Caribbean all-inclusive resorts Diving Sometimes Included

As the region where the modern-day all-inclusive was born, the Caribbean is chock-full of resorts that come with unlimited food, drink and play. Planning a getaway in the sun is a no-brainer, but choosing a resort that fits the bill is another story. Whether you’re traveling with the kids or in the mood for an adults-only holiday, check out our best-of-the-best for families, foodies, couples and those seeking adventure.

Family time

Bigger is better on the southwest shore of St. Maarten, where you’ll find the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, the largest all-inclusive (395 rooms and five restaurants) on the Dutch side of the dual-nation island and the first and only resort with a watery playground just for kids. Coming in at 4,000 square feet, Aqua Park is splash-central with animal-themed slides with water just 20 inches deep, making it ideal for kids over 3 years old. For grown-up onlookers, the pool deck is a comfy perch with loungers and sun umbrellas. Maho Bungalow Kids Club features an indoor slide that connects to a loft for dance classes and arts and crafts, and a 2,500-square-foot outdoor funhouse. Other kid-friendly features include treasure hunts and a tree house on the beach. “Kids can play and swim all day and for lunch, they choose between a slice at Pizzeria Napoli, big buffet at Ocean Terrace or nachos and burgers at the Palms Grill,” says Jeriesha David, who has been entertaining kids at the resort since last spring. The resort fronts Maho Beach next to the Princess Juliana International Airport where kids of all ages are spellbound watching the big jets come in. Sweetening the pot, kids under 12 stay, play and eat free, and the nightly rate for 13- to 17-year-olds is $45. When the sun sets, pajama parties, disco nights and movies by the pool keep families entertained. Rates through April 16 start at  $160 per person, per night based on double occupancy (rate dips to $127 per person, per night based on double occupancy for travel April 17-Dec. 22 ).

On a 75-acre ribbon of prime Grace Bay oceanfront real estate, Beaches Turks & Caicos is one of three Beaches all-inclusives in the family-friendly fleet (two are in Jamaica). The ginormous 758-room, suite and villa resort is also home to a 45,000-square-foot Pirates Island Waterpark with a wave pool, water slides and lazy river. More kid-pleasers include the Xbox Play Lounge, Club Liquid Dance Club for teenagers, Kids’ Camp for 3- to 5-year-olds and a nursery for wee ones under 2 years old. Larger-than-life Sesame Street characters roam the sprawling resort posing for snaps and tucking kids in bed at night. Picky eaters will find plenty of variety at 19 restaurants, sun tanners like the 12-mile-long alabaster beach and the whole brood can splash around in six pools, three with swim-up bars and one just for toddlers. For kids on the go, there’s the Junior Golf Club, Kids Scuba Program, tennis and a boatload of water sports. Rates start at $330 per person, per night for adults; $61 per person, per night for children ages 2-16; kids under 2 stay gratis.

The first all-inclusive in St. Thomas, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort is family-owned for four decades. The 74-room resort on the south side of the U.S. Virgin Island offers unlimited water sports like kayaking, windsurfing, aqua tricycles, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding and scuba lessons in the pool. Home to St. Thomas Dive Club, tours explore the coral reefs and wrecks at the bottom of the sea and aboard the resort’s own catamaran called Heavenly Days, families swim with sea turtles and sail to nearby St. John: the most laid-back of the U.S. Virgins. For parents and teens older than 18, Snorkel Booze Hunt is a 30-year-old resort tradition where snorkelers scour the bay for big bottles of Cruzan Rum distilled next door in St. Croix. Those with energy to burn sign up for deep-sea fishing tours, golf at Mahogany Run, horseback riding, day trips to sky-high Paradise Point  and duty-free shopping in Charlotte Amalie where the cruise ships dock. Rates start at $595 per room, per night until May 1.

Romantic resorts

Making a big splash in Jamaica, the Caribbean’s first villas built over the water are open at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay. Over-the-top from infinity-edge soaking tubs, rope hammocks above the waves, gigantic teak beds and glass-bottom floors, the 2,000-square-foot suites also come with butlers, 12-year-old Appleton Estate rum and Molton Brown amenities in the massive bathroom with a rainfall shower. Built along a wooden boardwalk, the sweet suites area is connected to the resort’s offshore island called Sandals Cay, where you’ll find the Jerk Shack and Royal Thai — two of eight restaurants at the 227-room resort. “With these suites, guests experience a direct link to the Caribbean Sea,” says Gordon “Butch” Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts. The five villas come with nightly rates of $1,435 per person including expedited immigration and resort transfer from Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport, which is a short 10 minutes away. Twelve over-the-water bungalows (slightly smaller and without private infinity pools on the deck) will be ready in the spring starting at $1,078 per person, per night.

