Since I’m on the topic of 40th birthday celebrations, it is worth noting that our trip to Costa Rica was the second of many celebrations taking place this year (and last year!) for my 40th birthday year.
Back in November, Peter and I ventured down to Baja California for a five-night stay at Secrets Los Cabos “in” Cabo San Lucas. We met my friends Jill and Nikki and their husbands at the resort.
For those of you who know or have read stories about my adventures with Jill and Nikki, you are likely expecting some crazy wild story but, truth be told, it was a very tame trip. I blame it on the lack of alcohol. And I ask this question yet again: Why do people wake up at 530am on vacation?
This was our first trip to “Cabo” (in quotes because the resort is actually a 30-minute drive from Cabo San Lucas) and the first thing to know about the Cabo region is that taxis and pre-booked transfers are expensive. We booked our roundtrip airport transfer through Cabo Shuttle Services for a staggering $125 (~30 minute drive each way) but they served Corona and water during the journey in our blacked-out Chevy Suburban so that lessened the blow of the price.
The timeshare people
The second thing to know about Cabo is that time share salespeople are relentless. In the email we received from Cabo Shuttle Services, they informed us that a recent company policy had been implemented whereby they would no longer write customer names on the signs they hold up at the airport. The trigger for the policy change was because timeshare salespeople had recently started copying the names from the official Cabo Shuttle Services signs onto their fake Cabo Shuttle Services signs and then capturing those customers immediately as they exited baggage claim, pretending to be Cabo Shuttle Services. Customers who fell for this cruel ploy were whisked away and held hostage for a three-hour timeshare presentation before being transported to their accommodation.
I’d also read horror stories of timeshare salespeople basically guest-napping people after they checked into the resort and holding them hostage for hours on end. After we checked in, we were ushered over to a wall of desks with salespeople at each desk. I turned to Peter and said, “No! We cannot go over to those desks! We are going to get stuck for hours! I need a beer! Where is my welcome drink?!?!” and Peter was like, I think that’s where they go over the amenities and how to use resort credit and stuff like that and I was like, “No! Those are the timeshare salespeople! I’ve read about those monsters!”
Peter was right. The person we spoke with went over upgrade options, tours, and other basic amenities.
The property is fairly spread out by resort standards and the grounds are beautiful and very well-kept, perhaps the most well-kept grounds I’ve seen at a resort. The golf course runs between the resort and the ocean for partial length of the property. I did not see a single golfer in my time there but perhaps that is because I did not arrive at the pool until 9am (still way too early for vacation).
The main pool looks cool because it has palm trees inside the pool, however, the pool is undersized for the property.
There is a lack of pool loungers and chair hoarding is a serious problem at this resort – the worst I have ever seen. We were a group of six and took no more than three chairs on any given day. Guests arrive at the pool as early as 630am to save chairs by placing towels and other objects of no value on the chairs so that they would have chairs when they arrived at the pool 3.5 hours later. There are no unsaved chairs by 9am.
Resort staff also contributed to the chair hoarding issue. On our second to last day, the chairs next to us were “saved” with various objects – towels, a beat-up book, a foam football, etc. The chairs sat empty until about 2pm when a group of four arrived chaperoned by a staff member of the resort. The staff member removed the objects from the chairs and the four people then set their items on the chairs. I was appalled by this, especially since there is no shortage of signage around the pool stating that if chairs are left vacant for more than 30 minutes, they would be cleared for use by other guests.
Protip: If you have just arrived at the pool and you see chairs containing neatly rolled orange towels, those chairs are free to use. The resort staff sometimes “preps” the chairs by placing rolled towels on them but they do not do this on all chairs, so the rolled towels gives the illusion that the chairs have been saved but they are not saved.
The bar was always understaffed. Getting a drink at the bar took a minimum of 15 minutes so it was faster to order from the poolside servers, however, they were also understaffed. Poolside service was hit or miss – some servers were just better than others.
One big downside to the pool is that no food is served poolside. If you want food, you must either get dressed per the resort’s strict dress code and dine at the poolside restaurant, Seaside Grill, or get nibbles (quesadillas, chips and guacamole, hamburgers) at The Barefoot Grill which is the concrete hut located behind the pool bar hut.
