Secrets Akumal Makes Sweet Sixteen . . . And Counting

If you slavishly follow this blog . . .  as all the glitterati do, or course . . .  you will know that it is hardly a secret that I love Secrets Resorts brought to you by the friendly folks at AMResorts.  By my last count, there are now sixteen Secrets Resorts in five destinations (Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Panama) with more to come very soon.   I have stayed at several of these properties and written blog posts about my experience which you can read here.  Thus you will understand why my heart went all “a twitter” (as we were wont to say long before the advent of the social media site of the same name) when I realized I would be visiting Secrets Akumal.SEARM_EXT_Aerial1_2A_1400x458

Secrets Akumal is located in . . . well . . .  Akumal (a Mayan word meaning “place of the turtle”).   If that doesn’t seem all that helpful let’s start with Mexico (think south), then Riviera Maya (think south of Cancun) and then Akumal Bay and Half Moon Bay (think so far south you’re almost in Belize).  Before you are off put by the one hour ride from the airport, read this post and you will quickly decide this is a clear-cut case where the difference is worth the distance!

Let’s start with the beach for you sand and sun worshipers out there.  Gaze at the picture above.  This property offers silky soft sand, a gently sloping shoreline and silvery aqua waters.  Although I am not one to spend long hours on the beach,  I offer this picture below as proof that even the most extreme”type A” personalities can chill out at this property.   I only hope you can draw your eyes away from these two perfectly formed feet long enough to appreciate the scene.   What can I say?  Nature was kind to me.IMG_1476

But the beach itself wasn’t even the best part.  For free mind you, you can check out snorkeling gear, paddle out fifty yards or so and swim with sea turtles the size of my first Volkswagen.  OK, maybe I exaggerate slightly but, as Jimmy Fallon doing Donald Trump would say, they are “Huge, Huge, Huge.”   

Leave it to yours truly, however, to transform a simple exercise into a major fiasco.  When you have perfectly formed feet as I do (I think we have already established that point) it is not easy to find fins that fit properly.  Especially if you don’t notice when you don them that they can be tightened on both sides.  In full snorkeling regalia, I paddled serenely out from shore almost reaching the desired viewing spot when one of my fins slipped off.  Fortunately, the water being crystal clear, I could see it swaying gently on the sea floor.  However, when you are wearing a full life vest, trust me, you might as well be a fishing cork attempting to dive for pearls.

I quickly realized I would have to take off my life vest to have any hope of retrieving my fin. I was driven by the near certainty that the snorkel shack would demand a king’s ransom if I returned sans one fin.  Pulling my arms out from the vest while bobbing like the aforementioned cork proved a lot more challenging than you might think.  I finally extricated one of my arms from the arm hole.  Holding on to the vest with one hand, I was barely able, after the third or fourth attempt,  to reach just low enough to snag the offending fin (pun intended).  By the time I replaced the fin and managed to reapply the life jacket, I had swallowed a pint of sea water, was spewing bilge like a beluga whale clearing its air spout not to mention breathing so heavily I thought I was going to pass out.

I think my grown daughter, who observed the entire proceedings from a few feet away, thought she was going to have to notify her mother that I was tragically lost at sea in the normally benign act of viewing sea turtles.Turtle

Enough about my little misadventure.  Let’s return to the centerpiece of this post, the incomparable Secrets Akumal.  Here are three things I particularly enjoyed during my stay.

