Fact or Fiction: The Truth about All-Inclusive Resorts

Writen by Matthew Long, Landlopers.com

I’m guilty. I’m guilty of forming opinions about certain experiences before I actually do them. I know I’m not alone, because whenever I talk to someone about travel I hear the same refrain, “Oh, I don’t like all-inclusive resorts, well I don’t think I do, I’ve never actually been to one.” I get so confused when I hear statements like that because vacationing at all-inclusive resorts is one of my favorite travel styles. So I’m here to set the record straight, address some concerns I have heard and share with you the best ways to truly enjoy an all-inclusive vacation. 

Photo Credit: Matthew Long

1. As active as you want to be – As an active, independent traveler, I always make sure that there’s plenty to keep me occupied when I travel. A popular misconception of all-inclusive resorts is that aside from the beach and pool, there’s nothing to do. Like any other travel style though, guests can be as active or as lazy as they want, depending on their mood. I recently visited the beautiful Dreams Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, which works hard to keep guests entertained. Sure, there is an amazing beach and several pools and believe me, I made good use of them. But they also help you coordinate city tours, snorkeling excursions, whale watching expeditions – anything you want to do, you can have arranged. You can even stay active without even leaving the resort itself. Every day at Dreams there was a full schedule of events for every interest and activity level, from Spanish lessons, baby turtle releases and jet skiing. Of course a day or two doing nothing but lounging by the pool isn’t bad either.

Photo Credit: Mattew Long

2. What about the food? – Food is important when we travel, in fact it may be the most important part of the travel experience. We all have to eat and we want every meal to be good and hopefully memorable. Not every all-inclusive resort is made the same, which is why I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food offerings at the Dreams Resort & Spa in Puerto Vallarta. First, Dreams doesn’t rely on endless buffets to feed people, sacrificing quality for quantity. Yes, there are buffet options for breakfast and lunch, but guests aren’t limited to those choices. At lunch and dinner, the amazing Dreams restaurants are open for delicious and reservation-free dining. Every day during my stay I was constantly surprised at how good and interesting the food was. There were regional favorites, standard classics and innovative new dishes created by the chefs just for the Dreams experience. The minds behind the Dreams menus realize the importance of food in the travel experience and instead of giving it a marginal position, they have elevated it to the forefront where it belongs.

Photo Credit: Matthew Long

3. Luxury – When one thinks of luxury, images of private planes and huge yachts come to mind, but what doesn’t always (but should) come to mind are all-inclusive resorts. I was skeptical too, but Dreams Puerto Vallarta convinced me that a popular resort and luxury travel can definitely walk hand in hand. Luxurious rooms, high quality amenities and great food are all necessary for a memorable luxury travel experience, but the most important factor are the employees. Hotels and resorts don’t get a lot of breaks and one bad experience with one guest can ruin their name. For high-end luxury properties, it is crucial that their employees are perfect, nothing less is really acceptable. Dreams realizes this and everyone I met inPuerto Vallarta epitomized this devotion to creating a quality and memorable vacation experience for their guests. Whether it’s someone handing you a towel as you walk out the door, or a concierge who goes to great lengths to help you with a travel challenge, the interactions all combine to create a feeling of individual care and attention.

Photo Credit:Matthew Long

4. What about kids? – This is a double edged sword. Vacation goers divide into two camps: those with kids and those without. The guests with kids want to make sure they aren’t alone and that there’s plenty for their children to do while on a trip. Those without children sometimes don’t want to be bothered by a lot of screaming kids when they vacation. I kept this in mind as I walked around the Dreams Puerto Vallarta property and I was honestly impressed by what I saw. There were plenty of kids, but it was never overwhelming and for most of the day they were occupied with the Explorer’s Club for Kids, any one of the countless activities or hanging out at the family friendly pool area. I also saw plenty of couples who were perfectly content in the adults only pool area, the beach bar or just on snoozing next to the roaring ocean. From a personal point of view, I myself was never bothered or inconvenienced by the presence of kids and was happy to see so many of them truly enjoying their time at the resort. Managing expectations for these two very different types of travelers is a challenge for any property, but it seems to me that Dreams has mastered it. 

Photo Credit: Matthew Long

5. Local community – Travel isn’t only about relaxing on the beach and getting away from it all. A truly great trip is about exploration and education; learning more about the local destination you are visiting. This is always at the top of my list and was honestly a concern as I began my stay at Dreams. Fusing local culture and color though is integral to the Dreams experience, as I soon learned. My first encounter was my first night at the resort when the evening entertainment was a Mexican dinner followed by a show of Mexican dancers, singers and other assorted performers. I know what you’re thinking, it sounds hokey, but it really wasn’t. The food wasn’t Tex-Mex, it was real, honest to goodness (and delicious) Mexican cuisine, and the entertainment wasn’t of the Disney variety, it sparkled with local pride and talent. Throughout the weekend I was amazed at the infusion of the local Puerto Vallarta community at the resort with local artists, menu additions and interactions with staff. It’s also very easy to hop in a cab and spend the day or evening in downtown Puerto Vallarta itself, combining the best of both worlds.

