We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.
Nearby Hotels
Reviews (516)
Filter reviews
516 results
Traveler rating
491
20
3
1
1
Traveler type
Time of year
LanguageAll languages
More languages
491
20
3
1
1
Show reviews that mention
All reviews zing zing zabuco villa our honeymoon private beach the indian river villa attendant plantain chips personal attendant natural beauty lion fish ylang ylang rum punch ti fey sunset sail middleham falls scuba diving year anniversary
Filter
Updating list...
100 - 105 of 516 reviews
Reviewed August 6, 2016

My husband and I recently returned from a 7-night stay at Secret Bay’s Zabuco I villa to celebrate our fifth anniversary. While there are some positives about Secret Bay (e.g. terrific views, beautiful location) and Dominica is undeniably beautiful, there were simply too many issues during our stay to recommend this resort to discriminating travelers, particularly those planning a special vacation, such as a honeymoon or anniversary. I wrote this review to reflect topics that I would have wanted to be aware of prior to planning my trip; please refer to the various headings (in caps) to read what pertains to you. Happy trip planning!

SERVICE
Guests staying at Secret Bay are all provided with a villa attendant to be your primary point of contact with all aspects of the resort. Our villa attendant (Deslyn) was helpful and considerate in most aspects of her work. She was immaculate about keeping the villa clean and orderly, and was timely for the most part about fulfilling our requests. She brought many citronella candles every night and a local remedy/oil to repel mosquitoes when she found out we were being eaten alive by mosquitos every night.

While the other staff we interacted with at Secret Bay were pleasant for the most part, we found a general theme of lack of attention to detail and being more reactive than pro-active. The numerous issues we had with our villa and other amenities (detailed below) all had to be identified by us and brought to the attention of the staff. Overall, the resort simply does not provide the attention to detail that should be expected at this price point.

VALUE
At the standard rate of Zabuco I ($1100+/night), guests' expectations are extremely high. If you’ve ever traveled to a COMO or Aman or Four Seasons or St. Regis resort (or other similarly regaled hotels around the world), you know what I’m talking about. The level of service, competence of the staff, attention to detail, functionality of amenities at Secret Bay falls way, way, way short of the company defined by its price point. We feel the value of the resort is about half of the actual rate; for Zabuco I, about $500-580 is what we think the infrastructure/service/amenities is fair value. Secret Bay is priced like the truly spectacular, seamlessly run resorts on the Maldives or Seychelles, but it offers the service and infrastructure of a mid-tier hotel in Nicaragua. If you have an absolutely crazy desire to visit Secret Bay, we suggest booking your stay at the resort fairly last minute and negotiating a discount aggressively. The "last minute specials" listed on the website average about 25% off the standard rate; if you ask for a bigger discount (as we did - 40%), you’re likely to receive it considering the villa will remain empty otherwise at such short notice. Exercise those bargaining skills!


DINING
In general, we found the food at Secret Bay to be fine and sometimes quite good. Desserts were inconsistent night to night, but we were not disappointed by the quality of the food. We did, however, find the many aspects of the Personalized Cooking service confusing. The website indicates that "Transport from the airport and a lovely Welcome Dinner are complimentary as well as our Personalised Cooking Service.” Guests are billed for the ingredients of the meal and presumably some preparation charge as well. So it remains unclear what is exactly “complimentary.” The service is “personalized,” however, as guests can more or less create their own meals. Overall, we found this aspect of the service confusing. We never understood what was actually available to eat on a daily basis; for example, there is no menu or list of food items/ingredients. Everything about what you eat on a daily basis is dependent wholly on your personal assistant’s communication style. There are supposedly “daily menus,” but we received only one during our 7-night stay. While some guests may enjoy the flexibility of planning their own meals, on a vacation entirely planned around the objective of pure relaxation, this was laborious and sometimes intrusive. It required too many back and forth calls with the kitchen staff and our personal attendant, and it would have been more relaxing and simpler to be given choices and select from there. It was made more difficult as we were asked what we wanted to eat for dinner around 10am, when the last thing on our mind was eating dinner.

Meals are served al fresco on your private deck, complete with beautiful views and a nice ocean breeze. However, guests should be aware that one of the hazards of dining al fresco on your deck is that a lizard lounging on your deck ceiling might poop in your dinner. True story. Ask to have a table placed indoors as well, and check for any and all lizards on the roof of your deck before dining!

