Top All-Inclusives for Mega-Resort Haters

Hey, you. Yes, you over there who has been staring at the computer screen for hours with an overworked expression on your face. You look like you could use a vacation. How about an all-inclusive getaway? Don’t worry -- we’re not talking about the massive, one-size-fits-all retreats that commonly come with binge-boozing spring breakers, crowded bars, cheesy organized activities, lackluster buffet food, and techno pumping through poolside speakers. Believe it or not, there are plenty of resorts that are characterized by their boutique features (no wristbands, no restaurant reservations required), quiet and intimate vibe, personalized service, and great a la carte (and often locally sourced) menus -- all while still presenting the perks of an all-encompassing, everything-included rate. Need proof? Here, we rounded up 20 amazing all-inclusives that even the biggest mega-resort haters will love.

Zoetry Agua Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

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The 96-room Zoetry Agua is one of the most luxurious and tranquil all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic. Catering to couples, the resort boasts an uncrowded white-sand beach, sleek and spacious suites, a pristine pool, 24-hour laundry service, a superlative spa, and daily deliveries of sparkling wine and fruit. The all-inclusive rates cover top-shelf liquor at the hotel’s three laid-back bars and tasty a la carte meals at the four restaurants. Guests can also opt to order from the 24-hour room service menu. In lieu of loud music or nightly entertainment, activities include yoga classes and even one horseback riding session per guest. The difficult-to-reach location and no kids’ club make it less suited for families, but that’s just what makes it an ideal choice for those seeking a romantic and relaxing getaway.

Beloved Playa Mujeres, Cancun

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The adult-only Beloved Playa Mujeres is a rare breed. It’s a true boutique hotel, with just 109 rooms and personalized service, which includes a check-in cocktail, cool towel, and pillow menu. But it’s also an all-inclusive resort -- though if all meals and drinks (including top-shelf liquor) weren’t included, you'd hardly know it. There are no tacky wristbands, no early-morning hustle for lounge chairs, and no reservations required for the restaurants (all a la carte). There are some activities that many associate with all-inclusives, such as bingo, trivia, and DJ music by the pool with the swim-up bar, but overall the activities and nightlife are pretty low-key. Plus, the resort’s compact size is a pro for most. The layout means it is easy to get around (it takes five to 10 minutes to get across the entire property). Starting at 960 square feet, the huge, all-white rooms have decadent bathrooms and private balconies -- many with ocean views and some with plunge pools. Room service is available 24/7. To top it off, the gorgeous spa has an impressive hydrotherapy circuit and the three outdoor pools feature whirlpools and food and drink service. 

Jade Mountain Resort, St. Lucia

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Jade Mountain is one of the most romantic resorts not only in the Caribbean, but the world. The 29 rooms have an innovative design that lacks a fourth wall, opening them up to truly stunning views of the iconic Pitons and Caribbean Sea. Organic cuisine is served from a chic open-air restaurant, and guests can expect unwavering peace and quiet throughout (there are no TVs or children). Though there is no beach, guests can take a short shuttle ride or hike down to use the two beaches, free water sports, and dive center at sister property Anse Chastanet. There are also multiple trails on the resort’s 600 acres and surrounding area for hiking, walking, jogging, and biking. Daily escorted tours are free with the exception of those that involve transportation. All in all, Jade Mountain is well worth the price -- especially for guests who opt for the all-inclusive package (which includes meals and drinks).

Casa Velas, Puerto Vallarta

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Casa Velas inhabits a Puerto Vallarta neighborhood that feels a lot like Beverly Hills. The luxurious adult-only hotel has lush manicured grounds, tennis courts, a well-tended golf course, a botanical garden, and a large freeform pool with a swim-up bar and built-in tiled seating. Its elegant restaurant serves Mexican and American cuisine three meals a day and its nearby exclusive beach club -- accessed via the hotel’s free shuttle -- has a sushi bar restaurant and infinity pool overlooking the beach. Decorated in a tasteful, residential Mexican style, the 80 rooms are all spacious and upscale, with excellent mattresses, pillow menus, marble bathrooms, free minibars, and 24-hour room service. 

Fowl Cay Resort, Bahamas

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Crowded beaches are unheard of on this private island resort where a maximum of 28 guests at a time have free range of 50 acres and three beaches. Each one of the six spacious villas comes with a personal boat and golf cart for daily excursions as we ll as multiple private terraces and decks with incredible views. A major component of each villa is the expansive kitchen, fully stocked with food and alcohol and replenished daily by a 24-hour island host. However, some of the villas feature outdated decor and worn furnishings that seem inconsistent with the resort’s high nightly rates. Nonetheless, Fowl Cay’s intimate vibe and plethora of extras lands it high on our list. All-inclusive rates cover everything from meals and beverages (top-shelf liquor, wine, and beer) to water sports equipment and a host of other activities. 

