All-inclusive resorts can make expensive Caribbean islands affordable

We spend a lot of time in this column discussing the cheaper options for all-inclusive resorts, mostly because so many people are looking for deals these days. But there are also plenty of people who have more money to spend on a holiday and they just want to get the best value along the way. For those people we have a strategy to consider when looking for a Caribbean destination.

The cheapest Caribbean islands

Okay, so we’ve established that you might want to go to a place that’s a little more upscale than the cheapest islands in the Caribbean. Even on those islands, which are the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, there are pockets of really posh resorts, but they don’t feel as exclusive as some of the smaller islands. So for now we’ll avoid Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.

Get great value at some expensive islands by going all-inclusive

Surveys have shown that the most expensive (and exclusive) islands in the Caribbean include St. Croix, St. Thomas, and Antigua, among others. For these islands you will usually spend a minimum of US$200 per night on a hotel, even a 3-star that isn’t directly on a beach. For a really nice beachfront resort you’ll be looking at a minimum of US$300 per night for two people, and that’s without any meals or activities aside from use of sun loungers.

However, each of these islands also has a small number of all-inclusive resorts on the beaches, and you can find room rates also starting at around US$300 per night for two people, but of course this includes all food and drinks. For islands like St. Croix, you’ll be mixing with the beautiful people, and interesting people from around the world. In Jamaica you’d be staying in a room next to 4 frat brothers in a weeklong drinking contest, so there is a big difference in the experience.

What makes the expensive islands expensive

Unless you’ve studied the economics of it you might not realize that all-inclusive resorts can offer much more for a lower price and still be profitable. They typically include buffets at least twice a day, and it might only take 10 employees to prepare food for 200 guests, where at a la carte restaurants they’d need at least 25 employees for the same people.

Also, for buffets they can buy large quantities of foods at lower prices, so even if people eat more the food costs them less. Between the cost of the labor and the food, all-inclusive resorts are just more efficient, and they pass those savings along in lower prices.

So if you are on Antigua you will probably be paying US$15 per person for 2 eggs, bacon, and toast, and that’s true at neighborhood restaurants as well. For lunch you’ll spend at least the same, or more if you want something local and special, and for dinner you’d be spending US$30 per person for a desirable entree and a starter. So that’s a minimum of $120 per couple just eating basic food and having no drinks.

If you like to drink on vacation, as many of us do, it gets much worse. Even a local beer in the Caribbean is usually $5, and anything else except rum cocktails will cost closer to $10 or more. In other words, if you got a $200 hotel room in St. Thomas, and ate and drank like people prefer to do on holidays, you’d spend at least $400 per night. Compare that to $300 per night for a beach resort where you eat and drink all you please and you’ll realize that all-inclusive resorts are a great stategy to help you mingle with a higher class group of people on vacation.