If this is your first time to an all-inclusive resort such as this, you’ll probably think it is awesome. If you’ve been to several in your lifetime, it’ll be a disappointment. We’ve not been to a Secrets resort, so can’t compare it to any of those.
My husband and I have been to over 35 all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico, 90% of them “couples/adults only”. All have pros and cons, whether it’s food, beach, rooms, customer service, etc. We have not yet found the “perfect” one, but a couple of them have come pretty close. We are in our 50’s and look for someplace quiet where we can just relax and enjoy the ocean, beach, and warm weather. We don’t care for a loud party atmosphere … been there, done that. We also enjoy a good meal.
We’d never been to Cozumel and wanted to try it. There were two “adult-only” resorts on the island, so options were limited. When we booked our trip last June, those resorts were the Sabor (based on reviews, we were not at all interested) and the Aura Wyndham Cozumel (before it became Secrets). The Aura was advertised as a boutique hotel with only 86 rooms. We read the reviews for Aura on Trip Advisor and found that the positives outweighed the negatives about 50 to 1, so we booked a ground floor ocean view room (a category available at that time) … we wanted to be able to walk out of our room onto the beach.
As time went by, we read more reviews and learned that the property had changed ownership, becoming a Secrets resort, and they were acquiring the former adults-only buildings from the Sabor property next door, thus doubling the number of people for the same property. They were undergoing a lot of construction/renovations, and the reviews had increasingly become more negative. My husband and I were debating whether we should keep our reservation or cancel and go elsewhere. Gradually, reviews started to become more positive, so we decided to keep an open mind and stick it out. We learned prior to arrival that the room category we booked was no longer available, and they had us in a 2nd floor ocean view room in the old Aura section … apparently the beachfront walkouts had been changed to “preferred club” rooms, and it cost extra to upgrade; none were available during our stay, however.
We were at Secrets for 10 days in February, and the following is our experience:
Arrival/Check-in: Our taxi arrived at the resort around noon. The entrance to the resort wasn’t anything grand or spectacular, but clean and well kept. There was no bellboy to assist with our luggage; we dragged our suitcases up the stairs ourselves to the reception area (that’s never happened to us before). No welcoming drinks or cool towels were offered (though, we noticed that a group arriving shortly after us was welcomed with a tray of drinks). The lobby was small, unimpressive, just a couple desks. The check-in experience was chaotic. Sandy, the woman assisting us, interrupted our conversation several times by taking or making phone calls … we didn’t feel like we were important; nearby staff were constantly shouting over each other. Sandy told us our room was being cleaned, gave us a beeper, and said we could go have lunch. She handed us a Sundial (daily activities sheet) and a resort map and sent us on our way.
We went to the Barefoot Grill for lunch. There were only 3 other couples in the place, but it took at least 20 minutes before a waiter came to take our order. We ordered the shrimp enchiladas (which were actually quesadillas) and a couple drinks. We waited and waited for our food. The hostess saw that we’d been there awhile and went back to the service window. Apparently, our order had been sitting there quite some time, unforgotten, and when she brought it to us, it was cold.
