All-Inclusive Resorts, A to Z
These tropical escapes are easy to book and budget
By Kathryn E. Worrall
Steve Sanacore/Sandals Resorts
(Scroll down to see a slide show.)With lodging, meals, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, an assortment of water sports equipment and other beachfront essentials bundled into a single prepaid vacation package, all-inclusive resorts offer at least 26 reasons to consider a stay.
This type of property simplifies tropical travel, from organizing your choice of day-to-night activities to helping you decide it's a "yes" on another poolside mojito. And erase the stereotype of cold buffets, overcrowded common spaces and rowdy kids everywhere -- many all-inclusives offer gourmet cuisine, private pools and adults-only options for quiet getaways.
The following is an alphabetical breakdown of all-inclusive resorts' wide range of advantages. Use it as a jumping-off point for your research and, when you're ready to jet off on your next trip, contact the resort specialists at Vacations To Go for pricing.
Translating to "host" in Spanish, this spin on the personal butler brings top-notch service to the adults-only UNICO 20 87 Hotel Riviera Maya. The anfitrion assists with check-ins and checkouts, packing and unpacking, the planning of special events and booking of spa appointments, dinner reservations and more. The best perk? Your anfitrion hooks you up with the insider's guide to Tulum, Mexico, including tips on little-known locals' spots.
At Sugar Bay Barbados in Christ Church, on the south side of the island, test plantain-stuffed jerk chicken at Sizzle Steakhouse, feast on freshly grilled fare at the alfresco Reef Restaurant or indulge in bread pudding coated in rum sauce at the casual Colin's Beach Bar and Grill. Beyond locally created rum, one must-try item is the country's national dish: cou cou (similar to polenta) served with flying fish.
CHAMPAGNE, CHARDONNAY AND CABERNET
Mexico might be better known for its tequila and mezcal, but wine is king at the adults-only Secrets the Vine Cancun. A sommelier leads tastings and educates participants on pairings at The Vine Bar, which highlights the resort's 3,000-plus bottles in stock.
When the sun sets on a Caribbean isle, the relative lack of big cities and light pollution means the stars shine a little brighter. Take advantage at the couples-only Sandals Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. All 74 rooms spoil guests with ocean views, though lodgings like the Imperial Oceanfront One-Bedroom Butler Suite offer balconies large enough for dining tables, lounge chairs and a telescope.
Be on the lookout for resorts that care for their environment. The Plaza Beach Resort Bonaire on the isle's western shore promotes sustainability with efficient water usage, air conditioning and LED light systems, and it recently installed a 5,000-panel solar park. Native iguanas freely roam among local flora, and the resort even sponsors a rescue center for stray pets.
Dine like royalty at El Dorado Royale by Karisma. Sommeliers offer pairings at a wide variety of eateries at this adults-only getaway in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and a 76,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse provides fresh herbs and produce. Stave off midday hunger with a smoothie at Health Bar or a slice of pizza from a wood-burning oven. At the thatched-roof Fuentes Culinary Theatre, watch and learn as the chef's preparation of your multicourse meal is projected on overhead screens for an interactive experience.
Grotto Bay Beach Resort and Spa offers hangouts beyond its private pink-sand beach and what the property claims is Bermuda's only swim-up bar. A collection of fascinating caves, discovered in the 1600s, offer a crystal-clear lagoon for swimming, and the Natura Spa books massages and other serene, underground treatments.
The oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas, Panama Viejo dates to 1519. The Spanish outpost near modern-day Panama City experienced a slave rebellion, a fire and an earthquake only to be sacked by pirates in 1671 and relocated. Today, wander the ruins of a cathedral, convents and more before heading down the coast to BlueBay Coronado Golf and Beach Resort for some R and R.
Ever dreamed of your own private isle? Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado can (almost) make that a reality. This 268-room resort stands alone on an island in the Dominican Republic and only is accessible by ferry. With six restaurants, four bars and two pools, there are plenty of ways to eat, sip and cool off. During the day, sample a cocktail from the beach's Hibiscus Bar; at night, an outdoor disco lights up along Bacardi Beach.
Caribbean waters are renowned for their shades of blue. St. Lucia's Jade Mountain resort adds its namesake hue with panoramic views of the forested Pitons, best enjoyed from one of the property's 24 open-air, infinity pool "sanctuary" rooms.
Wanting a quiet, romantic retreat, or perhaps a quick respite from the children back home? Aim for an adults-only offering like TRS Turquesa Hotel in Punta Cana, on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic. Each suite includes whirlpool tubs with options for aromatherapy oils, prime for romance, and guests dine on French, Italian and Indian fare. You'll have access to three neighboring Grand Palladium resorts available to vacationers of all ages, but why leave the Turquesa's spa, casino and secluded pools?
Located on a private, 135-acre isle near the southern tip of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Palm Island Resort pampers guests with daily afternoon tea, picnic lunches and hammocks along the beach. Spot barracuda and manta rays while snorkeling or diving, and test your swing during a tennis and croquet game. Other activities include rum tastings, a weekly beach barbecue and even crab races.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization declared 2018 as the Year of Wellness and Rejuvenation, and perhaps no resort better embraces this motto than BodyHoliday St. Lucia. The wellness retreat on the northern shore of the island focuses on the mind and body with farm-to-table cuisine, complimentary daily spa treatments and exercises from meditation to windsurfing and nature hikes. Explore special theme months that promote activities like yoga, swimming and sailing.
