On one of my recent 48-hour jaunts back home, I was lucky enough to get some quality time with my best girlfriends from university. A few glasses (aka bottles) of wine into our get-together, we decided it was absolutely necessary to take an epic vacation for our 5-year reunion. The destination we quickly agreed upon: Cancun. But then that led to a more pressing question—to stay or not to stay at an all-inclusive resort?
Some of my besties argued that the all-inclusive Cancun family resorts are the only way to go in Cancun. Others were adamant that they wanted absolutely nothing to do with the infamous ‘Hotel Zone’. Having experienced an all-inclusive resort in Cancun firsthand, I could definitely sympathize with my gals; all-inclusives are great, but certainly not for everyone.
If you’re keen to visit Cancun but having a similar debate, here are a few pros and cons to help you make your decision.
When to choose an all-inclusive resort in Cancun:
If you’re going to Cancun to lay by the pool, work on your tan, and finally read the book that’s been on your Kindle for a year, then yes—an all-inclusive resort is for you. Psychologists have also proven that staying at an all-inclusive resort actually leads to a more relaxing vacation, as you don’t get stressed by pulling out your wallet for each and every purchase.
For Affordable Luxury
All-inclusive resorts can actually be very budget friendly. Sure, the food might not be the best and the liquor likely won’t be top-shelf, but it sure beats making pasta at a hostel. Do your research to find which resort offers the amenities that are most important to you, such as a workout room, three pools, ocean views, etc. Specific to Cancun, prices at all-inclusives are often some of the most affordable simply due to the huge competitions between nearly 200 all-inclusive resorts in the area.
For Large Travel Groups
All-inclusive resorts are sort of like cruise ships. There are plenty of activities to keep everyone happy. Is someone hungry? No problem. They can go enjoy one of the 24-hour restaurants while you head out to explore the beach. There’s less pressure to spend every waking moment together while still actually getting plenty of time with each other. Which leads to the next point…
For Quality Time
For my girlfriends and I, our main objective for going to Cancun is to spend lots of time with each other. An all-inclusive is perfect for that. Rather than worrying about where you’ll eat dinner or how to spend your afternoon, you can actually use that time to just be together.
When not to choose an all-inclusive resort in Cancun:
You want to explore from dawn to dusk
The thought of lying by a pool sounds like punishment. You want to spend all day, everyday exploring the Yucatan Peninsula surrounding Cancun. You won’t get to use the benefits of an all-inclusive; rather, invest your money in a good rental car to get you from point to point.
You Want to Interact With the Locals
Unless you plan on hanging out with the staff a lot, your encounters with the locals are going to be limited at an all-inclusive resort. Balance your time at the hotel with some wandering through downtown Cancun. If that’s not enough, then choose a hotel in an area where the locals live. And yes—there are lots of locals that call Cancun home. Just not within the ‘hotel zone’.
You’re On a ‘Super’ Budget
All-inclusive resorts are budget friendly, but only if you have a moderate budget to work with in the first place. If you’re on a shoestring, then there are plenty of hostels in Cancun that would probably be a better option for you.
Many people think that the main difference between choosing an all-inclusive resort versus budget accommodation is whether you’re seeking a vacation or authentic travel experience, respectively. However, it is possible to combine the best of both worlds:
How to get the most out of an all-inclusive stay in Cancun:
Remember that just because you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort doesn’t mean you are locked inside. Some of my best vacations have been staying at an all-inclusive, but still leaving time to get out and explore the local culture and activities. Luckily, there’s plenty to see and do just outside the Hotel Zone in Cancun. If you’re not sure where to start, be sure to check out this article on experiencing arts and culture in Cancun!
Don’t drink too much
When the alcohol is free, it’s hard to resist from drinking all day long. Try to pace yourself though; the last thing you want is for your hard-earned vacation to be a blur from too many margaritas.
As a full-time traveler, I don’t choose an all-inclusive resort every time, but I do appreciate them on occasion.
Have you stayed at an all-inclusive before? What did you think?