With the all-inclusive market seeing more investment than ever (even mega-hotel company Marriott is getting in on the act), there are more and more opportunities to match just the right property with just the right personality type. Here are a few notable properties, and the client type to match, in Mexico and the Caribbean.
For Art and Culture Lovers
The UNICO 20º87º Riviera Maya has been drawing a hip, young crowd since its 2017 opening, even earning a pick from our latest class of 30Under30 as one of the best hotels in Mexico for a destination wedding or honeymoon.
“It’s noteworthy that this new concept of all-inclusive even offers included tours and excursions,” says Travel Agent 30Under30 alumnus Nickolas Cunningham of Exceptional Journeys by CTS.
All-inclusive rates at UNICO include 11 local tours, making it a good fit for those wanting to check out the local art and culture scene. (There are also six additional “signature tours” available for an additional fee.) Even more, the resort’s local host service —its updated spin on traditional butler service — pairs guests with locals who can guide them to the best hidden gems and hot spots, even helping out with hard-to-get reservations.
Local art is also a focal point of the resort’s design; pieces by local artists are incorporated throughout its public spaces and 448 guestrooms. Guests can even purchase art from local artisans both in-room and throughout the property for a memento. A lively events calendar, including programming ranging from mezcal tastings and cocktail hour by the Executive Mixologist to custom beer gardens, Art Attack competitions and acoustic sunset jams, provides additional local flair.
The UNICO 20º87º Riviera Maya has its share of traditional all-inclusive amenities, too: three pools, a wellness center, five restaurants and six bars and lounges, including a cigar lounge, and two swim-up bars, and a spa with 18 cabins. Notably, all spa treatments, as well as a selection of nine beauty salon treatments, are also included in the resort’s rate for a 25 percent service fee.
Most accommodations at UNICO have ocean views, with semi-private swim-up pools on all ground floor rooms and outdoor double-hydro spa tubs on the remaining rooms. In a nice touch, all in-room minibars can be stocked according to guests’ preferences. The Estancia Suite is one of the top suites on property, with a large terrace looking out over the ocean with an outdoor hydro spa tub, (from which guests can stargaze), plus a large living area separate from the bedroom. Another option is the hacienda-inspired Oceanfront Villa, which, in addition to ocean views, has two master bedrooms, a full kitchen, dining room, living room and powder room, plus a complete bar and a large terrace with two outdoor hydro spa tubs.
If you do heed our 30Under30 advisors’ advice and plan a wedding here, venues range from a wooden wedding gazebo or classic beachside space to outdoor and “hidden” terraces. For an indoor event, there is also an 11,600-square-foot ballroom.
UNICO 20º87º Riviera Maya is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.
For the Free Spirits
New in Cancun this year is the first outpost of Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma. The latest all-inclusive brand from Karisma Hotels & Resorts is the product of a partnership with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville lifestyle brand, and Karisma spent two years homing in on the exact market segment the new brand is meant to appeal to.
In an interview with Travel Agent shortly after the new brand was announced, Kelly Poling, CEO of Premier Worldwide Marketing, the exclusive worldwide representatives for Karisma, said that positioning the brand as “Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma” puts it in the luxury space, but with the Margaritaville lifestyle to set it apart.
Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma will set a “barefoot luxury” tone with amenities such as a welcome pair of flip-flops.
At the time, Poling said that the brand’s potential market will be defined less by traditional demographics and more by a guest’s affinity for the Margaritaville ethos: a laid-back, relaxed quality that’s being billed as “barefoot luxury.” The resort could also prove a draw to those who have enjoyed Margaritaville’s previous forays into the travel space, via its partnerships with brands such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Wyndham Vacation Rentals, by giving them a novel way to engage with the brand.
The first Margaritaville Island Reserve property, Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma Riviera Cancún, is set to open this year, where it will show off such “Parrothead”-friendly touches as welcome flips-flops and, of course, a welcome drink.
The resort will have 148 guestrooms and suites, along with four pools, four restaurants, six specialty bars including a License to Chill Bar and 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar, and an 8,000-square-foot St. Somewhere Spa by Karisma. Additionally, each accommodation will have its own bar, which guests will be able to customize to their preferences by picking from a selection of beverages once they arrive at the property. These bar offerings will be included in the all-inclusive rate.
After the Cancun opening, a second Margaritaville Island Reserve resort is planned for the Riviera Maya, as well as resorts in Jamaica and Cap Cana, the Dominican Republic.
