Come on, Baby, light my fire. Great song, but after childbirth, child rearing, or just years of coupledom, the ember often dims. That’s when couples need an escape from routine so they can rediscover their love, and all-inclusives help by eliminating extraneous concerns over how to get back to the hotel after dinner or whether to pony up for nightcaps. Of course, the challenge is to book a resort that encourages romance, not just contests at the pool bar. These three are just the ticket.
Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana
If a hotel company has six brands of all-inclusives, it had better give them clear identities, and AMResorts has done exactly that. Among its adults-only hotels, the Zoëtry brand focuses on wellness; Breathless specializes in socializing; and Secrets fosters intimacy, attracting both honeymooners and couples eager to relight the flame. Secrets is so dedicated to romance that it offers a free anniversary package featuring a bottle of bubbly, special turndown service, breakfast in bed, spa discounts, and other goodies.
Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana hugs 700 ft. of Bavaro beachfront—white sand, gentle surf, and palm trees. The main pool offers activities and even a weekly foam party; there’s nightly entertainment, too. However, at this hotel activity leaders never badger guests into participating, and the pool meanders through lush gardens, providing many quiet spots for Just the Two of Us moments. A second pool serves Preferred Club guests.
This 465-suite all-inclusive has six bars and lounges, and five restaurants, four of them a la carte. No reservations required. Moreover, a Sip, Savor & See Dining service allows guests to have dinner at nearby AMResorts property, too, and guests enjoy 24-hour room service in their suites, the sexiest option. Spark-kindling options that cost extra include an outdoor candlight dinner, couples treatments (e.g. aquatherapy) at Secrets Spa by Pevonia, and
the Balinese beds at the Caribbean Oasis, replete with a butler who’ll bring breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks, bubbly—anything. Reserve in advance.
Royal Beach Punta Cana’s Unlimited-Luxury rates start at about $350 a night for a 570-sq.-ft. Junior Suite Tropical View, but surely this vacation is important enough to merit a Junior Suite Swim-Up (from about $460) or a Preferred Club Junior Suite Partial Ocean View (from $565). A partial list of Preferred Club privileges includes personalized concierge check-in and check-out; a private and well-stocked lounge, beach area, and pool (with butler service); Club-only access to the Seaside Grill for breakfast and lunch; and other perks designed to coddle guests and give them multiple choices. Speaking of choices, a second Secrets will open in November in Cap Cana.
Sandals Emerald Bay, Exuma
It’s hard to top Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma for romantic settings. The resort enjoys a mile-long beach, and not just any mile-long beach, but a soft, pristine Out Islands beach. As secluded as it feels, though, Sandals Emerald Bay offers much to do, from watersports, tennis and scuba to golf. Like the beach, the golf course is not just any course, but an oceanside, Greg Norman-designed, 7,200-yard par 72 with six signature holes.
The three pools include a half-acre, zero-entry beauty with a fire pit in the middle, and the six bars include a pool bar, swanky lounge, and British pub. Of course, there’s also daytime and evening entertainment.
For some people, evening entertainment means a good meal, so Emerald Bay delivers that at seven restaurants. That Sandals Resorts LLC chose the Robert Mondavi line for its house wines speaks volumes about its F&B service.
Emerald Bay has 249 mostly oceanview and oceanfront accommodations, all with marble in the baths, terraces or balconies, and plenty of electronics. This being a Sandals, there are 21 categories of rooms, but Emerald Bay goes even further than that, because every unit is Club (Concierge) or Butler Level. That means concierge check-in and guidance throughout the stay, help with restaurant and tour reservations, a lounge with snacks, drinks and iPads, unlimited WiFi, a manager’s cocktail party, a snorkeling trip, and more. Thus, even the most basic accommodations—a Beach House Luxury Club Level (HL) that, at press time, started at $525 a night—feels special.
The Butler Suites are lavish affairs that include all of the above perks plus top-shelf spirits in the mini-bar, 24-hour room service, a cellphone for summoning a butler who’ll arrange everything from packing and ironing to booking a restaurant table and—this is key—reserving lounge chairs by the pool or on the beach. Certainly, not every couple thinks they need a butler, but consider: A Beach House OceanView Walkout One-Bedroom Butler Suite (W1BO) with a separate sitting room, whirlpool tub, and French sliding glass doors leading to a private patio near the beach starts at about $565 for a total tag of about $4,000, less than $400 more than the HL room.
Azul Sensatori, Negril
Unlike Secrets and Sandals, this recent winner of an AAA four-diamond award is not an adults-only property, yet it’s popular for honeymoons, anniversaries, renewals of vows, or just plain let’s-get-it-together getaways. Here are some of the reasons why:
• Exactly like the aforementioned Secrets and Sandals, it’s on a fabulous stretch of white sand with gentle water: Seven Mile Beach, Negril.
• Not only are all of its 136 guest quarters Ocean View Suites, but they’re divided into separate adult and family sections.
• The white walls and contemporary style of the suites—and the public spaces—are bright, clean, upbeat.
• Gourmet Inclusive amenities in the suites include an aromatherapy and pillow menu (must have comfortable pillows this week!), seating areas, 42-inch plasma TVs, rainfall showers, plush robes, and sparkling bathrooms with two bowl-style sinks. Throw in a mini-bar and 24-hour room service, and no wonder many couples stay in those suites a long time.
• The kids and teen clubs are not only good for families; they’re a boon to couples who aren’t traveling with children.
• Anniversary celebrants can enjoy a bottle of bubbly upon arrival, a private candlelit dinner on the beach followed by roses on the bed and aromatherapy, a special gourmet breakfast the next morning, a two-for-one beachfront massage, and other perks. Please note: This is free!
• Azul Sensatori employs a Romance Maitre D who will arrange anything else that couples want for re-igniting that fire.
What might that be? Ask the Romance Maitre D, not me. However, I do know that the beach is a knockout, the children’s pool keeps most kids away from couples at the other three pools, and there are four bars/lounges, a spiffy spa and fitness center, watersports, nightly entertainment, and adult-oriented classes in yoga, dancing, aquarobics, and cooking. Speaking of cooking, Karisma takes pride in its cuisine, so the four restaurants offer quality Italian, Mexican, pan-Mediterranean, and Caribbean dishes.
A 400-sq.-ft. Ocean View Deluxe suite costs as little as $380 a night, but for this special-purpose vacation, consider an Ocean View Deluxe Swim-up (starts at $722), from which guests can step out to a lazy river pool and their own Balinese-style bed. Or one of the Honeymoon Suites, which are almost 800 sq. ft., feature wrap-around balconies, and start at $1,150. P.S. In January, Azul Sensatori will open 51 new suites, and in May an entirely new Azul resort, Azul Seven, will debut right next door with 98 suites. By operating Azul Seven as a separate resort, guests at Sensatori will continue to enjoy a restful environment. At the same time, though, guests at each property will have dining privileges at the other.
Azul Sensatori: karismahotels.com/Hotels-Resorts-Villas/For-Everyone/Azul-Hotels/Azul-Sensatori-Jamaica
Sandals Emerald Bay: sandals.com/main/emerald/em-home
Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana: secretsresorts.com/royal-beach-punta-cana