The Best Hotel Brands for a Boutique All-Inclusive Stay

Generally speaking, all-inclusive resorts and boutique hotels occupy very, very separate Venn diagram circles, with a tiny slice of gray middle ground. That's because all-inclusives are often 500-plus-room behemoths that are large enough to merit their own zip codes, while boutique hotels generally have far fewer rooms (Oyster considers 200 rooms a good cap, for the most part) as well as more personalized service, more distinctive features, and a sharper sense of design. But a few special hotels occupy that small speck of a sweet spot between the two, offering all of the intimacy, service, and aesthetic appeal of a boutique experience, but with the undeniably convenient pay-once-and-unplug rate structure of an all-inclusive. Here are the brands with properties that manage to check both the all-inclusive and the boutique boxes. 

Zoetry Wellness & Spa Resorts

Where in the world? Mexico and Dominican Republic (a Jamaica outpost is opening at the end of this year, with locations in Aruba and Costalegre in Mexico following in 2018).

A tranquil vibe and all-inclusive rates rarely go hand in hand, but Zoetry has nailed that elusive combo. Its three (and counting) locations throughout Mexico and the Dominican Republic -- the 96-suite Agua Punta Cana, the 90-suite Paraiso de la Bonita, and the 35-room Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres Cancun -- all feel wonderfully removed from their areas’ tourist hubs (Cancun and Punta Cana, respectively), and their all-inclusive rates cover unlimited top-shelf liquor and gourmet dining at multiple a la carte restaurants (organic, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are available). Zoetry guests can also opt to order from the 24-hour room service menu. Other above-and-beyond services include three-times-a-day housekeeping, twice-a-day minibar restocking, and once-a-day room deliveries of sparkling wine and fresh fruit (this is on top of the welcome bottles of rum or tequila). Wellness-centric activities and features -- yoga, biking, snorkeling, kayaking, and many other water sports -- are ample and included in the rates. Despite the long list of offerings across Zoetry properties, however, most guests are content with lounging by pristine pools or relaxing on the gorgeous private beaches.

Knockout features: Zoetry takes particular pride in its spa facilities -- the gorgeous spa at Agua Punta Cana is one of the Dominican Republic's best -- and all three locations offer guests free access to their spas' water features, including saunas, steam rooms, sensation showers, and saltwater whirlpools.

Noteworthy freebies: Agua Punta Cana offers free 45-minute horseback riding tours, plus free concierge and 24-hour laundry services. Swap the horseback riding lesson for a private sunset sail and traditional Temazcal steam ceremony at Paraiso de la Bonita, which also offers free private airport transfers. Villa Rolandi guests receive a free continental breakfast in their rooms and can snorkel at one of the largest coral reefs in the world, both at no extra charge.

Constance Hotels and Resorts

Where in the world? Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, and the Maldives

Go to any of Constance’s luxury resorts throughout the Indian Ocean and every iPhone snap you share from there is bound to get plenty of likes. Go to the 110-room Moofushi in the Maldives or the 25-bungalow Tsarabanjina in Madagascar and you can expect -- in addition to social superstardom -- to have nearly every single drink, meal, activity, and whim included under the all-inclusive plan. Constance's Cristal all-inclusive package goes beyond some of the best all-inclusive options offered anywhere with delicious buffet and a la carte dining. Moofushi's nightly-changing theme nights might feature Latin American, Sri Lankan, and Mediterranean cuisines (their Maldivian nights include a Boduberu performance), while meals at Tsarabanjina's sand-floored, open-air restaurant center around fresh catches along with free minibars (refreshed daily), fresh juices, ice cream, smoothies, and snacks. Also included are the highest-level spirits and international wines (Moofushi's all-inclusive package includes 250 options). Indoor and outdoor activities, including non-motorized water sports, are also covered; schedules are posted each week listing options like snorkeling sessions, birdwatching boat trips, and wine tastings. Some activities cost a fee, like Moofushi's whale-shark excursions and sunset dolphin cruises. But really, your only concerns should be: lounge at the private-island resorts’ idyllic beaches or snorkel in their brilliant turquoise water? Kayak or catamaran sail? Valencia or #nofilter?

