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Reviewed April 22, 2013

We spent the week of April 6-13 at Secrets Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. My wife and I are experienced travelers in this country (USA), in Europe, and throughout the Caribbean. We’ve done many cruises and have been to Puerto Vallarta twice before. We’ve stayed at some very high end properties and several all-inclusive properties, the most recent being last year at Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica. That breath of experience informs our expectations when looking for a travel destination. I’m 66 and my wife is 56.
Overview: Being just a year old this property is quite lovely and extremely well cared for and maintained. All of the staff at every level are wonderful and we tipped bar people, spa staff, and maids often. These lovely employees who treat you so well deserve to be tipped. Typically we would tip $2.00 for any alcoholic beverage and many times $5.00 at the start of the time we spent lounging by the pool just to make sure our server was always looking out for us. That would be it for the time we were there and we would not, in that case, do the $2.00 per drink order after that.
Many reviews about this property talk about the hard sell stuff at check-in. We did not encounter any of that including the entire time we were at Secrets. Perhaps the fact that our visit was at the beginning of the ‘soft’ season had something to do with the lack of hard sell, or perhaps Secrets’ parent company has heeded the many complaints that have appeared on Trip Advisor.
All the pools are wonderful and even I, who hates cold water, was comfortable with the somewhat colder temps then I would have liked.
The property is gated with attendants at the gate house 24 hours. They will check you in and out when your transportation arrives at the gate.
Food: Overall I would rate the food at Secrets as good to excellent. My only exception would be the Mexican restaurant and it was not that the food was bad, rather I just did not like what I ordered. We ate at every restaurant and our top dinner experience was Bordeaux, the French restaurant. The Italian place on the Now side was also very good as well as our dinner at Oceana. Breakfast at the Market Café was always wonderful with make your own Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas available. Great selection of juices as well. Otherwise, a typical breakfast buffet but with cooking stations for omelets, eggs any way you like them, and freshly prepared Mexican breakfast offerings. Teppynaki restaurant is entertaining and the food is very good. Just a quick mention about the dress code; read up on it. You must have long pants, collared shirts, and closed toed shoes for men for dinners. No tank tops ever, even at breakfast. If you have a serious problem with this, pick another resort. They will definitely turn you away from any restaurant if you don’t comply. We really appreciated the strict dress code especially since we’ve been on a cruise or two when the dress code was not enforced.
Room: Ours was on the 15th floor (top floor) and was a basic Jr. Suite. It served our purposes very well and the shower is amazing. Maid service was quite good and we only had to stop by the front desk once when our room was not made up by 4pm. At that point they asked what time we wanted the room made up each day. We said 10am and that’s the way it was for the rest of our stay. So, make a note to tell your check in agent when you arrive what time you want the room made up. Special note; read the instructions inside the door of your room as to how the indication light for maid service works. We did not use room service so I can’t comment on that.
Also, never heard the rooster. I was kind of disappointed after all the complaints I’d read on Trip Advisor reviews. The view from the room was spectacular and the A/C worked well and was very quiet. A special mention about the balcony is in order: they are quite long but very narrow. Also, and this is quite odd, there are no handles or finger groves on the balcony doors outside. It’s easy enough to pry the doors open but again, very odd that there were no handles or groves. There are finger grooves on the outside of the screen doors but leaving the windowed doors open shuts off the A/C. The mini bar is adequate with lots of fruit drinks, soda, and water. Beer is included (in the smallest beer bottles I’ve ever encountered) but no wine or hard booze. We only drank the hard stuff at the pool and in the lobby bar before dinner. After we got situated in our room we took a Secrets taxi to the Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club complex across from the cruise ship terminal to get our wine for the week. If you choose to do that have your taxi driver wait for you while you shop. Otherwise, there are plenty of taxis in the parking lot to take you back. If you have a Sam’s Club card it will work in Mexico. The only negative aspect of our room was the furniture. It’s cheap. You’ll find better and more attractive furniture at your basic Country Inns & Suites or a Best Western or even a Days Inn. It’s functional but bland and poorly made. Also, and most important, there is no convenient place to store your luggage. The bed frame is too low to slide your suitcases under the bed and there is perhaps enough space to store one suitcase in the hanging side of the tall closet. We stored one suite case behind a balcony curtain and the other in back of the large chair/ottoman in the other corner. Bad planning and choice of furniture by someone. You expect more considering the quality of the rest of the property.