Much like many of the other aspects of Secret Bay, the food items stocked in our villa at our request were a mixed bag. For example, the Organic Food Basket is expensive, though the quality of entirely local items included is okay for the most part. We found the grapefruit, yogurt, and avocado to be unripe/old/flavorless. We recommend that if you arrive on a Thursday or Friday to Dominica, you should schedule a trip to Portsmouth’s Saturday morning farmer’s market to buy the same ingredients that encompass the organic basket for about 1/20th of the price (and at the quantity you want). It’s a short 5-7 minute drive to the market, and your driver will walk the market with you and coordinate the purchase of all food items. Secret Bay actually paid for our cab drive to Portsmouth, and it’s likely they will for you, as well. The coconut water (from “Dee’s”) we pre-ordered before arrival did not even resemble coconut water (our personal attendant who tasted the coconut water also confirmed that this was not in fact coconut water). We had our attendant return all four bottles and received four actual coconuts instead. We recommend that you do the same if you question at all the taste of your coconut water. Also know that when you order specific food items before arrival, you’re likely to not receive EXACTLY those items. We ordered bacon and pork sausage, but received turkey bacon and turkey sausage instead. Not a huge deal, per se, but it’s sloppy for the resort staff to not even mention that exactly the items ordered were not provided. We pointed it out to the resort manager (Marvin) that we do not enjoy turkey bacon or turkey sausages; it was only then that Secret Bay replaced those items.

VILLA
Zabuco I has a beautiful location on the edge of a cliff atop the ocean. Because the villa faces west, enjoying the gorgeous daily sunset was a treat. We cannot, unfortunately, speak to the view from any other villa at Secret Bay, and when we visited Mapou Bungalow, it was disappointingly cramped and dark (and lacking the expansive ocean view).

The photos online of the villas - in particular, Zabuco I, which is clearly the star property - look spectacular. However, in reality, Zabuco I was showing many signs of wear and tear. The closet doors jammed, and we struggled to close them on many occasions. The air conditioning condenser downstairs by the BBQ was sparking one night; the maintenance staff were not concerned by this at all though we were. Also, the smoke alarm & carbon monoxide detector had been removed in the bedroom/bathroom area and missing from the ceiling. The air conditioning in the villa is restricted to only the bedroom; there is no air conditioning provided in the living/dining/kitchen areas of the villa. It makes the evenings very uncomfortable temperature-wise unless all the windows/screened doors can be opened for the breeze. Unfortunately, there are many, many tears and holes in the screens of the windows and doors of Zabuco villa. (See photos.) Many of the screens are simply not attached to the frames. My husband and I were mauled alive in our sleep two nights in a row by mosquitoes as a result, because our villa attendant left the doors and windows open in the evening during dinner prep and turndown. Either ask your attendant to keep the windows and doors closed (such a shame!), or get used to potentially getting bit alive by mosquitoes. (Dominica, by the way, is a country with confirmed Zika cases according to the WHO.) We got used to wearing 32% DEET mosquito repellent to bed every night, which is also an unpleasant situation. When maintenance staff came by to “fix” the windows and doors, they left without doing anything because there was, apparently, nothing to be done. They returned the following day (after another night of mosquitoes feeding on our flesh) to duct tape the holes and tears, a solution which did not quite have a “five-star” feel.

AMENITIES
Secret Bay provides numerous amenities. Unfortunately, many of these amenities have some issues or simply do not work. For example, Secret Bay provides a Kindle uploaded with daily newspapers of your choice. Our Kindle was loaded with the newspapers we requested on the day of check-in; however, it would not update properly. When we brought this to the attention of Marvin, it took him two full days (!!) to return the Kindle to us. Even then, it wasn’t the Kindle we had been using, it was a different Kindle. Also, the Bluray player in the Zabuco villa does not work. We had brought one Bluray movie to watch during our vacation, but it wouldn’t play that nor would it play any of the DVDs/Bluray discs provided in the villa. The maintenance staff who came by to fix the issue blamed our Bluray disc, claiming it was our disc that “was bad." Obviously, it was not, given that their disc player did not even play any of the discs the hotel provided. When we chatted with a couple staying in Zabuco II, they also told us that their Bluray player did not work. Also, the complimentary resort bicycles (note that they are all men’s bikes) that we took out for a ride to Portsmouth were broken. My husband’s bike, in particular, would not stay in gear, i.e. downshifting automatically, making it impossible to climb the frequent and somewhat steep hills of Dominica.