Marrying rustic with romance, Nisbet Plantation Beach Club in Nevis is the only beachfront plantation-turned-resort in the Caribbean. Across the channel from St. Kitts on the northeastern side of the smaller sister isle, the 30-acre all-inclusive (breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner) is home to 36 lemon-hued wicker-furnished cottages that sit on a palm-fringed 18th-century sugar and coconut plantation. Its history reads like a love story as the home of Fanny Nisbet, who married British Navy Captain Horatio Nelson in 1787 after he visited the plantation. With a AAA Four Diamond rating and honored by TripAdvisor as one of the Top Resorts in the World for Romance, the resort keeps the theme with a trio of fine restaurants including The Great House, built in 1778. To kick-start the day, Coconuts is the breakfast go-to for — wait for it — coconut pancakes. Weddings are popular on the palm-flanked great lawn or seaside on the beach with champagne-hued sand — and to celebrate the occasion, a coconut palm is planted in honor of the newlyweds.  For couples looking for a nicely wrapped package, Nevis is for Lovers includes candlelit dinner on the beach, breakfast in bed and a couple’s massage. Rates start at $1,009 per room through April 1.

Sandals LaSource Grenada is unplugged romance in a Sky Pool Suite with a soaking tub for two, solar-heated ocean-view infinity-edge plunge pool, premium spirits and a butler who arranges dinners on the beach and bubble baths pour deux. Sprawling over 17 acres, the posh 257-room and suite resort on the southwest coast is sweet on romance with swinging hammocks, hanging chairs built for two, chocolate buffets, five pools and 10 restaurants. Fronting a sugary swatch of Pink Gin Beach, where the water is so clear it shimmers past the rocks, couples surf, dive, explore down under on a glass-bottom boat or tie the knot on the waterfront pier. “We arrange 24 weddings a month,” says Deannette Johns, the resort’s wedding captain, “but only one couple each day marries at sunset.” If you forgot to pack the bling, a duty-free jewelry store is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Celebrating comes easy at a six-pack of bars where the Grenada Sunset — stirred with passion fruit, coconut rum and mango — is a fruity refresher. Add-ons worth the splurge include Scents of Love couples massage at the Red Lane Spa, a Champagne and Seafood cruise, and the Spicy Island tour which visits the Belmont Chocolate Estate and the picturesque waterfront capital of St. George’s. Rates start at $255 per person, per night.

Active all-inclusives

On a 300-acre island 2 miles off the northeast coast of Antigua, Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort is AAA Five Diamond for those on an escape mission from the 9-to-5. Accessible by small boat from the mainland (about 10 minutes), 40 rooms, suites and villas come with views of the beach and Caribbean Sea. Eco-focused before it was trendy, the resort produces its own electricity, the nursery houses thousands of trees and flowers and the only way to get around is on foot, golf cart and bicycles (no cars allowed, guests get loaner bikes). The beaches are protected areas for Hawksbill turtles and popular with nature buffs who come to see the endangered sea turtles during nesting season and also during the summer Hawksbill Turtle Experience. Other incentives to get active include three tennis courts (two lit for night play), 3 miles of hiking and biking trails, croquet lawn, a 25-meter lap pool, lawn bowling, putting green and a fitness pavilion with a yoga deck. In the water, there’s no shortage of calorie-burners like windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling and paddle boarding. For the bird-watchers in the brood, white egrets and blue pelicans also call the island home. Chill-outs include massages at the Sense Spa, cocktails and locally caught spiny lobsters at five restaurants and bars including The Estate House, the oldest building on the island dating back to 1830. Rates through April 22 start at $1,850 single or double occupancy.

On the west coast of Barbados, all-inclusive at the 76-room Mango Bay comes with paddle boarding, snorkeling, kayaking, water-skiing and pedal boating. For those with scuba diving on their vacation to-do list, complimentary lessons are offered and for an afternoon on the water, there’s glass-bottom boat cruises and cavorting with the Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles that call the west coast home. Sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean’s swells, this side of the island is the calmer side and favored for the pink and white sandy beaches and gentle surf. In the town of Holetown in the Parish of St. James, the beachfront hotel is a short stroll to the upscale Limegrove Shopping Center and home to Julian Restaurant, where bands perform nightly. Rates start at  $670 per room, per night, based on double occupancy.

It truly is a holiday for the body at The Body Holiday on a secluded cove on the northwest coast of St. Lucia. Surrounded by 40 acres of sweet-smelling gardens along Cariblue Beach, the 155-room resort with five restaurants and one bar is a magnet for those who enjoy more exercise than it takes to balance a piña colada in the pool. Activities include archery, spinning and yoga classes called Spoga in Tree House Spin Studio, golf and tennis. Keep moving with cycling along the coastline, hiking in the mountains and sunrise power walking on the beach. In the water, there’s plenty to choose from like swimming lessons, two-tank boat diving, kayaking, sailing and snorkeling. For those who like to plan ahead, the resort offers a customized activity schedule arranged prior to arrival. Perks are creative like a pillow menu, herbal tea and cookie turn-down and daily treatments at the spa with a heated marble massage bed. Personal trainers are on hand for those serious about getting in shape. Rates start at $700 per person, per night.

