Is an All-Inclusive Resort Worth It?

With ordinary, long-term travel, you aren’t likely to stay at anything that could remotely be dubbed a “resort.”  Every dollar spent is another closer to needing to fly back home, so you aim to make it stretch as far as possible.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

But our trip to Costa Rica was to celebrate a big milestone, so it warranted a little splurge.  Furthermore, we’ve always wanted to experience the all-inclusive live – at least once – so we thought, why not?  The object of our splurge: The Doubletree Resort in Puntarenas (I know, one doesn’t typically think “Doubletree” and “resort” in the same phrase).

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

“All-inclusive” means simply that.  You pay a single price for each night’s stay, and that one cost covers everything you need: your room, all meals, and, quite commonly, unlimited alcohol.  Some resorts throw in additional perks like water sport equipment rentals (kayaks, surf boards, etc.), massages, or local tours.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

But how does that compare to simply paying for everything a la carte?

Our resort advertises rooms at $230 a night.  However, you get every 4th night free, so it pays to stay longer.  For the 7 nights we stayed, that averaged out to $197 per night.  Furthermore, bundling through an aggregate site like Expedia knocked it down even further to a smooth $128/night.  (I know, I know.. for those hardcore travelers out there, that’s still outrageous when we could probably spend $15/night at a hostel.  We were deliberately splurging on this trip.)

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Our resort included these major benefits:

  • Three buffet meals (actually excellent food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
  • Unlimited alcoholic beverages (though pretty weak on the spike)
  • Nightly hour-long shows (surprisingly high-quality dance and comedy)

There were a few other incidental benefits, but they’re negligible enough to not include in these calculations.


I conservatively estimate the following values:

  • Buffet meals: $20 per person X 11 visits
  • Drinks: $5 each (they really were quite weak) X maybe 6 per person per day (throughout the entire day, folks – they were WEAK)
  • Shows: $10 per person X 6 visits

We additionally took advantage of their reservation-only restaurants for two nights while we were there.  With menus such as these, and with each of us getting an appetizer, entree, dessert, and wine, we easily could have dropped more than $100 for each.  But like everything else, this was included in our nightly rate.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Therefore, doing the math, we would have spent somewhere around $1180 for our entire time there, which averages out to $169 per day.  For just the amenities.  Not including the actual room.  We paid $128 per day.  For everything.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Granted, each resort (and each country) is different.  As a point of comparison, we stayed at the Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii for our honeymoon, and rooms there are advertised at no less than $360 per night.  That resort was not all-inclusive (though the drinks were stronger), but it’s also in Hawaii – one of the most expensive vacation spots around.  We were much more conservative with our drinks (which were also much more expensive), and we ate away from the resort more than not.  We could have eaten and drunk our way out of house and home had we indulged as we did in Costa Rica.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

In short, going by just our experience, it was certainly financially worth it.  I would recommend the Doubletree in Puntarenas to anyone planning a visit to Costa Rica (and no, I sadly don’t get paid to say that).  The food was simply superb, the many pools were refreshing, and daily activities kept us entertained on the days we chilled at the resort.  Additionally, the premier Edificio 3 (Building 3) offered an exclusive pool, snacks and drinks hand delivered right to your beach chair, and unlimited visits to the fancy reservation-only restaurants.  The nightly shows were just the icing on the cake.  And at a price cheaper than most beach hotels in the summer, we certainly got our money’s worth!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I’d always suggest weighing the benefits and choosing what works best for you.

Have you had similar experiences at all-inclusive resorts?  We’d love to hear from you!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

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