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Caribbean all-inclusive resorts: Maximum fun for the money

2018-08-03T08:17:33-05:00 en-US Aug 03, 2018

Photo: Sunscape Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino is the largest all-inclusive on the island.  Credit: Sunscape Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino

By: Melanie Reffes

Source: USA Today

With unlimited eating and drinking the hallmark of a one-price holiday package, you can amp up the all-inclusive meter by sniffing out add-ons that come without additional price tags. Check out our suggestions and get a big bang for your buck at a Caribbean all-inclusive resort.

Curacao

Photo: Families can swim with the turtles at the Sunscape Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino all-inclusive resort. Credit:  Sunscape Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino

On one of just a handful of islands below the hurricane belt, which from June 1 to Nov. 30 is a weather wildcard, you won’t pay extra to keep the family entertained at the 342-room Curaçao Sunscape Resort Spa & Casino. For kids aged 3 to 12, Explorers Club is full of no-extra-cost fun like sandcastle building competitions and a campout adventure. For finicky tweens and teens up to 17 years, Core Zone stays open until 11 p.m. with pool tables, bocce ball, karaoke and archery. The largest beach all-inclusive on the Dutch island, the resort is ideal for young swimmers and snorkelers courtesy of the wave breakers in the Caribbean Sea. There’s beach volleyball, movies on the sand, rock wall climbing, sumo wrestling, four pools and two tennis courts lit for night play. Theme nights are creative like Curacao Day every Monday, when families learn about local traditions, and on Friday when the staff show off their artsy side during Talent Night. A quartet of restaurants includes Oceana for the catch of the day and pasta and pesto at Da Mario. The Manatee swim-up bar is one of six with last call at 11 p.m. A complimentary shuttle makes the 2-mile trip to the pretty capital city of Willemstad for exploring. Back at the resort, Princess Casino stays open until 3 a.m. with a $20,000 Kadushi jackpot. 

Barbados

Photo: Sunsets at Sandals Royal Barbados are magical, Credit: Sandals Resorts

On Maxwell Beach, Sandals Royal Barbados is the new side-by-side sibling to Sandals Barbados. With a combined 17 restaurants and a "Stay at One, Play at Two" option, the all-suite adults-only Sandals Royal is the smaller of the pair with 222 suites (the larger has 280 suites) and upscale signatures like 24-hour room service, six restaurants and four bars, glass-bottom boat rides, boogie boarding, snorkeling and 17 Rondoval cottages popular with honeymooners. Thirty-one pools include the ones in the suites and the ocean-view rooftop which is the largest glass-fronted infinity pool in the Eastern Caribbean and the only one at a Sandals Resort. More firsts for the Sandals chain include a four-lane bowling alley with a wraparound beer bar built in a strip of ice, a barbershop convenient for grooms needing a new 'do before their wedding and a Chinese-Japanese fusion menu at Chi Asian. High-end perks in the high-end suites include butlers and Rolls Royce transfers from Grantley Adams International Airport, just 15 minutes from the resorts. Other fun freebies are reggae dance classes on the pool deck, mixology classes at the Infinity pool bar, soccer games on the beach, and nature walks. For those planning holidays in July and August, Crop Over is the biggest festival of the year with island-wide parades, soca contests and good eats on the beach.

ArubaThere are four freshwater pools for guests at the Divi

Photo: There are four freshwater pools for guests at the Divi Aruba and Tamarijn Aruba. Credit: Divi & Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusives

Also located below the Atlantic hurricane belt, it’s a twofer at the side-by-side Divi Aruba and Tamarijn Aruba on the less-traveled mile-long Druif Beach. A short 10 minutes from the capital city of Oranjestad and 30 minutes from Queen Beatrix International Airport, the resorts offer stays at one and play, eat and chill at both. At the pair of AAA Three-Diamonds, 261 rooms and four oceanfront suites are in low-rise buildings across the street from The Links at Divi Aruba Golf Course. Available to guests at both resorts are four freshwater pools, 10 restaurants including Lime, the first Mexican restaurant on the island, and eight bars like the Bunker set out over the water. Also on the comp list is Divi Winds Sports Center with a 30-foot rock climbing wall, snorkeling, windsurfing, catamarans and kayaks. For the less adventurous, there’s water aerobics, Zumba fitness classes and coupons for play at the Alhambra Casino, next door to the resort. Skip the clubs on the pricier Eagle Beach and opt instead for in-house entertainment like free reggae concerts, Cuban dance performances, steel pan bands and fireworks that light up the sister resorts.