Entertainment: No comment since we did not go to any shows.
Spa: Early on in our stay we did a Spa Tour. Nicely done and very informative. We chose to do pedicures together later in the week. This was not just a simple pedicure, rather, it was the one that included the entire hydrotherapy treatment prior to the pedicure. The hydrotherapy sequence is amazing, very relaxing, and the best of any spa we’ve visited, anywhere. I highly recommend it regardless of what specific treatment you choose. Great dressing rooms with anything you need available.
Clientele: Overall, a lovely assortment of people. Young couples, quite a few middle-age folks, and a few seniors as well. The amount of tattoos and bad plastic surgery evident was somewhat annoying but hey, I guess I’m getting old and opinionated. Lots of lovely folks from Canada. This is also evidenced by the Trip Advisor reviews. Secrets’ parent company must do a big ad campaign up there.
Financial Resources: They LOVE US dollars in Mexico. We took one each of our credit cards along with our debit card. Used one of the credit cards for the spa treatments. Took $200 in ones, fives, and tens for tipping purposes. Special note: there is a cash machine in the shopping area on the Now side in a privacy booth and it gives you cash in US dollars ONLY. We used our debit card for some extra cash, which was very convenient until we got home and discovered that the service charge for that transaction was $18.00 so you may want to get cash at an ATM outside the property. In that case you will receive pesos rather than dollars. Another bit of advice regarding money: don’t bother with travelers checks. They are a waste of time and money. This applies to travel anywhere. The only use for traveler’s checks is to be able to have access to cash if your money/wallet is stolen. Trust me. Credit/debit cards work just fine anywhere in the world and you get a better deal on local currency rather than using the exchange stations at airports, etc. Also, whenever traveling abroad be sure to inform your credit card company about the dates of your trip. Anymore it’s an automated service by phone and your credit card company will confirm your request by email. That way using your card won’t raise any red flags with the card company and possibly shut down access to your account while you are wherever you are. If you are a smart/experienced traveler then you probably already know this stuff. If you are not that experienced, now you know.
Weather: It was absolutely wonderful. Never rained. High’s in the low to mid 80’s with lows in the mid to upper 60’s. Sunny or mostly sunny every day. I would not choose to visit Puerto Vallarta much past the month of May. According to the locals it gets unbearably hot and humid. Besides, why would you go on vacation closer to the equator during a North American summer anyway? Okay, I know, the prices are the cheapest. So pay less money and be uncomfortable if you want.
Off Site Travel: We explored possible excursions via the internet before we departed for our trip but ultimately decided not to invest in anything. My wife wanted to go snorkeling, which we both love, but fortunately she must have decided against it because she never brought it up which was fine with me since I was not looking forward to the cold Pacific waters. There are some excellent web-sites available regarding Puerto Vallarta Adventures which provide a great overview of many options. We did do the cab ride to La Malecon (it is definitely NOT the 10 – 15 minute walk that some reviews state) and kind of enjoyed the art work, sculptures, etc. but when all is said and done it was a waste of time for us. If you’ve never been to Mexico before knock yourself out visiting La Malecon and any other part of Puerto Vallarta. What can I say? It’s Mexico. We’ve been to the country many times. You go for the weather and the resort. Once you’ve seen one Mexican city/town you’ve seen them all. Basically run down, burned out, shells of buildings, but not dirty. We do love the Pacific side of the country as opposed to the Caribbean side because of the wonderful contrast of the mountains to the east and the ocean to the west.
Pools/Beach: There are 5 pools to choose from on the Secrets side. All of them are lovely and 2 of the 5 are whirlpools which are comfortably warm. The swim up bar is wonderful and often has room but is also the location for all the loud types. Drinks are great as are the barmen. Special note: pool chair hogs are in force at this resort like any other and previous Trip Advisor reviews say that getting a chair is never a problem. WRONG!! People ‘claim’ their chairs by 8am and never give them up. Fortunately staff circulate around the area keeping track of long underused ‘claimed chairs’ and will eventually remove the towels from those chairs. The problem is they don’t enforce this as much as they should. Be sure to use some type of footwear at the pool because while the pavement is not hot, the wooden decks and sand are extremely hot. So if you want a good spot by the pool or on the beach then you need to play the “claim game” so you are sure to get what you want and especially if you want one of the large umbrellas. Towels are generally available but during the afternoons you may have to hunt them down. The beach is nice enough and water sports/parasailing are available as is volleyball and various pool games and activities. The wait staff take good care of you and usually carry ashtrays if you are a smoker. On the subject of smoking…ashtrays are not provided in the rooms so bring your own and only smoke on your balcony with the balcony doors closed.
We booked our flight (Frontier Airlines) and this resort through bookit.com. We highly recommend this property. Everything was wonderful.
Paul & Denise
St. Paul, Minnesota

