Everything You Need to Know About the Best All-Inclusive Resort Brands

Location, style, and budget are probably the three most important factors for selecting an all-inclusive resort. Easy enough. But wait! You've found several options that fit your criteria, and you notice that one hotel charges for internet access and water sports, while its competitor down the beach offers free Wi-Fi and unlimited scuba diving. Or maybe you realize that some resorts on your list require cheesy plastic bracelets and complicated reservation systems at their restaurants, but others are mercifully wristband-free and have no or minimal reservation policies. Is this the sort of all-inclusive with booming music on the beach and people getting blitzed before noon, or a couples-only, no-kids-allowed resort that's overly sexed-up to an awkward degree? Our point is that researching the intricacies and distinctions of major all-inclusive brands can feel as complex as charting your very own nautical course to reach the destination in question. Enter: Oyster’s handy road map to major all-inclusive brands, where we break down their overall vibe and distinguishing characteristics.

The Brand: Sandals Resorts

Sandals Resorts Locations

Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, Bahamas, St. Lucia, and Grenada

Sandals Resorts Scene

Upscale couples-only resorts with signature romantic touches — fire pits, gazebos, and swinging chairs overlooking the ocean.

Sandals Resorts Rooms

A variety of budgets and preferences are catered to with different room types and service categories, but all include extra-wide king beds, pillow menus, rainfall showers, and bathrobes. Couples in search of serious just-us time could splurge on the brand’s signature Love Nest suites, which come with private pools, 24-hour room service, and butlers.

Sandals Resorts Features

Pick a Sandals, any Sandals, and you won’t lack things to do (and neither will your partner). Every location features multiple pools, excellent Red Lane spas, weekly beach parties, diving centers with PADI training and certification, unlimited water sports — sailing, glass-bottom boat tours, water-skiing, kneeboarding, tubing, snorkeling — and drinking and dining spots that number in the double digits. In fact, there are a combined 162 restaurants across Sandals’ 15 resorts. (Don’t worry, each resort also has its own culinary concierge to assist with reservations and dietary issues.)

Sandals Resorts Details

Private airport transfers, gratuity, unlimited premium liquor, and resort-wide Wi-Fi — even on the beach — are all included.

Our Top Pick for a Sandals Resort: Sandals Grenada Resort & Spa

The 225-room Sandals Grenada Resort & Spa is spread over a sprawling 17-acre property on the southwestern tip of Grenada. And with five pools, a lovely spa and fitness center, numerous activities, and 10 restaurants, couples won’t be at a loss for things to do.

The Brand: Beaches Resorts

Beaches Resorts Locations

Turks & Caicos and Jamaica

Beaches Resorts Scene

Designed for families with kids and teens, these sprawling properties offer water parks, kids’ camps, teen hangouts and nightclubs, XBOX games garages, and even Scratch DJ Academy programs. Beaches partners with Sesame Street, so stage shows and sing-alongs with Grover and Abby Cadabby are on the docket.

Beaches Resorts Rooms

Rooms can accommodate any family or group size (there are more than 40 different room types at Beaches Turks & Caicos), but all feature coffee machines with 100 percent Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, stocked minibars, plasma TVs, and free Wi-Fi.

Beaches Resorts Features

Peace and quiet may be hard to come by (parents could try the Red Lane spas or a candlelit dinner), but just about anything else you can imagine can be found here, and just about all of it is free with the all-inclusive rates. All Beaches have loads of pools, restaurants, and bars, plus free fitness classes, land activities, and water sports, including kayaking, windsurfing, snorkeling, and unlimited scuba diving.

Beaches Resorts Details

Airport transfers, taxes, gratuity, and access to spa facilities are all included (spa treatments are an additional charge).

Our Top Pick for a Beaches Resort: Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa

At Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa, a family-friendly all-inclusive in Turks & Caicos, guests can challenge themselves to eat at all 19 restaurants, drink at all 12 bars, and relax at all six pools before their vacation is over. There’s also a sprawling water park, shopping center, and spa complex for guests to use.

