After traveling to Jamaica for the first time last December and staying at Iberostar Grand, we decided to return this November and try out Secrets based upon some personal recommendations and significant research on TA and the Internet. In short, both are outstanding properties which appeal to slightly different tastes. I will highlight some facts about both and why we preferred Secrets overall.
The biggest thing Secrets has going for it is two heated pools and an actual hot tub. This may sound elementary, but Secrets is the first all inclusive out of four traveled to; (Grand Rose Hall, Excellent Playa Mujeres, Riu Cancun) that has both of these. IB Grand is alleged to have a heated area where their swim up bar is, but frankly it didn't seem any warmer than the rest of the pools. At Secrets, both the St James and Wild Orchid swim up areas are clearly heated and comfortable even when the sun goes down. Their hot tub is actually hot and open all evening rather than the jetted soaking tubs at the other resorts.
Another thing we preferred at Secrets over The Grand was that the resort was built on an outdoor theme. Almost everything at The Grand was indoors including the rooms exiting into hotel hallways, all the restaurants being indoors with no al fresco seating and no real outdoor bar for the evening (lobby bar has an outdoor seating area). At Secrets, all the restaurants and piano bar are located in one strip outdoors and all places have outdoor dining, with the piano bar having significant outdoor seating. They even have an outdoor stage where most of the evening shows and entertainment take place, although they also have an indoor theater in the case of weather. This is strictly personal preference, but we really preferred having the outdoor options at Secrets and something as simply as exiting your room to the outside rather than into a hallway.
Finally, Secrets is set on a fantastic strip of land with amazing views in all directions. The mountain views on both sides are great and they have several seating areas where you can take in the views. The properly really is great in its setup.
Few things I preferred at The Grand; the rooms were much more opulent and luxurious at IB Grand, with nicer furnishings. The beds were very comfortable in both hotels with soft pillow top mattresses. Service was a bit more polished overall at The Grand, and it feels like a more intimate hotel overall. Food was also better at The Grand, no question, with lobster offered at all dinners and only one night a week at the Surf and Turf Friday buffet at Secrets. The dinners at the ala carter were also better at IB Grand, although Secrets was good as well. Those who prefer no reservations will like Secrets although at peak times the waits can be hard to navigate for the more popular restaurants.
Liquor and drink quality is also better at The Grand, with top shelf liquor at all bars including the pool bars. During the day at Secrets they only have the mid range alcohol available for drinks, although their piano, lobby bar and nightclub all had the top shelf.
Secrets seemed to have a more party vibe with louder music, rowdier younger crowd and a lot of action and organized parties throughout the week. Those looking for a more laid back, quiet atmosphere would likely prefer IB Grand.
Finally, the entertainment staff at Secrets is much more subdued, they are available to coordinate activities but not as in your face as the Star Friends at The Grand. I preferred this since they hand out a daily activity sheet at Secrets and several boards clearly marking when and where the activities take place.
Overall, the outdoor theme, views and small touches (jerk chicken cart, nightly entertainment, etc) put Secrets over the top for us as the best all inclusive I have been to.
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- Also Known As:
- Secrets St James Hotel Montego Bay