Monday, June 16, 2014

Review of SECRETS ST. JAMES, Montego Bay, Jamaica - December 2013

     After numerous family injuries, pet crises and a recent surgery, I'm back and finally able to (hopefully) catch things up and post more regularly. Long overdue is my review of our most recent vacation to a Secrets St. James, an adult-only all-inclusive luxury resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

First off, let me say that I wasn't sure if I'd like Jamaica. I mean, I LOVE Mexico and the food there and I was worried that I might not like Jerk Chicken as much as my husband does, so I was less enthused about trying Jamaica for a vacation spot. However, my older son and his girlfriend went to Jamaica a few years ago and absolutely loved it and when I saw a good deal for a 4 day getaway in December, I figured why not try it?!

All I can say is...of all the Secrets Resorts we've been to so far, both Michael and I agree...Secrets St. James is our favourite and we both absolutely LOVED Jamaica from the food (YUM! So pleasantly surprised...I loved everything I tried!) to the beautiful weather and friendly people. And the resort was absolutely gorgeous!

We flew Air Canada and due to winter storm delays...
and a sick passenger who wasn't sure about getting off the plane, we ended up spending about 8 hours sitting in our seats instead of about 4 and landed much later than anticipated.

Originally we were supposed to get to Montego Bay just after lunch but we didn't arrive until late in the evening and we were exhausted. Although I know that the best beaches in Jamaica tend to be in Negril and Ocho Rios, both over an hour's drive from the airport, I was very glad upon arrival that we were staying in Montego Bay and didn't have to face another hour and a half travel to our destination. It was only minutes to the resort, which is actually kind of a double-Secerts Resort with St. James

at one end and Wild Orchid at the other along the beach. They share restaurants, the Spa and other facilities. Both are adult-only and luxurious with slightly different decor and options (ie: Wild Orchid, for instance, offers swim-up suites). They each have their own pools and both have Preferred Club sections with their own pools, beach area and lounge. This is the entrance to Wild Orchid:

Before we left, I had been in touch with SecretsSJ e-concierge and a manager at the resort ahead of time to request a room on a high floor and to ask if they offered any kind of loyalty to repeat guests. They could not have been friendlier or more accommodating. Upon arrival we were offered a special deal of a beachfront suite with access to the PC pool, alongwith use of an iPad and free Wifi during our stay for only a few hundred dollars extra and we both felt it was worth the extra cost, especially when we saw the amazing view from our room!!!!  This shot is from inside our room looking through the sliding glass doors towards the beach...
 And then right on to the balcony...gorgeous!

PC bar/pools and beach area
Non-PC pools 
Our building was actually situated so that looking right you could see the PC area pool/bar area... 
and looking to the left (towards Wild Orchid), the non-PC pools. This is our building looking back up from the beach. Our suite was on the top, second from the right:

They also put a special banner on our door and gave us a complimentary bottle of wine, rum and a gorgeous fruit platter which I forgot to take a picture of. Here's the banner and the wine:

We woke up to a beautiful day and enoyed a champagne-Mimosa breakfast on our balcony. Paradise!!  :-)

Then off to explore. The grounds are gorgeous...lush and colorful flowers everywhere, beautiful wood carvings, peacocks strolling around and parrots (Rita and Bob) in a cage just outside the restaurant area with their keeper who will let you stroke them or take pictures with them on your arm 
Not sure if this is Rita or Bob?

Beautiful landscaping!

One of many wood carvings the decorate the grounds

There is a little courtyard surrounded by shops and CoCo Cafe, a specialty coffee stand where you can grab a latte or frap and some cookies, pastries or sandwiches. There's also a small penny slots casino, a games area withpool tables, chess, ping pong tables and other games plus and a self-serve soft ice cream machine. In the courtyard are scattered tables and chairs to sit and enjoy your snack and where movies are played on a big screen every night.

We brought our snorkel stuff with us because we had read that you could snorkel off the beach and we were pleased to see quite a few people were doing so. There were also groups that you could join with to go out farther with a guide, but as beginners we opted to stay near shore and snorkel and we saw lots of sea urchins and angel fish as well as one big jellyfish that I stayed well away from. A lot of people saw starfish, some could even see them from their balconies! 

The beach was gorgeous, both to walk along as well as to relax and sunbathe on...
...with beach service for cocktails
Jamaican Mama...yum!
...and self-serve snacks along the walkway where you can sit for a bit and have a bite or take it with you as you walk along the beach.

We loved the PC pool and beach area. The pool was sort of a figure eight with one side heated and one side not with small bridges to cross from side to side. The side nearest the beach has a double level infinity pool

The PC bar is next to the pool and even has swing seats for the  brave who haven't had too many cocktails:
And towards the other end of the pool area was a bridge over pretty koi pond leading into the PC lounge:
There was a also a large whirlpool set in a little area surrounded by lush bushes that made it sort of private and quiet. We also checked out their fitness room which was nice and tennis and basketball courts which are just through the lounge back outside.

