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10 Different Types of Resorts

A sunset view from the vantage point of the pool of the seaside resort.

The idea of a resort vacation may make you think about lounging in a beach bungalow or warming up in a mountain chalet after a day on the ski slopes. However, some resorts will have you up at dawn to rope steers or keep you practicing your yoga poses until late at night. People go on resort vacations for all kinds of reasons, and these establishments have diversified to meet demand.

What Are Resorts?

Resorts are self-contained establishments that cater to many of a vacationer’s needs. At a minimum, they typically have lodging, shopping, and dining on-site. Other amenities may include:

  • entertainment like live music, comedy, or traditional dances
  • spas, saunas, and other wellness-related businesses
  • sports tailored to the environment, from ocean snorkeling to mountaintop skiing
  • day trips to local landmarks and archaeological sites
  • childcare services
  • gyms, sports coaching, and group fitness classes

Resort stays can be booked directly, via travel agents, or through online marketplaces.

Where Can You Find Resorts?

Resorts are found worldwide. Some are centered around places of natural beauty like tropical beaches and volcanic islands. Others are located in major cities. Finally, resorts may take advantage of a local attraction like a casino or archaeological site.

A Brief History of Resorts

Health-focused resorts have been traced back as far as the ancient Romans. Bath, Somerset became a spa in 60 AD when the Roman empire discovered the local, mineral-rich hot springs. The famous baths that gave the town its name were a magnet for people with various ailments. They bathed in the springs, drank tinctures of water and herbs, and imported vessels of the mineral waters to soak in at home.

For many centuries, these resort spas were reserved for the wealthiest members of society. It’s only in the modern era that the average person had enough money and free time for these indulgent experiences. All-Inclusive Resorts peaked in the 1960s. Since then, they’ve lost part of the market to more modern and hip resort types including Dude Ranches and Ecotourism.

Ten Kinds of Resorts

Resorts have come a long way from the Roman era. No longer are they sites where the wealthy focus on wellness. Now you can find resorts to help you relax, get active, bond with your family, or meet someone new.

Recreation Resorts

A view of a tropical luxury golf resort.

There are two subtypes of recreation resorts: health-focused and sports resorts.

Health-focused resorts are a modern interpretation of those Roman spas in Bath. Yes, the staff will cater to your needs and you’ll hopefully relax and have fun, but that’s not the main point here. You’re coming to improve your health, whether it’s with Dead Sea mineral wraps or detoxifying through guided yoga and special diets.

You can also vacation at sport-focused resorts. One common one is golfing getaways. These resorts include access to a local golf course, lessons with highly regarded instructors, packages that cover cart fees, and of course your accommodation and meals.

Pros

You’ll have an active vacation instead of packing on the pounds at a seaside buffet.

This gives you a chance to experience spa treatments unavailable at your hometown.

Under the instruction of experts, you may greatly improve your skill in your sport of choice.

Cons

Vacations here aren’t the most relaxing option, especially if you’re coming to improve poor health.

Buyer beware about grandiose health claims. There’s only so much that ‘healing mineral waters’ can accomplish.

A sudden increase in physical activity, like when you go from occasionally playing a sport to practicing for hours a day, can lead to soreness and overuse injuries.

All-Inclusive Resorts

A view of a seaside resort with a large pool and a large hotel.

All-inclusive resorts pride themselves on offering a huge selection of amenities. Most of these resorts operate under a fixed price model. Vacationers pay a lump fee per day and can enjoy most of what the resort has to offer.

These resorts may cater to specific groups such as business conventions, Spring Breakers, or wedding parties. Certain cruise ships are essentially mobile all-inclusive resorts.

Pros

These resorts, especially the large ones, offer you many choices in rooms, on-site restaurants, bars, etc.

If you’re looking for the right spot for a destination wedding, all-inclusive resorts usually offer multiple wedding packages and an on-site coordinator.

Paying a fixed price beforehand means you won’t have to worry about your budget during the vacation.

Cons

These resorts may not be 100% all-inclusive. Certain expensive amenities, such as trendy gold leaf body wraps, may cost you extra.

Some mega-resorts pack a lot of people into a small space, so you can expect crowds.

Because so many amenities and services are offered, these establishments can be expensive.

Destination Resorts

An aerial view of a tropical island resort with huts on the water.

A destination resort is built around a central feature that draws vacationers’ interest. This might be a castle converted into a hotel or a beautiful natural area like Yellowstone. Some popular locations include:

  • Beach resorts, such as in Bali or the French Riviera
  • Island resorts, which can cover the entire island if it’s relatively small.
  • Mountain resorts with excellent views, skiing in the winter, and hiking in the summer
  • Desert resorts nestled among painted mesas and worn sandstone canyons

Pros

For unforgettable natural beauty, this is where to go.

These places are often just as gorgeous and much more affordable in the off-season.

You can easily combine destination resorts with adventurous daytrips through the area.

Cons

In some places, you’ll be jostling elbows with busloads of tourists the second you leave the resort’s property.

Places in high demand can be very expensive.

Ecotourism and Ecological Resorts

A look at an ecological resort immersed in the middle of a tropical jungle.

Conservation is a big concern for many people nowadays. Ecotourism resorts allow people to have a fun vacation and feel like they’re leaving the world a little better off than it was. Sometimes these resorts are set up with a green design like solar panels on the roofs and rainwater cisterns. Others take a more direct approach. Guests may experience a working vacation as they get hands-on repairing trails in National Parks or building wells and structures for local communities.

