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“Beautiful resort, amazing service, but some problems” 3 of 5 stars
Review of El Secreto

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El Secreto
4.0 of 5 Small Hotel   |   11 miles north of San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize   |  
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Hotel amenities
Ranked #4 of 16 Ambergris Caye B&B and Inns
Houston, Texas
Senior Contributor
44 reviews 44 reviews
18 hotel reviews
Reviews in 21 cities Reviews in 21 cities
41 helpful votes 41 helpful votes
“Beautiful resort, amazing service, but some problems”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed October 28, 2013

It is very secluded, almost like your own private island. The facilities are beautiful and high end. We were met with cool towels and even a 5 minute massage upon arrival. The service was incredible (Thanks again Klyve!) but there are some major issues that need to be remedied before I'll consider returning. Here's a quick rundown of the good and bad:

Lobby/Pool/Bar/Restaurant - all open-air spaces. Clean raked beach and hammocks over the pool. We were one of 4 couples there for the weekend so it was perfectly calm and peaceful. Relaxing swing seats in the bar were fun.
FYI, this is NOT a place for children. There are no children's activities or play areas, no kid's menus, and frankly children would ruin the calm atmosphere that guests are here to enjoy. I'd be furious if I booked an expensive villa and the mood was ruined by children doing cannonballs into the pool. The bugs weren't that bad with the breeze, but the sand fleas do bite if it's calm. There is good Off in the rooms. (There are bugs everywhere in Belize, they do a good job of spraying at El Secreto)

Spa - We had a couples massage in the Ikal Spa Villa and it was very nice. The doors were open to the pool and ocean. Deep tissue meant DEEP tissue.

Food - We ate b/l/d at the hotel for 4 days straight and enjoyed every meal. There are enough options that we didn't get sick of the same menu. The grouper tacos were my fave. The grouper meuniere was spectacular and don't miss the ceviches. It's expensive but we knew this in advance and still really loved the food. Jamie and Rachael waited on us and were so friendly and provided fantastic service. I even had a special dessert for my birthday, which I appreciated.

Room/bathroom - Our room was roughly $600/nt. At that price, I expect every detail to be perfect. The bed was incredibly comfortable, there is a pillow menu, large flat screen, mood lighting and seating area. A stocked mini bar had reasonable prices. The bathroom had a large walk in shower (absolutely heavenly) and a large tub. The outdoor shower needs real walls, not see-through ones! The outdoor jacuzzi was very nice, but it does take about 3 hours to heat up. They have the entire room wired to be operated from one ipod that you are given upon arrival. Great idea if it actually worked, which ours didn't. Our AC was spotty when we got there (room 3) even though I'd emailed a month earlier to double check that the AC was functioning. I prefer a cool temperature at night and for $600/nt the AC should keep it under 75 degrees. But it never did. The second night our AC quit working at 11:30pm. The staff were great and told us it could be fixed the next day and escorted us to another empty Tropical villa with a working AC. (We were given a small compensation, not equal to the trouble of moving.) The next day we were moved to Room 1 after the guests checked out. The AC there was "working," however it never cooled the room lower then a balmy 75 despite being set on 63. Also, we had several strong storms during the nights and the winds really do keep the AC from working at all. I spent 3 nights sweating on top of the covers (at $600/nt). The ipod battery also dies and in Room 1 it would never connect to the system (see photo). Also, the large bathrooms only have a fan, no air handler so the "AC" never reaches in there. The lighting is also not great for makeup application, but that's nit-picking, I'd settle for 72 degrees.

The musical rooms situation wasn't the worst part, however. Our departure transfer was scheduled earlier than necessary so another couple could make their flight. The hotel has 2 nice 23ft open bow boats to shuttle guests to and from San Pedro, about 25 minutes. An afternoon squall blew in as we were in the boat halfway to San Pedro and our traveling clothes, passports, wallets, shoes, etc were soaked all the way through. The open boat is good for nice weather, however this was a complete and total nightmare. We finally arrived at the dock and were told there were no towels on board. We then had a rainy golf cart ride to the airport where I walked in with a soaking cotton dress sticking to me and makeup running down my face and muddy from the golf cart ride. Instead of a peaceful trip home, I had to strip in the airport bathroom, dry off with dirty clothes and change. It was by far the worst transfer I've experienced and a terrible way to end our vacation. The ownership of this hotel needs to provide covered transportation to and from the airport! I'm infuriated that we paid our final bill of several thousand dollars just to be put on a boat and driven into a thunderstorm only to be deposited soaked and miserable for our flight.

