Hotels & Resorts — 25 February 2015
All-inclusive luxury with peace and quiet, or fun and games–whatever suits your mood.
Adults-only exclusivity earns our top honors: 21 Plus Salute!

By Chris Chamberlain

Tropical weather and ocean breezes: Two reasons why Secrets Aura Cozumel is one of my personal favorite vacation destinations.

Another reason: It’s for adults only.

Cozumel, Mexico, is a peaceful haven of an island neighboring Cancun. Located about 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, Cozumel is reachable via direct flights from many U.S. cities, thanks to a smallish but modern airport. Or, if you must, you can travel to the island on a ferry from Cancun, if you can fight your way through the MTV Spring Break crowd to reach the boarding dock. Although cruise ships disgorge flocks of sunburned visitors daily to clog the sidewalks to the bustling downtown, just a 15-minute cab ride away is the solitude and solace of the Secrets Aura Resort.

Aura Sunset Cozumel - Beach Daytime

Secrets Aura Resort is an all-inclusive resort designed for adults only, but not in the more lascivious manner of swinging destinations like Hedonism. Instead, Secrets Resorts emphasize what they call the “Ultimate-Luxury” atmosphere that includes high-end dining, well-appointed rooms and suites, live entertainment, and luxury spas at each location. Except for the spa treatments, all of these amenities are included in one prepaid charge, and the rates are quite reasonable for what you receive.

I have stayed at this particular Secrets Aura property four times now, including in its previous incarnation as a Wyndham Resort. Since switching to the Secrets brand, the Aura has constructed new buildings full of luxurious rooms, added more dining locations and even more pools and beachfront spaces for comfortable lounging in the Mexican sun.

Some vacation packages include airport transfers, which is generally a wise option since aggressive timeshare salespeople are usually blocking the path from baggage claim to the taxi line. Stay resolute! When you’re headed to Secrets Aura Cozumel, you already have a reservation at the best spot on the island.

Aura Sunset Cozumel - rooftop barAura Sunset Cozumel - pool deck

Check-in is a very personalized process with a cool towel and a welcome drink presented to you while an employee explains the amenities of the property. Good thing you have a drink in your hand, because that can take awhile. As far as dining options go, there are four á la carte restaurants plus a buffet, though they’re not all open at the same time. Your concierge will give you a dining schedule upon check-in.

The restaurants range from ultra-casual beachfront dining with tacos and cheeseburgers to a French bistro that requires slightly dressier attire than the rest of the resort. (Meaning long pants and no sandals for men.) There’s also a coffeehouse with gourmet espresso drinks and breakfast items available to shake off the effects of last night’s adventures at the multiple bars that offer unlimited premium spirits and beers. These range from swim-up bars in the pools to a rooftop hideaway above the lobby, which is the place to be to watch the sun set over the beach and Secrets Aura’s private activity dock.

Aura Sunset Cozumel - sunsetFor an extra fee, you can arrange for special romantic dinners set on that pier or on the beach. During the day, dive boats and excursion sailing vessels dock periodically to pick-up and drop-off passengers from the resort, and your all-inclusive fee entitles you to free rental of snorkeling equipment if you’d rather explore the sea life right off the beach.

It’s a good idea to bring some old tennis shoes or neoprene booties because the sea floor is rocky and sharp. The beachfront, however, is groomed constantly so the footsteps you left in the morning may not be there when you take a moonlight stroll. There are plenty of lounge chairs along the beach or by the multiple pools so you shouldn’t have to fight to find a spot. For even more exclusivity, you can upgrade to the Preferred Club for private beach access and a separate lounge with even better service.

Room options are multiple and exceptional. Of course, I’d probably say that just because there’s a mini-fridge stocked with beer and soft drinks, and, thanks to 24-hour free room service, there are few reasons to ever leave the confines of your quarters. Two-story Solarium rooms feature private sundecks on the roof and your own lap pool along with terraces or balconies with daybeds for lounging. I’ve always preferred the swim-up rooms with access to a lazy river that leads straight to the main pool area. In the newer section of these resorts, the swim-up suites have concrete slides for an exhilarating way to splash down into the pool next to the bar where you can pick up a few more cocktails to carry back up to your room. (Hint: take the stairs back up.)

