Thawing Out at Florida’s Hawks Cay Resort


It was the most recent storm that did it. Desperate, I hit the Internet and after an hour I found what I was looking for: Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key, Florida.

Nestled in the middle of the Keys, on a lush 60-acre island, it offered everything that my storm-ravaged body craved: I could get there without changing planes (critical as I would travel with my sons, ages 6 and 7) and it was as far south as I could get without leaving the U.S.

While the thought of doing nothing but soaking up the rays seemed incredibly tantalizing, I was excited by all that there was to do, from swimming in any one of the resort’s five pools to kayaking, deep-sea diving, fishing, kite boarding, jet skiing, sunset bike and boat tours, tennis – even swimming with dolphins. In fact, Hawks Cay is the only resort in the United States with an on-site dolphin research facility, and guests can sign up for the Dolphin Connection program to interact with the dolphins by the dock, or even swim these magnificent creatures. Amazing! Best of all? Hawks Cay boasted a spa and Camp Hawk, a supervised club for kids ages 5 to 12 that’s open for morning, afternoon, or 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily visits. The boys could play under the supervision of resort counselors, while I patched myself up at the Calm Waters Spa.

I signed up immediately.

Treatments at Calm Waters reflect the spa’s commitment to overall health. All 11 of its Tradewind Massages are designed to soothe the mind, relax jangled nerves, and stimulate blood flow. Shoveling snow, training for an upcoming half marathon, and hours at my computer at work had left my neck and shoulders in a perpetual freeze of their own: Thus I opted for the Swedish-style Tropical Breeze massage.

Swedish massages are the bread and butter of spas, of course, and at Hawks Cay, it’s one of the more popular draws among guests. Calm Waters mixes things up by inviting clients to select scented oils for the added bonus of aroma therapy. Since I was smack dab in the land of umbrella cocktails, I picked pineapple-infused oil, and within minutes, happily inhaled the tropical aroma of a fruit I probably wouldn’t come into contact again for another seven months.

Next came the Deep Ocean facial. Billed as the spa’s anti-aging, anti-oxidant, hydrating facial, it seemed just the cure I needed. Kristy Alexander, the lead therapist at Calm Waters, explained that she would be using H. Maloha products during my 50-minute treatment. H. Maloha’s line is all-organic, chemical-free, and doesn’t contain any color additives that can irritate skin. What’s more, the bionutrient serum Alexander used is created with botanicals like seaweed and kelp from Hawaii, where the company is based. The serum, as well as H. Maloha’s bionutrient face crème and cleanser, also contain astaxanthin, found in red algae. At 6,000 times stronger than Vitamin C, it’s billed as “the most powerful antioxidant in the world,” Alexander informed me.

My knowledge of antioxidants’ varying potent qualities is limited, to say the least, but I do know that after Alexander finished my facial, my winter-abused skin was dewy soft, and sporting a healthy glow. I felt great. I looked great. Life was good.

To protect my skin once I left her expert care, Alexander dusted my face with ColoreScience Sunforgettable SPF 50, a mineral powder, not a lotion. Endorsed by the Skin Cancer Foundation, the powder provides ample UVA and UVB protection, is waterproof, and doesn’t sting when it gets in your eyes. What’s more, the powder doesn’t contain chemicals found in so many other sun screens that can irritate skin and pollute the ocean. “Because we’re located in the Florida Keys, it’s incredibly important to us to use products that help us protect the marine ecosystem,” said Alexander.

Thus massaged, cleansed, detoxified, and ready for action, I headed out to Camp Hawk to meet my sons. After three hours of afternoon activity (making shark tooth necklaces, kayaking, and swimming) they were unwinding by building intricate block mazes for the club’s pet turtle, Dennis. Happy and stress-free, I knew the boys had enjoyed their own version of a perfect spa afternoon.

We headed out to the Dolphin Connection to watch the pod get their afternoon snack and feed ourselves at Tom’s Harbor House, which serves up a variety of fresh ingredients and seafood dishes (my fave: the fish tacos). It’s also down the dock from our nightly stop at Emack & Bolio’s ice cream stand (the chocolate addiction truly is). Other options include the more sophisticated (and romance worthy) Alma, featuring Latin-inspired dishes and seafood (poached Maine lobster jicama salad, pan-roasted Florida shrimp tostada with an avocado mousseline, or scallops with potato gnocci).

The Indies Grill, located at the children’s pirate pool, sells nuggets, peanut butter sandwiches, and hotdogs, which is fine for younger audiences but can frustrate parents (or New York City kid sophisticates) hankering for tastier, healthier fare. For those in the mood for a party, the Beach Grill serves up the Miami Vice and other tasty (potentially lethal) cocktails, music, and laid-back fare like mahi-mahi ceviche, roasted veggie panini, fresh herb chicken wraps, salads, and crab cakes.

The restaurants, like Hawks Cay itself, cater to all kinds of palettes: vacationing families, couples on romantic getaways, fun-loving singles and athletes getting their fix of waterskiing and tennis. I think it’s because Hawks Cay spills over the island, with residences located in the main hotel or in a variety of picturesque villas (you can walk, bike, or take free trams, which make frequent stops throughout the resort every ten minutes). Staff is super-attentive, too – you’ll feel like they’ve gone out of their way to create a tailored experienced to suit your specific needs.

Now, if only I could bring everyone home and have them help me shovel the driveway.

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