During 2012, my travels took me to five very different destinations throughout the world. I began and ended the year in tropical locations that are part of the United States of America—the Florida Keys and Kauai, Hawaii.
Sandwiched in between were Tenerife, the largest of Spain's Canary Islands, located off the coast of Morocco, Africa; Riviera Maya, on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and the Galapagos Islands, made famous by Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, located off the coast of Ecuador in South America.
In looking back over these destinations, each spectacular in their own way, I thought about all the places I have temporarily called home—the hotels (and one a floating hotel) where I have laid my head (upon the satin pillowcase I take with me everywhere), but in very different locales.
Here is the first of my favorites for 2012—my "tops in the tropics," which I will feature in the order I visited them, with heartfelt thanks to all the staff at each of these world class resorts who made my stay so memorable!
Hawks Cay Island Resort
Duck Key, Florida
(Visited: January 2012)
This resort, located midway down the Florida Keys about 100 miles from the Miami International Airport offers 177 guest rooms and suites and 225 two- and three-bedroom individually owned villas fronting the harbor and marina.
Why stay here? The Dolphin Connection is enough reason for many, as it is the only resort in the continental U.S. to house a dolphin research facility. I booked a hands-on encounter with two of the five resident bottlenose dolphins in a saltwater lagoon. It was an unforgettable experience. (Encounters can be booked both in the water or dockside. You can also choose to be “trainer for a day.”)
Whatever activity you are looking for, it is most likely available here. Guests enjoy tennis, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, SNUBA, snorkeling, paddleboarding, parasailing, kite-surfing and ocean kayaking. The adventurous can take an unforgettable ride above the resort on Hawks Cay’s Jet-Lev, a water-powered jetpack that allows for a Jetsons-like flying experience.
Hawks Cay also offers wedding packages and is an ideal choice for a combination wedding/honeymoon. It was named a "Best Wedding" venue in 2012 by theknot.com.
Other amenities: Five swimming pools, an adults only “tranquility” area, beautiful manmade saltwater lagoon with the ocean beyond, 85-slip marina, four restaurants (Alma is Hawks Cay's “don’t miss” gourmet choice, while Tom’s Harbor House on the marina has great seafood and will even cook your fresh catch.), a full-service spa (They use Pure Fiji products, among others), and Camp Hawk kids' program (voted best hotel kids' program by Travel + Leisure).
Check it out: 877-497-2642; www.hawkscay.com