JamaicaIn Jamaica, Jewel Grande Montego Bay is one of the

Photo: In Jamaica, Jewel Grande Montego Bay is one of the newest all-inclusives to open on the northwest coast, Credit: Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa

One of the newest resorts on the northwest coast, Jewel Grande Montego Bay, now with a AAA Four Diamond rating, offers a boatload of perks like airport transfers, kayaks built for two, stand-up paddleboards, snorkeling equipment and aqua-trikes. Bars are poolside, coffee bars open early, crafty cocktails are poured at the Lobby Bar and Morgan’s Bar and 12 restaurants keep hunger at bay day and night. Big on pampering, the all-inclusive offers butler service in the 217 suites laid out nicely in three beachfront towers, concierge service by the pool and beach and plenty of chill-outs in the Grande Spa with the only sand massage table in Jamaica and the Caribbean’s only Himalayan Salt Therapy Lounge. Stay for a smoothie made with ginger and apples and a funky exercise class called reggae-lates that marries a reggae beat with pilates. Kids Club freebies include sandcastle building and treasure hunts, and for teens, there are basketball hoops and ping pong tables.

The BahamasIn the Bahamas, Warwick Paradise Island is an adults-only

Photo: In the Bahamas, Warwick Paradise Island is an adults-only all-inclusive with 250 rooms on 12 floors, Credit: Warwick Paradise Island – Bahamas

On Bahamas Harbour Drive in Paradise Island, Warwick Paradise Island is adults-only with a laundry list of extras for singles, couples and gaggles of pals. On 12 floors with 250 rooms, some with views of Nassau Harbour, the resort is a 30-minute drive from Lynden Pindling International Airport. With five restaurants like Abbiocco for Italian and Tings on a Stick for Asian, two bars, pool, chess played on gigantic outdoor boards and Panama Jack beach bikes to explore the island, an all-inclusive stay includes gratis picnics on Cabbage Beach and nature walks that stop at freshwater ponds to feed the turtles. For those trying their hand at fishing, rods, bait, sinkers and hooks are complimentary with cash prizes for the biggest catch and a $50 charge to have the chef  prepare it for dinner. At night, Rum Cay Lobby Bar and The Junkanoo Beat heat up with local singers and dancers. 

Turks and Caicos IslandsBeaches Turks & Caicos is enormous, with 758 rooms

Photo: Beaches Turks & Caicos is enormous, with 758 rooms and suites spread out over 75 acres, Credit: Beaches Resorts

On a 12-mile stretch of Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales, Beaches Turks & Caicos is the island’s largest resort for families, with 758 rooms and suites spread out over 75 acres. The stats are staggering with 24 restaurants, 15 bars, 10 pools and a 45,000-square-foot water park. Also without additional costs, there’s scuba diving, kayaks, windsurfing, snorkeling and paddleboarding. On land, free stuff includes playing in the Xbox Lounge, tennis clinics and yoga classes. For kids, tweens and teens, there’s a roster of activities on Pirate’s Island and for families with newborns, nannies are on hand at Camp Sesame. Food choices are over-the-top from the retro diner Bobby Dee’s, seafood at Schooners, British pub grub and the late-night chocolate buffet to a food truck called Curls & Swirls  that makes the rounds scooping ice cream cones and another roaming truck named Mr. Mac that ladles mac and cheese. Courtesy of a partnership with "Sesame Street," Cookie Monster, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are happy to pose for photos and Sesame Street parades every Tuesday delight the entire brood.   

AntiguaYou’ll find day beds on the beach at Curtain Bluff.

Photo: You’ll find day beds on the beach at Curtain Bluff. Credit: Melanie Reffes for USA TODAY

On the southern coast at the convergence of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Curtain Bluff is a 72-room grand dame that appeals to families and couples from the U.S. and British rock royalty like Sir Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton. On 20 acres, add-ons reach far beyond unlimited food and drink to include snorkeling trips to Cades Reef, kayaking, windsurfing and Cee Bee Kids Camp where kids up to 12 years old go beachcombing for shells and lizards and cheer on Ezra the gardener as he climbs a palm tree to gather up the ripe coconuts. Also without additional charges, there’s yoga classes on the deck, rides on the Super Mabel raft, aerobics in the pool and tours of the ginormous wine cellar led by the sommelier. A trio of restaurants and a six-pack of bars offer enough variety to please even the pickiest of palates. A host of calorie-burners include tennis, squash and swimming in the two-lane lap pool. On Surf and Bay beaches, you’ll find day beds, hammocks and concierges delivering ice lollies. For big families, adjoining suites can be linked together for more space and for bigger groups, an entire floor with four bedrooms can be booked as one. Room service is gratis, and the banana bread is so good the resort will pack a loaf for the trip home.

