Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

I’ve been home for over a week from my kid free vacation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and it already feels like I’ve been back for months. No offence to my boys or anything but an all inclusive without kids…that’s a hard thing to leave behind.

Now that I’ve had some time to detox and dry out, I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some details of the resort and to do a a real review. I know that there are tons of reviews on TripAdvisor but I find them kind of all over the place. Some of the reviews were so scary that we almost cancelled. Which is a shame because the Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort (with a casino and aqua park!) was one of the best affordable all inclusive resorts I’ve been to.


We booked our trip about 10 days before we left. I do this a lot because with this timeline, resorts and hotels, are looking to fill their rooms and the prices often begin to drop substantially. We compared what we paid with others at the resort and we definitely got the best deal at $677 CAD per person for our flight and all inclusive stay. At the time of booking we asked for a non-smoking, updated room, near the beach and pool. We landed in Block M which was a bit far from the main bar and restaurant but close to the sand and pool action. It was still quiet enough at night that we didn’t hear any noise from the club or the beach parties. (That I may or may not have participated in. Until 6 am.)

Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. A real review

Our room was lovely, with two double beds, huge closet space, an updated bathroom with walk in shower (no tub) and lots of room to move around. We had a nice view of the back of the property with lots of palm trees and foliage however, we spent very little time in our room. Let’s be real. We were there to eat, sun, and party. The room was for sleeping and I barely did any of that.

Some of our friends had rooms directly above the main building and I heard that these rooms haven’t been renovated. They didn’t mind since they also didn’t spend much time in their rooms. What would have driven me round the bend, however, was the insane screaming of the peacocks who hung around the main building. We often saw them perched on the balcony of the second floor rooms. That would have been a total no for me. Peacocks are gorgeous but they’re kind of the assholes of the bird world.

The upgraded members had rooms on the quiet side of the resort with access to bed like cabanas and things I neither can afford nor care about. It looked lovely and quiet over there and really, really boring. So there’s that.


The main building hosts two buffets to accommodate all the guests. As with most resorts, the buffet hours are limited and breakfast often ends before the party people come back to life. Which didn’t really matter since a breakfast buffet was also set up near the main pool. That breakfast buffet changed into a lunch buffet that ran all afternoon. We hit up the breakfast buffet in the main lobby (either Sanoa or Macao) most days but skipped the lunch buffet in favor of hanging by the pool. We only had dinner in the main buffet one night since the concierge was able to get us into restaurants every night but one. Super appreciated that because we got to eat at the Japanese restaurant twice. Mmmm….sushi!

We had one meal at the Mexican restaurant and it was fine. The Italian dinner was lovely as was the Mer. But Jade was simply our favorite. We didn’t make it to the steakhouse, of the Diner largely because there may have some pool party shenanigans and we forgot to check back in with the concierge that night for the Steakhouse dinner. We wound up at the buffet just as it was closing. I have no idea what I was eating at that point but I think it was delicious.


The Sirenis Cocotal has insanely gorgeous pools that wind throughout the resort. We spent most of our time on the shallow side near the swim up pool bar where all the action was.

Review of Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort, Punta Cana, Domincan Republic.

The cabana of the bar coupled with the bridge made for some well needed shade during mid-day. The cocktails and party atmosphere made for some crazy times. The other side of the resort also had a pool bar and it was much quieter with a more relaxed atmosphere. The deep end of the pool is in the middle and connects to the other pools. Personally, it was too deep for me to hang out in without spilling my ever present drink.

Review of the Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic-

The statue attracted some bathing beauties who were not interested in partying with us. We liked that they kept to their side of the pool, thanks very much.

Traveling Single Mom- Review of the Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana

The Animacion (entertainment) team was a little bit cheesy but also a whole lot of fun. The Miss Bikini and Mr. Sexy contests haven’t changed all that much since I was there in the 1980’s and the insane skit on our last day was beyond cheesy but pretty hilarious in the end.

The Animacion team was also responsible for water aerobics and exercise classes. People seem to like that. I enjoyed watching while sipping my first Bloody Mary of the day. Apparently there is a gym on site as well, but I may have missed that.

Some of our friends hit up the shows every night and loved the productions. I was too busy being my own production.

We’re not really into shows so we usually booked ourselves into late dinners before meeting others at the main bar. Where we drank the local drink, Mamajuana, into the wee hours. Occasionally we hit the disco, where we danced until 2 am with resort guests and locals before hitting the beach to party until dawn. Sometimes we skipped the disco and hung around the main bars until closing time. The bar closed at 1:30 am and the disco at 2 am. Hence the beach parties. It’s rather amazing that we actually ever made it to breakfast before the 10 am closing. Yes, I’m 47. I regret nothing.


