For travelers searching for the perfect all-inclusive resort, they first need to ask themselves exactly what they want out of the vacation. Beyond the obvious desire for an accepting vibe, queer couples or larger groups of travelers might want a high-energy, loud music experience. They might be interested in lots of water activities, shows, and entertainment. Or they might want a more refined experience of lounging by the pool or the beach with exceptional service as the focus — along with elevated dining choices — but a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.
On a recent trip to LGBTQ-friendly Cancun, my husband and I discovered a perfect blend of the two vacation types at Secrets Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa, located an easy 15-minute drive from Cancun International Airport, and situated right on the colorful Caribbean Sea.
Secrets Riviera Cancun is part of the AMR Collection of Resorts, which was recently acquired by Hyatt Hotels Corp. The family of resorts and spas includes Zoëtry, Secrets, Dreams, Breathless, Alua, Vivid, and Sunscape — with locations in Mexico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Panama, Saint Lucia, Curacao, Costa Rica, St. Martin, and even Greece and Spain.
Secrets Resorts & Spas focuses on a concept of “Unlimited-Luxury,” which means everything is included in the price — spacious rooms and suites, a variety of dining options and restaurants (including room service, if desired), and premium liquor. The Secrets Riviera Cancun is definitely the more refined type of all-inclusive resort, with a gorgeous free-flowing pool facing the beach and blue Caribbean water.
But Secrets Riviera Cancun is also a unique property in a couple of interesting ways. First off, every guest staying here is automatically upgraded to the Preferred Club. As opposed to other resorts, where a small fraction of guests generally opt for the upgraded club experience, everyone here is a VIP. That means staying here gives you access to premium liquors, a special high-end restaurant, Rosewood, and the lovely Preferred Club lounge. And it means that every room here is a suite; our third-floor suite was large, modern, and luxurious – plus it had an enormous balcony facing the beach, complete with a private hot tub.
Secondly, the resort is directly connected to a sister property, Breathless Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa. Via a room-key controlled sliding door, Secrets guests can cross over to the Breathless side anytime they choose — and access all its pools, restaurants, bars, and other amenities. But here’s the kicker: the Breathless guests don’t have the same flexibility. They can’t come onto the Secrets side, which helps to keep Secrets the more intimate of the two.
Pictured: Preferred Club Ocean View Junior Suite
So, if you want a quiet evening (or day or entire vacation), it’s easy — just stay on the Secrets portion of the property. You have your own large pool to lounge in or around, not to mention your own lounge and restaurant, both of which are quieter and more refined. But anytime you want additional dining choices, or to party at a more “active” pool with loud music and games, or dance at a nightclub, the Breathless side is there waiting for you.
We found this setup to be brilliant as it truly gave us the best of both worlds in one vacation. We enjoyed romantic meals and read books by the pool on some days, while on others we felt like dancing or watching the shows, or trying the French, Italian, Mexican, and Asian restaurant choices offered by Breathless. In fact, I think the dual nature of Secrets Riviera Cancun makes it a smart choice for group travel, friend trips, and especially multi-generational family vacations. I could imagine an older couple staying mostly at the more serene Secrets side … while their adult kids hung out all day at Breathless’ bustling “Energy Pool” — and then everyone meeting somewhere in the middle for dinner. It’s difficult to keep everyone happy on one vacation, but maybe this sort of setup is the answer.
Pictured: Evening al fresco dining at Secrets
We thoroughly enjoyed the gastronomic experiences here. Rosewood, the exclusive restaurant on the Secrets side, is open for three meals a day and located poolside. We especially loved the divorcidas eggs and PBJ waffles for breakfast and the coconut shrimp at lunchtime. The food choices are many and varied across the way at Breathless: Barefoot Grill for burgers and pizza, Coquette for fantastic French (the sweet potato soup here is incredible!), Spoon for international buffet choices, Bites for tapas from all over the world, Silk City for Pan-Asian cuisine (and even Teppanyaki tables), Spumante for Italian favorites, and Picante for Mexican delights. There’s even a gourmet coffee shop for pastries and an assortment of fancy caffeinated drinks, all included.
Those looking to imbibe will find a diverse collection of bars, from the swim-up style to poolside, and even a champagne bar and a nightclub. And, of course, Secrets guests can use their exclusive Preferred Club, which has a lovely bar of its own that serves premium liquors, along with treats and desserts displayed at all times of the day. You definitely won’t go hungry — or thirsty here.
