Club Med paved the way for adult only all-inclusive resorts in the 1950s. But all-inclusives are thriving and growing in number because they offer so many appeals:
- These vacations only require minimal planning because most of the logistics are part of the package.
- Except for personal extras, you’ll have a pretty good estimate of the cost of your vacation before you leave home. And you won’t have to keep putting your hand in your pocket.
- And, if you have no children or want to leave the kids behind, an adult only all-inclusive property is a great option to explore.
Whether you’re an all-inclusive regular or this is your first venture into the world of all-inclusive resorts, here’s what you need to know to make the most of your getaway.
What is an all-inclusive resort?
The basic concept of an all-inclusive resort is that your vacation includes not just your lodgings—but also your food, drink, and activities. Different resorts define “all-inclusive” differently and may include more or less as part of their package, so do careful research and read the fine print before you book.
Most all-inclusive resorts feature a wide range of amenities and services. You’ll generally find multiple dining options, bars, pools, a fitness center, and on-site entertainment activities that range from evening shows to yoga on the beach,to watersports. (Many times, you’ll have the option of “leaving the reservation” for tours and to visit nearby attractions, but usually at an added cost.)
The restaurants often feature buffets with some a la carte restaurant options. And most all-inclusive resorts allow guests to enjoy unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Others include the option of dining at themed and specialty restaurants.
Some resorts are adults only, while others cater to families and multigenerational groups. One of the prime advantages of an adult only property is, of course, the ambiance.
On vacation, many adults don’t want to find themselves listening to other people’s children splashing at the pool or crying at dinner. Whether it is a couple who wants to carve out uninterrupted time for themselves or a group of friends who want to reconnect, an adult only atmosphere makes that possible.
All-inclusive resorts range from upscale to those that are more affordable (often with fewer amenities), allowing everyone to find the right style for their lifestyle and budget.
These properties can be found in Mexico, including Los Cabos, Cozumel, Cancun, Riveria Maya, and Puerta Vallarta, and across the Caribbean, from the Dominican Republic to Turks and Caicos. They are also popular in southern Europe, with many located in and around Spain and North Africa.
The United States has fewer all-inclusive resorts, and they tend to be ranches or wellness retreats, like The Lodge at Woodloch in the Poconos and Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, rather than beach vacations.
However, in recent years, a number of major hotel chains (including Hyatt and Hilton) are developing all-inclusive resorts in the U.S.
Why choose an all-inclusive resort?
If you’re looking for a hassle-free and relaxing vacation, an all-inclusive resort is a great option. With everything included in the price, you can focus on enjoying your time away.
As mentioned above, they take the hassle out of planning. Everything is taken care of for you so that you can enjoy your vacation — all you need to do is figure out your beach packing list and go.
All-inclusive resorts offer a variety of activities and amenities to suit all interests. Whether you want to relax on the beach, explore the local culture, or go on adventures, you’ll find something to do at an all-inclusive resort.
They also can offer great value for your money. The price of your stay typically includes your accommodations, food, drinks and activities.
“Whenever possible, we’ll try to book an all-inclusive resort for a simple reason: we know what we’re spending upfront. There are no surprise charges or unexpected expensive dinners at the resort restaurant. You know what you’re getting and how much — how can you beat that?”
— Leah Ingram, Real Sophisticated Consumer
What is and isn’t included at an all-inclusive resort?
Every resort has its own set of inclusions and exclusions but you can typically expect them to provide meals and beverages, as well as organized activities, such as water sports, fitness classes, and live performances.
As you do your research on where you plan to stay, look into all these differences because they can add up throughout your holiday.
Some resorts limit the number of reservations you can have at their a la carte restaurants during your stay, so you end up eating most of your meals at a buffet. Others allow you to eat as often as you want at any specialty restaurant as long as there is space available. At some resorts, specialty dining is an add-on.
Since you will likely be having all, if not most, of your meals at the resort, the quality of the food and service matters. Be sure to check out reviews.
Alcoholic drinks are also generally included, though almost all resorts will have at least some premium beverages, such as higher-end bottles of wine, available for an additional charge. If drinking well is important to you, resorts also vary in the types of liquor they carry and how many top-shelf options they offer.
The definition of water sports varies by resort, as well. Many resorts will include an hour of snorkeling equipment per day or the use of kayaks or other non-motorized equipment. Most resorts charge for motorized water sports such as boat rides, jet skis, etc. And almost every resort will charge for any new SCUBA certifications you wish to take.
Some resorts will have a limited number of included excursions, from nature walks to snorkeling, but almost all charge additional fees for excursions if you want to venture outside the resort.
Resorts also generally charge extra for beauty and spa treatments you may enjoy while on vacation.
In general, more activities and amenities are included in the cost of your stay, especially when you compare it to a typical hotel. Increasingly, many regular hotels are charging a daily resort fee, in addition to your room charge, at beach destinations.
“An all-inclusive resort is always a winner for us. The convenience they provide is incomparable. We can relax and enjoy our vacation without the stress of researching the places to eat or constantly looking for things to do.”
— Tamara, Thriving in Parenting
Do you tip at all-inclusive resorts?
The tipping policy at all-inclusive resorts varies greatly. This is something else to confirm before you travel.
For example, Sandals and Beaches Resorts prohibit tipping. Any tips the staff receive must be turned in to become donations to their Sandals Foundation, and employees caught accepting tips without turning them in are fired. Instead, the resorts rely on The Loop, a feedback system on their app, and traveler comments on TripAdvisor to recognize outstanding employees, who are then in line for bonuses and promotions. Some exceptions to this general tipping policy are butlers and spa personnel. Other all-inclusive resorts allow and encourage tipping.
Employees prefer their tips in US currency, regardless of what country you call home. So you don’t need to bother exchanging your money for local currency. Do bring plenty of $1 and $5 bills, as getting change is often a challenge.
You typically tip everyone from your bartender to your waitstaff, as you’re used to. In your room, you often tip the housekeeper separately from the person who stocks your fridge, so keep that in mind.
You also can tip the groundskeepers who work incredibly hard, as well as your butler if you have one, the bell desk staff, room service staff, concierges you may work with, any excursions you join, etc.
The amount that you tip will vary by resort, but typically, you want to tip about $1 per drink, $2 for breakfast or lunch buffets per person, $5 for dinner per person, $20 and more per butler shift, $2 to $5 for service in your room and an appropriate amount for any tours you enjoy.
Where to find adult only all-inclusive resorts
“Adults only” means that there is an age restriction, usually 18 years of age, required to book a stay at the resort. These resorts are ideal for romantic getaways, focus on adult entertainment, and often include more personal service. The adults attract both singles and couples.
Once you choose a destination, it’s likely that you’ll find an adult only option to suit your taste. Some of our favorites in Mexico are Marquis Los Cabos, Secrets The Vine in Cancun, Le Blanc Spa Resort in Los Cabos and Grand Velas in Riviera Maya.
In terms of chains, Hyatt Zilara operates four all-inclusives exclusively for adults. Hilton also operated a number of all-inclusive adult properties. These resorts can be especially attractive to participants in hotel loyalty programs.
All-inclusive resorts give more cost certainty and value than many other styles of vacation. The variety of amenities and activities available on-site compared to traditional hotels and vacations means guests can spend their time immersed in the resort’s offerings, making these properties an enticing option for those seeking a stress-free and all-encompassing vacation experience.