So, overall I found this hotel to be overpriced if the owner will not provide covered transfers and AC that will actually lower the temperature. It is a beautiful property, well staffed with gracious people, but the owner needs to adjust those items accordingly before I'll return.

Room Tip: The view was great from the Seaside Villas but the Tropical Villa was bigger and stayed cooler.
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  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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105 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
    58
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (36)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • Italian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Houston, Texas
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 6, 2013

We decided to spend our babymoon at El Secreto. The resort is very secluded and very much in the tropics. The resort was very nice, well kept, friendly and attentive staff. We stayed in a seaside villa and loved the Jacuzzi and beach view from our room. The only minor complaints we experienced were that our light wasn't working in our Jacuzzi, so it wasn't lit up at night. We when first arrived, it was very windy, which affects how well the AC functions in the room. Our room would not cool at all, so the staff immediately offered us another room and fans. The fans helped a lot and when the wind calmed down, the AC worked fine. We ate at the restaurant at the resort (which is very pricy), which has mediocre food and an excellent staff. We did take the boat into the city to eat lunch for much less and enjoyed walking around the city. On our last night, there was a scorpion in our room up in the ceiling. We called the front desk and after trying to get the scorpion out, they were not able to, so they offered us another room. The staff did everything possible to make us comfortable and happy and I have to say our stay was very pleasant and memorable.

Room Tip: The Seaside Villas are very nice and offer a beach front view.
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Westchester, NY
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 23, 2013

Really, really, really beautiful resort with top notch service. Private and secluded.....again, private and secluded. You gotta know this going in.....

In our opinion, far from town but that is what makes it so nice. We went for R&R, not action or partying. We did that stuff in town when we stayed at Coco Beach resort. We also did our diving in town knowing that the last 3 days of our visit would be just for relaxing. Go there knowing you will be spending some money and you will enjoy yourself. We were just there (September) and had the place to ourselves. Maybe 5 of 13 villas occupied. We loved the privacy, service, and technology. The outdoor shower is like a water fall. The technology is awesome - I wish I had this at home. Impressive when you consider you are essentially in a jungle.The restaurant is expensive but in our opinion probably one of the best places to eat on the caye - if not the best. We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the restaurant - very expensive (and we are from New York City). Not Le Bernardin or Per se or Nobu. Practical fare but very good in comparison to the other places we ate at in town. Drinks were very good.

Have traveled throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean the last 20 years. Stayed at the Ritz Carlton to palapas on the beach. The service at this place is impeccable. Whoever is hiring the staff is doing a great job picking the people who work with the customers. A couple of the staff had enough intuition to even anticipate our needs. Jaime, our waiter was great! If I were teaching a hospitality course I would take the students here to show them how a properly run resort operates.

The staff seemed willing to accommodate us anyway they could. We used the spa one day and were completely satisfied with the service

There are a couple of drawbacks but we are pretty much easy going people and make the best of every situation. 1) The Jacuzzi - you have to ask a few hours in advance to heat it up. As far as we are concerned it should be on throughout the stay of the guests so that you can use it anytime. 2) The beach is not pristine like Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos or Seven-Mile Beach in the Cayman Islands. However, the view is beautiful and almost makes up for it.

The grounds and service make this place stand out from the crowd. Looks like they have a lot of the kinks worked out. Keep up the good work guys!

Room Tip: If you could afford it, the ocean front rooms are spectacular..........
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dallas, Texas
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 12, 2013

Loved San Pedro, Belize and the whole trip. The staff at El Secreto was very accomodating and the example other resorts should take for what hospitality looks like. We were welcomed with a beverage, warm towel, neck massage and a personal tour of our villa. That is way better than most hotel's welcoming! The guys who picked us up on the boat, the waiters, housekeeping - all great. The villa itself was a dream. Unfortunately it was raining quite a bit off and on when we were there (Labor Day 2013) so we didn't lay out at the pool as much as normal. The food is very expensive, so most of the time we would take the boat into town to eat and drink at the local places, at a more reasonable price... even if we had to pay for the water taxi and the El Secreto boat to pick us up later. We had trouble getting the A/C to stay on, and then had trouble getting the TV to work, but they sent someone very promptly to help fix it! It really is as beautiful as it looks in the photos, and the service is great! I would love to go back to Belize to dive and vacation, but I don't know if I would spend the extra $ just to stay here again.

