Top resorts that include food, activities – and luxury

By LISA KLEIN

The ubiquitous all-inclusive package resort is not generally synonymous with a luxury vacation, instead conjuring images of Cancun spring-breakers and all-you-can-eat buffets that are a far cry from gourmet dining.

However, high-end resorts across the globe are upping the ante on the all-inclusive moniker with private, well-appointed accommodations, unique locales and upscale cuisine.

Here are four picks for luxury resorts that have all the bells and whistles included.

Isla Palenque – Boca Chica, Panama
Image courtesy of Isla Palenque

The owner of the Isla Palenque private island resort on the northwest Pacific Coast of Panama was inspired by tales of Robinson Crusoe, and visitors will certainly feel the same way.

Palenque means “sanctuary,” and the eight casitas and one villa estate are just that. The casitas and shared infinity pool lie along the Playa Palenque beach, while the larger villa is across the island.

The resort’s restaurant serves elevated Panamanian dishes using seasonal ingredients and produce from its own farm.

Guests enjoy the use of kayaks, transportation all around the island, guided hikes through the rare primary forest, birdwatching and cultural activities such as Panamanian pastry-making classes.

The Brando – Tetiaroa, French Polynesia
Image courtesy of The Brando

The Tetiaroa atoll, just north of Tahiti in the South Pacific Ocean, was a special place to the late actor Marlon Brando, who fell in love with it while filming Mutiny on the Bounty in the 1960s. Once used by Polynesian royals, Brando was granted a 99-year lease on the island.

Now home to The Brando resort, the island has 35 private villas with their own plunge pools and one larger residence.

Guests have their pick of several restaurants or in-villa service headed by Michelin-starred French chef Jean Imbert, who also created the cuisine aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express luxury train in Europe.

Exploring the island is easy with the help of local guides who take guests hiking and birdwatching, as well as snorkeling on the barrier reefs, along with cultural offerings such as Polynesian weaving, language and music lessons.

Uga Chena Huts – Yala, Sri Lanka
Image courtesy of Uga Chena Huts Resort

The Uga Chena Huts resort, just outside of Yala National Park on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, sits on the Indian Ocean coast and is a nature-lovers dream.

Each of the 18 private cabins has its own swimming pool and is situated amidst the jungle trees.

Food options range from local dishes to international favorites and include both fine dining and picnics right on the beach.

The highlights of a stay at Uga Chena are the guided safaris in the park, birdwatching expeditions and snorkeling trips to the Great and Little Basses reefs.

Yala is home to leopards, peacocks and 215 other bird species, lizards, crocodiles, the Sri Lankan elephant, Sri Lankan sloth bear and spotted deer.

Lizard Island – Queensland, Australia
Image courtesy of Lizard Island

Located directly on the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island is the place to be for snorkeling and scuba diving adventures.

The resort has a wide variety of rooms, suites, private villas and a larger residence to choose from, all with access to a central swimming pool, kayaks, paddleboards and snorkeling gear.

Gourmet meals are served alongside fine wines and other beverages and the resort’s restaurants, and guests can also opt to use one of the dinghys to motor to a private beach for a picnic.

A number of snorkeling tours are available each day along with scuba diving lessons, fishing trips, hiking trails and visits to the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station, which studies the coral reefs.

For more on the Great Barrier Reef, read “What a wonderful world” in the March 2023 issue of Luxury Portfolio magazine.