitted with a full kitchen with granite counters, a washer and dryer, and a separate dining area. A ground-level terrace overlooks the island's waterways–from the open Atlantic Ocean to the protected harbor and canals.
Duck Key, Florida: Tiny, Secluded Island in the Florida Keys
Located off the southernmost tip of the Florida coastline, Duck Key is a tiny island—less than 1 square mile—connected to the mainland by a single road, the Overseas Highway. Most of the land is taken up by the Hawks Cay Resort complex, which bills itself as “the only island resort you can drive to.” Duck Key is quiet and private, but if you start craving a wilder atmosphere, Key West is only an hour away.
Beach and water activities are the most popular pastimes on Duck Key. Standup paddling, boat rentals for deep-sea fishing, and kiteboarding are available through Hawks Cay Resort and other spots nearby. Just offshore, you can go diving along the only living coral reef in the continental United States—a habitat for sea turtles and bright tropical fish.
In case you're looking for a quick day trip, the resort is close to a number of Florida Keys attractions, such as The Turtle Hospital, a rescue-and-rehabilitation center for injured sea turtles located 13 miles away in Marathon. You can take a 90-minute tour of the rehabilitation area and feed the permanent turtle residents. There’s also Bahia Honda State Park, a snorkeling-and-swimming haven on 500 protected acres with a historic rail bridge as its centerpiece.