Got the travel itch? These resorts take care of almost everything, so all you have to do is enjoy your trip.

all-inclusive resorts travel vacation

The Bungalows Key Largo, one of our top picks for all-inclusive resorts to visit this year / Photograph courtesy of The Bungalows Key Largo

All-inclusives have long had a bad rap as “basic” alternatives to luxe vacations. But resorts are increasingly evolving beyond bland buffets and drunken foam parties to feature higher-end amenities, like chef-driven farm-to-table menus and super-soothing spa treatments. It’s a welcome change around here, as all-ins are proving to be more cost-efficient than even Jersey Shore rentals.

Whether you’re looking for a solo wellness retreat or an action-packed excursion with your kiddos, these all-inclusives cater to all kinds of travelers — and make it even easier to get away.

Bungalows Key Largo

Key Largo, Florida

all-inclusive resorts travel vacation

All-inclusive resorts: Bungalow-style lodgings / Photograph courtesy of The Bungalows Key Largo

Trip type: Tropical escape
Guests: Adults 21 and over

The secret to a blissed-out holiday is Bungalows Key Largo, an adults-only waterfront resort on the northernmost isle of the Florida Keys. Here, your food, drinks, accommodations and most activities are included in your booking, and in the absence of kids and pets, the atmosphere is quiet, mellow, refined — think yacht rock, light breezes and elevated cocktails.

Escape into island life by booking a three-hour direct flight from PHL to Miami International Airport, then rent a car or hire a service to drive you the 63 miles south to the Bungalows. Travel during the day to gaze at the untamed sawgrass marshes of the Southern Glades, which cozy up to the Everglades. (Key Largo,­ by the way, is home to the only living­ coral barrier reef in the U.S.)

Upon arrival, you’re welcomed with rum punch and guava cookies before being chauffeured by golf cart to your luxurious bungalow — each one has a private veranda, an outdoor shower and a soaking tub. Explore the property, its oversize sculptures, and white-sand paths lined with candy-colored flowers, lush foliage and palm trees using the two beach cruisers assigned to your room, or chill in the Adirondack chairs on your front porch.

Enjoy happy-hour cocktails at Hemingway Bar (the Florida Keys theme runs deep here) and dinner at the laid-back Sea Señor, one of six restaurants at the resort. (Room service costs extra.) A post-dinner nightcap at the Sunset Tiki Bar is the perfect way to wind down. (You’ll be charged for premium alcohol.)

all-inclusive resorts travel vacation

All-inclusive resorts: A boating excursion in Key Largo / Photograph courtesy of The Bungalows Key Largo

Take advantage of the Bungalows’ daily­ activities. Follow your morning beachfront yoga with the breakfast buffet­ at Fish Tales and a lie around the Zen Pool in one of the teal-blue cabanas.

To reach peak tranquility, schedule a full-body massage or facial (for a fee) at the Zen Garden Spa, then relax in the Himalayan salt and eucalyptus steam rooms. Later, head to Tiki Beach for the live reggae band.

If water sports are your thing, the resort provides kayaks, paddleboards, snorkel gear and water trikes. Along the coast, you may encounter dolphins and manatees. For an extra cost, the Bungalows will set you up with boat rides, seaplane adventures, fishing charters and other excursions.

Back at the resort, it’s worth paying extra to dine at Bogie & Bacall’s for exceptional steakhouse cuisine — the short ribs in a port demi reduction are a must. Afterward? Take a leisurely stroll back to your bungalow — and savor each moment of your visit. Rooms from $1,149. — Carla Shackleford


Miraval Berkshires

Lenox, Massachusetts

All-inclusive resorts: Miraval’s Life in Balance Spa / Photograph courtesy of Miraval Berkshires Resort & Spa

Trip type: Ultimate wellness
Guests: Adults over 18 (except for family connection week, which runs April 14th to 21st for groups with kids as young as eight)

A welcoming sense of comfort will envelop you upon entering Miraval Berkshires. That might partly be due to the plush robe you’ll don shortly after arriving and probably wear for most of your stay. But it’s more likely because the essence of every visit here is a wellness journey.