Room Tip: A junior suite located above the 5th floor will do just fine. No need to go all out unless you want to spend the extra dollars.
  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank paul d
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 22, 2013

This resort was gorgeous from when we first arrived. The staff was very courteous and friendly. We were greeted with a glass of champagne like everyone else. Check in was a breeze and we weren't harassed by anyone trying to sell us timeshares which was awesome.

We stayed in the preferred tower and we were upgraded to an oceanview room--it was totally worth it! We have a beautiful view of the pools and the ocean. I wasn't very impressed by the room, especially the desserts--they had a jello like texture. We also had a jacuzzi on our balcony. I wished we used it more than once. We received turn down service every night. I would definitely recommend anyone visiting Puerto Vallarta staying here. I know I will stay at Secrets when I go back.

Room Tip: Stay in the preferred tower and don't pay extra for an ocean view. All rooms face the ocean view.
  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank Jigarr R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 19, 2013

Stayed April 8-15.

Pleasant staff provide good to great service. Yoana's smile and greeting at Market Cafe is a sweet start to the morning.

Fun and professional entertainment staff; Cesar, Alexandro, Hugo… work morning 'til night. A good variety of daily, on time activities: Yoga, stretching, kayak tour, kitchen tour, rifle shooting, archery, tennis, boccie, shuffleboard, ping pong, bracelet making, Spanish lessons, dance lessons, water aerobics, scuba clinic, volleyball, black jack, texas hold 'em, bingo, crazy games. Good nightly entertainment - Danny Doyle (hypnotist), Circus Rock, Grease Show, Fire Show etc. (not big, fancy productions). Live music in both lobbies every night. Desires disco (closes at 1am) is great fun with the right music and company. Read the Sundial for the daily schedule.

All restaurants were open every day. Lots of options on menus. Food is good but not great; they could focus on producing less options better. Morning bacon is cooked nicely but lacks flavour. Ice cream is only on the Now Amber (family) side. Room service is fast and efficient. Waiters are constantly serving drinks at pool, beach, lobbies, disco. Very good selection of alcoholic beverages. Coco café is a treat for specialty coffees, pastry and sandwiches. Lineups can be long at certain times with only one server.

Good not having to wear hotel bracelets. Wifi sometimes spotty and slow in room on 5th floor. Great free phone calls. Fantastic views from most rooms. Noise from scraping furniture and slamming doors can be a problem, but wall soundproofing is good. Beds, pillows and linens are very comfortable. Lots of hot water in shower. Bathroom needs a lighted makeup mirror rather than the lighted wicker décor.

Lobby is 3 floors up with an open concept; the view is fabulous. Cigarette smoke is a problem. Love the different levels of pool, decks and beach, makes for nice views. Lotsss of beach towels and no towel cards.

