“He’s been in Mexico for over 25 years and has managed to marry Mexican ingredients, Baja ingredients—which are the fish and seafood—with his artisinal French flair without making it too Frenchy,” says Messerli. “He keeps it fresh and innovative and he’s always had standing ovations with the incentive and meeting groups here. He always prepares dishes that we call, ‘I can’ts.’ I mean, you look at it and your mouth waters.”
Groups will also find a wide variety of exciting offsite activities nearby. Los Cabos is known for its dry cooling breeze and excellent golf courses, including the gorgeous Cabo del Sol, ranked number 15 in the world.
Furthermore, the area is one of the most prized sportfishing destinations in the world, which comes in handy when the group’s gathering around dinner time. There’s nothing like going out and bringing in the day’s catch for your colleagues.
“We’re a marlin capital of the world so most times planners will organize internal fishing tournaments and take out five or six boats,” says Messerli. “They bring back marlin and dorado, and then the chef will make sashimi and sushi for the next three days! It’s a nice interactive activity.”
Total meeting space at Secrets Marquis is 12,000 sf.
SUGAR BAY RESORT & SPA, USVI
The 294-room Sugar Bay Resort & Spa in St. Thomas is the only fully all-inclusive hotel in the USVI, perched along a cliff overlooking one of the island’s best beaches. Long a favorite for budget-conscious planners, the iconic property is undergoing an 18-month renovation following its rebranding this summer, after years of third party management.
New features include a steak and seafood specialty restaurant. They’ve also given their second pool an all new updated look and built a new swim-up bar under their waterfall.
“Over the next 18 months, all of the rooms are going to be renovated as well,” says marketing representative, Bill Heaney. “Our biggest problem is that we’re going to be busy. We have to do this project in accordance to the demand.”
The inherent all-inclusive value is further enhanced by a wide array of onsite amenities for both business events and group teambuilding activities. The rooftop meeting space, as well as the grand terraces of the Manor House restaurant, feature truly jawdropping views of the nearby British Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, the beach, pool and watersports center are among the most comprehensive in the USVI, offering charter opportunities to the BVI and spectacular sister island, St. John.
“When you’re selling a resort in the Caribbean, do you know what the most important thing is?” Heaney asks. “Having the right beach. Some of the resorts in the Caribbean don’t really have a fantastic beach. That’s a big seller for us. You can snorkel, you can go out safely, it’s a beautiful beach and it’s in a wonderful setting.”
Another huge added bonus, the northern location is just minutes from Red Hook Harbor where public ferries make the 40-minute crossing to St. John and its vaunted world class beaches. On top of that, Heaney says his groups often appreciate the American mindset of the USVI.
“I’m just back from the island and when I was there, I sat in a sports bar watching football games on 14 different screens,” Heaney says. “You really don’t have that in a number of other Caribbean destinations.”
For spa goers, the 10,000-sf standalone Journeys Spa features myriad wellness programs and tropically inspired treatments. We like the Caribbean green coffee wrap.
Total meeting space is 16,500 sf.
SHERATON BIJAO BEACH, PANAMA
The newly renovated 294-room Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort reopened in Panama in November after joining Starwood Hotels, making this Sheraton’s first all-inclusive hotel in Central America.
Sheraton Bijao Beach is ideally situated in Panama’s spectacular Santa Clara region, known as the ‘Dry Arc’ for its year-round dry, tropical climate.
An hour north of Panama City, the resort is close enough for you to take your group into the bustling capital for shopping and sightseeing, or to enjoy lunch at the Panama Canal, but distant enough to offer a sense of privacy and seclusion.
“It’s truly one of those destinations where we’re very proud to have it as part of the Sheraton brand,” says Trip Barrett, director of sales/marketing for Starwood Latin America. “This is the second all-inclusive that Starwood has opened this year. We also opened the Westin Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal in Costa Rica. This has been an exciting year for us.”
The property was brought up to Sheraton standards during the multimillion dollar revamp. Some new additions to the hotel are the Sheraton Link and the fab Sheraton beds, known to make you hit snooze a time or two.
“It’s a great experience for those meeting planners who know and trust the Sheraton brand, giving them that confidence to book an all-inclusive stay with us,” says Barrett.
Hosting up to 300 attendees, the resort’s 3,600 sf of meeting space is complemented by a long stretch of beautiful beach and lush surroundings, making for extraordinary outdoor events. Host a cocktail party right by the water or organize a scavenger hunt leading up to the nearby dormant volcano. Groups can also enjoy the vast amount of ecotourism options throughout Panama.
“One of the advantages of when you hold a meeting at our resort is when people start looking at outside activities,” Barrett explains. “When you have a meeting by the pool then it does give that incentive to say, ‘Hey, let’s get through our meeting so we can go on to the activities that we’ve planned for you.’”
Barrett adds that because of ample space and array of activities, meeting planners can put together a variety of themed parties, whether it’s a tropical party that revolves around fitness, teambuilding on the beach or activities incorporating the upscale spa.
Barrett says, “A group’s stay and the activities they set up can be designed to say, ‘Let’s make this special for you.’”
CLUB MED AMERICAN STYLE
Coming off a $28 million renovation in December, the breezy 308-room Club Med Sandpiper Bay, Florida is the only all-inclusive resort in the country. It’s located in Port Saint Lucie, 50 minutes north of Palm Beach.
All rooms, meeting space and restaurants/bars feel brand new with a contempo, minimalist Florida tone. The resort is home to the first L’Occitane spa in the U.S., and for golfers, Sandpiper offers its own golf course with another 25 courses in the area. This is also HQ for the International Tennis Academy, where the coaches who trained Andre Agassi and Monica Seles can create an exhilarating teambuilding event.
The waterfront property also hosts an array of watersports including sailing, stand-up paddle boarding and boating from their private beach.
“We offer so much to do on the grounds that the resort becomes a destination itself,” says Robert Cao, director of groups/incentives for Club Med N.A. For business events, the 18,000-sf conference center features a 6,400-sf ballroom.