The Brand: Zoetry

Zoetry Locations

Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica

Zoetry Scene

Peaceful, pristine luxury boutique resorts with a wellness bent. Zoetry Agua Punta Cana technically accepts guests of all ages, but its non-discounted rates for children and lack of kid-friendly amenities mean that almost all guests are couples.

Zoetry Rooms

Gorgeous rooms feature upscale beachy decor, balconies or terraces, satellite TVs, and sexy bathrooms with Bulgari toiletries and rainfall showers. Fully stocked minibars are refreshed at least once a day, bottles of champagne and fruit plates are delivered daily, and room service is available 24 hours.

Zoetry Features

Zoetry lacks the loud music of typical all-inclusives, but not the robust activities offerings: yoga, meditation, classes (cooking, cigar-rolling, cocktail-making, and more) are available to guests — once they’re able to extract themselves from the beaches and pools, that is. The all-inclusive rates cover unlimited top-shelf liquor, craft cocktails, and tasty a la carte meals (featuring organic options) at the hotels’ health-oriented restaurants.

Zoetry Details

Gratuity, three-times-daily housekeeping, 24-hour laundry service, and unlimited worldwide calling are all included.

Our Top Pick for a Zoetry Resort: Zoetry Agua Punta Cana

The 96-room Zoetry Agua Punta Cana is one of the most luxurious and tranquil all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic, period. It offers an uncrowded white-sand beach, spacious suites with butler service, a long pristine pool, and one of the area’s best spas. Guests also get a free 20-minute massage and free horseback riding on the beach.

The Brand: Secrets Resorts

Secrets Resorts Locations

Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic

Secrets Resorts Scene

Vast, luxurious adult-only resorts popular for weddings and honeymoons, each with its own laundry list of property features.

Secrets Resorts Rooms

Upscale in-room features like rainfall showers, well-stocked minibars, and furnished balconies or terraces are de rigueur at these resorts. So are “secret boxes,” two-door compartments that allow guests to pick up their room service deliveries (available 24/7) without actually having to open the door and compromise their privacy, even for a second. Most rooms have whirlpools for two people.

Secrets Resorts Features

These high-end all-inclusives have enough features to make leaving their premises virtually unnecessary. Things like expansive spas, gourmet restaurants, and secluded beaches (with food and drink service available here and at the pools) are all aimed squarely at adults and centered around romance and relaxation.

Secrets Resorts Details

Meals and drinks are included in the room rates for all guests, so all properties are wristband-free. Gratuities and taxes are included, and some activities, like scuba diving and fishing, cost extra.

Our Top Pick for a Secrets Resort: Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun

Located on the Riviera Maya, Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun is a romantic, adults-only resort on a private white-sand beach lined with sunbeds, cabanas, and palapas. Its pool complex sprawls over 86,000 square feet, with swim-up bars in many of its 13 pools (one, an infinity pool with panoramic ocean views). A number of shallow pools feature tables, chairs, lounges, and hammocks set in the water. Meanwhile, a stunning spa offers couples’ treatments in private outdoor cabanas on the beach. In addition to the buffet, a wide range of high-quality dining options are available, including Japanese teppanyaki, French cuisine, a wine cellar with over 200 different vintages, and, for an extra charge, romantic dinners for two on the beach.

The Brand: Couples Resorts

Couples Resorts Locations

Jamaica (Negril and Ocho Rios)

Couples Resorts Scene

These mellow, family-run properties are reserved exclusively for couples, so their focus is on romance, relaxation, and adult features, like private candlelit beachfront dinners and adorable banners across room doors announcing honeymoon or anniversary statuses. Guests are more likely to be found sipping Red Stripes and daiquiris on the beach and breezing through light reads than boozing and partying hard.

Couples Resorts Rooms

Elegant, breezy, and modern, with ceiling fans as well as air-conditioning, balconies with either ocean or garden views, and free Wi-Fi. Free minibars are restocked based on guests’ specifications (minibars come standard with ginger ale, grapefruit soda, and Red Stripe; guests can request red, white, and sparkling wine and full-size bottles of vodka, gin, whiskey, and Appleton Special Rum for no additional cost).

