Timing is Everything
We have all seen the commercials advertising those fantastic beach resorts. The reality is they are not always as luxurious as they appear to be. These all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean Islands come in all shapes and sizes with a range of prices. Just like anything else, some are good and some are not so good. It’s hard to tell until you get there, and then usually it’s too late to do much about it. This is where an inside scoop can really give you an edge.
I’ll start with what my wife and I like to call the “big pumpers”. They got the nickname because every morning around 11:00 am the beach music starts pumping out from giant speakers. These are your top brand name, four star rated, all-inclusive resort chains with hundreds of rooms. If you are just starting to explore a new island, then these are not a bad option. For some vacationers, this is the only way to go. They check in and never leave the compound during their entire stay. There is a lot to be said for that strategy in some places in the Caribbean however, I personally prefer to mix it up more with the local establishments and experience their culture.
The thing about “all you can eat” buffets that always gets me is the notion that you have to get your money’s worth. I find the all-inclusive resorts tend to produce the same mindset. They don’t have to. There are some places in Caribbean like Jamaica or St. Thomas that I love going to an all-inclusive type of resort just because they do tend have better beaches. Typically these beaches are developed from premier piece of property, manicured and well maintained. Also, it’s easy to walk down from your room and throw a towel over a nice spot on the beach to chill out and launch amphibious assaults from. You will want to lay claim to a chair sooner rather than later. These can fill up quickly in the peak seasons and some resorts literally sell out their beach to cruise ships. Next it off to my next favorite thing about these big resorts, breakfast. I love a great breakfast buffet 1st thing in the morning to start the day. Especially when there is a mimosa bar! Be sure to save some room for lunch at snack bar by the pool that is usually open all day and some places all night for your convenience.
Finally, after a hard day of laying around in the sun and eating, it’s time to rinse off the salt and get cleaned up for the main event which is dinner. This is when I recommend you look for alternatives to go off the reservation. There are usually really great local places at which to eat that are well worth the price of a meal and a few drinks. You can grab a cab from the lobby of most resorts or sometimes just head out walking. Enjoy the atmosphere there once you do find a cool spot, have a few drinks, and hang out. You never know when you are going stumble across the best little place and have just an awesome time where you can meet new friends and the local staff there that end up making it so special.
The next best thing to the big name resorts are the boutique resorts. These are typically smaller, more intimate with far less rooms. Usually they with have a single pool and a restaurant for guests that may or may not be included in the price. These are a great option for somewhere like St. Lucia that has a lot of coastal beaches to go around. The staff at these facilities is generally more inviting and I tend to develop more of a relationship with them during my stay. I prefer this type of property if it has a nice beach since it frees up options after sunset to go and do other things without feeling like you need to stay put and get your money’s worth. There are a few of these type hotels still on my list to scout out on the cliffs in the Negril so stay tuned.