Comparison is Key
My favorite thing to to do is plan our vacations, but it can be challenging to find all the information you need in one spot. I have read dozen of reviews comparing different chains of all-inclusive resorts. My little travel notebook is full of comparisons. I decided to narrow it down and compare two of the most popular all-inclusive resort chains. Jon was happy to include his input on this topic as well. Down below I’m breaking it down into the good, the bad and the must-dos of both resorts.
Sandals All-Inclusive Resort
After a ton of research, Jon and I decided to celebrate our honeymoon at Sandals Grand Riveria (now known as Sandals Ochi Beach) in Jamaica. We had the most amazing vacation following our destination wedding in Las Vegas. Jon often states that this was his most “favorite” trip. You must read more to find out which resort comes out on top.
Sandals: The Good
- Sandals has a special lounge for guests at the airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The Sandals lounge is filled with Red Stripes, sodas and small snacks to hold everyone over until the shuttles arrive. The whole process of getting on the appropriate shuttle with our luggage and to the resort was a breeze.
- The Sandals resort we stayed at was rather large but at the same time felt very intimate and almost secluded. There were times Jon and I would walk around the resort feeling like we had the whole place to ourselves.
- Our resort had two separate areas. The side close to the ocean had several smaller pools while the side up the hill had a larger pool (see pic above.) This allowed the feeling of being somewhere different almost everyday, and it never felt crowded.
- The private dinner on the beach is a must at Sandals. It was one of our favorite activities and was actually very affordable through the honeymoon special. We also recommend renting a cabana for the day. It was so nice to have all the drinks, lunch and cheese/fruit plates delivered with an oceanfront view. Renting a cabana also came with a 15 minute massage. It was perfection.
- Booking excursions at Sandals was so easy and super convenient. We were able to book everything from a desk downstairs and all excursions took place at the resort or left from the dock at the resort. We went deep sea fishing (twice) and took a catamaran snorkeling before hiking the Dunn’s River Falls.
- The ocean was so calm at the resort. One part of the beach they have blocked off into a cove, so if you are like me and scared of sharks, no worries here. Jon and I enjoyed relaxing in the the anchored “lily pads.”
- This Sandals had a wide variety of food options compared to Secrets. I think there were over 14 restaurants with different variations of sit down meals, buffet, sushi and hibachi. Jon had lobster, steak and pasta almost every night. We also enjoyed late night snacks of authentic jerk chicken and pizza.
Sandals: The Bad
- Room service is only available to the rooms that have butlers. Jon and I decided against a butler for a few reasons. We wanted to keep the costs down, and we were unsure how we felt about always having someone following us around. We were able to have room service for free one morning with the honeymoon package, but it would have been to have the option every day.
- There were limited activities during the day while we were there. If you are looking to relax, then this is could be a positive for you.
- Coffee in the room was very mediocre. Ugh, I’m kind of a coffee snob. Insert monkey emoji covering mouth here.
- Sandals provided limited nighttime entertainment or dancing while we were there. They did have a chocolate party one night with a band, a few shows at the amphitheatre, a beach party and a DJ at the sports bar.
Secrets All-Inclusive Resort
Last year we celebrated our 2 year anniversary at Secrets Maroma. We flew into Cancun and took a short 25 minute shuttle to the resort near Playa Del Carmen. This was our first time staying at a Secrets, and we fell in love. Our room opened up to a swimming pool. Jon and I have always wanted a swim-out room and decided it was rather affordable at this resort. I will say I loved waking up to the view every morning as well as having my coffee by the pool, but there was a huge problem, the water was absolutely freezing. Jon and I only walked in there one time which was a bummer. I did read that in other people’s reviews, so we were prepared for that.
Secrets: The Good
- The rooms at this Secrets surrounded the pool, restaurants and entertainment. Everything was a few steps away from the room.
- Secrets had a ton of activities throughout the whole week. We played it all including volleyball, kickball and bingo. I even burned off a few calories in a water aerobics spin class. The resort also offers free crossfire and yoga classes in the mornings. Every Tuesday afternoon they have a foam party in the pool, and later in the week we took dance lessons and watched a fashion show. They literally did it all. The entertainment staff was amazing.
