The best all-inclusive resorts are a world way from the congealing buffets you might expect. In fact, these days all-inclusive means so much more than free bar - it's also encompasses amazing design, luxury, and the ease of not having to think about anything other than if you might repaint your home the same color when get back.
To celebrate this brave new world of wonderful all-inclusive resorts, we've rounded up some of the most spellbinding properties and estates around the world, from a Montana Dude Ranch to a surfer's paradise in Indonesia.
The best all-inclusive resorts
1. Nihi Sumba Island, Indonesia
The sumptuous Nihi Sumba is set on a pristine stretch of golden beach on the less-trodden Indonesian island of Sumba, an hour's flight from Bali. There's not a huge tourism infrastructure here (yet), so it makes sense to go all inclusive.
Sumba is a surfing hotspot thanks to the “God’s Left” wave, and surfing and other water sports are a huge part of the hotel's offering.
Inside, the feel is luxurious, elevated surf shack. All 28 exquisite villas back onto jungle and face the ocean. We feel transported just looking at the canopy beds, all made up with white linens, with views directly onto the ocean.
Book a stay at Nihi Sumba Island. Villas from $1650 in low season.
2. The Brando, Tahiti
Marlon Brando bought these islands after discovering the area filming Mutiny on the Bounty, and his family and estate developed the hotel there after he died, designing it in line with Polynesian architecture. The hotel is almost completely run on renewable energy sources and the air conditioning uses seawater. Barack Obama stayed here for a month after he left the White House.
Each of the 35 villas blends wonderfully with the environment with outside bathtubs and private swimming pools. Inside, neutral tones reign.
Book a stay at The Brando. Villas from $3000.
3. Ozen Life Maadhoo, Maldives
This mega luxurious Maldives is famous for its underwater dining restaurant, much shared on Instagram.
The 94 beachfront and overwater villas are rather dear, but they sure do look pretty, inside and out. The interior design is modern and clean, with touches of local artisanship in the décor.
Double doors open straight out on to the pristine blue lagoon where the hotel is situated. Not the worst back yard in the world!
Book a stay at Ozen Life Maadhoo, Maldives. Rooms from $1000.
4. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Thailand
This resort along the Ruak River takes glamping to new levels.
All the accommodations are individually designed to reflect Northern Thailand and feature private decks complete with hot tubs and exquisite handmade wooden furniture. The Explorer's Lodge even has a handcrafted bathtub.
The 15 tent structures are airy and breezy, the lightness of the frame contrasting with the solid wood furnishings inside, like colonial-style desks and slouchy leather chairs.
There's a cocktail bar and al fresco dining. Guests can also walk with rescued elephants while staying there
Book a stay at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle. Villas from $1800.
5. Jade Mountain Resort, St. Lucia
This place is really striking – designed by architect owner Nick Troubetzkoy. It's built into a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea and the rooms are open-sided like floating platforms.
Troubetzkoy is committed to respecting the environment around the resorts (both Jade Mountain and his other property, Anse Chastanet) and supporting the local economy. Indigenous materials are used throughout: recycled rock, tropical hardwoods and local limestone.
Book a stay at Jade Mountain Resort. Rooms from $1000.
6. The Ranch at Rock Creek, USA
A Montana dude ranch get a luxury makeover. Tucked away in a valley, is an authentic example of the modern farmhouse look.
Accommodation is spread across larger lodges, cabins and a converted barn. It's a gorgeous secluded spot on a vast estate with magnificent dark skies for star gazing.
The hotel lends guests bikes to zip around to the different amenities: restaurant, spa and the glorious landscape.
Book a stay at The Ranch at Rock Creek. Stays from $2000.
7. Isla Palenque, Panama
Seclusion is the name of the game at this 400-acre, private, tropical island resort in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama.
They've blended structures made of wood and straw with hidden glass architecture underneath creating an indoor/outdoor harmony.
For families, there are treks through the jungle to find the "Lost Beach" as well as adventures like snorkelling and paddle boarding.
Book a stay at Isla Palenque. Rooms from around $715.
8. Castle Hot Springs
A totally different kind of all-inclusive resort in the Arizona desert among the Bradshaw Mountains and centered around natural thermal springs. The site has been a place people came for wellness long before we called it that. For centuries, indigenous people native to present-day Arizona traveled to the springs for medicinal purposes.
It was developed as a high-end resort and in the early 20th century and soon became a favorite with wealthy industrial families like the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, Cabots and Pews. John F Kennedy even spent time recuperating here when he was in the military in World War Two.
Today the original resort has been built upon and updated. There's an on-site organic farm that serves the restaurant.
Book a stay at Castle Hot Springs. Rooms from $450.
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Hannah Meltzer is a Londoner by birth and Parisian by adoption. She previously worked on the staff of The Daily Telegraph’s travel desk, before moving to Paris in 2017. She writes regularly about travel and Parisian culture for The Telegraph as an expert destination correspondent. She has also written for The Independent, The Times, Vanity Fair, openDemocracy and Télérama. Recently she wrote a podcast series about Parisian culture for an LA-based production company.
Hannah is based in the 18th arrondissement in the less touristy side of Montmartre behind the Sacré-Coeur basilica. Though her life sometimes resembles a hammy cliché — sketching in sidewalk terraces, walking her beloved dog Babette through the streets of Montmartre — she is adamant she has not lost her London humour and open-mindedness, or her accent.
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