Our kids are 13 (boy) & 15 (girl), tough ages to entertain. They are only happy when they are with their friends, we decided to take a trip to have some (forced) family time! Ended up with one of our best vacation experiences ever. Main hotel has the ambiance of a large resort. We decided that a week would be too long to be restricted to hotel rooms. Decided instead on a Sunset villa, 2 br's, one with queen size bed, the other with twin beds. Patio off living room and master bedroom overlook pool. Very clean updated condo, stainless steel/granite full kitchen with dishwasher/microwave and basic essentials. Beds were unbelievably comfortable, to the point that we were checking who manufactured mattresses as we just replaced ours at home. Our unit, 5088, directly overlooked pool and a limited view of the ocean. Parking directly in front of condo. Unit has a washer and dryer, ours was not working. Staff responded same day, couldn't immediately repair so they took our laundry and delivered it next day, no charge. We mainly used the sunset pool, the pool at the main hotel was very noisy and crowded and this is July in Florida! I am sure that it would be very very busy during the cooler months. The towel service at the main pool was great, we were able to take the nice oversized beach towels back to our villa and change them out as needed. Hawks Cay is so large that it is almost a little town, with everything in walking distance. We never used the shuttle, it was a 5-10 min walk to main hotel, marina, ice cream shop, water activity area and general store. I was fine with kids walking over to the shops and main hotel during the day but this is a busy place with lots of people coming and going and I wouln't feel comfortable giving kids free reign. Our 2nd day here one of the kids had an earache, hotel gave us doctors name, he saw us within 15 minutes at his office, Walgreens right nearby for medication.We mainly ate at the condo, they have a pizza delivery service (delicious) and kids walked to hotel cafe for lunch. Gift shop in main hotel has Starbucks bar, general store also has coffee. We planned daily outings which helped to get us going instead of leaving it up to kids when they woke up at noon. Day 1: Dolphin Connection at hotel, 20 min lecture and 25 min in the water with the dolphins. I was a little leery of this as I'd hate to be a part of something that was in any way inhumane. The program here allows you to stand in the pool on a submerged dock with trainer while she signals dolphin to show different behaviors. We each had a chance to get a kiss from the dolphin and to swim out one at a time to interact. No holding on or riding dolphins which ethically worked for me. There are 4 dolphins, 3 are in their 30's and an 8 year old, you will immediately figure out which dolphin is 8, he is very active and you will see him off hours playing with fish, throwing them up in the air, etc Other 3 are still very active as well.The trainers take pictures which are around $16 apiece. Day 2: on recommendation of dolphin trainer we drove to the Bahai Honda National Park to snorkel. Sandy silky bathtub warm water, very shallow for almost a mile out. Once you swim over the seagrass there are some fish to see, great place to get comfortable/reacquaint yourself with snorkeling. There isn't a reef near the beach so you really need to take a charter to see the more interesting creatures. Absolutely lovely swimming there. In addition they have a main building with a great snack bar, water sport reservation desk, bathroom & shower/changing facilities next door. Day 2: Parasailing through hotel, kids and husband loved it, safe and enjoyable. Day 3: morning went to Turtle Hospital, interesting educational visit. There's a lecture session and then you tour the hospital tanks and pool for the lifers who can't be returned to ocean. Snorkel trip to Coffin Patch through hotel. Well run, saw a decent amount of fish but we had limited visibility due to storm. Day 4: jet ski tour through hotel, fun, nice to glide around the gorgeous flat water and take in a few sights. Day 5: Snorkel trip through Bahai Honda out to Looe Key, fantastic!! We saw a few sharks, around 5 feet, barracuda, goliath grouper, snorkeling easy enough for a novice, not scary at all, still very interesting for more experienced. Dolphins visible on trip out, saw a large sea turtle on surface on the way in. Favorite meal was at Island Grill in Islamorada, celebrated sons birthday there.
We all enjoyed it so much that we are hoping to return in the fall! If you are planning to snorkel I would recommend buying an underwater camera (probably disposable) & sunscreen because they are very expensive here. I would highly recommend making reservations for the water sports/dolphin connection far in advance if you will be traveling during the busy season/school vacations.Overall: A+
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.