For Those Looking to Walk on the Wild Side
The Desire Riviera Maya resort is an adults-only, clothing optional all-inclusive that could appeal to those really looking to let their hair down on vacation. This January, it opened a new, luxury resort-within-a-resort: the Desire Riviera Maya Pearl Resort, offering VIP perks and elevated accommodations.
The three-level Pearl Resort has six Mansion Suites and two Royal Suites; Mansion Suites have a king-sized bed, living area, bathroom with a separate shower, his and her sinks, an oversized walk-in closet, a terrace overlooking the solarium, a private swim-up pool for suites on the first floor and a couple’s Jacuzzi for suites on the second floor. The two Royal Suites, both of which are on the top floor, have all of these amenities as well as a separate living room with a pole dance space, a fully stocked bar, and a second bathroom. Guests also receive access to all of the amenities of the Desire Riviera Maya Pearl Resort and VIP transfer, private check-in and welcome kit, top-shelf alcohol, a butler, exclusive clothing-optional areas, a unique version of the brand’s playrooms and access to an exclusive area of Desire Pearl’s private beach.
The new Desire Riviera Maya Pearl will offer elevated accommodations. Shown here is the terrace of one of the Penthouse Suites.
Other experiences on property include adult entertainment, theme nights, couples’ workshops, indoor / outdoor playrooms and brand-name beverage service. The brand is part of the Original Group, a Mexico-based hospitality company, which also operates Desire Cruises.
For a Vacation Without the Kids (Romantic or Otherwise)
Opened in June 2018, Excellence Oyster Bay offers a luxurious all-inclusive getaway far enough from the commotion of Montego Bay or other major tourist towns in Jamaica. In fact, its location is one of its top qualities. Spanning a small peninsula outside of Falmouth, the resort reaches from both the tranquil bay to the Caribbean Sea.
At the adults-only resort, all of the accommodations sleep just two. If you’re looking for the crème de la crème, that would be the Imperial Suite Rooftop Terrace with Plunge Pool Ocean Front. Guests of this suite are privy to an in-suite barman service, a private beach dinner and private check-in. As one of the club rooms, it additionally has Bvlgari toiletries, and upgraded minibar, and access to private restaurants, bars and pool areas. We also like how the top-floor location allows for impressive views over the property and ocean.
Clients seeking additional privacy should consider one of the newer Beach Villas, which are separated from the main portion of the property. Each of the five Beach Villas with Private Pool has two main interior spaces: a full living room with a bar and the master bedroom with oceanfront views and walk-in closet. There’s also a beachfront porch, Jacuzzi and private, 226-square-foot pool just steps from a private stretch of beach.
With myriad activities available at your fingertips, you will not want to leave the peninsula. Beyond the pools and Jacuzzis, guests can snorkel or stand-up paddleboard on the water; join fat bike tours, sign up for yoga, dance or cooking classes; or partake in beach volleyball or soccer, plus more.
The Excellence Oyster Bay also boasts one of the most impressive fitness centers we’ve seen at any resort. Your clients will not be missing their home gym here.
The Excellence Oyster Bay offers a luxurious all-inclusive getaway far enough from the commotion of Montego Bay or other major tourist towns in Jamaica.
At the Millé Spa, there are seven treatment rooms (all designed for couples), plus an oceanfront cabana, an impressive hydrotherapy circuit, bridal party room, salon, four different sensation showers (cold bucket, chromotherapy, ice therapy and a tropical shower) and more. We like that after treatments, guests can relax on one of the swinging “cloud” beds.
In total there are 315 guestrooms, 11 restaurants and seven bars / lounges. Cuisine ranges from French, Asian fusion, American steakhouse and seafood to tapas, Jamaican jerk and international. Three restaurants require “casual elegance” attire (long or capri pants, or skirt with a blouse or a dress for the ladies and long dress pants and a collared shirt for men). All the dining venues we sampled had tasty food, but the best was the selection of local and jerk foods — it is Jamaica, after all.
Top Tip: We arranged for a private tasting menu with executive chef José Vallejo, who served items such as jerk octopus, king crab legs with garlic butter, star apple with tuna tataki, jerk pork belly and tapioca lychee pudding.
