Although we’ve lived in Florida for more than 20 years, my husband and I had never been to the Keys. But with our two sons now grown, we wanted a romantic, couples-only trip to this southernmost part of The Sunshine State.
Our heavenly destination? Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key.
Located midway down the Florida Keys, Hawks Cay makes the perfect spot to drop anchor, so to speak. The stunning resort sits on one of five small, secluded islands that make up Duck Key. You’re just one hour from both Key Largo and Key West, which makes exploring the Keys easy. But with so much to do at Hawks Cay, you might not want to even leave the property.
If you recall, Hurricane Irma packed a wallop when it hit the Keys hard in 2017. But after closing for almost an entire year and pumping in more than $50 million to renovate the damaged property, Hawks Cay is simply breathtaking.
Spread over 60 acres, Hawks Cay beckons visitors to relax and enjoy the tropical scenery, from the moment you turn off US 1. With palm trees swaying in the breeze, herons flying overhead, boats bobbing in the marina, and gorgeous landscaping lining the property, Hawks Cay sets the stage for an indulgent escape.
The main building offers 177 guestrooms, with 250 two- and three-bedroom villas in additional buildings. We stayed in a spacious water-view room with a king-size bed, luxuriously covered with soft, crisp-white linens. Crafted in Caribbean island décor, the room’s soothing pallet and uncluttered layout really created the soothing vibe we needed after our longer-than-expected drive.
We opened the room’s exterior door to discover our private, two-level porch. The covered lanai turned out to be the perfect spot to sip coffee while watching the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, just beyond the Tranquility Pool. The lower level, furnished with two chaise lounges and large umbrella, provided a nice shady respite midday.
With five pools to choose from, we couldn’t resist the come-hither call of the adults-only Tranquility Pool just steps from our room in the expanded Oasis Cay area. Reserved for the 21 and older crowd, this romantic sanctuary was free of squealing-with-delight kids that swarmed the family-friendly Pirate Ship Pool. We lounged around this serene retreat the entire afternoon, moving from pool to hot tub to firepit, where we enjoyed a fantastic lunch and cocktails delivered to our fireside Adirondack chairs by cheerful servers.
Tip: Check the resort’s activity schedule. The staff sometimes ambles around the Tranquility Pool armed with fresh fruit samples to devour.
We also loved the enclosed, ocean-fed Saltwater Lagoon found exclusively at Hawks Cay Resort. It’s like having your own private little ocean where you can snorkel, kayak, paddleboard, stroll along the sandy perimeter, and relax in one of the many lounge chairs encircling the lagoon.
Not wanting to venture off property, we dined at several of the onsite eateries. Breakfast at Hawks Cay Marketplace was a no-brainer, with its casual vibe, picturesque vaulted ceiling, and relaxed pace. With three “hot stations” serving made-to-order omelets, Belgium waffles, potatoes, sausage, bacon and pancakes—plus a dizzying array of fresh fruits, bagels, pastries, cereals, and house-made granola parfait—we found something new to love every morning. While we lingered over a dine-in breakfast (sipping the best fresh-squeezed orange juice we’ve ever tasted), plenty of people popped in for grab-and-go options.
Poolside, we enjoyed Oasis Cay’s elevated menu featuring tropical culinary delights like the grilled mahi mahi tacos drizzled with chipotle aioli sauce, plus vegetarian options, too. (Hello, mammoth Superfoods Salad.) After plying myself with a bowlful of wholesome spinach, I didn’t feel as guilty ordering a Tropical Mojito spiked with key-lime-flavored rum. (When in Rome….)
Another day, we grabbed a table overlooking the lagoon and enjoyed fabulous lunch from the Tiki Bar. Forget typical bar food. Here, we dove into conch fritters, grilled brie and avocado corn salad, and (because they were so good) more fish tacos.
For a more upscale experience, we indulged in the sumptuous offerings at Sixty-One Prime. With award-winning executive chef William Ryan at the helm, Sixty-One Prime delivered a mouthwatering feast from start to finish, from Watermelon Ceviche and Tomato Tar Tar to Filet Mignon and Raspberry Chocolate Terrine. No wonder the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association named him “Chef of the Year.”
Tip: If you crave more seclusion, you can order in-room dining for breakfast and dinner or a boxed lunch for an intimate meal on the lanai.
Nothing beats the romance of a couples’ massage, with the flicker of candlelight providing the sexy ambiance and the scent of pineapple filling the room. With no additional charge for a side-by-side massage in the spacious Calm Waters Spa couple’s suite, treat yo’ selves!
Choose from custom and specialty massages such as Tropical Breeze (lower pressure, good for relaxation) and Deep Ocean (deeper pressure, good for sore muscles). Add in the soothing warmth of a heated Himalayan Salt Stone and your stress melts away.
Of course, a romantic getaway doesn’t mean you need to stay sequestered in your room. (Although the big-enough-for-two shower might make you want to.) With a slate of daily activities on land and sea, you can infuse your together time with a morning yoga class, a kayaking trip through mangrove-lined channels, a game of tennis, a reef snorkeling adventure, or a group sunset cruise.
Tip: If you want a more intimate voyage, book private excursions—complete with your own captain—including snorkeling, cruising, island sightseeing, and sand bar stops.
For a special treat, check out the Dolphin Connection in the lagoon. As the only hotel or resort in the mainland United States to offer onsite dolphin viewing in their natural habitat, Hawks Cay strives for a balance of education, conservation, and interactive experiences. We loved the up-close encounter with our new finned friends! The bottlenose dolphins danced across the water, “talked” to us with their clickety-clack squeals, responded to our cues, and (the highlight) gave us a flipper-handshake.
When to Go
While a romantic getaway can fuel the fire any time of year, it’s even better when the resort is less crowded. We went during the first week of December (before the crush of holiday crowds), but Fall, January to mid-February, and late April thru mid-May are slower, too. Looking to book a romantic interlude for you and your sweetie? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I’d highly recommend a stay at the newly renovated Hawks Cay Resort.
Lisa Beach is a seasoned freelance writer. Her work has been published in The New York Times, USA Today Go Escape, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, and dozens more. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.