Pepes Hideaway, Manzanillo

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Located in a private community in Manzanillo, Pepes Hideaway is indeed a relaxing, peaceful oasis. Each one of the six bungalows has a gorgeous thatched roof, furnished balcony with a hammock, stocked mini-fridge, bathrobes, and free Wi-Fi. The rooms lack TVs and air-conditioning and mosquitoes can be a problem, but fans, bug spray, and citronella candles are provided. Three delicious meals are prepared each day -- large traditional breakfasts, casual lunches served by the pool or brought to guests at the beach, and three-course dinners typically starring seafood. Beer, wine, cocktails, and non-alcoholic drinks are available 24/7. The on-site pool has an adjacent whirlpool, and the private beach is a 10-minute walk away, though the staff will also drive guests there (personal attention from the staff is a big plus; they will fulfill most requests). Even better, kids are rarely present, making it a wonderful retreat for couples.     

Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway, Puerto Vallarta

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Open only to guests ages 16 and older, Villa Premiere offers the best of two Puerto Vallarta worlds: it’s both a beachfront all-inclusive and an urban boutique. One of the few beaches near town -- Playa Camarones -- is directly in front of the hotel, and downtown Puerto Vallarta is just seven blocks away. Even with its small size, the 89-room Villa Premiere has an attractive all-inclusive package -- a compact, but still luxurious, version of what you get at many of the mega-sized resorts several miles north. An added bonus: the property features whimsical artwork throughout.

The Caves, Jamaica

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With its upscale boutique vibe, The Caves is considered one of Jamaica’s most romantic escapes. The 11 unique, private cottages and suites at this all-inclusive property unfold along lush garden paths and dramatic seaside cliffs. While dining options are limited given the hotel’s small-scale, guests consistently rave about the quality of the meals, which incorporate local and seasonal ingredients. The creative menu can be enjoyed in a breezy lounge during breakfast and lunch, in the cliffside restaurant for dinner, or -- for no extra cost -- by candlelight in a private cave (five courses; reservations required). Blackwell Rum Bar occupies a grotto at the base of the cliffs, while the clifftop bar offers outdoor imbibing and authentic jerk-barbecue nights. Overall, the scene is laid-back and bohemian -- suited to travelers who appreciate outdoor showers and artful decor in favor of conventional luxury.

Isla Mujeres Palace, Mexico

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Located on a white-sand beach in the southern part of Isla Mujeres, this 62-room all-inclusive, couples-only boutique hotel features all the standards of larger resorts -- a nice pool with a swim-up bar, non-motorized water sports, balconies with ocean views -- but on a smaller scale and with a more intimate vibe. Airy rooms are luxurious and elegant with jetted tubs for two, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. Perks at this hotel include a lack of crowds -- no fighting for pool chairs here -- along with a nice fitness center, spa with four treatment rooms, and quiet beach. One downside: The open-air restaurant has a menu that is somewhat limited. 

The SPA Retreat Boutique Hotel, Jamaica

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The SPA Retreat Boutique Hotel is not your spring break Jamaica party scene. Guests choose this stylish hotel to enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean, eat farm-to-table food, and avoid crowds. It’s an adult-only resort, though older teenagers are allowed. The intimate hotel (maximum 47 visitors) features individual cottages, all-inclusive packages for dining at the on-site restaurant and bar, a variety of spa services, and an incredible view of the Negril cliffs and Caribbean Sea. Given the gorgeous design and luxurious treatments, the hotel is a popular choice for weddings, health and wellness retreats, and special events, as well as for travelers that simply want to escape and unwind in a tropical setting.

Tanque Verde Ranch, Arizona

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Several miles east of Tucson, the all-inclusive Tanque Verde Ranch has one of the best locations in the West for guests who want to experience rustic ranch life while enjoying a luxe resort. Horseback riding and the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert are Tanque Verde’s calling cards, along with upscale accommodations and top-notch service in everything from the riding lessons to the communal meals. There’s also swimming and kids’ activities at this quintessential Western dude ranch. Despite the resort’s remote location, guests can stay plugged in with free Wi-Fi access. Guest rooms, however, lack TVs -- though for some, that only adds to the authenticity of the experience.

East Winds Inn, St. Lucia

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East Winds Inn doesn’t try to compete with the mega all-inclusive resorts on St. Lucia. Instead, the intimate, 30-room all-inclusive caters to guests who want to relax in a quiet location without constant attention. It lacks amenities such as a gym and spa, but offers a laid-back vibe among lushly landscaped gardens. The cuisine features locally sourced and organic ingredients prepared for a barrage of meals including breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and a four-course dinner. Guests hide out in air-conditioned, cottage-style rooms, snorkel the reefs from the lovely gold-sand beach, and lounge at the pool, where they can also mix their own cocktails at the swim-up bar. All-inclusive rates also include live entertainment and free water sports (Hobie Cats, pedals, kayaks, aqua-view boards, and snorkeling equipment).

