This was our first all-inclusive vacation ever. We normally do cruises, but wanted to try something different.
ROOM: We booked in the Preferred Tower, in a junior suite ocean view. The view was spectacular, the room was extremely clean and gorgeous (and huge). Our balcony had both a jacuzzi tub in the room and one on the balcony. We did not use the one in the room but I did use the one outside twice. Very nice! The lighting in the room was beautiful. Someone put a lot of thought into the subtleties there. One caveat: the lighting in the bathroom could not be amped up, so if you are female (we are both guys, so no prob) you might want to bring along a lighted mirror. I saw more than one woman on the balcony applying makeup LOL. The bed was oh so comfortable and we had no issues with it being cleaned regularly. In fact, more than once we had to turn them away for turn down service, simply because we didn't feel like leaving the room and we know how to turn the covers down ourselves. Ha. My point is that we never felt neglected. The only reason I don't give this place five stars is that on the Secrets side in the Preferred Tower, there are some noise issues with the property next door. You will hear roosters and dogs barking at all hours. If you are supersensitive, you might not want to book in the preferred tower for this reason. Secrets cannot obviously control what is next door, but perhaps in the future the owners of the roosters and dogs will move away.
POOLS: Phenomenal in every way. We never went to the Now Amber side for pools, as everything we could possibly need was on the Secrets side. The ocean was just steps away. I know there have been complaints about vendors hanging out, and yes they were there, but one 'no thank you' is all it took and they left us alone. I quite liked the beach and the swimming area in the ocean as well as the pools. Plenty of shade if you want it, as they had lots of umbrellas. Plus there are large palm trees and little cabanas with fabric roofs.
SERVICE: Excellent in all areas. I cannot think of much more to say about this. Imagine excellent service and you get the idea of what we experienced. From lobby personnel to bars, to restaurants: all great. Omar, at the pool area, was our favorite server. I felt his enthusiasm for working at Secrets was genuine, and he did everything possible to make our stay enjoyable.
ENTERTAINMENT: Well...this is the one place that I believe could see some improvement. Therefore again...a reason I can't give it a full five stars. There really is not a lot going on after the pools close. There were a few musicians scheduled throughout the week that performed in the lobbies, but it was nothing to be thrilled about. I am sorry to say that the harpist and piano duo was the low point during our stay. I kept thinking they were warming up, but it was the actual performance. There was one folklorico dance presentation near the Himitsu and Tamarindo restaurants that we did not attend, so I cannot comment on that one. As for activities by the pool, it is the typical kind of thing you will see on cruise ships, and the staff does an outstanding job. Think things like Bingo or Pool Aerobics and you get the picture. David was one entertainment staffer that seemed to be everywhere, always with a smile. The others were equally engaging, but somehow everything I chose to participate in involved David. The femal staffer (sorry I didn't get her name) does an amazing aerobics class.
DINING: Food everywhere was very good to excellent. Barefoot Cafe, Market Cafe: Nice presentation and very tasty. It was not the same thing every day. They mixed it up a bit. Of course there were a few things you could get no matter what, like hamburgers and pizza. We loved Oceano and had dinner there twice. The decor is very understated and it is closest to the ocean. We saw a gorgeous sunset there one night. The food was top notch each time. I loved the Red Snapper entree, and the seafood tostadas were light, clean and fresh. Capers (on the Now Amber side) was also very good. It was nice to have a pasta choice during our stay, and we were not disappointed. Our favorite was Bordeaux on the Secrets side, and we also ate there twice. Service was phenomenal, and the food was perfection. Our favorite servers were Ezekiel and his assistant Antonio. They were oh so friendly and made the night that much more enjoyable. The one place that had us scratching our heads was Tamarindo. I love mexican food, but this was so gourmet-a-tized that it was practically unrecognizable as such. It was not bad, but just okay. Service was very good, but the decor was, to be frank...a little Disney. It felt very inauthentic, with a huge artificial bouganvillea in the center of the restaurant and unpleasant trite Mexican canned music. My spirits lifted when the mariachi band arrived, as I love mariachi...but even though all the other musicians were very good, the trumpet player was flat and ruined everything they were trying to do. Lastly, dinner at the Market Cafe (not a buffet in the evenings) was very good. I especially loved being able to eat outside in both Oceano and the Market Cafe. So overall...I say the food here is excellent and so is the service.
MISCELLEANEOUS: We were a little disappointed to find the 15 minute walk along the beach to the Boardwalk was really more like 30 minutes, and you must walk through some obstacles and deserted dilapidated areas to get there in extreme heat and humidity. In that respect, we felt a little 'hemmed-in" as you had to get a taxi to experience more of PV. This is not the fault of Secrets at all, but something I think should be shared. We did take an exciting tour to San Sebastian, a centuries old village high up in the hills, untouched by time. It was a magical experience, and our tour guide was informative, friendly, and helpful. We arranged this through Apple. It was the only tour we booked. The other one we really wanted to do was the dinner and show at Las Caletas via a boat ride. But since it was in the evening, and it rained practically every evening...we opted out.
THE ONE UH-OH MOMENT: There was an incident during one of the activities at the pool that was a little off-putting. To be blunt, it involved some comments by a staffer, said in fun...but very offensive and ostracizing. I walked away from it; it was reported to the Main Desk. This staffer immediately found me after the activity was over and apologized profusely, which I much appreciated. I felt his apology was sincere. He asked me to talk to his supervisor and so I did, at this request. This is where it felt very odd. I approached his supervisor, explained we had it all ironed out, and that his employee had apologized. This supervisor seemed frustrated that I was discussing it with him (but as I have said, the staffer asked me to do this) and all he would say is "What do you want me to do for you?" Well...I wanted nothing. I was not complaining, just following up as I had been asked, because I did not want the staffer to get into any trouble over it. This part of the incident was awkward and odd.
BOTTOM LINE: If you like all-inclusives, this place is practically perfect. Just be aware that the entertainment after 6PM is a little on the light side, and you might do well to take a cab into town for something more.