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All-Inclusive Resorts by Brand:
Palace resorts are alluring, beachfront retreats located along Mexico's Riviera Maya, in or near the coastal towns of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. In Cancun, Le Blanc Spa Resort is kids-free while Sun Palace and Isla Mujeres Palace are specifically geared toward couples.
Iberostar offers numerous options in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, plus three resorts in Jamaica. They provide relaxing atmospheres in well-preserved natural settings, with spacious pools, lush gardens and sandy beaches. In some locations, several Iberostar hotels are in one complex, and guests have exchange privileges at neighboring properties.
Hard Rock Hotels brings its unique brand of entertainment and hospitality to its all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Among the included features is "The Sound of Your Stay," which provides musical amenities like in-room DJ equipment, the loan of a Fender guitar and free downloadable playlists. They welcome guests of all ages, but the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya has a kids-free section called Heaven, with separate pools and beach.
Hyatt recently entered the all-inclusive market with two new, distinct brands: Hyatt Ziva, for vacationers of all ages, and Hyatt Zilara, which provides kids-free environments. Three new Hyatt all-inclusives are scheduled to open in Jamaica and Mexico this November and December.
Palladium was founded more than 40 years ago. Its brands include the Grand Palladium properties in the Caribbean and Mexico, with pools, spa treatments, age-appropriate kids' activities and restaurants from Spanish to Brazilian to Italian. The Royal Suites by Palladium are kids-free retreats with an intimate ambience and personalized butler service complemented by full access to the services, dining venues, bars and activities of the adjacent Grand Palladium resorts.
Occidental is comprised of three distinct brands: Allegro, Grand and Royal Hideaway. Allegro Resorts in Costa Rica and Mexico are moderately priced, with upbeat moods and a broad array of daytime activities followed by lively nighttime entertainment. Occidental Grand Resorts in Aruba, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico are a notch above. Dining options are more upscale and varied, and some accommodations feature the additional perks of the Royal Club, such as private check-in and an exclusive restaurant and lounge. Occidental also operates the Royal Hideaway Playacar in Mexico's Riviera Maya; it has six restaurants, a dinner theater, spa, six pools and a kids-free atmosphere.
Riu has dozens of all-inclusive options, mostly in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico, plus two options each in Costa Rica and Aruba and one property each in the Bahamas, Panama and St. Martin. Often three or four Riu properties are located in one large complex, where guests enjoy exchange privileges at the sister resorts.
Karisma has all-inclusive resorts along Mexico's Riviera Maya and in Negril, Jamaica. It includes four kids-free El Dorado resorts and four family-friendly Azul properties. Azul Fives is a nice option for large family groups, with one-, two- and three-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens. The Generations Resorts feature all-suite accommodations (including two- and three-bedroom options) and butler service.
Three of our Excellence properties in Mexico and the Dominican Republic offer an elegant, kids-free atmosphere. Each has a multitude of restaurants, bars and lounges, plus 24-hour room service. In March 2015, the company will open its newest resort in the Cancun area, Finest Playa Mujeres, which will have the same upscale experience as other Excellence properties but will be geared to guests of all ages: families with young kids, couples, multigenerational groups and friends traveling together. Excellence also offers The Beloved Hotel Playa Mujeres, a 109-room, family-friendly option north of Cancun.
The Sandos hotels in Mexico provide guests with an array of diversions, from water sports and tennis to a daily activities program and live entertainment at night. Its Sandos Caracol Eco Experience Resort in Playa del Carmen emphasizes Mayan culture and the natural surroundings of mangroves and jungle (you might spot a macaw or spider monkey).
Oasis Resorts in Cancun and Tulum offer value-packed vacations. Most Oasis properties are great for families, while one is kids-free. Each hotel offers multiple restaurants, bars and activities.