Couples Resorts Features

Couples resorts don’t just dish out free meals and drinks; rather, guests enjoy free unlimited golf, free motorized and non-motorized water sports (even scuba diving), and free excursions, including glass-bottom boat tours and sunset catamaran cruises with beer and rum punch. Also free are fitness classes like water aerobics and yoga and tennis lessons, plus nightly entertainment. Perhaps it’s not all top-notch — for instance, the nightly live sets can be a little cheesy, and the “free” golf actually requires guests to hire a caddy on their own dime. Still, with so much free stuff, there’s little room for complaint. Most of the Jamaican Couples resorts have a dedicated nude section; at Couples Tower Isle, it’s the resort’s namesake island, a small rocky refuge about a one-minute boat ride away from the mainland. It’s a cool little spot, with a small pool, a little bit of beach, and a swim-up bar — but guests must be willing to bare it all to experience it. The island’s policy is not clothing optional — it’s clothing prohibited, which might be disappointing for guests who prefer to keep things covered.

Couples Resorts Details

Couples resorts have a no-tipping policy, though there are a few instances where it is suggested. For example, caddy fees at the golf course are mandatory and tipping the airport shuttle driver per bag is customary.

Our Top Pick for a Couples Resort: Couples Swept Away and Couples Negril

With four Couples options between Ocho Rios and Negril, it’s tough to figure out why one might be better than another. Couples Swept Away, has the famed Seven Mile Beach location, while Couples Negril sits just north on the somewhat quieter sands of Bloody Bay — but this may be a plus for those guests looking for a mellower beach vibe.

Hotels in this story

The Brand: Sunscape

Sunscape Locations

Jamaica, Curacao, Mexico, and Dominican Republic

Sunscape Scene

Crowded mega-resorts that are high on kid count and low on local personality. For families looking for mid-range to upper-middle-range beach vacations, Sunscapes can prove solid picks.

Sunscape Rooms

Expect terraces or balconies and flat-screen TVs with cable; minibars are refreshed every few days instead of daily.

Sunscape Features

These resorts offer typical all-inclusive experiences for the Caribbean, with multiple pools (at least one with the requisite swim-up bar) and ample games and sports available (snorkeling and rock climbing, among others). The Explorer’s Club provides supervised indoor and outdoor activities for younger kids, and Core Zone Teens Clubs offers video games, karaoke, and organized socials. Food and drinks are on hand 24 hours a day, though what’s available and when can be a bit confusing, and the food quality might be lacking to some. Reservations at the a la carte restaurants are not required. Unlike some of the luxury all-inclusives on this list, food and beverage service is not offered at the pools or beaches.

Sunscape Details

All taxes and gratuities are included; no wristbands.

Our Top Pick for a Sunscape Resort: Sunscape Splash Montego Bay

Located right on the beach, close to Montego Bay’s highlights, Sunscape Splash packs a big value. Resort features include four pools, three restaurants, a fitness center, spa, beauty salon, and a spectacular pirate-themed aquatic park. Though it’s not ultra-luxe, the property offers an affordable vacation with a beautiful Caribbean Sea backdrop.

The Brand: Paradisus by Melia

Paradisus by Melia Locations

Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, and Costa Rica

Paradisus by Melia Scene

The majority of Paradisus by Melia’s nine luxury resorts are kid-friendly, and yet also suitable for romantics. Separate sections for families (called Family Concierge) and adults (called Royal Service) give the resorts broad appeal for all types of luxury travelers. Couples will find that the well-behaved little ones here are hardly ever a bother. Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla in Mexico and Paradisus Princesa del Mar Resort & Spa in Cuba are fully dedicated to adults, while Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda is emphatically for families.

Paradisus by Melia Rooms

Rooms are across-the-board luxe, though the adult-only Royal Service suites tend to come with higher-end amenities, such as whirlpools. All rooms come with 50-inch flat-screen TVs, balconies or terraces, Nespresso coffee machines, minibars, Thierry Mugler toiletries, free Wi-Fi, and 24-hour room service.

Paradisus by Melia Features

Features here span from the expected (tequila and wine tastings, free non-motorized water sports like kayaking and snorkeling) to the above-and-beyond (elaborate spas and pools, impressive international buffets, and a la carte restaurants).

