All-Inclusive Resorts: the Good, Bad & the Oh No!
Confession time: I wouldn't say I like all-inclusive resorts or the beach. There I said it. I burn badly; the beach is not my friend! Even if I didn't burn, I wouldn't choose an all-inclusive for my travel (there are a couple of exceptions to this rule, and I will go into them below). I like to experience a destination; I want to chat with locals and explore the city streets. Most resorts are not conducive to either of these activities. In general, I go to scope out resorts every 3 or 4 months. I like to experience the places that I am sending my clients to give honest first-hand feedback.
Last Confession: I HATE Sandals; well, not really. I love several Sandals: Emerald Bay in the Exumas, Grand St Lucian, Grand Antiguan, Royal Barbados, and Grenada. But in general, I find the Sandals brand offers a very cookie-cutter experience. You aren't really in a different country; you are in an American resort that happens to sit in another country. The only time I go to Sandals is if they are paying me. But I have clients that honeymoon at a Sandals every year, and they all love it.
All-Inclusive Resorts are not my jam, but could they be yours? I am going to attempt to help you answer that question today.
In my opinion, all-inclusive break down into four categories: luxury, premium, boutique eco-resorts, and bargain basement. And there is a category of all-inclusive resorts for everyone, myself included. So I am going to explore the first three categories in a little more depth. I would NEVER send anyone to a bargain-basement resort. Instead of exploring the class in-depth, I will reveal why you should try to avoid the Bargain Basement All-Inclusive in my next blog.
Luxury All-Inclusive Resorts
Perfect for Couples That Want to be Treated Like Royalty
Some of the most incredible resorts in the world fall into the Luxury All-Inclusive category. They provide their guests with unparalleled service and amenities. Think private beaches and pools, butlers, decadent spas; these resorts are perfect for any couple that desires include pampering.
Luxury All-Inclusive range from tiny 5-6 stars and throughout the world. Some of my favorites are Velaa Private Island in the Maldives, Namale Resort in Fiji, andBeyond Xaranna in Botswana, Grand Velas in Los Cabos, Mexico, and Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.
All of these are offer very different experiences; even the most discerning traveler should be able to find something they love at a luxury resort! Even me! I love cooking at Blackberry, sleeping under the stars at andBeyond, and playing with the baby sea turtles at Velaa. These resorts offer such hands-on experience that it would be impossible not to have a fantastic time at one of them.
Cons: Price; luxury resorts come with a luxury price tag, but resorts in this category earn their money by making sure you never want anything.
Premium All-Inclusive Resorts
Perfect for Couples that Want a Luxury Experience without the Price.
Premium All-Inclusive Resorts are excellent resorts, and you will find many of the amenities offered in the luxury category, but not at every level. These properties are perfect for people who want a luxury experience at a less scary price tag. Also, the premium category is where you will find resorts with different club levels. Yes, many of the "bracelet resorts" fall into this category (the other bracelet resorts are Bargain Basement)
My tip for Bracelets Resort: make sure you precisely understand the inclusions afforded to guests at every level. Differentiating between classes is the only way to pick the correct room category for you. Some resorts have private beaches, pools, and restaurants for higher-level guests. Some also provide lots of extra amenities for honeymooners that uplevel. For instance, private beach dinners and couples massages are often free in club level Honeymoon and Anniversary packages. (FYI: it is usually cheaper to uplevel and get the better honeymoon package than to get the less expensive room and pay for the spa and beach dining separately!)
Some of my favorite Premium All-Inclusive Resorts include Secrets Maroma Beach and Palafitos El Dorado Maroma, both in the Riviera Maya, Ikos Oceania in Greece, Sanctuary Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic, and Excellence Oyster Bay in Jamaica.
Cons: Premium Resorts tend to be large, so if you are looking for an intimate experience, you should look elsewhere.
Eco-Friendly All-Inclusive Resorts
Perfect for Couples that Want a Boutique Resort and Intimate Experience
From Argentine wine centered to a Tesla powered resort in Fiji, eco-friendly all-inclusive resorts make going green glam. These eco-friendly boutique resorts are my favorite all-inclusive resorts. They emphasize experience, not on the beach.
Perfect for anyone that wants to reduce their carbon footprint but not miss out on all-inclusive amenities. Eco-friendly resorts allow you to disconnect from every day and reconnect with what's important.
Some of my favorite eco-friendly all-inclusive resorts include: Sable Alley in Botswana (the second entry for Botswana because it is super awesome, and you should go there!) Six Senses Fiji, Casa de Uco in Argentina, and Taj Exotic in Goa, India.
Cons: By design, the destination is more interesting than the resort, so you will most likely want to explore outside the hotel more than the other categories.
All-inclusive resorts offer some of the best value you will find in travel. It is very freeing knowing exactly how much you will be paying upfront and not getting huge bills at check-out. But all-inclusive resorts are not equal. Some are spectacular; some are great, some fine, and others are not worth the price. You need to research (or hire a professional) to find the perfect resort for you.
In my next blog, I will try to convince you to skip all those too-good-to-be-true all-inclusive bargain-basement trips. If you want to learn more about all-inclusive resorts, read my All-Inclusive Tips, You Need to Know Before You Go, Avoid the Mistakes Every All-Inclusive Rookie Makes, or How to Pick Your All-Inclusive Honeymoon Resort.