Room Tip: Stayed in the lake villa, beautiful but there was construction sounds from something they were worki...
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Rhinebeck, New York
Contributor
19 reviews 19 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
18 helpful votes 18 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 30, 2013

My wife and I just got back from our stay at El Secreto and we were not impressed. The grounds are beautiful and the staff extremely friendly, but the service is sub par. In their defense, the resort is fairly new and they do not have the experience that other resorts may have. The food was good but not excellent and way over priced. The resort is very secluded which at first sounds very appealing, but after a few days of being at the resort we were ready to go into San Pedro. The only way there is by boat and El Secreto charges $20 per person each way. The even more disturbing part is that they will pick up someone in San Pedro who is not staying at the resort, bring them to the resort for dinner and then bring them back without charging them for the boat ride. I find that to be very insulting. I understand that the resort needs to cover its gas charges but how do they explain this?! The boat captains were great and the rooms are very beautiful. The housekeeping staff did an incredible job keeping the rooms clean. The "horrible front desk lady" people have referred to in other reviews is not that bad. She is very friendly and helped me with any problems I had during our stay. I would not recommend this resort to people unless you are okay with staying at the resort for your entire stay and you have unlimited funds for drinks and food. Everything has an additional 25% added to it for resort charge and tip. A dirty banana- very tasty frozen drink, is about 14 dollars (U.S.) plus 25%. It was hard not to feel that we were being taken advantage of.

Room Tip: Save your money and get the tropical villa. The lake villas were breeding grounds for mosquitos, acc...
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Aldiprioux, Director de Operaciones at El Secreto, responded to this review, September 1, 2013
Dear Guest,

I am sorry to hear that the resort was not what you expected, I really am. Our goal is to please and pamper our guests so that they can have a Magical experience at El Secreto.
We have a complimentary shuttle boat to San Pedro every day departing the resort at 9:30 am and coming back from Amigos del mar dock at 12:30. If you want to leave the resort or come back at a specific time, then we do indeed have charters in which there is a $40.00 USD roundtrip fee per person.
We do add 12.5 % of Belizean government taxes to the prices (VAT) and a 10% service fee that is equally distributed among the complete resort staff.
Please let me know if there is a way that I can contact you directly. We hope to have a second chance to make you experience be an unforgettable one.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 29, 2013

We too were at the resort when the owner was there and were not impressed. We had trouble with the air conditioner (it didn't work) and talked to the staff about it while the owner stood next to us and couldn't care less. It was not fixed but we were given a fan. We learned that it had been on and off again for over a month. The physical setting is beautiful and well appointed. The staff is very sweet and friendly but really need training and supervision and they will be great. They are trying hard but without a good manager they are struggling. While you are there you feel captive because it is far from town and they overcharge you for everything and anything. We met all of the other guests because they were complaining about the same thing as us. Our dive at the resort was literally 4x the cost of the same dive in town. Dinner prices were outrageous, especially for Belize - a steak is $40.00 plus 25% is added to everything ( so it costs $50.00), appetizers $15-$20. (american dollar not Belize) Everyone was complaining about feeling "nickel and dimed". I don't have a problem paying for quality but this was being taken advantage of. They charge you $20.00 a person one way to take a boat into town but free for people who want to come to the resort to eat. My husband and I have stayed at some of the best hotels and resorts in the world and this just isn't even in the same category. The bugs were certainly an issue but not much they can do about that and you need to bring bug spray and realize you will go home with some welts. You can't swim off the beach because of the seaweed-again not their fault but we stayed for over a week and would've liked to be at a place we could go in the water. It was truly not worth the money and a disappointment.

Room Tip: do not get villa #2 on the sea villa - air conditioner does not work
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Aldiprioux, Director de Operaciones at El Secreto, responded to this review, September 1, 2013
Dear Guest,

i am very sorry that your experience with us was not what you expected. We did have some trouble with the Air Conditioning system indeed and are working with our best effort to get it solved although our location does not always help us in getting things as fast as we wished we would.

