All-Inclusive Resorts Are Having a Moment
And these 10 all-inclusives are offering way more than poolside cocktails.
It began in 1950, in a small fishing village on the Balearic island of Mallorca. World War II was in the recent past, the sun was shining, and entrepreneur Gérard Blitz decided to set up a village of tents for vacationers. The idea was for people to disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with each other. Guests came in droves, the village’s population swelling to nearly 2,000, with everyone pitching in to work and enjoy a bounty of outdoor activities, food, and drink. This was the first modern all-inclusive resort, a harbinger of piña coladas to come: The original Club Med.
While the initial collection of tents is long gone, the idea of all-inclusives has stood the test of time. Over the years, many of them have gained a reputation for cringey breakfast buffets and nonstop booze, but this really sells some of today’s properties short. Over time, the all-inclusive has continued to evolve to include off-grid adventure lodges, personalized wellness retreats, treehouse getaways, and more.
According to the hotel news website Hospitality Net, all-inclusive resorts are not only regaining popularity in our decision-fatigued New Normal, but the demand is so high it’s given birth to a fresh generation of all-inclusive offerings. Today's resort-goers have been attracted by the idea of a lower-stress vacation, particularly when vacationing with family, as well as the potential to get better bang for their buck in an iffy economy. And resorts in turn have made an effort to offer innovative experiences that appeal to travelers’ changing preferences.
“We have seen the need for a mental and emotional reset steadily rise for many years,” explains Alex Timmons, co-owner of Canada-based all-inclusive hiking and wellness retreat Mountain Trek. “We exist because there is a problem, and we feel it is our obligation to help and it's an honor to offer our guests the much-needed—and deserved—mental, emotional, and physical reset they seek.”
Even Club Med has branched out beyond what most people think of when they consider all-inclusives. “As more people are looking to get away, disconnect, and travel abroad, we strive to provide our guests an abundance of options at our resorts,” says Carolyne Doyon, president and CEO of Club Med North America and the Caribbean. “From food and entertainment to sports and wellness activities, like with the launch of the new Wellness Fusion concept we developed to cater to wellness seekers looking for a holistic experience.” The Club is also taking to the sea in December, with a renovated French sailing yacht known as the Club Med 2.
While Club Med is credited as being the first all-inclusive, it was the late Gordon “Butch” Stewart, a fifth-generation Jamaican and air conditioner salesman who carried on the torch in the '80s. After buying properties in a then-struggling economy in Montego Bay and coining the term “luxury included,” Sandals Resorts was born. Today, Butch’s son Adam Stewart serves as executive chairman of Sandals and says all-inclusives are not only the fastest growing segment of the hotel industry, but there’s no limit to what these resorts are doing.
“For years, there has been this notion that all-inclusive guests never venture ‘beyond the gate,’ but I’ve always wanted visitors to experience my Caribbean,” Stewart says. “When we launched our latest resort, Sandals Royal Curaçao, we knew we had an opportunity to elevate our guests’ ability to authentically connect to the destination—one that is colorful, full of life and waiting to be explored with our immersive Island Inclusive offering.”
We could all use a little more time to connect these days, whether with a place, a loved one, or even with ourselves. These 10 all-inclusive hotels, resorts, and retreats provide ample opportunity to do so. If you want a cool or transformative vacation without the headache of planning every detail, these are the ones to book.
British Columbia, Canada
Ideal for: Hiking and healing in the Canadian wilderness
Located in the mountains of British Columbia, Mountain Trek offers weeklong all-inclusive experiences focused on revitalizing your mind and body. The program, which was designed by doctors and other wellness experts, is capped at 16 guests and definitely isn’t intended for those who want to chill by a swim-up bar. Instead, you’ll be heading out into the wilderness on guided hikes, eating nutritionist-designed organic meals, and relaxing during therapeutic massages. Other activities include a forest bathing experience in which a certified guide takes guests on calming walks, helping you feel fully present while savoring the sights, sounds, and smells of the woods. Don’t worry—if it all gets a little too woo-woo, you can always take a break in the sauna.
Ideal for: Learning about Mayan culture and exploring the Riviera Maya
La Casa de la Playa opened on Mexico’s Riviera Maya last year, and the adults-only boutique resort has been upping the all-inclusive ante ever since. You’ll definitely want to take advantage of its tailor-made experiences, such as visiting local cenotes, touring the mangroves of the Río Maya, and taking in a show about Mexico’s history and traditions at the Gran Tlacho Theater. For those who want to do some solo exploring, La Casa also provides complimentary transportation in the form of a fleet of Teslas.
Back at the resort, you’ll find the heart and soul of the place in its food and beverage offerings. Featuring a culinary collective of standout and celebrity Mexican chefs like Martha Ortiz, restaurants explore the various cuisines of the country’s different regions. One of the hotel’s bars is focused primarily on mezcal and tequila, and there’s even a 24-hour chocolatería for those interested in the region’s cacao.
Ideal for: Angling and other Alaskan adventures
Travel 90 minutes by plane from Seattle to reach this seasonal fishing and adventure lodge, which sits on the rocky coastline of Ketchikan, Alaska. The area is known for being a great place for salmon fishing, which you can do on guided boat trips. But that’s really the least of it when it comes to activities. View bears from the safety of a floatplane, go shrimping, enjoy a kayak tour, hop on a boat for a wildlife-viewing excursion, hike the rugged landscape, and even zip-line through a nearby forest. While Salmon Falls has been operating since the mid-'80s, they’ll be offering an all-inclusive package starting in 2023 that includes meals at the on-site restaurant Timbers and daily excursions.
