Growing up in America, my family sometimes took vacations to resorts in South America. The golden handcuff type of resorts. You’re technically in Mexico, but you head to the resort straight from the airport and stay there the whole time swimming, eating, drinking, shopping.

I tend to like these type of resorts for about two - three days. And not even that much. But who doesn’t like to wake up, swim in the beach, get great food and drinks, watch sunsets? But after a few days of the dream, it gets uncomfortable.

The problem is it feels too commercial for me. Even in this nice resort, I feel like I have to fight for the nice beach chair spots. Some people wake up early and put their stuff on all the nice chairs to reserve them for themselves and their family while they go eat and take their time before the beach.

But the biggest problem is that you don’t get to see the country you’re in at all. They might have some local entertainment - in Fiji it’s dancing in grass skirts, sometimes with fire - but that’s all for show. The only real interaction you get with locals is them being in the role of serving and entertaining you. They’re only there in the background, only showing themselves when you have a need. You’re never equals even though you’re in their country.

That said, the resorts are a nice way to spend a family vacation for many. Since the U.S. is so close to South America, I always took the resort holidays for granted. I’ve been to resorts in Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. They’re so close and given that I don’t like resorts that much, I assumed that they were sub-par. I imagined the tropical paradise of Bali or Fiji.

Well, now that I’ve actually gone to Bali, Fiji, and more, I’m coming to the conclusion that those resorts in South America are the best ones unless you’re super super rich and are ok spending $500 / night at least for your own bungalow on the water in Tahiti.

For one, resorts in South America are all-inclusive. Yes, even alcoholic drinks are included! And food of course. And since there are so many resorts there, there is fierce competition and there are always sweet deals to be found. I wanted something similar in Fiji, but all-inclusive food was not an option outside of breakfast (at an inflated price…). And since you’re trapped there as a tourist, every other meal is super super expensive.

But most of all, the South American resorts are located on an incredible swimmable clean beach. The last resort I went to in Mexico for a family reunion had coral reefs with amazing fish right there! I didn’t even have to go on an expensive boat tour.

I remember being upset in Hawaii because the beaches there are so unforgivingly wavy! I wanted the calm waters of South American resorts, not being crushed hard by waves.

I cannot express my disappointment when the Hilton “Beach Resort” in Fiji, which I confirmed was on the beach, did not have a swimmable beach. At least I didn’t have to fight for beach chairs there… I had to take a super expensive snorkeling tour to a random island just to swim for a day!

And don’t get me started on beaches in Bali! Unless you like rats and stray dogs… They’re filthy! Walk a little past the touristy beach and you will see trash and plastic bottles everywhere. In Phuket, in addition to all the trash, they were dumbing sewage into the water a short walk from the beach we were staying at. I did not go swimming after that…

As you can tell, I’m not a big beach resort holiday person myself. I prefer to go to a country and see it - experience the culture, the food, challenge my way of life. But that’s not an option for everyone. I understand that after working hard all year, and having only two-weeks of vacation, especially for those with a family, going to a resort and sitting on a beach while being served all day is paradise. I want the simple beach existence once in a while too! So if you do do a resort vacation and are not extremely rich, go to South America!