Overall it was a pretty terrific experience however, there were a couple of negatives. The first was that the pools (and pool bars!) close very suddenly at 6 pm. One minute the music is blaring and the party is on and the next, security is blowing whistles and telling everyone to get out. Not cool. The other had nothing to do with the location or the staff and everything to do with the parents who let the kids jump all over people in the very adult area of the pool bar. Since I’ve got kids and all, I tried not to get annoyed with the little people jumping and splashing water in my drink. I was super annoyed however, with the parents who were lounging at the bar and ignoring their children. There’s a water park at Sirenis that is pretty spectacular. Parents. Seriously. There’s a bar and restaurant and everything and you can hang out with other parents. I would have killed for that when we were in Cuba last spring.

A review of Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

TRIP DETAILS: (affiliate links included)

WHERE:  Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

CURRENCY: Dominican pesos or US dollars

RESORT: Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort Casino and Aquapark. See the TripAdvisor reviews here.


COST: $677 CAD- All inclusive with flight for one week. Expedia has some pretty great deals, as well, from the US and Canada when you combine flight and hotel packages.

TIP: Book 10 to 12 days before for the best deals. Ask for an upgraded room near the ocean. We were in the M building.

DRINK: Mamajuana!!

EAT: Jade- The Japanese Restaurant. Best sushi and a pretty great show, too.


That Time I Took An Adult Only Vacation

I’m all about traveling with children but every once in awhile you need to bust out and take yourself on an adult only vacation. No kids, no husbands (not that I have one of those), just a much needed girlfriend trip with zero responsibilities.

There’s a lot to be said for taking a vacation without kids. Like you can have a conversation without being interrupted 97 times in 15 minutes. Or you can go a whole week without hearing poop or potty talk. Or wiping someone’s bum. And then there’s the whole daytime drinking thing. You can’t do that around kids so that’s pretty swell. You can stay out past 8 PM and you don’t need to worry about someone waking you up when they wet the bed. You can sleep past 6AM and skip breakfast. Or you can have a breakfast that doesn’t involve gulping a bowl of leftover soggy kid cereal and indulge in three cups of cafe con leche. And you can party at the pool bar instead of trying to keep a kid’s head above the water.

This trip idea came about after my friend, P, told me that her husband didn’t know how to make lunches for his kids. One kid has been in school for 3 years. He also didn’t know how to get pizza or make dinner without waking her from a nap to watch the children. This is the same husband that goes to Vegas for two weeks every year and golfs in tournaments all summer long and plays pool all winter. He’s hardly home. Great guy but never around. I casually mentioned that the best way to teach someone to parent is to disappear for awhile.

From my end, I’ve been shuffling my boys to all sorts of therapies, attending meetings and school planning appointments, fighting the child welfare organization to keep my boys in daycare, and was all around worn out and exhausted. The boys were running wild and I was turning into a shrieking shrew. I’m not terribly proud of my parenting skills leading up to the week before our trip. So when P said “Let’s book a trip”, I didn’t need to be told twice.

We didn’t much care where we went as long as there was sun, beaches, and a swim up bar. Okay. That swim up bar criteria was mine. Because when we were in Cuba, I had a few brief moments of envy of all the people standing around in the swim up pool bar, drinking, laughing, and having a big ol’ party. I was there with my boys and while we swam up to the bar once, we got the heck out of there because nothing kills a party like a couple of young kids splashing water in your drink. P’s criteria was that the resort be adults only. I wish I had listened to that! Ours wasn’t but the next one will be.

So we headed off to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic one fine Friday morning. Where we were welcomed with cocktails, lunch, and an invitation to make use the resort amenities until we could check in since we arrived a few hours early.  Make yourself at home, they said. Don’t mind if we do.

Why You Totally Need an Adult Only Vacation
Photo Credit

After some well earned daytime drinking, we found ourselves floating in the ocean shortly after our arrival where we met two lovely fellows who were also from Ontario. The funniest and most animated guys I’ve ever met. Seriously. They instantly became the directors of all things fun and managed to bring the entire resort together. It’s like they were simply there to meet, greet, and introduce everyone else and get the party started. When we found out we were next door neighbors, our two rooms turned into a crazy kind of frat house. They were only with us for three days and I think the entire resort went into mourning when they left. Except the families. They probably breathed a huge sigh of relief that the shenanigans by the pool were dialed back just slightly. We may have referred to them as the boy band…so there’s that.

