By Chanize Thorpe
While it's no secret that all-inclusive resorts offer a great-value vacation, happily, the secret's not yet out on these 7 exceptional all-inclusive picks. While such resorts once had a bad rap, they're now extremely popular, thanks to their upfront pricing policy, and upped ante on included services and amenities. While many all-inclusive chains are well-known, read on for these 7 options that have remained blissfully under-the-radar or are brand-new on the scene.
1. Palladium Resorts
This Spanish chain has resorts scattered throughout Spain, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Brazil. Its Grand Palladium outpost in Mexico's Riviera Maya region is set some 80 miles outside of Cancún, and is so large that trams have to transport guests throughout the 1,554-room complex, on well-trodden routes like those from the spa to the adults-only beach. While the sleek and super-quiet, 18-and-over-only Royal Suites section, is well worth it for the kid-free traveler, everyone is invited to enjoy the large list of activities, from mechanical bull-riding to treasure hunts. If hunger or thirst is ever an issue, you're not doing it right, with over nine restaurants and bars at your fingertips, where free top-shelf liquor abounds. Rates from $200 per room, per night.
2. Petit St. Vincent Resort, Grenadines
When you're on this private island resort, put away your cell phone (service is spotty anyhow), don't look for a TV, and forget about room keys, since your cottage-suite is lockless. That's the simple life at this laid-back, luxe resort, set upon 115 acres of loveliness in the middle of the Grenadines. Petit St. Vincent Resort makes vacationing easy by including all meals, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages in the rate. Plan on days snoozing on beachside hammocks, snorkeling in the turquoise waters, chatting with newfound friends, and catching up with your Kindle. Rates begin at $1,100 per cottage, per night.
3. Sandos Resorts
No, this isn't a typo for Sandals resorts. The thriving Sandos Resorts brand has properties in Tenerife and Lanzarote on the Canary Islands, as well as in Los Cabos, Cancún, and Playa del Carmen, in Mexico. The best part? It's a heck of a deal. Rates can go as low as $94 per room, per night, for a junior suite at the Riviera Maya property, for example. Even better, rooms there, overlooking the Caribbean Sea or the jungle, are a win-win either way, so there's isn't a bad view to be had. And, if you want to split your time between resorts, as some offer live entertainment and shows you won't want to miss, it's an easy booking and transfer away.
4. Generations Resorts, Mexico
South-of-the-border all-inclusive boutique hotels can be a dime-a-dozen, but the 30-room Generations Maroma, which opened in August 2012 near popular Mexican vacation spot Playa del Carmen, is a big step-up in quality. Not only is every room a sprawling suite, some have their own plunge pools, and all come with personal butler service. The cuisine is also gourmet, with á la carte Mexican/Caribbean and Asian restaurants, as well as a buffet. Generations is family-friendly with a kids' club on hand for those ages 4 to 12, but those seeking tranquil time can escape next door to the adults-only sister property, El Dorado Maroma. Also, look for the even bigger, more over-the-top Generations Riviera Maya, opening in January 2014. Rates begin at $254 per person, per night.
5. Breathless Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Finding a truly deluxe all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic can be a crap shoot, and often with you-get-what-you-pay-for results. But this adults-only new kid on the all-inclusive block, which officially opened on November 2, has already seen rave reviews thanks to its detailed attention to great cuisine, which is often lackluster around these parts. Plus, preview visitors have highly touted Breathless's 13 restaurants, seven bars (including a free in-room minibar), and extra-large suites with Jacuzzis on the balcony. Rates from $153 per person, per night.
6. Jewel Resorts, Jamaica
Out of Jamaica's many all-inclusive resorts, it's refreshing to see a new contender that appeals to both family and adults-only clientele. Two Jewel Resorts properties—Dunn's River in Ocho Rios and Paradise Cove near the North Shore—are adults-only. Here, you'll find rooms with romantic four-poster beds, pools with swim-up bars, mini-golf, and even free airport transfers. The third property in Runway Bay is where connecting rooms are available, and the whole clan can comfortably unwind with three pools, and a plethora of organized activities, including an upcoming water park. Rates from $498 per couple, per night.
7. Travaasa ResortsHawaii isn't big on all-inclusive resorts, so when the iconic Hotel Hana Maui was revamped into this hotel group's one-price-pays-for-nearly-all concept, it became an instant hit. What a boon for visitors in search of rest after making the long, winding road trip to remote Hana on the island's eastern tip! The Maui property's $600 per person, per night, rate includes meals, programs, tips, and even a $125 resort credit per person, per day, which can be used on spa treatments. Alcohol isn't included, but can easily be brought on property or ahead of time. Can't make it to Maui? There's a Travaasa in Austin, Texas, as well (from $475 per person, per night; pictured above).
Photo credits: Grand Palladium Riviera: Courtesy of Palladium Hotel Group; Petit St. Vincent: Mike Toy Photography; Generations Resort: Courtesy of Generations Resorts; Breathless Punta Cana: Courtesy of Breathless Punta Cana; Travaasa Austin: Travaasa Experiential Resorts