Pictured: Rosewood Restaurant
The dress code for both resorts is fairly casual in nature — after all, this is Mexico and you’re at the beach — but if you feel like dressing up a bit for dinner, you wouldn’t feel out of place, either. There was a nice mix each evening that ranged from casual to formal.
Upon checking in, we were assigned our own private concierge, Antonio, who greeted us each morning as we walked by his desk. He also kept connected to us via texting on the WhatsApp app (which we were able to use through the resort’s free WiFi). He helped us make dinner reservations, offered suggestions on activities and favorite menu items, and assisted us in any way that we asked throughout our stay. This was a surprising but lovely benefit that we hadn’t expected.
Pictured: The author’s husband, Lance, relaxes poolside
Secrets Riviera Cancun also offers premium tequila tastings and premium wine tastings for an additional charge. We opted for the premium tequila tasting, and the experience — held in the French restaurant’s gorgeous wine cellar room — was well worth it. We learned from our tequila sommelier, Enrique, that the famed distilled liquor is made from agave plants in Mexico’s Jalisco state (think of it sort of like France’s Champagne wine region … true tequila must come from Jalisco with few exceptions). While there are more than 300 types of agaves, blue agave is the only plant that is used in the tequila-making process.
We very much enjoyed the reposado style tequila, which is stored in oak barrels for four to eight months. It displayed notes of butterscotch, oak, and walnut … and was incredibly smooth. The añejo style tequila we tried had a warm caramel smell and was the color of a Cognac. It ended with a spicy note on the finish and paired wonderfully with scallops that were served in a green Mexican sauce. Enrique was quite engaging, and we enjoyed chatting with him; we discussed what types of tequilas and mezcals to purchase at the airport to take home, as well as some suggested brands to purchase in the United States.
The Relax Spa by Pevonia, located right on the Secrets Riviera Cancun property near the lobby, was a blissful escape from reality, with multiple hydrotherapy pools, sauna, steam room, a large outdoor hot tub, a wonderfully equipped fitness facility, a juice bar, and more. We chose to try a couples’ massage, which was relaxing and truly helped us settle into the laid-back groove of the resort. Guests can select either indoor or outdoor treatment rooms, and the entire spa sits overlooking the adjacent lagoon, adding to the tranquil atmosphere.
Pictured: Relax Spa by Pevonia
The resort is a popular wedding destination, and roughly 30 percent of its weddings are LGBTQ+ in nature, due to Mexico’s progressive attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community — as well as the adults-only nature of the property, which has proved popular with a lot of queer couples. The resort aims to use only gender-neutral terms on its wedding website, and also allows couples to include small dogs in their wedding, should they so choose. (And in general, small dogs are allowed on the property for any guests who bring them.) In high season, the resort has one or two weddings per day, but the management team won’t go higher than that, to ensure that each wedding party feels special and well cared for.
Pictured: Relax Spa by Pevonia’s outdoor hot tub overlooks a lagoon
Traveling in the age of Covid-19 always means that you must be extra vigilant and stay abreast of the latest policies. Currently, vaccinated travelers do not have to produce a negative Covid test to enter Mexico. We weren’t required to wear masks in the U.S. airports or on our flights, but they were required once deplaning at Cancun International Airport and waiting in the immigration line.
At the resort, the government there mandates that all staff wear face masks at all times but leaves the choice optional for all guests. During our three-night stay, the vast majority of guests went mask free, although everyone was mostly outside at the pool or dining al fresco. For the most part, indoors here means in your own suite.
Pictured: Preferred Lounge
Secrets Riviera Cancun has implemented AMR’s CleanComplete Verification protocols and enhanced cleaning policies. We found frequent hand sanitizer stations all over the resort, including in smart locations, such as next to the elevator call buttons on each floor. Our wrist temperature was taken by the host before entering each restaurant, and we were offered the option of an actual menu or a scannable QR code for the menu, should we wish for a touchless experience.
A negative Covid test (taken within one day of your return flight) was still required for entry into the United States when we traveled. However, that extra step was made easy by the resort, with convenient on-site testing available. We simply made a reservation the day before we wanted our test, and were charged $35/test, a reasonable fee. The whole process was quick and painless, and we had our results in a mere five minutes. Adding to the peace of mind around Covid traveling is that the resort includes a free 14-day quarantine stay for any Secrets guests who do test positive.
Pictured: Preferred Club Ocean View Junior Suite balcony