I’m not terribly chatty, nor do I seek out new friends for the most part so I’m not entirely sure what happened  down there. It’s like someone poured rum (or possibly mamajuana) in my glass and I became the most insanely extroverted person ever. We partied at the pool bar, we talked to everyone, and I barely went to bed. I’m a little obsessed with sleep so this was a bit of a surprise for me. We went to the disco and when P went back to our room at a reasonable hour, I just kept going. Three nights in a row I found myself at some kind of after party on the beach, partying until the sun came up. I’d sleep a few hours and start all over again. That’s probably how I lost my voice. Not that I let that stop me or anything.

So here’s to the people who made this party something else…

To the mysterious Ontario fellows who wouldn’t provide last names or Facebook info…Good call. Thanks for the wild and crazy, the beer nuts, and the afternoon we spent talking only in country music titles. It’s all fun and games until you’re “Drunk on a Plane”.

Why You Totally Need an Adult Only Vacation
Photo credit

To the 7’1″ tall, so white he glowed in the dark, RCMP officer and his short and completely opposite looking friend, thanks for the stories, the beach party, and the hilariousness of watching you roll in the waves at 4am. Also, despite your height, a flash light shining through a bottle of vodka does not make a disco light. Apologies for telling you I’ll shove that flashlight somewhere and turn it on so we could see if you still had your appendix. I was just messing with you. Sort of.

To the two incredibly polite boys from Canada by way of India . Thank you for the respectful company, intelligent conversation, and lovely dinners. They had mad respect for us as a couple of older and married moms (Well, one of us is married anyway.) Until that one night when the quiet one who blushed when things got crazy at the pool decided the party wasn’t over, produced some vodka from his room, jumped the bar to grab shot glasses and kept the party going. Why, yes, the clock does say 2 am. Apparently the party was just getting started.

That time I went on vacation without my kids and acted like it was spring break

He also decided to strip down to his boxers to join the super white guy in the ocean. I have never laughed so hard in my freakin’ life. That may have been the night I lost my voice. I also learned to dance to Punjabi music. Love.

To “Crazy Joe”. You’re a pretty funny guy with a cool English accent. You’re gonna want to watch that temper, though. We always kind of wondered if Joe was wanted for murder somewhere in England. He sort of went from fun and games to this crazy I’m going to kill you stare and then back again. One of the boys we met the first night swore Joe was going to kill him and he wouldn’t make it home. Since we have no way of contacting him, it’s a possibility.

That Time I Took An Adult Vacation
Photo credit

To all of the other English peeps, and there were a lot of you….Wow! You can really hold your liquor! Well done, you! Y’all made me feel less like of an alcoholic that week and part of the party. And, although I’m a couple of decades older than most of you, no one really seemed to care. Super cool to learn new English phrases, as well. Like when I put Crazy Joe’s phone in my purse and he said “Don’t nick it”, I heard “Don’t lick it”. I didn’t realize they licked phones in England. I was corrected when I went to “the loo” for “a wee” with another English gal (which I heard as “a week”) and finally understood what he meant. No wonder I got the crazy stare when I asked why I would lick his phone.

To the guy that bit my friend’s ear…You, sir, are a great dancer but you do some weird stuff when you drink. Go home, Mike Tyson. Go home.

To the creepy guy at the pool who had found a girlfriend but was busy making eyes at us and splashing to get our attention. Stop. You’re a gigolo. It took me all week to figure that out. Love the one you’re with and all that.

To all of the staff at the bar who started calling me “Mamajuana” and kept my glass full. Couldn’t have kept the party going without you. Also, I brought 4 bottles of that intoxicatingly delicious swill home. So there’s that.

Mmmm.....mamajuana!! The best part of our last trip to the Dominican.

To the entertainment/”animacion” team. Mostly that was kind of strange…particularly the whole Madonna rescue scenario thing that played out for like an hour. I’m not sure that Batman actually drove a bike but I’ll accept your literary interpretations. But to “Banana”….You, brother, are the best. Like the day you showed up at the pool in full blown army camo with a gun and those aviator glasses. To be fair, I think P and the rest of the Canadians were a little freaked out. Me? Not so much. Since only an amateur would put his pistol down the front of his pants. Like who would risk shooting off his precious man parts or having some lunatic make a grab, right?  Probably we should have looked closer at your name tag which actually said “Banana”, but we somehow managed to miss that. So when you turned around to walk away, revealing that your camo pants had no back? Thanks for that. I kind of feel sorry for whomever had to do the drawings on  your naked hiney. Or maybe I’m just a little jealous.

