It’s one more way to travel with “no worries.” And for newlyweds breathing a sigh of relief that stressful months of wedding planning are behind them, all-inclusives can be particularly appealing.
Guests at all-inclusives pay for meals, beverages and activities up front. By leaving many cost-related worries behind, they’re able to more greatly focus on each other – and their often spectacular surroundings.
Many all-inclusives are open exclusively to adults and couples, enhancing romantic options amid relative tranquility. Sandals, which is probably the best known, has a foothold of sorts on architecture that complements its locations.
The British Colonial Sandals Emerald Bay on the Bahamian out island of Exuma offers convenience to powder-sand beaches and jade-colored seas popular among anglers and divers. On St. Lucia, circular suites with private verandas at the Sandals Grande are a part of a compound nestled near even grander natural scenery. A drive-through volcano on St. Lucia, a 19,000-acre rainforest reserve, the Diamond Falls waterfall and towering remnants of volcanic lava masses known as Les Pitons (Twin Peaks) that formed some 250,000 years ago provide this Sandals property with particular appeal.
Secrets and Excellence all-inclusives tout luxury – and Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa amid gated high-end residential estates on Pacific Mexico’s Conejos Bay near the mouth of the Rio Copalita is an example.
The property, with on-site fitness center, theatre and swimming pool, dwarfs the golden sand beach with rock formations on which it sits. Its 399 oceanfront suites feature expansive windows that afford vivid views of what is largely an “ecological zone” protected from future development and serviced by modern water utilities designed to keep the bays pristine.
Conejos is one of nine bays set along a jagged coastline. Beaches in the area are known for surf waves and for Parque Nacional Huatulco – a protected area of jungle and waters that are home to some of the Mexican Pacific’s most important coral communities.
Both Secrets and Excellence have properties in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. At Excellence’s all-suite, Mediterranean-style Riviera Cancun, guests are presented with eight international restaurants, six winding pools, a spa and a nightclub lounge.
The Riviera Cancun is along the Yucatan Peninsula’s Riviera Maya coast, where some native Mexicans from a pre-Columbian culture inhabit a Mayan village of thatched roof cottages. Couples can explore Mayan caves, the site of a pre-Columbian port city known as Tulum and the relatively undisturbed waters and along the conserved coastline of Sian Ka’an (“Origin of the Sky”). Here, jaguars, pumas, spider monkeys, West Indian manatees and some 300 species of birds and more than 800 species of plants inhabit tropical forests, mangroves, marshes and waters intersected by a barrier reef. At Xel-Ha, a natural aquarium park, visitors can snorkel, swim with dolphins, walk under water and more.
For a somewhat reserved stay in a fairly undeveloped area of Jamaica, Couples Swept Away in Negril boasts a quiet intimacy. Negril is home to a river, protected wetlands and forest, a marine park with coral reef, a cliff-top lighthouse and beaches often ranked by travel magazines among the world’s top ten.
Rooms and suites at Couples Swept Away are furnished in cedar, equipped with pure white linens and feature Mexican-tiled floor-to-wood ceiling windows. Wooden plantation shutters afford privacy, and glass doors open to private verandahs, some with hammocks for lounging amid tropical gardens and the sea.
Couples can select from rooms with flat-screen televisions and IPOD-MP3 players or close the door on technology temporarily in atrium and beachfront suites. Guests in luxury thatched palm cottages on a near-private island in the Grenadines can escape from modern distractions like these as well.
It takes a little longer to get to Palm Island, but it’s well worth the time and effort. Friendly island staffers greet arrivals with rum punch cocktails, and a boutique, salon and spa, swimming pool, lending library, tennis courts, plant nursery and greenhouse are onsite. Produce and herbs for the Palm Island Resort restaurant are grown here.
John Caldwell and his family settled Palm Island in the 1960s, a time when its interior was a swamp and it was riddled with mosquitoes. The island, then Prune Island, was uninhabited, and the Caldwells leased it from the St. Vincent & the Grenadines government for $1 US per year, provided they built a lodging facility and employed locals. John Caldwell filled the marsh with coconut palms, gaining the nickname Johnny Coconut, and with Mary, built a 10-room Palm Island Beach Club.
James Lane and Rob Barrett have since rebuilt the property to include 41 rooms plus amenities. The partners also purchased and rent to vacationers two private residences on Palm Island plots that Caldwell had sold to help finance his venture.
Age restrictions at Palm Island Resort are more rigid between January 3 and April 23, when guests must be at least 16 years old; the minimum age otherwise is 12. Croquet, table tennis, cycling, shuffleboard and water sports are among the activities offered. Snorkeling the nearby Tobago Cays and exploring Union Island are among the off-island adventures.
Unlike Couples, Sandals, Excellence and Secrets, Palm Island Resort is more of an independent all-inclusive for adults. Others include:
• Sanctuary Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic, which touts serenity and features a spa, five swimming pools and a shopping galleria.
• Sun Palace in Cancun, Mexico, with three infinity pools, indoor pool with jacuzzi, a spa, a sauna-steam room and a fitness center. Restaurants on site serve up international cuisine; lounges include a swim up bar.
• Le Blanc Spa Resort, also in Cancún and featuring bamboo gardens. Le Blanc maintains a minimalist appeal while boasting 24-hour butler service and infinity pools with submerged chaises.
• Casa Velas, Puerto Vallarta. more akin to entering a barrel-tile roofed Beverly Hills estate – this one with fountains, infinity pool, koi ponds and private beach club. Many of the 80 brightly colored suites at Casa Velas are appointed with the works of Mexican sculptor Sergio Bustamante.