A four-hour drive from Center City, the 380-acre Berkshires resort (and its adjacent circa-1893 Wyndhurst Manor hotel) opened in 2020 and is the third U.S. property for the adults-only Miraval brand, which asks guests to consider their reasons for visiting with questions like, “Are you seeking mental, spiritual or physical well-being?” and “Does self-care or reconnection with a loved one resonate with you most?”

Miraval’s emphasis on mindfulness also comes to life with its digital-device-free approach: Guests receive cell-phone “sleeping bags” to encourage them to disconnect. And every room boasts a Tibetan singing bowl, a meditation cushion, and cloud bedding, for the best sleep of your life.

Meals at rustic-chic Harvest Moon Restaurant and nutritious grab-and-go items and drinks at Roost cafe are complimentary. (Alcoholic beverages are offered at a cost.) Miraval’s team uses locally sourced ingredients in its menu of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-, dairy- or nut-free options. (That GF focaccia is a must.) A daily $175 resort credit can go toward culinary experiences, private or fee-based group activities, and treatments at the Life in Balance Spa.

Speaking of, that 29,000-square-foot spa is the pièce de résistance. It features, among other things, facials, body scrubs and wraps, massages, and Eastern and Ayurvedic treatments, like Pradhana Veda — a combination of warm herbal oil massage, ultra-relaxing marma point therapy, and Shirodhara, in which oil is poured over the forehead. There are also saunas, steam rooms, lounges with stone firepits, an indoor-to-outdoor pool, and hot tubs. (In total, Miraval has three pools, and there’s one at Wyndhurst.)

Hundreds of other indoor, outdoor and seasonal activities await beyond the spa, and many are included in your stay or available with your resort credit. Sessions range from spiritual (private celestial sound baths) to creative (pottery classes) to fitness (cardio drumming) to historic (afternoon tea amid Gilded Age splendor at Wyndhurst). There are on-site outdoor challenge courses and a climbing wall, an 18-hole golf course, therapeutic equine programs, and off-property trails for hiking all year.

A favorite? The 3.5-mile Mahanna Cobble hike, which takes you uphill for a serene view of the valley — the crown jewel of your wellness getaway. Rooms from $1,152. — Kristen Schott


Mohonk Mountain House

New Paltz, New York

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Mohonk Mountain House in New York is one of the most fairytale-like all-inclusive resorts we’ve ever seen. / Photograph courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House

Trip type: Outdoor adventure
Guests: All ages. Kids three and under stay for free year-round, and during select weeks, so do guests ages four through 12.

Nestled in New York’s Hudson Valley, Mohonk Mountain House is a 155-year-old resort that feels plucked from a fairy tale thanks to its castle-on-a-hill grandeur and old-world charm. (Hello, in-room woodburning fireplaces!)

The property prioritizes getting out of your cozy abode and into the surrounding­ 40,000 acres via a host of activities, most of which are complimentary for overnight­ guests. Take your pick from 85 miles of hiking trails — they range in difficulty from breezy one-mile loops to routes with rock scrambles — or perfect your swing on the nine-hole course. (Bonus: Greens fees are included in your stay.) In the winter, don your snow gear for family favorites like skiing, snow tubing and ice-skating. (There’s a massive­ heated pavilion.) Paddleboarding,­ mountain biking and horseback riding will call your name once temperatures rise. And starting this April, thrill-seekers can brave Mohonk’s via ferrata — the first of its kind in the Shawangunk Mountains — for guided,­ cable-secured rock climbing and aerial-bridge trekking, at an additional cost.

all-inclusive resorts travel vacation

Mohonk’s new via ferrata / Photograph courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House

Take advantage of all your refueling options, seeing as farm-to-table breakfast, lunch and dinner are covered. The majestic main dining room hosts all three meals — including a bountiful weekend brunch and curated three-course dinners — while the Granary offers casual­ picnic-style barbecue, lobster bakes and homemade pies during the warmer months. (There are also complimentary tea and cookies every afternoon.) Not included — but worth mentioning — are specialty culinary experiences like monthly wine-pairing dinners and exclusive chef’s table feasts. There’s also a gift shop with an old-fashioned soda fountain offering­ milkshakes, butterbeer and more, for those late-night hankerings.

