Resorts vs Villas – What’s the Difference?

resort rooms next to pool

As I checked out different resorts, I came across a question that other people have while doing their research. What’s the difference between a resort and a villa? 

The difference between a resort and villa is a resort has everything onsite – restaurants, entertainment, activities, etc. Resorts also tend to have many guests. Villas are more private, luxury residences designed for a relaxed, intimate feeling. The number of rooms is very limited, usually enough for a multi-family vacation. It is not uncommon for villas to have private pools, private balconies and private beaches. 

Some hotels bill themselves as villas. But they are just that – hotels. Some are resorts that use the word “villa” as a marketing feature.

They are also not true villas. Actual villas can get very expensive, costing upwards of $2,000 per night.  

What Do Resorts Include? 

Villas are basically private homes. Whether it has a pool, beach access or other features will depend entirely on the property. 

Resorts – particularly all-inclusive resorts – follow a very predictable model.

It’s true that some resorts attempt to set themselves apart from others by offering complementary bathrobes for guests. Others include fireplaces, private balconies and other things to get a leg up on the competition. 

However, what does come pretty standard in most all-inclusive resorts include: 

  • Restaurant (sometimes many restaurants) 
  • Swimming pools 
  • Bar/lounge 
  • Spa 
  • Wedding venue 
  • Free internet 
  • Fitness center/gym 
  • Dry cleaning services 
  • Evening entertainment 
  • Taxi service (not usually complementary) 
  • Meeting rooms 
  • Conference facilities 

Some all-inclusive resorts that cater to families might have these in addition to the typical resort features: 

resorts vs villas what's the difference cover image
  • Babysitting 
  • Children’s play area 
  • Children’s pool 
  • Kid friendly buffets 
  • Kids club 

Adult-only resorts will definitely not have the kid-friendly features. But they might add to standard resort amenities the following: 

  • Casino 
  • Nightclub/DJ 
  • Poolside bar 

What Are the Types of Resorts? 

When it comes to resorts, the great thing is there is no “one-size-fits-all” model.

Depending on your interests, there is probably a resort for you. From couples’ resorts to eco-friendly resorts, there is no end to the selection. 

Here are some popular resort categories. In some instances, one category may be included with another. For example, it’s not uncommon to see “spa” appended to ski resorts and beach resorts. 

Vacation Resorts 

Pool at Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay Jamaica
Secrets Wild Orchid – Adults Only, Montego Bay

The name pretty much says it all. But we’ll give you a little detail anyway.  

Vacation resorts cater to people who just want to get away from the everyday affairs of life. Families tend to like vacation resorts because they usually have activities to keep the kids busy.

But they also provide things for the parents to do, especially in the evening. There is a good possibility that the vacation resort you select will have babysitting services that allow for parents to get some alone time. 

Restaurants are available onsite. As are other activities that may include excursions in the surrounding area. Most have pools and spas. Those on the beach have private access only for their guests. 

Island Resorts 

Island resorts are interesting because, depending on the island, you may get features that others will not have.

Some island resorts in Bali and the Philippines have huts over the water. Others are near volcanos which makes for unforgettable excursions.  

Activities may include snorkeling, hiking, biking and other water-based activities. 

Golf Resorts 

Golf resorts are quite different from the other resorts on our list. Yes, the basics are there: rooming, dining, activities. But these all cater to those that like to golf. 

Take activities as an example. The first and obvious activity is golf. Most golf resorts have courses designed to challenge one’s skill.

To be clear, this isn’t miniature golf, putt-putt, or whatever term is common in your area. These resorts are for serious golfers. And the courses are designed by big names in the game. 

For those whose skill is not as high as they would like, golf lessons are usually available at these resorts.  

Some golf resorts have wine and beer tasting. Sure, most other resorts will have bars. I’ve gone wine and beer tasting.

And let me tell you, it’s a more educational and enjoyable experience than simply throwing back a few (although that is fun in its own right).  

Typically Included in your golf package are all green and cart fees, range balls, meals, and accommodations. 

Ski Resorts 

Ski resorts offer the same basic amenities as a vacation or beach resort, just in the mountains: dining, lodging, bars, hot tub, etc.

What sets ski resorts apart from the rest are the winter activities that can be enjoyed.  

Activities included in your booking can include: 

  • Skiing 
  • Sledding 
  • Snowboarding 
  • Snowmobiling 
  • Ice-skating 
  • Dog-sledding 
  • Horse drawn sleds 

Something that should be noted about ski resorts is that many are available in the warmer months.

Obviously, snowboarding and skiing are out. But to keep revenue flowing, some ski resorts have water parks to keep people visiting all year long. You’ll have to check with the resort for details.  

If you like a specific resort in the winter, there is a possibility you can go in the summer.

And because they know vacationers will be considering traditional summertime vacation destinations, you might be able to score a good price on a ski resort in the summer. 

Spa Resorts 

Spa at The Standard, Miami, FL
The Standard Spa, Miami Beach, FL

Back in their inception, spa resorts were located near natural hot springs or mineral springs. The goal was to relive stress. But the minerals in the water also had therapeutic benefits.  

The modern spa resort probably isn’t going to be near a hot spring. But the health and wellness benefits will still be key features.  

In addition to what you’d expect from a spa resort – massages, saunas, hot tubs, etc. – a focus on healthy living is promoted. 

It’s not uncommon for a spa resort to have health and wellness education classes, seminars on healthy cooking and physical fitness. The health programs extend to the meals served to guests. Said another way, don’t expect burgers, hot dogs and ice cream at a spa resort. 


You probably weren’t expecting to see this one on the list.

But if we’re going by the definition of a resort, then a timeshare does qualify. Depending on the timeshare, you’ll have a pool, possibly entertainment, maybe even a restaurant. 