For some, vacation means lazy days in a beach chair. Others want adventure, and Barcelo Aruba on Palm Beach delivers. Time on the water is filled with kitesurfing and kayaking, and complimentary diving classes are held twice a week at the pool. Work up a sweat playing beach volleyball or tennis, and spend evenings enjoying live entertainment or taking a chance at the on-site casino.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Skip the classic hot spots and hit French islands in the Lesser Antilles, like Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Eastern Caribbean. Guadeloupe boasts black-sand beaches while Martinique visitors can hike the volcanic, 4,583-foot Montagne Pelee, and both destinations mix French and Caribbean cuisine to offer plenty of buttery pastries, fresh seafood, Champagne and rum. Club Med La Caravelle and Club Med Buccaneer's Creek are among all-inclusive options in the region.
PRIVATE PLUNGE POOLS
Leaving the comfort of your room will be more difficult than ever, thanks to the adults-only Excellence Playa Mujeres outside Cancun. Select suites encourage a dip in your terrace's exclusive plunge pool, set near lounge chairs and an open-air shower. Guests also can spring for the Imperial Suite, with a canopied king bed, Jacuzzi and 600-square-foot private pool, not to mention access to water features exclusive to Excellence Club members.
One of four symbols on the Turks and Caicos Islands' flag, this endangered species is a top export for the country, which operates the world's only commercial conch farm on Providenciales. The isle also hosts the Turks and Caicos Conch Festival, serving up fritters, chowder and even empanadas alongside mojitos and live tunes. Scheduled for the last Saturday of November, catch the family-friendly event during a stay at the all-ages Blue Haven Resort.
Antigua's Curtain Bluff Resort reopened last October following a $13 million refresh. While elements like the massive tamarind tree anchoring the main restaurant remain, the resort redesigned its entrance, dining spaces, reception area and more. The face-lift added infinity pools to signature suites as well as a beach concierge, available to assist in cocktail orders, lounge chair arrangements and special activities.
Pamper yourself with Grand Velas Riviera Maya's Spa Water Ceremony. The treatment at this Playa del Carmen property includes visits to the sauna; rooms dedicated to clay, ice and steam therapies; and both a cold plunge and "experience pool" with waterfalls, neck jets and a "bubble volcano." This rejuvenating hydrotherapy treatment is included with appointments lasting 50 minutes or more.
The Westin Golf Resort and Spa, Playa Conchal, lures visitors with 18 holes of championship golf designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Surrounded by tropical gardens and Pacific beaches in Costa Rica's Guanacaste province, the par-71 course will host a PGA tournament this May. Those wanting to take a swing themselves should consult their Vacations To Go travel agent about add-on packages that cover activity fees.
Off the coast of Tobago, the northern isle of Trinidad and Tobago, Buccoo Reef draws snorkelers and divers to its variety of marine life, from the venomous lionfish to turtle species like green loggerheads, hawksbills and endangered leatherbacks. The Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort has a five-star PADI dive center, so guests can hone their skills before heading off to explore the local coral.
The Sandals Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Sandals Resorts International, offers multiple programs for guests to assist local communities. One weekly outreach, Reading Road Trip, asks guests to bring new or gently used books to a community school and read to youngsters. Found at Sandals-brand resorts like Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Villages and Spa, groups visit 5- to 7-year-olds, with participation rates from $25. Want to help out without an added fee? Look to the Pack for a Purpose program, which donates school supplies.
Sit back and relax with a stay at Couples Sans Souci in Ocho Rios. Sans Souci translates to "worry-free," an easy guarantee with an all-inclusive retreat. Almost from the moment you step off the plane, attentive staff members let you fully embrace the island lifestyle, even offering refreshments at an airport lounge reserved for Couples guests. Everything really is included with a stay at this resort, from 24-hour dining and rounds of golf and tennis to excursions to nearby waterfalls.
This eco-archaeological park outside Cancun promises "all of Mexico in one place," and with activities like swimming in underground rivers, trekking into the tropical jungle and meeting the residents of the Butterfly Pavilion, it definitely seems to hit the highlights. The park's associated Hotel Xcaret Mexico opened in late December and includes free access to the park; nearby Occidental at Xcaret Destination offers an unlimited visitation package and boasts an 18-hole miniature golf course.
YOGIS, HIKERS AND MORE
Get fit at the Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort Curacao. Pick from a wide range of health and wellness activities at the 24-hour gym and take advantage of outdoor venues, including a tennis center and golf course. Yoga classes, guided hikes and mountain biking are available; after a day on the mat or the trail, refuel on calamaro e aioli pizza, grilled jumbo prawns and more.
Catch some serious TLC at Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro in Punta Cana. All suites come with personal butler service, a Jacuzzi and fluffy robes, which complement an evening spent snuggling into your plush bed covered in European linens. Pick from the resort's pillow menu before lights out, then start dreaming of your next vacation.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Spring 2018. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.