Inside the All-Inclusive Resort: a Report

Last weekend I went on my first press trip ever, to Mazatlan, Mexico . It was quite a learning experience! Basically, the Mexican Tourism Bureau paid for me to fly down, stay at a fancy schmancy resort, eat amazing food and do fun stuff like zip lining. Their goal of course is to illustrate what a great vacation destination Mexico, and Mazatlan specifically, are, and they more than convinced me!

When I first saw the website for Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort, my eyes just about shot out of my head. This place was NICE. Like, really, really nice. Nicer than anywhere I’d ever be able to afford on my own dime.

So exciting! But I also felt a bit guilty. Sure it was a nice treat to be able to stay somewhere luxurious for a change, but I’m not exactly a luxury travel blogger. How was I going to get a true picture of Mazatlan when I was so removed from my normal habits? I decided I would look at it as a social experiment of sorts. After all, many people absolutely love visiting all-inclusive resorts- what are these places all about anyways?

If this place is any indication, all-inclusive resorts are about palm trees, rooms so spread out that they have to be reached via golf carts and lots of swimming pools jutting out into the perfect ocean. To my relief it wasn’t about a bunch of rich Americans being waited on hand-and-foot by locals; most of the other guests were mexican families, with a few foreign couples and groups thrown in for good measure.

paradise?

Essentially though, all-inclusive resorts are about convenience, luxury and most important of all: food. Lots and lots of food.

When Mike and I sat down for lunch, half an hour after arrival, a light went on in my head. You mean I can order anything I want? Anything? And it’s all paid for? Bring on the feast of ceviche, guacamole and steak tacos! And keep those margaritas coming! This set the tone for the rest of the weekend, where the game was Try to Digest Your Food as Fast As Possible So You Can Go Pig Out Some More.

Of course there are other things to do too… like go to the bar, where the drinks are ALSO all-inclusive. To prevent loathsome sitting inside drunk all day there is the glorious, greatest invention of all-resort time, the swim up bar. Happy Hour at the adults only pool bar became a mandatory part of the day.

We didn’t spend all of our time at the resort- our hosts had arranged all sorts of tours, activities and restaurant excursions to keep us busy, but I suspect that most visitors to Pueblo Bonita spend their days enjoying the pools, the spa, the beautiful views and the restaurants. It must be utterly relaxing but, I couldn’t help thinking, a bit dull.

While the resort was a totally great place to do nothing… there’s also really not much to do. Downtown was a 30 minute taxi ride away, and there’s basically nothing in the immediate vicinity. Minus all the Mexican people inside the resort there wasn’t a whole lot to indicate we were in Mexico and not the Caribbean or Florida or even Thailand. It was very clean, very safe and very easy- aka very not my style.

Of course this is only a drawback if you are me. Or anyone like me who likes a bit more culture or adventure in their vacation. I could probably handle a weekend of lazing around drinking margaritas, but a whole week? Not to mention that for the price of a week at Pueblo Bonita I could probably bum around Mexico for a month.

So no, I don’t see a whole lot of all-inclusive in my future (at least not unless someone else is footing the bill). I can totally see why people enjoy them though. If you want a week away from it all, a chance to worry about absolutely nothing and just relax, than it’s totally a valid choice. Just maybe not my first choice.

Although I’m pretty sure I’ll always have a thing for swim up bars…

Disclosure: My trip to Mazatlan was sponsored by the Mexican Tourism Board, however all opinions are my own.

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15 thoughts on “Inside the All-Inclusive Resort: a Report”

  1. I have been to two inclusive resorts – one in Cuba and another in Morocco each were only for 3 days – we picked them because we wanted to relax and do nothing for three days after more than a week of adventure and activity. I loved them both, so relaxing, the food is great and there is no stress from morning to night. Perfect for relaxing. I really do recommend – but do some adventure before you go there because you get swept into a maze of laziness when there!

  2. Sounds like you had a great time and from the photos it lots like a great place. I am sure they made sure to give you the star treatment and I am glad you and Mike enjoyed being able to order anything you wanted.

  3. Your trip to Mazatlan sounds amazing! I went on a similar press trip to the Pueblo Bonita Pacifica in Los Cabos and it was definitely a spectacular experience. And I totally feel you on the food…. and the swim up bar ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. The resort you stayed at happens to be the “creme de la creme” of what Mazatlan has to offer. While in school to be a travel agent I did site tours of several properties in the area. I toured the hotel you stayed at and it is by far the most luxurious of what Mazatlan has to offer. I stayed at the El Cid complex while in Mazatlan which is located right in the hotel zone.

    If you are going to fork over the money for an All-Inclusive, it’s best to stay in those areas because getting around is a lot cheaper than if your in the boonies. Depending on what you pay for your “AI” package, sometimes they are worth every penny when you compare the cost of what a RT would be.

    Mazatlan is a great tourist spot because it hasn’t been discovered to quite the degree that places like Cancun have. Several tour operators don’t even fly to Mazatlan. I lucked out when I went in September of 2009. We had 1-week all-inclusive for around $600 pp. A steal when you considered come October, the price jumped to $1700+.

  5. I went to an all inclusive once in my life- when I was studying abroad in Costa Rica and my host family brought me for a weekend. There were SO into it and therefore, so was I. It seemed like such luxury to order any drink I wanted! (oh, and also because I was 17).

    I can also see why it would be good for a group of friends, where you can prepay and not worry about budgeting again. I wouldn’t go back on my own dime, but damn I wouldn’t mind going if someone else paid.

  6. Woah. I am not doing this travel blogging thing right at all. Where are MY free trips to Mexico with all-inclusive margaritas? I want them NOW!
    P.S. I’m jealous in case you didn’t notice.
    P.P.S. I always say the same thing about cruise ships — “just not my thing.” But I’m more than happy to have a cruise line company prove me wrong by sponsoring my all-inclusive trip on their boat. So in case you know any cruise line PR execs, pass along my email address. Okay?

  7. I’ve followed you on twitter for awhile but this is the first post I’ve read of yours! I’ll definitely be back! Must have been exciting to go on your first press trip… I enjoy luxury hotels/resorts but I agree that sometimes the best trips don’t even have a hint of luxury!

  8. Interesting the reasons people travel. Some just want to get away from their job for a little bit which is why they would go to all inclusive resorts. Some want travel to be a job, i.e. the travel blogger. All in all, the place you stayed at looks great and a place you could have fun no matter who you are. Would definitely like to visit Mexico one day, and look at some of their ancient ruins culture as well.

  9. I’ve never been to an all-inclusive and don’t think one’s on the cards anytime soon – I like GOOD local food, and I’ve heard that’s not the norm. Plus like you, I want to go out and explore. But I can imagine a time in the future when I’ve done more exploring and just want to relax, and at that point if I could be guaranteed good food then I can see how the idea of unlimited margaritas and tacos could be very appealing.

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