The World Class Secrets Spa by Pevonia 

When you book a spa treatment at Secrets, in essence you get two great experiences for the price of one.  As much as I enjoyed my 50 minute message, I found the visit to the Hydrotherapy Circuit every bit as pleasurable.  I took the snapshot below with the intention of showing you the various features of this amazing pool, when this young lady insinuated herself into the picture.  If there is one thing I hate, it is having a picture photo bombed by some attractive twenty something.  I paddled over to give her a piece of my mind only to have her reply that I shouldn’t bother, I really couldn’t spare it.   Do you believe that?  (Hopefully, only my most gullible readers will.)Hydrotherapy Circuit at Secrets Akumal Spa

Bordeaux, the French Cuisine Restaurant

If you have never been to a Secrets Resort, banish all thoughts of one long buffet line after another.  That may have described the early all-inclusives from decades ago but nothing could be farther from today’s reality.  If you are only staying a few days, you most difficult decision is going to be deciding whether to dine at El Patio (Mexican cuisine), Himitsu (Pan-Asian cuisine), Portofino (Italian cuisine), Oceana (fresh seafood) or my personal favorite Bordeaux (French cuisine).  I have a solution.  Book seven nights and you can throw in room service and a romantic dinner for two on the beach.

Coco Café

In my previous blog post on Costa Rica, I made a full-throated confession regarding my coffee addiction.  Whenever I travel to Mexico, I love to indulge in their beautiful cappuccinos.  OK, over Coco Cafe Secrets Akumalindulge.  So what could be better that a charming little coffee shop that is open twenty-four hours a day!  Which proves quite handy since, if you drink as many as I did, you won’t be bothered by that nasty habit of sleep anyway.

Well, I have once again exhausted my creative genius . . . not to mention most of my readers, so I will draw this latest literary contribution to a close with a fitting challenge.  Join me in my endeavor to visit every single Secrets Resort.   Of the sixteen, I have visited (not necessarily stayed overnight at) nine of the ten in Mexico and the two in Jamaica for a total of eleven.   But it you are going to achieve this goal, call me right away because a little bird tells me some new ones are about to sprout!

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Why Secrets Resorts Aren’t Such A Big Secret Anymore

If you need to get the word out quickly regarding some important matter throughout a club, organization or business, I know one foolproof method.  Just take two or three people aside individually and relay the information to them in whispered tones.  Then tell them to be sure and keep it under wraps because you are not ready to make the announcement public just yet.  At least one, and more likely all three of those people, will tell a handful of others and long before the sun sets it will be common knowledge.  Let’s face it, most of us suffer from the verbal version of a common urinary tract problem I like to call “lack of blather control”. Secrets Puerto Los CabosI suspect most folks returning from a stay at one of the Secrets Resorts have every intention of smugly keeping their little discovery all to themselves.  Notwithstanding their best efforts, they find themselves effusing all over the people sitting on either side of them . . . it is not quite as disgusting as it sounds . . . before their flight home even leaves the runway. I myself have written posts about several of the Secrets Resorts. Should you cast your eyes to the right rail, you will see I even have a category by that name where you can see all my Secrets postings.  I just recently returned from one of the brand’s newest offerings so, fair warning, grab a towel.  I am about to effuse all over you!

SECRETS PUERTO LOS CABOS

Puerto Los Cabos is an exciting new development in the eastern area of Los Cabos, Mexico.  You can get all those juicy details by clicking on this link to a post I wrote a few weeks back, Puerto Los Cabos And The Quest For the Best.  Situated in the heart of that new development on a very choice bit of real estate is Secrets Puerto Los Cabos.

Secrets Puerto Los CabosYou can have a beautiful setting and attractive facilities (which this property has in spades) but from vast experience I can tell you that unless they are blessed with outstanding personnel, it is all in vain.  The entire staff, from reception to restaurant, exude the kind of warmth and helpfulness that is the envy of many of their competitors.  A special shout out to Salvador Gutierrez who, as the resident manager, deserves a great deal of credit for selecting and training such a marvelous staff and Karla Ponce, the front desk manager, who oversees those employees who represent the all-important first impression to the guests.  Karla’s infectious smile seems to have spread to the entire reception staff.  It must be a case of staff infection!

