We get it: You’re a traveler, not a tourist, and all-inclusive resorts make you cringe, because no traveler would spend their vacation in a place that evokes MTV Spring Break more than a genuine, worldly experience. But maybe it’s time to dismount that high horse and rethink things.
Over the last several years, the all-inclusive model has ditched the foam parties and body shots to focus instead on travelers’ love of food, wine, and cocktails, wellness experiences, and laid-back environments that embrace local culture-you know, the very same things that make you a capital-T Traveler. And now that you’re vaxxed and ready to dip your sun-deprived toes back into travel, an all-inclusive resort is your ticket to kicking back and decompressing completely rather than stressing over logistics.
No place does all-inclusive resorts quite like Mexico, which is why Americans flock to its shores en masse. And the very best-the ones on this list, specifically-are fully prepared to cater to any sort of traveler, with Covid precautions strictly enforced and maximum relaxation guaranteed. Here’s where to book for beaches, bottomless margaritas, and total bliss.
Ideal for: Couples, friends, partying Rate: $380 per night You don’t have to look far to find the pretty party people in Los Cabos; throw a stone in any direction, and it’ll likely land in some A-lister’s champagne. But while Los Cabos has developed a reputation as the playground for the rich and famous, you actually don’t have to be either in order to play.
Breathless Los Cabos is the perfect example. Located on Medano Beach (one of the few actually swimmable beaches in Los Cabos), the adults-only hotel is the place to go if you like the music loud, the beverages free-flowing, and the guests extra social. There’s a reason you’re greeted with a drink and a “welcome to the party” from the reception staff. Activities include theme nights, tequila tastings, and DJ pool parties, among other high-energy events. There is a spa and a “quiet” pool, but considering the resort overlooks the marina, you can expect the party to roll from morning until-well, the following morning.
Ideal for: Families, wellness, beaches Rate: $340 per night What’s great about Paradisus Los Cabos is, first and foremost, the uninterrupted view of the Pacific. It’s located on the corridor between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Translation? It’s pretty quiet. The crowd at Paradisus is looking to unwind with a fabulous meal, a spa trip, or a day lounging by the pool or the (swimmable) beach, so if you’re looking for a chill post in Los Cabos, this is your spot.
Paradisus is an enigma because it’s both family-friendly AND ideal for grown folks. How, you ask? Separate sections-which actually do feel separate. Book some time at the adults-only Gastro Bar from Michelin-starred chef Martin Berasategui, or upgrade to the Royal Service, which includes extra perks like a private pool and two exclusive bars. Meanwhile, families can book Family Concierge rooms, which have perks like toiletries for kids and welcome backpacks filled with toys and games.
Ideal for: Wellness, kid-free, couples, friends, outdoors Rate: $500 per night While this all-inclusive resort isn’t in Los Cabos proper, it is just up the coast in Todos Santos, a town that needs to be on your radar if it isn’t already. (Picture Sayulita or Tulum, except more desert and far-FAR-fewer tourists.) You may notice a price jump, but what sets Paradero apart is that it’s “experience inclusive,” meaning not only are your meals and cocktails included, but your activities and excursions are, as well.
With escorted hiking and biking trips, art and architecture tours, wellness experiences, and dining all up for grabs, Paradero is a great option for travelers who want the convenience of an all-inclusive resort, but the perks of being able to get out and explore a destination that’s on the tipping point of becoming way too expensive for the non-Bezoses of the world.
Ideal for: Kid-free, couples, a trip with mom, friends, beaches Rate: $540 per night Puerto Vallarta is one of the most action-packed coastal cities in Mexico. But when you slip behind the gates of this luxury, adults-only resort, you’ll feel like you’ve left the booming bass of downtown far, far away. Tucked within the swanky Marina Vallarta, Casa Velas only has 80 rooms, so you can rest assured that while the party rages on the Malecón, it won’t follow you back to the hotel. Instead, you’ll find expansive rooms-some with private hot tubs or plunge pools.
The one caveat is that this all-inclusive resort isn’t located on the beach. But before you keep scrolling, it does have two main pools, plus a private beach club a two-minute shuttle ride away. That said again, the beaches in this part of Puerto Vallarta aren’t exactly white-sand-things can get pebbly around here. Still, the resort has plenty to keep you feeling pampered. Dial up the romance with a massage at the spa or park yourself at the swim-up bar; you won’t even be thinking about the beach after your first round.