GrenadaSpice Island Beach Resort is an elegant all-inclusive

Photo: Spice Island Beach Resort is an elegant all-inclusive with a AAA Five Diamond rating.  Credit: Spice Island Beach Resort

Low-rise and high-luxe, 64-suite Spice Island Beach Resort is a no-wristband all-inclusive fronting Grand Anse Beach. While the elegant resort won’t appeal to those who covet the gigantic buffets laid out at other all-inclusives, foodies give a hearty thumbs-up to the eat local menu at Oliver’s, the Friday night Caribbean Buffet and Sea & Surf Terrace and Bar for a Spice Island Classic stirred with the herb called sorrel that complements a bowl of flash-fried green banana chips. Earning Five Diamonds from AAA for the second consecutive year and a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the family-owned resort is the top pick of visiting British royals like Prince Harry, who spent the night at the resort during his 2016 Caribbean holiday. Spread out over 8 acres and dotted with lemon and almond trees, perks you won’t see on your bill are impressive like greens fees at the Grenada Golf Club, bikes as long you stay within 2 miles of the resort, Nutmeg Pod for kids up to 12 years, garden tours and cooking demos. 

St. LuciaOn the south coast of St. Lucia, Coconut Bay Beach

Photo: On the south coast of St. Lucia, Coconut Bay Beach Resort is the only family-friendly all-inclusive close to the airport, Credit: Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa

On the south coast, Coconut Bay Beach Resort is the only family-friendly all-inclusive within minutes of the Hewanorra International Airport. This is a big plus not only because airport transfers are gratis but also because many of the other resorts are in the north which is a long and hilly drive from the airport and not fun for cranky kids. On the mile-long Anse de Sables Beach with views of the Maria Islands Nature Reserve, the 250-room resort is big enough for an adults-only wing called Harmony with a pair of pools, hammocks and sun decks, plus a wing just for families called Splash with CocoLand Kidz Klub, a petting zoo and Coco Pak backpacks loaded with all sorts of fun stuff for kids and cellphones for parents to check in on them. With more choices than the standard-issue all-you-can-eat-and-drink formula, menus vary in nine restaurants from Caribbean Creole to the Jerk Treehouse next to the lazy river. Indoor, outdoor or swim-up, seven bars stock top-shelf bottles like Patron Tequila and beer from the local Antillia Brewing Company. Tasting classes are gratis at the Sugar Cane Rum Bar and rummy cocktails are mixed all day at the beachfront Paradise Bar. Also with no additional charge, there’s water polo, bocce ball, reggae dance classes, kiteboarding, snorkeling, kayaking and paddleboarding. For the devoted, personal trainers are on call and tennis courts and basketball courts are lit for night play. 

Dominican RepublicFamilies can make a big splash in the Eden Pool at

Photo: Families can make a big splash in the Eden Pool at the Hard Rock Hotel, Credit: Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana

In Punta Cana on the easternmost tip abutting the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, there may be more resorts than palm trees. The most popular tourist town in the country also sports the largest all-inclusive in the country. Along Macao Beach, 1,775-suite Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana is a resort on steroids with 13 pools with swim-up bars, nine restaurants from buffets to a Brazilian steakhouse, 24-hour room service, 23 bars and lounges, Kids Club, nightclub, casino and “rock star suites” with retro music memorabilia. For the fitness-minded, there are classes for kids and teens, en-suite yoga videos and play at the adjacent Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole par-72 golf course at Hard Rock Golf Club at Cana Bay. Perks for rock-and-rolling families include jam sessions with Fender guitars and the Pop Star Lounge where pop star wannabees learn how to sing like a superstar and design their own album cover. So popular that repeat guests are called Hard Rockers, the longer you stay, the more free stuff you get with resort credits that buy dinners on the beach, Rock Spa Rhythm & Motion treatments, excursions to swim with the dolphins and services in the beauty salon. 

About the Author

Melanie Reffes, Travel Journalist
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