When stopping by Rendezvous for a little pre-dinner libation, it is never a bad thing to Martini Cart at Secrets Puerto Los Cabosencounter a well-stocked martini cart as you walk in. Before you can say “¡Si Señor, por favor!” you might well find one of these sitting before you.  Rendezvous Secrets Resorts

 

Dining in general, I have always believed, is one part cuisine, one part ambiance and one part great companions.   Picture yourself with a small circle of friends dining out under the stars at El Patio Restaurant savoring your favorite ceviche, sipping a fine glass of Cabernet and conversing late into the night.

El Patio Secrets Puerto Los Cabos

At some point in the evening, no matter how convivial the company or smooth the after-dinner port, you are going to want to stumble back to your home away from home for a sound night’s sleep.  When that happens, if you are staying at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos, this welcoming sight is waiting to greet you when you enter the room.

Room at Secrets Puerto Los CabosThere is never enough time in one of these posts to tell you one-tenth of the wonderful features of such a stunning resort.  I haven’t even mentioned all the gourmet restaurants, the 24-hour room service, the 12,000 sq. ft. world-class Secrets spa by Pevonia,  the 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, access to three miles of pristine beach and so much more.

Not to worry!  That is what great travel agents are for.  Our folks would be more than glad to drill down to the most minute detail to guarantee that your stay will exceed your expectations.

This concludes five posts under the category “Puerto Los Cabos”.  Let me know if you enjoyed this little glimpse into Los Cabos’ exciting new development.

Puerto Los Cabos And The Quest For The Best

Being a consummate travel professional (no giggles, please), I admittedly approach my personal travel a little differently than the average vacationer.  Because a large percentage of the travel I do could be considered a combination of business and pleasure, I always travel with an eye out for the unique, the fascinating, the “New Next” to steal a phrase from Texas Monthly magazine.  It is my own relentless “quest for the best” to share with you.  Think of me as a sort of Indiana Jones searching for the Ark of the Covenant only without the chest hair and female entourage.

Marina at Puerto Los CabosThis past week was a perfect example.  I serve on the advisory board for the travel behemoth, Travel Leaders.  We had our quarterly meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, not exactly a shabby site for a business meeting. One thing I will say about the travel industry, we do meetings right!  I was especially pleased to discover that we were staying at the Secrets Puerto Los Cabos.  As the title above suggests, this post (and the next several) will introduce you to the newest, nicest and neatest development in one of my favorite destinations in all the world.

Google Map of Los CabosFirst a quick geography lesson. Did you ever stop to think about the fact that the destination is called Los Cabos and not El Cabo (cabo meaning cape or tip in Spanish)?  The reason is that at the very tip of the Baja Peninsula there are actually three capes: on the western side is the Cape of San Lucas where you find the town of Cabo San Lucas; the Cape of San Jose where the town of San Jose del Cabo is situated; and finally, there is an Eastern Cape.  Just east of San Jose del Cabo is Puerto Los Cabos sitting right on the border between these latter two capes.  In between the first two capes is the stretch of land known as The Corridor.  Are you starting to remember why you hated geography class so much!

Not to worry, for our purposes we are going to focus all our attention on Puerto Los Cabos.  This amazing development is the brain child of the Sanchez Navarro family comprised of a father, at least two or three sons involved in the business and a nephew.  To date I have only had the pleasure of meeting Rafael who directs the sales and marketing, a deficiency I hope to remedy soon.  I did Google the rest of the family and they all look like stars of a Mexican telenovela. I would love to meet the rest of the “cast” even though in their midst I would no doubt look like one of those character actors brought in for comic relief!  Their company is aptly enough named Grupo Questro and, as you will read below, the entire family obviously shares my passionate quest for the best.

Golf Course at Puerto Los CabosPuerto Los Cabos is a planned development nestled in the hills of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains with its own spectacular marina and 18-hole golf course.   The existing course is the only course I have every played where the front nine was designed by one world-class architect, Jack Nicklaus and the back nine by an equally famous luminary, Greg Norman.  This marriage made in heaven, alas, is temporary seeing that the Greg Norman half will become the front nine of his own eighteen hole signature course and the Jack Nicklaus half will become the back nine of his own 18-hole course.  Nothing like picking out your next spouse while still married!  And you thought geography was complicated.