And how excited was I to meet some fellow Southerners on this trip!!! Pretty freakin’ swell except my full blown Alabama accent is back and I’m having a hard time shaking it. I’m pretty sure the 3 of us will stay friends. S, you’ve got a mad crazy voice…go get yourself a recording contract. D, you got game, brother! Y’all better come up and visit next summer!

And finally, to my new 24 year old fake husband. Mad love to you for punking my kid (who’s 25) by pretending we got married at the resort. That was pretty swell and you did a great job of proposing, grabbing the ring off a friend and dropping to one knee. Nice. Since you’re a year younger than my daughter, referring to yourself as “lil poppa” was just over the top awesomeness. Also, you provided some pretty great drama that made me relieved to be out of the dating game 😉  I also kind of enjoyed swimming over and having you introduce me as your wife. The horror in their eyes (since I’m 47 and all) was pretty hilarious. I don’t know if they felt sorry for you or admiration for me. #cradlerobbingiscool

And one not so cool thing.

Parents. I know you want to hang out at the pool bar and party with everyone. I miss those days, too. But you can’t. It’s not cool to let your kids jump on top of everyone, knock drinks over, kick water in peoples faces, or take up precious space at the pool bar when the rest of us are gasping for alcohol and talking raunchy.  If you bring your kids to a resort you really can’t hang out at the pool bar, sip your cocktail, and pretend they’re not yours. It’s also super uncool to expose your kids to the sort of partying and drinking that was going on there.  All day, every day. There’s a kids area and an aqua park for a reason. I’m saying that as someone who’s watched enviously while herding my two guys back to the family friendly area on all of our other travels. #sorrynotsorry

TRIP DETAILS: (affiliate links included)

WHERE:  Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

CURRENCY: Dominican pesos or US dollars

RESORT: Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort Casino and Aquapark


COST: $677 CAD- All inclusive with flight for one week.

TIP: Book 10 to 12 days before for the best deals. Ask for an upgraded room near the ocean. We were in the M building.

DRINK: Mamajuana!!

EAT: Jade- The Japanese Restaurant. Best sushi and a pretty great show, too.


Time to make your own kid free vacation plans

Top 10 Vacation Destinations for 2016

I’m a pretty big fan of TripAdvisor, in case you hadn’t figured that out already. So when I got their latest email sharing their list of top 10 summer vacation destinations for US (and Canadian) travelers based on popular destinations and the average one-week vacation costs for hotels, airfare, tours, and meals, I felt compelled to share it with all of you.

What’s so great about this list? Aside from including some amazing destinations in the Caribbean and Europe, along with favorite American hot spots, this list gives you the best times to visit based on when costs are lowest. Traveling is the best. Traveling cheaply (or at least more inexpensively) is even better. Check out the top 10 summer destinations and attractions as compiled by TripAdvisor for 2016. After you’ve browsed all 10, pick your favorite spot and get packing.

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations-Las Vegas, Nevada

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 15 – 21: $2,050 (13% below summer peak)

  • Value Hotel: The Carriage House – Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average nightly summer rate of $127
  • Top Attraction: Blue Man Group – Tickets start at $90 per person


  1. Cancun, Mexico

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Cancun, Mexico. -

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $2,222 (16% below summer peak)

  • Value Hotel: Hotel & Suites Nader – Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average nightly summer rate of $39. Seriously. That’s not a typo!
  • Top Attraction: Mayan Ruins of Tulum – Tours start at $50 per person


  1. Orlando, Florida

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Orlando, Florida.-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $1,733 (13% below summer peak)


  1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $2,848 (10% below summer peak)


  1. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $1,812 (26% below summer peak)

Having just come back from Surfside Beach, just south of Myrtle Beach, I can highly recommend this as a budget and family friendly destination. Check back in for lots of details on where to go and what to do in the Myrtle Beach area with kids in the next few weeks! We stayed at Myrtle Beach Resort and loved it! 5 pools, some indoor, some outdoor, one giant kids pool and a lazy river and right on the beach. How can you go wrong?


  1. New York City, New York

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- New York-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: June 27 – July 3: $3,092 (10% below summer peak)


  1. London, England

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations-London, England

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: July 23-Aug 3: $3,788 (10% below summer peak)

  • Value Hotel: Luna & Simone Hotel – Bookable on TripAdvisor for an average nightly summer rate of $206
  • Top Attraction: The London Eye – Skip-the-line tickets start at $45 per person


  1. Destin, Florida

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Destin, Florida-

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $2,320 (25% below summer peak)


  1. Paris, France

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Paris, France.

