Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A long list of features including a beautiful beachfront, eight restaurants, and a spa -- but confusion comes from a two-in-one resort concept, and a separate VIP-style hotel that feels classist.
“Is this your first time at Secrets?” the guard asks me as I pull up to the resort’s gate in my tiny rental car. “Why yes, yes, it is,” I respond, as the guard hangs a parking pass from my rearview mirror and points me toward the hotel entrance to my left. Following his finger, I understand the reason for his unsolicited help: To my left, there is indeed a hotel entrance. And yet, to my right, there is another entrance, almost a mirror image of the first, but with a sign that says “St. James” instead of "Wild Orchid."
After I give the valet my name, the complex situation soon grows even more complicated, as I am directed to yet ‘’another’’ entrance, which says “Preferred Club.” Wild Orchid’s Preferred Club Hotel, it turns out, has a separate, fancier lobby that features a private concierge, two computers with free Internet, and a Club Lounge with a small buffet and full bar that are stocked around the clock. Preferred Club guests continue to get the star treatment throughout the property -- they have access to a separate pool with nicer lounge chairs and sun beds, free Wi-Fi access codes, free daily newspapers, and upgraded minibars and bath products in the rooms. Perhaps nicest of all are Wild Orchid’s Preferred Club Swim-out Rooms, which, unlike any other rooms on the property, feature terraces with private enclaves off of the Preferred Club pool.
Some may find the division between the “regular” and “Preferred Club” guests a bit classist, and Premiere guests must show a key card whenever entering Premiere areas. (Though if you saunter in like you own the joint, it's possible no one will challenge you.) This can be a confusing enough system for guests in itself, but compounding this confusion is the fact that most of Wild Orchid's amenities are shared with the Secret St. James next door. (And St. James also has its own Premiere section.)
Both resorts use the same spa, which is expansive with a salon, boutique, juice bar, relaxation room with hot and cold pools, and more than a dozen treatment rooms. Also shared are a shopping complex, Internet center, coffee shop, casino, game room, tennis courts, fitness center, and a Promenade featuring several restaurants, bars, and a music lounge. In the end, what mostly sets the two resorts apart is decor -- Wild Orchid is slightly more contemporary in design, and also offers the coveted Preferred Club Swim-out Rooms. Rates are also higher here than at the St. James, which seems a bit ridiculous considering how much between the two properties is shared.
Situated on a small peninsula away from other Montego Bay resorts
Many guests at the Secrets Wild Orchid never leave the resort, and with eight restaurants, five bars, a casino, shops, a theater, and a spa on-site, there's little reason to. The resort is close enough to the airport that guests can avoid expensive taxis, but those who want to explore Jamaica outside of Secrets Wild Orchid’s all-inclusive bubble might be disappointed, as very little is nearby.
Spacious suites with sophisticated contemporary decor and balconies
The rooms at Secrets Wild Orchid have sophisticated contemporary decor, and extras such as four-poster beds, MP3 docks, flat-screen TVs, soaking tubs, massive rainfall showerheads, and stocked minbars. The Premiere Swim-Out Room has direct private access to the Premiere pool, as well as a whirlpool tub on the balcony, and Suites feature massive Jacuzzis in both the bathroom and on the balcony. Even the least expensive rooms, however, are attractive and high-end.
Those guests staying in the Preferred Club section of the hotel get some additional freebies: free Wi-Fi access codes, more goodies in the minibars, and access to all of the VIP areas such as the Club Lounge (which has a non-stop buffet and help-yourself bar), and the Preferred Club pool, which is quieter and nicer than the main pool.
Couples may appreciate the “Secrets box" in each room, which is essentially a non-moving dumbwaiter that allows guests to order room service without actually having to open the door for delivery. Rather, the meal is placed in the box and left for guests to access via a second door in their room.
Isolated from other resorts on a peninsula
Unlike certain popular strips along the northern shore of Montego Bay and Seven Mile Beach in Negril, Secrets' beach doesn’t share its views or borders with any other properties. Instead, the resort’s peninsular spot is secluded and serene, and guests have the run of the shore.
The beach has fine white sand and clear, warm water, and numerous wicker lounge chairs are on offer, as well as palapas for shade. Activities on the beach include beach volleyball, badminton, and horse shoe. Certain sections of the beach are quite narrow.
Though part of the beach is exclusive to the Preferred Club, no one was enforcing the separation.
A main pool, a Preferred Club pool, and a pool at neighboring Secrets St. James -- all with beach views
The main pools for both Secrets Wild Orchid and Secrets St. James are open to guests at either property (or at least, no one was stopping guests from moving between the two). Both are rather crowded, and each features its own swim-up bar and open-air restaurant.