When you need a break from all the play, opt for pampering at the spa. Although treatments aren’t included in your stay, the extra cost is worth it for ahhhh-­inducing bodywork and glow-worthy­ facials — like the ones created by skin-care pro Pietro Simone — as well as wraps, manis/pedis and hair services. More one-of-a-kind wellness comes by way of Lakeside Immersion in late fall through early spring — it sees you cold-plunging in Lake Mohonk before warming up with yoga and a cup of hot cider or tea back inside — along with meditation, massages and mindfulness sessions, all in an open-air treehouse. Of course, you can always hit the indoor heated pool, too.

That this nature-lover’s playground is a three-ish-hour drive from Center City? We’re spoiled, we know. Rooms from $739. — Laura Brzyski


Sandos Playacar

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

all-inclusive resorts travel vacation

Bike riding along Sandos Playacar’s pathways / Photograph courtesy of Sandos Playacar

Trip type: Sun-drenched family fun
Guests: All ages

Need some sun after an endless Philly winter? Escape to Sandos Playacar, a family-friendly resort on a truly magical stretch of beachfront in Riviera Maya. To start, grab a luxury lounger under the swaying palms — or dive right into activities like soccer, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, volleyball and yoga. (If you want to pay a little more, try jet-skiing, parasailing or a scuba class, or indulge in a deep-tissue massage in an open-air gazebo.) When you need to refuel, hit one of the beach bars for refreshing snacks, cocktails and juices — the “Purifier,” with pineapple, celery, chaya, alfalfa and orange, comes in clutch if you went a little heavy on the tequila the night before.

You could spend your entire trip by the ocean — and we wouldn’t blame you — but Sandos Playacar boasts much more than that killer beach. Six on-site pools will please everyone in your party, from the water-park fans to the swim-up-bar enthusiasts. For lodging, families should book a suite in one of the Haciendas — you’ll get a spacious bedroom with a Jacuzzi and separate living area, plus a private outdoor space featuring a pool and hot tub.

A shady stroll away is the central plaza, buzzing with shopping, drinking and dining options. Festival is a crowd-pleaser, with a multitude of buffet options serving three meals per day. For dinner, reserve a table at Gourmex — a high-end modern Mexican dining experience — or Le Gourmet, which presents French-inspired dishes under a woven-grass roof.

Get everyone moving with pickleball, mini golf or a family bike ride. Beach cruisers, which are available all day free of charge, take you on a breezy trip through the gated Playacar community and into the heart of Playa del Carmen, if you want to venture off-site. Even better: There’s drop-off babysitting for when the adults need to recharge at the full-service spa.

In the evening, when your tween or teen opts for a theme party or video games at the Lite Club, enjoy an energetic live stage show at the amphitheater, or dance the night away in the sports bar turned discoteca, to keep the party flowing. Rooms from $342. — Jamie Leary


Guide Book

How to choose among all the fabulous all-inclusive resorts for your vacay? We’ve got tips! / Photograph by Lara Jameson

Kelly Gallagher, owner of Port Richmond’s Chasing the Globe with Kelly, shares how to choose the best all-in for you.

Consider your budget. Deciding between a resort that’s $300 vs. $700 per night? Think about the amenities. Resorts with higher rates often feature upscale restaurants, nightlife and shopping, plus perks like a private beach, spas, or swanky swim-up bars.

Choose your time frame. To get the most bang for your buck, stay for five to six days. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy all the activities, relax, and still feel like you got your money’s worth.

Read the reviews! Low-cost doesn’t always mean sub-par — chains like Riu and Breathless can be just as enjoyable without totally breaking the bank. But this is where reviews come in handy, as they’ll give you a better sense of how the food and drinks actually are, if the rooms are clean and comfortable, and whether the entertainment is cheesy or lively.

Don’t forget the fine print. Sometimes resorts try to tack on extra fees by claiming that whatever you’re requesting isn’t part of the package. This happens often with alcohol, so make sure you know what types of drinks (well vs. top-shelf, for instance) are included. Same goes for transportation to and from the airport — if that’s something you don’t want to handle yourself, make sure your package covers it — and gratuities.­ — As told to L.B.

 

Published as “The All-Inclusive, Elevated” in the March 2024 issue of Philadelphia magazine.


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