Wine and dine

Foodies give the thumbs-up to the curated culinary experiences at Spice Island Beach Resort on Grenada’s Grand Anse Beach at the edge of the Caribbean Sea. With a AAA Five Diamond rating and member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the 64-suite resort is beachfront elegance with stellar service, superb dining and spectacular suites with ocean-view whirlpool tubs and Phillip Starck designs. Where Prince Harry popped by for lunch during his recent visit to the Southern Caribbean, dining choices range from Oliver’s, where the five-course dinner menu changes every three weeks (herb-crusted lamb rack with coconut rice is a standout), Sea & Surf Terrace and Bar for a light bite and a Spice Island Classic cocktail potent with sparkling wine and the island herb called sorrel and a bowl of deliciously addictive flash-fried green banana chips. The resort is all about eating local. “Many of our staff have backyard gardens,” says Janelle Hopkins, deputy managing director, “we buy what they grow like lemons, tomatoes and callaloo rather than import from outside the island.” If you particularly like a dish on the menu, ask chef Jesson Church to show you how to make it and he’ll happily set up a mini-cooking lesson. Rates start at  $1,387 per room, per night, based on double occupancy.

Those who prefer their lobster and mango served with a side order of dramatic views are in for a treat in St. Lucia at Jade Mountain. High above its sister resort Anse Chastanet, distractions are minimal in the upscale suites with no TV’s or phones (there is Wi-Fi ) and no fourth wall, leaving the impeccably appointed sanctuaries open to the  warm  breezes. On the southwest coast coveted for vistas of the mighty Piton Peaks and the Caribbean Sea, gourmands bunking in one of 29 suites with infinity-edge pools or Jacuzzis take their pick of haute cuisine at a quartet of restaurants. Michelin-starred executive chef Stefan Goehcke and James Beard-winning chef Allen Susser prepare works of art on a plate. Dining venues include Jade Mountain Club wrapped around an infinity pool, and the seaside Trou Au Diablo for a curry-filled West Indian flatbread called a roti and a frosty mug of Piton Beer to wash it down. Wine pairing menus at The Treehouse — which really is a tree house — are a big hit, while at Emerald’s small plates are perfectly shareable.  “As the resort has its own farm,” explains Karolin Troubetzkoy , co-owner along with her architect husband Nick, “we deliver a farm-to-table experience with our own organic produce complemented by our handcrafted artisanal chocolate harvested from our estate cocoa trees.” For fans of the sweet stuff, the Chocolate Alchemy package is chock-full of chocolate cocktails, chocolate-themed breakfasts in bed, chocolatey spa treatments, a tour of the Emerald Cocoa Estate and a class in the chocolate lab where choco-philes create their own bars. Rates start at $1,680 per couple for travel until April 15.

In Antigua, it’s all about coconut and codfish at the St. James’s Club on the southeast coast. On 100 acres, 240-rooms, suites and villas are close to four restaurants and the seaside grill on Mamora Beach. Rainbow Garden is where you’ll find chef Dave Ralph cooking up an island storm of delectable edibles like shrimp and salty codfish dressed up in a tomato garlicky sauce, sides of callaloo and boiled bananas and his savory bowl of Fish Water filled to the brim with snapper and peppers. Ask for the national dish called fungee — pronounced foon-jee and sometimes spelled fungi — which is a robust mash of cornmeal and okra that looks and tastes like polenta. “Every cook adds his or her own touch to the recipes,” explains Chef Ralph as he flits about the open-air restaurant, “these are dishes I have eaten since I was a small child and now as a chef, it’s my pleasure to encourage our visitors to try them.” For a sweet finish, coconut dumplings with a cinnamon sprinkle and rum balls infused with real rum hit a home run. Rates start at $195 per person, per night.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Handing Out Scuba Certifications


Royal Caribbean is now the only cruise line out there with onboard Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Five Star Dive Centers, where guests can become certified scuba divers as part of their cruise vacation.

Program Details

Royal Caribbean’s partnership with PADI offers a range of programs; from a 30-minute Try Dive program ($29) for those who just want to get their feet wet, to PADI’s Reactivate Program for certified divers who want a refresher ($59).  Those who want to center their vacation on diving can enroll in the Open Water Diver course to earn their complete certification, which starts at $599 per person.

The course begins at home, with an online course that will ultimately leave more time for actual scuba diving while on the cruise.  Once on the high seas, divers will test the waters in the ship’s pool before heading out to complete the four mandatory, open-water training dives in some of the world’s most beautiful waters.  The training dives will be split among two ports, and upon returning home guests will be certified divers that will be able to plan and execute dives on their own.

How to Book

Guests can book their PADI course before boarding through the Cruise Planner, or while onboard at one of the PADI Five Star Dive Centers found on ten ships across the fleet: Oasis-class, Freedom-class, and Voyager-class ships, as well as Anthem of the Seas.

Featured photo: Flickr Creative Commons


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