If you’re a frequent reader of The Manual, cruises and all-inclusive resorts probably aren’t your thing. They’re stuffy, theme park-style, consumption-centric vacations where you’re far more likely to drink yourself silly out of sheer boredom than discover anything approaching a legit “local experience.” However, these five amazing, destination-worthy resorts will challenge your notion of a typical all-inclusive vacation.
If you’ve ever wanted to play cowboy without getting too dirty, Tanque Verde Ranch may be just what you’re after. The upscale Tucson dude ranch offers all the fun of a “lite” classic cowboy experience, plus the luxury of a traditional resort. Days are spent riding horseback through some of the Southwest’s most breathtaking desert scenery. After dark, it’s all about deep tissue massages, communal Southwestern-inspired dinners prepared by gourmet chefs, and live concerts. You won’t find TVs in any of the rooms and Wi-Fi can be intentionally and thankfully disconnected on request.
If you’re looking for the farthest thing from a typical Caribbean all-inclusive, it doesn’t get much better than Bhutan’s five Amankora Resorts. Each lodge is situated in a distinct region of the country with a unique landscape that ranges from verdant valleys to breathtaking, 7,000-foot cliffs. All feature sleek, minimalist decor and dzong-inspired architecture that feels luxurious and thoroughly Zen. Any week-long stay will also land you a private driver for the duration of your trip. Best of all: a paid stay at any one resort provides admission into the other four. If sitting around all day trying to find your center isn’t sexy enough for you, there’s plenty of whitewater rafting, archery workshops, and hiking to monasteries to be found here too. For a truly relaxing local experience though, check out a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath.
Dominical, Costa Rica
Most all-inclusive surf schools involve hostel-style accommodations, barely passable food, and instructors who are far more interested in their own enjoyment than yours. Kalon Surf is a decidedly different animal. The “escuela de surf” boasts world-class surfing instructors and all the amenities you’d expect — and want — in a proper luxury resort. By day, the school guarantees top-notch equipment, empty beaches, and friendly, professional staffers to help perfect your surf game, no matter your skill level. Back on shore, guests enjoy ocean-view rooms, locally sourced meals with plenty of Costa Rican flair, and a beautiful pool and massage center.
You don’t need another reason to visit South Africa. But, if you do, Kapama Karula is as good as any. The resort’s four individual luxury camps are situated between world-famous Kruger National Park and the Blyde River Valley, totaling 13,000 hectares. The chic suites only house two dozen guests at any one time and all are well-appointed with outdoor showers, private terraces, premium minibars, and Nespresso machines. The resort’s game drives depart twice-daily in search of 40 different species of mammals (including the Big Five) and 350 types of bird. If that’s not up-close enough, there are also opportunities for bush nature walks and bucket list-worthy elephant encounters.
Torres del Paine, Chile
In recent years, Torres del Paine has fast become the new hotness for travelers to South America. While there’s a relatively well-worn tourist path through the breathtaking Patagonia region, it’s still remote, far off-grid, and unlike any all-inclusive vacation you’ll find in the Caribbean. At Explora Lodge, travelers will find more than 50 options to hike, boat, and ride horseback, but no trace television or an Internet connection. Here, it’s about reconnecting with and appreciating the pure beauty in nature: rugged mountain peaks, millennia-old glaciers, lenga tree forests, and brilliant turquoise lakes. It’s the perfect opportunity for pure, blissful digital detox.
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