After having stayed at both Secrets and Sandals, it’s fun to do a little ‘compare and contrast’ between the two luxury adults-only all-inclusives. Both brands have an impressive portfolio of properties, which we have barely dipped our toes into the waters of (no pun intended); this will be a broader look at general resort differences regardless of specific destinations or locations.
We visited our first Sandals on our honeymoon in June 2021 on the island of Grenada. We visited our first Secrets resort for a romantic getaway in November 2022 in Akumal/Riviera Maya. We must begin by saying that BOTH were stunning, and we plan on returning to both franchises for many more vacations in the future.
Another thing to note is that it can be difficult to write a definitive “pro and con” list because pro’s to one guest might be con’s to another – for instance having a lively and loud night club for after dinner might be important to some, while others would find it irrelevant. Others might value scuba diving while some would not include that in their list of priorities. Therefore I’ll predominantly be highlighting the major strengths of each brand along with the key differences and you can decide for yourself which one if preferrable! Although either one makes a dream vacation. :)
The key difference between the two is that Sandals resorts are located in the Caribbean on 7 different islands. Secrets resorts are primarily located in Central America – Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic.
Sandals Resorts Strengths:
-PADI Scuba Diving included
-After dinner nightly entertainment – casual and early
-Late night eatery options with pub fare
-Airport transportation always included
-Couples-focused – many honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries. Centered on couples (as opposed to groups)
-Mini bar was better, and contained wine and champagne options. Butler-service rooms also contain full-size liquor bottles with mixers.
-Restaurant menus also included cocktail menus and specialty drinks and recommendations – helpful for those of us unsure of what cocktails and drinks we like yet. And if you aren’t satisfied with drink, it’s all included so no pressure to finish it! I enjoyed tasting several different cocktails that I’d never had before, and learned which ones I never need to try again (i.e. dry martini. ew haha)
Sandals Things to note:
-Some evening entertainment is repetitive and simple
-Room service not available to all guests and not 24/7
-Destinations have less flight options than many Secrets resort destinations. We cannot get to a Sandals resort in 1 day from Boise.
Secrets Resorts Strengths:
-Easier to get to from US.
-Room Service – contactless, tray pick-up, 24/7, all rooms.
-No reservations required at restaurants.
-Nighttime entertainment is more grand and has larger production value than Sandals; full shows with live bands, lighting, hosts, and themes were more elaborate than Sandals offerings.
-Full size toiletries and amenities (our room had sunscreen, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and other uncommon amenities).
-Daily snacks with mini bar restock
-Rotation of different afternoon snacks around the pools, including an ice cream cart, a pop-up pizza oven, fresh coconuts, and churros.
-Group activities daily: beautiful guided tequila tasting; guacamole making classes; dance lessons; spanish lessons, bike tours
Things to note:
-Airport transfer is not included. We used a company called Amstar which Secrets endorses. This will add another $160-320 to your trip.
-Seemed to center more around groups rather than couples. A little more difficult to meet new people than at a Sandals because many guests are already in a large established group that they are dining or drinking with.
-Tipping is common for all bartenders, waiters, butlers etc. Completely understandable, but can add quite a chunk to your total cost if you didn’t factor it in beforehand.
-Mini bar only contains beer and non-alcoholic drink options; no wine, champagne or liquor included.
Strengths of Both:
-Immaculate lush tropical landscaping
-Romantic rooms with interior and exterior bathtubs
-Friendly and kind staff
-Apps for restaurant menus and information, daily activity guides, room service, and resort maps.
-No children on property
-Sit-down restaurant options with diverse menus, rather than buffet-only
Overall, we enjoy Sandals resorts more because of their focus on couples and romance, and their wide variety of included water sports. However many of the Secrets resorts are easier and quicker to access from our region of the US and are comparable in luxurious and beautiful grounds along with restaurant and room quality. We plan to visit more properties of each franchise in the future, but thought a little comparison and contrast between the two might be fun! Have you been to either or both? What are your thoughts on the two resort options and what’s your favorite destination?