Randy and I have never considered ourselves resort people. Our first trip together was to a resort in Cuba, and although we enjoyed it, we knew it wasn’t for us. This was confirmed a few years ago in Mexico. When the opportunity arose to attend a resort wedding in Costa Rica we decided to go (Randy was the best man), but we’ve learned from our past. This time, we did it differently.
Everyone seems to think that resorts come pre-packaged; flight, airport transfer, 7 nights, airport transfer, flight home. This doesn’t have to be the case. Most resorts are like any other hotel and offer per-night lodging. Rather than confine ourselves to the resort for an entire week we chose 4 nights, after which we left the resort and travelled on our own. We also rented a car, allowing us the freedom to come and go as we pleased.
Our Costa Rican resort experience
We picked up our car from the airport and drove almost 2 hours to the resort. After narrowly missing a large reptile as it scurried across the road, we settled into an easy drive through the countryside. It was a lot more arid than I had expected. I just assumed the whole country was dense green jungle, highlighting my ignorance. It was the very end of dry season. Many of the trees were devoid of leaves and the grass was golden brown. The cattle in the fields reminded me more of the Arizona desert than a jungle.
The last 20km of our drive took 40min, winding down a bumpy gravel road, carrying us further and further away from everything. It was isolated. Thank goodness we rented a car!
Upon arriving at the resort I was content in the fact that we were only spending four nights. I can understand why people like resorts. They’re easy. Food’s available whenever you want it. There’s always someone close at hand to grab you a drink. The pool and beach are a short walk away. It’s incredibly relaxing, if a tad boring. Being forced into relaxation isn’t a bad thing, it just doesn’t feel like travelling.
It helped being part of a group. The days were broken up between couple time and group time ensuring that it didn’t become too monotonous. We relaxed on the beach and read by the pool, went snorkelling, drove into La Cruz for a wander around town, and enjoyed wedding festivities. All-in-all it was relaxing and should’ve been enjoyable. I always seemed to have an uneasy feeling, and I’ve figured out why.
The things that bother me at a resort
There are a few different things that bother me being at an all-inclusive resort. First, is the incredible excess and wastefulness that occurs. Everyone is paying for an all-inclusive, so they tend to order more food and more drinks than are actually needed, much of which is wasted. Many resorts are located in countries where a large portion of the population lives well below the poverty line. It seems wrong to gorge on food and throw large portions away when families down the street may not get enough dinner.
Second, is the treatment of staff. I don’t think that the staff are treated poorly, or unfairly, it’s more the expectation of them. I feel like we arrive as foreign tourists and expect the local staff to do our bidding, much like servants. I understand why this happens. It’s expensive to be at the resort and there’s the expectation that it’s a vacation so no one wants to do anything themselves! It seems as though we invade and act superior to the locals. Guests are annoyed when a staff member is unable to speak English, and expect a $5 tip to ensure their cup never goes empty. This just bothers me.
This is not travelling
The last thing that I don’t like is that a resort doesn’t feel like travelling. Spending a week at a resort in Cuba, or Mexico, or Costa Rica, is not really seeing the country. It doesn’t matter where you are if all you see is the inside of a resort. Sure, there might be an excursion or two, but there’s not much culture. Our resort had three restaurants; Japanese, Italian and Mexican. Last time I checked we weren’t in any of these countries! What happened to the local food? The restaurants and menus were surprisingly similar to the Dreams resort we visited in the Mayan Riviera. The only interaction with any locals is when asking a staff member to do something. Travelling is about experiencing other people, places and cultures. A resort is NOT travelling!
I travel for the culture and the food! Lounging by the pool while someone brings me a drink is lovely and relaxing, but it’s not why I travel. The worst part is that I enjoy it for a couple days. It’s a short-lived guilty pleasure. This is why I love to hate resorts. I don’t want to like it because of all the things that drive me nuts, but I enjoy it a little bit regardless, probably because without the forced relaxation I would never actually relax.