We don’t recommend timeshares. However, this site doesn’t try to make decisions for you.

After learning about timeshares, you might find that it’s right for you. I have friends who own timeshares and have met people who own them.

And they absolutely adore them.

To help you decide, I’ll explain what timeshares are and where to get the best one if you decide to go that route.

How It Works 

A timeshare bills itself as allowing you to own a portion of a resort.

As a partial owner, it allows you to book for longer periods for a lower cost than a typical resort. When you buy a timeshare, you’ll need to understand if you are buying “weeks” or “credits”. There is a big difference. 


With weeks, you essentially buy time. If you have one week to “spend”, you can pick any hotel in the catalog. It can be a family resort or a luxury resort.

There is a catch, though.

It depends on how “valuable” your weeks are. I’ll talk about that in the next section. 

Back to how weeks work.

This format could be a great option to try some of the different types of resorts listed above.

I have a friend who uses a timeshare and enjoys being able to try different resorts in various areas. My friend and his wife have their timeshare paid off. So for them, it works out to a very inexpensive vacation. 


Another way some timeshares work is by “credit” or “points”.

And it works exactly like it sounds.

You have credits to spend and you can use them anywhere. I’m not a fan of points-based timeshares.

Think about anything you engage with that uses credits or points. It allows the people that manage those points to manipulate the use of credits.  

At one timeshare presentation I attended, I asked the salesperson how much each credit was worth in dollars.

He acted like I was speaking some obscure Martian dialect. I wanted to know because it determines where you can stay.  

Let me explain. 

Let’s say you have 10,000 points to spend. To stay at a particular resort might cost 5,000 points this year. To stay at that same resort next year, you’ll have to use 7,000 points for the same time period.

To book the same resort with cash might not change much from year to year. Yet, it will cost you more points to stay using the credit/points system.

Because there is no dollar value assigned to the points, there’s no way to know how much your points are actually worth. 

Beware of Conversions 

This is a good time to sound a warning.

If you have a timeshare or are looking into a timeshare that uses weeks but is converting to points or credits, in my opinion, you should seriously consider selling that timeshare or not getting involved at all. 

Why are timeshares converting to credits?

Because they can devalue your credits to the extent that they are worthless.

It’s like rewards points on a credit card. What you can use those points on can change at a moment’s notice. What once got you 7 days at a resort this year might only get you 4 days the following year. 

If you do feel a timeshare is what’s best for you, I suggest going with one that uses “weeks” instead of “credits” or “points”. Weeks are fixed. One day will always be one day. 

Where to Get the Best Timeshare 

Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas
Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas

I’ll say from the start – what I am about to tell you is based on my opinion from attending over a dozen timeshare presentations.  

If you want the best timeshare offer, you have to go to Vegas. 

That’s right. Las Vegas.  

Remember when I said weeks are better than credits?

That’s because you’re swapping weeks with other timeshare members. 

So the timeshare property you purchased needs to be valuable enough for someone to want to swap with you. 

Right now, you might be thinking the best place for a timeshare is Florida or Hawaii. For sure, Hawaii is a swappable location. Florida is nice too.

But neither is as valuable as Las Vegas.  


Las Vegas is a place where people are willing to visit every month of the year. Holidays are even more valuable.

This makes your timeshare purchase in Las Vegas a valuable commodity.

If you have a timeshare in the Poconos in Pennsylvania, not a lot of people will want to swap weeks with you.  

Florida is actually not as good as it might seem.

Yes, there are the Disney and Universal Studios parks. There are also hurricanes. This makes Florida a seasonal vacation spot. Even if that season is most of the year.  

Las Vegas, on the other hand, is not prone to natural disasters. Yes, it can become unbearably hot in the summer.

But no one goes to Vegas to stay outside. Although if you do like the outdoors and nature, the Las Vegas area has some amazing state parks

To get the best timeshare offers in Las Vegas, ignore the people pushing you a timeshare presentation at the airport.

Pay no attention to the ones you find on the street.

For the best timeshare offers, go to the ones in the bigger hotels. One of the best presentations I attended was pushed on me in Planet Hollywood in the Miracle Mile.  

When you’re approached to sign up for the presentation, play hard to get.

Those salespeople get paid to get you to go to the presentation regardless of whether you buy or not. 

So they’ll keep throwing more and more freebies your way to convince you to go to the presentation. 

Never Take the First or Second Offer 

One more tip: whatever you do, NEVER take the first offer during a timeshare presentation.


If you like negotiating, you’ll love a timeshare presentation. And you might get a better value for holding out. 

We went to one such presentation. We held out until the very end. The offer was to leave a deposit. That deposit allowed us to return to the resort anytime within the next year for a week.

If we decided we wanted to buy in during that future visit, all the terms and conditions would be frozen until the end our visit.

Even if prices went up, ours were fixed. If after staying for a week we felt that the timeshare wasn’t for us, the deposit would be used to pay for our stay.   

We felt it was a pretty good deal. And we did, in fact, enjoy our week.

We personally didn’t take advantage of that offer. We learned that, for us, what we liked about staying in Vegas was the experience of being in the resort hotels. Being in the action.  

Beyond that, the timeshare was extremely nice and comfortable.

One thing we liked a lot was that the pool was never crowded. If, however, we did purchase that timeshare, we could have traded our weeks there to go to Dubai, Hawaii, or even a cruise.  

Why? Because Vegas timeshares are extremely valuable. 

Choose What’s Right for You 

Choice is what this all comes down to. A villa is a great choice to enjoy a vacation with your family or a few friends. You won’t have the crowds and you’ll have the privacy that you just won’t find at a resort.  

Resorts can be a cost-effective way to go on vacation and still enjoy a lot of activities. Either way, you can pick the best property for you by using this handy tool:

Your Vacation Planning Authority