All-Inclusives, All Around

A new class of all-inclusives has become a driving force in Mexico

By: Maribeth Mellin

All-inclusive hotels first appeared at Mexico’s beach resorts in the 1980s. Twenty years later, they’re a prime force in the development of Mexico’s tourism industry. From the wild coast of Los Cabos to the coral reefs of Cozumel, entire communities have risen around all-inclusive compounds with their own golf courses, spas and nightclubs.

Gone are the Club Meds of the 1980s, with their bead bracelets and Spartan rooms. (Club Med has considerably upgraded its own product of course.) The all-inclusives of today are lavish affairs with whirlpool tubs in the rooms and gourmet restaurants overlooking the sand. Guests arrive on charter flights with big-name tour companies and settle in with their friends and family for a week of easy vacationing.

Some all-inclusive companies have developed a strong presence in Mexico with enormous properties at several destinations. Although these mega-resorts are most common in the Mexican Caribbean, they’re also popping up on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos and other established beach cities. Riu, Real, Palace and other giants have proven the demand for self-contained destination resorts where travelers can purchase packages, including everything from airfare to sessions in the spa.
Smaller-scale companies are al
so expanding and offer different takes on the all-inclusive concept. Some specialize in weddings and honeymoons, while others provide a safe and enjoyable haven for families. Old-time hotels have embraced the concept and offer their guests generous enticements to keep them around the property. Matching clients to the style of a smaller all-inclusive resort involves special insights into the character of the various chains. Check out these hotels for discerning, independent clients.

Dreams Resorts & Spas
One of three AMResorts brands in Mexico, Dreams claims a most desirable location in Puerto Vallarta. The Camino Real, a venerable, lovely hotel south of town, became a Dreams Resort in 2004. At only 337 rooms, it’s small for an all-inclusive and frames a gorgeous beach buried in palms. The company renovated the rooms and public spaces, added a spa and spiffed up the food at the four restaurants. The resort now has an easy elegance in an idyllic setting. Dreams also took over the Camino Real in Cancun and the Melia Suites in the Los Cabos Corridor. The nighttime entertainment and pool activities can be disruptive if your clients are seeking solitude, but they can always wander away to their comfortable rooms.

This company’s two properties in the Puerto Vallarta area stand out as luxurious escapes. The Grand Vela All Suites & Spa in Nuevo Vallarta is a complete getaway in a destination that’s grown from nothing into a city of all-inclusive resorts. The elaborate spa, elegant rooms and gourmet restaurants are geared toward discerning adults who expect silken sheets and flat-screen TVs. The Velas Vallarta property closer to downtown Puerto Vallarta is similarly chic and subdued.

Royal Solaris
Los Cabos has exploded onto the all-inclusive scene recently with the construction of a lineup of large all-inclusives on the beach in San Jose del Cabo. The 400-room Royal Solaris has captured the clientele seeking moderate rates for a pleasurable all-inclusive experience. The concept works well here since restaurants and other diversions are scarce in the immediate neighborhood, and transportation is extraordinarily expensive.

Presidente InterContinental
The first property in San Jose del Cabo’s hotel zone was the understated Presidente, a peaceful escape beside the bird-filled San Jose Estuary. Now at least a half-dozen large and small hotels line the beach, and the Presidente has grown into a 400-room all-inclusive resort. Its location and design allow guests to follow their interests at various pools and restaurants. Volleyball games in the main pool are a longtime tradition, as is the beachfront Mexican Fiesta and dinner at the elegant Italian restaurant. Presidente also has a long-established all-inclusive hotel and spa in Puerto Vallarta and a low-key all-inclusive in Ixtapa.

Sol Melia
Another chain with a long history in Mexico, Sol Melia operates the all-inclusive Melia Azul Ixtapa on a secluded beach facing Isla Ixtapa. The 410-room hotel, with its elaborate kid’s pool and suites with full kitchens, is excellent for families and has a genuine Mexican style of hospitality. Melia’s other all-inclusives in Puerto Vallarta and Cozumel are equally family-friendly but are large enough to provide quiet spaces for singles and couples.