However, the Preferred Club pool, which features swim-up guestrooms, an interweaving river-like design, and super-close proximity to the beach, is off-limits to non-VIP guests. Placards stating that guests must prove their Preferred Club status (via their labeled room card key) upon entering this fancier pool area are scattered around the perimeter, ensuring everyone knows their place. Of course, I walked back and forth between the two without getting asked for ID. Whether that was because of lax enforcement, or because the staff recognized me, is unclear.
Expansive spa with extensive treatment menu and tons of extras
The Secrets Wild Orchid spa features more than 20 treatment rooms and palapas, as well as a menu of specialties that ranges from facials and mud baths to hydrotherapies and traditional massages. Perks include a juice bar, a relaxation room with hot and cold pools, a yoga garden, a hair salon, and a boutique. Locker rooms also include saunas, steam rooms, pressure showers, and Swiss showers.
Eight restaurants -- and yet a no-reservations policy means extra-long waits for a table
It might be hard to imagine that a resort boasting a total of eight restaurants would have a problem with crowds, but I witnessed guests hungrily waiting outside of every eatery on the restaurant promenade. The restaurants are shared with the neighboring Secrets St. James resort, which effectively doubles the number of guests trying to get a table. The restaurants do not accept reservations, so guests wishing to avoid a wait might want to eat early; I saw one smart couple dressed to the nines and heading to dinner at six o’clock.
The food itself, however, is impressive for an all-inclusive. There are Mexican, Italian, Jamaican, Asian-fusion, and French a la carte restaurants, as well as the obligatory buffet restaurant. Unlike a lot of other all-inclusive resorts, the atmosphere doesn’t feel strip mall-esque; each restaurant is housed in its own freestanding structure and has distinct decor.
Even top-shelf drinks are free, but the bars get packed
Secrets Wild Orchid has five bars, including the main pool’s swim-up bar, a piano bar, a music lounge, and a lobby bar. Drinks are covered in the all-inclusive rates, and that goes for the top-shelf stuff as well as the cheap rum punch and Red Stripes. Crowds jockeying for the bartenders' attention start to form in the late afternoon, and it only gets worse as the evening wears on. The Secrets Wild Orchid shares its bars with neighboring Secrets St. James, and guests often take to ordering two (or three) drinks at a time to ensure they don’t get too low while waiting for their next opportunity to order another round.
Standout services and freebies galore
A fitness center and plenty of water- and land-based sports
Secrets Wild Orchid shares its fitness center and tennis courts with Secrets St. James. While the fitness center -- which includes cardio equipment, dumbbells, free weights, and cables -- certainly doesn’t seem to be large enough for both resorts, which have a combined 700 rooms, it was actually quite empty both times I visited.
Other activities are abundant, including free non-motorized water sports, dance classes, chess, darts, board games, croquet, billiards, yoga, aerobics classes, cooking classes, ping-pong, and jogging trails. There are also activities that come at an additional cost, such as scuba diving (first pool lesson is free), horseback riding, deep sea fishing excursions, and golfing at a nearby championship course.
More than 17,000 square feet of meeting, event, and ballroom space
Secrets Wild Orchid provides on-site planners that can coordinate events and meetings both large and small. There are nearly a dozen different spaces that can be used for cocktail receptions, banquets, performances, business retreats, or classes. Packages are available, and guests can also create custom events.
Several on-site pavilions and a host of indoor venues for island nuptials
Weddings are big business in Jamaica, and Secrets Wild Orchid is definitely in on the game, providing an exhaustive list of services ranging from on-site wedding coordinators to pressing and steaming the bride and groom’s gown and tux. Three packages are offered, and made-to-order weddings can also be arranged. Prices for packages start around $1,000 for up to 10 guests, and all packages include a wedding cake, sparking wine, a bouquet and boutonnière, an officiant, and free nights that go toward a future anniversary stay.
While ceremonies generally take place in one of several wedding pavilions along the beach, a vast array of meeting rooms and ballrooms are available for cocktail hours, receptions, and rehearsal dinners.
Secrets’ website also features a registry option in which marrying couples can request gifts be given in the form of credits toward a honeymoon at the resort.
The sprawling Secrets Wild Orchid is one of the more luxurious adults-only all-inclusive resorts in Montego Bay, and has a laundry list of property features, including eight restaurants and five bars, and a host of activities: a theater, a spa, a water sports and dive center, a shopping center, and a casino. But the resort shares virtually all of its amenities with the next-door Secrets St. James, and some of the best amenities and freebies are reserved only for the VIP guests staying in the “Premiere” part of the resort.