Nothing beats being on holiday. Nothing. It’s the greatest thing ever invented - better than seeing your team win the F.A. Cup, better than leaving work early on a Friday, better than signing for a package you forgot you ordered after a couple of drinks and better being at the birth of your children. Why? Because holidays give us somewhere to escape the monotonous routine of our day-to-day grind, letting us forget we have work pressures to panic about and allowing us to shun the cocktail of alarms and calendar entries that make life a little less fun.
Instead, nipping away on a quick jolly abroad means heading off somewhere it's socially acceptable to have a beer before midday, lounge around in bed all day without feeling guilty about it, over-indulging in all the food the upper part of your stomach can handle and reading that epic novel you almost started last summer. Basically, it’s the best.
But for all our hype, there is one thing that tops a normal holiday: going all-inclusive. This really is the sliced bread of the vacay-world.
For parents, you can leave your offspring in kids clubs, have all the cooking done for you, be entertained every night and actually have a holiday instead of just doing the same stuff you do at home, just inside a fan-oven. And the benefits for non-parents are equally cool: you don't have to lift a finger, carry a wallet in your trunks, or engage in a decision more tricky than "should I have blueberries or bacon with my pancakes?”.
Yes, there is usually a tradeoff in that you’re sipping on cheap booze, eating from lukewarm buffets, and playing a game of musical chairs where there’s no music and two-hundred guests fighting over three beach chairs. But this isn’t always the case. And to prove this - to prove not all all-inclusive resorts are born equal - we’ve found some that really, truly, definitely don’t suck. Enjoy.
Howie’s Homestay, Thailand
Before you scroll on because you’re imagining Howie’s Homestay to be an old farm barn sat slap bang in the middle of the Louisiana Swamps run by a WW2 veteran with a soft spot for spam, we have some good news for you: it isn’t. It is fact a luxury resort in Chiang Mai, Thailand and, trust us, your jaw will hit the floor a hundred times a day no matter how long you stay. But what’s most astonishing is just how at home you feel surrounded by this much-unabashed opulence, and that’s because it’s run and owned by a super-friendly American expat, Howie, and his wife and, before they turned it into their dream resort, they actually built it to be their dream home. What really sets this place apart from the rest, though, is how they say you and your group will have the entire resort to yourself: the private hotel, Royal Lanna style villas, romantic gardens, all of it. The problem is, this isn’t entirely true because you’ll have Howie there playing the role of caretaker, host, cocktail maker, chef and tour guide so, if we’re being pedantic, you won’t have it all to yourself. But that’s fine with us.
Kapama Karula, South Africa
It doesn’t matter how much of a seasoned wanderluster you might be, or how many times you’ve stayed in the VIP glamping section of Glastonbury, it’s worth putting down a bet on this place stealing your breath each morning because it absolutely will. How can it not? It’s as staggeringly beautiful as it is mind-bogglingly far-fetched. It’s living in wooden-lodge luxury on the edge of the Kruger National Park with poolside views of the Klaserie River. Seriously. This all-inclusive is like nothing you ever deemed possible. It takes the relaxation thing and cranks it up to eleven, meaning your resting heart rate will drop to around 6 bpm. It’s swanky suites come posh Nespresso machines and mini-bars stocked with Champagne, champagne and more Champagne, which you can then pop into a cooler, take onto your private terrace and sip with a smile before waking up properly with an al fresco shower. Some suites even have pools - la-di-daa. As for the other moments that make up your all-inclusive deal, you can enjoy a ton of gourmet meals, daily drives into the bush for a bit of Big 5 spotting, the best nature walks you’ve ever been on, and a few sundowners at, wait for it, the Treehouse Pub. Talk about living your best life.
Royal Davui, Fiji
If you asked us to paint a picture of paradise, we would completely ignore what happened to Tom Hanks and Wilson and choose to get marooned on some teeny-tiny island in the heart of the Pacific. That’s not because some of our best friends are actually volleyballs or because we can grow a great beard. It’s because this is where the most amazing all-inclusive resort is hiding: Royal Davui. One week here and you’ll leave with little bruises from all those pinch-yourself-moments. Only reached by speedboat (or helicopter), this 10-acre private island boasts 16-luxury beachside villas complete with plunge pools, curved palm trees, lush jungle and the chance to adorn a snorkel and explore a tropical marine reserve - and if that doesn’t make your fingers open up the Hopper app we don’t know what will. It’s luxury meets nature like never before, something you’ll discover when you’re served the most Instagrammable-meal ever in the Banyan Tree restaurant (translation: you’ll enjoy a foodporn dinner in a tropical treehouse on a Pacific island).
