Published June 21, 2012
| Budget Travel
Your kids want to swim in the ocean, your spouse wants to perfect his tennis serve, and all you want is a nice glass of wine with dinner--oh, and to wake up to the sound of the waves lapping the shore. All for one price that won't break the bank. Mission impossible? Not anymore.
It's a fact that all-inclusive resorts can be expensive, with the average nightly rate at some of the bigger chains running $450-per person. And when you find one in your price range there's usually a caveat--the beach is a 15-minute drive away, or the "all" only includes non-alcoholic beverages (those margaritas by the pool really add up). We here at Budget Travel love a challenge and--though it wasn't easy--we found 10 beachfront all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America (plus one Mediterranean resort so charming we couldn't resist including it) starting at $100 per person, per night. And they really are all-inclusive: a double room, three meals a day, drinks (from soda to cocktails), and lots of activities. And each one has an added bonus, too, from tennis lessons to scuba instructions. The only thing not included? Caveats.
Iberostar Costa Dorada, Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic
Iberostar operates six hotels in the Dominican Republic, but this resort 10 minutes from Puerto Plata gives you the most for your money. The 516 rooms (which all have either a terrace or balcony) are located in thatch-roof buildings painted cheerful shades of yellow and purple. The entire property underwent a full renovation in 2011 resulting in completely remodeled rooms, a new lobby, and a renovated kids' club. There are three a la carte restaurants (Brazilian, Mexican, and seafood from the local waters) plus a buffet restaurant. If you aren't content to just sit on the beach or the massive pool, there are activities all around the resort, from archery to merengue lessons. Bonus While some all-inclusive resorts only serve house-brand liquor, bartenders at Costa Dorada pour from imported names as well (Tanqueray, Stoli, etc.). Carretera de Luperon Km 4, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, 888/923-2722, iberostar.com. From $100 per person, per night (three-night minimum).
Krystal Cancun, Mexico
This Riviera Maya resort makes the most of its location: the pool runs lengthwise along the sand, and there's even a beachfront infinity whirlpool. The Krystal, which is in the heart of the Hotel Zone on Punta Cancun, has 453 rooms, and each one has a view of either the Caribbean Sea or Cancun Lagoon. The rooms were also renovated in December 2011 with updates like marble floors, flat-screen TVs, and rain showers--perfect for washing off all that sand. Bonus One of the downsides of an all-inclusive resort is that you have to eat every meal on-site. Krystal includes a Discover Cancun pass that covers one dinner at a local restaurant. Paseo Kukulcan Km 9.5, Cancun, 800/437-9605, krystal-hotels.com. From $100 per person, per night.
ClubHotel Riu Negril, Jamaica
Head out to the far western tip of Jamaica and you'll find this lively beachfront resort in Negril. It is right on the beach, but the place to be is by one of the umbrella-shaded loungers around the two gigantic pools (both are well over 3,000 square feet). There is a party atmosphere here, and the complimentary mini bars and liquor dispensers in the 420 guest rooms are regularly restocked. If you want to go all out, head to the Pacha nightclub, where reggae is sure to be spinning. If you are looking for quiet, try the solarium terrace. Bonus The resort often adds credits to the Renova Spa in the all-inclusive packages, such as $20 per person toward a 50-minute massage (massages start at $100). Norman Manley Blvd., Negril, Jamaica, 888/748-4990, riu.com. From $101 per person, per night.
Royal Decameron Golf Beach Resort & Villas, Farallón, Panama
This 1,170-room mega resort does things big from its spot on a mile of secluded beach. There are eight pools, 10 restaurants, and 11 bars (including one swim-up), which means you'll rarely do or see the same thing twice. Play in the Pacific with free paddleboards, kayaks, or windsurfers, or check out the local underwater residents with the provided snorkel gear. The nightlife is also big here and the party goes long after the sun sets (which probably has something to do with the open bar). Bonus Though the base-rate is for a garden-view room, each one has a terrace or balcony overlooking the tropical foliage. Avenida Principal Farallón, Km 115, 011-507/993-2255, decameron.com. From $106 per person, per night.