Just to the left of the PC area on the opposite end of the resort from Wild Orchid is their Pevonia Spa. We had a few treatments there from massages to a pedicure (I never get pedicures or manicures at home so it's my big splurge when I go away and I love it!). Never though I would but my husband convinced me to try one when we stayed at Secrets Capri and from that moment on I was hooked! ha
. Fantastic experience,. So soothing... and the massage was to die for. Plus they have a gorgeous change room that smells like oranges (so nice!). What really stood out to me was their fantastic hydrotherapy circuit. Now my husband, Michael, LOVES the Hydrotherapy Circuits and tries one at every Spa we go to. I'm not as crazy about them, but this one was really nice and the design was really appealing. We both ended up enjoying it! There's hot and cold foot therapy and bubbly seats and pressure jets, a separate heated whirlpool, treatment showers, and a lovely bar right near the hydrotherapy where you could get fruit water and other healthy stuff. Well worth visiting for the ultimate in pampering and relaxation.

At nightfall the resort is lit up with beautiful coloured lights from round globes on the lawns, lighting in the pools and lights in the tops of the towers that make up the resort. The lights change colour and it's just gorgeous. Hard to explain so I tried to get some pics but my camera is useless ...I definitely need to invest in a better one and learn more about taking better digital pictures. Here's a few of my attempts. The lights would change from blue to green to red to purple, etc.

This last is one of the restaurant fronts all lit up at night. Which brings me to the FOOD.... was amazing! Since we were only there 5 days we didn't get a chance to try all the restaurants (they have 7 a la carte as well as the buffet and other things like the Jerk Cart on the beach which was amazing). We tried Blue Mountain (Jamaican cuisine) and it was really good. The waiter came out with my dinner balanced on his head! Here's pics of Michael's appetizer and mine:

They use a lot of green beans and coffee flavouring, and it tasted so fresh and yummy. I was surprised by how much I really really liked the food. We also tried the Mexican restaurant (I had their Chef's special of shrimp fajitas and they were sooooo good!) and the French restaurant, which everyone we met could not stop raving about and for good reason...the food was incredible. I had an escargot in pastry for an appetizer and steak and lobster tail for my main meal and I don't think I've tasted better of either. It literally melted in your mouth. I was enjoying the food so much that I forgot to take pictures! Michael also had the steak and lobster but he had a different appetizer...some kind of salad I think and he said it was delicious. I wish we could've eaten there again but we tried it on our last night there. :-(

The breakfast buffet was great, as they have all been at all the different Secrets we've been to. Each one is slightly different and of course they incorporate local foods. Even the two in Mexico offered different pastries and different local specialties. It was really hard not to load up your plate just trying little bits of different things to be adventurous. 
Long days on the beach snorkeling and relaxing, sipping cocktails (Jamaican Mama...yum!), and walking along the shore left us exhausted and we didn't attend any of the evening entertainment beyond going to get a Jamaican Rum coffee to take back to our room after dinner, so I can't comment on the nightlife really. We had gone to relax and we certainly did that! Secrets St. James has definitely moved to our No. 1 favourite of all the Secrets Resorts we've been to so far. We will definitely go back!

Here's some random pics from around the resort...
One of my husband's favourite spots to relax!
Hammocks abound!

The water is every shade of blue imaginable!

Wild Orchid's Wedding Gazebo is right on the end of a long pier that overlooks the ocean and has mountains in the background.


  1. Amazing review! I love your pictures! This is my favorite resort I can not wait to return! Thanks for sharing! Also how much was it to switch to preferred ?

  2. Thanks Alicia! They offered us a deal when we arrived for an oceanfront that was right beside the preferred section (not in it but a second away) alongwith use of the PC pool and beach and use of an iPad and WiFi for free the whole time and I think it was around $160/night extra but I'm not positive. It's been a year and my mind is like a sieve.

    When you go, ask what they have available. Often you can get a deal of some kind depending on what kind of room you want. Also, tell them you are a Repeat Guest and you will get some extras. :-) The e-Concierge said they didn't do anything for repeat guests but I contacted Caulette Mornan
    eConcierge/Executive Office Manager, Secrets Wild Orchid & Secrets St. James
    Tel.: (876) 953-6600 Fax: (876) 940-9707/
    and she responded by email with:

    "We look forward to welcoming you both home as we will create new and memorable experiences for you and yours. Rest assured we will do all we can to ensure you have a wonderful time here with us. I am pleased to advise you that we do give our repeat guest special amenities during their stay.
    Please contact me for any further assistance.
    Best Regards, Karla Bowen"

    We got a fantastic fruit plate (a big one with lots of sliced fruits not just a couple of whole apples), a bottle of wine and a bottle of rum, plus a Repeat Guest banner on the door! It was lovely! Probably our favourite holiday resort so far! Just gorgeous and the food was soooo good! We loved it too. :-)