The definition of “all-inclusive” in the Caribbean has been changing. What used to mean endless buffet lines and mass-produced travel kitsch is rapidly becoming something very different, both in response to changing tastes and the arrival of new kinds of travelers.
Today, “travelers prize authenticity,” particularly in the Caribbean, says Steven Heydt of Elite Island Resorts, one of the region’s top companies specializing in all-inclusive resorts.
“There are no cookie-cutter hotels in our collection,” Heydt tells us, emphasizing that travelers today are looking for personality, for a Caribbean “180 degrees away from crowds and overdevelopment.”
Indeed, today’s traveler likes the convenience of the all-inclusive vacation but still seek “personalization and local experiences,” says Javier Coll, chief strategy officer at Apple Leisure Group.
What it all means is that while travelers are changing, the all-inclusive is here to stay, reinventing itself for the age of the millennial.
“The future of all-inclusive resorts is assured,” said Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts International. “Forward-thinking all-inclusive resorts will become conduits that reach beyond the traditional hotel experience to offer highly customized guest experiences.”
That’s the thinking that has gone into our newest ranking of the best all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, which feature a mix of resorts from private island escapes to larger beachfront hotels.
What they all have in common, though, is a commitment to quality and an understanding of what guests are looking for. Here are our 2017 rankings and ratings of the Best All-Inclusive Resorts in the Caribbean.
Palm Island Resort, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Whatever your vision of the castaway fantasy retreat, this is it: the private-island resort is a nod to the jet-setting days of yesteryear; from the ride on the small plane to the sunset ferry boat arrival, the minute you get here you know you’ve reached somewhere different. For its remarkable beauty and its overarching authentic Caribbean experience, Palm Island is our favorite all-inclusive in the Caribbean this year.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya
Simply put, Grand Velas Riviera Maya has set a new standard for all-inclusive resorts, thanks to what is some of the best food at any property in the Caribbean — all inclusive or otherwise, at its restaurants featuring gastronomy from around the world. This landmark property in the Mexican Caribbean has 539 massive suites with exceedingly luxurious accommodations.
Zoëtry Agua Punta Cana
The best all-inclusive in the Dominican Republic has a simply beautiful, thatched-roof design style that immediately transports you to a different state of relaxation. The food at this Punta Cana standout is terrific, the rooms are lovely and the beach, thanks to the resort’s boutique size, is always quiet.
Antigua’s signature resort offers 98 rooms on 40 acres of tropical gardens and a show-stopping white-sand beach. The best part? Many of the rooms are of the toes-in-the-sand variety, meaning the ultimate Caribbean beach experience. (Don’t miss a meal at Ismay’s).
What stands out at this 27-suite boutique all-inclusive resort in Antigua is the rooms — jaw-dropping eco-chic cottages with some of the most beautiful design elements in the region, with a mix of beachfront units and hillside rooms with plunge pools. It isn’t really like any all-inclusive you’ve been to.
Sandals Royal Caribbean
Perhaps Jamaica’s signature all-inclusive resort, Sandals Royal Caribbean is a great example of how Sandals continues to reinvent itself to meet the needs of travelers — most recently with the addition of its landmark over-the-water villas here. But the bungalows are just the beginning of a story that is one of the great exemplars for Caribbean all-inclusives.
Spice Island Beach Resort
This Grenada resort is one of the Caribbean’s venerable resorts, led by visionary hotelier Sir Royston Hopkin. With 64 beachfront suites on Grenada’s famous Grand Anse Beach, it’s a throwback to a different era of West Indian hospitality.
While more and more resorts are looking to offer a “wellness” experience to guests, St. Lucia’s BodyHoliday was the undisputed pioneer of the concept. And it’s just as good as ever, with its unmatched offer of a complimentary daily spa treatment. But that’s really just the beginning, from its healthy food to its BodyScience Clinic.
Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita
Zoëtry’s greatness spans the breadth of the Caribbean Sea, with the aforementioned Agua resort and this stunner on the coast of the Riviera Maya. There are 90 oceanfront suites, Bvlgari bath amenities and just about everything in between.
Riu Palace St. Martin
At first glance, it’s hard to imagine the need for an all-inclusive resort in the culinary capital of the Caribbean. But Riu’s only French Caribbean resort more than justifies its existence, with a laid-back, classically calm property on Anse Marcel and very good food. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s just a short drive to Grand Case.
