By Chanize Thorpe
All-inclusive resorts have reached a new level of luxury in the Caribbean, with services such as butlers who make spa and dinner reservations, and pool concierges who schlep cocktails and snacks to your floating chaise lounge. The perks, such as free spa treatments and golf excursions, are even more impressive—and attractive—to today's traveler looking to max vacation dollars. Here's the scoop on a new crop of fantastic resorts.
Upscale Romantic Getaway in Punta Cana
Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana, which opened in May 2011, is a 373-room, adult-only haven that's ideal for honeymooners and couples. Details include rooms with Jacuzzis on balconies, an expansive swimming pool, and a huge spa with 18 treatment rooms. Activities at this resort are nonstop, from morning water aerobics to nightly entertainment at the theater and casino.
Good to Know: The Dominican Republic has plenty of budget-friendly, all-inclusive vacations, but Secrets is a notch up from many other outposts. High-season rates run $514, per couple, per night.
The Kicker: Guest have access to the bars and restaurants at neighboring Now Larimar Punta Cana resort, so staying at Secrets is like getting two hotels for the price of one.
Five-Star Luxury in Under-the-Radar St. Vincent
The Buccament Bay Resort, which opened in September 2011, is giving big buzz to the under-the-radar island of St. Vincent—which hasn’t seen a new hotel in five years. The property's 95 villas are located on the unspoiled southwest coast, perfect for the vacationer craving an uncrowded resort experience. Highlights include decks with private pools, vaulted ceilings, and waterfront views. And if you happen to be planning a wedding at the resort this summer and are a fan of the film Pirates of the Caribbean (the movies were filmed in the area), you can exchange vows on Buccament Bay's very own galleon ship.
Good to Know: Getting to Buccament requires patience and deep pockets—first a flight to Barbados, or St. Lucia, then a hop to St. Vincent on LIAT airline, SVG Air (or Harlequin Air, come February). After you land, it's a 25-minute drive to the resort.
The Kicker: Going to Buccament is like going to camp. The resort is the first in the Caribbean to partner with the Liverpool Football Club Soccer School, offering kids ages five and up a chance to train with professionals. And those interesting in theater can take classes at the Harlequin Performing Arts Academy.
South Beach Style in Playa del Carmen
Just two months old, the Paradisus La Perla is an adult-only, 394-suite luxury resort surrounded by a mangrove preserve, which gives it a private, secluded feel. It features 60 rooms where guests can swim right up to their doors (the property boasts it has the most in Mexico), plus a full-service spa and nearly a dozen restaurants. Also on the property is the family-friendly, 512-room Paradisus La Esmeralda, with everything for kids including child-sized robes and slippers, and milk and cookie turn-down service. The resorts are a quick taxi ride to Playa’s famous Fifth Avenue, for shopping and hopping nightlife.
Good to Know: Step it up at La Perla with their "Private Royal" service, and have a private butler make your spa and dinner reservations, or ready your hot tub so you can relax and enjoy the Thierry Mugler bath products. There's a similar level of service at La Esmeralda that caters to families, giving them walkie-talkies for on-the-spot concierge attention.
The Kicker: It’s an extra $45 for the tasting menu at La Perla’s signature Michelin-star-rated restaurant, Passion, by Spanish chef Martin Berasategui. But those who opt for club status at either property get a complimentary meal with a four-night booking. Passion is open to the public, though hotel guests are promised first dibs.
Photo Credit: Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana courtesy AM Resorts