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 8 – 14: $3,111 (25% below summer peak)


  1. Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

Least Expensive Summer Week to Visit: August 22 – 28: $2,212 (10% below summer peak)


Pin it so you don’t forget it!

Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations- From the US, to the Caribbean, to Europe. Everything you need to know to plan the perfect summer vacation.

Affiliate links are included for convenience because TripAdvisor is awesome. Read our full disclosure policy here.

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods At Our All Inclusive Resort In Cuba

Everyone I talked to and all the reviews I read before hitting the Cuban resort hard, warned me that the food would be terrible. Which is interesting because it really wasn’t. I’m not saying I loved every single thing laid out before me but I enjoyed the food, the wine, and the beverages in general way more than everyone said I would.

Let’s talk about what didn’t work for me in Cuba. Every morning I dutifully slapped some fruit on my plate because a) I had lost 12 pounds before our trip (Thank you, influenza and pneumonia!) and wanted to keep the weight off and, b) I felt like I should eat local fruit since I live in Canada and it was winter back home and scurvy. I tried to do the same thing with vegetables, thinking local and all that good stuff.

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods at An All Inclusive Cuban Resort-

Except I’m not the biggest produce eater to begin with and I really don’t like papaya. Or guava. Or the weird tasting pale pink watermelon that they have there. Insert travel guilt here.

The yogurt. That was just weird. It came in pitcher so it was really more kind of like kefir. One kid liked it, particularly when mixed with juice, and one kid didn’t want anything to do with it. Since I was taking a break from micro-managing the boys diets that week, I didn’t worry too much about the absence of yogurt at breakfast.

And while everyone was complaining about the overcooked vegetables, those were the ones I kind of liked. Look. I grew up in the 60s and 70s where everything was cooked to death and covered in either bacon or cheese. Or both. #southern So when the brussel sprouts came out one night on the buffet (do those grow in Cuba?), all overcooked and all, I was delighted and ate my fill. Which was great since no one else liked them. Same with the cauliflower…hello mushy veggies. This is why I don’t have a foodie website. I have the taste and diet of an unattended child at a birthday party.

I did find some pretty amazing things to eat that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replicate anywhere else. Which makes me kind of sad and my waist line a little bit relieved all at the same time. Here are my top five favorite (and kind of weird) foods that we found in Cuba.

Cuban Coke

The soft drink, not the bad stuff. Jeez, I was traveling with kids and I’m a nice girl. Mostly.

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods in Cuba.

It took me about five days before I noticed that someone was drinking a coke at lunch. Up until then, I’d been dutifully drinking water (yes, you can drink the water here!) Ummm…..I didn’t know that was an option so I asked my waitress in my handy dandy Spanish if they have diet coke here.

SPANISH LESSON: “Tienes diet coke, aqui?” or “Tienes coca-cola light, aqui?”

Why, yes they do! Given that I drink at least two and possibly four diet cokes aka Pepsi Maxes a day back in Canada,  I was beyond delighted to get my hands on my first dose of fizzy caffeine in almost a week.

Except, good Lord, sweet mother of all things holy! What exactly was in this amazing drink?  It didn’t taste like anything I’d ever had before in my life. Perfectly sweet, full cola flavor and no weird aspartame after taste. My Spanish isn’t good enough to ask those kinds of questions so that I could find out the brand and smuggle this nectar home in my suitcase. (Seriously…who needs rum when soda tastes so dang fine?) I’ve gone on and on about the taste of diet Coke in Cuba until someone suggested that maybe they use real sugar. A little research revealed they use pure cane sugar and not the crappy high fructose corn syrup we’re used to up here. Ah-maze-ing. Note to cola sellers in North America. Get on that. Please!


5 Weirdly Delicious Things to Eat and Drink in Cuba.

I’ve never really liked the taste of coffee all that much and drink tea in the mornings. Or a diet coke. Don’t judge. But on my first morning in Cuba, after arriving at the resort at 1 am with my two boys, I felt the need for a bit of caffeine and had my first cafe con leche. Wrinkling my nose, I took that first tenuous sip, prepared to be knocked off my chair by the full blown strong coffee you kind of associate with the Caribbean. Except, it was delicious. Like coffee should be. All flavor, no bitterness, and no yukky coffee taste hanging around my mouth for hours on end. I didn’t even need gum after I drank this coffee. I proceeded to develop a small addiction, drinking 3-4 cups every morning. It was clearly magical in addition to delicious, since I successfully tuned out the boys demands to go swimming while I sipped cup after cup. I miss that coffee so much. Sorry, Tim Horton’s. I tried coffee again when I got home and you don’t cut it. I’ll be back when you have that candy cane hot chocolate, though 😉