Ideal for: Kid-free, couples, trip with mom, friends Rate: $200 per night Villa Premiere sits right at the intersection of Puerto Vallarta’s gringo-specific Hotel Zone and its more culturally immersive downtown. What you’ll find is that quintessential, all-inclusive beach resort vibe, but within walking distance of all the entertainment, restaurants, culture, and nightlife that first put Puerto Vallarta on the map.
The hotel is small, with only 80 rooms, each and every one with an ocean view and balcony (and some with a hot tub on said balcony). The hotel’s slice of beach happens to be one of the nicest in town and you’ll find several restaurants onsite, as well as a lovely central pool with plenty of surrounding loungers and daybeds. Is it the flashiest all-inclusive in Mexico? No. But over the years it has consistently been one of the most comfortable, relaxing, and affordable, with one of the best locations in town.
Ideal for: Wellness, kid-free, couples, beaches, seclusion, outdoors Rate: $375 per night One of the newer resorts to grace the sugary shores of Cancún, Haven Riviera feels decidedly glamorous, but at a price that won’t have you hauling Tupperware to the restaurant to stock up for winter. The elegant resort bends like a horseshoe around a sprawling pool that overlooks the sea. There are 333 guest rooms all with views of the Caribbean, which is pretty remarkable for an all-inclusive resort of this size. (The real move is to book one of the 88 swim-out suites.)
What’s great about Haven Riviera Cancún is its “choose your own adventure” vibe. Stay snuggled up in your swim-up suite with bae all week; get a salt scrub and walk the hydrotherapy circuit at the 15,700-square-foot spa for a day of parent/child relaxation; or head off-property to dive the coast of Cozumel and swim with whale sharks. The stretch of white sand beach right out front-plus the three pools and various restaurants-is why this resort is a member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts, a gold-star endorsement for fans of pampering.
Ideal for: Kid-free, couples, families, friends-and all the rest Rate: $263 per night You may be wondering how a resort could work for so many different groups of travelers, but trust us. The adults-only TRS resort shares an expansive beachfront with its sister resort, the Grand Palladium, which is perfect for those with little jam-hands in tow. Both resorts leave no stones unturned when it comes to designing your own dream vacation: With the Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre (one of the top-rated tennis facilities in Mexico), a soccer field, the sprawling Zentropia Spa & Wellness Center, and over a dozen restaurants all available to guests, the two-pronged property takes the term “all-inclusive” veryliterally.
Both resorts are located roughly 30 minutes from the Cancún airport in the newly buzzy beach town of Costa Mujeres. Up until recently, the stretch of beach was basically undeveloped-but no powder-soft stretch of sand goes untouched for long. Now, it’s a thriving beach destination that’s pleasantly secluded from the pulsing energy of Cancún’s Hotel Zone.
Ideal for: Kid-free, couples, friends, beaches, partying Rate: $358 per night Live Aqua is right in the heart of the Hotel Zone (and a quick trip from the airport), but its laid-back vibes make it feel like it’s a world away. For a medium-sized resort, it has a particularly large swath of beachfront, meaning this is the place to be if you’re after an oceanfront daybed, a margarita, and… probably a second margarita.
By day, you’ll find the resort guests (all of whom are over 18) lounging on the spacious pool deck or down by the water. There’s also an energetic “party pool” set away from the main pool so that everyone can choose a spot that suits their rowdy meter for the day. All of the spacious rooms have balconies and ocean views, but for an elevated experience, upgrade to the Aqua Club Rooms on the fifth and sixth floors for additional perks like a private lounge with breakfast, canapés, and cocktails. Pro-tip: Don’t leave without eating at Sea Corner (the tacos here are fuego) and Azur, which has amazing steak and seafood.
The best all-inclusive hotels in Riviera Maya & Tulum
Ideal for: Wellness, kid-free, couples, friends, beaches, partying Rate: $539 per night Whenever asked what the best all-inclusive resort in Mexico is, this is my pick. It’s fun but approachably chic. It’s big but not overwhelming with 448 rooms, most of which overlook the ocean. The first-floor rooms have swim-up pools, while the higher floors have hydro spa tubs on the terraces. And yes, the tubs are big enough for two.
