An all inclusive resort holiday — to some, it sounds like holiday heaven on Earth. To others, it sounds like a waste of vacation days. Until recently, I wavered between the two without having any actual experience to base my opinions on. Sure, I went on an all inclusive cruise with my mom and loved it, but we were busy with shore excursions and activities every day — not to mention it was a high-end, luxury brand. Would I enjoy a value-based, beachfront all-inclusive resort?
For the past few years, my girlfriends have been campaigning for just that. Typically we all head to Myrtle Beach together in the summer, but lately they’ve been sending me great deals on all inclusive package holidays that are pretty competitive with what we spend for a week in Myrtle, anyway. Still, I’ve been hesitant. So when The Grand Mirage invited me to come to their resort and try out the all inclusive experience in Bali, I jumped at the chance to see how this type of vacation worked for me.
After leaving Ubud, Anders and I set off for Nusa Dua, the area of South Bali known for wall-to-wall resorts. We checked into The Grand Mirage for a four nights all inclusive experiment.
The Grand Mirage has a total of 301 rooms and suites, three on-property restaurants, a large pool, and half a kilometer of beachfront. Having stayed at mega-resorts like The Atlantis in the Bahamas, I was actually surprised at how manageable and intimate the Grand Mirage felt.
The rooms at Grand Mirage are very comfortable and well sized for two people to spread out and feel at home. Our first night we were placed in a ground floor room which I really disliked due to the lack of privacy. When we moved upstairs I was much happier — I could keep the balcony doors open at all times to let in light without worrying about someone peeking in the room. The ocean views made me smile every time, as did the live orchid plant in every room.
While the standard rooms were, well, a high level of standard, I was able to peek into a suite at one point. The suites appear to have been renovated and updated recently and are very stylish and modern. The hotel was at full capacity while we were there, but I would recommend springing for the upgrade to anyone considering the Grand Mirage.
Food is obviously a huge part of the all inclusive experience. It’s nice not only to not have to pull out cash at every meal and also to let go of the (admittedly self-imposed) pressure to research the trendiest restaurants and the best value breakfasts. As someone who is normally on a budget, I definitely factor in prices when deciding on what to order at a restaurant, and it was such a nice feeling to realize I was deciding with my stomach rather than my wallet.
The Grand Mirage has four dining options. Our favorite was Jukung Grill, shown above. It had beautiful ocean views, steak on the menu for dinner, and a delicious banana spring roll dessert. We also liked Grand Cafe, which served breakfast each morning and had buffets for lunch and dinner. One night we had dinner at Chopsticks, which is at a sister resort but is also included in the Grand Mirage package. There was a set Chinese menu that we were able to pick options from — we loved it! (Also, Bintang lovers will not this is the only restaurant where you can get the classic Bali beer as opposed to the cheaper local brands served at Grand Mirage.) The fourth restaurant, La Cascata, we never tried — the dining room looked a little stuffy and the menu wasn’t too enticing. Still, there was enough variety between the restaurants and menus that I could have been very happy eating at Grand Mirage for a week without feeling stifled. Anders has stayed at several all inclusives around Europe and was very impressed with Grand Mirage’s offerings in comparison.
One touch that I loved about Grand Mirage was that the mini bar and room service were also included. When I was a kid and staying in hotels with my parents, mini bars and room service were the ultimate life indulgence and that mentality has stuck with me to today. We had dinner in bed one night watching movies and breakfast on our balcony our last morning, and both were such luxuries.
room service dessert binge!
room service breakfast on the balcony
One thing that always made me hesitant about an all inclusive was thinking I would get bored within the confines of a gated resort. I tend to be pretty active and adventurous, and I like to spend my travels scuba diving and biking and jumping out of places! But I was reminded of a very important lesson at Grand Mirage: everyone needs a holiday sometimes.
Because there were plenty of activities at the Grand Mirage. Free use of non-motorized watersports, plenty of paid options to Jetski and Banana Boat around, and daily offering of everything from bike tours to yoga. But if our four nights there, we shifted into vacation mode immediately and couldn’t really muster the energy to do anything more intensive than debate whether to go to the pool bar or sit on the beach. In our defense, we accomplished one thing — playing tennis on the free courts.
Along with food, unlimited alcohol seems to be an integral part of the all inclusive experience. Again, it was wonderful to be able to order a cocktail without wondering about my bank balance and fretting about my cash levels — alcohol can be a huge drain on a travelers’ budget. It felt so deliciously indulgent to sit on the beach in the middle of the day and work our way through the cocktail menu.
Recently Grand Mirage has adjusted their all inclusive menu, and wine and premium beers like Bintang are no longer included. That’s a shame because sometimes I was a little bit over the sugary cocktails and would have loved a glass of white wine with dinner. But we did love our pina coladas by the pool, and our rum runners on the beach!