Secret Bay does provide a number of other amenities in fair condition — wet (waterproof) bags, booties for water sports, kayaks/paddles/life jackets, rain ponchos. Make sure to request them either before your trip or before you expect to need them; the rain ponchos, for example, were not available when we requested and took the hotel two full days to provide.

ACTIVITIES
Secret Bay is not a resort that has centralized amenities or activities. You’re expected to take private excursions or trips (often with outside non-Secret Bay vendors), and your options in terms of relaxing on the resort are limited to your villa or kayaking to a local beach. Tibay Beach, unlike Secret Beach, is black sand, rocky, and fairly noisy because of the proximity of Souce Shack and the villas. We never once saw a guest frolicking on or enjoying Tibay Beach.

Kayaking to Secret Beach or Coconut Beach is fun, but watch the water carefully and try to time it with high tide (lots of coral out there during low tide!) and calm winds. Coconut Beach isn’t really worth visiting — the whole beach smells of animal feces because of the loose cattle roaming around. It also is extremely littered with beer bottles, discarded plastics, etc. It seems it’s a beach used frequently by locals; too bad they don’t take better care of it. Secret Beach is pretty nice; very calm warm waters though not a lot of interesting snorkeling.

Because Secret Bay is the only resort of this caliber on Dominica (and it’s a tiny resort), there is very limited availability/frequency ofexcursions. The entire week we were at Secret Bay, the canyoning tour was only available on Wednesday -- no other day. Also be careful to ask before booking any excursions for additional costs. Marvin scheduled the canyoning tour for us at $160/person with an outside vendor, but neglected to mention the additional $200 transportation fee. None of these details are available in the villa handbook’s section on activities/excursions’ pricing. Costs add up very quickly at Secret Bay, and if you’re not careful, before you know it, your check out bill will include fees never disclosed to you.

Marvin also pushed us to have dinner off the resort on the Friday evening we were in Dominica. It was a bit curious that he never provided any information about the only restaurant he recommended (The Champs) -- no menu, no location/transportation logistics, hours, etc. Because I have a severely food allergy and need to be aware of food options when dining out, I found this very bizarre and unprofessional. We cancelled the reservation when it we discovered that The Champs restaurant is run by Secret Bay’s head chef (Eric). Why would I spend money and time going off the resort to eat the same food provided to me at Secret Bay? Interpret Marvin’s pushiness in having us dine there however you want.

We took a private fishing trip that we found enjoyable for the most part. The trip costs $300, and you can choose to go out on the water either early AM (6:30am) or before sunset (3-7pm-ish). Captain Don will meet you at Tibay Beach, and you’ll head to a few different locations on the Caribbean Sea-side of the island. Captain Don is an amiable, friendly young guy, and he seems genuinely to enjoy taking guests on the water. BUT we were misled by him on the trip to believe that the fish WE caught on our private fishing trip was HIS to keep. We caught a yellowtail snapper, two yellowfin tunas, and a kingfish (along with a bunch of small-sized groupers). Captain Don made it clear that the snapper and tuna (more desirable fish to eat or sell) were his to keep, and we could have the groupers. He immediately put the snapper and tuna away in a hidden compartment of the boat separate from all other fish (which he left lying on the floor of the boat for the entirety of the fishing trip), and said to us - “my wife is going to cook this yellowtail snapper for dinner tonight.” As for the tuna, he said he would be giving the tuna to his sister who owns a fish packaging business on Dominica. All this transpired because Marvin (the manager), who arranged our fishing trip, never clearly stated to us that ALL the fish we catch on the private trip we paid for was ours to keep. If you decide to go on the water with Captain Don, state to him clearly at the start of the trip that you want all the fish you catch or, at the very least, the pick of the fish. It’s yours to keep. When we told Marvin of our disappointment and confusion the following day, he had Captain Don return the fish to us; Secret Bay’s kitchen, then, prepared the fish for us to grill on our villa or they prepared it at Souce Shack (for no additional fee). We learned early on that every activity was birthing ground for yet another source of confusion at Secret Bay.

DOMINICA
Secret Bay has beautiful views and is located on a spectacular oceanfront cliff, but there is a strange feeling of being in an ivory tower of luxury on an extraordinarily destitute country. Dominica, it should be noted, is so poor that it remains on the list of countries served by Peace Corps volunteers. If you step just outside the resort’s boundaries - let’s say, to the main road or anywhere farther - it’s undeniable the dichotomy between the resort and the island. There is simply no general growth on the island spurred by a healthy tourism industry; for example, there are no boutiques or central shopping areas with restaurants that cater to tourists and are easily reachable. Outside of jungle/rain forest tours, there is no infrastructure that has been developed from the island’s tourism. It’s a disappointing and sad fact that is difficult to ignore despite the obvious natural beauty of Dominica.

