All Inclusive

Beach Foodie Favorites & Top Resort Chefs

Vacations are meant to be a time where you can indulge and live the good life. This often means hours spent hanging poolside, swimming in the ocean, relaxing at the resort spa and of course, eating. Your dining options often times are a deciding factor when planning your perfect getaway, especially if you’re considering an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean or Mexico. So we’ll make it easy for you – here’s a handful of top-of-the-line resorts that are known to have it all, including fabulous, well-known dining options.

Paradisus Playa Del Carmen, La Perla 

Playa del Carmen is known for having some of the clearest waters and softest sands in Mexico. And the 5-star Paradisus Playa del Carmen, La Perla is the perfect accessory to this incredible Mexico destination. Located near Playa del Carmen’s famous 5th Avenue, this adults-only resort offers a total of 11 restaurants and nine bars, including the full access you have at its sister resort, Paradisus La Esmeralda - so your options are limitless.

Playa del Carmen Vacations from CheapCaribbean.com

In addition to the four swimming pools and beachfront location with a beautiful, swimmable beach, Paradisus La Perla has been made famous by Spanish, 7-Michelin-star winner, Martin Berasategui’s restaurant, Passion. With a touch of retro accompanied by elegant signature cuisine and dramatically decadent desserts, Passion is Berasategui’s interpretation of the perfect romantic evening for you and your special someone.

After a dinner you could only dream of, head over to the chic M Bar, with its stellar wine selection and martini menu. And end the night in your Royal Service Suite with an in-room aromatherapy treatment or a soak in your Jacuzzi. Don’t worry - your personal butler is on hand, should you need anything at all.

Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza, Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, you can expect to find a lot of luxury resorts with an array of dining options and featured chefs. One of our top picks can be found at Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza. This resort straddles the Condado Peninsula giving you a view of both the Atlantic and Condado Lagoon, as well as boasting a saltwater pool, freshwater pool, lap pool and two spa Jacuzzis. You’ll have no problem soaking up the rays at any of these water options or at the swim-up bar.

Conrad San Juan Puerto Rico Vacation from CheapCaribbean.com

And when the sun sinks behind the Puerto Rican horizon, slip into something a little more elegant and prepare yourself for a meal that can be described as “a fusion of exotic ingredients” from Puerto Rico, Africa and East Europe at Pikayo. Owned by true Puerto Rican chef, Wilo Benet this fine dining restaurant has been in business for 22 years and received honors from publications like Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Conde Nast Traveler, Caribbean Travel & Life, Miami Herald, and the New York Times. With a menu that often changes with the tastes of the season, sample things like Alaskan king salmon or truffle-cheese empanadillas. Finish out the night by trying your chance with lucky lady in the 24-hour casino on the premises.

Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, Oranjestad

Perfectly placed in the center of downtown Oranjestad, Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino is an absolute paradise. A stay here comes equipped with access to Renaissance Island, a 40-acre island boasting two private beaches, Dive Center and Marina offering snorkeling and scuba diving adventures, two casinos, 24-hour entertainment and a long list of activities to keep your itineraries full of fun and excitement.

Renaissance Aruba by CheapCaribbean.com

But now onto why it’s one of our foodie favorites. Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino offers eight restaurants including a signature tapas menu at Blue’s and L.G. Smith’s Steak and Chop House featuring Chef Edward Zievinger. Named after the late L.G. Smith, Vice President of Lago and the man responsible for turning a “useless” island by the Spainards into one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, this steak house offers juicy cuts of aged, USDA Inspected Certified Angus Beef among delectable appetizers and extensive list of signature desserts. Their boundless wine list is also a 2012 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence recipient, so no need to worry about what you’ll drink with dinner. The award-winning staff will be sure to provide you with the dinner of your dreams.

So if you're mouth is watering and begging you for a taste,  it's time to plan that much-needed and well-deserved Caribbean or Mexico escape. With these being just a few of our fabulous foodie favorites, you can check out more of our favorites here. And if you've got a favorite of your own, be sure to share with us below.

