What is a Resort? (Breakdown of Different Types)

What exactly is a resort?

It’s a great question because the term is used by many different types of hotels and it can actually be a bit confusing as to what qualifies as an actual resort.

In this article, I’ll break down exactly what a resort is and also give you some comparisons to hotels and other establishments.

What is a resort?

A resort is an establishment that offers a variety of amenities designed to to attract vacationers of many different walks of life.

Often one or more hotels are the centerpiece of a resort and additional on-site facilities are present for things like dining, entertainment, shopping, health, and sports.

Amenities at resorts that go beyond lodging include things like bars, restaurants, spas, casinos, swimming pools, golf courses, and ski lifts.

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All-inclusive resort

One of the most common types of resorts is an all-inclusive resort.

These resorts offer visitors a packaged deal so that things like food and drinks are built into the room rates.

This usually means unlimited alcohol (including both beer and liquor) which is often a huge attraction for those who frequent all-inclusive resorts.

Sometimes additional forms of activities and entertainment are also lumped in to the room package. But typically in my experience the hotel will try to up-sell you on activities and tours.

All-inclusive resorts are commonly found in beach areas and they often go hand-in-hand with spending long, sunny days lounging on the beach or hanging out in a cabana by the pool.

You’ll find a lot of these the Caribbean (especially Punta Cana) and Mexico. One of my favorite brands of all-inclusive hotels is the Hyatt Ziva.

Typically, there will be at least a handful of restaurants and other dining establishments like snack bars and cafés on the premises of an all-inclusive resort.

A lot of times people encounter a diverse mix of restaurant types that focus on specific types of cuisine such as Italian, Chinese, French, etc.

Often there will be one or two restaurants that are more high end and may offer premium dishes such as lobster or premium wines and champagne.

You may have to pay a little bit of a surcharge to partake in these premium offerings but you also might be given a voucher upon arriving that you can apply to a premium offering of your choice.

(This is especially true if you have elite status.)

Food quality can range dramatically. In my experience, the food quality at a standard all-inclusive resort is not exceptional but can still be enjoyable.

The biggest challenge with an all-inclusive resort is that you may not want to venture out to nearby towns and cities to explore and experience local cuisine because all of your meals are already paid for.

So for people who really like to explore the local areas and try out the local cuisine, all-inclusive resorts are not the best option.

Related: Review: Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall Montego Bay, Jamaica

Couples vs families

Some resorts are designed to cater to families while others may be more geared towards adults/couples. You will often see that a hotel is “adults only” which is an indication that it is more of a couples experience.

Resorts geared towards families will often include more kid oriented attractions like small water park features, game rooms, and perhaps even theme parks.

A great example of a hotel that serves both of these segments is the Hyatt Ziva and Zilara. The Hyatt Ziva is the more family friendly resort while the Zilara caters to adults only.

When staying at these adults only resorts, look for experiences that can increase the romantic element of your stay. Consider looking into things like a dinner on the beach or a special couple’s massage.

And if you were visiting on a honeymoon or anniversary be sure to let the hotel know because they might hook you up with some free perks like champagne and chocolates.

Related: Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos Review (Food, Beaches, & Pools)

Destination resort

Destination resorts are a type of resort where all of the attractions are contained within the resort area and there is little to no need to venture outside of the premises (although there is nothing wrong with venturing to nearby towns and attractions).

There are a few different types of destination resorts. Some include huge establishments like Walt Disney World Resort which most people know is home to several theme parks and hotels that cover a huge area.

Another example of a destination resort is a ski resort. At some ski resorts you may find everything you need including the ability to enjoy skiing from a ski lift situated next to the hotel. You may also be able to take care of some shopping and other needs.

And finally another type of destination resort would be something like the Conrad Maldives. Resorts like that are situated on their own private island and offer you an immersive tropical experience with opportunities for activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, etc.

Other destination resorts might offer you a full package of world-class dining, great spa facilities, and a variety of activities, which could include things like golfing, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, etc.

Some destinations resorts may have interesting attractions like the Primland which houses a Celestron CGE Pro 1400 series telescope.

Be on the lookout for interesting local attractions that the destination resort offers like the C Lazy U Ranch that offers cattle pushing experiences.