Cuban Bacon

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods Found at an All Inclusive Resort In Cuba-

Some days the bacon on the buffet had been baked which left a lot to be desired because the underside would be flabby and greasy. But the days that fried bacon made an appearance (usually every second day) were days to thank the Gods for. No one does bacon, or any kind of pork really, like Cubans. So lean, so perfectly cooked that even Aiden, who generally only eats white food, ate his fill. Why, yes. That empty spot once held bacon.

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods at an All Inclusive Buffet in Cuba. And the kid that only eats white food-

I wanted to smuggle that bacon out of the restaurants and hoard it for later. Don’t be alarmed if you’re in Cuba and you see the bacon in the buffet and it looks all black and burned. It’s not. It’s perfection. Good-bye fruit, hello bacon. Hello 6 pounds as well, but I’m sure that was because of the fruit I wasn’t used to. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to read that there’s a bacon shortage in Cuba after we left. #sorrynotsorry

Cuban Ham

Like the bacon, ham should be in a food category of it’s own in Cuba. Never fatty and always perfectly seasoned, it was cooked perfectly no matter how many different places I tried it. I must have had ham at least twice a day and I’m longing for it now. Even the ham sandwich at the airport in Holguin was to die for. Mucho yummo.

That Weird Cuban Vanilla Syrup

If you’ve been to a Cuban all inclusive, you’ll notice that pancakes are often served with honey or one of 5 or so different flavored syrups in big plastic bottles. Those syrups are very interesting. The caramel one is almost black and the strawberry syrup is so neon pink/red that I’m sure it can be seen from space. And then I found vanilla syrup. I love anything vanilla so when I saw the bottle at the buffet, I was delighted to add it to my pancakes. And french toast. And later to my ice cream. But the shock I got when I first poured it, actually stopped me in my tracks. That syrup was bright orange. My Spanish is adequate (barely) but I had to re-read the bottle to make sure I was actually using vanilla syrup. Indeed.

5 Weirdly Delicious Foods to Try at a Cuban All Inclusive Buffet-

Cuba has made some great choices with cola and pork but some weird ones when it comes to food coloring. Once I tasted it however, I was completely hooked. Sweet, vanilla-y, and totally artificial. Loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it. I made the boys use honey and refused to share any of this weird vanilla topping that glowed in the dark. That kind of says it all.



We stayed at Blau Costa Verde Plus Beach Resort when we were in Cuba. Look for a full review both here and on TripAdvisor in the next few weeks. We really had the best time!

All inclusive resort reviews. From TripAdvisor-






Pros and Cons of All Inclusive Resorts With Kids

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of all inclusive resorts most of the time. I have this thing about wanting to kind of immerse myself in wherever I happen to be traveling and I want to feel like I’m part of real life. Having said that, I’ve been to my share of all inclusive resorts and we just came back from an all inclusive in Cuba (Blau Costa Verde Plus) with my two little boys. As a single parent, all inclusive resorts are a great way to get your feet wet in the big wide world of travel. I think all inclusives are great when traveling with children, particularly young ones for a whole bunch or reasons. I also think there are a few drawbacks. Here are a few pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

Pros and cons of all inclusive resorts with kids.


Pros of All Inclusive Resorts:


While it’s true that all inclusives can be pricey, depending on the location and resort, they can easily be way more cost effective than regular travel. Our last trip to Cuba cost us $1800 (CAD) for three of and that included having to pay the adult price for my four year old. Our regular jaunts to Florida (Panama City Beach) costs us around $1100 (USD) for the condo alone for a week. That doesn’t include the driving and overnights in hotels, food along the way, or meals out when we arrive. And, despite my intentions to eat in, we tend to go out for a ton of meals. I usually end up spending closer to $2500 for a condo rental at the beach for a week. Not so cheap. If you’re willing to go last minute, which we did, the cost cutting can be huge.

What’s generally included in the price? Airfare, transportation to and from the resort, the resort accommodations, all meals and beverages including alcohol (!!), kids club (if available), beach and pool chairs, hotel fridge stock up (although limited, it’s always been enough for us), entertainment and shows, the disco, activities during the day, and all the sun and relaxation you can handle.


