The Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts
The kids want to go ziplining—for the third time in two days. But you don't need to think twice. When you're staying at an all-inclusive resort, nearly everything is included, so the pressure is off to constantly tally the cost of your vacation.
The all-inclusive concept has gotten a recent makeover—better food, spruced-up décor, more varied activities—and many are perfect for families. Activities are on-site, so there's no need to wake up early and usher the troops out the door only to wait in traffic or long lines. Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa offers four themed villages, 19 restaurants, a 45,000-square-foot water park, a Scratch DJ Academy, a surfing simulator, an Xbox Play Lounge, and Sesame Street® characters.
Related: Best Places to Travel in 2016
The best all-inclusive family resorts also have programs that give grown-ups a little space. Vermont's Tyler Place Family Resort runs nine camps tailored to specific ages, each with its own facilities; parents meet up with their brood for lunch and activities, but can enjoy dinner in the adults-only restaurant.
These are the kinds of distinguishing factors to look for before booking. "The devil is in the details, so do your homework with special attention to size, quality, and the staff-to-guest ratio," says Zachary Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico.
At Kenya's Lewa Safari Camp, families can customize the experience, say, with earlier mealtimes. Before each morning's game drive, hot chocolate is delivered to the door. Now that should keep the whole family happy.
• Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa, St. Lucia
• The Ranch at Emerald Valley, CO
• Meliã Caribe Tropical, Dominican Republic
• Rancho de los Caballeros, AZ
• Skytop Lodge, PA
• Tyler Place Family Resort, VT
• Club Med Pragelato Vialattea, Italy
• Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmerelda, Mexico
• Lewa Safari Camp, Kenya
• Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa
• Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch, WY
• Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, Costa Rica
• Vista Verde, Steamboat Springs, CO
• Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
• Tanque Verde Ranch, Tucson, AZ
• Barceló Maya Beach Resort, Riviera Maya, Mexico
• Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY
• Alsol Luxury Village, Dominican Republic
Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa, St. Lucia
St. Lucia’s largest water park—with slides, waterfalls, and a lazy river—is right here at the 85-acre oceanfront resort, which hosts a kids’ club, family karaoke, and movie nights. There are even separate wings for adults and families. Ask to stay in one of the Splash wing’s revamped Premium Ocean View rooms. Done in white, lime green, and blues, they make a cheerful crash pad for tuckered-out kids after a day spent ziplining, playing in the tree house, or climbing the mini rock wall.
Rate: From $413 per room per night, including meals and activities. Tours, paintball, premium drinks, and spa treatments are not included. Infants under three stay free; kids three to 12 years old are $23 per night; and teens 13 to 17 are $31 per night.
The Ranch at Emerald Valley, CO
The Ranch, which opens in August 2013 less than 10 miles from downtown Colorado Springs, spreads over 16 acres surrounded by the Pike National Forest. The onetime retreat of gold and copper magnate Spencer Penrose houses guests in 10 one-, two-, and three-bedroom cabins with wood-burning fireplaces. Families can go horseback riding, fish in the trout-stocked pond, roast s’mores, and dig into Rocky Mountain rainbow trout and fresh pie at twice-weekly gourmet cookouts. To access sister resort The Broadmoor’s amenities (golf, tennis, and a spa with kid treatments), call the concierge to be escorted down the mountain. broadmoor.com/ranch
Rate: From $435 per adult per night, including all activities and meals. Alcohol, taxes, and gratuities aren’t included. Children six and under stay for free.
Meliã Caribe Tropical, Dominican Republic
You’re bound to spot Fred Flintstone hanging out at this vast 1,138-room oceanfront resort in Punta Cana. The three Flintstones-themed kids’ clubs offer not only costumed characters but also supervised crafts, games, a trampoline, and sports like rock climbing and ziplining. While the kids play, adults can take a dip in one of 10 pools, shop at the Palma Real Village (which has three movie theaters), take individual or group lessons at the Golf Academy, or unwind with an open-air couple’s massage at the Yhi Spa. melia.com
Rate: From $175 per adult and $57.40 per child (two to 12) per night. Includes all meals; Wi-Fi in the lobby; access to the pools, tennis courts, spas, game room, gym, and health club; activities and sports; and evening entertainment. Greens fees at the Cocotal Golf & Country Club and motorized watersports are extra.
