All-Inclusive Caribbean Resorts: Pros and Cons

By Jason Steele · April 22, 2023 · 6 minute read

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All-Inclusive Caribbean Resorts: Pros and Cons

You have likely heard the term “all-inclusive resort” when researching vacation ideas and know that some of the most popular ones are located in the Caribbean. And for good reason: Stunning turquoise water, miles of sandy beaches, brilliant sunshine, and loads of fresh-caught fish are big draws.

But are all-inclusives all they’re cracked up to be? Some people prefer a more authentic experience when traveling, and more upscale cuisine. Pools, parties, and group activities can be fun in moderation, but sometimes you just want peace and quiet.

Here, you’ll learn more about staying at an all-inclusive Caribbean resort, including such factors as:

•   What do all-inclusive resorts actually include?

•   How much do all-inclusive resorts cost?

•   What are the pros and cons of all-inclusive Caribbean resorts?

What Do All-Inclusive Resorts Include?

What all-inclusive resorts include varies by property, but they generally include:

•   The price of the hotel room

•   All food, snacks, and beverages

•   Most likely alcoholic beverages, though they may include only certain brands of alcohol

•   Possibly room-service meals

•   Entertainment, activities (including water sports like kayaking), and kids’ camp, depending on the resort

•   Taxes and tips

•   Possibly airport transfers

All-inclusive resorts usually don’t include the cost of excursions, but some may have activities included for free. They don’t include extras like renting a car for a day trip.

How Much Do All-Inclusive Resorts Cost?

You pay for an all-inclusive vacation upfront based on the number of nights you’re staying and the number of people in your party. Prices usually start at about $200 a night per person, with some properties costing much more, especially during peak time like winter (in the hot Caribbean, summer travel is considered off-season).

You may want to bring extra cash to tip staff, like bartenders, waiters, and housekeeping. Even if gratuities are included in the price of your stay, there may be times that you want to thank a staff member for helping you out.

Types of All-Inclusive Resorts

There are many different types of all-inclusive resorts. There are all-inclusive resorts that are meant for singles, couples, couples on their honeymoon, adults-only, families, and groups. There are even some pet-friendly all-inclusive resorts, if you like traveling with pets.

Some of the brands you may hear mentioned are Beaches, Breezes, Riu Palace, and Sandals, among others. The best all-inclusive Caribbean resorts for you will depend on the location you’re seeking, the kind of accommodations, and amenities that suit you, and of course the price tag.

Pros of All-Inclusive Caribbean Resorts

All-inclusive Caribbean resorts definitely have their advantages. Here are a few of the upsides:

Good Value

If you typically spend a lot on food and beverages on vacations, an all-inclusive resort can actually provide good value. Drinks in particular can add up quickly. So if you like to indulge in big meals and lots of cocktails while on vacay, you can really “get your money’s worth” (though it may not be the best for your health).

Live the Caribbean Dream

If you have always dreamed of relaxing on a beach in the Caribbean, an all-inclusive Caribbean resort can be an easy way to achieve that dream. All-inclusive Caribbean resorts are engineered to please tourists’ every whim, so they likely have almost anything you want on your vacation.

Low Stress

All-inclusive vacations can be appealing to those who want a relaxing vacation without having to do much planning. You don’t have to search out restaurants, beaches, or activities; everything is ready and waiting for you.

24-Hour Service

At an all-inclusive resort, you usually have staff on call 24/7 to assist you. Plenty of staff members are available to bring you a drink or room service, answer any questions, and help with special requests.

Cost Is Predetermined

When you book an all-inclusive vacation, you typically have to pay ahead of time. You will know exactly how much your vacation will cost you, unlike a typical vacation, where you may not know the cost of food, drinks, attractions, and more until your credit card bill arrives. Plus, since you have already paid for the vacation, it may make you more relaxed on the actual vacation, since you don’t have to worry about how much you’re spending.

Recommended: Where to Find Book Now, Pay Later Vacations

Cons of All-Inclusive Caribbean Resorts

All-inclusive Caribbean resorts may not be the best option for everyone. Some of the cons to consider before booking include the following:

Inauthentic Version of Local Culture

When you stay at an all-inclusive resort, you may rarely or never leave the resort. Because of this, you won’t experience the true local culture or cuisine of wherever you’re staying. Appreciating other cultures is a major component of travel for many people, which is why they may dislike all-inclusive resorts.

Food Can Be Mediocre

The food at all-inclusive resorts can vary. Some guests may find it to be mediocre, depending on the particular property. Since these resorts have to feed a lot of people (who are not paying extra for food), the food options may be cheaper, blander, and less distinctive than you would find at a local restaurant. You also may not get to experience a variety of options, since you have the same restaurants to choose from every day.

Potential Crowds

All-inclusive Caribbean resorts can get crowded. You may have trouble finding a chair by the pool or beach. Activities could be at capacity. If you go to the restaurants during the popular mealtimes, you may have to wait for a table or have slower service. (One hack for that: Consider booking dinner reservations ahead of time.)

You Can’t Cut Costs

All-inclusive resorts are like a package: You pay one price for everything. With other types of vacations, you can cut costs by eating at less expensive restaurants, cooking meals, or picnicking. You might also opt for less pricey lodging (if you know how to save money on hotels) or skip renting a car and use public transportation instead.

These are some examples of how families afford to travel. However, with an all-inclusive vacation, you have to pay the price they quote you.

Tips for Staying at an All-Inclusive Resort

If you do plan to stay at an all-inclusive Caribbean resort, here are some tips to make your vacation as enjoyable and affordable as possible:

•   When booking an all-inclusive resort, the dates will have an impact on the nightly rate. If you’re able to, travel during the off-season, like fall or spring, to save money.

•   Some all-inclusive resorts are bookable using credit card rewards. If you have a travel credit card that lets you transfer points to hotel chains with all-inclusive resorts, this could be a way to save money and use points instead.

•   Before booking a vacation, including an all-inclusive resort, you may want to consider travel insurance to protect your investment in your vacation in case something goes wrong. If you have a travel credit card, make sure you understand how credit card travel insurance works. That could be a way to get coverage.

Recommended: How to Choose Between Credit Card Miles vs. Cash Back

The Takeaway

All-inclusive Caribbean resorts have their pros and cons. Some people love them: These destinations can be relaxing and low-stress and provide good value. Others may find them crowded, with mediocre food, and they don’t allow you to cut costs. Weighing the upsides vs. the downsides should allow you to decide if an all-inclusive resort is the right way for you to make your Caribbean dream come true.

Whether you want to travel more or get a better ROI for your travel dollar, SoFi can help. SoFi Travel is a new service exclusively for SoFi members that lets you budget, plan, and book your next trip in a convenient one-stop shop. SoFi takes the guessing game out of how much you can afford for that honeymoon, family vacation, or quick getaway — and we help you save too.

SoFi Travel can take you farther.

Photo credit: iStock/dstephens

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