Swim with schools of silvery fish past a shipwreck encrusted with sponges and corals. Follow birds over the Gulf of Mexico to catch your own mahi-mahi. Command the aquamarine playground that surrounds you aboard a 42-foot sailboat. At excursion's end, return to your villa, where sea breezes tickle palms aside sun-dappled porches – remember why you've traveled here?
With casually elegant accommodations and a marina that offers an astounding variety and volume of water sports, plus restaurants, a spa and children's programs on site, Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key embodies why you've traveled to Florida. Naturally, the location is partly responsible, floating midway between Key Largo and Key West, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The resort makes up the rest – start at the marina.
Your Own Aquatic Playground
Ready to insert yourself into that postcard image of the Keys' striated waters? The resort's Hawks Cay Marina offers ample possibilities to fill your entire holiday, though fishing is a standout. The reefs and wrecks surrounding the Keys attract trophy species (and anglers of all skill levels). In fact, Hawks Cay Marina hosts one of the most popular American television programs on fishing, "The Saltwater Experience."
Stage your own saltwater experience aboard one of several fishing charters; drift quietly through the flats and backcountry waters in search of bonefish and tarpon, or power out to sea where sailfish and mahi-mahi rule (and your vessel may be as well-equipped for fishing as it is for relaxing, with air conditioning, satellite television and ever-stocked coolers). Guides, in many cases, are native to the Keys, eager to share fish tales and experience.
Area reefs and wrecks have a similar effect on snorkellers and divers as they do on anglers, and as with fishing, any experience level may apply. Hesitant to get your feet wet? Peek at underwater panoramas from an underwater camera on a snorkelling trip. Snorkellers can take day trips to nearby reefs or attempt snuba, combining the ease of snorkeling with the freedom of scuba diving. Certified scuba enthusiasts may explore more than 30 dive sites surrounding Duck Key.
The marina further indulges thrill seekers with water skiing, wakeboarding, Jet Skiing and parasailing. You can even rent a powerboat for a full or half-day. The ultimate adventure, however, may come in creating your own power: Colgate Offshore Sailing School operates out of the marina, inviting guests aboard for tailored sailing instruction and sailboat racing excursions.
Slow down on a kayak or sunset cruise. And for something out of the ordinary, a dolphin interaction program will have you splashing and playing with these graceful mammals.
Your Home Away From Home
Within walking distance of the main hotel, where guest rooms and suites offer one accommodation option, the resort's Preferred Villas embody Florida charm and comfort that beckon families to stay awhile. A palette of light lemon and white, aluminum roofs, terraces and tropical landscaping bridge Florida Cracker and coastal architecture. Inside each private villa, you'll find two to three bedrooms; kitchens with granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances; dens for gathering the gang (only in some villas) and generous decks – perfect for savoring the morning sun and those wispily warm sea breezes. Some of the villas have marina access or private pools, and all were renovated in 2008. The resort's Duck Key Villas offer another option for on-site accommodations.
Whether you reserve a villa or an accommodation in the main hotel, Hawks Cay extends its rich amenities to you. Five dining options cross the spectrum from classic (Latin) to casual, with one constant: fresh, local seafood. In season, taste hogfish, stone crab and Florida lobster at Tom's Harbor House on the waterfront. Sip a frothy, fruity libation and sample the smoked wahoo at the al fresco Beach Grill. Friday and Saturday evenings, lounge by the fire pit, order a drink and sway to live music coming from Tom's at Harbor House.
The resort's Calm Waters Spa takes cues from its surrounds (consider the tropical sea salt mousse wrap). But you'll be in good company if you're content dipping a toe in one of Hawks Cay's many pools or saltwater lagoon. Equally pleasing? Strolling the adjacent beach, witnessing the sun streaking the sky coral and lavender in its closing act.
To plan your own holiday in the Florida Keys, visit www.hawkscay.com.