The food at The Barefoot Grill left everything to be desired. The chips were always stale, the guacamole was merely smashed avocado, cheese sauce came out of a stainless canister with a pump, and the quesadillas were not exactly swimsuit fare but I ate them anyway because I almost literally had no other choice because I wasn’t leaving the pool for 1.5 hours to have a sit-down lunch.
I do not understand why resorts choose to serve hamburgers and pizza instead of dishes that are traditional to their country, region, etc. Street tacos with fixins would have made lunch so much more enjoyable!
The liquor selection
The resort boasts top shelf liquors and this statement is true, however, the selection is limited. I struggled to find an all-day drink and thus, never really got drunk.
The red wine selection was your standard Cabs and Merlots, two varietals I do not care for but wine was a nice change of pace for dinner. Available for whites were Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs.
Other guests had no issues finding all-day drinks and getting completely hammered. We people-watched plenty of people become very intoxicated and sunburnt over the course of the day. The most notable guest was Madison whose name was derived from the Wisconsin garb she was wearing… Madison, WI. We followed Madison back to our building after the pool one day and she fell into the prickly bushes and I thought, “Oh, that’s going to hurt later.” Madison spent the following day under the security of an umbrella consuming water. I was happy I was not Madison for many reasons, mostly the sunburn part.
We were upgraded to an ocean view room automatically at check-in. We do not know why this occurred but we accepted the upgrade and then they tried to get us to upgrade to one of their Preferred Club rooms. The Preferred Club rooms are located in the building furthest from the main pool and closest to the ocean. In our opinion, the upgrade price did not justify the little and insignificant additional amenities so we declined.
Our room had a very musty smell and we had this same issue with our room at Paradisus Playa del Carmen in Playa del Carmen. I do not recall rooms smelling musty pre-2011 when we used to head to Cancun semi-annually.
The air conditioner in our room was inefficient at best. The temperature in the room never got below 74 degrees and the humidity registered at 80 percent for the duration of our stay.
The bed was comfortable and the room was very large but I can’t say I got the best night sleep because of the temperature and humidity of the room.
We began every night by meeting at The Bird Cage which is the lobby bar which is literally in a giant bird cage and there are smaller bird cages around the bar. There were no live birds though which was great from a bird shit perspective.
The drinks at The Bird Cage were terrible. Overall, the resort would benefit greatly with bartender training. As an example, Nikki and I ordered Cosmopolitans from two different bartenders. The two drinks looked and tasted completely different from one another and neither tasted like a Cosmo.
The restaurant food was average-to-above average. We dined at: El Patio, Seaside Grill, Himitsu (reservations required), Market Cafe (breakfast only, not open for lunch as per the website), Oceana, and Portofino.
I’d read several bad reviews of the food at the resort so my expectations were very low. We’ve definitely had worse food at resorts but we’ve also had better. We met a couple at the pool who had visited other resorts in the Secrets chain and they stated that the food at this resort was not up to par with the other resorts they’d visited.
The coffee shop was meh. Some baristas made the drinks better than others, none were especially great. Peter and I are spoiled with the espresso in Seattle.
The dress code
The restaurant dress code at this resort is a complete joke. A frustrating stupid joke.
I am all for no swimwear, beachwear, and activewear in restaurants but the formality of the dress code is over-the-top. First, it was hot and humid as hell and men are required to dress in long pants and closed-toed shoes. Shorts and sandals are not allowed. Due to the strictness, women are essentially required to wear dresses which is way too formal for this resort. I hauled hundreds of dollars of dresses to this resort only to be worn for a few hours each and to soak up the musty smell in our room the remainder of our stay.
The resort has a very large sand beach with a few wooden umbrellas and lounge chairs, however, the water is not swim-able due to the strong waves and current. I ventured down to the beach on our last day for a photo-op only and I regretted not spending a few hours listening to the waves at the beach bar, Monkey Bar.
In conclusion, the resort was good, not great, yet good. It is hard to say if we would return to this resort – claiming pool loungers at sunrise is not my cuppa tea. I do not go on vacation to get up earlier than I do normally.
If I had the opportunity to do it over again, I’d probably opt to rent this house in Cabo.