Adventures await just steps from the beach blanket

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The saltwater lagoon at Hawks Cay Resort hosts mermaid encounters and paddleboard yoga, among other experiences.
The saltwater lagoon at Hawks Cay Resort hosts mermaid encounters and paddleboard yoga, among other experiences.

Florida may be blessed with 673 miles of beaches, but that doesn't mean everyone wants to spend their entire vacation lounging on one.

Says Travelzoo senior editor Gabe Saglie, "People are looking to go somewhere for a tactile experience they can share on their social media feeds."

With that in mind, a number of resorts in the Sunshine State are putting the emphasis on experiences. Here are some of those options:

Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys pays a great deal of attention to the guest experience. "Our philosophy is that of course you have to offer a great guestroom and a clean resort, but it's the experiences our guests have that create memories," said managing director Sheldon Suga. "That's the drive we have behind our Resort Experiences Department."

This season the resort has added a mermaid show and encounter that takes place in the resort's saltwater lagoon. Daily appearances by Koral the mermaid are part of the resort's activity schedule, but interactions are unscripted. Guests can watch her from shore or get in the water to swim with her, giving guests a great time to put that waterproof camera to use. Kids can also get a mermaid makeover from head to tail at the Coral Cay Club. "This has been a huge hit," said Suga. "Parents love to take pictures." (Note: the tail is waterproof, but the hair and makeup are not.)

Other resort experiences include paddleboard yoga and a twist on the typical cooking class: Teach Your Husband to Cook sends the guys to the kitchen to make dinner for their spouses.

Guests at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa can snorkel at a barrier reef right in front of the resort.
Guests at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa can snorkel at a barrier reef right in front of the resort.

The Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa created a Capture the Moment package that includes a GoPro Hero 4 Waterproof Camera that guests get to keep. On-site resort activities, all covered by the resort fee, include snorkeling the barrier reef just off the resort's beach, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, surfing and even a water slide at the resort's lagoon pool. The Capture the Moment package includes beachfront accommodations for a minimum of two nights, the camera and a beach set-up with chairs and an umbrella. The all-suite resort, with fully equipped kitchens, also partners with the Loggerhead Marine Life Center and offers a private tour of that facility as part of the Little Loggerhead package. Of course, GoPro guests can go to the turtle facility, too, to learn and capture some digital memories.

Singer Island is part of the Discover the Palm Beaches region, whose member hotels' experiential packages (including a 24K Gold couples package at the Brazilian Court Hotel that starts at $24,000 for a four-night stay) can be found here.

The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables has recently partnered with Dragonfly Expeditions, a local tour company with deep roots in South Florida, to create its own Experiential Travel Program with four distinct offerings that are exclusive to Biltmore guests. Each package is a fully immersive experience: Exploring the Everglades, the Cultural History and Heritage of Miami, Miami's Specialty Architectural Experience and the Biltmore Curator's Program providing exclusive access to Art Basel.

"We constantly strive to provide each guest with an exceptional and notable experience," said Matthias Kammerer, managing director at the Biltmore.

Beyond the resorts, the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach area (between Sarasota and Fort Myers) is promoting its "Come Play Outside" campaign, tapping into the unplugged activities that help families connect and make memories. For instance, searching for fossilized shark's teeth on Englewood Beach, nighttime stand-up paddling with attached underwater lights and tooling around on a motorized two-person catamaran. View all summer packages at PureFlorida.com/Summer.

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