Coral Beach Hotel & Resort, Paphos, Cyprus
While the other resorts listed here are close to the U.S., this all-inclusive trades the Caribbean for the Mediterranean--and it's worth the trip. The 420-room resort is located on the edge of the UNESCO-protected Akamas Peninsula on Cyprus's western coast. The beach is lined with blue loungers, as is the 164-foot pool (keep an eye out for members of the British Olympic swim team; they use the pool for training). Have dinner overlooking the boats bobbing in the harbor from the terrace where blue-and-white-checked tablecloths flap in the sea breeze. Then watch some local folk dancing. Who knows, after a glass or two of zivania, you might join in. Bonus If the scenic surrounding inspires your creative side, the resort offers free art classes in pottery and glass-painting. Coral Bay, Paphos, 011-357/26-88-10-00, coral.com.cy. From $144 per person, per night.
Majestic Colonial, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
This 658-room resort in Punta Cana gives you a lot of you choice for how to spend your evening: there are eight restaurants, plus nine bars including a piano bar and a sports bar. Not that there aren't choices during the day as well: The main pool is more than 1,300 feet long (there is also a children's pool and a whirlpool) and catamarans and windsurfers are available on the beach. The snorkeling right off the beach is top-notch, and all the equipment you need is also included. Bonus Every room at the resort is a suite with a terrace or balcony (and a Jacuzzi tub). Playa Bavaro, Punta Cana, 809/221-9898, paradiseislandbahama.com. From $150 per person, per night.
Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa, Mexico
The Sunscape's budget-friendly price makes it a deal, but most people travel here for the location on a sandy beach on quiet Playa del Palmar. The resort re-opened in November 2011 after a $10 million upgrade to all the rooms (including new furniture, flat-screen TVs, and fully renovated bathrooms) and restaurants as well as the addition of a new spa (alas, massages aren't covered in the all-inclusive rate and start at $68). There are only 285 rooms, but you'll find the choices typical of a much larger resort. There are four bars plus eight restaurants ranging from seafood to Italian to Mexican (and the small size means no reservations are required). Bonus Embrace your inner Serena Williams or Roger Federer and perfect your serve at the free tennis clinics. Paseo de Ixtapa S/N Lote 3-A, Ixtapa, 800/087-4890, sunscaperesorts.com. From $151 per person, per night.
Jolly Beach Resort & Spa, Antigua
Set on 40 acres (including a mile of white sand), the Jolly Beach Resort & Spa is great for those who want to get out on the turquoise water. Kayaks, Hobi Cats, and paddleboats are all at the ready and there are also two pools. Would you rather just take in the view of the waves? The 464 rooms all have at least partial ocean views. The resort also has five restaurants, ranging from a casual beach take-out place to the Italian Bocciolo. Bonus A proper afternoon tea with scones and cucumber sandwiches is also offered every day in the courtyard-a nod to the island's British roots. Bolans Village, Antigua, 866/905-6559, jollybeachresort.com. From $171 per person, per night.
Barceló Langosta Beach, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Staying here affords travelers the best of both worlds: The resort is on a secluded beach surrounded by rainforests and a national park, but is less than a mile from the popular town of Tamarindo. This is a low-key resort, with just one buffet restaurant and one a la carte restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine (there is an additional $36-$42 fee for the a la carte restaurant) and one bar, plus a small casino and an amphitheater with daily entertainment. But the 134 rooms have views of the Pacific Ocean or the estuary of Las Baulas (part of the national park). Bonus Tipping for the staff is included in the rate, so no need to reach for your wallet every time you order another round. El Robledal, Tamarindo, 800/227-2356, barcelo.com. From $180 per person, per night.
Paradise Island Harbour Resort, Bahamas
At just 246 rooms, this family-friendly resort is a fraction of the size of the 4,000-room Atlantis next door. But it's also a fraction of the price for the all-inclusive option. Paradise Island is on a private beach and has a large pool and three places to dine (a pool-side grill, a buffet, and a steak and seafood a la carte restaurant). Unwinding is the first order of business here, so you won't find the same 24/7 whirl of activity here as at the mega resorts. But that doesn't mean anyone in your family will be bored. The kids' camp keeps them busy with sand castle building and craft making, plus sports like pool volleyball and beach bowling. Bonus If you've ever wanted to learn how to dive, this is the place: the resort offers a complimentary scuba lesson in the pool. Harbor Dr., Paradise Island, Nassau, 888/582-0192, paradiseislandbahama.com. From $200 per person, per night.