Room: Our room was finally ready. The bellboy brought our luggage and left. No showing us around the room, no telling us how the AC worked, etc. Apparently, we got an upgrade to a swim-up suite, ocean view, but I wouldn’t call it an upgrade. First of all, it was much smaller than the rooms we had seen on the web site, looking nothing like any of the pictures. It was right off the lobby and seemed to be cut in half diagonally; there was a kitchen area right next door that serviced the two restaurants on the beach. It was clean, but definitely not a renovated room. There were no drawers in which to put clothes, other than a small drawer in each of the bedside tables, and a long narrow drawer in a vanity-type table. There were two small cubby-holes in the closet, and a narrow closet with only six hangers. We asked for more hangers, twice, and never got them, so we ended up stacking our clothes on long tables along one wall. The bathroom was old and definitely not renovated. The vanity was only about 28” high. The lighting was dim. There were no drawers in the bathroom, as shown in pictures on the web site. A makeup mirror was mounted behind the door, but at a height for a 6-foot tall person to use … I’m 5’4”. There was no separate toilet area; it was squeezed between the vanity and shower. There was no tub, just a walk-in rain shower with no door or curtain, so when using the shower, water would get everywhere. We ended up having to use a beach towel to put on the bathroom and hall floors so that we wouldn’t slip and break our necks. We had no issues with hot water … there was plenty for my husband and I to use one right after the other. Several toiletries were provided and replenished as they were used. My husband noticed that there was no running water in the bathroom sink. He went out to the lobby and talked to someone about it. Immediately, a couple of maintenance men showed up, and they had the sink and pipes torn apart for several hours. They found sediment/rocks in the pipes, and that took quite awhile to clean out. The only lighting in the living area was a couple bedside lamps, again with very dim lights (glad I brought my Kindle clip-on light so that I could read in the evenings). There were a couple overhead lights, one in the entryway, and one in the corner by the patio door. There was a very low sectional in the room, not very comfortable or functional, with a coffee table in front of it. A flat-screen TV was mounted on the wall across from the bed. We couldn’t adjust the AC to the temperature we wanted, so it got very cold in the room. We turned it off at night and turned on the ceiling fan (we had to remove the light bulbs, as you couldn’t run the fan without the lights shining). It’s too bad the patio doors don’t have screens on them so that you could have the doors open at night and let in the cool air and listen to the ocean waves.
Also, our room location was very noisy. It was right off the lobby, so you could hear all the people talking, the phones ringing. Hallways were noisy, everything echoing, people talking and yelling right outside the door, carts going up and down the hall. There was a kitchen area right next door, and you could hear silverware and dishes clattering all night long, things banging and dropping, a blender or juicer going early mornings. One night, I was awakened around 2:00 a.m. to the sound of hammering and drilling … not sure where that was coming from. Earplugs work to an extent, but they don’t block out everything.
Patio: We had the swim-up suite at the very end of the lazy river, near the beach-side restaurants. There was a walkway off the patio that took you a few steps down to the pool, beach, and restaurant areas. A problem was that guests in the room next to us, or those using the lazy river, would exit the pool right onto our patio to get drinks at the nearby bar. Sometimes it felt like grand central station … very annoying. You couldn’t relax on your patio or be in the room without the curtains drawn, because people were passing back and forth onto your patio all the time … no privacy whatsoever. The Barefoot Grill/Oceana Restaurant were directly in front of us, and the service window and bar were right there, as well, so it got to be noisy in the evenings…you could even hear the conversations of dinner guests at the restaurant. The swim-up suites had a “bed” on the patio. There was also a small table and a couple small teak chairs, though not very comfortable if you wanted to sit out and read.
Beach/Ocean/Pools: The pools were cold. There were a few pool floats provided, but noticed that several were stashed on guest’s patios, making them unavailable for others to use. A lot of people had their own and left them behind for others to use when they went home, which was nice. The pools at the back of the property (junior suites) were busy and very noisy … more of a party atmosphere, so we avoided that area. The pool at the front of the property near the beach was quieter, though there were a couple days when we thought we were among a bunch of spring breakers. People were playing their own music very loudly, some had been drinking heavily and diving into the pool off the bridges, one girl whipping off her swimsuit top and doing belly flops into the pool. Since the beach is right near the pool, some guests were trying to find other spots farther down just to get away from all the noise.
My husband and I prefer relaxing on the beach rather than by the pool. The sand on the beach wasn’t powdery soft, but you could walk on it without beach shoes. We did need to wear water shoes going into the ocean, however … very gravelly and rocky from the coral. Workers were out every morning raking the beach, but a big turn-off for me was all the cigarette butts lying around. Some resorts ban smoking on the beach or the pool areas … I wish more were like that, as several guys were smoking cigars on their patios, around the pool, or on the beach. The smell nauseates me, and since everything is so close, it’s hard to get away from it.
There was a line of palm trees between the beach and pool area that provided shade during most of the day, but by late afternoon people were scrambling to find some shady areas. The beach loungers were some of the nicest we’ve ever had at a resort … adjustable teak chairs with thick pads. There were some beach beds, as well. During the first half of our stay, we found that, if you didn’t get a pool or beach chair by 7:00 a.m., you were out of luck. Some people were taking chairs from near the pool and carrying them down to the beach. I’m thinking it was because there were a couple very large groups staying there during that time. During our last few days, we pretty much had our pick of chairs. One of my pet peeves is that some people were claiming a beach bed and a chair, as well as a pool chair, then trade on and off during the day. Not cool, people! We also noticed that guests from the Sabor next door were coming onto the Secrets property and using the beach chairs (most likely traveling with people who were staying at Secrets).