I have thoroughly documented my spa addiction on this blog, so it should come as no surprise that when the Thalasso Spa in the Grand Mirage invited us to experience a couple’s massage treatment I almost knocked Anders over on my way out the door. While certainly more expensive than other locations in Bali, Thalasso is still a deal compared to hotel spas back in the West, with massages starting at $48 for an hour. My masseuse was insanely talented — I wanted to cry when I woke up at the end and realized I had slept through the last twenty minutes (note to self: go easy on the cocktails before heading to the spa).
I realize that the demographics of every all inclusive is different. Some are more singles and nightlife based, others are geared more towards families, and others still are more couple-y and honeymoon focused. Grand Mirage is definitely geared mostly towards families, though we did see couples and groups of young people around as well.
Unless we were seated at the swim up bar, Anders and I mostly avoided the munchkin brigade by favoring the beach instead of the pool. And as we were drinking throughout the day, we actually really enjoyed taking it easy at night. At one point I noted an unexpected perk of the all-inclusive — when we weren’t worrying about where to eat or what to do or how to allocate our budget, we were able to enjoy some serious us-time that led to great conversations and treasured memories.
I confess — I really liked it.
Would I want to travel this way all the time? No. If I only had a few days a year to travel, is this how I would spent them? Probably not. But as someone who has the flexibility to travel often, I enjoyed the indulgence of a few days that were not spent traveling but truly vacationing. Setting aside time to not worry about absorbing new cultures or climbing new mountains or conquering language barriers and to instead just focus on relaxation and relationships was absolutely a gift. I can definitely see myself rotating this all inclusive thing into my travels every few years.
Of course, there are trade offs. All inclusives are typically based on value for the masses and getting a good deal. I might be broke but I’m still a design snob, and some of the common areas are looking a bit dated and could use renovation. But you know? This kind of trip is not about Architectural Digest award-winning rooms. It’s about being a little buzzed and laughing in the afternoon sun with your toes in the sand, ordering the entire dessert menu from room service at midnight, and having deep conversations over dinner without worrying about how to split a bill. Full tummies, good friends, great times, no stresses.
Next time my girlfriends back home email me the link to an all inclusive deal, I’ll be happy to sign up. Maybe it will even be back at The Grand Mirage.
Have you ever stayed at an all inclusive? What were your thoughts and impressions?
All inclusive rooms start at $235 per night. Many thanks to the Grand Mirage for their hospitality. While I was a guest of the resort, as always all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Alex I don’t think I’ve ever stayed awake through an entire massage in my life! What can you do? the whole point is to make you completely relaxed!
Haha that is one way to look at it! I do try to stay away though so I can enjoy every minute 🙂
Great post. I’ve done the all inclusive thing on non-dive vacations and dive vacations. I love them for dive vacations as they’re easy and low hassle. The only thing I will say is that if food is a big thing for you, the all inclusive food can kind of run together in terms of tasting the same.
I’ve done a diving liveaboard, which is kind of the same in terms of being low hassle. But I’ve never tried an all inclusive dive vacation… sounds like something I should try!
aww you guys look so happy!I stayed at an all-inclusive hotel my first time in sri lanka.It was such a great deal (I think 14days with half-board and flights for 1000$)and we also had ocean-front rooms, yummy breakfasts and dinners.We were lucky as they had a diving and surfing school on their property, so we never got bored.But we enjoyed only having breakfast and dinner included because that meant that we could explore the town for lunch options. And because we had such a good deal we decided to not use our rooms for 4 nights and booked a driver and went on a 4day trip around the country to actually see more than just the beach.(which again was incredibly cheap at 200$ per person) I think this was one of my favourite trips so far and I’d totally go to an all-inclusive again but I think I would do the same and mix it up with some time spent outside of the resort.
Wow Caty that is an amazing deal! I can’t believe it included flights. See that’s what I mean… how can anyone turn their nose up at such a great value?
Isn’t it funny the conversations you can have when you’re not worrying about how much every second is costing? I’ve literally asked Ryan the stupidest (but funniest) questions because we’ve had so much time to just chat on this trip. My favorite was, “What was your favorite Pokemon when you were little?” Actually, that may be a sign that we need to talk to other people. Anyway, looked like these four days were absolute bliss!
Haha, I think that is a very important fact you should really know about your partner! 😛 But truly I agree… I loved all the random conversations we had here.
OK, how many years have I been trying to get you on a tennis court???? I’m half mad, half glad Anders managed to get a racquet in your hand…..
Actually I was the one who suggested it! The downside to unlimited food is you really need to keep yourself moving if you don’t want to pack on the pounds.