Pros

Available activities often include appreciating nature and the environment, for instance by taking a safari through a nature preserve.

You’ll feel like you’ve given something back to the Earth and the local community.

This is a great way to experience authentic culture and cuisine.

Cons

You may have to do without certain creature comforts like Air Conditioning or endless hot water.

Unethical ecotourist resorts have been accused of exploiting local culture. Do some research before booking.

It’s debatable how much long-lasting change is actually accomplished here.

Historic Resorts

A look at a historic resort perched on a cliff over the sea.

Historic resorts focus on a historic site or archaeological area. These can range from converted Southern plantations to resorts near ancient Aztec temples.

Location isn’t the only thing that matters here. A historic resort isn’t just near these sites. It celebrates them, often through a theme, enrichment activities, day trips to the site, etc.

Pros

This is hands-down the best option for history buffs. A well-chosen historic resort can be the trip of a lifetime.

These places offer a wide range of experiences, from low key relaxation in a mansion’s library to exciting adventures touring ancient Egyptian tombs.

Cons

Resort quality can vary, with some establishments being chintzy tourist traps. You’ll want to research your options carefully.

These resorts may not be a good fit for bigger families, as not everyone wants edutainment on their vacation.

Dude Ranches

A group of men touring a ranch on horseback.

Sometimes, pampering and luxury aren’t what people are looking for in a vacation. Sometimes they want to get in touch with their inner cowboy in a rustic but comfortable setting. Enter the Dude Ranch, where people can experience the rugged life of a cowpoke and still enjoy hot meals and soft beds.

Pros

You can learn skills that are hard to pick up elsewhere, like tossing a lasso and shoeing horses.

These places tend to lean into the Western vibe without taking it too seriously, which can be a lot of fun.

Many Dude Ranches are located in ruggedly beautiful rural areas, giving you a very different vacation from the typical beachside fare.

Cons

Some places put you to work at the crack of dawn, which isn’t a great fit for night owls.

Country-Western music and cuisine can be an acquired taste.

Many Dude Ranches are more ‘rustic’ than ‘luxurious.’

Casino and Amusement Park Resorts

A close look at a casino with colorful and bright machines for various games.

If you want to make absolutely sure you won’t get bored on your vacation, take a look at these resorts. They’re built with a focus on the central attraction.

Places like Monte Carlo and the Las Vegas strip offer casino focused resorts. Here you can take poker lessons, play slot machines, and enjoy magic shows and circus acts. Meanwhile, amusement park resorts tend to cater to a younger crowd. Instead of gambling, you may take your chances at country fair-style games or get your heart racing on a roller coaster.

Pros

You can enjoy a wide variety of entertainment options, from nightly magic shows to different kinds of card games.

Casino resorts come at a variety of price points, from affordable to high-end.

Casinos and amusement parks are scattered around the world, so there’s a good chance one is located relatively close to you.

Cons

Some amusement parks cater mostly toward children and may not have much to offer the family’s grown-ups.

Casino resorts make it easy (maybe too easy) to end up spending a lot more than you budgeted for.

Adults-Only Resorts

A close look at an adults-only pool with a wooden warning sign on the side.

Adults-only resorts are places like singles’ focused establishments where people go to have fun and find a potential partner. Other such resorts offer romantic couples-only getaways. Certain places take it a step farther and focus on Seniors. People under retirement age may not be able to book a room.

Pros

You won’t have to pay extra resort fees for things like childcare.

It can be easier to get to know other people and soak in the environment without screaming kids running wild.

You can make new friends (or more) from all around the world.

Cons

Some adult resorts have an unsavory character after-hours, depending on the maturity and drinking tolerance of the people there.

You’ll want to research what events the resort offers, and what rules for adult behavior are in place, so you know what you’re signing up for.

Family-Focused Resorts

A close look at a family enjoying their time at the pool of the resort.

Some resorts work hard to cater to the children of the family. They may have extensive kids’ menus that work around the preferences of picky eaters, enrichment activities like nature tours, and plenty of games and arts or crafts opportunities. If you’ve got younger children, the whole family can build fun memories here.

Pros

There will be plenty of activities for your kids to enjoy.

On-site babysitting lets you slip away with your spouse to reconnect without a toddler hanging off of you.

These places tend to be on the more affordable side of the scale.

Cons

If you have a very large family, it can get expensive paying for so many people.

Teens may not have as much to do in a resort full of kid-friendly activities.

Don’t expect five-star luxury.

Clothing Optional Resorts

A look at a beach resort from the vantage point of a rock cliff.

Nudist resorts tend to be small, private, cozy affairs. Here, many generations of clothing-optional people can gather to do exactly what they do at any other resort: splash in the water, tan on the private beach, hike in the mountains, and fire up the grill for dinner. They’re just wearing a lot less as they do it.

Pros

You won’t have to worry about tan lines.

These are friendly, laid-back vacations where you can let it all hang out.

This gives you a chance to build some body confidence.

If you aren’t there yet in terms of body confidence, you can wear a swimsuit or towel.

Cons

You will have to worry about sunburns in places that have never burned before.

Not everyone wants to see that much of their grandparents.

If you’re the only person wearing a swimsuit, you may feel pretty self-conscious.

Vacation photos will need to be blurred before you post them on Facebook.

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