This probably comes as no big surprise, but I help friends and family members plan honeymoons from time to time. Last year, I sent my bestie Lemon and her new husband to Hawaii, then my cousin and his wife to Nevis. This year, I’m putting my sister and her fiancé in a plane to Grenada. The top thing everyone always asks for? An all-inclusive experience. My response: uh…why?
The problem is that I’ve stayed in a few all-inclusive properties in my life, and none of them blew me away. On the contrary, they didn’t impress me one bit. There was the one that 50 of us from my high school stayed at in Cancun immediately after our graduation for our senior trip; I daresay I remember very little about that particular trip, other than the hotel management breaking into our safe and stealing all our belongings. They didn’t get a glowing Trip Advisor review from me, needless to say.
And then there was the Barceló in the Dominican Republic that I holed up in for a Real Simple assignment a few years back. The food left much to be desired, the rooms were bare-bones, and the power went out resort-wide every day at the stroke of 3. It wasn’t my favorite of assignments, not by a longshot.
I’m sure Sandals resorts are spectacular and all, but every third honeymooner I know goes to their St. Lucia property. And when I’m planning a honeymoon, I like to escape the norm. The problem is that many people want an island they know, so often they immediately rule out places like Grenada or Dominica. Guys, I found an alternative that’s both awesome and on an island you’ve heard of! Everybody wins!
Earlier this month, I found myself getting over my misconceptions of all-inclusives while bunking at the Divi Aruba. After a week of diving in Bonaire, our quartet of divers needed a vacation from our vacation—I kid, but am a bit serious: have you gone diving? do you know how exhausting it is? all that equipment, early call times, so much stress on your body—and this waterfront resort was the perfect retreat.
I could have honestly been fine laying on a chair beneath one of those straw huts and reading for three solid days. Which is exactly what we did.
But there was much to explore! We had only been there an hour before we headed straight to the spa. I’m not gonna lie: We were all feeling rough that day after a 3am bedtime following Angie’s bachelorette night in Bonaire and a 5:30am wake-up for our flight. Mimosas? Don’t mind if we do! Hair of the dog, right?
Indulgence by the Sea now has four locations total, with two on the island of Aruba at the Divi properties. Obviously, spa treatments are not included in the all-inclusive part of the ordeal, but since you’re not spending any money once you arrive, you might as well treat yourself.
After our massages, we all retreated to our respective rooms, and I was like an Internet junkie, soaking up every bit of Wi-Fi I could get from my balcony for the next several hours. The Internet didn’t work in my room in either of our Bonaire dive resorts, so I was severely behind in work, and I’m a sucker for working out on a patio under the blazing sun.
The rooms were incredibly comfortable and spacious and—best of all!—were devoid of critters of any kind. I don’t know about you but while I love me some tropical islands, the worst part are the bugs! I didn’t see a single one at the Divi, inside or out.
I went down to the pool a time or two but I kept getting sucked out to the beach already. Don’t tell me you could resist that water. My philosophy is: I can go to a pool anytime at home, but I can’t go to the beach so why waste the time not out on the sand?
At Divi, there are nine restaurants to choose from, so other than breakfast, which we ate at the Cunucu Terrace each morning, we didn’t have a repeat dinner. Every last meal was delicious—though Red Parrot and Paparazzi tied as my favorites—and it was really nice seeing fresh produce in the Caribbean (that’s usually not the case!).
But let’s be honest, we all know my favorite part of the all-inclusive experience. Need I even spell it out for you? OK, fine.
ALL THE DRANKS.
I swear I’m not an alcoholic, but I do like my mixed bevs, and it’s a pretty sweet set-up that you can sidle up to the bar—or rather, any of seven bars Divi boasts—and order a fruity drink at any point of the day. And it doesn’t cost a thing! (Well, other than what you paid months ago when you booked your stay, but let’s just pretend that was Monopoly money.)
Unfortunately, the Speedo is an add-on.
Usually when I travel, I switch hotels every few days, either to experience different parts of a city or island or because I’m writing a story that includes multiple property reviews. But for three whole nights, we stayed put at Divi and barely left the resort. It was glorious; it was much-needed.
The whole Divi complex comprises multiple properties, including the Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort for those who like to hit the links. We checked it out one morning, mainly to have lunch at Mulligan’s, though we took a peek into Windows, as well.
I spy Chihuly!
Truth: When I saw “nightly entertainment” on the nightly schedule, I wrote it off as cruise ship-cheesy. Then we happened to be walking back from dinner and got sucked into the variety acts on the boardwalk. Cirque-style acrobats? Audience participation in dance-offs? A Michael Jackson impersonator? I take it all back!
The Divi Aruba All-Inclusive was definitely a fun place to go on a girls’ getaway—then again, where wouldn’t be fun with those three ladies?—but I’d also go back here with SVV. Even though it’s a good size and sprawls along the beach, it never felt crowded, no matter where we ate, laid or drank (and this was the height of summer on a weekend, too). Plus, the price is right—I saw rates as low as $129 for rooms only and $239 for the all-inclusive package.
And Aruba itself is just downright dreamy, no arguing that fact.