I’ve never stayed at one myself but two winter destinations on my bucket list (Cancun and Dominican Republic) offer many such resorts. In the Caribbean, it seems that there are more all-inclusive resorts than standard hotels. I’ve done some research on this subject, so I feel somewhat qualified to give advice to my fellow travelers. Is it worth it? That depends on what you are looking for.
Convenience is by far the biggest plus here. Often, you can simply take a shuttle directly from the airport to your resort. No need to rent a car or even take Uber. You will be transported to a luxurious gated community and can do pretty much whatever you want as well as eat and drink free of charge once you get the coveted wristband upon check-in. Typically, the resort has multiple restaurants and bars as well as free room service. In other words, you won’t even need to leave the grounds of the resort. Just leave your wallet in the hotel safe and use the credit card for small souvenir purchases. Safety is another important factor. If you are visiting a third world country with a high crime rate, you may not feel it is safe for you and your family to go outside the resort. Inside, you can bet that it will be well patrolled, and you won’t get very far without a wrist band. I certainly would not allow a teenager to roam the streets of a foreign country unsupervised even if he or she is with a friend. Remember Natalee Holloway.
To me, the biggest disadvantage is the lack of authenticity. I can imagine a couple returning from a Jamaican all-inclusive resort and commenting about how much they loved the country. Nope. You just loved your resort. Most hotel guests are either American or European so outside of the resort staff, you will have little to no opportunities to interact with locals and take in the culture. If the same resort had a location in the Dominican Republic, you could have had pretty much the exact same experience there. I’m sure that many resorts offer excursions to nearby attractions, which is good, but it also locks you into a specific schedule. If the buses don’t run several times per day, it could be big trouble if you miss the ride back.
Often the quoted price is a very reasonable $200-250 per night. That said, you get what you pay for. There could be an additional charge for multiple guests in a room as well. Unless it is a 5-star resort, you can bet that food will be mediocre and it may not even be fresh either. Drinks will be small and watered down too. Extras such as souvenirs, sun tan lotion and even wiFi probably will NOT be included while excursions to nearby hiking trails will certainly be extra. Some resorts are family friendly while others are adults only and catered toward honeymooners and other young couples. I doubt that very many will be catered to singles.
I would personally opt for the standard hotel even if I must walk a few minutes to the beach. I prefer the authenticity of the local culture. If a country has a Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory, I am not going even if it’s just to a resort. I don’t care how beautiful it is. In a resort tailored to couples, sitting alone at a restaurant table would be quite depressing. I really don’t care about the fancy spas or getting pampered with a massage. Just give me a basic room that is clean with a comfortable bed, TV, fridge and microwave and that’s all I need. I’m primarily there for the beach but I do want a strip of authentic restaurants and fun bars within walking distance. If I am with a girlfriend, yes, I would be willing to compromise and stay in an all-inclusive resort. I would want it to be within walking distance of local attractions and would like to eat one meal outside the resort per day. For example, if I’m in Cancun, Mexico, I want a serving of real Mexican food, not a pizza or chicken buffet. Fair enough?