An all inclusive is exactly that. Food, drinks (booze included….hallelujer!) and snacks are part of the package. Now, I listened to lots of people bitch and complain about both the food and the quality of liquor but as a single parent, having free flowing wine, rum punch, ice cream, and meals all thought out and planned for me was a big time win. Ready for dinner, kids? Let’s belly up to the buffet. No cooking, no clean up, no trying to find a restaurant that everyone can agree on only to order kids meals that cost $6 each that no one eats. (When will I learn to just order them a single plate of fries?) My guys really enjoyed the virgin slushies and Liam (4) had his first Shirley Temple. Which he charmingly refers to a Shirley Centennial.  There’s nothing quite like hearing your 3 year old ask if we can go to the bar to reinforce why all inclusives with kids are pretty awesome.

All lot of people complain about the food and liquor at resorts, claiming it’s not the best, or it’s boring and repetitious. That may be true but it’s never bothered me one bit. And I probably should point out that the repetitive thing is a total plus when travelling with kids. My guys loved that there was pancakes for breakfast every single morning, rice and pork for dinner, and they could always find something to stuff their picky eating faces with. The very thing that makes adults complain, usually makes for happy and well-fed kids.


By their very nature, all inclusive resorts are usually located in some pretty fantastic places. Generally, they are right on or very close to a beach, usually in tropical climates. Most days the biggest choice involves sunbathing at the pool(s) or hitting the beach. It’s a hard life. In addition to the great location, all inclusives usually have the airport transport thing taken care of as part of the package. Not having to find a taxi or bus after dealing with kids, customs, and luggage is pretty great. The resorts are usually fairly close to airports as well which minimizes the amount of traveling you do back and forth when all you want to do is either get there or get home.  In addition, if you care about this kind of thing, all inclusives are exclusive walled communities with gates and security. As you can probably tell, I don’t worry about stuff like that but I know lots of people that do.


All inclusive resorts are known for their amenities. Most have more than one pool, many  have swim up bars (Aiden’s favorite thing), they often have designated kids pools and even kids clubs where parents can get a break as part of the all inclusive price.  Water sports are often included, as is the gym in the price you pay before you arrive. In addition to what’s included in your package, many resorts offer fee for services as well, including spa treatments, babysitting (hello!), and sports such as scuba diving, golf, and sailing. Often the resort provides entertainment at nights, a disco (that we will likely never get to since we’re all asleep by 10pm) and activities during the day. I enjoyed watching the aqua gym classes while sipping a cold drink in the shade. So inspiring. On top of all that, your bar fridge is topped up daily, there are tons of places to eat and drink, and you don’t need to lug beach chairs or make your bed since all that’s taken care of.

Along with the resort amenities, most offer tour packages off resort. In Cuba there were trips to local cigar factories or markets. In Jamaica, we took a snorkeling day trip on a catamaran and climbed the waterfall in Dunn’s river. Well, the kids did. I cheered and took pictures.

Pros and cons of all inclusive resorts. Tours and sight seeing.


Everything you need for a great vacation is right inside the walls of the resort. Beaches, pools, activities, kids clubs, meals, drinks, and entertainment. If you’re looking to relax, this is the way to go. As someone who spends a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of everything and overthinking pretty much all of the time, an all inclusive is a really nice break from all of that.  Meals are planned and scheduled, beverages flow, and while you’re sunbathing or sipping rum punch, someone cleans up your room and makes your bed. No grocery shopping, no cooking, and no cleaning. Can’t argue with that.


Cons of All Inclusive Resorts:


You are not seeing double. This made it into the pros and cons list.

Pros and cons of all inclusive resorts. The food.
Photo courtesy of

Personally, as a fairly picky eater, I’ve never been unhappy with the food at an all inclusive resort. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to plan, prep, cook and clean up that I’m happy with whatever is being served. Having said that, I’ve heard tons of complaints about food at all inclusives, largely around the buffet which can get repetitious. Yes, lots of the dishes are repeated, particularly breakfast meals. The theme nights can look a bit like all the other nights but there’s also lots of a la carte dining options to get a break from the buffet. The downside of those restaurant options is that you need to make reservations fast. Like the day you arrive or most will be booked and you’ll miss out. The only a la carte restaurant we managed to get into was the Cuban restaurant at Blau Costa Verde. Everything else had been all booked up and that happens pretty much everywhere.


While lots of things are included in the package price, many things are not. Generally water sports involving catamarans, golf, spa treatments, and babysitting are going to cost extra. Tours are rarely included in your ticket price and can be expensive. Car rental, jet skis, and bike rental can all add up as well. Check the details of your package to be sure of what’s actually included to avoid disappointment and unplanned for expenses once you arrive.


