We were also on the fence about some of the reviews we had read prior to booking our trip July 8 thru July 13. Our experience was a beautiful one! This was our first trip to Cozumel but not to Mexico. We are quite familiar with travel to the Yucatan, having previously stayed at other AI style resorts such as Valentin Imp. Maya, Excellence Playa Mujeres and Akumal Beach Resort. For such a small airport it was a long process to get thru. We were picked up as promised at the airport by private transfer, there were two other couples on board the van, but we went directly to Secrets, no run around town.
CHECK IN: Standard greeting with the cold freshly scented washcloths and sparkling wine. Check in took a while, especially with the explanation of all the coupon usage at the spa, private dinner etc.. we were also approached about the presentation of other Secrets properties. Of course if you attend, you can get other perks, but we were not interested in spending 90min of our vacation on that, we had pretty much done our research on where we wanted to go anyways. Not to knock these folks who want you to attend, it's their job, we graciously declined and never felt hounded, we stll saw them daily and exchanged pleasantries. Aside from this our room was ready , no waiting. It was around 3:30 pm.
ROOM: We had a great room, 4231. Top floor overlooking the pool and swim up bar. No beach view, except for a thin slice of ocean visible between the palms and other bldgs. The room was at the end of the top floor too, no neighbors on one side ! The balcony was nice, glass panels about waiste high, table , two chairs and a hammock. Very comfy for early morning reading & coffees. There was a group of people who showed up at the pool, almost same time, same place everyday...they kept that swim up bar busy !! I wonder if they ever saw the beach? They were loud sometimes but never out of control and always gone before sundown. The room itself was comfy, no issues with the king size bed, nice, not too hard or soft, it felt like it may have had a padded top. Mini fridge, coffee maker. Bathroom was more private than some resorts, the drain in the shower was slow a few times, but not enough to make a service call. Plenty of hot water. Shampoo, conditioner, SPF 15 sunscreen, lotion etc. The A/C worked flawlessly, it was on 24/7 since we arrived. Room safe and TV all fine. We had a few laughs watching too much Steven Segal one night !haha! We had inquired about upgrading to a beach front room on arrival, but afterall we were quite content. We did see a few tiny ants around some used sugar packettes from the coffee service, cleaned it up, was no big deal, you're in the jungle people.
MAID & STAFF: I believe her name was Martha? She was great, not sure what time she came, but always done when we got back to the room every afternoon / eve. She even left extra regular coffee packs and had the fridge stocked with more beer & water than soda at my request. We tipped her daily. All the employees were very friendly, always a hola or hello.
ROOM SERVICE: Take advantage of this perk ! We ordered breakfasts and late dinners( 9-10pm ). Very polite on the phone taking orders in English or Spanish , and their delivery times were always spot on! 35 min was the average. The food arrived hot and correct. The fajitas were great, also the Texas salad (club salad ) very tasty too. BBQ ribs, Sub sandwhich...all great! Chocolate cake & ice cream too ! Always tipped these guys nicely too carrying that loaded tray up flights of stairs, no lifts !! We were told to leave the trays outside the room after eating, but I had observed a few trays left out overnight and it looked like some of the critters had gotten into them, so we left the tray indoors.
RESTAURANTS: We dined at Windows and Oceana. Breakfasts, lunches, mid day snacks and dinner. All very nice. Service was good, it did take a while to get some dishes though, probably more prep time , for instance the grouper filet was delicious! Try it! Shrimp tacos and scallop ceviche great also. Surprised there were not more seafood selections on the menu. If you're adventurous order some habanero salsa ! WOW ! Go easy Leonard, that stuff will light you up ! I did get a few looks when i requested it, I think most folks stick with the standard guacamole & pico salsa, which were great too! Mix it all up for a spicy treat ! Breakfast buffet was good too, they will make you a special order omlette too. We never went hungry, as a matter of fact it's too easy to feel stuffed all day long with all the food & drinks you want at your beck n call.....pace yourself ! We tried the Mexican buffet over at Sabor one night. Nothing special......we didn't stick around either, family style resort, we went back to the quiet of Aura. Never tried Bordeaux, not even sure if it was open. We're pretty easy to please in the food department, no complaints, if you didn't like it , try something else on the menu or we stuck to our favourites. Portions were just right, maybe some folks are used to US sized portions, with left overs. You can order all you like, appetizers, salads, main course, desserts....really...you won't be hungry. Less waste too. There is also a grill at Oceana for burgers and snacks too, had a burger, was good.
BARS: We hit the bar at Oceana mainly, nice guys, good service, we also hit one of the swim up bars, wait times were not an issue. We did have service on the beach one day, the girl was busy, looked like she was running her tail off.....there again, order doubles if you can't wait......We were fine, that day got kinda foggy...Mai Tai mania.....damn good ! One night we ventured up to the Sky Bar.....we're not spring break partiers, it doesnt seem like this is the resort for that behaviour either......there was some loud music, coloured lights a hot tub or two....and a group of about 15 people hanging out...my wife described it best..."Bad Prom" hahah! We left, not our scene. We seem to do most of our partying during the daylight hours there.
