From kayaking to deep-sea fishing and other water sports in Florida, the Sunshine State's luxury resorts mix amenities with adventure. You can even end the day with a trip to the spa.

By Terry Ward
Everything about staying at The Breakers, the legendary Palm Beach resort, is a study in balance -- from the impeccably choreographed service to diverse dining experiences that deliver menus reflecting discerning tastes and unflinching quality. (Will it be cocktails over breathtaking ocean views at The Seafood Bar or exotic Asian at Echo?)

But today, I’m at The Breakers to hone a different kind of balance entirely: kneeling atop a paddleboard (also known as SUP or YOLO) in the water.

I’m wrestling gravity to get to my feet. Mike, my instructor, patiently prods me to take the proverbial plunge. “Concentrate on breathing from your core,” he says, “then push up.”

It takes several tries, including one graceless splash that surely gets the attention of the guests lounging poolside.

But I finally get the hang of it. My breathing is mellow, my feet are evenly spaced atop the board and I’m propelling myself with smooth, dip-like strokes across the water’s surface. I feel like I’m riding a magic marine carpet, sensing the energy of the small waves passing under me and peering through the glassy water to the sandy bottom.

We paddle to the sunken pier, then don our snorkel masks to have a peek at old wooden boards that now house thriving reef fish. Colorful wrasse poke among the coral and a French angelfish fins past.

Who knew such a colorful world existed mere feet from one of Florida’s most iconic hotels? You might be surprised to find that Florida’s luxury resorts offer all sorts of water sports, from diving and sailing lessons to private boat tours and sunset catamaran cruises. Once you’re back on dry land, do what I do -- head to the resort’s spa to unwind after all that intrepid fun. 

The Breakers, Palm Beach 

In addition to private paddleboarding lessons, the hotel’s water sports teams offers PADI scuba diving courses, private sailing lessons and snorkeling and cruising tours aboard the luxury power catamaran, Keylypso. Right in front of the hotel is The Breakers Reef, considered one of the best dive and snorkel sites in North America. Spa pick: Set in the resort’s Oceanfront Sanctuary with the sound of the rolling surf as a backdrop, the signature Personal Retreat massage eases you into tranquil bliss. 

Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key 

You’ll find the full spectrum of water sports in Florida at this Florida Keys luxury resort: guided kayak eco-tours, kite boarding lessons, private sunset tours and trips for groups to uninhabited sandbars aboard Blue, the resort’s 65-foot luxury catamaran. The skippers will take care of the hors d’oeuvres and the beer, wine, champagne or soda! Don’t forget private deep-sea fishing charters in the Keys’ legendary waters. Spa pick: After a day of sun and salt spray, hydrate your face with a Soothing Sunset facial from Calm Waters Spa.  

Naples Grande Beach Resort, Naples

Set just behind the winding mangrove canals of Clam Pass Beach Park, this family-friendly luxury hotel is a great place for people who love to paddle. You can rent single or two-person kayaks from a kiosk on the beach, and the resort provides a map to follow through the mangroves for a self-guided look at one of Florida’s truly natural areas.  Spa pick: Designed to nourish your post-sun skin, the Sun-Kissed Restorative Masque Treatment at the resort’s Golden Door Spa uses marine nutrients and aloe for a cooling effect.

Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa, Clearwater

Parasailing and WaveRunner tours are available beachfront at this hotel. But for a real splurge, treat yourself and up to five friends to a catered sunset cruise aboard the Tradewinds Schooner (moored across the street from the hotel at the Clearwater Municipal Marina). Spa pick: The Sun-Warmed Shell Massage employs ocean elements for a beachy twist on the hot-stone massage.

Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, Sandestin

Guests at this hotel, which is Northwest Florida’s largest full-service beachfront resort, can enjoy water sports such as kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding on the emerald waters of the Gulf Coast, just footsteps away from their rooms. The resort is also close to the Emerald Coast’s best attractions, so guests may indulge in deep-sea fishing and waterskiing, or charter a private fishing boat or sailboat for a sunset cruise through the marina. Spa pick: The Coconut Crème Body Glow uses fresh coconut milk and pineapple extract to unclog your pores and hydrate you to a healthy glow.