Sunset at the Palms, Jamaica

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Across the street from the beach, the upscale Sunset at the Palms has a warm and helpful staff, intimate setting, and great food -- all of which create a relaxing retreat that’s a far cry from the crowded chaos at most all-inclusives. Here, you won’t find obnoxious half-drunks elbowing their way to the front of the bar, children playing Marco Polo and splashing you while you try to read, or loud speakers that pump reggae music like it’s Bob Marley’s birthday. Dinner is served by candlelight, and a singer with an acoustic guitar plays mellow tunes while people eat. The resort is small and offers no real evening entertainment or daily activities. The mellow vibe here is perhaps most appreciated at the pool, which is surrounded by thick palm trees and centered around a Balinese-style swim-up bar. 

Travaasa Austin, Texas

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About a half-hour from downtown Austin, this upscale spa resort is bucolically set amid ancient live oaks, cypress trees, and forested hills of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Its 72 rooms are housed in seven buildings and offer private balconies with beautiful canyon or garden views. Hiking trails, an infinity-edge pool enclosed by a wooden deck, and a luxurious spa are just some of the amenities here, and there’s a restaurant serving organic, local fare, with many of the ingredients sourced from the hotel’s own farm. The serene atmosphere is furthered by the over-16 policy. 

Canyon Ranch, Arizona

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Located in north Tucson near the Santa Catalina Mountains, Canyon Ranch is a 70-acre all-inclusive resort that caters to guests who wish to improve their health and wellness. Daily fitness classes along with informational lectures and a menu packed with healthy, low-calorie food help guests to jumpstart (or maintain) a healthy lifestyle. Immaculate, peaceful grounds and focused spa treatments all provide an incredibly relaxing environment. Plus, the color palette of the southwest inspired the decor of the rooms, which come with flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and iPod docks. And while many guests report feeling renewed after a visit -- especially after spending time in the 80,000-square-foot spa complex -- there is a hefty nightly resort fee and a three-night minimum stay.

Diamond Athuruga, Maldives

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Sporting white and wood decor and a chill vibe, the all-inclusive Diamonds Athuruga is the nearly-identical sister property to Maldives’ Diamonds Thudufushi. However, if you’re having trouble deciding between the two, this 73-room upscale boutique claims calmer waters, an uber-close house reef, a more personal vibe, and a bigger beach. Boho-modern rooms feel just shy of luxurious, but minibars, personal decks, bidets, and rainfall shower heads come standard (upgrades get you iMacs and personal routers). The small island also manages to fit a ton of amenities, like free daily activities, a spa, free laundry service, a dive center, and even tailoring services.

Blackberry Farm, Tennessee

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Sitting on 4,200 acres of gorgeous pastures and woods in the Great Smoky Mountains, this gorgeous farm hotel is a secluded, serene haven for foodies and nature lovers. Guests can immerse themselves in the beauty of the Appalachians by enjoying the venue’s various activities (horseback riding and fly fishing, to name a few). Being that the farm is known for its food and drink, there are also many culinary activities to partake in, such as wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, brewery tours, and gardening. The restaurant, The Barn, offers a true farm-to-table dining experience, as a majority of the produce is picked from the property’s garden. There’s also a stunning, tranquil spa and two pools that visitors can enjoy. Guests can stay in luxurious cottages or in a charming room in the Main House.

Cocobay Resort, Antigua

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While some all-inclusive island resorts can feel generic and staged, Cocobay is all about charm and authenticity. It exemplifies a relaxed, low-key Caribbean vibe, but still maintains a super-cool, even hipster edge -- with stripped-down, rustic room furnishings, specialty cocktail list, and young, trendy guests. The posh adults-only property catering to couples, wedding parties, and honeymooners, but it offers a much more intimate atmosphere than massive couples-only resorts like Sandals. And it’s not a place to party either -- the bar closes up early, and all is quiet by 11 p.m.

The Lodge at Woodloch, Pennsylvania

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Deep in the Poconos, The Lodge at Woodloch is an upscale, adult-only retreat whose spa aesthetic feels miles away from the area’s infamous gaudy honeymoon suites and heart-shaped hot tubs. It has all the usual perks of an all-inclusive resort in the region -- with acres of woodland, a private lake, and an adjacent golf club -- but the restaurant here is a farm-to-table affair with some of its produce sourced from its own garden. Guests can spring for chef-curated dinners, with cocktails and a wine list worth exploring. On top of substantial rates for rooms that are somewhat dated, alcohol and extras don’t come cheap, but couples looking for a relaxing spa holiday should find what they seek here. 

White Stallion Ranch, Arizona

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Set on 3,000 acres between Phoenix and Tucson, the White Stallion Ranch is an all-inclusive dude ranch with 41 Western-style rooms. Family-run for 50 years, the resort resembles a movie set, with desert, mountains, enormous saguaro cacti, and genuine cowboys filling its grounds. Activities here range from horseback riding to rock climbing to hiking, and are available for all ages and skill levels. From the family-style dining room to the rustic-luxe cabins, the property feels worlds away from the stereotypical massive, mega-resorts.

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