Tons of free activities including water sports, tennis, fitness classes, bicycle tours, and a game room
Excellent wedding packages
No children allowed (a con for some)
Nicer pool and and certain perks reserved for Preferred Club guests only
Nothing within walking distance
Busy restaurants and bars require long waits
Most amenities are shared with neighboring resort Secrets Wild Orchid
No children allowed (a pro for some)
This all-inclusive beachfront resort on a remote peninsula is one of the more luxurious adult-only options in Montego Bay, and has a laundry list of property features, including 10 restaurants, eight bars, an expansive spa, nearly half a mile of beach, and tons of activities: a theater, dive center, shopping plaza, casino, and game room. Secrets St. James shares most of its amenities with its sister property next door, but rates here are often a bit cheaper.
An adult-only mega-resort on a quiet peninsula that appeals to both honeymooners and partiers
Secret St. James is not overly romantic, like Jamaica’s Couples resorts, nor is it downright raucous, like the hard-partying Iberostar Rose Hall Beach. Secrets St. James is somewhere in the middle, which allows it to have broad appeal. Romance is certainly possible here; there are soaking tubs or hot tubs in all rooms, and the spa features hot and cold pools and a Zen garden. But active couples can keep busy, too, with the free water sports, tennis, basketball, croquet, fitness classes, game room, batting cage, and a small casino. Partiers can get free top-shelf liquor at one of the eight bars (though they may have to fight the crowds).
Rates here are a bit lower than the ones at the neighboring Secrets Wild Orchid, though guests receive virtually all of the same benefits: The resorts share nearly all of their amenities, save for their pools, lobbies, and a few restaurants or bars here and there. (Most restaurants and bars are shared, and get quite crowded in the evenings as a result.)
Further complicating matters is the fact that Secrets St. James is made up of two separate hotels: the “regular” hotel and the VIP “Preferred Club” hotel. Each hotel has its own entrance, lobby, and building, as well as its own pool and beach access. Those guests staying in the Preferred Club section receive plenty of extra perks such as a separate pool and whirlpool, a lobby featuring a Club Lounge with round-the-clock buffet and cocktail bar, and rooms with better minibars. Meanwhile, those guests staying in the regular hotel may feel second-class -- signs at the Preferred Club pool remind guests that they must prove their Preferred Club status by flashing their fancier key card.
Situated on a small peninsula away from other Montego Bay resorts
Many guests at the Secrets St. James never leave the resort, and with 10 restaurants, eight bars, a casino, shops, a theater, and a spa, 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.
Colonial-inspired style, four-poster beds, and balconies -- but less luxe factor than the rooms at Secrets Wild Orchid
While the rooms at Secrets St. James have identical layouts to the rooms at Secrets Wild Orchid, the decor is a bit simpler and more traditional. But even the entry-level rooms -- Junior Suites, with separate bedrooms and sitting areas -- are spacious and well designed. Master Suites also have separate bedrooms and living rooms, as well as two-person hot tubs, rainfall showerheads, and big balconies with outdoor hot tubs.
All rooms have four-poster beds, private furnished balconies, flat-screen TVs, DVD players, and minibars that are refreshed daily with soft drinks, bottled water, and premium beer. Other niceties include plush bathrobes and slippers, air conditioning and ceiling fans, nightly turndown service, and Do Not Disturb light systems.
Peek-a-boo bathrooms have shutters that can be closed for privacy (big bonus), separate rainfall showers and soaking tubs, Gilchrest & Soames toiletries, and magnifying mirrors.
There's 24-hour room service, but couples may also appreciate the “Secrets box" in each room -- an incognito room service delivery system that's essentially a non-moving dumbwaiter. This 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.
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 and the Premiere pool, which is quieter and nicer than the main pool.
A secluded beach; pools with beach views; lots of water- and land-based sports; 17,000-plus square feet of meeting, event, and ballroom space; and entertainment galore
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, wicker lounge chairs, and 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, the resort rarely seems to enforce the separation.
The large at Secrets St. James has an infinity edge, a palapa swim-up bar, and breathtaking of the ocean. It is surrounded by padded lounge chairs. Crowds, however, can be a problem -- at times the pool bar is mobbed with guests trying to get to the front like their lives depend on it. No doubt adding to the rowdy atmosphere is a second bar, which is located just steps from the pool. The posh , just next door to the main pool (also with beach views), may inspire envy in the regular hotel guests. It's more serene, and a large placard warns guests that only guest with Preferred Club key cards should enter the area -- which may make regular guests feel second-class. The biggest perk of this pool is the poolside drink service; Preferred guests can get served on their cushy while the regular guests have to push their way to the front of a bar. Guests at Secrets St. James can also mosey over to (at least, no one was stopping guests from moving between the two), which also has its own and cafe.
The features treatment palapas and services that range from hot-stone massages to green-coffee body wraps. Perks include 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.
Secrets St. James shares its and with . 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 doesn't seem to have a problem with crowds. This may be because other physical activities are abundant: free tennis, , dance classes, chess, darts, board games, croquet, billiards, yoga, aerobics classes, cooking classes, , and jogging trails. There are also activities that come at an additional cost, such as scuba diving (first pool lesson is free), motorized sports, private tennis lessons, horseback riding, deep sea fishing excursions, and golfing at a nearby championship course.
Secrets St. James 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.
There's a featuring several souvenir shops, a wedding planning shop, a , and a jewelry store.
Entertainment includes a small game room and , movies on the beach, weekly management cocktail parties, theme nights, a , and live nightly music and dancing.
10 restaurants, most with a no-reservation policy that equals extra-long waits for a table
It might be hard to imagine that a resort boasting a total of 10 restaurants would have a problem with crowds, but since the restaurants are shared with the neighboring resort, the number of guests trying to get a table is effectively doubled. The restaurants do not accept reservations (except the hibachi restaurant Himitsu, which has limited seating), so guests wishing to avoid a wait should plan on eating early.
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 St. James has eight 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 St. James shares its bars with neighboring Secrets Wild Orchid, 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.
Several on-site pavilions and a host of indoor venues for island nuptials.
Weddings are big business in Jamaica, and Secrets St. James 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. 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.
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