I hope this has helped dispel some misconceptions about the all-inclusive experience. I love them for their ability to fuse relaxation, luxury and exploration all in one great travel adventure.

 What’s your favorite aspect of the all-inclusive experience?

About our guest blogger:

Matthew Long, Editor-in-Chief and creator of LandLopers.com, has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Matt is a Lonely Planet Featured Blogger, a contributor to many other travel sites and publications including Dabble Magazine. Matt’s site LandLopers.com is listed in the Top 100 Travel Blogs, Top 100 Independent Travel Blogs, Most Influential Online Travel Personalities and Washington Flyer’s Top 100 Travel Blogs. You can also find him on Twitter: @LandLopers and Facebook: Facebook.com/LandLopers

23 thoughts on “Fact or Fiction: The Truth about All-Inclusive Resorts

  1. Enjoyed your write up on this resort. We stayed there in October 2011 and LOVED it! All inclusive is the only way to travel, no money worries and the staff at this resort were fantastic!

    • Really enjoyed your story! We stayed there in January 2011 and plan to return this March because we LOVED it so much! This resort offers the best in an “all-inclusive” property with excellent food, good service and amazing amenities!

  2. We stayed in October for our daughter Amanda’s destination wedding. I was very impressed myself with all of the resort’s ameneties.The food was tremendous. I would go back in a heartbeat. We did go on a swimming with the dolphins excursion that the resort booked on our behalf. It was well worth it. I highly recommend this resort to people of all ages. Youngest in our total group was infant, eldest 65+.

  3. We stayed at Dreams PVR in Aug. 2011 and had a wonderful time. The Rhythms of the Night is a must and the city and mountain tour was great also. The resort needs some updating but the staff, service, entertainment, food and drinks were top of anywhere that we have stayed. We are both looking to return and also stay at other Dreams resorts.

  4. I am not an all-inclusive kind of traveller. We have 3 young children and really enjoy having a place with a kitchen so we can cook for ourselves and do not have to sit in a restaurant every meal. Our kids are well behaved, but over the course 7-14 days it is alot to ask of children to be good 3 times a day. That all being said, I really enjoyed our stay at Dreams. The restaurant food was great and speedy.The staff was really friendly and accomodating I thought it was a good idea to have adult only areas, because sometimes I wanted to go there to get away from my kids haha. The beach is amazing and the pools were great for the kids, and we spent at least 4 hours a day in the pool.
    I may not go to an all inclusive resort for awhile, but if I do, it will be at one of the Dreams resorts.

  5. Our next trip to Dreams Resort/Spa in Puerto Vallarta will be our #10 time in the last 4 years,and it just keeps getting better,you don’t know what you miss if you never go!, its the People there who work so very hard to make your trip the best ,if you have any problem,do not return.. DTS111

  6. Wow, love the responses and thank you! The one thing that stuck with me is how loyal people are to Dreams. I spoke with a lot of guests and most of them were repeat guests. For people with only a few weeks (at best) a year of vacation, that’s the best testimonial.

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  8. We were there in Oct. 2011 also. We still miss it today. The Dreams experience is one to be experienced by all. Top notch staff, accomodations, food and fun. The water is beautiful, the private beach, priceless. We will certainly go back as soon as we can.

  9. Cathy – yes, I was in the Preferred Club tower and was really impressed by the offerings. The rooms were amazing and service outstanding. Add to that free wifi, snacks, easy to grab breakfast in the lobby, etc. and it was a great experience. Actually on Thursday on LandLopers.com I’ll be publishing my full review of the resort, include photos of both standard and junior suites.

  10. We are trying to decide whether to go to this resort in April. It took some pretty bad hits on Trip Advisor but after having been to their fb page and reading your review, you’ve made a strong case for going. We’ve never been to an AI and hope it’s a great experience! Will look forward to your full review on Thursday!

  11. Agree! Spot on review regarding Dreams Puerto Vallarta! Attentive staff, diverse & plentiful food options, authentic entertainment, close cab ride to a culturally rich and vibrant downtown and a relaxed, unpretentious all inclusive vibe! Was honored to be the Guest Yoga Instructor on premises last week..my husband & I were honored to share yoga on the beach while meeting so many fabulous people on vacation at this lovely resort!

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