Plenty of beach towels were provided. You would find them rolled up on the chairs in the morning, and you could help yourself to a fresh one throughout the day from a chest near the pool area. There was no “checking towels”, but we haven’t had to do that anywhere in about 15 years.
Housekeeping/Turn-down Service: You could request that your room be made up at a certain time every day. We requested ours be cleaned between 9:00 and 11:00, as we were always out of the room during that time. We usually like to go back up around 3:00 or so to relax, get cleaned up for dinner, etc. The first couple days, the room was cleaned by 10:00; after that, it got later and later. The last few days, when it hadn’t been made up by 2:00, by husband called to request it be done …they didn’t get to it until 3:30 or 4:00. Even so, they did a good job of cleaning the room. Someone came in during the day, as well, to replenish the items we used in the refrigerator. We don’t drink beer, so they just left more water and the sodas that we wanted.
In other resorts where we’ve stayed, turn-down service was done while we were at dinner. Here, they didn’t come to our room until around 10:00 (way too late!), so we ended up putting the “do not disturb” sign on our door. As a result, we didn’t get a Sundial activities sheet, though they could have slipped one under the door.
Grounds/Maintenance: The property isn’t all that big, taking only a few minutes to walk the beach from one end of the property to the other. Everything is close together, so it only takes a few minutes to walk from your room to the beach, pool, restaurants (unless you had one of the suites at the back of the property). There are pools and a swim-up bar back there … you just had to walk a little farther to the beach or the beachside restaurants. The beach is right in front of the main pool area. There are several little bridges/walkways over the main pool and lazy river. Two restaurants (Windows and Oceana/Barefoot Grill) are right next to each other along the beach. There’s a bar inside the Barefoot Grill, and another (Rendezvous) that is right off Windows restaurant. The Rendezvous had a foul odor every time we were there (smelled like boiled cabbage or cauliflower). The French restaurant (Bordeaux) is behind the Aura building and new shopping area that is under construction … it’s right next to the junior pool suites that used to be Sabor. The shopping area wasn’t finished. There’s a daily activities board back there, along with a coffee shop and wedding events office. They had just finished opening a gift store when we were there and were in the process of bring items into a jewelry store next door. It appeared that they were constructing a fountain/sculpture area in the middle of the shopping area.
Grounds were well maintained, for the most part … lots of shrubbery and flowers. I did notice a lot of soda cans and straws thrown into the shrubbery that weren’t cleaned out for several days, and all the cigarette butts on the beach were disgusting, even though someone was raking the beach every morning. There were iguanas/lizards roaming the property (one alongside my table during lunch), but we’ve seen those at several resorts. We noticed a foul sewer smell on and off during the day during a couple days, but it wasn’t a regular everyday thing. Someone tried to tell me it was seaweed … I know what seaweed smells like, and that wasn’t it.
They should provide extra bathrooms near the beach/pool areas. The bathrooms under the Windows restaurant were disgusting … lights burned out, doors wouldn’t close, toilet seats broken. Good thing our room was only a few steps away from the beach/pool area!
The entire time we were there, it was evident that they were continuing to improve the resort … making new signage for the grounds, moving furniture into rooms, finishing the shopping area, providing covered chests for the beach towels, etc.
Entertainment: Daily activities were shown on the activities board near the shopping area, as well as in the “Sundial” that guests received in their rooms daily. We never received one in our room, even though we brought it to the attention of the reception staff at least twice. Entertainment was limited, though I think they’re working on improving that, not that my husband and I cared all that much. We’re early risers and go to bed early. We’d just as soon read in the evenings or sit on the beach.
