Keys for Two, Three (or More)

Hawks Cay Resort offers families endless activities and amenities, feel-like-home villas and more right in the heart of the Florida Keys.

With a toddler and her older cousins in tow, keeping the comforts of home – and the kids' decorum in tact – informs our every vacation plan. No wonder The New York Times featured Duck Key's Hawks Cay Resort (with its feel-like-home villas, endless activity and amenities) when it named Hawks Cay and the Florida Keys as a top family destination for 2009.

Just Like Home – Only Better

Days at Hawks Cay Resort's Preferred Villas look something like this: Wake to the Florida sunshine. Eat an easy breakfast on the terrace. Take a short walk to the main resort and a full day of activity. Return "home" any time for a snack (or a nap – we've learned from experience that a little sleep and a lot of refreshment go a long way with children). Hawks Cay's villas deliver on this and more: Cracker-meets-coastal ambience (picture a lemon-and-white hacienda brushed with tropical greenery), kitchens with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Each private villa offers two to three bedrooms that give family members room to retreat, while dens (available in some units) and decks bring the group together. Some villas have marina access or private pools, and all Preferred Villas were renovated in 2008.

Your Personal Playground

Cozy as it is, the kids will test just how early they can extract you from your villa paradise to sample the main resort's feast of activity. Just remember, the blast from a water cannon at the family pool (a.k.a. the pirate pool) is always easier to stomach when followed by a dip in the adults-only tranquility pool. Other recommended therapies? Hang by the beach in the saltwater lagoon or rent bikes to explore Duck Key at its every-day-is-a-holiday pace.

Some of the biggest splashes come courtesy of the resort's marina. Depending on your brood's need for speed, you can rent kayaks, powerboats or Jet Skis. Still, fishing charters are one of the most popular family activities. "We take kids out every day," says Tailwalker 2 Charters Captain Scott Walker, who helps anglers of all ages land catches from his 50-foot tournament boat equipped with air conditioning and satellite TV.

Charters aren't the only exclusives offered out of Hawks Cay Marina. Dolphin Connection allows guests to observe, interact with – even train – dolphins in the water. Families can reserve a group sailing lesson with Colgate Offshore Sailing School. And Dive Duck Key operates scuba day trips, though a sport called SNUBA promises participants eight years and up a SCUBA-like rush. Participants are connected to an air supply that sits atop the water in a raft, allowing them much of the freedom of SCUBA diving, minus the equipment. For guests 10 and up, Dive Duck Key offers SCUBA lessons and dive trips. Guests 8 and up can snuba and snorkel.

For Kids Only

Impose your own timeout by enrolling the kids in Hawks Cay's supervised children's programs. Camp Hawk engages 5- to 12-year-olds in nature hikes, scavenger hunts, pool games and snorkeling in the resort's saltwater lagoon. Most weekends, a Kids' Night Out buys you even more time to yourselves. The Cove keeps 'tweens (ages 9-17) going with sports, karaoke and video games and offers a computer café with controlled Internet access.

Edible Amenities

So you'd rather admire the appliances in your villa kitchen than use them? No problem. Choose from the resort's five restaurants, the majority of which are kid-friendly. In our family, that means two things: (1) Does the establishment serve food kids will eat? (The family dog won't be here to inhale what "falls" on the floor.) (2) Is there outdoor space where the younger set can run so the adults can – gasp – eat in peace?

Hawks Cay answers with a breakfast buffet, lunch staples at Indies Grill including grilled cheese and chicken fingers, and my personal favorite: Beach Grill, where a children's menu is served alongside grown-up local specialties like smoked wahoo and frothy drinks, al fresco. Tom's Harbor House offers live music marina-side on Friday and Saturday nights. And if you register for Camp Hawk's Kids' Night Out, you can sneak away to Alma, an intimate, adult-oriented restaurant featuring regional and Latin cuisine. It's the perfect setting to reminisce about all those vacations you took for two. But we wouldn't trade it.

This article is brought to you by Hawks Cay Resort. To plan your own holiday in the Florida Keys, visit

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners


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