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?
My experience with all-inclusive resorts
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!
Introducing Divi Aruba, an all-inclusive resort I actually liked
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?
Eating and drinking at Divi Aruba
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.
My guess on all inclusive is that it all really depends on where they are and how they are organised. My parents own a property in a resort village kind of place in Sardinia and I have been spending my summer here since I was born. In the last 10 years, a few all inclusive resorts have been built. I go to the beach, take walks or long long swims and I pass by them. They make me sad. When at the rest of the beach there is lots of space, people there spend a fortune to be really close to each other (annoyingly so, I would say), have music blasting, radio playing. Then there are the keep fit classes with, the kids screaming… Not for me. Give me something where I really can enjoy silence, good food, great drinks (I need mojitos and pina coladas) and where I can just read read read.
Oh yeah, I’m sure it definitely is. I should have added that this was a resort primarily for adults so not having kids everywhere also added to the experience! =)
Just my kind of place 🙂
Looks like a fabulous spot. Having been to Sandals at St Lucia twice, yes it is fabulous. 🙂
Adding it to my list!
Never done the whole all inclusive thing as it just hasn’t appealed to me. The risk of pre-paying for what could be pretty crappy and the same food has always deterred me!
I feel ya. This was my first positive all-inclusive experience. I definitely think research and reading TripAdvisor/Yelp/blog reviews are key before booking an AI!
My first AI experience was at a Barcelo property in the Dominican Republic and I *hated* it. We were there for a week for my best friend’s wedding and I was seriously ill from day two on. I couldn’t even stay at her reception because I felt so terrible. In addition to those problems, one of the employees followed me back to my room late at night and made scary comments. All this on top of the pool blasting techno music from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. and I was ready to get the hell out of there when it was time to fly home (they also messed up our transportation to the airport and we had to run to catch our plane).
A few years later we spent five days at Couples Sans Souci in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and it was heavenly. I’m leery of the big resort AI experience, but I would definitely go back to one of Couples’ properties.
Same! I stayed at the Barcelo in Punta Cana, and not only did I get food poisoning, but the entire experience was awful (and then I had to write about it in a positive light for Real Simple! ugh).
I’d love to try a Couples resort or a Sandals property in the future.
Oh wow. I didn’t have to write about it, but I felt bad because my BFF knew I was miserable at her wedding.
What a beautiful resort! I’ve stayed at the Melia Las Dunas in Cuba and while it was nice, I think I prefer going on my own adventure instead of having everything planned out for me at the resort (although being able to grab a fruity drink at any time of day is pretty great).
I definitely am like that 90 percent of the time, as well, but sometimes it’s nice just to have EVERYTHING taken care of for you…especially the bar tab 😉
I have only stayed at an all-inclusive resort once and even though it was a complete disaster, it wasn’t the hotels fault at all….I think!
It was at a 5-star hotel in the Dominican Repubic and the first and last time that I have ever been to the caribbean. We rented a car and saw the rest of the island and it’s cultural history which was rather nice although we constantly got hassled for money everywhere we went.
I didn’t like our luxury hotel as I kept hearing things in our room so our room was changed 4 times and it didn’t get any better even though we were given the best hotel suite that they had! I still kept hearing the drip! drip! drip of a tap. I’m a light sleeper you see. I also couldn’t stand the food as it was freshly-made meat and the smell of the local food just turned my stomach.
It all became clearer as my husband thought my constant tears and crying was unusual and out of character and when we returned back to Germany, we went to our family doctor.
Yes, I was pregant with our long-waited-for only child.
Ugh, that sounds like an awful vacation! I did not like the DR one bit. I was there for a magazine assignment (one of my first real big ones), and I had the same experience—getting harassed every time I stepped foot off the property. I hope you’re return to the Caribbean as I’ve been to a couple dozen of its gorgeous islands and most are NOT like that in the slightest =)
You girls are the cutest! I want to recreate this with you and me, please! I haven’t been to Aruba yet but it’s on my list! 🙂
Done. By her six-month birthday, Augustine will be fine to stay home for a few days alone with Bob…right? 😉
Relax and enjoy your life with some vacation rewards.
My hubby and I just got back from a trip to Aruba, it was paradise at our resort called the Tamarijn, it is a sister resort of the Divi that you spoke of. The main buffet, the Cucunu Terrace was always fresh and delicious…we also ate at the Red Parrot, the Ginger and the Palm Grill. You do need reservations for these so do some planning and visit the concierge as soon as possible. I cannot tell you how impressed I was with everything, you see the staff cleaning all the time..the place is spotless and beautiful…..I cannot wait to go back!
That’s great to hear, Lisa! Thanks for sharing this. I’d definitely go back to this resort group in Aruba, for sure.
THANK YOU! I’m a Surprise Travel Agent, and I have some clients that want a surprise honeymoon… at an all-inclusive. They are also on a limited budget. This is not my specialty, to say the least. I had seen this property on tripadvisor and then came across this lovely review! Check, check!
Now that sounds like a fun job! Happy to help. I’m not super knowledgable about all-inclusives but was pleasantly surprised by this one =)