Outside, there are three pools that work for both the social butterflies and for those who prefer to put in their earbuds and zone out. Wandering around the grounds, you’ll find DJs spinning, outdoor grills firing, and bubbles consistently flowing. The restaurants serve up food that makes you forget that this is an all-inclusive experience, my personal favorites being Mura House for sushi and Mi Carisa for champagne brunch. You can also stop by Palmera Lounge for a nightcap and cigar. The lounge is designed to be a throwback to 1940s Havana.
Ideal for: Wellness, kid-free, couples, trip with mom, friends, outdoor, beaches, seclusion Rate: $577 per night In Riviera Maya, you’ll probably spot a giant pink school bus on the side of the highway that reads “Xcaret,” which is a company that owns several theme parks and all-inclusive resorts throughout Quintana Roo. The flagship theme park is all about Mexican culture and history, and the hotels are no different-including their latest venture, Hotel Xcaret Arte.
The result of a $427 million investment, the adults-only resort boasts 900 luxurious, enormous, Mexican art-themed suites. The rooms are broken up into six “casas,” each of which focuses on a specific medium. (For example, Casa de Los Artistas offers painting classes, while Casa de la Music has programs reserved for dance; you can also explore cooking workshops and pottery.) Plus, the resort tries to keep everything “in the family,” meaning local: Jobs are reserved for locals, the menus reflect cooking traditions from throughout Mexico, and the design elements are all from nearby craftspeople and artisans.
Bonus: If you’d like to intersperse your relaxation with some thrills, the rate of the resort includes unlimited access to all of Grupo Xcaret’s theme parks.
Ideal for: Kid-free, couples, beaches, seclusion Rate: $186 per night Tulum isn’t known for its all-inclusive scene. So when you find one-and one at such an absurdly reasonable price, at that-hold on tight. Catalonia Royal Tulum is adults-only and all-inclusive, perched right on a stretch of sun-bleached beach.
We’ll be upfront: None of the rooms have ocean views. Instead, they’re tucked back into the jungle, so expect slightly longer walks to the beach, but way more cool wildlife viewing. That said, the rooms are larger than those at other hotels in Tulum and the resort itself does have a beachfront, so you’re never that far from finding what you seek-unless what you seek is a party, in which case, you have come to the wrong place. Despite Tulum’s reputation for being an elevated party place for the posh and boho-chic, this all-inclusive resort does not pander to that crowd. The tone here is subdued, secluded, and very anti-scene.
Ideal for: Wellness, couples, trip with mom, friends, outdoor, seclusion Rate: $231 per person, per night If you haven’t heard of Riviera Nayarit yet, you will soon: Any day now, the hidden pockets of over-the-top luxury that dot this surfer’s paradise will be rubbing elbows with the likes of the most exclusive sections of Los Cabos. Until then, take advantage of its affordable all-inclusives, one of the newest being Delta Hotels by Marriott Riviera Nayarit.
If you’re looking to hit reset, this is the resort you want; it’s got all the buzzwords of a retreat (think yoga and hiking) without actually being one. There is no beachfront, although there is a private beach club offsite. What it offers instead is a prime perch in the Sierra Madres, just outside the small town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and not far from boho-chic Sayulita and San Pancho. On the property are 117 rooms with private balconies, plus two restaurants, four pop-up venues, two outdoor swimming pools, and a 24-hour fitness center and spa.
Ideal for: Kid-free, couples, beaches, outdoors, seclusion Rate: $231 per person, per night While Secrets Resorts are known for being all-inclusive romance superstars, it doesn’t hurt when they get a helping hand from the landscape of Punta Mita-one of the most exclusive pockets of Riviera Nayarit, known for high-end dining, superb surfing, and luxe hotels. The 278 suites of adults-only Secrets Bahia Mita offer the same exact ocean views as the area’s more expensive properties, but for a much more affordable price.
Just because Secrets is known for its romantic offerings-which, in this case, include tequila tastings and private dinners in a wine cave-doesn’t mean you have to spend your time cooing by candlelight. The resort encourages guests to get outdoors with surf lessons, a jogging track, and a variety of excursions, as well as an infinity pool, a beach club pool, and a rooftop infinity pool for those who book Preferred Club rooms.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.
Meagan Drillinger is a travel writer living and breathing in NYC. But if you give her a plane ticket today, she will be somewhere else tomorrow. She like tacos, music and making lists. But travel is her life.
The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’. Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health.
Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid.
Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park. As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor.
To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power.
Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.
You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks.
It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties!
An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:
‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.”