I’ve been visiting the Caribbean for the holidays for nearly 15 years. In that time, I’ve visited several destinations, including the Bahamas, Mayan Riviera, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas and Jamaica. If you’re not sure what to expect at all-inclusive resorts, I hope this post will help you choose your next destination or dream holiday!
What to expect at all-inclusive resorts: Choosing a Hotel
Picking a hotel is always where I start. Sometimes I have fixed dates, which can make the options and prices a lot more tight. If you have a window of a couple weeks, or even the entire month free, it makes things a lot more flexible.
I love using Expedia to book a trip. The interface is easy to work with, and I can collect TD Expedia points to rack up travel points faster. This is totally not a plug for Expedia either – I honestly always end up booking through that site because it’s easiest. A note of caution though, last year, my parents booked an Air Canada vacation through Expedia, and unfortunately, airport transfers weren’t included in the ticket. It’s always a good idea to check your itineraries and make sure you know what’s included, but this was a FIRST in over 20 trips that it’s happened.
In Mexico, and most places in the Caribbean, I filter to only look at 5 star resorts. Over the years, I’ve found that the value you get for a little bit more cost up front is well worth it. I’ve gone on 3.5 and 4 star vacations, where I don’t eat the entire trip, or worse, get sick from the food. Personally, I have a bit more of a sensitive stomach, and especially in Mexico, I like to stay in newer, luxury hotels. Most of these 5 star options have a la carte restaurants included, which is great when you have a mile-long list of food allergies! If your budget is tighter and you don’t want to get sick, I would suggest Jamaica, the Bahamas or Cabo San Lucas, as the water from the tap there is safe to drink and I never got sick there at all!
Two of my favourite hotels in the Mayan Riviera are the Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla and the Platinum Yucatan Princess All Suites & Spa Resort, which is where I went this year and the Christmas before. Both of these resorts offer top notch service, incredible food, beautiful amenities and stunning rooms. I prefer the Princess resort because the beach and hotel layout is a lot better. This year, my boyfriend and I were upgraded and stayed in a gorgeous suite complete with a freestanding bathtub! I loved the design of the room, and that it was closer to all the restaurants, pools and the beach.
What to expect at all-inclusive resorts: Food
For me, this is hit or miss. As I discussed above, I truly prefer staying at a higher-end, five plus star resort. Many of these hotels have been branded as “gourmet inclusive” and there is definitely a difference. This past trip, we were treated to a lobster night at the buffet, and a Mexican fiesta complete with handmade tortillas. If you love food, definitely spend time scouring through those Tripadvisor reviews!
Food is also one of the main reasons I’ve never been to Cuba or Dominican Republic. With all my dietary restrictions, Mexican cuisine seems to hit a sweet spot. I also loved the food in Jamaica and the Bahamas, which was full of flavour and very plentiful.
For breakfast at the Platinum Yucatan Princess resort, I would get a custom-made omelette, bacon, frijoles (rebaked beans), fruit, gluten free mini muffins, smoothies and a mimosa. Breakfast was easily my favourite meal of the day! For lunch, we would usually just eat at the beach bar and snack on tacos, fries and pico de gallo with chips. For dinner, we tried all the a la carte restaurants. I really enjoyed the Italian restaurant, La Bruschetta, which offered lots of gluten free options at a Mexican resort! My boyfriend also liked Aroma – the suckling pig was divine. Steaks at Rodeo Grill were also delicious, and the buffet had a wide range of quality items. The only disappointment was the sushi bar at Tao… definitely go for the Hibachi table experience instead.
What to expect at all-inclusive resorts: Entertainment
For the past few years, I’ve stayed at adults-only resorts. This means that entertainment is a little bit more of an afterthought than the focus. There are plenty of places where the resort IS the party, but an all-inclusive, adults-only resort at an off-peak time is definitely not it! I personally prefer to go off the resort and visit bars or nightclubs in town, or spending the day at beach bars in Tulum. It’s a good way to get out, and see different faces!
Kids resorts usually have more action, but if you’re not totally into it, it can be annoying. Cancun resorts have a lot more animation, especially when it’s closer to spring break time.
What to expect at all-inclusive resorts: Experience
Most of all, relax. No matter where you end up, you will enjoy better weather than at home. Even if your resort has flaws, or it rains a couple days, enjoy a piña colada and the free-flowing food and beverages! Try to get out of the resort with excursions or explore the town. Even an afternoon of shopping in Playa del Carmen or Cancun adds to the entire experience!
What I love about the all-inclusive experience is that everything is taken care of. Your flight, hotel, transfers are there. You can literally show up with your passport and bikini and you’re good to go! It’s definitely a great way to focus on your trip and not have to worry about itineraries and connections. I also like that the price is all-in-one and there are no suprise resort fees or extra costs like car rentals and dinners.
Number 1 thing to remember is to tip for service… it can make the experience even better, and when you’re spending thousands of dollars to be in the sun, it’s nice to just set aside around $50 for tips, which is well worth it!
I hope you found this guide helpful to know what to expect at all-inclusive resorts. Keep following my blog for a few more posts from my most recent vacation to the Mayan Riviera, or you can check out some other posts below.