We spend a lot of time on this site discussing all-inclusive resorts, but we realize that they aren’t the best option for everyone. For those who don’t drink alcohol, or at least much alcohol, they are often a bad deal. With this in mind we’ve pointed out quite a few times that many resorts offer both options, and we’ll call these “hybrid resorts.”
Hybrid resorts are the perfect choice for groups, where maybe a few couples are interested in an all-inclusive holiday while another few couples prefer to pay for food and drinks a la carte. These are actually the best deals for the a la carte guests, as we’ll explain below. The bottom line is, if you are part of a group that are all interested in the all-inclusive option, you are better off in a fully all-inclusive resort.
The all-inclusive option is usually overpriced
Having spent hundreds of hours researching this kind of thing, I can confidently say that you get better value if you book into a fully all-inclusive resort. For example, in an affordable destination like Negril or Puerto Plata, you can find a hotel room on or near the beach for as little as around US$70 per night in high season. Often these include breakfast, although in that price range you won’t be getting much luxury or even modern conveniences.
You can find hybrid resorts in the same price range, and they typically charge around US$250 per night for the exact same room for two people with the all inclusive option. It varies between US$150 and US$220 per night to add 3 meals a day and unlimited drinks for two people, which isn’t actually a bad deal itself. However, there are better options.
In these same towns or elsewhere in Jamaica or the Dominican Republic you can actually find all-inclusive resorts with rooms that start around US$160 per night for two people. Ocho Rios has a few of these where for around US$160 per night you get a nice room on the beach AND all inclusive food and drinks. Compared to the places where it’s an optional add-on, this is a much better deal.
It’s about economies of scale
The reason these fully all-inclusive resorts are almost always a better deal is that it’s cheaper them to buy large quantities of some food and drink items compared to small quantities of many more items. In other words, a resort can prepare a buffet with 20 options for an average of under US$10 per person, even if they have to buy a lot because people stuff themselves. But if they had to buy small quantities of 50 different items to go on a standard menu, it actually costs more.
The hybrid resorts actually have to do both styles. They buy large quantities of some things, and still have to buy small quantities of many other things. As a result, they have to charge more. The same goes for alcohol. They can buy 100 cases per week of local beer at a low price, but if they had to buy 3 cases of 10 different beers instead, the price would be higher.
The bottom line is, if you are going along with people who are all interested in an all-inclusive resort, whether it’s 2 people or 20, you are better off searching for places where that’s the only option.