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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.
Top Resorts in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is famous for great weather and beaches but is also one of the most affordable resort destinations in the Caribbean. It occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola and boasts more than 800 miles of coastline, world-class hotels, championship courses designed by golf legends and a culture enlivened by Spanish, French, Haitian and African influences.
Experienced divers will find several interesting shipwrecks to explore, including two Spanish vessels that sank off the north coast in 1563. There are numerous national parks -- view crocodiles at Isla Cabritos, flamingos at Jaragua and beautiful orchids at Sierra de Bahoruco, for example.
Dominican cuisine reflects native Antillean and Creole flavors, with dishes similar to those found in other Latin American countries. After sundown, nightclubs jump with lively merengue music and slower-paced bachata rhythms. Merengue, the country's national dance, is celebrated in a festival held each July in Santo Domingo. Residents are equally passionate about baseball, and there are six teams in the Dominican Republic's pro baseball league.
But most vacationers are simply drawn by the broad beaches, turquoise waters and wide selection of resorts in the Dominican Republic. Many are all-inclusive resorts, which means that the upfront rate includes meals, snacks, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, entertainment and many activities.
Melia Caribe Tropical -- This 5-star, all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana offers Flintstones-themed activities and a children's program sectioned into three groups: ages 4 months to 4 years, ages 5 to 8 and ages 9 to 13. Family Junior Suites have bathrooms equipped with thoughtful perks for tots, like a step stool at the sink and an amenity kit with bubble bath, soap and a floating toy.
Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa -- The Explorer's Club at this 4.5-star, all-inclusive resort is for youngsters ages 3 to 12 and offers daily activities based on nature, science and exploration. Kids can hunt for hidden treasure, compete in sand-castle competitions and take part in arts and crafts. Once a week, there's a campout on the beach. Those ages 13 to 17 can visit the Core Zone Teens Club, which is open from 9 a.m. to midnight and has nightly social events like bonfires on the beach and disco mixers.
Excellence Punta Cana -- A kids-free ambiance provides the setting for eight restaurants, 10 bars, a spa, a fitness center and a secluded beach with waiter service at this 5.5-star, all-inclusive retreat. Couples can take part in dancing and cooking lessons, horseback riding and yoga and Pilates sessions.
Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana -- Also kids-free, this 5-star resort includes snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, 24-hour room service and weekly theme nights in its all-inclusive formula. Palapas and palms dot the sugar-white beach, and a free-form pool winds through manicured gardens and lush grounds.
Budget Beach Escapes
Barcelo Puerto Plata -- At this writing, a weeklong stay in mid-June at this 4-star, all-inclusive resort is $394 per person, based on double occupancy. That includes access to eight restaurants, five bars, a kids' club, two pools and a daily activities and entertainment program, plus a variety of waterfront recreation like snorkeling and windsurfing.
Gran Bahia Principe La Romana -- A seven-night stay at this 4.5-star property is $384 per person in mid-June, based on double occupancy. It's also all-inclusive, offering three a la carte restaurants, a beachside snack bar, buffet dining three times a day, nonmotorized water-sports equipment such as kayaks and Boogie boards, and nightly Caribbean-style entertainment from bands that play salsa, merengue and bachata music. The meandering pool has three Jacuzzis, a swim-up bar and a children's section.
Casa de Campo -- This 5-star resort in La Romana boasts three courses designed by renowned golf architect Pete Dye. The 18-hole Teeth of the Dog is one of the Caribbean's most acclaimed courses, carved in 1969 from the jagged coral coastline (crews used sledgehammers, chisels and pick axes, as Dye chose not to employ heavy machinery at the site). Trade winds and seven ocean-side holes provide the biggest challenges here. The layout of 27-hole Dye Fore includes seven holes along a cliff that drops 300 feet to the Chavon River below. The recently renovated 18-hole Links course has an inland location, characterized by lagoons and lakes with wading birds.
PuntaCana Resort & Club -- Pete Dye's son, P.B. Dye, designed La Cana course at this 4-star property. It has 14 oceanfront holes, four playing near the water's edge. The Corales course by Tom Fazio is edged by rocky cliffs, coral reefs and the Caribbean Sea. At the 18th hole, daring golfers can opt to drive the ball over the Bay of Corales to the fairway on the other side. Finally, the new P.B. Dye nine-hole inland Hacienda course opened earlier this year.
Sanctuary Cap Cana Golf & Spa -- A luxurious, 20,000-square-foot spa pampers guests at this 5-star, all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana. It offers massages, facials, body treatments and salon services. The facility has thermal hydrotherapy features (sauna, steam room, rain showers, whirlpool, a cold plunge bath and a swimming pool with cascading waterfalls), a fitness center, a yoga and Pilates studio, a juice bar and an outdoor relaxation garden. The resort also offers a kids-free environment.
Zoetry Agua Punta Cana -- A relaxing, 20-minute spa treatment is part of the all-inclusive package at this 5-star spot. At the spa, guests can indulge in sunset couples massages, body treatments using local fruit and flora, Finnish and steam saunas and an indoor pool with Jacuzzi. The resort's restaurants incorporate organic and locally grown ingredients in their dishes.