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Is Staying At An All-Inclusive Worth It?

I’ve often had people ask me about all-inclusive hotels and resorts.  Are they worth it?  Should we stay in them?  Up until recently, I had no real point of view on all-inclusives because I knew that if we stayed in one, we would feel like we should eat at the resort every day since all the meals are included (hello, free food?! Uh, YES!). But, that would conflict with my desire to explore other dining options outside of the hotel so alas, we always booked room only deals.  Some people, however, swear by all-inclusives. One of my friends loves them since she and her husband drink A LOT while on vacation and figure they’ll get their money back by drinking the resort dry! We decided to try out an all-inclusive on our last babymoon to Cabo to see if it was worth it.  Keep in mind, this is my first all-inclusive so I’m basing my impressions just on this experience.

Why we chose an all-inclusive this time

We babymooned in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.  That part of Los Cabos is scant on restaurants within walking distance of hotels so our only option would be to eat at the hotel or pay hefty cab rides to restaurants around Los Cabos. Since we’ve been to Los Cabos many times in the past, we wanted this trip to be focused just on relaxation and knew we’d spend most of the hotel at the resort.  As a result, it made more sense to try out an all-inclusive resort this time.

Where we stayed

We stayed at the Hyatt Ziva in Cabo.  We chose this property for a few reasons:

  1. I have Hyatt Diamond status and used one of my Diamond Suite Upgrades to guarantee us a larger room than the one we booked. Having bigger hotel rooms has been important to us ever since Traveler #3 came into the picture.
  2. The property has great reviews on Trip Advisor with many people raving about the high quality of the food “for an all-inclusive” at Hyatt Ziva.
  3. The resort is big with many pools and even a kid’s pool area.
  4. Diamond status was new for me and my only other experience at a Hyatt so far was lackluster so I wanted to see if a resort property Hyatt would change my mind about this hotel chain.
  5. There are several restaurants on site with different cuisines so I felt there was enough variety to keep our palates satiated for the duration of our visit.

What the Hyatt Ziva is like

It is probably helpful for readers to know what this all-inclusive resort is like since that’s what I’m basing my assessment on.  Those who have stayed at all-inclusives before can use this information to determine how it compares to others they’ve stayed at.  Those who haven’t stay at an all-inclusive before can use this to get an idea of what one all-inclusive is like and figure out if it’s for them.

The Hyatt Ziva is close to the airport so the good news is that it’s likely the first stop if you’re on a shuttle from the airport with other passengers. The resort is what I’d expect of an all-inclusive resort: big with many activities, lots of vacationers, and plenty of on-site activities to keep one busy.



It is also right on a long stretch of beach.

With the Diamond status, we were upgraded to a club room, which is basically the same as their normal rooms but has club access and a view of the ocean.

All the food in the minibar was included in our package which was pretty cool.

There were several pools at the Hyatt: a pool closer to the beach (apparently, this is the only one that is heated which could be an issue if you’re visiting in the cooler months),

a pool higher up from the beach,

a kid pool area,

and an adult pool area.

There’s also a kids club, but like most kid’s clubs at resorts, we couldn’t use it since Traveler #3 was too young (I can’t wait until she’s 3 to 5 since that seems to be the minimum age for kids to use these clubs).

The hotel has plenty of dining options, too. From memory, there’s an Italian restaurant on the beach, a Mexican restaurant/buffet on the beach, an Asian restaurant that serves Japanese food and Benihana-style type food, a Spanish restaurant, a snack bar by the pool, a swim up bar by the main pool, a casual bar/restaurant by the adult pool, a cafe by the lobby with smoothies, cakes, and ice cream, a late-night sports bar (with pool tables), a tequila bar, and a margarita bar. That is a lot of options for any resort!

As far as activities go, there are some, but not as much as I would have expected.  I recall there being a tequila tasting in the afternoon and some pool activities. Every night they had cheesy entertainment for the kids followed by more cheesy entertainment for adults. Think of the kind of entertainment you’d find on a cruise ship and you’ll have an idea of what to expect at the Hyatt Ziva.

Overall thoughts on the Hyatt Ziva

While this hotel has plenty to keep people occupied, the resort did not feel like we were in Mexico at all.  The grounds are pretty, but I’ve definitely seen prettier in Cabo. In fact, compared to other resorts in Cabo, the Hyatt Ziva felt sterile.  I told Mr. T several times that the resort looks like we’re at a big apartment complex given the high rise buildings flanking the main pools.  The abundance of restaurants and bars coupled with the cheesy entertainment made me feel like we were on a cruise ship. I say that not to say that this is a bad thing but so you have an idea of the vibe. On one of the days, there was a wedding on the beach and a wedding was held in the adult pool section where music was blaring until 10pm. This is not an exaggeration; I had to yell so that Mr. T could hear me since our room was coincidentally located this is area of the resort. The staff wasn’t particularly friendly, but they weren’t unfriendly either. They just didn’t “wow” me.