For Seekers of Unlimited Entertainment Options
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana touts the biggest casino in the Caribbean, exhilarating nightlife and tantalizing culinary options. It’s good to know the resort doesn’t cater explicitly to (wannabe) rock stars: There’s an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, plenty of pools (for partying and relaxing) and lots to do for families, such as mini-golf, bowling or the Escapology escape room.
But for those who are looking to feed their inner rock star, we hear that Guns n’ Roses are slated to perform April 11. Should a club be more your scene, Oro Nightclub is a two-level space with local and international DJs, themed nights and more. It’s open Wednesday through Saturday.
The Music Lab is a must. Here, guests can jam with up to three other musicians and a vocalist, where they can rehearse and record songs. (Available to children 12 and older only.) For younger kids, be sure to sign up for the Kidz Bop Experience. Children (six to 12) get the VIP treatment as they’re guided by a personal tour manager to the Pop Star lounge before creating their band name, learning new dance moves, selecting their wardrobe, taking pics on the red carpet and performing on stage.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana caters to guests’ “inner rock star,” as well as gaming enthusiasts, golfers and families.
Good to know: If parents want to hit the spa or a pool party, kids can hang out at the Kidz Bop Pool Party, each Wednesday at 2 p.m.
Families should book the Signature Family Suite. There is one master bedroom with a king-size bed, an adjacent family room with two double beds and dining room with a full bathroom. Couples looking for an elevated experience should instead opt for the Rock Royalty – Caribbean Sand Suite. This room has all the amenities of the Caribbean Sand Suite category plus exclusive Rock Royalty Level features such as a personal assistant, who can deliver champagne to you on the beach or handle dining reservations on- or off-property. Note: Rooms primarily have a pool or garden view — some have partial ocean views at best.
On the dining side, there are nine restaurants serving Italian, pizza, Asian, steaks, deli sandwiches, ice cream and other items. A highlight, however, is Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian fusion) at Montserrat Manor. If it’s a local bite one seeks, Isla is just the place. Dishes are available a la carte, and a buffet is also available. Specialties include spiced seafood, poultry and meats.
For Toes-in-the-Sand Luxury
Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada is the brainchild of legendary hotelier Sir Royston Hopkin, who passed away in February. While the resort is fully all-inclusive, it certainly doesn’t have the look or feel of an all-inclusive — it feels elevated, luxurious.
Our favorite suites are the Royal Cinnamon and Saffron Beach Suites, the former being our home during our stay there. These rooms are essentially two Seagrape Beach Suites combined into one, twice-as-large space. Inside, guests will find a modern Caribbean aesthetic, a living area with a wet bar, dining table for six and master bedroom with a floating, four-posted king bed and en-suite bathroom with a Jacuzzi. We like how the bed faces the sliding glass doors and ocean beyond. Both the living and bedrooms open onto a patio on the beach. There’s even a hammock for relaxing.
Good to know: For families, the Royal Cinnamon Suite connects to a king-bedded Seagrape Suite and the Saffron Beach Suite connects to a two-queen-bedded variety. This is a suitable setup for families.
Should couples be looking for a bit more privacy, or their own plunge pool, the Royal Collection Pool Suites are the pick. These villa-like accommodations have (in addition to the aforementioned private pool) cedar saunas, gardens and marble bathrooms with deep soaking tubs.
The fully inclusive Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada has villa-like pool suites for couples seeking privacy as well as connecting suites that cater to families with children in tow.
Dining is split between two options: Sea and Surf Terrace & Bar and Oliver’s Restaurant. The former is open for lunch and dinner, while the latter is open for breakfast and dinner. We like that both serve the same dinner menu. Why, you ask? Oliver’s does not allow children under five and requires “elegantly casual evening attire.” So, whether your clients are visiting with the whole family in tow or are on a romantic vacation, they have the full dinner menu available — at the venue of their choosing.
As for wellness, an oceanfront yoga pavilion is a standout feature. Scheduled classes are available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with private sessions available at any time. There’s also Janissa’s Spa, which uses local herbs, organic Grenadian chocolate and spices in its treatments. (Think: The fragrance of nutmeg, the soothing nature of ocean seaweed and aloe vera, the refreshing zest of orange and coconut.) During our stay, we opted for the Deep Tissue Massage, which just did the trick; however, Janissa’s Signature Massage, which offers a choice of local, stress relief or toxin relief treatment oils and a hand or foot paraffin treatment, is the most popular.
Non-motorized water sports, tennis, resort bicycles, children’s activities and a fitness center are also available and included in the rate.