When I tell people that I’ve never been to an all-inclusive resort (or on a cruise), they’re usually shocked. “But you’ve been everywhere!” they often say. (Not true, but I’m working on it.)
But I really haven’t taken a ton of *vacations* (not to be confused with trips or adventures). And when I have gone the vacay route, I’m usually doing it on a tighter budget, so end up renting a simple little Airbnb and spending all my time out on the beach or at the pool. Which isn’t a bad thing, but I have to admit that this route also holds some appeal…
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@sjems5 and I had pretty epic plans for our girls’ trip this year, but they got whittled away due to other commitments and so we found ourselves facing a long weekend and a set budget. We decided that, rather than a whirlwind like our Costa Rica or Argentina adventures, we were tired and overworked and just wanted sun, sand, and fruity drinks. It seemed like I was finally going to experience my first all-inclusive resort.
Her aunt does some travel agenting, so she found us a good deal at a chill resort with a great pool (my condition), a great beach (Sarai’s condition), and adults-only (both of our conditions). Enter, the Royal Hideaway Playacar, in Playa del Carmen…
Pretty beautiful, right?! I’m going to write a separate post specifically reviewing the resort, but we definitely loved our time here. While not perfect, it was lovely.
We began two of our four mornings there with an early wake-up call to catch a gorgeous Caribbean sunrise.
Rough getting up at 6:00am on vacation, but for this view, it’s worth it!
Because Sarai and I are both early risers, we were usually at the restaurant when it opened and had our pick of seats. Breakfast downstairs was buffet-style with all kinds of fruit, yogurt, cereal, and hot items including pancakes, waffles, toast, eggs, hashbrowns, empanadas, and more. We did eat breakfast at the upstairs restaurant once, where you order from a menu, and the waffles with papaya were delish!
The beach at the resort was super wide and pristine. Sarai spent most of her time here, and it’s not hard to see why. Can you even believe that water??? It’s pure magic, some of the most clear and bright I’ve seen.
It doesn’t have quite the same impact without sound and motion, so here you go 🙂
At lunchtime we could sit downstairs, or get out of the hubbub and chill in the shade upstairs. I was partial to the peace and the view from the upstairs restaurant, and the salmon cakes were pretty great.
But the pool area was my happy place, and where I spent the most time.
Getting a seat definitely took some doing, particularly right on the pool’s edge. I learned that I had to get out there super early and throw my stuff down on a chair (but my sunrise antics helped with that), and once I’d found my spot I kept my glass filled with dirty monkeys (my newfound drink of choice!). I literally lived there for three days straight.
The pool crowds definitely lessened toward the end of the day, with people heading back to their rooms to get cleaned up for dinner reservations. I loved hanging out at the pool as the sun started to set, watching the sky change colors and having a pre-dinner drink. One night I asked the bartender for a glass of rosé, and he gave me a brand-new bottle!
Thoughts from my first all-inclusive resort experience
- The pool area was beautiful and I spent most of my time there (but the beach was nothing to sneeze at).
- As a person used to doing beach vacations more DIY—renting an apartment and then schlepping to the beach—there definitely is something compelling about not having to think about anything, plan anything.
- The service by and large was lovely, the waitstaff very nice and helpful. And while parts of the landscaping looked a little older, both the rooms and the pool area were very nice and clean (though the pool chair cushions smelled pretty moldy when wet).
- I’m kind of confused about tipping situations at all-inclusives? I assumed that tipping was a thing so I brought $75 in ones. But apparently some are and some aren’t? I ended up tipping the pool drink waiters toward the end, partly to get faster service and partly because I felt like I should? There are a lot of question marks in this piece of my experience…
- I should have brought a couple less regular sundresses and a couple slightly nicer dresses with cuter shoes, for dinner. I felt a little underdressed.
- The food wasn’t great. I don’t know whether I expected it to be or not, but it was just okay. And because it was free and we could order whatever we wanted, I kept feeling like I wanted (or needed) to order a lot to “get my money’s worth”. So I was overeating on somewhat mediocre food, which isn’t great.
Are you an all-inclusive expert? This was just my first foray, so I’d love all your best tips—hit me up in the comments!
Other warm weather adventures you might like:
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