- We really enjoyed the shows at Secrets including the Beatles Show and Rock Show. The shows reminded us of a mini Vegas show full of dancing, singing and acrobatics.
- The coffee in the room was very similar to my Nespresso machine, so Secrets by far wins the coffee war.
- Secrets had an awesome club for dancing. We enjoyed a few late nights dancing up a storm with all the new friends we made.
- The restaurants here were similar to fine dining restaurants with multiple courses and top notch service.
- The breakfast buffet was crazy! Homemade crepes and a juice bar. I repeat a juice bar! You can even have nachos at breakfast. Nachos all day and green juice. Yep, this is my kind of life.
- Room service was included with no extra charge. We ordered breakfast several times which all tasted delicious. The best part about room service is the “Secret box.” The staff has access to a box outside to leave all room service orders. It was so nice to jump up in the morning to the “secret box” full of food without having to answer the door in a robe. Such a cool idea that all resorts should implement.
- The buffet by the pool was a short walk away with fabulous food. I ate my weight in french fries and guacamole that week. Everyone raved about the perfectly seasoned fries. And if you know me well, french fries and Mexican food are my weakness.
- The beach here is out of this world. It has been voted one of the world’s best beaches, and it did not disappoint with the clear water and white sand. One day I literally sat out in the ocean waist deep for an hour talking to a new friend while our husbands played volleyball. I will say a few of the days it was too windy to swim. But the few calm days we had were wonderful.
- Each building was assigned a concierge without an additional charge. Our guy was so helpful with making our reservations for dinner, the spa and breakfast in bed. He was also very prompt with refilling my favorite espresso pods. I loved that this was automatically included with all guests without an additional charge.
- The spa at Secrets Maroma was out of this world. We loved the whole process of the pools and saunas before our couples massage. However, this experience came at a hefty price. I doubt we would pay for it again but glad that we did something different.
Secrets: The Bad
- I loved the feel of the sit down restaurants at Secrets, but there were limited restaurant options. At busy times we had up to a 30 minute wait for a table. A few restaurants were closed for renovations while we were there which probably accounted for the increase in wait time
- It was hard to find an ideal chair by the pool. The pool was large, fun, and full of activities, but it’s nice to have some relaxation at times.
- Options of late night snacks were lacking here. You can order room service, but we fell asleep most nights before it even arrived. Jon and I love to pig out on vacations, and late night eating is always a must.
- Very few places to hang out at night around the resort. Jon and I love to hit up different sceneries at all-inclusive resorts, so we do not feel like we are in the same place all week.
- Shoot some hoops and play shuffle board
- Private dinner on the beach
- Rent an oceanfront cabana
- Have a chocolate martini at the chocolate party
- Find a cozy area with a fire pit and enjoy each other
- Eat the local food. Jerk Chicken in Jamaica!
- Have a frozen Bob Marley cocktail
- Only go deep sea fishing with the locals
- Have breakfast in bed
- Order room service and receive it in the secret box
- Walk down the award winning beach
- Participate in all the fun daytime activities
- Eat your weight in guacamole and french fries
- Take a fitness class and have a juice at the juice bar
- Attend a mini style Vegas Show
- Dance the night away in the night club
(This section contains affiliate links. See my Disclosure Page for more details)
I received lots of compliments and questions regarding my outfits this past year in Mexico. Click on the links to purchase similar shoes here and here. You can find similar coverups and beachwear at the link below. I find a lot of my petite clothes on this site including the floral romper and floral skirts above. Everything is unique, fun and fits me perfectly without needing alterations! Click on the link below to receive 15% off your first order from now until 7/16!
Which resort wins the top prize? Honestly, I’m indecisive, and Jon’s vote went to Secrets. It all depends if you are looking for a more laid back vacation, or a more action packed adventure. I highly recommend both all-inclusive resorts, but I would give a slight edge to Sandals for honeymooners, and a slight edge to Secrets for group trips. Jon and I are celebrating my 30th birthday at a Sandals resort this year, and we are eager to plan our next trip to a Secrets. You definitely will not go wrong with these two prominent chains.