Every day it seems like newer, different and more luxurious all inclusive resorts are cropping up around the Caribbean and Mexico. The catch phrase now isn’’t "more for your money," it’s everything and then some, all for one price.
Spanish brand Riu is making the biggest splash, no question — and in two different places within the same month. In early September the chain opened Riu Montego Bay, a sprawling low-rise bungalow property surrounded by tropical gardens and situated in the heart of Jamaica’s most dynamic resort district. With four restaurants, four bars, multiple pools and a full-service spa, this property gives a lot of options. Thumbs-up on the 24-hour dining option, the in-room minibars and the spectrum of formal dining options (Asian, Italian or steakhouse) available by pre-reservation.
The latest Riu development, the Riu Palace Pacifico, opens on October 3 in the thriving Riviera Nayarit resort district. This property ranks within the very highest tier of Riu properties. It offers everything: variety, quantity, quality and novelty … the latter mentioned because even though the Riviera Nayarit is swiftly becoming one of Mexico’s most popular resort destinations, most tourists still haven’t gotten the opportunity to check it out. The Riu Palace’s emphasis on service is markedly different from the overly friendly/intrusive "guest host" service style usually seen in European all-inclusives, and we like the change — hopefully other all-inclusives will follow the lead. And finally, guest suites are spacious but warm and elegantly decorated, without the sterile feeling that can characterize all-inclusive digs. Guests get all the comforts of home and hotel: mini-bars, bathtubs with massage jets, flat-panel television, 24-hour room service and ocean views (in select suites). If boredom sets in, take a jaunt to either of the Rius in neighboring Puerto Vallarta — your Nayarit room key gets you comp passes to Riu Vallarta and Riu Jalisco nightclubs, as well as some of their restaurants.
In spite of a rather suggestive name, the Temptation Resort Spa is not one of the Riviera Maya‘s eyebrow-raising "adult" (i.e. nude or naughty) properties. There is one European-optional pool, but the other two require standard swimwear, while the rest of the property — six restaurants, four bars, seven Jacuzzis, etc. — leans toward the trendy/cosmopolitan vibe rather than the scandalous. This adults-only resort one of the pricier all-inclusives to open in the past year, but it’s been offering some deep discounts lately.
By far my favorite of the new all-inclusive concepts is the "gourmet inclusive" — same one-price concept, only with an emphasis on sophisticated atmosphere, upscale accommodations and, of course, really superior food. El Dorado Royale in the Riviera Maya is one of the first to pioneer the gourmet inclusive concept. It also is adults-only, which is a foolproof way of ensuring that guests can enjoy quiet grownup conversation along with their white tablecloth gourmet dinners.
Meanwhile established resorts like Mango Bay in Barbados keep their offerings up to par with the newcomers — in this case, literally. This boutique Gold Coast property just teamed up with about a half-dozen golf courses around the island, some of which are only open to members normally, to create new custom golf vacation options.
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Lena Katz lives on the Left Coast and writes about tropical islands, beach
clubs and ski resorts, but her heart belongs to NYC.