Club Med in Martinique. (Courtesy: Club Med)
It’s no wonder all-inclusive resorts are so popular: Sometimes, we just don’t have the desire (or time or mental bandwidth) to plan an entire vacation. These hot spots take care of the planning for you, which lets you focus on relaxation — and the best do it so seamlessly that you couldn’t sweat the details if you tried.
Yahoo Travel’s most-searched names when it comes to all-inclusive resorts reflect the priorities of today’s world-weary travelers: make our vacations fun and easy, please.
(Note: prices are rack rates per room, assuming two people in a room. You can save a lot by checking ahead for special deals, especially if your travel dates are flexible.)
(See also: Best Affordable Beach Hotels for Summer)
1. Club Med
The granddaddy of them all, Club Med originated the all-inclusive concept, focusing on luxury and giving the idea cachet from the start. Founded in France in 1950, it originally centered on sunny Mediterranean locales but quickly spread to tropical and winter destinations. After trying out new strategies to attract a younger and more budget-focused clientele in the 1990s, Club Med recently renovated many of its older resorts, returning its focus to affluent, active families looking for upscale amenities. The worldwide resorts are known for laid-back atmospheres and a cornucopia of outdoor activities, including dining and dancing, that encourage mingling with fellow guests.
Resorts: 71, most in beach or ski areas
Caters to: Upscale, sociable families
Rates per room: $300-$600/night and up, with lower rates for club members
Sandals resort in Antigua. (Courtesy: Sandals)
Sandals is the king of the Caribbean, with 15 resorts scattered around Jamaica, The Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Antigua, Turks & Caicos, Barbados and Grenada. If you’re single or have kids, look elsewhere: Sandals is a couples-only operation. Focused on romance, this is the place to spend a week having breakfasts in bed, drinks on the beach, and maybe a round of golf with your sweetie. Scuba diving and some other water sports are included, but you can also pay extra and get a spa treatment or arrange an adventure tour.
Resorts: 15 throughout the Caribbean
Caters to: couples looking for romance
Rates per room: $500/night and up
The water park at Beaches Turks & Caicos (Courtesy: Beaches Resorts)
A family-friendly division of Sandals, Beaches has three Caribbean resorts in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos, with a fourth under construction in Barbados. Camps for kids, targeted by age, keep the young ones out of their parents’ hair during the day, and game and music lounges cater to hard-to-please teens. Adults get the same high-end amenities they do at Sandals.
Caters to: affluent, beach-loving families
Rates per room: $500-700/night and up
Pools at the Hotel Vistamar Riu in Gran Canaria (Courtesy: of Riu Hotels)
Specializing in Mexico and the Caribbean, with sister hotels (many also all-inclusive) dotted along Europe’s beaches, Riu properties are all about bang for the buck. A bit less intimate than resorts on the high end of the luxury scale — you’re more likely to stay in a tower than a cabana — they still offer a lot to do, see, and eat. And with all-inclusive specials starting around $200 per room, per night in Costa Rica or Los Cabos, they can be a bargain. Their big pools and nice beaches are family-friendly, but many properties have “adults-only” wings as well.
Resorts: More than 100 (about 60 percent are all-inclusive)
Caters to: value-oriented vacationers
Rates per room: $300 and up
Palace Resorts are all on the Yucatan Peninsula. (Courtesy: Palace Resorts)
The Palace group’s seven hotels are all in major Mexican beach destinations: Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, Le Blanc Spa Resort (adults only), Sun Palace (couples only), Isla Mujeres Palace (couples only) and Beach Palace in and around Cancun; Cozumel Palace in Cozumel; and Playacar Palace on the Riviera Maya. With amenities like an in-room tequila dispenser and 24-hour room service, they target high-end travelers who don’t want to have to worry about a single detail.
Resorts: 7, all on the Yucatan Peninsula
Caters to: well-heeled adults or families seeking no-fuss luxury
Rates per room: $350 and up
Pools at the Iberostar Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. (Courtesy: Iberostar Resorts)
It operates properties throughout the Mediterranean, Caribbean and even South America, but as its name suggests, Iberostar’s specialty is Spain. Its resorts tend to have something of a Spanish flair, along with a good percentage of European guests. Its resorts (some for adults only) offer everything from a la carte accommodation to premium all-inclusive packages. At the high end, the adults-only Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraíso, in Playa del Carmen, took the top spot on TripAdvisor’s Top 25 All-Inclusive list in 2013.
Resorts: More than 100
Caters to: International travelers who like lots of options
Rates per room: varies widely; $400 and up
(Courtesy: Princess Hotels and Resorts)
The Princess group has properties throughout the Spanish-speaking world, from Barcelona to Mexico, often in areas known for outdoor recreation. The company prides itself on its giant pools with poolside “huts” for sheltered relaxation. Some of its most charming resorts are in the Canary Islands, just off the African coast, which makes them appealing for American visiting the islands for the first time. Its “half-board” option (two meals a day) targets travelers wanting to delve into local cuisine outside the resorts. That helps save money, as do great off-season deals that can reduce the price of an all-inclusive stay to as little as $200 a night.
Caters to: value-minded recreation seekers, especially Spanish speakers
Rates per room: $300 and up
The lobby of the Grand Palladium Riviera Resort & Spa in Mexico (Courtesy: Palladium Hotel Group)
With their flair for chic design, Palladium resorts are far from cookie-cutter. Set in Spain, Brazil, Mexico, and the Caribbean, they focus on simple, European-style elegance rather than frills. Some don’t have quite the number of included activities as other chains, although the kids clubs are well equipped, and pools are always large and attractive. This is a place for parents who want to spend their days hanging out by a gorgeous Balinese-style pool or enjoying a game of tennis rather than, say, scuba diving.
Resorts: 12, with more in parent company Palladium Hotel Group
Caters to: independent families with a sense of style
Rates per room: $400 and up
The Oasis Tulum is nicknamed “the calm resort.” (Courtesy: Oasis Hotels & Resorts)
It’s easy to get a feel for what you’ll find at an Oasis resort. Each of the group’s personality-filled properties in Mexico has its own descriptive tagline. There’s Oasis Cancun, “the entertainment resort,” or Oasis Tulum, “the calm resort.” The landing page for Oasis Viva, “the hip resort,” features a scantily clad couple rolling in bedsheets and the words “Adults only. No kidding”—leaving us with no questions as to the priorities there. Many of the hotels are for adults only and include racier-than-usual evening offerings like “kinky burlesque cabaret.” They also make a point of being friendly to all sexual orientations.
Resorts: 9, all on in Cancun or Tulum
Caters to: energetic extroverts with a sense of fun
Rates per room: $300 and up
The Majestic Colonial in the Dominican Republic (Courtesy: Majestic Resorts)
10. Majestic Resorts
The two neighboring Majestic Resorts properties lie next to gorgeous white-sand beaches in Punta Cana, on the Dominican Republic’s eastern tip. They’re bigger than many, with shopping centers, convention facilities, and golf courses. Activities are plentiful and often outdoors based (notable exceptions include the on-site casino). Families are welcome, but the resorts also offer adults-only areas for those seeking a kid-free zone.
Resorts: 2 in the Dominican Republic
Caters to: families, large groups, and couples looking for lots of amenities
Rates per room: $250 and up
Christy Karras is the author or co-author of four books: Motorcycle Touring in the Pacific Northwest, Motorcycle Touring in the Southwest; More than Petticoats: Remarkable Utah Women, and Scenic Driving: Utah. She is a regular contributor to the Seattle Times and has written for publications ranging from Salt Lake City Weekly to the New York Times.