BEACH: Great beach ! Although we hit the pools a few times and they were nice but, we were there for the ocean. Yes, take beach sandals or water shoes, there are some rocks. Not a big sandy boogie board wave style beach. Pretty calm, but clear enough to do a little snorkeling from the beach or pier if you like. Walk north to the other pier for some great snorkeling too, many fish at this one. They had a hammock hanging partially submerged on the beach too, was a nice touch. No issues with finding a lounger or towels, also beach beds available. There was no issues with seaweed washing ashore daily like the Cancun areas. Very clean beach, no litter. Water was awesome, warm. There are volley ball courts, snorkel gear, kayaks etc. No kids on this beach either. Walk out to the end of the pier, it's plenty deep to jump off or dive, there is a ladder to climb back up too. This is a great place to watch a sunset too! That's another bonus of this side of Cozumel, you will get to see the sunset !! Beautiful and romantic ! Get some !
One thing about the beach that I did find a nuisance was on a couple of days there was several jet skis from another resort racing up and down the coast near our pier, would be nice if they were restricted from Secrets....they were killing my buzz.
SNORKEL TRIP: We booked a trip thru Dive Palancar on premises, three reefs: El Cielo, Columbia & Palancar. This was awesome ! Although it was partially cloudy and rained at times, this did not affect the visibility ! Trip lasted about 2 1/2 hours, if you snorkel, $30...DO THIS !! Our boat was a glass bottom style, The "MARE I" Capitan Carlos and our guide Javier. Both Excellent guys ! Here's a tip for you, go on the glass bottom boat, they have a limit of 10 -12 people...the big FURY catamarans have dozens of people on board...longer wait times and too many people for your experience. We saw incredible colourful corals, starfish, many species of tropical fish, a four foot barracuda and rays !
El CEDRAL Bike Tour: There is a free bike tour from the resort to visit El Cedral ruins and village. If you feel up to a little exercise take this free excursion. It's probably a five mile round trip, burn some of those calories !! The village is quaint and a nice way to see some local habitat. Not much of a ruin here only one small structure. There is also a small church and some other little shops and vendors. Our guide was a young man by the name of Julio. He was by far our favourite resort employee. We had great conversation and he was very knowledgeable of the area as he was a native. Julio is an asset to the Secrets team, we wish him all the best in his future endeavors and educational goals!! Muchas gracias Julio !!!
TRIP to TOWN: If you can split a cab with another couple, the fee to town is @ $15 one way. You can also look into renting a jeep, polaris buggy or scooter, but honestly, there was probably going to be alcohol involved at some point of my day and just didn't want the liability folks ! I'm on holiday !! Cozumel was nice to visit but a bit too much tourista after being secluded in the sanctuary of the resort. We did visit the museum though. Worth a visit if you like that sort of thing, there are some real artifacts from ship wrecks and Mayan ruins. Also some displays of ecologic & environmental topics. Nice old building too. It's on the main drag not far from the cruise ship docking area, check it out. We shopped and bought the customary souvenir or two, we did buy a couple of black coral jewelry pieces , very nice and not too $$ Aside from that, all very normal Mexican tourist environment, plus several high end diamond stores?? and some chain store shops....ehhh , enough of that.....we hit a bar , sampled some tequilas and caught a cab to the Money bar, to see a rock band, but no music that afternoon...oh well a couple more drinks and back to the resort.
WEATHER: We had rain several times, but it was never an issue nor did it keep us from doing activities. It was always fast moving and would become sunny or partly cloudy after that. The temps seemed to be in the eighties during the day, very tolerable, high humidity, not overbearing though. It is hurricane season, however we were lucky ! Do your home work.....check the rainy seasons or dry periods...also one reason we went in July is some people think it will be too hot & muggy, but hey, you're at the beach...usually a breeze and you're in the ocean or the pool with a cold drink...or you're in your A/C room chillin ! Another bonus is the days are very long, lotta daylight hours, versus being there in Nov or Oct...short days .....cooler temps.
MOSQUITOS: No issue for me, but my wife is a target....take some bug spray if you're one of those tasty people.
IGUANAS: Yes !! Great photo ops ! Plus some birds and many beautiful plants.
CONCLUSION: I would highly recommend this resort. Do your home work, weather reports, high tourist seasons, reading reviews and taking in to account what kind of travelers are writing them. I believe this is the only choice for all inclusive and adult only resorts in Coz.. We had no complaints and truly enjoyed our time there. This is not the best resort we have visited in Mexico, but if you're are looking for an affordable complete package with great atmosphere, good food and an awesome beach with sunsets and diving and snorkeling opportunity it would be hard to beat Secrets Aura . We didn't get to sample all of the bars, dining choices or activities only being there five nights but what we did get to try was all great. Maybe a couple more dinig choices and beer flavours would be nice? But hey, you'll never go hungry or thirsty.
SPECIAL THANKS: Justine the concierge was very helpful and kind in acknowledging our birthdays celebration and we look forward to her assistance in future bookings. Also special thanks to Jared for all the info on getting around town! And to our amigo Julio on the bike tour to El Cedral, you helped make it a great birthday celebration!!! Adios amigos, nos vemos!!