Top All-Inclusives for Mega-Resort Haters


Been staring at the computer screen for hours with an overworked expression? Maybe it’s time for a vacation. How about an all-inclusive getaway? Don’t worry — not the massive, one-size-fits-all retreats that commonly come with binge-boozing spring breakers, crowded bars, cheesy organized activities, lackluster buffet food, and techno pumping through poolside speakers. Believe it or not, there are plenty of resorts that are characterized by their boutique features (no wristbands, no restaurant reservations required), quiet and intimate vibe, personalized service and great a la carte (and often locally sourced) menus — all while still presenting the perks of an all-encompassing, everything-included rate. Need proof? Here’s a roundup up 20 amazing all-inclusives that even the biggest mega-resort haters will love.

The 96-room Zoetry Agua is one of the most luxurious and tranquil all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic. Catering to couples, the resort boasts an uncrowded white-sand beach, sleek and spacious suites, a pristine pool, 24-hour laundry service, a superlative spa and daily deliveries of sparkling wine and fruit. The all-inclusive rates cover top-shelf liquor at the hotel’s three laid-back bars and tasty a la carte meals at the four restaurants. Guests can also opt to order from the 24-hour room service menu. In lieu of loud music or nightly entertainment, activities include yoga classes and even one horseback riding session per guest. The difficult-to-reach location and no kids’ club make it less suited for families, but that’s just what makes it an ideal choice for those seeking a romantic and relaxing getaway.

The adult-only Beloved Playa Mujeres is a rare breed. It’s a true boutique hotel, with just 109 rooms and personalized service, which includes a check-in cocktail, cool towel, and pillow menu. But it’s also an all-inclusive resort — though if all meals and drinks (including top-shelf liquor) weren’t included, it would be hard to tell. There are no tacky wristbands, no early-morning hustles for lounge chairs and no reservations required for the restaurants (all a la carte). There are some activities that many associate with all-inclusives, such as bingo, trivia, and DJ music by the pool with the swim-up bar, but overall the activities and nightlife are pretty low-key. Plus, the resort’s compact size is a pro for most. The layout means it is easy to get around (it takes five to 10 minutes to get across the entire property). Starting at 960 square feet, the huge, all-white rooms have decadent bathrooms and private balconies — many with ocean views and some with plunge pools. Room service is available 24/7. To top it off, the gorgeous spa has an impressive hydrotherapy circuit and the three outdoor pools feature whirlpools and food and drink service.

Jade Mountain is one of the most romantic resorts not only in the Caribbean, but the world. The 29 rooms have an innovative design that lacks a fourth wall, opening them up to truly stunning views of the iconic Pitons and Caribbean Sea. Organic cuisine is served from a chic open-air restaurant and guests can expect unwavering peace and quiet throughout (there are no TVs or children). Though there is no beach, guests can take a short shuttle ride or hike down to use the two beaches, free water sports and dive center at sister property Anse Chastanet. There are also multiple trails on the resort’s 600 acres and surrounding area for hiking, walking, jogging, and biking. Daily escorted tours are free with the exception of those that involve transportation. All in all, Jade Mountain is well worth the price — especially for guests who opt for the all-inclusive package (which includes meals and drinks).

Casa Velas inhabits a Puerto Vallarta neighborhood that feels a lot like Beverly Hills. The luxurious adult-only hotel has lush manicured grounds, tennis courts, a well-tended golf course, a botanical garden and a large freeform pool with a swim-up bar and built-in tiled seating. Its elegant restaurant serves Mexican and American cuisine three meals a day and its nearby exclusive beach club — accessed via the hotel’s free shuttle — has a sushi bar restaurant and infinity pool overlooking the beach. Decorated in a tasteful, residential Mexican style, the 80 rooms are all spacious and upscale, with excellent mattresses, pillow menus, marble bathrooms, free minibars and 24-hour room service.

Crowded beaches are unheard of on this private island resort where a maximum of 28 guests at a time have free range of 50 acres and three beaches. Each one of the six spacious villas comes with a personal boat and golf cart for daily excursions as we ll as multiple private terraces and decks with incredible views. A major component of each villa is the expansive kitchen, fully stocked with food and alcohol and replenished daily by a 24-hour island host. However, some of the villas feature outdated decor and worn furnishings that seem inconsistent with the resort’s high nightly rates. Nonetheless, Fowl Cay’s intimate vibe and plethora of extras lands it high on our list. All-inclusive rates cover everything from meals and beverages (top-shelf liquor, wine, and beer) to water sports equipment and a host of other activities.

Located in a private community in Manzanillo, Pepes Hideaway is indeed a relaxing, peaceful oasis. Each one of the six bungalows has a gorgeous thatched roof, furnished balcony with a hammock, stocked mini-fridge, bathrobes and free WiFi. The rooms lack TVs and air-conditioning and mosquitoes can be a problem, but fans, bug spray and citronella candles are provided. Three delicious meals are prepared each day — large traditional breakfasts, casual lunches served by the pool or brought to guests at the beach and three-course dinners typically starring seafood. Beer, wine, cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks are available 24/7. The on-site pool has an adjacent whirlpool and the private beach is a 10-minute walk away, though the staff will also drive guests there (personal attention from the staff is a big plus; they will fulfill most requests). Even better, kids are rarely present, making it a wonderful retreat for couples.

Open only to guests ages 16 and older, Villa Premiere offers the best of two Puerto Vallarta worlds: it’s both a beachfront all-inclusive and an urban boutique. One of the few beaches near town — Playa Camarones — is directly in front of the hotel, and downtown Puerto Vallarta is just seven blocks away. Even with its small size, the 89-room Villa Premiere has an attractive all-inclusive package — a compact, but still luxurious, version of what you get at many of the mega-sized resorts several miles north. An added bonus: the property features whimsical artwork throughout.

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