It can be confusing to select and book an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean and Mexico -- especially since many chains feature multiple properties on one site. For example, IBEROSTAR in Riviera Maya is actually five properties: Grand Hotel Paraiso (adults only), Paraiso Maya, Paraiso Lindo, Paraiso Beach and Paraiso del Mar. What's the difference between each one and how do you select the best property for your family?
All-inclusive chains offer various price points at different properties, with the most budget-friendly hotels typically offering less inclusive options. Each resort within a resort actually features its own lobby, check-in desk and concierge, but may share amenities and facilities with another or multiple resorts.
For example, at the aforementioned IBEROSTAR in Riviera Maya, the Paraiso Beach and Paraiso del Mar share restaurants and a kids' club, and are the most basic properties. Guests of the Beach and del Mar are regulated to mostly buffet dining and allowed one a la carte restaurant dining experience per three-night stay. If you stay six nights, you'll receive two dinner reservations. These hotels provide Wi-Fi in common areas and the lobby, but not in guestrooms, and the pools provide less cabanas and chair options. Guests of these properties are not allowed to dine in the Maya and Lindo properties, and they cannot utilize the pools and kids' programs for those properties. Guests wear color-coded bracelets that discern guests from each other.
Paraiso Maya and Paraiso Lindo, on the other hand, are more expensive, and guests of these properties are welcome in all areas of the resort, have in-room Wi-Fi, and may dine without restrictions in any of the a la carte restaurants.
Paraiso Del Mar
Paraiso Del Mar
Within each resort are varying room budgets. The cheapest rooms are those furthest from the beach and pools, typically offering views of gardens and landscape. The closer to a beach or pool, the more you will pay for the same size room, with oceanfront rooms being the most expensive.
Oceanfront rooms are rooms that directly face the ocean. Ocean view rooms are rooms that have a slight view of the ocean; as long as there is a glimpse of the ocean, it can be called an ocean view room. Walkout rooms are rooms with terraces that walk-out to the beach or the pool. These can be convenient for families with small kids and strollers. Garden view rooms, sometimes golf course view rooms, do not have views of the water, but typically provide decent views. Resort view rooms are often the least desired, as they do not have views and you may end up looking at walls.
Most all-inclusive resorts offer a choice of one king bed and a sofa bed or two queen beds to sleep a maximum of four people. Connecting rooms cannot be confirmed at booking, so families who need more space will need to splurge on family suites, which are guaranteed connecting rooms traditionally offered in one particular resort and typically at a higher price point.
What's Not Included
All-inclusive means you will receive most food, drink, amenities and accommodations, but not all. There may be fine dining establishments that are not included in a stay. Premium beverages (wine, top shelf liquors, etc.) may also come at an additional fee.
Kids' programming, theater, entertainment, and such are often included. However, infants and children under 4 may not be welcome without parent at kids' clubs, so if you are interested in babysitting services, this will be an additional fee and can be arranged with the help of concierge for in-room service. There are resorts with infant services included, such as Paradisus Resorts, so search those with infant programming if this is needed.
Golf and spa services are never included in a resort stay, and guests who want to use a spa's hot tub, steam room and other amenities will have to pay a day fee, although fitness centers are included.
On the beach, non-motorized water sports are typically included, when offered. This can be snorkel gear, paddleboards, kayaks and even Hobie Cats. SCUBA, motorized boats, fishing and sailing trips will be additional. Some resorts feature beach and pool cabanas and may or may not include them in all-inclusive rates.
How to Book the Right Resort
When on resort websites, it may be difficult to discern the difference between the resorts, which is why Family Vacation Critic has created reviews of properties within properties that we have personally toured. These reviews will provide links to the other properties to help families understand the differences. Travel agencies often can help with the planning and booking, as well. Before booking on a website, you may want to contact the resort directly to ask about the differences between its group properties and decide which is best for your family.
More From Family Vacation Critic:
10 Best All-Inclusive Mexico Family Resorts for 2015
10 Best All-Inclusive Caribbean Family Resorts for 2015
All Inclusive Chains: Which One Is Best for Your Family?
Understanding All Inclusive Resorts
Written by Lissa Poirot