Family-Friendly 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 local seafood, such as crispy Florida snapper. Dinner at Ocean can be enjoyed outdoors by a swimming pool and fire pit. 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 two 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 keys' famous sunsets. When it’s time for bed, you'll retire to spacious accommodations, many of which have private balconies. Each two- and three-bedroom villa is outfitted with a full kitchen, a washer and dryer, and a separate dining area.
Highlights of Duck Key, Florida
- Tiny island paradise: Located off the southernmost tip of the Florida coastline, Duck Key is a small island—less than 1 square mile—connected to the mainland by the Overseas Highway. Key West is about an hour away.
- Beach activities: standup paddling, deep-sea fishing, and kiteboarding
- The only living coral reef in the continental U.S. lies just offshore and is a popular destination for diving trips.
- For a quick day trip check out The Turtle Hospital, a rescue-and-rehabilitation center for injured sea turtles located 13 miles away in Marathon. There’s also Bahia Honda State Park, a snorkeling-and-swimming haven on 500 protected acres with a historic rail bridge as its centerpiece.