Ever since Club Med promised the “antidote to civilization,” all-inclusive resorts have increasingly blanketed the Caribbean island-scapes. Once cookie-cutter, they've increasingly diversified in a battle for tourist dollars. Today they come in every conceivable style and price range, as wonderfully varied as the Caribbean itself. Some cater to family fun, while others put the sin in scintillating for couples. One thing hasn't changed: no hassles. Pay one fixed price for all you can eat, drink, and do... then leave your wallet—and worries—at home. Small wonder so many travelers swear by them.
Best Beach: Tamarijn Aruba
Druif/Manchebo Beach, Aruba
Aruba is famed for its champagne-hued beaches, rock formations, sizzling nightlife and whipping winds that bend the divi divi trees at a 90-degree angle. All rooms at the Tamarijn Aruba look out on Druif Beach, which opens into the wide grin of Manchebo Beach fronting sister resort Divi Aruba. Guests at the quieter Tamarijn enjoy all the Divi’s facilities: two resorts for the price of one, including nine restaurants, seven bars, three pools, a 9-hole golf course and the nearby Alhambra Casino. The resorts take advantage of that long stretch of beach with aquatic activities aplenty, including snorkeling and windsurfing. Everyone gets their rocks off getting a grip on the 30-foot oceanfront rock-climbing wall.
Insider Tip: Savor tuna Carpaccio with avocado-mango relish while admiring the Murano art glass on display at the signature restaurant, Paparazzi.
(Photo: The Leading Hotels of the World)
La Romana, Dominican Republic
Casa de Campo means “house in the country”—as in a Kennedy-esque compound designed by Oscar de la Renta. Worried you’ll weigh too heavily in the lap of luxury after indulging in the sybaritic spa and fine dining? Casa offers tennis (13 courts), horseback riding, a sporting clays shooting center replete with safari-themed clubhouse, and sailing or fishing (deep sea and freshwater) from the Portofino-inspired marina. Golfers snarl at “Teeth of the Dog,” a Peter Dye-abolical design featuring seven water holes, trademark railroad ties, wicked bunkers, sharp drops in elevation and unfair fairways.
Insider Tip: Shop and dine at Altos de Chavon, a not-cheesy replica of a 16th century Mediterranean village with narrow cobblestone streets and crenellated stone castles.
Best for Families: Beaches Turks & Caicos
Providençiales, Turks & Caicos
Beaches Turks & Caicos is that rare family place that respects both children and parents. The resort sits on Provo's showcase strand, Grace Bay. It has 19 restaurants and bars, a 45,000-square-foot water park (with surf simulator, lazy river and tweens-only section spouting water cannons and spray guns), six pools, an Xbox 360 Game Garage, and bountiful beach activities. Kids interact with Sesame Street characters at breakfasts and piratical parades. Edutainment opportunities abound. The self-contained French Village section almost out-Disneys Disney World. Suites in the newer, plusher Italian Village feature a sliding door that seals off the brood’s bunk-bed room for greater privacy. All rooms now feature a personal Xbox game console so parents can sneak off guilt-free for Blue Mountain coffee bean scrubs or romantic dinners.
Insider Tip: Spend the sunrise on the dock outside Schooners seafood restaurant (owner Butch Stewart’s favorite on-property location), and the sunset sipping drinks at the Italian Village pool tower.
Best Food: Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort
Jumby Bay (Long) Island, Antigua
This swank resort presides over a 300-acre private island two miles off the Antiguan coast, accessible only by boat. After stopping at Jumby Bay Beach or at the SENSE spa, nourish your body and soul at the exemplary restaurants. The Pool Grille and Verandah marries the flavors of the Mediterranean to lighter, market-fresh ingredients. The men’s-clubby stone-and-mahogany Estate House, built circa 1830, channels bygone British colonial glamour. Sardinian-born Executive Chef Claudio Melis, who has manned kitchens in six Michelin-honored restaurants, has taken its kitchen to a rarified level. His food is distinguished by gorgeous tastes and textures—subtle to lusty, crispy to creamy. Sly touches include Parmesan popcorn with the otherwise classic beef Carpaccio.
