Published: Nov/Dec 2003

The Westin St. John Resort offers rooms that open out for a view of the ocean. (above). /USVI Department of Tourism photo
The Moon Palace on Cancun’s south shore is family friendly, with a pool that curves around the resort. (below) /Palace Resorts photo

Resort to the Caribbean
These tropical digs provide fun and more in the sun

By Theresa Russell

Vibrant shades of blue color the sea beyond sandy beaches that typify the Caribbean. Each beach and destination possesses its own characteristic identity.

The same can be said for the multitude of resorts that welcome guests to this region of sun and sand. Families, couples, adults, spa and water sport enthusiasts will find many options from which to choose.

Jamaican jaunts

Jamaica, a popular honeymoon destination, offers a wealth of resorts that cater to newlyweds, as well as adults and families.

The elegant Royal Plantation Spa and Golf Resort, a Sandals’ property on the island’s northern coast, suits those with a preference for luxury. The colonial-style buildings and atmosphere reflect the British heritage of the area. The low-key ambience of this distinctive, all-inclusive resort soothes the spirit and calms the soul.
Guests 16 years and older looking for more activities and a lively, yet unobtrusive, atmosphere might select the Grande Sport Villa Golf Resort and Spa, an all-inclusive Beaches resort located near Ocho Rios. The Grande Sport offers a wonderful spa and 91 swimming pools. The units are configured to accommodate a group of up to six people who would share a common swimming pool. Those guests looking for more privacy should select the honeymoon villas with a private pool.

Just up the road, the newly renovated Beaches Boscobel Resort and Golf Club welcomes families with open arms. The all-inclusive programs include organized activities and clubs for children. Plenty of events happen throughout the day, with water sports being a main attraction.

Free scuba diving lessons and golf are included in all the above resort packages.

Moving toward the western part of the island is the small village of Negril and a most interesting concept in resorts. Scattered throughout 10 lush acres, Negril Cabins offer a real tropical forest experience. This resort is quieter and smaller than most with just 86 units. The beach is a short walk across the street on what some consider the nicest stretch of sand in Jamaica.

While families are welcome here, there are not a lot of pre-planned activities for children. Like all resorts, Negril Cabins organizes trips into town to seek out restaurants and bars and can organize personal trips of any nature.

Negril Cabins has received several awards for its commitment to its environmentally friendly practices. The staff here emphasizes warm Jamaican hospitality, something that visitors will find throughout the island.

Set sail in Antigua

Tiny Antigua is steeped in maritime history and is a pleasant and easy island to drive around.

It also benefits from the trade winds that blow most of the year, and Sunsail Club Colonna takes advantage of them. The resort offers extensive programs to any guest who would like to learn to sail. Whether you want to sail a small one-man boat or a yacht, this certified school will provide all the instruction using new and well-maintained equipment.

After passing a yacht course, there is the possibility of renting a boat and cruising around the islands.

The resort is on the European plan, which gives guests the chance to eat off property and explore the island. Children can participate in the kids’ club, while parents try their hands at sailing or windsurfing.

The United States Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands consists of three main islands, each with its distinctive personality.

Lively St. Thomas is where the cruise ships call and release their passengers into its downtown shoppers’ paradise. This part of the island bustles with activity, but there is more to St. Thomas than shopping.

Beyond the downtown, several resorts offer respite from this frenetic pace. Built into a hillside, the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa affords outstanding views of the bay and sunsets from its balconies. The design gives this all-inclusive getaway a secluded feel, but also provides good exercise climbing to and from the beach if guests prefer not to use the shuttle.

St. Thomas offers kayaking, snorkeling and diving among its selection of activities.
A short ferry or seaplane ride away is St. Croix. The rugged eastern coastline sets the backdrop for several small resorts that dot this scenic stretch of beach. These resorts are simple, yet still with a tropical feel. Located on the shore, their doors open to the sound of crashing waves and tropical breezes.