Kalon Surf, Costa Rica
When you hear the words “surf school”, your brain probably throws up some frown-inducing images of dirty backpacker hostels, almost inedible grub that’s sold as “authentically local” and days spent getting knocked off your board left, right and centre while your semi-qualified instructor tries to hit on your two hot classmates. Basically, heading to an all-inclusive surf retreat is a pretty niche thing to do. Of course, there’s an exception to every rule and, in this instance, that exception is Kalon. Sure, a lot of your trip will be trying to master the waves just off the coast of a jungle-thick paradise and putting down some elbow grease as you wax your board, but that’s just part of the adventure. The rest of it is dipped in luxury, from enjoying an endless ocean-view from your cabana-styled suite to indulging in a mid-morning massage to mmmmm-ing your way through locally-sourced meals. All that and you get to hone your surfing skills too, making it perfect for anyone that shudders at the thought of bathing on a sun lounger for a week straight.
Spice Island, Grenada
The thing about Granada is, well, its neighbours are Monsieur Barbados and Madame Antigua, which is why it rarely gets the praise it deserves. But my gosh does this jewel of an island deserve praise. Nay. It deserves a shrine in every home and a whole lot of worshipping, especially Spice Island. That said, the obscurity surrounding this paradise is what makes it so special, and that’s exactly what the Grand Anse Beach is. It’s special. It’s a barely populated gem hidden in plain sight, each of the moon-white cottages dancing with the soft sands of this breath-snatching beach - all 64-rooms of it. But if that’s not enough to take your mind away from the humdrums of life back home, each boutique boudoir comes fully-stocked with high-end booze and fine wine, not to mention there’s all the tennis, scuba diving, cycling, golf and other recreational activities you could possibly hope for or a quiet Caribbean island. And if that’s still not enough to make your mind start sparking like a cattle prod gone haywire, this all-inclusive resort also boasts a AAA Five Diamond Award, which means the food is pretty good, and you’ve got two beachside restaurants to choose from as well. Yipee ki-yay.
Nay Palad, Philippines
It takes something pretty spectacular to earn the barely-whispered nickname of “Cloud 9” but that’s exactly what Nay Palad (formerly Dedon Island) is referred as - at least to the surfer’s that make a tri-monthly pilgrimage to these shores. But it’s not just the amazing waves that will have your eyes widening more than a hungry labrador at dinner time. It’s the way this all-inclusive resort has translated the meaning of luxe living. To delve into what a stay here looks and feels like, it’s a nine-villa property in the Philippines that’s owned by former goalkeeper and Bayern Munich legend Bobby Dekeyser and, trust us, he clearly has an eye for the finer things in life. We’re talking about an outdoor cinema, sunrise yoga classes, top-end surf schools and a spa so relaxing you might not gain full consciousness for the rest of your vacay. Seriously. Of course, no world-class all-inclusive is complete without world-class food, which is why every meal you’re served has been prepared by a private chef using ingredients grown on the resort’s very own organic farm. Mouths will water and taste buds will trip the light fantastic. They always do.
And there we have it.
Six super-luxurious resorts that go a super-long way to restoring the venerable history of the all-inclusive holiday; resorts that make sure every premium-paying guest gets to switch off for as long as they stay, wandering around these little patches of paradise to explore the smorgasbord of fancy restaurants on offer, slurp down a selection of top-notch wines and replace their normal, boring decision-making criteria with the chance to do remarkable things and collect incredible memories. Yeah. That’s what these places are all about. They are single-price spots able to rival the most luxurious five-star places on the planet. So, what are you waiting for? Pick a resort and relax. Don’t just live your normal life but in a hotter climate; actually relax. Properly. Like a king and/or queen. You probably deserve it.
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