If you’re looking for a true retreat on your getaway a destination resort will often be a fantastic choice. Also, if you’re looking to get married at a resort, destination resorts are often good choices.

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Spa resorts

Spa resorts house quality spa facilities and offer a variety of relaxation and health related services. Guests usually head to these resorts to reset, re-center, and sometimes kickoff a healthier lifestyle.

It’s not uncommon to find things like yoga and meditation classes at these resorts. Some even go further and offer consultations with experts in different areas like cardiology and physiotherapy.

Many spa resorts also cater to those interested in getting active with activities like hiking, paddle boarding, etc.

At resorts like Canyon Ranch, you might even find yourself getting challenged on the high ropes course and finishing up your day with a zip line.

If you’re visiting a location like Sedona, Arizona you’ll likely have a chance to engage in some type of spiritual ritual if you’re into that type of thing.

Some spa resorts are a little bit more hard-core with the health regimes and put you through programs that call for strict detoxification. At these resorts, like We Care Detox Spa, you’ll be guzzling down juice smoothies, sweating it out in saunas, and putting yourself through other detox regimes.

In some areas, you’ll find these resorts located near natural hot springs but they also can be found just about anywhere, including locations where you have great water views like Lake Austin Spa Resort.

Spa resorts may be quite large with dozens of massage rooms and they will have extensive menus for different types of spa treatments. Many spa resorts offer unique treatments that you may not find at other spas around the country so I would be on the lookout for special treatments like “raindrop therapy.”

You may also find other type of relaxation features on the premises like healing gardens, honeybee hives, orchards, etc.

If you’re into things like drinking, just be aware that a spa resort may not be the place for you as some restrict booze.

Also, bigger isn’t always better with spa resorts. You want to inquire about the guest to staff ratio and keep in mind sometimes smaller resorts can offer a more intimate and better serviced spa experience.

Casino resorts

Another type of common resort that you will encounter is a casino resort.

Typically, a casino resort will house a casino open to the public (non-hotel guests) in addition to other solid amenities like world-class dining establishments.

Casino resorts are extremely common in places like Las Vegas, Nevada and Macau. But you can also find them in other locations like the Caribbean, Singapore, and Ibiza.

(Be prepared to deal with resort fees in locations like Las Vegas.)

Some of these casino resorts can be quite large and because there is so much money flowing through these venues they can be found in some of the most extravagant buildings.

For example, in 2005, the Wynn Las Vegas was the most expensive hotel-casino ever built, costing $2.7 billion, a record that was later broken by the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore at $5.5 billion.

Because so much money gets invested into these hotels, you’ll find flashy features like water shows, light shows, and everything in between.

Hotels like The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Vegas even offer an authentic Venetian gondola.

Some of these large casino resorts will also be home or connected to huge shopping malls with a lot of retail luxury stores such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc and/or a full lineup of restaurants.

One thing that allows casino resorts to stand out is that they offer guests comped rooms and other offers if they spend enough gambling (coin in) when they visit.

This can land you some pretty amazing suites and depending on your status preferential treatment with butlers, chauffeurs, etc.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Autograph Collection

Hotel vs resort

The big difference between a hotel and resort is that a hotel is primarily about lodging. In other words, a hotel is meant to just give you a place to sleep at the bare minimum.

A resort is geared more towards vacationers and designed to offer much more than just lodging with additional amenities that take many forms (as shown above) depending on the type of resort.


What is a resort credit?

Resort credits are special credits usually used to cover expenses like spa treatments, dining, and other expenses.

You can get resort credits by holding certain hotel credit cards or by booking your hotel stay through certain hotel booking sites.

What are resort fees?

Resort fees are additional charges that are meant to cover the cost of providing certain amenities such as fitness centers.

They are also a way for hotels to make their rates appear cheaper by not including the resort fee in the room rate.

What is a resort town?

A resort town is a town where tourism makes up the primary driver of visitors and results in a substantial presence of resorts and hotels. These are cities like Aspen, Colorado, Key West, FL, and Palm Springs, CA.

Final word

As you can tell, resorts come in a lot of different varieties. Finding the right resort for you depends on your travel goals and preferences. My advice would be to do as much research as possible when thinking about staying at a resort because you’ll likely be spending a lot more time on the premises and you want to make sure that you’re getting value for your stay.