Rancho de los Caballeros, AZ
The mission of the Sonoran Desert ranch is simple: keep the tradition of the Spanish caballeros (“gentlemen on horseback”) going. If you’re looking to get your hands dirty, you can help out with cattle chores—after all, this is a working dude ranch. Otherwise, head to the 100-horse corral and ride one of the many trails with professional wranglers, set out on a scavenger hunt, or tee-off at the on-site championship golf course. Join the Cowboy Cookout dinners served from a chuck wagon under the star-filled sky, then retreat back to one of the 79 casitas, with creature comforts such as a fireplace, a patio, or a jetted tub. ranchodeloscaballeros.com
Rate: From $420 per night based on double occupancy. Kids up to five stay free; $95 a night for kids six to 12, including access to the Kids Club and three meals daily.
Skytop Lodge, PA
Fans of the cult classic Dirty Dancing will recognize the wholesome brand of family fun cultivated at this stone-and-wood lodge on 5,500 acres in the Poconos. You can zipline through the Tree Top Adventure Course (more than 3,000 feet long, but a comfortable 10–15 feet above the ground); play laser tag or paintball; set off on a GPS-guided nature hike; or, in the winter, go dogsledding with the resort’s own team of huskies. Grown-ups may opt to do the more rigorous Leavitt Falls hike, which descends into a rhododendron-dotted ravine, home to foxes.
Rate: From $495 per night based on double occupancy, for the Full American Plan, which includes three daily meals and select activities (hiking trails, indoor and outdoor pools, and mini-golf). Children under 12 are free; those 12 and over or additional adults are $75 per person. Fees apply for golf and Adventure Center activities.
Tyler Place Family Resort, VT
Four generations of Tylers have lived and worked at this resort on Lake Champlain since it opened in 1933—the current owners’ grandparents even met here as kids in 1874. The property hosts up to 70 families weekly, but what sets it apart is that there are nine age-specific camps designed for infants and kids up to 15 years old, each with its own equipment and facilities so that teens and little ones don’t have to mingle. Activities center around the lake: sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, water tubing, and bass fishing cruises led by “Nature Dave.” Yoga, tennis (six courts), and bonfires are also on offer.
Rate: From $124 to $422 per adult per night, including daily housekeeping, all meals, children’s camps, and activities. Spa treatments, alcohol, and state tax aren’t included; there’s a 10 percent service charge, but no tipping. Infants and toddlers $37–$109, depending on the season; kids 2 1/2 through 15 $94–$143.
Club Med Pragelato Vialattea, Italy
More than 5,200 feet up in the Piedmont region of the Italian Alps, Club Med opened the Pragelato Vialattea in December 2012. There’s ski-in/ski-out access to 240 miles of slopes, 30 of which are suited for beginners. Many of the 234 rooms, with pine floors, plaid throw pillows, and dove-gray walls, were designed specifically for families, while clubs cater to kids and teens from two to 17 with a “snow garden,” nature programs, and skiing alternatives like snowshoeing and Nordic walking. In summer, guests keep busy with hiking, mountain biking, oror excursions to the weekly market at Pinerolo and guided tours of Turin. clubmed.us
Rate: From $3,666 for seven nights for two adults and two children, including all meals and drinks, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, Nordic walking, snowshoeing, hiking, and access to the Turkish bath and sauna room. Children under six stay free.
Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmerelda, Mexico
Milk with chocolate chip cookies at turndown is one of the thoughtful touches you can expect from a stay in a Family Concierge suite (with a private terrace Jacuzzi) at this oceanfront resort. Extra amenities include mini-bathrobes and slippers, a kid-friendly mini-bar, tear-free bath products, and private family check-in and check-out. During your stay, a complimentary walkie-talkie or local cell phone makes it easy to keep track of the whole gang, whether out on treasure hunts or taking pizza-making classes or dance lessons (Zumba, salsa, hip-hop). Mayan ruins at Tulum, Chichén Itzá, and Cobá are also within reach. melia.com
Rate: From $130 per adult per night, including meals, activities, classes, and a check-in gift for kids. Spa treatments and dinner at Passion by Martin Berasategui aren’t included. Children under four stay free; kids five to 12 cost $65 per night; and teens 12 to 17 cost $130 per night.
Lewa Safari Camp, Kenya
Go on a day or evening game drive, hike with a Masai warrior, fly-fish at nearby Lake Rutundu, or relax at the 50-foot-long pool at Lewa, set in the 62,000-acre Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Families can add an extra bed to one of the 12 spacious tents or book separate accommodations connected by a short path. lewasafaricamp.com
Rate: From $345 per adult, $260 for children 6 to 17, children under 6 stay free; two-night minimum.
Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa
This reader favorite (voted a T+L World’s Best Hotel for Families) has no shortage of activities: there’s a Scratch DJ Academy, a 45,000-square-foot water park, a surfing simulator, and 12 miles of white-sand beach. Looking for residential-style lodgings? The resort’s new Key West Luxury Village has multi-bedroom suites and villas with private pools.
Rate: $355 per adult, $60 for children 2 to 16, children under 2 stay free; three-night minimum.
Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch, WY
Set on a 300,000-acre working cattle ranch, the Hideout offers everything you could want on a ranch vacation, from a horseback ride through alpine canyons to a guided tour of nearby Yellowstone. The 16 cabins and casitas have family-friendly touches, such as kitchens, washers and dryers, and pullout sofas.
Rate: From $506 per adult, $430 for children 11 and under; four-night minimum.
Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, Costa Rica
This lush hideaway near Tortuguero National Park is an amateur zoologist’s dream: explore the rain forest by kayak on the nearby Tortuguero River, watch a 300-pound turtle lay her eggs, or spot rare bird species from the veranda of one of the 27 guest rooms.
Rate: From $196 per adult, $99 for children 10 and under.
Vista Verde, Steamboat Springs, CO
If you and your outdoorsy crew want to get off the beaten path, this could just be the perfect retreat. Routt National Forest makes for the perfect backdrop for mountain-air activities in every season, be it stream fishing in the summer, a wagon ride in the fall, or sleigh rides in the winter. Your first decision: choosing between a private cabin or room in the main lodge. While the rooms are convenient to the action, if you have more than one kid, consider a quiet cabin. Ranging in size from one to three bedrooms and baths, those have living rooms, wood-burning stoves, and private hot tubs out on the deck. Wi-Fi is free in the main lodge, but you won’t find it (or a TV, for that matter) in any of the accommodations. Trust us, they won’t mind once they discover the Coyote Corral, where they’ll find the spacious Kid’s Cabin and the low ropes course.
Starting Rates: $1,375/person for a three-night stay; $1,075/child 12 & under (they have an age minimum of 6). Included: meals, beer and wine, activities, guides, equipment, instruction, kids’ program, and airport transfers.
Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
Here’s the thing: Teens are sometimes less than enthused by family vacations. Here’s the antidote: This west-coast luxe destination and its just-renovated—to the tune of $300K—teen club. The game room has been stocked with an X-Box Kinect, pool table, air hockey, ping pong, foosball, karaoke set with a vintage dance floor, soft drinks, and NY-deli-style munchies. The younger sibs? They’re having their own party in the Kids’ Club, with an itinerary that’s quite a bit more original than most: think Spanish lessons and piñata making. That’ll give you time to snorkel, or….just do a whole lot of nothing.
Starting Rates: $385 per adult per night, based on double occupancy. Children 5-16 years old are $100 per night, age 4 and younger is complimentary. Includes: a la carte meals at a variety of specialty restaurants, premium branded beverages, 24-hour in-suite service, fully-stocked minibar, recreational activities program for
children and adults, including snorkeling, kayaking, and boogie boarding, Wi-Fi, taxes, and gratuities.