The all-inclusive properties of Melia Hotels International are found in the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Mexico. The company operates three brands, and all properties are rated 4 to 5 stars. The Paradisus hotels feature all-suite accommodations and include Royal Service rooms with butler service and additional amenities. Melia resorts offer a well-rounded tropical escape with a variety of restaurants, bars, water sports, pools and kids' programs. Meanwhile, ME Cancun is a stylish, contemporary spot offering exciting nightlife and a sophisticated ambience.
Club Med is a pioneer in the all-inclusive resort industry. Of the 11 Club Med properties we represent, one -- Club Med Turkoise in the Turks and Caicos -- offers a kids-free setting. Club Med also has the only all-inclusive resort in the U.S., Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Port St. Lucie, FL.
Barcelo has all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. One is kids-free -- Barcelo Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana at the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic.
Dreams resorts are family-friendly getaways in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mexico and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Explorer's Club for young guests ages 3 to 12 has weekly beach campouts and sand castle competitions, and the Dominican Republic properties have Core Zone Teens Clubs.
Secrets provides upscale, kids-free experiences in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and on both coasts of Mexico. They offer elegant decor, multiple restaurants and lounges and 24-hour room service.
If you're seeking an intimate, couples-only atmosphere, check out the Sandals resorts in Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica and St. Lucia, or the four Couples resorts, all in Jamaica.
Finally, families might consider a vacation at Beaches in Jamaica or Turks and Caicos, where younger guests can participate in supervised, age-appropriate programs at the Kids Camp -- like Sesame Street-themed activities and treasure hunts for little ones, or glass-bottom boat rides and beach volleyball for tweens. Teens can try out the Xbox Play Lounge or Scratch DJ Academy.
Tropical Vacation Packing Tips and Checklist
I've been in the travel business for a while, so you might think that I'd have packing for trips down to a science by now. However, I must admit that I've earned a reputation in my family for always forgetting to pack at least one vital item. Toothbrush, swimsuit, sunscreen, pants -- you name it, and I've probably forgotten it.
To save you from a similar predicament, I've drawn up a brief list of some tips on packing, along with some items that you shouldn't forget as you prepare for a stay at a tropical resort. It is by no means a complete list -- just a few things to consider.
Tropical Vacation Packing Tips and Checklist
When packing, place your passport, air tickets, travel insurance documents, contact numbers and any other important information in a pouch or bag that's easily accessible, and carry it with you on your flights. Once you've arrived at the resort, place these important documents in the room safe, if one is available. Keep a photocopy of your passport in a different location, such as purse or briefcase, or scan it and carry a copy in a laptop.
If you expect to arrive at the resort before the designated check-in time, pack your swimsuit, sunscreen, flip-flops or sandals and other beach gear in a carry-on bag. If your room isn't ready when you arrive, at least you can still hit the beach or pool. The front desk will store your suitcases for you until you can check in.
If your resort offers an upscale restaurant that you plan to visit, pack dressier clothes and shoes for a nice dinner.
Bring a light jacket or sweater -- sometimes evening breezes off the water can be cool.
Sunscreen with a high SPF is a necessity in tropical climates. Consider bringing a hat or visor as well, and don't forget the sunglasses. If you expect to do any hiking, you might also add insect repellent to the list.
Scuba divers must remember their diving certification cards.
A few resorts offer horseback riding along the beach. If you plan to do this, bring long pants.
Bring plenty of camera film or memory cards and extra camera batteries from home, as these items can be pricey if purchased at a resort.
Pack an extra pair of contacts or glasses.
Put prescription medicines in your carry-on bag, in case your checked luggage is delayed.
Pack a few of your favorite DVDs if your room has a DVD player. Many resorts include iPod docks among their in-room amenities, so bring that along too.
If you have a laptop computer and you want to stay connected to home or work, find out if your hotel has in-room or wireless Internet access. Always carry your laptop onboard your flights.
A few things you don't need to worry about packing are towels, irons or hair dryers, as these items are generally available at the resort.