Insider Tip: Pack white for the resort’s White Night Sunday barbecue and dance party: It is Gatsby-meets-Caribbean.
Best for Budget: IBEROSTAR Costa Dorada
Playa Dorada, Dominican Republic
For value, you can’t improve upon the Dominican Republic, where cookie-cutter compounds have spread in wildly popular Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. Fountains gushing throughout, a sensuous lagoon pool, and the elegant if odd architectural hodgepodge (Spanish Colonial-meets-South Pacific) belie IBEROSTAR's low prices. Both the billeting (516 rooms in nine cheerfully colored thatch-roof buildings, each boasting its own concierge) and bill of fare, like a Brazilian rodizio (grill), exceed the budget billing; top-shelf liquors are even included. The Star Friends “ambassador” team helps guests stay entertained (on and off the property) with activities like water polo, basketball, shooting, tennis, soccer, billiards, merengue classes and Spanish lessons. All for roughly $200 per couple in high season.
Insider Tip: Take an excursion to nearby Sosúa (a Latin Riviera with sidewalk cafes and twin sandy crescents) and Caberete (the Caribbean windsurfing capital).
Best for Luxury: Spice Island Beach Resort
Grand Anse, Grenada
Spice Island Beach Resort is a hedonistic hideaway run by one of Grenada’s titans of tourism, Sir Royston Hopkin. The contemporary-colonial design is incomparable: arches, Palladian-style windows, pickled-wood beams, paddle fans, billowing white curtains—all harmonizing with Grande Anse beach. Surveying the serene scene (spiced with celebs), it’s hard to believe that the resort lay in ruins after Hurricane Ivan devastated Grenada in 2004. But Sir Royston was able to improve on perfection. Guest rooms feature the latest decadences from flat-screen TVs to marble bathrooms with whirlpool tubs. Service is warm yet professional and discreet. Spice is also one of the Caribbean’s most environmentally conscious properties. Both Janissa’s Spa and Oliver’s Restaurant use local ingredients that give the resort its name and Grenada its nickname. Spice Island delivers the ultimate in barefoot chic.
Insider Tip: Though Grenada is best known for nutmeg, mace and cinnamon production, ask the chefs about the Grenada Chocolate Factory, whose organic products have won international awards.
Best Spa: Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort
Soufrière, Anse des Pitons, St. Lucia
Just outside of Soufriere on St. Lucia’s less trammeled southwest coast, Sugar Beach unfurls across more than 100 acres of tropical forest below the glorious UNESCO World Heritage Pitons. Everything here screams (er, whispers) relaxation. Restaurants feature smashing views and use fresh local ingredients, while the Cane Bar presents a wide rum selection with “rummelier” to help guide guests. All accommodations offer butler service and contemporary colonial decor with four-poster beds, Wi-Fi, claw-foot tubs, plunge pools and private patios. Zen and zone out at the aptly named Rainforest Spa, which features seven tree-house treatment cabanas tucked amid the dense foliage. There’s also a wet treatment room with a salon and relaxation gazebo. An earthen Temascal is warmed by volcanic spring water; medicinal herbs poured over red-hot rocks produce a curative steam.
Insider Tip: In the resort’s signature Sulphur Seduction, you visit nearby thermal hot springs to bathe in the mineral-rich waters warmed by the Soufrière volcano. Your therapist slathers you in creamy black mud, boosting metabolism and circulation.
See all of Fodor’s Best Caribbean All-Inclusives for 2013
More from Fodor’s:
Top 10 Hawaiian Resorts for 2013
America’s 15 Best Indie Coffee Shops
15 Cool and Unusual Hotel Lobby Features
- Travel & Tourism
- Travel Destinations