With the time I have remaining, I am going to tell you about two incredible resorts currently in progress (J. W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton Reserve) and then invite you to come back soon and read about two magnificent resort properties you can book right now (Secrets Puerto Los Cabos and El Ganzo).  Over an ice-cold Negra Modelo (the best beer in Mexico, by the way), Rafael explained to me that the construction I could see next door from where we were sitting on the terrace was a J. W. Marriott that is slated to open late this year. The best I can offer you at the moment are the various artist renderings below. To read a news release about the property, click here.

JW Marriott Puerto Los CabosIn case you are not aware, apparently Ritz Carlton was just not quite ritzy enough for some folks so a few years back they launched the Ritz Carlton Reserve brand.  This new property is described in their news release which you can read here.  “Nestled along 800 feet of oceanfront along Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, 124 private, single-story, oceanfront villas will each have breathtaking panoramic views across the Sea of Cortez in an area of outstanding natural beauty.”  Again, here is an artist rendering.

Ritz Carlton Reserve Puerto Los CabosLest you assume the only option today for visiting Puerto Los Cabos is bringing along a pup tent from home along with a can of pork and beans and a few matches, in the next several posts I will tell you about two remarkable places you can book now.  By way of a tease, while both are magnificent, one of these two is perhaps the most unusual and intriguing hotel concept I have ever seen!  It may take a couple of blog posts to do it justice.

I’ll be back soon.  Why don’t you invite a few friends to join us next time as we continue our “quest for the best”?  This will be one time I can promise you won’t be disappointed.  In fact, why not sign up to follow this blog and you will never have to be disappointed again?  Cheers!

At Secrets The Vine, The Wine’s Divine (2)

I promised in my last post that, unlike last time, I would actually relate my comments to the subject suggested by my title. How very novel!  You will recall, unless you were very naughty and did not read my previous post (need I remind you Santa takes note of such grievous transgressions this time of year), I mentioned there are now, or to be precise will be two days from now, an even dozen Secrets resorts.  Having personally sampled a few, I can only say, “May their tribe increase!”

They range in location from various beach destinations around Mexico, to Jamaica, to the Dominican Republic.  Each has a unique name and a flavor to match.  Someone at AMResorts, the parent company, has my admiration for conjuring up such names as Silversands, St. James, Wild Orchid, Marquis, Aura and our subject today, The Vine.   To be blunt, there are quite enough hotels in Mexico in the Grand Royal Imperial Sun Palace Beach Oasis Resorts & Spas genre, thank you very much.

So what do you suppose is the unique theme of  Secrets The Vine?  Need a hint?  It rhymesSecrets The Vine with vine and can be divine.  Need a little more time to call your lifeline?  I hope I have not been casting my pearls before swine.  Still don’t have it?  OK, OK, it’s wine. Come on folks, try to keep up now!

Just remember, at Secrets The Vine it’s all about the wine.  How so?  Let me count the ways:

1)  The Enoteca 

The Wire Repository at Secrets The VineBe honest, you don’t have a clue what I am talking about, do you?  Don’t worry, even a Kung Fu black belt master of the English language like your humble servant had to look that one up.  An “enoteca” is a wine repository.  The lobby features a wine wall with 3000 bottles of wine callously sealed beyond reach behind thick glass.  (You pack a few beach towels and a couple of dozen toiletry items in your suitcase and suddenly your reputation is in tatters.  So unfair.)

2)  The Vine Bar

I find this particularly cool (which is what we used to call things we liked back in the day).   The resort has created an area called The Vine Bar which is a designated wine tasting area for guests.  Here you can enjoy sommelier-led wineThe Wine Bar at Secrets The Vine tastings and pairings for the most discriminating palate.  I happen to think discrimination is a terrible thing so I personally guzzle, I mean sip, pretty much any wine within my boarding house reach.  But then I am assuming you haven’t seared your tender taste buds with a lifetime of stuffed jalapenos garnished with Habanero sauce as I have and can tell the difference between a vintage wine and kerosene .  Take notice of the handcrafted wood table that seats up to 14 guests.  Very classy!

