Margaritas for nothing and the chips for free
By Matthew Joyce
In the notoriously high-priced Caribbean, it doesn't take long to max out a credit card or burn through a wad of traveler's checks--those $50-per-day equipment rentals and $30-an-hour lessons add up even when you manage to score a reasonably priced hotel room. The solution? An all-inclusive resort. Yes, some of these are too organized, too corny, or too isolated from real island life. But when you consider that the price includes room, meals, drinks, sports, entertainment, and taxes, the trade-off starts to make sense.
Club Med, the pioneer of the all-inclusive concept, still rules. If you can stand such patented silliness as African Fun Dances and group sing-alongs, Club Med Turkoise (doubles, $125-$190 per person; weekly, $875-$1,135; dive packages, $100 extra; 800-258-2633) on the island of Providenciales is a good deal for divers. The resort comprises 70 acres, three restaurants, a nightclub, and 298 pastel-colored rooms and offers boardsailing, waterskiing, bonefishing, volleyball, and two daily scuba dives. There's also an incongruous but entertaining circus workshop to teach guests such skills as trapeze, high-wire, and juggling.
LeSPORT (doubles, $210- $345 per person per night; $2,631-$3,500 per couple weekly; 800-544-2883), on the northwestern tip of St. Lucia, attracts stressed-out yuppies and health-conscious hedonists to its Moorish-style "relaxation center" and ocean-view rooms. The price includes instruction in sailing, diving, tennis, and boardsailing, as well as massage treatments and yoga.
Families should head for Runaway Bay, midway along Jamaica's north coast, where the Mediterranean-style Franklin D. Resort ($3,205- $7,205 per couple per week; kids under 16 free; 800-654-1337) caters exclusively to parents and their offspring with one- to three-bedroom suites. Each family gets a "Girl Friday" to cook, clean, and babysit the kids, who join supervised games and sports lessons while Mom and Dad sail, dive, and bike.
Outdoor types sans kids opt for Jamaica Jamaica ($1,120- $1,505 weekly per person; 800-859-7873). Sure, there are goofy costume nights, but if you like parties and sports, this one's for you. Set on a two-mile north-shore beach, the 22-acre, 238-room resort keeps you busy with horseback rides, bike trips, and a Mistral boardsailing school.
Long before ecotourism came into vogue, scuba divers and nature freaks were coming to Anthony's Key Resort ($910-$990 per person per week; 800-227-3483) on Roatán in the Bay Islands of Honduras. The attraction is three boat dives per day and unlimited shore diving among pristine coral- and sponge-encrusted walls and reefs. Guests stay in rustic seaside bungalows, eat family-style meals in an open-air dining area, kayak, ride horses on the beach, or hike on jungle trails.