I don’t know about you, but when people tell me they just got back from a rejuvenating all-inclusive resort, I usually assume they’re talking about one on a Caribbean island. Maybe, if they’re really adventurous (and rich), they’re referring to the Maldives or Fiji. Especially for those living in the US, our imaginations tend not to branch very far from the Caribbean and South Pacific when it comes to tropical resort vacations. So when I learned about Antalya, a city on the south coast of Türkiye that’s famous for its resorts, my interest was piqued.
In general, I’m not a resort guy. They tend to all look the same to me: a mall-hotel crossover that takes three days to learn how to navigate, with mediocre food you tolerate because it’s free and a billion amenities you’ll never actually use. When I arrived in Antalya and made my way to Kaya Palazzo Golf Resort Belek, passing a dozen Vegas knockoff resorts en route, I expected my experience to fit neatly into the template I had devised in my head – but maybe with more kebabs and baklava than pizza and ice cream.
Turkish Airlines runs multiple flights to Antalya from Istanbul per day, and at just an hour long, it goes by in a flash. When I arrived at Kaya Palazzo, the personal welcome by a guest concierge was, admittedly, warmer than I expected from a resort of this size. Turns out, each guest has their own dedicated guest concierges, who walk them through the resort and are available pretty much 24/7 to answer questions, arrange dinner reservations, and plan excursions. You’ll even be added to a WhatsApp group with your concierges, so you can easily get in touch with them.
There are dozens of different room categories to choose from at Kaya Palazzo Golf Resort Belek, but I’d recommend a Lagoon Suite. Lagoon Suites are fairly standard, spacious rooms with one important perk: they have direct access to a swim-up pool. While the rooms themselves are certainly comfortable, you really won’t be spending much time in there. With two adjustable lounge chairs, umbrellas, a couch on your private patio, and a pool just steps away, it’s too easy to spend the entire day reading and sunbathing, or floating lazily in the pool. If that sounds like your ideal vacation, read no further. But there’s so much else to do at Kaya Palazzo that it’s worth stepping outside the comforts of your room.
For one, there’s the food. With over eight distinct restaurants, ranging from Italian cuisine and Japanese sushi to traditional Turkish fare, you’ll never be hungry at Kaya Palazzo. In fact, with all-inclusive menus, your biggest problem will be knowing when to stop eating. If you’re staying in a Lagoon Suite, check out the nearby Lagoon Restaurant for poolside views and a tranquil atmosphere. The other eateries are mostly located on the bottom floor, surrounding the central pavilion where live musical acts play each night. So whether you’re slurping up spaghetti at Serafina or cutting into a tenderloin at the Palazzo Steak House, there’s never a dull moment while dining.
When you’re finished eating, don’t go back to your room just yet. The outdoor amphitheater has a show every evening, ranging from circus acts and historical plays to pop concerts. When I was there, I had the privilege of witnessing a theatrical performance set during the height of the Ottoman Empire’s dominance, as well as a Michael Jackson impersonator who had the whole crowd on its feet, moonwalking (or attempting to moonwalk) along with him. Soothe your sore dancing feet the next day with a treatment at the spa, which has Turkish baths, saunas, jacuzzis, therapy rooms, and an indoor swimming pool.
For those looking to be a bit more active, the resort is also home to a pristinely maintained 18-hole golf course. Golf enthusiasts already know that Türkiye is becoming an internationally known golf destination. Antalya, in particular, is hosting the 2023 Turkish Airlines Open and welcoming golfers from all over the world looking for beautiful new greens to test their skills. But you don’t have to be a PGA player to enjoy this course, and you can even book yourself a lesson (like I did) with the resort’s resident golf pro. I won’t be hitting holes-in-one anytime soon, but he did manage to fix my grip in a matter of seconds.
Unlike many resort cities, Antalya isn’t just about the hotel experience. Kaya Palazzo can set you up with a guided tour, and it’s worth dedicating an afternoon to exploring the city. Its waterfalls are a good place to start. Karpuzkaldiran waterfall, just four miles from the city, is one of the most dramatic in the area, tumbling in multiple cascades into the sea. Kurşunlu Waterfall also shouldn’t be missed if you have the time and means to reach it. About 13 miles from the city, the falls consist of a main cascade and several smaller waterfalls, as well as seven pools. One of the best preserved historical sites in Türkiye, they’re located near the ancient city of Termessos, making for a perfect day trip.
In the city of Antalya itself, take some time to explore the Old Town — not just a touristy neighborhood with kitschy souvenir shops, Antalya’s Old Town is a living, bustling section of the city that combines its Roman past (think ancient columns and fortifications) with modern restaurants and shops. Indeed, the neighborhood’s entrance is Hadrian’s Gate, a series of three marble archways that dates back to 130 BC, built to honor Emperor Hadrian’s visit.
Sure, venturing out of the luxurious confines of Kaya Palazzo might sound like more effort than you’d like to expend on a resort getaway. Want to stroll ancient streets under Romanesque arches and bask in the mist of waterfalls? You can. Prefer spending four straight days in your swim-up suite bouncing between the pool and your lounge chairs? You can do that too. Like the resort experience itself, the beauty of Antalya is its many, many options.