3)  The Vine Gourmet Experience

Here is where we separate the pretenders from the pretentious!  For a mere $285 per person you can have the ultimate Vine Gourmet Experience.  You can click here for a complete listing of all the inclusions but it does encompass truffles, tequila and a chef’s apron to take home to name a few items.  Let’s just say if you aren’t feeling vastly superior to the great unwashed masses back home after this experience you don’t know jack squat about “snooty”.  I’m feeling suddenly sophisticated and all I did was read over the list of inclusions.

The Lounge at Secrets The VineI was going to limit this overview to only two posts but I realize there are even more amazing features I have yet to cover.  Therefore, in the interest of promoting worldwide democracy, I will let you, the people, decide.  Just register your vote in the poll below.  I know this will feel a little strange for you folks in Chicago, New Jersey and Louisiana but please try to vote just once.

At Secrets The Vine, The Wine’s Divine

For those not familiar with the brand, Secrets Resorts & Spas is the cornerstone of AMResorts‘ memorable collection of resort properties. Other brands include Dreams, ZoëtryNow, and Sunscape Resorts & Spas.

Through a combination of hard work and shameless wheedling (truly a lost art form), I have managed over the past several years to finagle (this is simply wheedling with a whiff of chicanery) stays at several of the Secrets properties.  I will reserve another occasion to extol the virtues of some of the other dozen Secrets such as Secrets Silversands, Secrets Maroma, Secrets Capri and Victoria’s Secret.  Oops, a little too much pool side eye candy may have caused a momentary lapse in concentration.

Secrets The Vine Cancun

The view looking north from my balcony. The lagoon is on the left and the ocean on the right.

Instead I prefer to squander, I mean utilize, this two hour plus flight home to share my impressions of SecretsThe Vine, Secrets’ latest gem.  A sudden attack of free association brings to mind the homophone gym … sorry, this is how the writer’s mind works . . . so why not begin with a brief mention of the fitness center? It will of necessity be brief because the closest I came to the fitness center the past five days was an extended visit to the nearby spa.  I did learn from one of my traveling companions, who I understand upon check out was charged replacement costs for a couple of Stairmasters, that it was quite extensive. Sorry, Erin, you are a wonderful young lady but two workouts a day while on vacation qualifies as OCD in anybody’s book.  Besides, looking young, vibrant and attractive are so overrated, don’t you agree, dear reader?

Secrets The Vine Spa by Pevonia

Now should you want to know about the spa, however, I’m your man.  I got there an hour before my massage to savor all the facilities seeing that spa savoring is not exactly an everyday ritual back home.  After confiscating every stitch of my clothing and instantly begging me “For the love of God, man, please don a bathrobe!”, the staff led me to this wood paneled room that was hotter than Texas in August.  I have no idea where I was but I am not exaggerating when I say it felt like a sauna in there.  Any overly exuberant description of my fifty minute massage could not possibly come to a good end seeing my dear wife is an avid follower of this blog. With apologies to my masseuse, I think I will stick with, “It was . . fine.”

I wouldn’t want to leave the impression that I spent my entire stay in self-indulgent pampering.  I mean, there were a couple of rounds of golf wedged in there (pun intended) not to mention some serious seaside ceviche sampling.

For those of you paying attention, probably the minority, you may have noticed that, in spite of the title of this post, I have managed to ramble on without any mention of the relationship between the name of the property and the fruit of the vine. Unfortunately, my self-imposed standard that these posts should be short enough to read in one brief bathroom visit (I assume you have wifi in there) means that you will just have to stop by for a second installment where I shall give vino the full attention it deserves!

If you will come back, I think I can promise to shower you with equally fascinating insights and clever repartee.  My goal with this blog is always to set a standard so attainable that even I can meet it!