The Perks of All-Inclusive by Chris Gray Faust

The Perks of All-Inclusive 

By Chris Gray Faust, Chris Around the World

Chris Around the World Guest Blogs for Cheapcaribbean.com

My husband and I have different ideas of a perfect vacation. While I have no problem being on the go, he prefers to stay in one place, where he can relax and have everything that he needs at his fingertips.

Blame it on today’s job requirements: Many professionals and executives work 24/7, it seems. While smartphones have made it easy to stay in touch, no matter where you are, they have also increased our working hours. The result? When Don pries himself away from his inbox, he needs to truly unplug.

That’s where luxury all-inclusives come in. USA TODAY has noted that resorts where all of the extras are included are on the rise, particularly in the Caribbean and Mexico. It’s been a popular choice during the recession, when travelers preferred to know the price of their holiday up front, paying one bill instead of many. And while these resorts were once favored by budget travelers, maybe used luxury instead of high end properties have gotten into the act, adding spas, private plunge pools and butler service.

On her trip to Jamaica’s IBEROSTAR Grand, for example, USAT’s reporter, Kitty Bean Yancey, found that her gratis butler would unpack her suitcase, bring her a special pillow, make dinner reservations and uncork her wine. Even within her room category, which she described as the least expensive (at around $300 a day in January), 24-hour room service and a stocked minibar were also included, as well as all meals at the resort’s four restaurants.

Travel + Leisure says that the biggest improvements at all-inclusives is the food (important to foodies like my husband and I). Says writer Ann Shields: “Buffet lines haven’t disappeared entirely, but resorts are recognizing that showcasing fresh ingredients and local cuisine will lure guests with more refined palates.”

Shields’ article also notes that cheesy group events have fallen by the wayside – again, important to someone like Don who just wants to chillax without having to take part in a “meet and greet.”  “Resorts are one-upping each other with an ever-expanding roster of diversions: golf, tennis, ziplines, kids’ clubs, snorkeling trips, Spanish lessons, beachfront climbing walls, kayaking, and trapeze instruction,” Shields writes. “Even lazing on the beach has received an upgrade.”

And how. I noticed on CheapCaribbean.com that the Sivory Hotel in Punta Cana, within the Dominican Republic, has submerged padded loungers in their infinity pool, so you can stay cool and still order a rum drink.  A pina colada poured poolside? Perfection!

The AAA Four-Diamond resort, part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, also has all-inclusive dining at its three restaurants. Considered one of the best restaurants on the island, Gourmond has an 8,000-bottle wine cellar, and Tau has fresh sushi. While spa services are extra, the rate includes weekly cooking classes, kayaking, snorkeling and access to the steam room and sauna.  Plus, Wi-Fi is complimentary (although I might not tell Don that if I want him to stop working).

I think I feel a sun break coming on.

Must-Do Adventure Vacations for the Thrill-Seeker in Us All

No matter if you're a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie or just a tourist who likes to experience it all while on vacation, there are plenty of action-packed adventures that can take place in the Caribbean & Mexico. Here are a few of our favorite vacations to try if you're on the hunt for a thrill:

Jamaica is known for it's rich culture, beautiful beaches and plenty of one-of-a-kind excursions you can't find on any other Caribbean island. Pick a top-of-the-line resort and you can spend your days exploring this invigorating island and your nights with five-star service, food and fun. We recommend Grand Bahia Principe for the best of both worlds.

Jamaica Adventure Vacations from Cheapcaribbean.com

Bounce between beachfront relaxation and running off to your next island exclusive excursion at Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica

You can leave your worries behind and step onto the beautiful shores of Runaway Bay, where the all-suite Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica offers all-inclusive access to a lake-style, beachfront pool with 2 swim-up bars for their popular dirty banana cocktails. The kids can hang at Principito for face painting and video games while you take advantage of the many onsite adventures, like kayaking, windsurfing or a ride on the catamaran.

If you're looking for an adventure that's fame-worthy, make sure to plan your trip to Port Antonio to explore The Blue Lagoon (yes, like the movie). While we can't guarantee you'll meet Brooke Shields, who made this location famous in the film, we can offer an enchanting, natural swimming hole with deep blue water, mixed with a fresh water spring, unlike any other swimming hole in the Caribbean. And don't forget that the legend tells the lagoon as bottomless with a resident dragon who lurks in these waters.