Aura Sunset Cozumel - swim up patio

While the cuisine isn’t necessarily world-class, there is plenty of variety to keep your taste buds intrigued during a weeklong stay. The wait staff is attentive, and if you have even a passable knowledge of menu Spanish, they are always appreciative of your efforts to speak their native language. Even though the resort is all-inclusive, they also appreciate the occasional tip for their service. I’ve found if you carry a few dollars as a gratuity for the bar staff with every round, they’ll walk across water to keep you well hydrated, or at least well-beered.

An entertainment staff keeps the fun hopping during the days with some of the same sort of games and activities that you might encounter on a cruise, but they are not obnoxious about demanding participation. If you prefer a more placid experience, they’re pretty easy to avoid. But a rousing game of volleyball in the pool is a great way to meet other guests while burning off a few calories before dinner. Evening performances on the beach range from local music and dance acts to an impressive show by a troop of intrepid fire-jugglers.

It’s worth it to call a cab to carry you into town at least a couple of times during your trip, especially if you consult the cruise ship calendar to figure out when the megaships have left port. There are all sorts of souvenir and jewelry shopping opportunities to be found in a dense district near the cruise ports, and on Sunday evenings the locals turn out in the town square for entertaining and charming fiestas.

Whether you are seeking an active vacation with scuba diving and parasailing or a quiet retreat to finish a few books you’ve been meaning to get to on your Kindle, Secrets Aura in Cozumel is an affordable spot to find your bliss in an elegant environment. You can book your getaway through many vacation specialists or directly from the resort website.

Essentials…
  • All inclusive food and drink
  • Unlimited premium drinks
  • Free 24-hour room service
  • Secrets Spa by Pevonia
  • A king-size bed or two double beds
  • Private, furnished terraces or balconies
  • Full bathrooms with separate water closet and vanities equipped with a phone and sound speaker
  • Bathrobes & slippers
  • 27” flat-screen cable TV
  • Air-conditioning with in-room climate control
  • Sound system with in-house music channels
  • DVD player
  • Direct dial telephone
  • WiFi internet access
  • iPod dock with alarm clock
  • Electronic in-room safe
  • Odds of Encountering Children: Next to none, unless you venture off the resort property. An affiliated resort next door is more family-oriented, but Secrets Aura is strictly adults only (the resort defines ‘adult’ as 18+, but we’ll go ahead and give it a 21 Plus Salute! since that is the legal voting age in the U.S.A., if not the legal drinking age).
More Information…

Aura Sunset Cozumel - main poolSecrets Aura Cozumel
Carretera Costera Sur KM. 12.9
Zona Hotelera Sur
Cozumel, Quintana Roo
C.P. 77600
Mexico
(866) GOSECRETS

– Photos courtesy Chris Chamberlain

Chris ChamberlainChris Chamberlain is a food, drink, wine, spirits, travel and personal interest writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has lived his entire life except for four years in California where he studied liberal arts at Stanford University and learned how to manipulate chopsticks. He is a regular writer for the Nashville Scene and its “Bites” food blog as well as Nashville Lifestyles magazine. He is the Southern correspondent for FoodRepublic.com. He has also contributed to the Nashville City Paper, Her Nashville, Relish, Julep, Local Palate, The Bourbon Review, 2001 Edgehill, the SFA’s Gravy newsletter, Thrillist.com, and as a kitchen gadget reviewer at geardiary.com. He has published three books: The Southern Foodie: 100 Places to Eat before You Die and The Recipes That Made Them Famous, The Southern Foodie’s Guide to the Pig, and Nashville Beer: A Heady History of Music City Brewing.

 

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