Regarding bugs and insects we have done every possible thing there is to keep them away as much as possible. There is a spraying mist system installed all over the property and automatically sprays every determined time. We also have someone from our staff spray in the morning and in the afternoon. Inside each villa you will also find complimentary insect repellent.

We have complimentary boat shuttles to downtown San pedro every morning departing the resort at 9:30 am and coming back at 12:30 from Amigos del Mar dock. If you want to leave the resort or come back at a specific time then we do have private charters at $40.00 USD per person round trip.

We will keep working on the details you mention and hope to have the opportunity to talk to you directly and hopefully get a second chance to receive you again so that you can really experience the Magic of El Secreto.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 20, 2013

We loved El Secreto! It was a beautiful property. However, the beauty of the property doesn't compare to the wonderful staff. They were very friendly and attentive. If you had a question about the resort or just Belize in general they were happy to chat with you and share all they knew. I agree that the lady at the front desk (like the reviewer previous to me) is probably not the best suited for this position. I found her friendly, but just not able to communicate effectively. A special shout out to the servers... Jamie and Hector, Novani at the front desk, and Albert (who helped us several times with snorkel equipment and kayaks), they were awesome! Not to mention the ladies who cleaned our room each and every time. The rooms were always exceptionally clean, each and everyday.
My husband and I found the food to be wonderful. We ate in town one night at a place called Elvi's Kitchen, it was good, but we preferred the food at the resort more. We did tire of the food after awhile, though, I think just seeing the same things on the menu day after day. On some of the days they would have a dinner special which we ordered a couple times. Excellent! Perhaps, an idea would be to keep the same breakfast and lunch menu, but change the dinner menu every night.
Certainly, there are going to be hiccups along the way, the resort hasn't even been open for a full year, yet. One of the owners was there during our stay, and he is definitely dead set on making it perfect. If we experienced any problems they were handled promptly and never anything major.
By the way, we received fresh juice every morning outside our door. Another reviewer said that this was discontinued. It was back on when we were there. Loved it!
I was bit several times by bugs. The resort was fogging to try and get rid of the pesky critters and did supply you with bug spray, but I think I started using it way too late. Also, not all guests seem to complain about them, so it could be that the more natural suntan lotion I was using was all too yummy for the pests.

Room Tip: We stayed in Villa #1. It is a beachfront villa. Breezier at the beachfront than in the rooms behind...
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Aldiprioux, Director de Operaciones at El Secreto, responded to this review, September 1, 2013
Dear Guest,

Thank you very much for your review. We have followed your advice on the dinner options and are setting up a daily special with two different options per course. This will certainly give our guests a variety of options besides the already established menu.
We hope to have the opportunity to serve you again in the near future.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about El Secreto

Address: 11 miles north of San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Location: Belize > Belize Cayes > Ambergris Caye
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Beverage Selection Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Kitchenette Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 16 B&Bs / Inns in Ambergris Caye
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:4 star — El Secreto 4*
Number of rooms: 13
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
El Secreto is a unique barefoot luxury resort located in Ambergris Caye, Belize, surrounded by the turquoise blue waters of the caribbean and lush tropical views.El Secreto nestles 13 exclusive individual thatched roof villas with a smart combination of contemporary and traditional elements. Fine belizean tropical woods, marbled finished bathrooms with a tandem bathtub, outdoor private jacuzzi and shower patio. All the villas are equipped with a king size bed, a state of the art led lighting system, air conditioning, ipod dock station, LCD TV, mini bar, safe, Melita coffee maker, 400 thread egyptian cotton Vivenda linens and Malin & Goetz amenities.El Secreto Restaurant offers a variety of international cuisine with a Belizean touch. El Secreto is a perfect setting for honeymoons and weddings as well as to celebrate special occassions with a variety of activities for couples to enjoy together such as non motorized watersports like paddle surf, hobbie cat, kayaks as well as bicyclesor simply relax at Ikal spa with our signature hot sea shell massage. . Let us pamper you in this true and authentic paradise to create lasting memories for a lifetime. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
El Secreto Belize/Ambergris Caye

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