All-Inclusive is a pretty big claim to make, especially when you start thinking about what the word all is supposed to mean. Most of these mega resorts consider it to mean limitless eating and drinking and access to a set of core features including tennis courts and kids clubs. More often than not, they charge premiums for extras like diving, jet skis, spa-pampering and other exciting type things. Besides the size of the chandelier in the lobby, the AI's generally distinguish themselves by where they draw the line in their definition of the word all. If you are headed down this path, make sure that your expectations line up with the resort's dictionary.
If you've been to an AI elsewhere, then you'll know what to expect here. The idea is to leave your wallet in your room and never leave the premises. The Bahamas, Jamaica, Mexico... they all offer the same type of vacation. Sure, there are degrees of service and quality, but the formula remains the same. We have actually met All-Inclusive guests here in Playa del Carmen that were confused enough about their whereabouts to think they were in Cancun. If the pampered beach holiday is what you're looking for, Playacar is great. It is established and only a few minutes from downtown Playa. Be wary of AI's 'minutes away' from town along the Mayan Riviera. Some offer 'too good to be true' specials when they first open to get their occupancy rolling. Sometimes these pioneering tourists find themselves isolated in half-baked projects with details still being worked out.
You'll wear a plastic ID bracelet which is your ticket to all the food and drink you can pack in. Some AI's offer top-shelf alcohol while others limit the choices to low-buck domestic rot-gut. The same goes for the food, so shop wisely. Here's a typical layout: There's a snack bar by the pool, a huge buffet in the main cafeteria and an a-la-carte restaurant for that special dinner (reservation only). The snack bar and buffet faithfully reproduce the foods that you liked/disliked from the day before. Some of the AI's crank out amazing amounts of fantastic food while others will leave you craving actual flavor. The big speakers by the pool announce the next animation activity coordinated by the entertainment crew, whose job it is to keep your holiday spirits correctly trimmed. Be sure to keep that ID visible at all times, or the typically uptight security team may confuse you with an outsider and you don't want that to happen. With hundreds of rooms they can't be expected to remember people's faces.
PlayaInfo is not focused on the All-Inclusive scene. We do not have detailed knowledge on the individual resort's service level or quality of food. Partly this is because we never visit them, as they are for guests only. But mostly because PlayaInfo supports and promotes the smaller hotels and restaurants in the town of Playa del Carmen. We do welcome you to participate on our special All Inclusive Forum to talk to others who may know more.
Not all All Inclusives have a time share program, but certainly enough of them do to justify a comment here. You may be approached in your resort or on the streets of Playa del Carmen and invited to a free lunch and a tour at a resort. Sometimes they throw in a bottle of tequila or a give you a rental car for a bargain. I'm not saying the gifts are worthless, but remember this - there is no such thing as a free lunch. In return for your gifts, you will have to spend some of your vacation time with the time share people. The game is to keep you as long as possible, so that they will have ample time to sell their product. Now, we are not saying that time share is a bad product, nor a good one. It's up to you to decide if it works for your way of vacationing. The programs also differ from resort to resort. Be sure of two things - the presentation is nothing else than a sales opportunity and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Just make sure to read the contract very carefully.