The buffets and restaurants operate according to certain hours.  As an example, the buffet hours at our resort in Cuba were as follows:

Breakfast: 7-10:30 am
Lunch: 12-2:30 pm
Dinner: 6:30 – 9:30 pm

The pool bar on the plus side of the resort was open from 10:30 am – 6:30 pm. There were loads of other bars open, but that one was the most popular.

Lots of folks had something to say about that. Personally, that doesn’t bother me in the least since that’s kind of how the world works. Restaurants have operating  hours. I don’t run an all day kitchen at home. And, I’m traveling with little kids so those hours worked fine and made sense for us. There are lots of other bar options but if you’re having a good and boozy time around the pool, the early closure was pretty insulting for some travelers. Those are the same folks that had a bit of trouble getting to breakfast in time and, thus, complained a lot about the breakfast hours.

Many resorts have a 24 hour place to grab a light meal or snack but some don’t. Ours had lunch offered in different restaurants and near the beach in addition to the buffet. Again, check your resort details before leaving home so you know what to expect.


I have tons of friends who travel constantly to all inclusive resorts who “love Jamaica”, and “adore the Dominican Republic”, and tell me “Mexico is awesome”. But they don’t leave the resorts. And when they do they’re on tours designed for tourists. There is nothing wrong with that at all. We were in Cuba and didn’t leave the resort because…well….the boys and a problem with renting a car. The boys, both of whom have FASD, don’t do well with more than one major thing a day. That’s okay and I knew it would be that way going in. But when friends asked me how I liked Cuba, I say “I don’t know, I haven’t really been there.” Because when you go to a resort you could literally be anywhere. Like, can you figure out where this is? Me neither, but it sure is pretty.

Pros and cons of all inclusive resorts with kids.

Going to an all inclusive resort teaches you nothing about the country your visiting with the possible example of how they cater to tourists. There is no learning about a new culture or country, nor is there any real participation in local life. The outings are on catamarans and to tourist destinations. The sight seeing is just that. Seeing the sights. The only interaction with local people or customs occurs pretty far away from reality. Even the food is toned down to cater for tourists from a wide variety of places. So all inclusive resorts are not a good way to see a country unless you’re willing to leave and strike out on your own. I tried to rent a car in Cuba one day but they didn’t have any available and the cost was insane. Also, the fellow insisted I rent it for 3 days which kind of defeated the idea of an all inclusive for me. I wanted to tour for one day but the rest of the time, I wanted the luxury of no meals to plan and no brain power to harness. So we happily stayed on the resort. But I can’t pretend that I know what Cuba is really like, either.


Maybe it’s just me but I feel a fair bit of guilt when I stay in a luxury resort in a really poor country. Perhaps it’s the whole former social worker thing, or just that I really want to feel a connection with people wherever I am. So when very poor people from a very poor country are waiting on me, I always struggle. Maybe guilt isn’t the right word, but there’s definitely an awareness that while I’m not wealthy by any means at home (#singleparent), I’m one of the haves being waited on by the have nots while I’m in a resort.  When other guests start bitching and complaining about the service, or the resort, or the “quality” of foods or liquor, I have a tendency to become mortified at the entitlement that we have and are taking for granted in, what is usually, a third world country.

And then there’s the whole “I should be doing more” thing that happens to me when I get anywhere and park my butt on a beach chair. When we’re at the pool, I feel guilty that we’re not at the beach. When we’re at the beach, I feel like we need to leave the resort and do more. I voiced that to a lot of folks at our resort and learned I wasn’t alone until someone kindly reminded me that “You paid to be lazy”. Bless him.

Travelers guilt. It’s real. It’s yukky. I think someone needs to invent a very strong, rum soaked drink called “Travelers Guilt”. Strong enough to wipe away any guilty feeling about anything. It could be accompanied by a sister drink called “Shut Up”. Strong enough that people stop complaining that the food and such isn’t up to their standards and all.

All inclusive resorts. Pros and cons by traveling single mom.


All inclusive resorts can be an amazing way to have vacation, particularly when traveling with kids, as long as you know what you’re looking for in a holiday. As always, check things out before you leave and read the fine print to avoid disappointment after you arrive.

Want to start planning your own all inclusive vacation? Take a peak at the Top All Inclusive Caribbean Resorts as recommended by TripAdvisor.

NOTE: Affiliate links to TripAdviser have been included in this article because I pretty much don’t go anywhere without them. Read our full disclosure policy here