Another adrenaline junkie's vacation dream is Costa Rica. Costa Rica is the epitome of adventure and exploration. Toggling between iconic beach views and an Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica should be on every adventurer's bucket list. We've gone as far to plan out this Costa Rican adventure for you with our Liberia Guanacaste Costa Rica Adventure. This tour is a preplanned resort package that takes you through the city of Liberia, the Arenal Volcano, the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Tamarindo Beach.

Costa Rica Adventure Vacations from Cheapcaribbean.com

See all the natural wonders of Costa Rica is seven short days - an adventurer's dream!

Each day on this adventure you'll experience something different including a city tour of Liberia, Arenal Volcano exploration, a trip to Cano Negro Wildfire Refuge, time to wander the Monteverde Cloud Forest and sun bathing on the beach in Guanacaste. Don't worry, top notch accommodations are provided the entire time so you'll be able to unwind after your days spent exploring this miraculous destination.

If you're looking for adventure in Mexico, we'd suggest Riviera Maya. Known for its stunning beaches and private seclusion in the lush greens of the region, Riviera Maya is a vacation spot with a little bit of everything to offer. Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa is a top pick of ours when planning your Riviera Maya exploration.

Adventure Vacations in Riviera Maya from Cheapcaribbean.com

Enjoy the hotel's seclusion as you plan your next Mexican excursion at Dreams Tulum Resort

We're big fans of Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa because you're minutes from the Mayan ruins and sites of Tulum, while still experiencing Unlimited-Luxury® that comes standard at this hotel. When you're not busy exploring the ancient, stone temples and pyramids of this historic Mexican city, you can enjoy this family-friendly resort set on two miles of white beach lined with palms and mangrove trees. There's also a great Explorer's Club, perfect for kids ages 3-12, which will let Mom and Dad sneak off to the pool fully equipped with swim and walk-up bars. You'll want to plan a stay here to see why this historic city in Mexico was voted #18 as the "Best Destination in the Caribbean and Mexico for TripAdvisor's "Traveler's Choice Awards."

The Caribbean & Mexico are home to some of the most astounding wonders of the world. For more recommendations on thrill-seeking vacations, check out some more of our favs here. Be sure to share your favorite adventures with us too! Happy exploring!

Beach on a Budget by Suddenly Frugal’s Leah Ingram

Beach on a Budget

By: Leah Ingram, Suddenly Frugal

You may not think that spending time on the beach in the Caribbean and saving money are two things that you can do at the same time. But there are a few things you can do to keep the beach in your budget. A key component to this can simply be knowing where to look for savings or how to stretch your buck.

 First and foremost, you're more likely to save money by booking a package deal through a service like Cheapcaribbean.com.

Even though an all-inclusive might seem more expensive upfront, in the end I believe they end up being cheaper because you don't have to lay out any cash for your food. I have stayed at all-inclusive resorts on St. Croix, St. Lucia and Jamaica, and I loved the ease of knowing where my next meal was coming from--and that I didn't have to pay extra to get it.

Another great benefit to booking all-inclusive travel is the options you have. Nearly all destinations in the Caribbean & Mexico offer all-inclusive resorts, which means there’s definitely something for everyone. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway you can search for all-inclusive hotels that cater to couples and honeymooners, or if a family vacation is in the works, there’s plenty of resorts that offer full family all-inclusive options. You may even want to check the price for younger children, as some of the resorts charge less or even offer free stays for young children.

When it comes time for souvenirs, I would recommend going off property. While you may save on meals at an all-inclusive, the same is not always true for items in the gift shop. If you are in a location with a chain supermarket or drugstore, stop in to look at your souvenir options. You are likely to see many of the same products from your hotel gift shop, but for a lot less money.

Another affordable souvenir option: local art works. I remember during a trip to Nassau, Bahamas, we visited an artists' collective on Paradise Island. There, painters, sculptors and other visual artists had booths set up as workstations and from which they sold their goods. We ended up purchasing two original watercolors for less than $40. My husband and I also brought artwork home as souvenirs from our trips to St. Lucia and St. Croix.

