Let’s face it, there’s a million things to consider when choosing a resort for your next beach vacation, and no, not all resorts are the same! The easiest part of the selection process might be picking the location you want to go to. If you’re boggled with the choices after that, read our tips for selecting a resort.
The first, and perhaps biggest question, is to go all-inclusive, or not to go all-inclusive? All-inclusive (AI) resorts have their perks, but you also need to make sure your plans match up with the price point. If you want to really integrate into the local culture, eat a variety of ethnic foods, or will be doing activities and sightseeing from sun up to sun down, an AI resort is probably not worth the money, nor will it give you the cultural experience you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for a mix of activities and lounging by the pool, and want a one-stop shop for accommodations, food, drinks, entertainment, flights, etc. then you might want to consider going the AI route. So, keep reading!
If you decided to go the AI route, the next question you should ask yourself is: Adults-only or family friendly? This is another point that makes a huge difference in your experience. If you have kids and plan to take them, obviously going to a family friendly resort with them is a no-brainer. But, if you want a break from the kids, or you do not have children, take this into consideration. From our experience, family friendly resorts tend to cater a more towards little ones and family related activities. They also seem to lack some of the more lavish, adult amenities. For example, a pool area at a family friendly resort may be smaller, and ideal for pool noodles and wading, with limited visual appeal or wow factor. It is also harder to relax and unwind when a kiddo is screaming or running around too. Many family-friendly resorts have adults only pools/areas, but we have found that those rules are not strictly enforced. At an adults only resort, you can expect to have swim up bars, sculptures, music playing, towel service, and more!
AI resorts offer a wide variety of amenities and activities. Consider things you’re interested in doing at the resort such as yoga on the beach, cooking classes, spa services, and water related activities. It is amazing how much variance there is in something as simple as “non-motorized watersports”. For some resorts, that includes everything – kayaking, paddleboarding, hobie-cats, snorkeling, and windsurfing. Other resorts may tack on an extra fee for paddleboarding, or don’t offer things like windsurfing. Same thing goes with fitness classes. In some places, everything is free, but in others, you have to pay an additional fee for yoga. So, read the fine print! Also, it’s important to keep the availability of evening activities in mind. Some places have bonfires, pool halls, quality performances or dance clubs. Activities like these help pass time in the slower, evening hours when the resort starts to wind down. At other resorts, the only option you’ll have is watching other guests participate in yet another round of “the newlywed game”. Research everything!
You’ll also want to consider food and the dining experience. Most resorts offer a standard daily buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are also usually a handful of specialty restaurants on the property which have limited openings during lunch and dinner service. Some of these require reservations and have a dress code. A few AI resorts will actually limit the number specialty restaurants guests can dine at during their stay. For example, a resort with 4 specialty restaurants and 1 buffet may only allow you to eat at each of the specialty restaurants once during a week-long stay. Another point to consider is room service. If you have long days planned off the resort property, you might be returning after the other restaurants have closed for the evening, or you might just be too tired to go eat. Having room service available is a great option!
Other considerations include room upgrades. There’s a variety of options at certain resorts in this aspect too. Many oceanview room categories are available at a slightly upgraded rate. Same with balcony rooms, poolside, etc. However, some resorts offer much more expensive upgrade options including suites, preferred club membership, and butler service. Having stayed in all types of upgraded rooms, I can only say that some experiences were worth the extra money and some were not. Just keep in mind, they will try to sell you on upgraded rooms upon check in too.
The last thing to keep in mind is the proximity of your resort to the town or activities in the surrounding area. If you want to leave the property (and we highly suggest you do), keep in mind that many resorts are on outlying stretches of beach and may be a distance from town, so this could factor in to planning your stay and area activities.
There are countless options when searching for all-inclusive resort properties. Many first-timers don’t take a lot of these factors into consideration. Some people love all-inclusive resort experiences, and for others… it’s simply not for them. If you have any questions about Sandals, Secrets, Excellence, or Occidental resort lines, please don’t hesitate to ask! Cheers!