Sección Hotelera Bahía de Conejos Lote 8, Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico
Huatulco on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca state has been carefully planned as a sustainable tourism destination. The region is the only one in Mexico certified with international Green Globe certification. There are only a handful of modern resorts, mostly along Tangolunda Bay's five beautiful beaches, but Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa was built a few coves over in Conjes Bay, and it's the only upscale adult–exclusive all–inclusive in the area.
The grand entrance upon your arrival barely prepares you for the ensuing view. But once you make your way through the ethereal lobby to the edge of the Sky Bar, the panorama below is spectacular. The entire Secrets Huatulco complex is stark white and appears as if it was created almost as a new age temple dedicated to the glory of its surroundings. Save for some burnished wood accents and a few splashes of tropical colors, it allows the stunning natural scenery to shine as the star. A vast network of aqua pools crests an expansive strand of golden sand to frame a cobalt sea flanked by towering craggy cliffs caped in emerald green. Yes, it has a serious wow factor. And the constant audio backdrop of the ever–restless waves crashing upon the rocky outcrops makes it absolutely exhilarating to simply stand still awhile and take it all in.
The Secrets brand claim to fame is their trademarked Unlimited Luxury program. That means bracelet-free, all–inclusive everything. This includes no reservation required dining at nine restaurants (only one is a buffet), top shelf spirits at all bars, plus 24–hour room service. Other amenities include luxurious bath products (including sunscreen), complimentary mini–fridge refreshed daily, and concierge service. There is also an upgrade option with enhanced services and amenities called the Preferred Club.
But one of my favorite extras is the "Secret Box." You can have room service delivered to a private box without ever interacting with staff. However, be forewarned that if you don't keep the closet doors closed on the inside where the box is embedded, the servers can see right into the room. And, the opening peers right into the open concept bathtub and shower! In most of their other resorts, the box is designed in an L–shape so that inadvertently flashing the staff is never an issue.
Built in 2010, the resort is modern and massive: 399 rooms divided into three levels connected by a seven–story monolithic glassed–in elevator and a multi–level community of dining and entertainment enclaves surrounding a courtyard. There is also additional dining and a stand–alone spa complex up a steep hill on the mountainside. All rooms are elegant, oceanfront suites with whirlpool tubs and rain showers, state–of–the–art technology, ample balconies and large comfortable beds with high–quality bedding. Everything you would expect in a luxury resort–despite the large scale.
All Preferred Club suites offer either swim–out decks or Jacuzzi balconies. I stayed in two different styles for comparison and though I enjoyed both, there is a definite trade–off. The swim–out is not as private as you might like, and you lose some of the sea view below due to the design. And while the top floor suite had a spectacular panoramic view — you can even see the sea from the shower — you miss the late night dips afforded by the swim-out since main pools close at 8pm. However, there are also a few two–story presidential swim–out suites that can give you the best of both worlds.
As for service, a better grasp of English requests would be most welcome, especially in front–line positions. But otherwise the staff was friendly and competent, and there were many stand–outs who went way above and beyond. For dining, our food experience ranged from good to downright inspired. Each restaurant has an international theme: Asian, French, Italian, etc., and we tried them all but most enjoyed the Mexican Tamarindo and the French Bordeaux for their cuisine. Yet for atmosphere, the outdoor seating at Castaways Grill and Oceana afforded our favorite sunset views. Guests are also welcome to enjoy all of the restaurants of their sister family resort Dreams Huatulco in Tangolunda Bay. (Transportation not included.)
As for activities, there is plenty to do, and the activity staff is wonderfully enthusiastic without being overbearing. I thoroughly enjoyed the guided snorkeling and the Hobie cat sailing instruction, but one should be forewarned that this isn't always the most swimmer–friendly sea. The current can be unforgiving and the waters rough. Check the safety flags first. The snorkeling cove is always the safest swim with calmest waters.
For poolside enjoyment, there are many spots throughout the winding water circuit to suit different moods: laid–back and chill, sociable and fun, or party–hearty to the max around the swim–up bar. The beauty of the design is that everything is spaced far enough apart so that the different vibes don't collide. And finding a shaded escape from other guests was never an issue. But for sheer liquid luxury and ultimate pampering, visit their Secrets Spa by Pevonia on the cliff. Their outside hydrotherapy circuit has whirlpools and water–jets galore within a languid infinity pool overlooking the sea. It provides an exceptionally rejuvenating experience, plus the views from the glassed–in treatment rooms are stellar. For design and scenery, it is one of the most impressive spas I have ever experienced.
Highly recommended off–site activities include boat and snorkel tours of the nine beautiful bays, trips to Copalita eco–archaeological park, and exploration of the highlands for coffee plantations, gorgeous waterfalls, and lush, orchid–filled rainforests. (Book with AMSTAR, the most highly regarded tour operator in the area.) And just minutes away from the resort is a surfer's beach called Playa Bocana where you can get an ancient mud ritual skin treatment by the sea. It's a unique primal pleasure well worth experiencing.
Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa is a AAA Four Diamond Award resort and is Rainforest Alliance Verified. It is a huge resort, yes, but its stellar location, ample space, and great amenities make it a great luxury all–inclusive choice in Huatulco.
Web Address: www.secretsresorts.com/huatulco
Published rates: $134 to $933 per person all–inclusive.
Total Number of Rooms: 399 Suites
Review and pool photo by Susan Campbell; other photos courtesy of AMResorts.