The All-Inclusive Life at Villa del Palmar in Cabo

When our niece decided to hold her wedding in Cabo San Lucas, we knew our next vacation destination, and so the planning dance began for us.

We eventually settled on staying at Villa del Palmar, a sister of the more upscale Villa del Arco that my niece and her fiancee chose for their special wedding/honeymoon vacation.

The primary item in play was whether to do all-inclusive.  To me, it seemed like a no-brainer, since I know how quickly bills add up at a nice resort for items like Diet Cokes, Coronas and snacks, not to mention big meals.  Julie was convinced that since we could walk to town, we would find less expensive meals.  

My niece had actually selected the Villas because of the kitchenettes, allowing guests to stock the refrigerator and cook for themselves, something she considered important while traveling with their newborn daughter, Claire.  And yes,we could have shopped and cooked, but I do most of the cooking at home, and while I enjoy it, I don't particularly like cleaning up the mess, so I like to be free of that obligation on vacation.

We went back and forth, and while Julie would say we always decide by consensus, I can't help but notice that usually means doing it her way after allowing me to have my say.  And I can't even say that her way was worse than my way might have been, because we've enjoyed lots of great vacations.  This time, I stuck to my guns, and I actually got my way: all-inclusive.

I have no doubt it was the right choice.  We enjoyed every single meal at Villa del Palmar, and having free beer delivered under an umbrella at the beach was terrific.


We returned to the oceanfront Bella California restaurant for breakfast and dinner daily.  Made to order omelets and smoothies were highlights of a lovely buffet that included fresh fruit, breakfast meats, pastries, coffee and at least one or two lunch entrees.  From our table on the rail we could easily see whales spouting and pelicans diving.  One morning, we saw a whale leap totally out of the water.

Dinner, which was primarily Italian fare, was also delicious.  A la carte, the buffet portion ran about $10 to which was added entrees that ranged from about $15 to $30.  A few more expensive dishes were marked as being discounted 40% for all-inclusive, but none of those tempted us.  House wine with dinner was priced rather modestly for such a nice venue, at $5 a glass, but with all-inclusive, we didn't have to worry as the waiter returned time and again to pour more.  The buffet included a dessert selection, and then there were special desserts that could be ordered and would be billed separately if diners weren't all-inclusive.

Bottled water had a price tag of about $3.50 per bottle, which of course for some is a necessity which was covered by A.I.

The all-inclusive clearly includes "gratuities," and re-stated that isno tips required.  That is different from the policy at industry leader Sandals and Beaches where no tipping is allowed.  That nuance is not lost on the waiters and waitresses, and even the descriptive paper handed to A.I. guests upon arrival at Villa del Palmar says "voluntary gratuities" are not included.  Each delivery comes with a bill including the prices, presumably so guests can see how much they save while employees receive a spiff on their paychecks.  When I signed the first one in the sports bar on site, and I should add here that I enjoyed a fantastic salmon with banana curry sauce there, the look in the eyes of the waiter made clear that he expected more.

The next day at breakfast at Bella California, the waiter called me Senorito, which I perhaps misinterpretted as being a little dig.  Because they take your room number when you are seated and take your order, they know who you are, and perhaps word travels fast.  In any case, the dilemma I had was that I didn't want a bunch of tips included at the end which I couldn't possibly keep track of, since four of us were in the same room.  I decided to simply tip in cash, and that proved to be clearly appreciated.  We received great service from that point on. While it was not what I believe was implied, why let something like that ruin a vacation?  Besides, giving away a couple hundred dollars in tips to hard working people is better than any foreign aide program that would just get stuck in the pockets of crooked politicians.

We also had unlimited non-motorized water sports, but the amount of equipment was less than sufficient.  There were supposed to be three paddleboards, but when Jay and my nephew Jered checked, they learned two were broken and one was in use.  They did have a few more kayaks.

We decided to kayak to Lover's Beach, and so we headed to Villa del Arco where the kayaks are available.  The stand was supposed to open at 9:00 AM, but around 9:30 we asked someone folding towels, and he said it was Mexican time.  Around ten minutes later, somebody came by and told us that the guy with the key to the rental info was working on a project at Villa del Palmar, and he would be over later.  It was about another 45 minutes before the guy showed up.  Once again, we didn't let this ruin our vacation.

Normally, if you stay at the less expensive Villa del Palmar, you aren't supposed to use the Villa del Arco pool, but since we were waiting for the rental guy, and his stand was right next to the pool, only the most fascist hotel manager would try to enforce that.  In fact, we played ping pong poolside too, and we enjoyed our time while we waited.

Julie and I shared a double kayak, while Jay and Amy had singles, and we headed out into the sea to paddle to Lover's Beach, which looked pretty far away but turned out to be the perfect destination.  It was long enough to be a challenge but not so long as to be frustrating.  Once there, we found a guy selling Tecates for $2 from an ice chest.  That $3 (Jay talked him into selling him one for a dollar) was the only money I spent off property, although Jan and Amy did go to Cabo Wabo with the group once or twice.

Our accommodations, by the way, were quite nice: a 1 bedroom suite, which is mandatory if you have more than 3 guests in a room.  We could walk out our sliding glass doors to a grassy area from which we could see the ocean or even walk to the beach.  My daughter Gina brought granddaughter Emma to the room, and we had a lot of fun running back and forth on the grass.  They live in New York, so this was a nice break from winter weather.  When they got back home, 2 year-old Emma said, "Let's go back to Mexico."  Gina, husband Laszlo, Emma and Laszlo's mother cashed in air miles to stay at the beautiful Sheraton in the corridor, and I'm happy to say that Villa del Palmar did not hassle any of us when they came to visit and use the pool.

Our living room had a Murphy bed that folded down and could sleep two, but we had a roll-away bed brought in for Amy, and at first we were quoted $12 per night and then $16 p.n.  It took a couple of visits to the front desk to get it delivered.

At check-out, we were prepared to pay for that bed, but our total bill was zero.  Julie had overheard some others by the pool talking about some extra surcharges that had been assessed on EP bookings, but apparently all-inclusive (through Pleasant Holidays anyway) truly does take care of all of those mandatory fees in advance.  We weren't even charged for the roll-away bed, although perhaps they charged that directly to my credit card rather than putting it on my tab.

We enjoyed a nice stay.