Ready to dip your toes in the all-inclusive concept? These properties—located in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America—offer the all-inclusive resort experience on a smaller scale, allowing you to decide if your family wants to move on to a mega resort the next time around (or skip all-inclusive resorts altogether). These are our favorite all-inclusive resorts for first timers.
1. Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort – Curacao
A 2020 Family Vacation Critic Favorite Hotel, the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao is the perfect all inclusive resort for first timers. In fact, it’s not technically even an all-inclusive resort; instead, it offers an all-inclusive optional package. The package allows you to customize your vacation, including as much or as little as you want in rates. Bonus: Kids under age 18 stay free in a room with their parents or guardians.
2. Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels – Barbados
Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels is an intimate property in Barbados, with two kid-friendly restaurants (plus three bars), non-motorized and motorized water sports, a kids’ club (for ages 3 to 12), and Wi-Fi included in rates. Also included in rates is a water taxi to Crystal Cove’s sister properties—Colony Club, Tamarind, and Turtle Beach—where you can see what other all-inclusive family resorts have to offer.
3. Belizean Dreams Resort – Belize
Another all-inclusive-optional resort ideal for first time visitors, Belizean Dreams Resort offers suites and villas for families, allowing you to enjoy the privacy you might not find at a mega resort. The resort has one restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner (plus a snack bar between 2:30 and 6 p.m. daily). There’s also a small pool and pool bar. Those concerned about being stuck at an all-inclusive resort for the duration of their trip will appreciate that most activities take place offsite and include diving, snorkeling, fishing, caving, rappelling, tubing, ziplining—you name it.
4. Franklyn D. Resort & Spa – Jamaica
Franklyn D. Resort & Spa includes complimentary nanny services in rates—how’s that for a first-time all-inclusive experience?! Other perks at this small, beachfront property include kids’ and teen clubs, three pools (including one with a waterslide), and two kid-friendly restaurants, plus two adults-only restaurants—providing just enough variety.
5. Divi Little Bay Beach Resort – St. Maarten
Following extensive renovations due to hurricane damage sustained in 2017, Divi Little Bay Beach Resort has reopened with the same charm—but better. The resort offers all-inclusive-optional packages that cover meals and beverages at the resort’s four onsite restaurants and three bars; non-motorized water sports; and Wi-Fi. Plus, kids age 5 and under stay free!
6. Playa Grande Resort & Grand Spa – Los Cabos
At Playa Grande Resort & Grand Spa in Los Cabos, travelers can choose an all-inclusive plan that covers all meals onsite, as well as meals at The Ridge next door; access to the kids’ club for children age 5 to 12; access to a gorgeous, private beach; multiple pools and hot tubs; a mini-golf course; and more. The resort features 260 suites with private balconies and kitchenettes or full kitchens.
7. Allegro Cozumel – Cozumel
Families will find affordable all-inclusive rates at the Allegro Cozumel, making it an ideal choice for a first time all-inclusive resort vacation. All-inclusive rates include access to four swimming pools, one of which offers a sprayground for kids; three restaurants; and a kids’ club designed for children between age 4 and 12. If your family is into diving, be sure to check out the Ultimate Dive Experience package.
8. Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta – Puerto Vallarta
The Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta is a good choice for first time all inclusive resort travelers looking for a U.S.-based name in Mexico (and/or those looking to use Hyatt points). It’s also just 20 minutes from the airport. The all-inclusive resort offers a complimentary kids’ club, several pools (including one just for kids), and water sports. While there are quite a few restaurants, there’s also room service so you can eat in the comfort of your guestroom when you don’t feel like going out. “Ultimately, it’s a small enough resort to not feel overwhelming, but a large enough resort where kids can escape from parents and not feel trapped,” says John Terry of Everyday Points and Miles, who took his first all-inclusive vacation at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. “The private beach is also a huge plus.”
9. Coconut Bay Beach Resort – St. Lucia
Coconut Bay Beach Resort has just 250 guestrooms divided into two sections: Splash for families and Harmony for couples. While the all-inclusive resort features the largest water park in St. Lucia, you don’t ever have to worry about waiting in line for the Coconut Coaster waterslide or the lazy river—this intimate resort never feels crowded! Other perks include a kids’ club (covered in rates), water sports, several restaurants with dining options for kids (including specially pureed baby food), and an oceanfront location.
10. Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach – Cancun
Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach, a small property and a Family Vacation Critic Favorite Hotel, offers an all-inclusive experience called “U” by Grand Fiesta Americana. The package includes unlimited dining at its onsite restaurants, unlimited premium brand and signature drinks, access to the resort’s pools and beach, and access to the high-tech KidZ Club. Bonus: Grand Club-level guests receive four hours of complimentary babysitting services!
11. Paradisus Los Cabos – Los Cabos
Paradisus Los Cabos puts families at ease with a program called Family Concierge, which offers kids’ bathrobes and slippers, a Paradisus kids’ welcome kit, beach kit, children’s bathroom amenities (soaps, toothbrushes, shower gel, mosquito repellent, and towels), and turndown service with milk and cookies. There’s also a Family Concierge Lounge where families can relax with snacks and drinks almost all day, and a two-level Kidz Zone that is simply adorable. The resort’s private crescent cove beach is ideal for families with young kids, too, with calm, swimmable waters.