There were bands in the Sky Bar and instrumentalists playing in one of the restaurants during dinner. There was “movie on the beach” around 8:00 some nights. The problem with that was it was right next to the Windows restaurant. If you were watching the movie, you had all the background noise of the restaurant. If you were trying to have a relaxing dinner at the restaurant, you had all the noise from the movie. Nice concept, but they’re going to have to find a different place for it. There was beach volleyball. There was yoga (but kept changing the times, or cancelling at the last minute). You could also go next door to the Sabor for their entertainment. After our vacation ended, we learned that they started having dinners on the beach. The guest services directory indicated there was a weekly manager’s cocktail party for guests, but we never saw one or were invited to one.
Food/Drinks: We found the drinks to be very inconsistent. I had a banana daiquiri and it was really good; the next one I had tasted completely different, very sour, no banana taste. Same with margaritas … I think I had one decent one the entire 10 days. A couple waiters provided service to the pools/beach throughout the day, though they could have used a lot more waiters. Those guys were really hustling. Most days, we got completely bypassed because they seemed to focus on a couple large groups that were monopolizing their time … so we just went and got our own drinks ... not a big deal. We always take our own large, insulated mugs … they will fill them without any problem. If you want top shelf liquor, just ask … otherwise, you’ll get the cheap stuff.
There is a coffee shop, Coco’s, in the shopping area. They served pastries and doughnuts in the morning, and in the evening there were sandwiches, cakes, cheesecakes, brownies, etc. My husband usually went after dinner to get coffee. I’m not a coffee drinker, but the couple times I ordered some flavored drink off the menu board, I was told “not have” … that was annoying. The young man who worked in the evenings spoke little English … he just nodded and smiled, so it was difficult to communicate with him.
The house wine at dinner was really bad … I couldn’t drink it, but I refused to pay an additional $30-$50 for a bottle from their wine list just to have one glass.
Breakfast: the menu was the same for each restaurant … all ala carte, though at Windows, there was a small room off to the side where you could get fresh fruit (the pineapple was the sweetest and best I’ve ever had), yogurt, cereals, pastries (these were always dry), fresh squeezed juice, meats, smoked fish, and cheeses. The couple times we ordered off the menu, we never had a wait time of more than 10-15 minutes after placing our order; though, we always got there when they first opened at 7:00 am. Their omelets were not fluffy the way I like them … they were very thin, like crepes … but they were good, though they used canned mushrooms instead of fresh. Once, I ordered the American Breakfast, which the menu said comes with a fresh fruit plate and juice. When my eggs and sausages came, I asked about the fruit and juice … the waiter looked at me like I was crazy. I heard him arguing with someone in the back about whether my breakfast was supposed to come with those items … I told him “never mind, I’ll get it myself.” On our second to last day, the new International Market Café buffet opened next door at the Sabor, so we decided to try that for breakfast. It was basic, nothing extensive like at other resorts we’ve been to. The setup was weird, so there were a lot of “traffic jams”. At Secrets, I did miss the option of having a breakfast and lunch buffet … quick and easy, with more choices. Though, I don’t know where they would have put a buffet on this property.
Lunch: we usually ate at Barefoot Grill, very casual … this place was the busiest and sometimes very chaotic. Sometimes we got waited on right away, other times there was quite a wait. Once, our burgers and fries were cold when we got them, the next time they were piping hot. The grilled fish with rice and veggies was excellent, and we had that several times. One of the waiters at this restaurant … Margarito … was a gem! … our favorite staff person on the whole property. Windows restaurant was a little more formal. One day, we decided to just have guacamole and chips on the beach, as we weren’t all that hungry.
Room Service: We only used this twice. One evening, we didn’t feel like dressing for dinner, so we ordered a couple pizzas and salads. They told us 45 minutes, we got them in 40 … both were very good. Another time, we were hungry for ice cream late at night … it came in 5 minutes, but they forgot to put on the chocolate sauce that we asked for.
Dinner: We eat early, so there was never a wait for a table or to take our orders. I’m not sure what all the complaints are about regarding time and small portions. Maybe people aren’t used to eating ala carte, I don’t know. It’s not buffet or family style where you can pile your plate with food. It’s meant for you to order an item from each of the courses. My husband and I usually ordered an appetizer, soup and/or salad, entrée, and maybe dessert. Depending on the number of courses, it took anywhere from an hour to 1-1/2 hours to finish our meals. This has been the norm at any resort we’ve been to, even back in the states when eating at fine dining establishments. Only on one night was there a lull between courses; a couple times, they brought another course before we were even finished with the one we were eating, so we felt rushed.
