– 5 out of 5 stars
Country of Origin: Virginia, USA
Reviewed on: 08 February 2015
This is going to be a long review. If you want the short version: SECRET BAY IS PERFECTION!
That being said, let’s get into the details.
My fiance and I wanted to go on a Caribbean vacation. However, we are what I call “active” vacationers; we enjoy relaxing on the beach, but would get bored with just beach sitting for a week. We came up with a wish list of features our ideal Caribbean resort would have: isolated location, adventure/excursions, private accommodations, no kids, and all-inclusive. After 50+ hours of looking at different islands and resorts online and finding nothing satisfying, I finally stumbled upon SECRET BAY. It hit most of our wish list checkpoints except all-inclusive, which wasn’t a deal breaker for us.
We flew into DOM airport. We came from the US and it was relatively easy flying through Miami and connecting in San Juan, PR. Secret Bay will send a driver to pick you up. Dominica is a volcanic island, so there are lots of mountains, and mountains mean windy roads. If you get motion sick during driving, make sure to ask Merlinda to send a motion sickness wristband with the driver. My fiance gets motion sick and using the wristband she didn’t have an issue. The driver also took extreme care to drive slowly and carefully. It takes 45-60 minutes to get to Secret Bay from DOM airport.
We stayed in the Zabuco III villa. It was absolutely amazing – smooth, dark stained woods. Wonderful indoor/outdoor living. Comfortable furniture. Architecturally amazing. Beautifully decorated. And air conditioned in the bedroom.
The villa had a HUGE porch with comfortable lounge chairs and a dinner table where we ate most of our meals. It was wonderful to wake up each morning and drink a cup of local coffee while overlooking the bay.
The private infinity pool was amazing. It was incredibly relaxing to float in the pool, overlooking the bay, while smoking a cigar or reading a book.
The villa had a fully equipped kitchen, complete with washer/dryer. Merlinda will send you a “shopping list” a few weeks before your trip – whatever you want the kitchen stocked with, just put it on the list and they will provide it for you at cost. Of course, they cook you 2 meals a day as well so don’t have them over-shop. More on the food below!
Power outlets – don’t fret over international adapters. Secret Bay has them for you already, so leave yours at home.
Secret Bay only holds 14 guests at a time in 4 villas and 2 bungalows. One thing I have not seen mentioned in other reviews is villa location. Zabuco III was located on the outer edge of the resort property, which was great for the isolation that we desired. There are no other guests walking by your villa to get to theirs because you are the farthest away. You are only a few minutes walk up a steep hill to get from beach to Zabuco III. However, it is a steep hill – if you’re not in great shape you may want to pick Zabuco I, which is more centrally located. Of course, if you ask, they will send an employee to meet you at the beach with a golf cart to drive you to your villa.
What to say about the food except HOLY COW. We ate like kings. Everything is locally sourced. The meals are prepared in the resort kitchen then brought to your villa. Dishes we suggest: fresh caught fried lionfish, local beef with spices, fresh tuna (very good but they cooked it a bit dry, ask for it medium), fresh grilled marlin (my favorite), callaloo soup, homemade passion fruit ice cream, and so many more that I can’t remember. You can specify with your villa attendant what you want to eat, or you can tell them to surprise you. We asked to be surprised for most meals, and were ALWAYS amazed and impressed with the deliciousness of what was selected.
Secret Bay will stock your villa with whatever groceries/snacks you like. MAKE SURE to ask for their homemade rum punch…it is mind blowing. Any local juices are excellent as well. We thoroughly enjoyed the fresh passion fruit juice and the fresh grapefruit juice, squeezed on site at the resort!
The villa was stocked with a wine fridge with price list. The prices were surprisingly reasonable. They can also provide bottles of liquor if you like.
All of the staff at Secret Bay were friendly and always willing to go above and beyond to make us happy. Gregor, the owner, was not in town during our trip but we spoke to him via email before and after the trip. He was very friendly and clearly passionate about sharing his island paradise with us. Marvin, the resort manager, came to say hello the first day after we settled into our bungalow. He made it clear that our comfort and enjoyment of Dominica/Secret Bay was his staff’s highest priority. I smoked cigars every day I was there, and when the resort was out and I wanted some to take home, he sent someone to town to purchase more. Merlinda was our primary contact for excursions. We researched things to do on Dominica before the trip, and a few weeks before sent her a list of what we wanted to do during our 5 days. She suggested an itinerary organized by day, leaving time for relaxation as well. She did a great job of scheduling excursions when there would not be throngs of other travelers, and when two excursions we wanted were close by, she put them together on the same day to minimize time wasted driving around. She also booked everything for us. Any charges were added to our bill, so we never had to carry cash except to tip (which I believe is already included in the charge, but it never hurts to give extra). The rest of the staff – from the driver, to our villa attendants, the equipment manager, and everyone else – were all wonderful as well.
