Top 10 Family Resorts
Dolphin Encounter at Hawks Cay
Family is the focus at this Florida Keys island retreat, set on some 60 rambling acres brimming with kid-friendly diversions that far surpass the predictable Florida family resort trimmings. (More on those later.) What truly sets Hawks Cay apart, however, are the terrifically tailored programs for kids ages 5 to 17 (full-day camp programs include marine- and ecology-inspired activities that run the gamut from scavenger hunts to sailing), coupled with the property’s coup de grace: the only onsite resort dolphin program in the country. The Dolphin Connection – a research, breeding, and public outreach facility intent on providing education on marine mammals and ecosystem conservation – offers guests the unique opportunity to interact with a playful pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. With their habitat set in an ocean-fed saltwater lagoon bordering the property, guests can book encounters on an à la carte basis (ranging from a casual 30-minute dockside observation to a 3-hour, hands-on dolphin training program; $60–$325). For those wanting wildlife beyond the dolphins, the appellation of Hawks Cay – set on Duck Key – is a sure giveaway to the superlative bird-watching it offers, while snorkeling, “snuba,” and scuba diving just offshore promise encounters with any of some 1,200 marine creatures (including sea turtles and the only living coral reef system in the continental U.S.). As for the rest of the very family-friendly resort, expect copious Caribbean-styled guest units (counting 402 in all, parents delight in the full-kitchen equipped, multi-bedroom villas); five swimming pools (one touts a pirate ship theme); lagoon-fronted beach; major menu of water sports (from kiteboarding and parasailing to sailing and diving schools); topnotch marina (a launching point for fishing and boating excursions); full-service spa; sports facilities (including eight tennis courts and a basketball court); and handful of seafood-centric restaurants. Summer rates typically go for $229/night, although you may be able to get a discount if you call the hotel’s reservation line.