RESORT POLICIES (CHILDREN)
As we were aiming for a relaxing quiet vacation to celebrate our anniversary, we were attracted to Secret Bay because its website indicated a policy to not allow children under 12 years or age. While we were planning our trip, we learned from other TripAdvisor reviews that young children appear to be frequently allowed at the resort. When we asked the staff of Secret Bay prior to booking regarding their children’s policy, Gregor (the owner of Secret Bay) confirmed that 12yo+ children are allowed and under their Milestones Rewards Program, kids 7yo+ are allowed. So it turns out Secret Bay has two conflicting children’s policies, only one of which is provided to guests at time of booking (12yo+ allowed). I never read anywhere on their website that 7yo+ are allowed at the resort; the owner tells me there is a website link to that particular information under their rewards program section. Why this is not more clearly enumerated in one place for all guests to understand (update your FAQ section, Secret Bay!) is bewildering to me. Hiding the 7yo+ policy on only one section of the website and stating only the 12yo+ policy at time of booking is confusing and misleading — even a little sneaky. May Secret Bay wants flexibility to bend/break/not adhere to their own policies whenever convenient, though paying guests will have no knowledge that they might be sharing grounds with children under 12yo and inadvertently paying for a vacation entirely opposite of the one planned. They market themselves to be a honeymoon-type, uber-romantic, luxurious, quiet -- even “sexy” -- resort, but their two children’s policies go directly against this ethos.

I think it’s worth considering the message you send when the hotel owners and managers don’t follow the same policies they set. When you set a policy, there are certain expectations from guests. Circumstance should not be a factor in the quality of the experience offered by the hotel, especially because the hotel wants to appease certain guests against hotel policy. From the feedback online, it’s clear that noise and children disrupting other guests' stays at Secret Bay is not an abnormal occurrence. Policy should be policy; it’s not good enough to only follow policies when it's to the hotel's best (financial) interest.

As a guest of the hotel -- whether or not there are children during our upcoming stay -- I think it's unnerving for Secret Bay to have a specific policy and then not adhere to it. If there is a policy and it's not followed in the strictest manner, why bother having said policy? Most alarming to us is that we’re forced us wonder -- what other policies does Secret Bay not follow?

With respect to our stay, prior to booking, we were informed by Ayeola, the sales manager, that there would be "no children during [our] stay” at Secret Bay. After booking, it turned out that there was a family of five checking into Zing-Zing villa two days before we left (kids are 13, 11, 9). They claimed Zing Zing "is not close to your villa and they will be here only for the last two days of your stay.” I didn’t appreciate Ayeola diminishing our concerns by claiming that because the children would be present for only two days (of our seven day stay), it shouldn’t be a concern to us. Some quick math leads to that covering 30% of our total stay, so is that not really a big deal at all? We found this particularly offensive because we planned and paid for a peaceful, quiet, no-children stay for seven nights, not five. If we wanted a no-children resort vacation for five days, then that’s what we would have paid for (especially for our anniversary). Claiming that it’s “only a few days,” so it’s “not a big deal at all” was rude and insensitive to our actual concerns. Considering Ayeola had zero evidence to know how our stay might be potentially impacted by her incompetence and error, we found that entire exchange condescending and dismissive.

Room tip: Zabuco I is the most private. But the bungalows/Zing Zing are closer than you think (you can hear those guests chatting from inside Zabuco).
Date of stay: July 2016
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
26  Thank bostongal19
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ayeola G, Sales & Marketing Coordinator at Secret Bay, responded to this reviewResponded August 12, 2016

Hi bostongal19

We appreciate all aspects of the review – the good (our villa attendant service, the food, the views, the location) as well as the bad (your numerous issues with the villa and the amenities, and the lack of attention to detail). We do apologise that we did not meet and exceed expectations in many aspects of your stay and accept full responsibility for that.

There are a few aspects of your review which we wish to clarify. The issue with our pricing (value for money), mosquitos and noise from children. As can be seen from our 400+ reviews in just 5 years, the perception of value for money is very high, 99% of guests reviews make no mention of mosquitos and some of the few that do mention mosquitos say they were surprised at how mosquito-free Secret Bay is and only 1 review mentions that they heard children in our only family villa. We are truly sorry that your perception/experience was so unusual in this regard.

