I’ve been dipping my toes into the world of all-inclusive accommodation.
I started with an adults-only four-star hotel in Majorca, Spain before the pandemic. Then after not leaving Central London for eight solid months during the brutal winter 2020/2021 lockdown (remember when Christmas was canceled?), I spent an amazing week at a gorgeous five-star all-inclusive resort in Kos, Greece which featured the most spectacular hotel pool I have ever seen in my life.
Earlier this month as I was in Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain, and decided to book a night at the cheapest all-inclusive I could find to see how it compares to the more luxurious options.
This won’t be a traditional hotel review as it’s not a traditional hotel, but here’s what I experienced at the cheapest all-inclusive resort in Tenerife.
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Searching last minute just after the peak Christmas period has ended (British schools started their new term earlier that week) there were some bargains to be had. While I could find room-only accommodation for as low as $65 per night, selecting all-inclusive options with all food and drinks included made the cheapest properties jump to at least $125 per night, with four and five-star options significantly more expensive than this.
After much searching, I found an all-inclusive option for under $100 at the Hotel Labranda Villas & Bahia in Fanabe near Costa Adeje which is a great part of Tenerife. Looking to book directly through their website, if I joined their mailing list I could access special ‘member only prices’. Doing this made the price plunge to a crazy low $75 for one person, one night, all-inclusive with all food and drinks. This was by far the cheapest option on the island, so I went ahead and booked.
I arrived at the allocated check-in time at 3 pm and was quickly helped by the cheery check-in agent who attached a heavy-duty wristband around my wrist so I could be identified as an all-inclusive guest while on the property. She also handed me an info sheet advising of the inclusions such as drink options and meal times. While the info sheet said bookings for mealtimes were essential she advised me it would not be necessary as they were not full.
Next to reception was a games room that was enjoyed by kids and adults alike.
She pointed out my room on the map and off I went.
My room was great – significantly better than I was expected. A spacious one-bedroom apartment with a terrace. I’ve paid a lot more to stay in much smaller rooms than this.
While there were a few tiles missing here and there and some marks on the wall, the room was otherwise very clean and comfortable. There were also fresh slippers waiting for me in the bathroom which I wasn’t expecting at this price point.
My budget stay was off to a great start.
I went for a walk around the resort to familiarise myself.
Unfortunately, after more than a week of incredible high-20s weather in Tenerife, it was cool, cloudy and very windy for my entire stay at the Hotel Labranda Villas. The two pools looked perfectly fine with an abundance of sun loungers and some bored-looking lifeguards watching over the deserted pool and astroturf.
Related: Marvellous in Majorca: Why I loved my first ever all-inclusive hotel experience
Food and beverage
Having never done an “absolutely all food and drinks” option at an all-inclusive (I tend to shy away from drinks packages as I don’t feel I will get my money’s worth), I was curious as to how this would work at such a low price. There were several self-serve drinks stations across the resort where you could help yourself to beer, wine, sangria, and soft drinks on tap at any time from 10:00 am and 10:30 pm daily. There were strict signs advising that guests could not use their own beverage containers, with fairly small cups provided instead for use. Presumably, this is to slow the consumption of alcohol.
If you’re thinking 10 am might be too early to start downing pints, it’s a perfectly acceptable and popular morning activity in Tenerife. Many travelers will enjoy a cheeky sharpener with their Full English breakfast each morning while in the Canary Islands. I tried the wine on tap and it was surprisingly drinkable. There was also machine coffee, I tried a cup of it but would not return for a second. Local spirits (i.e. the ones that give you the worst hangovers) were also included. Name brand spirits were an extra $27 per person, per night.
Signs also advised guests not to take drinks back to their rooms, though it’s worth pointing out that this was routinely ignored without staff seeming to care.
Related: 13 mistakes to avoid at all-inclusive resorts
There were set times for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner. All were served at the restaurant next to one of the pools. Staying for just one night I wasn’t eligible for lunch. The afternoon snack was fresh whole fruit, bread and cold cuts as well as some stale, dense pastries which to me seemed like a fairly adequate option if you were still hungry in between the more substantial buffet meals.
For dinner, I headed with dozens of other guests to the evening buffet.
The food was better than I expected for the price point and I’m fairly fussy about buffets after a childhood where my Mother shied away from buffets for food hygiene and safety concerns. While mask-wearing was consistent, social distancing was non-existent as guests crowded around the fairly tight space.
There was a good selection of salads, hot vegetables and some precooked meat dishes. The pork casserole was lukewarm at best which I’ll admit to avoiding for fear of food poisoning.
Some of the elements that impressed me were the wide selection of artisan-style bread, a live cooking station with a chef serving up freshly grilled chicken breasts and sardines. They also had proper wine glasses rather than plastic cups.
There were also perfectly cooked and piping hot Canarian potatoes which I developed a love for during my time in Tenerife with both the authentic green and red mojo sauces. If you are in the Canary Islands I highly recommend this tasty snack.
Despite my neighbors partying with music at full blast as I returned from dinner, it didn’t last long, and I slept well. The next morning the buffet breakfast was a bit grim and not nearly as impressive as the previous night’s dinner, though I’m fairly picky about what I eat in the mornings.
I was happy to settle for some toast (from the impressive bread baskets) with some sliced meats and cheese. Unfortunately, the meats were the cheapest, nastiest slices of processed luncheon meat you could imagine (certainly no jamon iberico here!) and there was only one type of unidentifiable sliced cheese on offer.
Cheese on toast it was!
There were plenty of pastries on offer though they were all stale and as dense as hockey pucks. There was nothing cooked to order like omelets available, though precooked eggs were available both fried and scrambled.
I heard a guest advise a kitchen staff member the fruit salad needed to be replenished to which they were abruptly told that option had “finished” despite some 90 minutes remaining in the breakfast service. Some guests had to improvise in this situation — the adult guest sitting at the table next to me, somewhat commendably, had pancakes on a bed of lettuce.
After breakfast, I caught up on some work in my room as some other guests commenced Happy Hour as soon as the clock struck 10 am. The wifi worked okay in the bedroom, though really struggled in the sparsely furnished living room.
There wasn’t any entertainment provided, either around the pool during the day or after dinner though I could see large speakers set up for it. This may have been because the windy, cool weather did not lend itself to lingering outside much longer than necessary. The idea of participating in line dancing or some mass conga-line with complete strangers around the pool fills me with existential dread, so as much as I wish it had been hot and sunny during my stay like it had been the day before, I didn’t miss any potential entertainment.
I checked out at the allocated time of 12 noon where the friendly staff cut my wristband off and wished me a safe journey home.
Related: 11 incredible all-inclusives for people who hate all-inclusives
I was pleasantly surprised by my stay at the cheapest all-inclusive in Tenerife. The location in Costa Adeje was excellent and the reception staff was very pleasant even if the kitchen staff bordered on surly. The room was brilliant for the price and while the pool was hardly the most-instagrammable, it was perfectly fine to relax by and soak up some budget winter sun.
There was a good range of drink options included and I liked the self-service option rather than bothering the staff each time. Dinner was tasty though I assume there would be little variation from night-to-night and if I’d stayed for a week I’d probably skip a few and head out for something different in Costa Adeje. The breakfast was disappointing, but if I could live without eating that each morning I’d be willing to stay there again. It was very good value and not the horror show I imagined a budget all-inclusive to be.
To be honest, at that price and for that location, I’d be happy to just use the room and pool, help myself to an ale or three and eat all my meals elsewhere.
Featured image by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy