Travel Blog Post: Is the All-Inclusive Worth it in Riviera Maya?

Have you ever indulged in an all-inclusive experience?  Prior to 2019, I had never done one and wasn’t sure what to expect.  What is an all-inclusive?  It is when you stay at a hotel/resort and the food/drinks are all included with the room package.  We did an all-inclusive at Ocean Maya Royale, which included airfare, food, drinks, and nightly entertainment.  It was a good deal and perfect for a lazy, relaxing vacation.

When I usually travel, I go to a dynamic city, stay at an Airbnb and explore as much as I can.  Relaxing is usually not a priority.  Between the never-ending cold weather and a hectic work schedule, I was looking forward to a long-needed reprieve from everything and this vacation fulfilled my intense need!

Property

The resort is gorgeous with palm trees, animals I have never seen before, and corny Instagrammable signs to remind you that you’re on vacation!  They have two pools: a larger more chill one and the party one with bi-weekly foam parties.  They do have a beach as well, which is relaxing, but does have some seaweed and a noticeable smell, which I didn’t have a problem with.  If you want something less smelly, you can walk to other resort beachfronts from this beach, which is a lovely walk. 

The vast non-party pool.

The resort was very clean, our room was cleaned well and had a hot tub outside!  The walls are thin so if you are a light sleeper, bring a white noise machine and ear plugs.  Everyone who worked there smiled and said hi when we passed them, which was nice.  If you are an English-speaker but your Spanish isn’t up to par, most of the employees speak English.  Even though it is an all-inclusive, the expectation is that you still tip, which you can tip in U.S. Dollars if you don’t have Pesos.  The resort is a 25-minute drive from Playa del Carmen and is about a 45-minute drive from the Cancun airport.  My recommendation is to go to Playa del Carmen, rent a car, and take it to Tulum for a day.

The calm beach.

Food

I was hesitant to try an all-inclusive for a few reasons, one of them being the food situation.  I was anxious that it was going to be meat-centric and there wouldn’t be a lot of options for pescatarians/vegetarians.  The way the all-inclusive was set up was that it included access to anything at all of the five restaurants at the resort (with the exception of the fancy wines and liquors).  Some places were open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while other places were only open for dinner.  As a pescatarian (I eat pescatarian when I’m traveling and there are limited options) – the all-inclusive was a great deal.  There were plenty of options. 

Pretty queso that could have tasted better.

The lunch buffets (I wasn’t up for the breakfast buffets – I’m on vacation!) had a vast assortment of foods ranging from sushi to pizza to red fish curry.  Some of the food looked bad/not fresh such as the pizza and sushi, but all of the buffets had freshly made guacamole, black beans, a variety of mild and spicy salsas, and plentiful ceviche.  I cherished the fresh fruit, vegetables, and seafood that were served at the restaurants.  When it comes to the vegetarian options, there were far less so I wouldn’t say that it’s a good deal for vegetarians/vegans – though you can definitely customize them to be vegetarian/vegan.

The cake from La Hacienda.

Some dinners were delicious, while others were bland.  The service everywhere was excellent, and they were always quick to ask about food allergies.  The Italian restaurant, La Dolce Vita, was super bland.  While the caper dip was phenomenal – the food here was a general disappointment. On the other hand, the Mexican restaurant, La Hacienda, was quite tasty with a very well-balanced ceviche.  It had great hits of acid, yet was very delicate in flavor. 

Magic olive oil at Dolce Vita.

The queso incorporated sautéed vegetables, but it didn’t make much sense as a dish to me since it wasn’t truly mixed into the queso.  For the entrees, we had the Veracruz fish and Shrimp fajitas, both were simple, yet tasty and well-seasoned dishes.  Since it’s all-inclusive, why not do dessert?  We had the caramel crepe which was fine, but the caramel filling was a bit too overbearing and sugary.

Drinks

At every restaurant, you can get unlimited alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages such as wine, Margaritas, Mojitos, single shots, espresso, etc.  While I drank a decent amount, I never got super trashed because the drinks were not very strong and I was eating.  The drinks tended to be watery and sugary, but the Margaritas and Mojitos were refreshing and tasty.  They also have a coffee-shop, which is included in the all-inclusive so whenever you need some caffeine to wake up so you can drink all day at the beach, this is your spot! 

Enjoying the margarita at La Hacienda.

I did try a Strawberry Daiquiri and Pina Colada by the poolside beach – both were pretty sweet, but still fulfilled my dreams of drinking decadent, mixed drinks by the poolside.  If you wanted to get higher-shelf liquor, you had to have a special “privileged” wristband, which meant you spent more money for the all-inclusive.  I would say we’re pretty spoiled with an amazing cocktail and food scene in Chicago, but the food and drink situation was decent at our resort and I’d do it all over again for the refreshing mojitos, ceviche, and guacamole.

Entertainment

In addition to including food and beverages, the resort had daily and nightly entertainment ranging from foam parties to an Elvis impersonator.  The pool foam parties were reminiscent of an uncomfortable college spring break experience with dancers, top 40 hits from 3-5 years ago, and a lot of drunk people.  Our first night there, they had an impressive acrobatic show with extremely talented gymnasts, dramatic music, and eye-catching visuals.  Later that night they had karaoke with shockingly talented singers – my singing was definitely not up to par. 

On one of the nights, they had an Elvis impersonator, which was mildly depressing and humorous.  I did learn that Elvis did a song about “the ghettos of Chicago”, which was pretty random.  It felt like the entertainment most of the nights appealed to an older audience (50 and up), but it was still amusing to watch.  If you’re looking for more exciting entertainment, I would take the 25-minute cab ride to Playa del Carmen or take a day trip to Tulum, (which I will talk about more in my next post).

Overall Experience

The resort.

I’d do this all-inclusive experience all over again!  The main purpose of this trip was to relax, get away from the harsh Chicago winter, and swim – which I was able to do here.  The food and drink quality is average, but it’s nice to have so many convenient, unlimited options all day.  And since the weather is so lovely, it’s easy to walk some of these food/beverage items off. They do try to sell you tours/timeshare stuff, but we didn’t go to any of the “welcome meetings” so that is a great way to avoid being talked into something you don’t want to do.  We stayed for 5 days and 4 nights and didn’t feel bored at all.  We did take a day trip to Tulum and Playa del Carmen, which will be discussed in my blog post next week!  Stay tuned!

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