Secret Bay takes all reviews and guest feedback very, very seriously. We are now working very hard to understand what could and should have been done differently so that these issues do not repeat for future guests. The guest experience is at the center of our world and we think this is one of the reasons that we continue to receive the recognition from guests and media alike.

In closing, we are truly sorry. Your feedback inspires us to work harder and we hope that you give us the opportunity to make it up to you in a future visit.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 31, 2016

We have been doing projects in Portsmouth for several years now with the hospital, and I thought it was time to bring the rest of my family to Dominica that hadn't been on prior trips. Gregor and company went out of their way to make the ZingZing available and we were once again in Jurassic bliss. The room is incredible, and the personal service can't be topped anywhere you might go. Thanks to Marvin and all the folks at SB for making it a special trip.

Bill Rutherford and family

Room tip: Any room is ideal
Date of stay: July 2016
  • Trip type: Traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
1  Thank Bill R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ayeola G, Sales & Marketing Coordinator at Secret Bay, responded to this reviewResponded November 13, 2016

Hey Captain Bill and family. Thanks so much for the review! It was great meeting you and your family after communicating by phone and email for some time. Whenever you want to experience “Jurassic bliss” again, we’re just a call or email away. Don’t wait too long!

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 28, 2016

Simply marvelous! The service was really splendid. Very nice, hospitable people. The resort is very luxurious and everything was just beautiful; the spot and the scenery. Actually it was a jaw-dropping experience. I really enjoyed my time there. It's private and it's now my secret getaway. I definitely plan to visit again in the near future. Thank you secret bay resort staff for providing such a spot and a wonderful experience like this!

Date of stay: June 2016
  • Trip type: Traveled solo
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank jaynicky2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ayeola G, Sales & Marketing Coordinator at Secret Bay, responded to this reviewResponded August 1, 2016

Thanks jaynicky2016 for your review. We truly appreciate it. It was our pleasure to welcome and host you during your stay. Although most of our guests are couples, we love making the stay just as special for those who travel solo. Thanks again and we hope you do return.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 27, 2016

From the moment we landed in Dominica it was apparent how proud everyone was of their country, and after our time there, I now understand why! Dominica is stunningly beautiful and unlike any island I have ever visited. Everywhere you look there are papaya, almond, coffee, avocado, breadfruit and coconut trees, not to mention the hundreds of rivers and gorgeous flowers.

The island's lush landscape and beautiful beaches allow for the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure. We hiked to Middleham and Trafalgar Falls, snorkeled Champagne Reef and went lion fish hunting, all of which were a blast and led by friendly and knowledgable guides. Despite these fantastic activities, we had a hard time leaving Secret Bay and spent many hours swimming in our pool, kayaking to Secret Beach and just enjoying the view from our deck at Zabuco with a book or a cocktail.

The highlight of our honeymoon was definitely the villa and the service. The space was open, immaculate, comfortable and romantic. Watching the sunset or a storm pass through from the deck was truly breathtaking, as was the view from the private but open shower. Our villa attendant Deslyn was so professional and we genuinely looked forward to her visits to the villa. The food was incredible, abundant and fresh; the seafood was some of the best we have ever had!

Secret Bay is truly incredible, and a perfect choice for a honeymoon or getaway. We already can't wait to return!

Date of stay: June 2016
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
7  Thank Taylorfranciscarr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ayeola G, Sales & Marketing Coordinator at Secret Bay, responded to this reviewResponded August 1, 2016

Hi Taylor, thanks for your great review of Secret Bay and Dominica. We all love our Nature Island and are happy to share with our guests. From our rich and diverse flora and fauna to the incredible marine life and of course the hospitable people- Dominica is not easy to forget. We’re thrilled at the prospect of your return to both the island and our Resort.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 26, 2016

Fantastic place to get away. All our needs were met including an awesome beach, great hospitality, friendly care takers, easy transportation, and splendid grounds. we talked about this trip for a long time and have wonderful memories.

Date of stay: August 2015
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Service
Thank porchstudios
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ayeola G, Sales & Marketing Coordinator at Secret Bay, responded to this reviewResponded August 1, 2016

We are so happy to have met your expectations porchstudios. Thank you for visiting. Please return to make even more memories!

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
View more reviews