The Cane Bay Reef Club, with its laid-back atmosphere, consists of nine fully furnished suites, perfect for those who want to feel right at home. Restaurant offerings vary daily, with a free Friday buffet.

On the opposite side of the island, Waves at Cane Bay copies the suite setup. Down the road, almost directly across from the casino, the Divi Carina cools guests with its very tropical décor. Fresh sherbet colors brighten the rooms.

Be sure to experience the outstanding snorkeling at one of the two national parks, the Virgin Islands National Park off St. John and Buck Island Reef National Monument. The Virgin Islands National Park covers two-thirds of tiny St. John. Hiking, water sports and beaches attract visitors to this special protected area that will remain pristine for future visitors.

One of the special spots on the water is the Westin St. John Resort. Rooms with high ceilings open to the sea. The beach includes a variety of equipment for water sports and a water trampoline that children enjoy. The spa offers services to relax the muscles after a day on or in the water. For solitude seekers, St. John should be a first choice.

Make it Mexico

Cancun and the Mayan Riviera constantly evolve. On Cancun’s south shore, 10 minutes from the airport, the Moon Palace all-inclusive resort accommodates families and groups in casually elegant surroundings without pretension. The waterfront is the draw here. A huge pool snakes along through the resort. Ten restaurants serve a la carte and buffet meals, making dining an adventure in itself.

In the quaint fishing village of Puerto Morelos, the Ceiba del Mar sits on a quiet beach away from the crowds. This resort for adults specializes in spa treatments.

Farther south down the road, the Aventura Palace, an all-inclusive property operated by the Moon Palace, indulges those seeking to renew the body, mind and spirit. Several pools, exercise and treatment rooms entice guests into the pleasant and opulent surroundings for a variety of therapies.

Choosing treatments from the huge menu of offerings is no easy task. In addition to treatments, classes like yoga, tai chi and Zen walking are offered. Styled like a hacienda, soothing décor pervades throughout. The rooms come equipped with Jacuzzis.

Imagine yourself on a beach chair watching the sun set over the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. Think about the sound of waves gently easing you into a tropical sleep. Dream about the warm sun on your face and the sand on your feet. Then start your planning and go find your beach chair on the perfect beach.

Theresa Russell is a contributor from Ohio.

Before you go

To plan your Caribbean trip, stop by your nearest AAA Travel office.

Think about all-inclusive resorts when planning a vacation

Everyone has heard the phrase “you get what you pay for.” When you’re paying for an all-inclusive resort vacation, you get quite a lot.

“Accommodations and almost everything you drink, eat and do is included in the price,” said Sue Wells, director of AAA Travel. “The obvious benefit to this type of package is that your vacation is prepaid.”

There is a variety of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. Most offer the traveler scenic beaches and lavish pool areas, Wells said. Dining options will range from plentiful snacks and buffets to gourmet meals served in exotic restaurants. Most water sports and tennis are also included in the price–guests will not pay extra for these. Sometimes, spa services and golf also are included in the package.

Wells recommends travelers ask specific questions about what is included in the price and what is not. It’s also important for travelers to be clear on their expectations of a resort when booking a package.

“For instance, if the purpose of the vacation is to play as much golf as possible, we want to send them to a resort where golf is included. The same goes for spa treatments for these travelers who want to be pampered. Their perfect inclusive package would need to include complimentary massages, manicures, pedicures and other spa services,” Wells said.

What’s not included in most all-inclusive vacation packages is tipping. Most resorts are up-front about the no tipping policy, but always ask while planning the vacation.

Some travelers may think an all-inclusive resort is restrictive, that there aren’t many opportunities to experience the local culture.

“Guests are always free to leave the resort to explore the island or take advantage of activities outside of the resort,” Wells said. “Of course, these activities will be at the traveler’s own expense.”

For those who love sun, sand and surf, an all-inclusive vacation in the Caribbean or Mexico should meet their expectations.

-– Deborah Reinhardt

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