8 Amazing All-Inclusive Caribbean Resorts
How does an all-inclusive resort for under $100 a night sound? Now, imagine eight of them along Mexico’s Riviera Maya, where infinity pools and swim-up bars meet the ruins at Tulum and the glittering, warm Caribbean. We rate them, you pick the one that best suits your style.
Soaring down highway 307 from the Cancun airport to the Riviera Maya is like peeling away stress palm tree by palm tree. Because I couldn't decide between paying homage to the Wind God at Tulum's circa-1200 AD Mayan ruins or sinking into a Jacuzzi with a view of the Caribbean, I decided to have it all: I toured—and ranked the pros and cons of—eight of the region's all-inclusive resorts, each offering its own unique south-of-the-border vacation.
THE PARTY RESORT: RIU MEXICO
You know you're in for a raucous time when there are "liquor drips" (free tequila!) affixed to your hotel room's wall. The razzle-dazzle quotient is high here, from the opulent lobby to the cocktails at Bar Cubano. Reserve a table at Krystal fusion restaurant for the excellent tuna tataki. Pro: Beach access at this resort is vast and beautiful. Con: The evening entertainment is extremely loud if your room is toward the front of the resort. Even with the sliding doors closed, you could be subjected to an ear-splitting Mamma Mia! revue. (riu.com, from $99 per person per night)
THE ROMANTIC RESORT: OCEAN MAYA ROYALE
Sherbet-orange and raspberry-hued villas dot this lush adults-only property, a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons. The brand-new Fresco Bar, housed in a palapa, mixes up tropical juices with fruits and veggies like mango, papaya, kiwi, and cactus. On weekends, guests can attend candle-lit pool parties. Pro: The "Romance Suite" includes a bottle of wine, a terrace or balcony, Jacuzzi, and concierge service at the resort's spa and restaurants. Con: You have to pay extra for top-shelf liquor and access to a private beach area. (hoteloceanmaya.net/en, from $79 per person per night)
THE MEGARESORT: IBEROSTAR PARAISO BEACH
Bring the kids here, one of Iberostar's five sprawling resorts with multiple pools. Swans and flamingos roam the property and small children will go especially nuts for riding the resort's working old-fashioned carousel, faux boulders, a lazy river, and elaborate outdoor kids' play areas. By night, grownups can sip adult beverages and dance in the downright bizarre Star Wars-themed Galaxy Nightclub. Pro: A chain resort of this magnitude probably won't throw you any curveballs. If a quintessential tourist vacation appeals to you, this is your spot. Con: Some upscale restaurants and several pool areas aren't accessible to guests staying in the less expensive Iberostar hotels, including this one. It can be difficult to discern which areas are off-limits. (iberostar.com, from $95 per person per night)
THE MINIMALIST RESORT: BEL AIR COLLECTION
Spanning 14 very green acres, this resort is a buffet-free, a la carte-only zone in the low season. Only nine villas were built on the property, adding to the secluded, boutique-resort feel. Snorkeling, kayaking, and biking are free here, as is doing absolutely nothing: a white hammock hangs from each room's terrace. With five cenotes onsite, you can have a romantic dinner right in the middle of a green cenote for a fee of $75 and up. Pro: Each room has a double Jacuzzi, and rustic shell patterns crafted from pebbles pop up every few feet on the stone floors. Con: The beach is small and rocky, but the resort provides a shuttle that brings you to a beach five minutes away, where drinks and light bites like ceviche await. (belairxpuha.com, from $75 per person per night)
THE MODERN RESORT: OASIS TULUM
An infinity pool and a swim-up sushi bar add to the sleek feel of this resort's recently renovated exterior. Even the buffet offers gorgeous sea views through full-length plate glass windows. Two resorts exist here: the Oasis Tulum and the slightly more expensive Grand Oasis Tulum. The higher-end restaurants and bars (including a new wine bar), some of the pools, and a VIP roof bar with panoramic ocean views and private outdoor Jacuzzi tubs are reserved for Grand Oasis guests. An upgrade will run you about $5 more per person per day. Pro: Each room has either a terrace or a balcony. If you'd like to tool around town on your own, you can rent a SmartCar, insurance included, for $45 per day. Con: The buffet food isn't anything special, nor are the rooms, which have chintzy red bedspreads and dated bathrooms. (oasistulumresort.com, from $71 per person per night)