There was one waiter at Oceana who was rude and abrupt. When I was giving him my drink order, he cut me off and turned to my husband for his order. Needless to say, my drink wasn’t what I wanted. He wasn’t any friendlier the second time we ate there, either. I never saw him smile at any of the guests.
If you are there for 10 days, you’ll find the menus to be somewhat limited. Some resorts rotate their menus. I don’t eat red meat, duck, veal … so I was limited to the fish and chicken. One night, I had the chicken special. The flavor was good, but the meat was tough and chewy. My husband had the seafood special and said it was the best meal he’d had the entire time we were there. You had to ask what the special was, or they wouldn’t remember to tell you.
At Bordeaux, the scallops gratin was excellent. I had a salmon in puff pastry entrée. Puff pastry should be golden brown … mine was charred, and the salmon very dry and inedible. The next time, I had the shrimp and fish casserole, and it was excellent. My husband ordered the duck; when he asked for it medium rare, the waiter looked confused. When he came back from the kitchen, he told my husband the duck was already cooked. When it was served to him, it was overcooked and dry … he couldn’t eat it, so I gave him half my entrée.
One evening, I had a pastry with spinach and cheese … excellent. The second time I ordered, it was topped with some kind of pizza sauce, which completely ruined it.
One thing I noticed at all the restaurants … no one ever came back to check on you to see if everything was okay, or if you needed anything, a drink refill, etc.
We never ate at any of the restaurants at the Sabor property, other than the breakfast buffet. After talking to others who had been over there, we weren’t the least bit interested.
Miscellaneous: After checking in, no one ever contacted us to see if everything was okay or if we needed anything.
When we booked the room, we had indicated we would be celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary. There was never any acknowledgement of that, even though we saw several rooms with anniversary banners on their doors as we walked around the property … disappointing.
We didn’t bring our laptop with us, so we used the “Business Center” computers to check e-mails, etc. This was a small room behind the reception area, no A/C, very hot and stuffy, with a couple computers for guests to use. After a few days, everything in that room was gone … we were told they were moving it to the shopping center area. The next day, we were told they were getting rid of it completely, so they no longer have a “Business Center” with computers for guests to use.
In Summary: It was obvious that this place is going through some growing pains. They are seriously understaffed and it’s hard to find good workers … they don’t have the unemployment problems that we have in the states. Every day, we could see improvements being made, but they still have a long way to go. Most of the staff worked hard to please their guests.
Would we go back? I know that if they continue to attract the spring-break type crowd that was there when we were, we definitely would not. We’ll keep up with the reviews and see what happens.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- In a perfect blend of luxury and excitement, Secrets Aura Cozumel is the ultimate adults-only, all-suite resort located on the island of Cozumel. Sitting just 12 miles off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Secrets Aura has it all. Bask in a world of Unlimited-Luxury® while staying in one of 266 contemporary, stylish non-smoking suites complete with private terraces or swim-up access, stunning views, 24-hour room service, daily refreshed minibar and more. For added luxury, guests can upgrade to the Preferred Club and enjoy additional amenities and inclusions. The experience continues with limitless gourmet dining at gourmet restaurants plus 24-hour dining options allow guests to devour late night bites at the Coco Cafe or stay in and order room service all without reservations and top-shelf spirits at three bars and lounges throughout the resort. Light up the night with live nightly entertainment and activities. Or enjoy land and water sports, three sparkling pools, live entertainment with pool and beach wait service throughout the day. Dive into the Caribbean at nearby world-renowned dive sites; explore the natural wonders of the second largest coral reef system in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. Learn to dive deep with the help of the fullservice, on-site dive operator, Dive House. Indulge in specialty treatments at the Secrets Spa by Pevonia®, located right next door at Sunscape Sabor Cozumel, the most complete spa on the island, or simply spend time with the ones you love. Secrets Aura Cozumel – Light. Luxury. Love. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Aura Cozumel Grand Hotel Cozumel
- Wyndham Cozumel
- Cozumel Wyndham