This is not the place if you enjoy long beach walks and going in the ocean. The parade of vendors show off their wares behind the roped off area within 20 feet of the beach loungers. Secrets seems to no longer be a secret as pool and beach chairs all seemed to have towels unrolled by 10am. It would be difficult to find a quiet area away from music and vendors on the beach.

My Pros: Fantastic views (esp. from room), close to shopping, town, near airport, sunsets, service of professional staff, numerous on-time hotel activities, good food and drinks, included wifi and phone calls, easy to walk to everything at the resort, quick and inexpensive local transportation.

  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled with friends
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3  Thank TOAnn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 19, 2013

This resort was fabulous from start to the end of our stay. Room was not ready upon arrival but we went to the restaurant to eat then the room was ready (that was our only complaint). The resort is clean and beautiful with ample chairs at the pool for lounging. The beach is clean and roped off to prevent vendors from bothering the sunbathers (never spent much time on the beach). Went kayaking one day out in the bay and saw a whole school of young manta rays which was awesome.
Rooms were big and well appointed and had fabulous views of the bay. Sunsets from the balcony were always beautiful. Double sink vanity, large jetted soaker tub and fabulous walk-in shower with a rain shower and regular shower head. In-room safe and minibar were handy.
Food and drinks were also very good. Breakfast buffet was good everyday and the staff was always very friendly. Lunches we usually are at the poolside area and ate many chips with pico de gallo and guacamole. Japanese restaurant, French restaurant and the Italian restaurant were all fabulous like eating at any upscale restaurant. The only restaurant that was disappointing was Oceana, food was just average where the other restaurants were fabulous.
The people staying at the Secrets resort could use the restaurants at the adjoining Now Amber resort. Secrets is an adults only resort which was great for our anniversary.

Room Tip: All rooms at this resort have nice ocean views but higher floors may get you an even better view.
  • Stayed: February 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank Cantal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 17, 2013

I often travel solo and will only go to 4 or 5 star resorts. I stayed at Secrets Vallarta Bay (solo) during the week of April 8-15 which was the same week that CHFI 98.1 radio station travelled to this resort with listeners who had won a trip with hosts Erin Davis, Mike Cooper and The General (Ian). I felt very safe at this resort and met alot nice people who very graciously invited me to join them for dinner, drinks. I even attended the CHFI radio broadcasts (but not at 4am! Sorry Erin/Mike). By mid week, many of the waiters and staff that I had come into contact with, called me by name and I always felt they were taking care of me. I suggest always dining at the specialty restaurants in the evening (they are excellent!) and going to the buffet at breakfast. I have no favourite; they were all exceptional. No reservations required. Guarantee you will find anything you would ever want at breakfast on this buffet! No waiting and the staff is so professional. One day they had roaming food stations around the pool deck and sushi served in the pool! Very unique.
Reserving lounges around the pool with towels seems to be an issue at most resorts and here as well but you can still find a spot to your liking somewhere amongst the various 12 pools.
Many of the guests I met commented on the exceptional housekeeping but I found it to be hit or miss. Most days my room was never made up until after 6pm. They also sometimes forgot to replenish kleenex and towels. Turn down service was not consistant. But travelling solo, this did not really bother me that much. But I think it would be expected by most people for a 5 star hotel.
I did not find the beach vendors bothersome and I walked the beach every morning. Walking to the Malecon or town will take you 1/2 hr. Unfortunately you can't do that walking all the way via the beach so it can get quite hot. Taxi back is only $6.50USD.
Checkin is a fast and pleasant experience and I used only one of the many coupons they provided to enjoy the spa at a very reduced rate.
This resort has so many small touches that all together make for a wonderful experience; a bag post brought to your table to hang your beach bag, providing a book at your table if dining solo, scales in the room to weigh your luggage so you have no surprises at the airport (initially I thought it not so brilliant an idea to have scales at an all inclusive resort until someone advised me they were not for us but for our luggage! LOL).

For those of you travelling solo, single supplement was not too bad. This hotel is well worth it.

Room Tip: I was on 14 but ask for something higher than 5. Great view of the ocean.
  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled solo
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3  Thank Brenda D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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