Paradisus by Melia Details

Tipping is not mandatory, but tax is not included.

Our Top Pick for a Paradisus by Melia Resort: The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real

With less than 200 suites, The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, the family-friendly section of Paradisus Palma Real, has a serene environment, top-notch spa, yoga, and a seemingly never-ending pool area. Guests also get free access to the services, facilities, and restaurants at next door Palma Real — particularly the beach area, which this property lacks.

The Brand: Barcelo Hotels & Resorts

Barcelo Hotels & Resorts Locations

All-inclusive locations throughout Mexico, Dominican Republic, Aruba, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Ecuador

Barcelo Hotels & Resorts

Not all Barcelos are all-inclusive resorts, but the Spain-based hotel group is nonetheless a major player in the market, with more than a dozen all-inclusive venues in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. The smaller Barcelo Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana is for adults only, but the other locations have broad appeal and massive acreage that allow families, partiers, and couples to mingle seamlessly.

Barcelo Hotels & Resorts Rooms

Stocked minibars, coffee machines, and bathrobes are all standard amenities. Room service is available 24 hours; it’s free for guests staying in Premiere Rooms, but comes at a cost in standard rooms.

Barcelo Hotels & Resorts Features

The usual suspects are in full force: large pools, tons of eating and drinking options, fitness centers, theaters, tennis and basketball courts, mini-golf courses, soccer fields, kids’ and teens’ clubs, and activities like dance classes and water games. Some offer 24-hour casinos and nightclubs. All locations have a spa, but all-inclusive guests generally don’t get access to the spa’s facilities without paying for a treatment. Though Barcelos are slightly generic-style resorts best suited for the masses, they do encourage culturally immersive experiences. For example, at the two sister properties in Punta Cana — the aforementioned adult-only Barcelo Bavaro Beach and the family-friendly Barcelo Bavaro Palace — guests can take excursions to local rum factories or learn bachata, a traditional Dominican dance.

Barcelo Hotels & Resorts Details

Almost all services at the hotel are covered, including all meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks throughout the day), unlimited drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), daily activities, and non-motorized water sports. Taxes and gratuity are covered in the rates.

Our Top Pick for a Barcelo Hotel: Barcelo Maya Palace

Guests staying at the high-end Barcelo Maya Palace (15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Riviera Maya) can use all the facilities at its sister properties, the Barcelo Maya Colonial and the Barcelo Maya Caribe, but the reverse is not true, which makes Barcelo Maya Palace feel more serene and exclusive.

The Brand: Dreams

Dreams Locations

Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Dominican Republic

Dreams Scene

Laid-back all-inclusives that appeal to all types of travelers.

Dreams Rooms

Nearly all of the upscale rooms feature balconies or terraces, and all come with daily refreshed minibars, free 24-hour room service, and daily housekeeping.

Dreams Features

Notable among Dreams’ expected features are its food and drink programs — many of the gourmet dining options are a la carte restaurants that don’t require reservations, don’t usually have long wait times for dinner, and serve surprisingly good and varied food. Bars serve name-brand liquor and local and international beers — a perk that’s hard to find at most all-inclusives. And in addition to the 24-hour room service, guests can order meals and drinks via beach and pool service.

Dreams Details

No wristbands here. All Dreams guests are on the all-inclusive program, which covers taxes and gratuity, Wi-Fi and calling, as well as kids’ and teen clubs, daily activities, and nightly entertainment.

Our Top Pick for a Dreams Resort: Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa

Situated on a white-sand beach, Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa is a lovely upscale all-inclusive property in Bavaro. It offers a laundry list of features, such as water sports, daily and nightly entertainment, and numerous kid-friendly amenities. But the Dreams goes above and beyond with one of the largest pools in the D.R. (it never feels crowded).

The Brand: Breathless Resorts & Spas

Breathless Resorts Locations

Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica

Breathless Resorts Scene

Adult-only all-suite properties so massive that guests rarely feel overwhelmed by crowds. Guests looking for a party can certainly find one at these resorts’ many bars, lounges, and theaters with nightly entertainment.

