Picking an All-Inclusive Destination
Other top destinations for all-inclusive travel include the Mexican Caribbean, Jamaica, Antigua, and Barbados. Altogether, you can find all-inclusive resorts on more than a dozen Caribbean islands, as well as in Belize, Costa Rica, and even Venezuela. Resort choices range from high-rise hotels in hotspots like Cancun and Punta Cana to private-island hideaways in the Grenadines.
Who Should Take an All-Inclusive Vacation?
In tough economic times, there may be no more appealing travel destination than an all-inclusive resort, where guests pay one price for accommodations, dining, drinks, entertainment, and activities. The cost-certainty of an all-inclusive vacation is something that appeals to almost every traveler, even those on the high end. Moreover, hidden charges are relatively rare at all-inclusive resorts: guests may pay extra for spa services or scuba diving, but won't get whacked with a huge bar tab like they typically do on a cruise.
Never having to reach into your wallet once you arrive also eases fears about loss or theft of cash or credit cards; many all-inclusives -- notably the SuperClubs, Couples, and Sandals/Beaches resorts --- also forbid staff from taking tips.
What Kinds of Amenities Can You Expect at a Caribbean All-Inclusive?
All-inclusives once appealed primarily to bargain-hunters and honeymooners, but within the last few years the big all-inclusive chains like SuperClubs and Sandals/Beaches have made a big push into the luxury market. The Breezes Grand Resort in Negril, Jamaica, for example, is billed as "SuperInclusives" that feature gourmet dining and golf, while resorts like Sandals Negril tout "Luxury Included" packages that feature swim-up River Suites and butler service. The Paradisus resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic also have a fine reputation, while guests at the Petit St. Vincent and Palm Island resorts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are exclusive private-island resorts catering to very high-end travelers.
What's the Food and Drinks Like at Caribbean All-Inclusive Resorts?
While buffets haven't disappeared from Caribbean all-inclusives, most now offer at least the option of dining at one or more full-service restaurants, and some resorts offer top-shelf drinks and an impressive mix of specialty and gourmet dining experiences, from classic Caribbean and Creole restaurants to English pubs, Japanese teppanyaki houses, and elegant French bistros.
Which All-Inclusive Resort is Right for You?
Most all-inclusive guests applaud these improvements in food quality and selection, but there also are features and benefits of all-inclusive resorts that resonate particularly well with certain types of travelers, including:
Young and single travelers are often budget-conscious travelers, so all-inclusives can be a perfect match. Free-flowing drinks and planned poolside activities and nightlife also provide plenty of opportunities for mingling with other singles.
Some all-inclusives cater exclusively to couples (Couples Resorts, for one obvious example), making them an ideal choice for romantic, kid-free getaways.
On the other hand, properties like the Franklyn D Resort and Beaches Boscobel in Jamaica appeal primarily to families with children, providing child care and endless entertainment options that can keep the kids busy and give mom and dad some precious "alone time."
Seniors can do as little or as much as they want at an all-inclusive resort, some of which are quite upscale, like Barbados' Turtle Beach Resort or private-island resorts like Petit St. Vincent in the Grenadines.
Couples Swept Away (Book Now) in Jamaica has established a niche for itself as a destination for tennis lovers, with 10 lighted courts and lessons included, and a handful of resorts have even started including diving or motorized water sports in their packages.
Spas have also become nearly standard at all-inclusives in the Caribbean. While most charge extra for services like massages and facials, the Verandah Resort & Spa in Antigua offers an all-inclusive package that includes a pair of massages and credits toward other spa services.
All-inclusives also have become a popular choice for all kinds of group travel, from business and incentive groups to family reunions and intergenerational travel. Corporations like to know the cost of incentive programs up front, and resorts like Sandals Grande Ocho Rios and Sandals Grande Antigua allow groups free use of onsite meeting rooms and can help facilitate team-building and other events.
Who Might NOT Like an All-Inclusive Vacation
One of the strengths of an all-inclusive resort is that they provide all of your food, drinks and entertainment, so you literally never have to leave the property. To some travelers, however, that thought is anathema.
Most all-inclusives offer excursions as paid add-ons, but pay-one-price resorts remain a poor match for "Type A" personalities or independent travelers who want to immerse themselves in local culture. One good option for restless travelers may be the Palace resorts in Cancun and the Riviera Maya, which include excursions in their all-inclusive packages.
Travelers looking for a truly intimate experience may be limited to choosing from a handful of exclusive all-inclusives, such as private-island resorts, while nondrinkers may not be satisfied with the perceived value of an all-inclusive vacation.
Finally, since most all-inclusives are beachfront resorts where a majority of activities revolve around the sand, surf, and sun, they probably won't appeal to non beach-lovers.