I’ve experienced all-inclusive resorts three times (all in Mexico). All-inclusive is very different from a type of vacation I like. But, it’s the most relaxing type. Sometimes I take it after my regular “adventure vacation” 🙂
Great post, Alex. Love the pics. You two look awesome together 😉
Ha yes, this was the perfect way to reward myself after five months of “adventuring!” I definitely never think of my usual travels as a vacation… but this totally was!
Alex, I really dont know how you got me to read a whole post about an all – inclusive but you just did. You have a gift! And believe me, my attention span for travel blogs is waning at the mo’… *overshare! It looked like you had a blast, with a special someone to share it with, even better. Bring on that dessert!
Ha, I am flattered I got you to the end 🙂 I know how you feel about travel blog burnout. It happens! But then when I’m planning a trip to somewhere new (ahem, right at this moment) and suddenly I can’t seem to find ANY blog posts about the place!
Wow! Sun, surf and those chocolate creams – what a deal 😀
Let’s just say it was a miracle that I managed to take a photo before raiding that chocolate cream tower 🙂
I have done both staying on a resort and staying off the resort. I found I had more fun off resort however that could also be the people I went with. More than 7 day on a resort drives me crazy. I like absorbing the culture of a place but like you said a few days of strictly relaxing is nice sometimes
I agree, I think anything over a week would be too much… though to my surprise we met people at Grand Mirage who were there for two weeks! I think for me five days would be perfect.
I would do an all inclusive, but probably not for more than 4-5 nights in a row… I have to say diving all inclusives really appeal to me though 🙂 I also think a resort marketed to backpackers would be pretty fun, I remember Christine from C’est Christine did one and it sounded awesome, for a few days of beach bumming at least! https://www.cestchristine.com/2012/04/jungle-beach-the-backpacker-all-inclusive-resort/
Wow, looks lovely! If I ever return to Vietnam I will definitely have to check that place out.
I have done an all inclusive in Cuba once. It was all right, but not great. The hotel was lovely and the beach was great, but seeing lots of overweight tourists piling up so much food on their plates that it almost spilled over, and then not eating it all, made me sad. Cubans live in food rations and you could tell that the waiters felt a bit upset when they saw all the food waste.
That does sound like an awkward situation. Maybe I just wasn’t looking properly, but I didn’t notice anyone going crazy at Grand Mirage with the food (okay, except for my own personal dessert binge!) Maybe it’s because there was only one buffet, and so lots of the meals were served a la carte from the restaurants.
I am not sure Anders was in enough pictures
He was my travel model!
I’ve stayed at the Grand Mirage shortly after their opening in summer 1994. So I went back more than 20 times since then. I love the Hotel.
Wow, twenty times! You must be their most loyal customer 🙂
I need this in my life. I have done all inclusive once before, when I was younger with my family, but would love to do it again now that I would be able to take advantage of the cocktails! Especially if it was somewhere as beautiful as this…
p.s. you may already have realised this, but Anders is TALL!
Yup, that is definitely where the value comes in! Like I said my girlfriends and I have looked at them in the Caribbean quite a bit. I had sticker shock at first but then I added up how much we spent on drinks, food, etc. even when we just go to Myrtle Beach. It’s pretty competitive!
Pretty pics, pretty girl and pretty eye candy 😉 I like that your +1 is getting more face time on the blog!
Haha, notice my Dad’s comment? I didn’t realize how much he was popping up in this post 🙂
How romantic! I’ve never been to an all-inclusive. But if I get invited one like this one, I am so in.
Girls weekend? Let’s do it 🙂
Hey Alex, you know what, taking a holiday from traveling sounds like a fantastic plan to me, and even better in a place like this one!
Yup… everyone needs a holiday, especially travel bloggers 🙂
I’ll take breakfast on the balcony! 😀
Or just any room with a view of the ocean 🙂
I have never been into the idea of a stereotypical all-inclusive (filled with stereotypical awful tourists!), but this one looks pretty damn good.
We didn’t interact too much with other guests at the resort, but the ones we met were super friendly and in great moods — why not, everyone is on holiday! 🙂
Thanks for you blog, we are planning our next vacation to this hotel, so I am glad that you really enjoy, We were think about no doing the all-inclusive, do you know if the price were reasonable? drinks? breakfast? dinner?
thank for sharing you experience and photos
I can’t wait to go
Hey Audrey! Unfortunately I didn’t really look at the prices (the joy of doing all inclusive!) and it seemed almost every person in the resort was on the all inclusive plan. I would guess however, that they are really not reasonable, as they want to encourage the AI program and want those on it to feel like they got a great value. Also, keep in mind there are not many restaurants nearby, so you’ll likely be eating in the resort the whole time anyway. Hope this helps!
WOW! It’s magnificent. I love it, and it’s such a special place to go!
Alex, amazing pictures, you’re really talented 😉
Thanks Badtunna! It’s a hard place to take a bad picture of 🙂