Breathless Resorts Rooms

All Breathless rooms are sleek and stylish suites clearly designed with couples in mind; floor plans are open, beds are comfy, bathrooms feature large showers and double vanities, and balconies are decked out with private whirlpools. Room service is 24 hours and minibars are restocked every day.

Breathless Resorts Features

The breadth of features on hand here is truly, well, breathtaking (most are included in the rates). Pristine pools (which include swim-up bars, whirlpools, and lazy rivers), tennis courts, water sports such as snorkeling and sailing, and daily dance, workout, and Spanish classes are among the offerings. Food and drink service is available on the sandy beaches, as well as by the pools.

Breathless Resorts Details

Rates include everything from the food and alcohol to the water sports and themed pool parties, plus taxes and gratuities.

Our Top Pick for a Breathless Resort: Breathless Punta Cana Resort & Spa 

Opened in November 2013, the Breathless Punta Cana Resort & Spa is massive, so guests rarely feel overwhelmed by crowds. Common spaces are calm with earth-toned decor and teak accents, while rooms are decorated with bright geometric patterns. Shady walkways and manicured lawns weave throughout the resort’s restaurants, bars, shops, and pools, and a lazy river also snakes through the grounds. Rates include everything from the food and alcohol to the water sports and themed pool parties.

The Brand: Club Med

Club Med Locations 

Caribbean, Mexico, Italy, France, Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Brazil, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, Mauritius, Maldives, Japan, Malaysia, China, Thailand, and Indonesia

Club Med Scene

One of the most recognizable and long-lasting brands in the all-inclusive chain game, Club Med began as slightly hedonistic adult-only properties, but most locations have made the family-friendly switch and now allow all ages.

Club Med Rooms

Oyster’s reporters have consistently noted that Club Med rooms are somewhat on the small side (true at the Marrakech, Guadeloupe, and Turks & Caicos locations that we’ve reviewed), but they’re generally tastefully decorated and well equipped; all rooms in all resorts have free Wi-Fi.

Club Med Features

Almost all of the expected all-inclusive features are present and accounted for, plus a heavy emphasis on activities. Club Med’s all-inclusive package allows guests to try their hand at exciting sports like waterskiing, archery, and wakeboarding, or even enjoy circus activities like tightrope-walking and swinging on a life-size flying trapeze. These activities would be expensive elsewhere and add value to Club Med’s rates. Tamer activities include yoga, golf, tennis, beach volleyball, snorkeling, and guided walks.

Club Med Details

Gratuities and tips included.

Our Top Pick for a Club Med Resort: Club Med Buccaneer’s Creek

Club Med Buccaneer’s Creek has one of the longest hotel beaches in Martinique. But it also stands out for its wide range of amenities, including an oceanfront infinity pool, two open-air restaurants with excellent food, and large gym with modern equipment. Rooms have private balconies with (optional) ocean views

The Brand: Riu Hotels & Resorts

Riu Locations

Bahamas, Aruba, St. Martin, Panama, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Morocco, Mauritius, Bulgaria, Turkey, Sri Lanka

Riu Scene

With nearly 70 all-inclusive locations all over the world, Riu resorts range from woefully outdated and bland to super-stylish and modern. Most provide lively and somewhat alcohol-fueled atmospheres for couples, spring breakers, and — with the exception of the chain’s nine adult-only locations — families.

Riu Rooms

Some resorts’ rooms include Riu trademarks such as stocked minibars with liquor dispensers (restocked daily) and 24-hour room service (both free).

Riu Features

Hotel offerings vary from location to location, but rarely do they exceed the realm of what’s expected for the all-inclusive category. It’s safe to expect a mega pool (or three), diverse entertainment day and night, group fitness classes, and non-motorized water-sports equipment like stand-up paddle boards, snorkel gear, and kayaks (some locations offer one free scuba lesson in the pool). Locations with on-site casinos and nightclubs permit guests free entry.

Riu Details

Rates cover breakfast, lunch, dinner (buffets and a la cartes), and drinks, plus taxes and gratuities. The vast majority (50) of Riu’s all-inclusive resorts are 24-hour all-inclusives, so food and alcohol are available around the clock. Wristbands required.