Santa Barbara, Curaçao
Ideal for: Classic resort amenities with off-property excursions
While most all-inclusives are designed to keep you on property, the relatively new Sandals Royal Curaçao offers an innovative Island Inclusive program that actually pays for guests to dine off-property at some of the best local restaurants. The resort also keeps a fleet of Mini Coopers around for when guests want to explore the area.
That said, there’s plenty to keep you busy on the grounds of the sprawling 351-room resort, especially for foodies. Check out its eight five-star gourmet restaurants for meals of everything from escargot and modern European fare at a Vincent van Gogh-inspired restaurant to tapas and Asian fusion at the on-site food trucks. Whatever you do, don’t miss the specialty Curaçao-infused piña colada for a quick hit of local flavor.
Ideal for: Choosing your own adventure in the Sonoran Desert
Springside bungalows and cozy cabins, farm-to-table meals, natural hot springs, and an entire via ferrata adventure course built into crevasses of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert are just a few of the things that make Castle Hot Springs a unique all-inclusive stay. The ability to choose between a bunch of different activities makes it feel like you’re bunking up at the luxury sleepaway camp of your dreams—and, speaking of dreams, the resort will be offering a new series of sleep retreats in 2023, led by certified sleep expert Rebecca Robbins with the intention of helping guests improve their nightly rest.
Nosara, Costa Rica
Ideal for: Relaxing and recharging in paradise
Costa Rica is no stranger to all-inclusive hotels, but Sand & Salt Escapes, which launched in April of this year, offers a chance for travelers looking to unplug from their busy day-to-day lives. Each six-night retreat takes place at Jade Nosara, a luxury boutique villa with seven standalone bungalows. Its setting in the jungle of the Nicoya Peninsula, one of five designated Blue Zones (areas known for the longevity of their residents), is undeniably lush and beautiful.
Each day starts with a movement class in the morning, followed by a chef-prepared brunch, then plenty of free time to spend at the beach, explore the town, hike in the jungle, or go on an excursion. In the afternoon, mindfulness classes including sound journeys, yoga, meditation, and art classes are followed by an evening sunset walk and a chef-prepared dinner. Everything is taken care for you; all you have to do is show up.
Miches, Dominican Republic
Ideal for: A more personalized resort experience
Forget what you think you know about Club Med. The brand's Playa Esmeralda location is separated into four villages, each of which has been designed to appeal to different types of travelers, whether you're seeking wellness, adventure, kid-friendly accommodation, or an adults-only getaway. The resort is spread across 93 acres connected by a private white sand beach, and over the summer it even rolled out new plant-based and gluten-free menu options for those who need them.
Particularly of note for any health enthusiasts out there, the resort has a Wellness Fusion experience that includes daily activities like yoga and meditation, jungle to table dining experiences, and hydrotherapy sessions.
Stann Creek, Belize
Ideal for: Exploring reefs and rainforests
Belize has long been considered a paradise for diving, but if you don't want to navigate planning your own diving adventure, hoof it to eco-beach resort Hamanasi. Located on the country’s southern coast, it offers a mix of treehouse rooms, beachfront suites and an all-inclusive reef and rainforest package that you won't want to miss.
There’s plenty to keep you busy here, including incredible diving and snorkeling at the Southern Barrier Reef, but one of the most unique experiences has to be a guided night hike at jaguar sanctuary Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, home to nearly 300 species of birds and howler monkeys in addition to the jaguars. You can also participate in cave adventures, tour Mayan ruins, or canoe in the jungle.
Ideal for: Couples who enjoy outdoor adventure and indoor luxury
Just a short drive from Missoula, Montana, the Green O has 12 two-person “hauses” (some in the trees, and some on the ground) for rent on more than 37,000 acres of pristine wilderness. The luxury all-inclusive is ideal for couples who want to connect with nature and each other on a forested hillside surrounded by mountains. Situated on the grounds of the family-friendly (and also all-inclusive) Resort at Paws Up, each haus comes equipped with a Lexus SUV with which to explore the property. New this winter is the chance to whip around the woods on your own MoonBike as well. Other activities include archery, ATV rides, cattle drives, and clay shooting, though the offerings will vary depending on the season. When you’ve worked up an appetite, your stay includes three gourmet meals a day made from locally-sourced ingredients. And just wait until you see the nightly tasting menu.
Río Grande, Puerto Rico
Ideal for: Solo travelers and couples who want to focus on wellbeing
Rolling solo to an all-inclusive hotel might seem a bit intimidating, but not at Casa Alternavida. Set on the eastern side of Puerto Rico, far from the hustle and bustle of San Juan, this all-inclusive retreat starts with a pre-arrival assessment to go over your individual goals. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll sleep in a nature-themed room, eat three organic meals a day, and participate in regular morning movement classes as well as guided nature hikes in El Yunque National Forest. What truly sets this experience apart is the abundance of themed retreats, whether you wish to join a women-only group or reconnect with your inner child at a playfulness retreat.