Knockout features: Both resorts offer things like sand-bottomed bars and laundry service, but its their surrounding world-renowned dive sites -- coral reefs and volcanic islets at Tsarabanjina and an active house reef teeming with turtles, manta and eagle rays, clownfish, sharks, and octopuses at Moofushi -- that are true standouts.

Noteworthy perks: Moofushi is Green Globe-certified, so expect reusable glass bottles filled with desalinated water, not imported water, and bath toiletries that are refilled each day rather than replaced with a new set of disposable bottles. Its spa treatment rooms have glass floor panels, so massages may be accompanied by a glimpse of a manta gliding underway. The spa kiosk at Tsarabanjina isn't right over the water, but it's only a few steps from it -- the open-air space is built right into the rocks on the beach. Also steps from the water are Tsarabanjina's beach bungalows, each with a patio with hammocks and a foot bath, so that sand isn't trekked into the rustic-chic room (spending your entire visit barefoot is encouraged).

The Reserve at Paradisus

Where in the world? Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic

Small-scale subtlety isn’t a strong suit of most Punta Cana all-inclusives, which are typically mega-resorts with around 500 rooms (several even hit the 1,000-plus-room mark) and a dizzying array of bland buffets and restaurants. Hotel brand Paradisus runs two monster Punta Cana resorts -- Paradisus Punta Cana and Paradisus Palma Real. Both fall into the 500-plus-room bucket, but they each offer quiet boutique experiences, called the Reserve, within the larger parent properties. The Reserve at Paradisus Punta Cana and The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real feature peaceful garden settings, serene atmospheres, upscale amenities, and seemingly never-ending pool areas. Each property has fewer than 200 luxury suites, all with classic decor, kitchenettes, free minibars, jetted tubs, and big balconies.

Knockout features: The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real’s spa is spectacular and its fitness center offers spin, yoga, and Pilates classes. The Asian-inspired Yhi Spa at The Reserve at Paradisus Punta Cana has dedicated pools and indoor or outdoor treatments.

Noteworthy freebies: Free non-motorized water sports, catamaran rides, and snorkeling excursions are on hand at The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real for no charge; scuba diving and parasailing can be arranged as well. Every room building at both resorts has a separate concierge to assist with reservations and services. 

Diamonds

Where in the world? Maldives and Zanzibar

All-inclusive Diamonds hotels dot the Indian Ocean (think remote, far-flung, and naturally gorgeous locations like Tanzania’s Unguja island and the Maldives’ South Ari Atoll). The boutique resorts boast the sort of tropical trimmings expected of their equatorial homes: stunning white-sand beaches, dive centers, and lovely Indian Ocean views from the upscale rooms, beachfront (or overwater) restaurants, and open-air palapa bars. 

Knockout features: One of the highlights of the 138-room Diamonds La Gemma dell' Est in Zanzibar is the Mvua African Rain Spa, which features gorgeous open-air pavilions for massages and a Turkish and hydrotherapy bath. La Gemma's huge lagoon-style saltwater pool is another big draw, with palapa-shaded lounge chairs, a shallow children's section, a fountain, and a swim-up bar. The 71-room Diamonds Thudufushi has a fishing club, on-site tailor, and free 24-hour medical clinic.

Noteworthy freebies: Some resorts define "all-inclusive" as covering three meals a day and free-flowing, but watered-down and generic, drinks. Not Diamonds; here, you'll find that all-inclusive truly is (well, nearly) all-inclusive. Beyond the covered meals, snacks, and beverages, Diamonds guests get free daily activities like water sports (wakeboarding, windsurfing, water skiing, snorkeling, canoeing), beachside exercise classes, water aerobics, Swahili and African Line dance lessons, and entertainment (some incur the occasional fee). The 73-room Diamonds Athuruga and Diamonds Thudufushi, both in the Maldives, offer free guided snorkel tours around the island, free tours to the local fisherman's island, and free daily teatime snacks like sandwiches and pastries, served at their beach bars. Laundry service and daily-replenished minibars are also complimentary throughout Diamonds properties.

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