Our Top Pick for a Riu Hotel: Hotel Riu Ocho Rios

With more services and entertainment than some U.S. towns, this massive all-inclusive resort feels like a city unto itself. Amenities include seven restaurants, an enormous private beach, and two large pools. In-room facilities are excellent, too, and include daily-stocked minibars, liquor dispensers, and private balconies, many with ocean views.

The Brand: Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos

Hard Rock Locations

All-inclusive locations throughout Mexico and Dominican Republic

Hard Rock Scene

Fun and upscale rock-n-roll-themed mega-resorts with a little (actually, a lot) for everybody: rowdy college kids, romantics, and families.

Hard Rock Rooms

Huge, stylish rooms with double-jetted bathtubs, free liquor dispensers, and 24-hour room service. Hard Rock’s “The Sound of Your Stay” program offers free music-related loaners, including guitars (full electric “menu”), headphones, and amps.

Hard Rock Features

Hard Rocks are very popular with couples and friend groups, but they’re surprisingly family-friendly, thanks to a ton of great amenities for kids of all ages, such as kids’ clubs, signature family suites, kiddy pools, and kid-friendly menus. And speaking of the restaurants, many all-inclusives have multiple dining options that look and feel the same, and serve strangely similar dishes, but this is not the case at Hard Rock. Here, the staggering assortment of restaurants — which range from all-you-can-eat buffets to international a la carte options to grab-and-go places — have individualized menus, custom decor, and consistently good food. Restaurants do not take reservations, but with so many dining options, they’re not even necessary.

Hard Rock Details

Tipping is not mandatory, but tax (20 percent) is not included.

Our Top Pick for a Hard Rock Hotel: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana

With 1,790 rooms, 13 pools and restaurants, 23 bars, an 18-hole golf course, 65,000 square feet of meeting space, a massive spa and fitness center, and the Dominican Republic’s largest casino, the word huge doesn’t even seem big enough to describe the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana. But the Hard Rock isn’t all about size — the massive luxury property also happens to be one of the nicest all-inclusives in Punta Cana.

The Brand: Excellence Resorts

Excellence Resorts Locations

Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic

Excellence Resorts Scene

Luxurious, adult-only resorts that achieve an upscale feel without the least bit of pretension. Their excellent service helps with this immensely; upon arrival, prompt porters will whisk away luggage and guests are handed a glass of Champagne. Excellences are popular for weddings (there are a few key spots on the beach for ceremonies), so it’s not just honeymooners here, but also partiers in celebration mode.

Excellence Resorts Rooms

Elegant, contemporary suites with private balconies and an array of modern amenities, like flat-screen TVs, iPod-docking radios, and free Wi-Fi (though some guests complain that it’s unreliable). Marble bathrooms are large and have separate jetted tubs and two-person rainfall showers, as well as double vanities and separate toilet rooms. Stocked minibars have beer, wine, and liquor plus snacks, and 24-hour room service is available at no extra charge. Excellence Club guests get extras such as premium minibars, Bulgari toiletries, and Nespresso machines.

Excellence Resorts Features

Set on beautiful beachfront grounds, these luxury resorts offer tropical vacations teeming with activities, dining options, and pools. The massive, meandering pools (Excellence El Carmen has a whopping 23) never feel too crowded, and at night, guests can choose from a number of high-end restaurants before hitting one of the many bars. Food and beverages are especially good for an all-inclusive resort, as is entertainment. Since restaurant reservations are not necessary, it’s easy to be flexible depending on the mood. Dining options are constantly evolving and include a range of gourmet and casual (mostly gourmet, given the crowd).

Excellence Resorts Details

All meals, snacks, and alcoholic drinks — even premium brands – are included in the price. Taxes and tips are technically included, but tipping is quite common. Golf, spa treatments, and use of business facilities are available for extra fees.

Our Top Pick for an Excellence Resort: Excellence Playa Mujeres

Set in a private resort community north of Cancun, the Excellence Playa Mujeres is an adults-only all-inclusive property with lots to keep guests occupied: seven swimming pools, a high-end spa, a theater for nightly entertainment, fitness classes, Spanish lessons, and non-motorized water sports. There are 10 buffet and a la carte restaurants serving a wide variety of cuisines such as Italian, Asian, Mexican, and Indian, plus 11 bars offering premium alcohol and 24-hour room service. Rooms are modern and luxurious, and have big whirlpool tubs; all have balconies, some with ocean views. Visitors can also upgrade to one of the swim-up suites and rooftop terrace suites with plunge pools.