Tanque Verde Ranch, Tucson, AZ
Many parents resist ranches, fearing they'll be too "dudey" to seem like a real vacation. And that's a shame, because you can find ones that offer everything a kid could want in an old-west experience, yet still feel decidedly like a resort. Case in point: Tanque Verde Ranch, smack dab in between Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest. (Read: it's gorgeous.) Horseback riding is a thing, of course, but you'll have plenty of other family-centric diversions, such as fishing on their private lake and birding. The kids' program, for ages 4-12, includes story time with s'mores, horse grooming sessions, and movie nights. While they're living it up, you may just have to choose between tennis, watercolor class, or line-dancing under the stars. Whatever you decide to do, don't leave without trying their blueberry pancakes.
Starting Rates: $550/night for two people, $150 each additional child/adult. Includes:
three daily meals and all activities on the daily schedule, which typically includes options such as horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, cowboy cookouts, and breakfast rides.
Barceló Maya Beach Resort, Riviera Maya, Mexico
A resort complex comprised of five hotels, this is the destination to pick if you like options on vacation. How many options, you ask? Twenty restaurants; 19 bars; eight swimming pools (two semi-Olympic); two water parks; one surf ride attraction, and two spas. One of those spas is for kids only, and too adorable for words.
Teens can be found in their dedicated lounge, or, often, on the mini-golf course. Wherever you are on property, though, you'll get a breeze from the open-air style of the architecture, and a glimpse, if not a panoramic view, of the ocean. That water! You won’t soon forget it.
In the unlikely event the kids want to be indoors, you can all always go bowling at the newly-installed alley.
Starting Rates: $98.50 per person, per night based on double occupancy. Includes: meals, non-alcoholic beverages, house wine, and well drinks, daily programming, non-motorized marine sport equipment rental, and most entertainment. Extra: Some specialty facilities, such as spa services.
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY
Mohonk Mountain House is a unique excape. Not a resort, exactly. Definitely not a hotel. More like a bed and breakfast (and lunch and dinner), but a really, really big one. This charming old-world mansion is set on a wooded mountainside with easily-walkable hiking trails that offer high-up views of the nearby lake and plenty of nature photo opps. Explore the grounds, including the historic barn museum. Inside, hang at the heated pool, play a board game next to the fireplace, or pick a family program to enjoy. One popular one on a recent evening: a local naturalist showed off her collection of “pets,” including a good-size snake. Plenty of kids showed up in pajamas, obviously feeling perfectly at home.
Starting Rates: $310 per person, per night based on double occupancy. Kids stay and eat free specials offered throughout the year. Includes: breakfast and lunch buffets, a three-course served dinner, afternoon tea and cookies, scheduled children's and teens' programs, guided nature hikes, yoga, meditation, and fitness classes, paddleboating, kayaking, evening entertainment, gratuities. Extra: taxes, a taxable 12% administrative fee, spa services, horseback riding, mountain biking.
Alsol Luxury Village, Dominican Republic
This all-suite resort is located in Cap Cana, next to the largest inland marina in the Caribbean, meaning you'll get to enjoy the unique view of yachts sailing in and out all day. The ginormous suites are a huge plus here, a real treat if you have a big family, and the sprawling property rarely feels crowded, with two pools, one with an unusually large zero-entry end, ideal for splashing around with the littles. Since you'll be spending most of your time at the pools (who are we kidding here?), ask for a suite on the first floor to get back and forth faster. As an added bonus, those will also have lovely terraces. The nighttime "mini disco" and guided bicycle tours are perennial kid faves. And it's only 10 minutes from Punta Cana International Airport. Don't underestimate proximity: Few things are worse than getting off a plane with children and having to face a 45-minute ride.
Starting Rates: $489 per night for two adults and two children under 12 in one junior suite. Includes: three meals a day, selection of domestic and imported alcoholic drinks, set activities and entertainment, tax, and service charge. Extra: Wi-Fi (except in the lobby).