Royalton Blue Waters
Jamaica’s newest all-inclusive is simply terrific, with nods to traditional all-inclusive touches and some revolutionary additions, from cabanas with their own plunge pools to not one but two butlers in butler-service rooms. And then there’s the seriously good food thanks to the emphasis by Royalton, which is right now at the cutting edge of Caribbean all-inclusive vacations.
Sanctuary Cap Cana
The enclave of Cap Cana remains one of the region’s best-kept secrets, a quiet, refined corner of greater Punta Cana. And AlSol’s flagship resort here has 174 rooms and suites, five swimming pools and a setting on one of the region’s most beautiful white-sand beaches, Juanillo.
Set on Dover Beach in Barbados, this is Sandals’ most high-tech property and its most modern. It also has the best food of any Sandals resort, thanks to its “Discovery Dining” program and 11 restaurants.
Secrets Maroma Riviera Cancun
It’s hard to pick out one standout feature when a resort does so many things well; but the Secrets Maroma Riviera Cancun is just that, a resort that raises everything to a different level, from its Pevonia spa to 412 beautifully-designed guest rooms.
Waves Hotel and Spa
Barbados’ newest all-inclusive is a transformative property, in large part to its modern, chic design. This isn’t a large hotel, with just 70 rooms, which makes for an intimate, boutique feel that’s hard to find in most all-inclusives. It’s also something else – millennial friendly, from its wireless speakers to its complimentary spa treatment.
CHIC Punta Cana
As we’ve discussed, Royalton continues to raise the bar with its inventive design concepts, and that extends to its fresh, hip 320-room Punta Cana property, which has everything from a molecular gastronomy experience to the Caribbean’s only oxygen bar.
Moon Palace Jamaica Grande
This Ocho Rios resort has had a long life under several brands, but when Palace Resorts came in they utterly transformed the property, with a new, sparkling design and 700 freshly redesigned suites. There’s something for every kind of traveler here, with amenities like a Kids Club, a FlowRider and a sleek nightclub called Noir.
Hard Rock Punta Cana
We’ve always loved this resort for its energy, which is unparalleled. When you stay here, you feel like you’re in Vegas, with the kind of service, food and entertainment that’s very difficult to find in the Caribbean, along with all of the typical Hard Rock offerings like a Fender guitar “room service” program. And that’s without mentioning the 13 pools.
Hyatt Ziva & Zilara Rose Hall
When Hyatt entered the all-inclusive sector by transforming the former Ritz-Carlton in Montego Bay, it was definitely taking a risk; but the result at both the family-friendly Ziva and adults-only Zilara makes it seem as if Hyatt has been in the game the whole time. This is a delightfully thought-out property with a luxury feel that puts a Hyatt touch on traditional Jamaican hospitality.
Club Med Punta Cana
You can’t do a list of the best all-inclusive resorts without including the brand that effectively started it all. And Club Med’s Punta Cana outpost puts the company’s best foot forward, particularly its adults-only Oasis section, with hip, chic guest rooms. The best part? Simply exceptional food.
Beaches Turks and Caicos
Perhaps the Caribbean’s signature family all-inclusive resort, the ever-expanding Beaches on Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales is equally good at making kids and adults feel special on a massive property that has 15 bars, 21 restaurants and four room “villages.”
Le Blanc Spa Resort
Unsurprisingly, the spa is the story, with 19 stunning suites. But there is much more to this Cancun resort, from the international cuisine to smaller details like Apple TV in every room.
Couples Tower Isle
Couples has long been one of the Caribbean’s all-inclusive titans, and their iconic Couples Tower Isle is better than ever, in large part thanks to its new Oasis Spa Villas, which are the first in the Caribbean to offer unlimited spa access. But the non-spa villa rooms are equally excellent, and the locally-focused food is top-notch, too.
The Reserve at Paradisus Punta Cana
It’s hard to choose where to stay when presented with the vast array of hotel options on the Dominican Republic’s Playa Bavaro; The Reserve makes it easier. A hotel-within-a-hotel at the Paradisus, this luxury enclave has 170 capacious suites, a private lounge, unlimited greens fees at the nearby Cocotal Golf Club and even a family concierge.
It’s hard to call a resort legendary, but Curtain Bluff fits the bill; this spacious resort in Antigua is family-friendly, luxurious and makes every guest feel like the member of a private club.