The Brand: Iberostar

Iberostar Locations

All-inclusive locations in Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Spain, the Canary Islands, Morocco, Cape Verde, Tunisia, Brazil, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Cuba

Iberostar Scene

With 71 all-inclusive locations throughout Africa, Europe, and the Americas — all beachfront — it’s tough to sum up what the vibe is like at every one. Amenities at Iberostar Premium and Premium Gold locations run the gamut from family-focused kids’ clubs, teen clubs, and pools, to adult-friendly nighttime entertainment and clubs, while Iberostar’s upmarket Grand Collection hotels are for adults only.

Iberostar Rooms

With the exception of Iberostar’s nine Cuban resorts, in-room Wi-Fi is free. Grand Collection suites come with personalized butler service, pillow menus, and special room scents.

Iberostar Features

Those who wish to take advantage of the all-inclusive amenities at Iberostars will be busy indeed. The resorts don’t simply dole out free food and drinks at their pool bars, snack counters, global buffets, and specialty sit-down restaurants; rather, guests enjoy free non-motorized water sports (kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing); free fitness activities at the hotels’ gyms, pools, and beaches led by certified instructors (yoga, pilates, Zumba, spinning, TRX workouts, kickboxing); and even a free round of golf at Grand Collection properties.

Iberostar Details

Taxes and gratuities are covered by the all-inclusive rates.

Our Top Pick for an Iberostar Resort: Iberostar Grand Rose Hall

The best of the three Iberostar resorts in Montego Bay, Iberostar Grand Rose Hall is an all-suite hotel with top-notch decor, food, and amenities. While some elements remain shared with the lesser Iberostar Rose Hall Beach and Iberostar Rose Hall Suites — like the spa, fitness center, casino, nightclub, and shops — guests at Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall get the pick of the litter with free access to all three resorts’ restaurants, bars, pools, and beaches

The Brand: Royalton

Royalton Locations

Cuba, Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Mexico

Royalton Scene

Busy mega-resorts with great pools and lots of all-inclusive perks (especially for their upgraded Diamond Club guests). Some Royalton locations have sections exclusively for adults, and others are totally adult-only.

Royalton Rooms

Room style ranges from classic colonial (like at Cuba’s Royalton Hicacos Varadero Resort & Spa) to contemporary and understated (as seen at the Dominican Republic’s Royalton Punta Cana Resort & Casino). Paying extra for Diamond Club room categories unlocks a slew of extra amenities and services, like pillow menus, nightly turndowns, free late checkout, and a separate dedicated butler team (who can provide property tours, unpack and pack belongings, iron clothing, and arrange birthday or anniversary celebrations).

Royalton Features

Nicely maintained beaches are a given, and Diamond Club members typically have access exclusive beach space with a private bar and lounge area. On the food front, Royalton’s rather straightforward all-inclusive package happily lacks the many restrictions and reservations required at competing hotels. Instead, there’s unlimited reservation-free dining plus 24-hour (but occasionally slow) room service.

Royalton Details

Royalton’s all-inclusive rates cover most taxes, though prepare for additional exit taxes and reef taxes, depending on the location. Gratuity is included, but like at all resorts, you should still tip the staff. Rates include 24-hour food and drink (Diamond Clubbers get the top-shelf stuff), ample organized activities, non-motorized water sports, resort-wide Wi-Fi, and select international calling.

Our Top Pick for a Royalton Resort: CHIC by Royalton Luxury Resorts

Many all-inclusives advertise that they have multiple a la carte options, but really have one large room divided into several smaller “restaurants.” This is not the case at CHIC by Royalton Luxury Resorts in Punta Cana, where each of the restaurants is thoughtfully designed, and feels like a standalone establishment. Other noteworthy features here include ultra-modern rooms, an on-site spa, a beautiful pool, and beach facilities.

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