Years later, many of those prints are still hanging in our home. Every time I see them I remember our amazing trips to the Caribbean. The fact that we didn't spend a ton of cash while there helps to make those memories even better for this frugalista!

Leah Ingram is the founder of the Suddenly Frugal blog at www.suddenlyfrugal.com, and the author of 14 books, including Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less and Tie the Knot on a Shoestring.

Unleash Your Inner Foodie: The Best Food at the Beach

When you’re busy planning all the things you’re going to do on your next vacation, there’s a good chance you’re going to include R&R, fun in the sun, delicious drinks and of course, you're hoping for even better food. If you’re looking for recommendations on where to go for some delicious dishes at the Beach, here’s what we recommend:

The first of our favorites is a resort that promotes health-friendly food options, while still not sacrificing on any flavor or taste. Any of the Zoetry brand resorts are great for the health-conscious foodie in us all. This chain of resorts strives to promote health and wellness throughout each individual hotel, so you can expect to see dining options that are just as tasty as they are healthy.

For instance, Zoetry Casa del Mar in Los Cabos has an on-site nutrition expert to guide you on your dining options at any of the resort’s three restaurants. You should only expect the best at this resort with award-winning gourmet and organic dining options, as well as amazing wine collections. This resort also offers Unlimited-Luxury (R), which includes all of your meals and beverages, including international premium alcohol brands, a fresh bottle of champagne and seasonal fruit daily, a welcome bottle of tequila and even a relaxing 20-min massage per guest per stay.

Foodie Vacation at Zoetry Casa del Mar in Cabo from Cheapcaribbean.com

Organic and gourmet dining options can be found at nearly every restaurant at Zoetry Casa del Mar in Los Cabos.

Voted by Conde Nast Traveler readers as one of the "Top 100 Hotels in the World," you can bet that El Dorado Royale, A Spa Resort, by Karisma is another absolute foodie must. This is an adult-only retreat that offers a gourmet all-inclusive plan that pampers your palate while you swim in AAA Four Diamond Luxury.

Spend your days bouncing between the resort’s 12 freshwater pools, as well as scoot over to a swim up bar for a cold, refreshing cocktail. Don’t worry; with 10 in-pool bars you’ll hardly ever go thirsty. After a body scrub or beachfront sky massage, you can head to your Infinity Pool Swim-up Casita Suite to get ready for the night’s adventures.

Foodie Vacation at El Dorado Royale in Riviera Maya from Cheapcaribbean.com

With options like fondue, gourmet Mexican, wood-fired pizza, just to name a few, it's likely you'll never go hungry here.

Seven gourmet restaurants tempt your taste buds with selections like lobster lasagna from five-star D’Italia or Pacific Rim cuisine from Kampai. With no reservations needed, you can venture over to Fuentes Culinary Theatre, where flat screens give you're a sneak peek into your food being prepared by Michelin-trained chefs. And as the night comes to close, sip on a martini while enjoying live music at Las Guacamayas.

Another award winning hotel option is Dreams Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa. This resort was also voted one of the “Top 20 Hotels in Mexico” by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, in addition to receiving the AAA’s Four Diamond Award. Fully equipped with a white-sand beach, three magnificent heated, fresh water pools and even a swim up bar, Dreams Puerto Vallarta isn’t just for self-proclaimed foodies.

Foodie Vacations at Dreams Puerto Vallarta from Cheapcaribbean.com

Enjoy a stunning ocean view while dining at Seaside Grill at Dreams Puerto Vallarta

You’ll also find the Unlimited Luxury ® Options that are part of the Zoetry brand. This means premium brand drinks, gourmet dining options and amentity-filled rooms and suites. And since we’re just as big of foodies as you, there are six restaurants including a beachside Seaside Grill, the adults-only Portofino and the saltwater delicacies of Oceana. Oh, and we can’t forget to remind you to stop into to El Patio, one of six bars on resort, and sample one of the 60 tequilas here.

If food that will leave your taste buds asking for more is just as important as white-sandy beaches and some quality spent by the pool, we recommend these options. If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect foodie destination, check out a few more of our favorites here. So it’s official. You have our permission to let our your inner foodie. What are you waiting for?