The Best Affordable All-Inclusive Resorts

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An influx of service-oriented hoteliers has raised the bar on the all-inclusive resort model, introducing more amenities and more of a sense of place.
An influx of service-oriented hoteliers has raised the bar on the all-inclusive resort model, introducing more amenities and more of a sense of place.

Better still, the perks and convenience of an all-inclusive vacation can be had at a great price (from $149 per night at the Ocean Coral & Turquesa on Mexico's Riviera Maya).

In years past, the cuisine at many all-inclusive resorts had all the flair of a Holiday Inn buffet, with a few slices of pineapple to signify location. Buffet lines haven't disappeared entirely, but resorts are recognizing that showcasing fresh ingredients and local cuisine will lure guests with more refined palates.

Taking the focus on cuisine even further, Azul Beach Resort on the Riviera Maya calls itself "gourmet-inclusive": The 97-room resort operates four full-service restaurants, several snack bars, and a lounge dedicated to tequila, just to keep foodies coming back.

Gone, too, is the desperately perky social director organizing a poolside conga line. Resorts are one-upping each other with an ever-expanding roster of diversions: golf, tennis, ziplines, kids' clubs, snorkeling trips, Spanish lessons, beachfront climbing walls, kayaking, and trapeze instruction. Even lazing on the beach has received an upgrade: you'll find hand-carved Balinese beach beds under palapas at Melia Caribe Tropical.

Some all-inclusives now even embrace local pride. CoCo Bay urges guests to check out the nearby national park and local museums to get a taste of Antigua that can't be experienced from a hammock.

Sure, you may be able to find great food, thoughtful service, and a wealth of activities elsewhere on the beach, but at what cost and after how much research?

These all-inclusive resorts, put together by the folks at Travel + Leisure, guarantee vacations where, for a few nights, you can count on economic stability and ease of planning. Treat yourself to one of these trips as a kind of stimulus package for your budget-and your peace of mind.

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The Best Affordable All-Inclusive Resorts (PHOTOS)

Who Should Go: Surfers, active couples, and families with older kids


Why: This glorious arc of Pacific beach in Costa Rica has attracted surfers since the ’60s. Getting in touch with nature at Barcelo Playa Langosta isn’t a challenge: without any more effort than a stroll along the beach or even across the grounds to the hotel pool, you can see howler monkeys, iguanas, raccoons, butterflies, hummingbirds, and parrots. A wild nightlife is another thing, though—travelers in search of a lively scene should take the $5 cab ride to the nightspots of Tamarindo.


The Dollars: Doubles from $165/night.

Who Should Go: Couples looking for quiet and romance


Why: Live like colonial gentry at Casa Velas, an adults-only, all-suite boutique hotel and ocean club in Puerto Vallarta. The quiet grounds—manicured tropical gardens, koi ponds, a curvaceous swimming pool, inviting patios—and attentive and discreet staff will have you convinced that you’re staying at a five-star hotel. The over-sized suites feature private plunge pools or outdoor Jacuzzis. While Casa Velas is not on the beach, it maintains a private beach club with its own restaurant, lounge, infinity pool, and cabanas.


The Dollars: Suites from $340 per person.

Who Should Go: Families

Why: The Club Med brand has slipped out of its swinging ’70s threads into something a little more family-friendly. Guests drop their offspring for the day at one of the buzzing Mini-Club Meds and then choose to take a yoga class, lounge on a daybed next to the pool, sail, snorkel, or sea-kayak in the Pacific. The swinging hasn’t ceased altogether, either: intrepid visitors can learn trapeze at the on-site circus school. A vacation here is a like visit to a swank, action-packed summer camp, with the added bonus of mojitos, spacious rooms, and comfy beds.

The Dollars: Adults stay from $1,440 per person for a seven-night all-inclusive vacation. Kids stay free much of the year and special discounts are announced frequently.

Who Should Go: Couples looking for peace and quiet


Why: Guests at CocoBay know they’re in the West Indies. The individual bungalows, painted in soft pastels, have tin roofs, gingerbread trim, and spectacular, unobstructed sunset views. The hotel has furnished the cottages (and the larger "plantation houses") with hard-carved beds and antiques and decorated them with colorful local art. The mood at the resort is tranquil, informal, and unplugged: no phones or televisions—and no kids under 14.


The Dollars: Doubles from $320.

Who Should Go: Beach lovers of all types.

Why: The water’s the thing in Aruba and at Divi Aruba and its next-door sibling, Tamarijn, visitors will spend most of their time in that water. The two resorts share amenities: pools, a 30-foot climbing wall, bikes, tennis courts, a gym, children’s camp, and access to a neighboring casino. Though families and honeymooners outnumber other guests, the vibe remains mellow and beach-focused, not frantic with kiddie activities or bass-thumping nightlife.

The Dollars: Doubles from $525 at Divi, and from $475 at Tamarijn.

Who Should Go: Honeymooners and couples with small children


Why: While girls gone wild and their bachelor-party admirers whoop it up down in Cabo San Lucas, blissful romance prevails at this generously proportioned beachfront palace. Popular for destination weddings (ceremonies are scheduled almost every day) and honeymoons, Dreams offers large ocean-view suites with private terraces, three large pools, five restaurants, and lots of activities, as well as opportunities for leisurely inactivity. Special packages are available (for additional fees) if you want to play one of the eight championship golf courses in the area or try deep-sea fishing. While romance is the focus, Dreams hasn’t neglected families: a children’s Explorers Club (with evening hours) and a kids’ pool give parents a break.


The Dollars: Doubles from $395/night.

Who Should Go: Couples, families, groups
Why: While it’s so sprawling that a mini-train shuttles guests around its vast grounds, the Dominican Republic's Melia Caribe Tropical offers a Royal Service upgrade which tames the beast. Royal Treatment guests can take advantage of the extensive amenities of a mega-resort while staying in their own wing, complete with dedicated butler service, as well as a private restaurant, pool, and exclusive stretch of Punta Cana’s spectacular blue water and bone-white sand beach. A beach concierge and runners fetch drinks and cool towels to your shady palapa. The distractions are many: golf, a climbing wall, windsurfing, a zip line, ten pools, tennis, and a casino. The Flintstones-themed kids’ club operates until the late evening so parents can enjoy some uninterrupted yabba-dabba-you time.


The Dollars: Junior Suites in the Royal Service wing (sleeps 2 adults and 2 children) are available from $410/night.

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