Speaking of equipment, they have everything on site that you could need. Kayaks, snorkels/fins, swim booties (wear these when you swim), etc.
Secret Bay has 2 beaches on site. While they were nice, they were not like other Caribbean beaches. The beaches at Secret Bay were small: don’t expect a wide expanse of sand. Of course, the resort only holds 14 guests so maybe they’re appropriately sized. We ended up enjoying the beaches but I think we spent more time relaxing in our pool or on the villa porch instead.
For the excursions, Merlinda will plan everything for you if you give her a list of desired excursions. One slight criticism we had is that she planned your excursions and printed an itinerary but did not include the duration. My fiance is a serious planner and missing this detail bothered her. I think that was our ONLY criticism of the entire vacation.
We stayed busy with excursions, including:
– Indian River cruise – Fire was a great guide, and the Dynamite’s Rum Punch was delicious. He talked about lots of interesting local history and knew a TON about local vegetation.
– Private snorkelling tour – VERY cool. Our guide was great. He showed us lots of neat marine life, knew interesting facts about the local ecosystem, and even pointed out things in the reef that we would never have noticed. One thing to note, the area we were taken to was near the resort. However, we had read about Champagne Beach before we arrived, but were not given the option (perhaps we should have asked for it by name, instead of just asking for “private snorkeling”). If you want to go to Champagne Beach, make sure to ask for it.
– Sea cave – I enjoyed this but my fiance is concerned about bats/rabies, so we got in and out very quick. It is small but neat.
– Roseau tour – check it out if you want to go trinket shopping. There is some neat history as well but we didn’t spend a ton of time here. It is about a 75-90 minute drive from Secret Bay, so it is at least a half day trip. We paired it with the Sulphur spa, Emerald Pool and Trafalgar Falls (see below). It was a long day between all those excursions.
– Sulphur spa – this is a man made spa where the water is heated by geothermal activity. When we booked it I was expecting natural hot springs, so the man-made, concrete pools were a bit disappointing. They had a TON of pools, hot, warm, cold, everything in between. My fiance loved the spa, but I guess it just wasn’t my kind of thing.
– Emerald pool – very cool excursion. Nice short hike through rainforest. You can get under or behind the waterfall at the end. Very great photo op.
– Trafalgar Falls – easy hike, lots of fun. Definitely worth checking out. Twin waterfalls at the end make for great pictures.
– Couples massage – wonderful masseuses massaged us at the same time on our villa porch. It was great that they came to the villa.
– Sunset cruise – this was amazing. Captain Mark was a character. Lots of personality and interesting things to talk about. His catamaran was beautiful.
FYI, this is almost nonexistent, so if you’re looking for busy nightlife Secret Bay is NOT for you. Portsmouth is the closest city, but there didn’t seem to be much going on there so we didn’t pay much attention to it. We did go on a day trip to Roseau, which was nice. It had interesting history and the standard Caribbean shopping marts with cheap trinkets.
Nothing to worry about here if you heed our advice. My fiance brought 3 travel size cans of high deet insect repellent. We ended up only using one (and the other two we were forced to throw away in airport security on the way out of the country, so don’t overbuy). The villa had mosquito netting that can be securely fastened around the periphery of the porch. The first night we ignored this and had bugs all around our outdoor lights. The rest of our nights, we used the netting and had no further bug problems. It’s also worth nothing that I don’t think we saw ANY bugs during the day. You will encounter other wildlife, like birds and lizards.
We went in mid-December and the temperature was perfect. Low 80s most of the time and luckily NO rain. A week out, the forecast for our dates showed nothing but rain. It was concerning, to say the least. But as we got closer the rain forecast disappeared. It only rained an hour while we were there. I would suggest doing some research on the rainy season in Dominica before you go – I think we got lucky with the weather.
The villa was perfect, the food was exquisite, the staff friendly and helpful and the location was beautiful. We will be returning to Secret Bay at some point in our lives!
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Stayed on: December 2014