In my opinion, the Hyatt isn’t catering to vacationers that are searching for rest and relaxation. They are set up for visitors who like to run around, eat a lot, play in the water, and party it up. If you’re looking for that kind of atmosphere, then perhaps a resort that “reminds you of Mexico” isn’t at the top if your wishlist anyway.

Finally, the most important part of the resort related to the all-inclusive package: the food.  We tried most of the restaurants during our stay.  The only one we did not try was the Spanish restaurant because the consensus was that it wasn’t as good as the others on-site.  We liked that all the food was included. We could literally walk into any restaurant, cafe, or bar and order something and not have to pay a thing (premium drinks were extra but we didn’t order any of those)! That felt weird to me at first, but we quickly got used to it! The quantity of the food, however, was a lot smaller than we are used to as everything was appetizer-sized.  Once we realized this, we sometimes ordered two entrees just to get full.  Maybe the quantity is smaller because all the food is included and the hotel doesn’t want guests to waste food. Is it like that at all all-inclusives? It was also nice that drinks are included which included house wines and basic pool-side type drinks like margaritas, daiquiris, and pina coladas.  The Hyatt also has some premium drinks included as well, but it wasn’t premium enough in Mr. T’s view.  Here’s a sampling of the premium drinks available in the club lounge:

I assume we were able to have the premium drinks because of our upgraded room. I could see how those who love to drink would love to stay at an all-inclusive (and perhaps why this resort lends itself more to partying and less to relaxation!).

While having free access to food and drinks all day every day was new to us, we realized early on that the quality of the food was not up to par for us. The food was “ok”, but it reminded me of dorm food, and any food that reminds one of dorm life isn’t the kind of food I want to have now that I’m no longer in the dorms. After a day, we looked at each other and said, “we can’t eat this for the next few days!”  And this was at a resort where reviewers raved about the deliciousness of the food! This extended itself to the drinks, too, which were very watered down.  Mr. T also has this thing about having the perfect margarita when he’s in Mexico and he was disappointed at the margarita at the Hyatt. In fact, he was so disappointed that I called the next hotel we were going to to make sure they had good margaritas before we went!

Who is an all-inclusive good for

Based on this experience, all-inclusives are worth it if:

  • you plan to spend the majority of your time at the resort
  • there aren’t a lot of restaurant options near the hotel or you don’t mind checking out other restaurants despite knowing you’ve already pre-paid for all your meals at the hotel
  • you aren’t picky about what you eat or drink
  • you like the convenience of having prepaid for everything and don’t want to worry about additional costs while on vacation (side note: you should still tip, though, even though it’s supposedly “included”.  I’ve heard you get even better service tipping at this places.)
  • you think you can eat approximately $100 worth of food a day. I didn’t touch much on the pricing, but whenever I’ve considered all-inclusives in the past and looked at how much more expensive they are compared to room-only packages, all-inclusive resorts tend to charge about $100pp more on top of the room rate. So a room that might be normally $200/night will be $400/night for double occupancy. This is only an approximation off of my limited experience in this area so you should do your own research, but if you don’t think you can eat $100 worth of food a day, then an all-inclusive definitely isn’t for you.

Would we do an all-inclusive again?

If our experience at the Hyatt was indicative of the quality of food at these types of places, we’ll pass on all-inclusives in the future. We would much rather pay more for good food than pay a bundled price for mediocre food. Plus, given that the dollar to peso exchange rate right now is so in our favor (the exchange rate is even better than it was when I wrote this post!), we don’t eat enough to justify the additional all inclusive price.

Have you ever been to an all-inclusive? What did you think of it? Should we give them another try?

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Fran Henry - August 1, 2017 - 5:29 am

Hello: Loved the honesty of your posts ! I feel the same as you. Last year I went on my “dream” vacation to Bali and was sooooo disappointed. We stayed at a few All Inclusive Hotels and like you mentioned after the second day the thought of having the same mediocre breakfast was disheartening. I think All Inclusives may be a good deal when travelling with pre teens or teenage kids who are known to be hungry every hour on the hour. I am planning our familv vacation to Cabo with a 13 year old whose appetite is huge so I am torn between going the all inclusive route or room only. Thank you for your posts. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts.

mike - March 3, 2018 - 10:31 pm

with the amount of hotels and vacation rentals and the cheap airfares ..the AI is not really a good deal..and most hotels have free breakfast so with the AI you are paying extra to eat the same lunch and dinner and drink enough for alcohol poison….you get more for your money not doing the all inclusive and you get more memories trying different restaurants and much better airplane ticket prices…

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