Every October for the past three years, the hubs and I pick a weekend and jet off to Cozumel, Mexico to stay at Secrets Aura. The location makes for a quick trip we can accomplish over a long weekend, the amenities meet our needs, and the price really can’t be beat. I mean, what more could you really ask for in a little getaway?
THE RESORT RECAP //
Secrets Aura has everything you would want and expect from an all-inclusive at this price point (and maybe a bit more). It has a nice French restaurant that serves steak, a sushi bar that has really improved since it opened two years ago, a seafood restaurant, a buffet, and a restaurant labeled as “international”. You also get full access to the family Sunscape resort next door which has a Mexican restaurant that serves tasty flaming fajitas. There are no limits on how often you can dine at each restaurant (we visit the French restaurant at least 2x each trip) and no reservations are required. The food is fresh and on-par what you would expect from a restaurant at home where you are paying ~$15-20 an entree.
There are several bars across the property, each with similar offerings. The skills of the bartenders vary a lot, so find one you like and keep going back to them. We made a lot of trips back to the seafood restaurant where one of the better bartenders was (well, the group did. I can only attest that he made a great virgin piña colada). Since we travel in the off-season, there was never a wait at any of them, but I could imagine it’s harder to place an order when the property is at capacity in the summer. Want a nicer drink with a view? Head up to Sky Bar for a martini and the sunset (the mojitini, hold the rum, was my favorite). We’re there every night at 6:30 during our stays.
The other amenities are likely how this property hits the price point. The pools are well maintained, but not huge (there are three primary pools on the resort), and the other activities are pretty basic – a ping pong table, pool table, large chess, and kayaks and paddle boards you can borrow from Sunscapes next door to use in the ocean.
One of the biggest features of all Secrets Resorts is that they’re adults only. From the pools to the beach to the restaurants, you have to be 18 to access the property. Don’t get me wrong – we love kids – but I also love going to the pool with minimal fear of being splashed or having to deal with other people’s loud kids while at a nice dinner with the hubs.
PICKING THE BEST ROOMS //
Admittedly, we choose our room based on what is the most reasonably priced for what it offers. The swim-up rooms are our favorite, especially the ones at the front of the resort with attached water slides into the pool. The swim-ups in the Preferred Club are nice, but lack the slides. We booked a Preferred Club Ocean View room this year and really enjoyed it as well. It offered more space, upgraded amenities and minibar (peanut M&Ms restocked daily!), and a secluded location that was quiet regardless of the hour of the day. Stay away from the “Deal of the Day” – these rooms are in a remodeled, but cramped tower in the center of the resort with fewer views.
LANDING THE BEST DEAL //
We keep returning to Secrets Aura because it’s the best resort we’ve heard of at the price point. I’m talking ~$100 per person, per night, all inclusive during the off-season. That’s unheard of! We almost never book direct through the AM Resorts website, though. Hop on Expedia or Booking.com to find a fully refundable rate at a low price, then keep tracking the prices and rebook if it drops.
The other way we score a great deal is traveling in the off-season. You may notice we do this for a lot of our trips (read how we saved thousands on our luxury African safari). For Cozumel, that’s late September – mid-December, excluding the week of Thanksgiving. The weather in Cozumel is pretty temperate and the diving is always great, so we’ve never balked from traveling there in October. The resort is nearly empty that time of year, which means no waiting at restaurants or bars, pools sometimes to yourself, and a lot less noise than you might be dealing with at a sold-out resort in June.
OFF THE RESORT //
We love the convenience, amenities, and all-inclusive-ness of the resort, so we don’t make a habit of leaving. Downtown Cozumel is a bit of a tourist trap! If we do leave, it’s for one of two things.
We leave to dive. Our favorite dive company, Aldora Divers, was recommended to us by a friend’s dad, who is an ex-Navy SEAL so you know he knows his dive companies! They pick us up from the dock at Secrets and from there, it’s less than a 10 minute boat ride to some of the best dive spots on the island. Aldora is the only company in Cozumel that dives with steel tanks, extending your dive time from ~50 minutes to 75+. If you’re not dive certified, I strongly recommend doing your book class online and completing your pool work at home, then just doing your certification dives in Mexico (which is what the hubs did) to make the most of your time there. If you’re already certified, they may ask you to do some quick drills but then you’re good to go!
We go into town to get Coco Locos. A coco loco is a mixture of liquors blended with crushed ice and fresh coconut water, served back in the young coconuts it comes out of. The alcohol-free version, which I tried this year, is just as refreshing and delicious – fresh coconut water, simple syrup, ice, and a little lime. Yum! Jeanie’s on the main road downtown is the spot to go. Make sure you order at the front bar so you can watch them slice the coconuts open with a machete.
GETTING THERE //
I really wish getting to Cozumel was a little easier. Because it’s a fairly small island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, you have three options:
1. Direct flights into Cozumel. We did this our first year on points, and it worked out pretty well for us. If you’re paying outright, this can be really pricey. A ticket into CZM from Dallas on American will run you more than $700!
2. Flights to Cancun + the ferry to Cozumel. This is how a majority of people make the trip – but it’s not the easiest, or cheapest, way! The ferry leaves from Playa, a 45 minute drive from Cancun airport. That’s a $15 taxi; more if you’re traveling with a group. The ferry is an additional $135 to $163 each way. What?!
3. Flights to Cancun + a hopper flight to Cozumel. This is the option we go with. We use Southwest Points + our Companion Pass to fly for almost nothing to Cancun (even if you’re paying outright, Southwest is really affordable in the off-season), then pay ~$70-90 per person, each way for a small charter flights via Mayair. The Mayair flight offers some amazing views of Cancun and Cozumel, and since it departs from the Cancun airport (although a different terminal), you’ll save the taxi fare + the extra 45 minutes it takes to get to Playa for the ferry.
Next year we likely won’t make the trip since baby girl will be so little. If you go, drink a few coco locos for us?