Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
Some all-inclusive resorts are worlds in and of themselves, built with great amenities for great vacations, but at times can feel disconnected from the destinations they exist in.
But there are properties that do authentically capture the spirit and soul of a community by creating a world where natural topography and local culture exist harmoniously with swim-out suites, infinity pools and buffet stations.
Sometimes in the all-inclusive universe, all parts – location, accommodations, food, beach and service – gloriously come together, which is the case at Secrets St. Martin Resort & Spa, which PAX, exclusively, visited last April with a group of Canadian travel advisors attending The Travel Agent Next Door’s spring conference on board Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas.
The day-long site visit, which was arranged by Air Canada Vacations and the AMR Collection on a leisure day in idyllic St. Martin, gave agents an opportunity to tour and enjoy the lush 258-suite Secrets property, which first opened March 1, 2020, right after the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The laid-back property, like most hotels, temporarily closed as global restrictions set it and later reopened on April 1, 2021.
Exclusive and remote Secrets St. Martin, tucked away in calm-watered Anse Marcel cove, one of the most pristine regions of the French side of the island, is a newly-renovated takeover.
The low-rise buildings, some of which were constructed in 1986, were built with good bones as the property was previously a Habitation, Meridian, Radisson and Riu before Secrets took over.
The classic structure has, however, undergone a notable transformation. Riu Palace St Martin, the site’s last tenant, was destroyed during Hurricane Irma, so new, reconstructed elements have been added.
And it’s not the only white label property to get the AMR Collection treatment.
There are currently two other takeovers happening in Saint Lucia: Secrets St. Lucia Resort and Spa (opening in late 2023, formally St. James’s Club Morgan Bay) and Zoëtry Marigot Bay St. Lucia (set to open Dec. 1, 2022, formally Marigot Bay Resort and Marina).
Get away from the noise
Steeped in Caribbean European and French roots, Secrets St. Martin, located a short drive or boat ride away from Princess Juliana International Airport, blends island life with AMR Collection’s “Unlimited Luxury” promise, resulting in a very unique property that, arguably, is unlike any other Secrets.
And, depending on your client(s) needs, this can be a good thing.
The adults-only retreat, with neighbouring broccoli-green mountains, a protected beach and nearby marina, captures the spirit of what it means to truly take a break, disconnect (figuratively – don’t worry, there’s free Wi-Fi) and hit the reset button.
“If you want to get away from city noise, you come to this getaway where you can find quiet time, all to yourself,” as Lesa Pierre-Joseph, the property’s weddings and leisure coordinator, told PAX.
Naturally, couples on honeymoons or celebrating anniversaries are major target markets.
But vacationers who’ve done the all-inclusive circuit, and who want to get away from people (for lack of better words) may also find this low-key property appealing.
Secrets St. Martin also has comprehensive wedding packages – there’s an ocean-facing gazebo that holds up to 50 guests, an air-conditioned ballroom and theatre.
“It’s very Caribbean”
But it’s the intimate layout and easy-breeziness of Secrets St. Martin that makes this hotel sing.
While bigger Secrets properties may have multiple pools, Secrets St. Martin has just one. And it’s not just any pool.
With a capacity of 1,500 cubic meters, it’s said to be the largest infinity pool in the Western Caribbean.
Devoid of crowds, the pool is surrounded by mountains, faces the ocean, and is built steps away from a peaceful 600-metre beach, where there’s a view of Anguilla (which is about 20 minutes away by boat).
These are the details that captured the attention of travel advisor Cindy Almond of Romance and Foodie Travel, who was on site that afternoon.
“I love that the ocean and pool are so close together,” Almond told PAX. “You can easily pop back and forth between the two without having to go very far.”
“I also love it when there’s something to look at other than a flat ocean view. I love the mountains. The property is understated, but beautiful and relaxing. It’s very Caribbean.”
In addition to the main pool, guests can also enjoy an oceanfront hot tub and, for an extra charge, the soothing amenities of Secrets Spa by Pevonia.
“I think it’s a great option for people who are looking to go to a different island and don’t want to go back to Dominican or Mexico,” Amy Davoli of Travitude Travel Group told PAX. “The rooms and renovations look fantastic.”
The Junior, Garden, Mountain, Partial Ocean Swim Out, and Presidential Suites at Secrets St. Martin is where Secrets-level style and form shines through.
With modern Caribbean décor, the suites, which come with 24-hour room service and twice-daily maid service, have an indoor lounge area, dining table, large dresser deck, and one king or two double beds.
Most suites do not have a direct ocean view, but the mountains and marina make up for that (the property, after all, is small and easy to navigate. The ocean always feels close by).
As an upgrade option, there’s newly-built Preferred Club suites, which include terraces and mountain and marina-facing swim-out pools, and other services, such as access to the Private Preferred Club Lounge, afternoon hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, and fine liquors.
The luxurious Preferred Club Presidential Suite, notably, is 2,529 square feet and is spread over two floors, with two private terraces and swim-out pool.
There’s also room for select furry friends: Secrets St. Martin welcomes small dogs (under 22 lbs. or 10 kg) for an extra fee of $65 USD.
“Limitless access” dining
Secrets St. Martin has six dining concepts: the poolside Barefoot Grill; the Coco Cafe snack bar; the Pan-Asian eatery Himitsu; the Market Cafe international buffet; the Italian-style Portofino and elegant Olio Mediterranean Cuisine (there’s an oceanfront terrace above this venue that is ideal for weddings and special events).
The property has what it calls “limitless access” to its eateries, which means guests do not need reservations for any of the restaurants.
The buffet, in particular, wonderfully incorporates local cuisine, such as seafood fish soup, mahi-mahi tartare and snapper stew.
Some may wonder how St. Martin, a capital of gastronomy, meshes with an all-inclusive concept like Secrets St. Martin.
Despite having myriad dining options on site, the resort is aware of its surroundings, and urges guests to venture off property to visit nearby Grand Case village, for example, which is home to several local restaurants and beach bars.
This provides an option to clients looking for late-night action, as the evening entertainment at Secrets St. Martin is considered light and easy.
For active travellers, there’s nearby points of interest, such as the turquoise shallows of Orient Bay Beach, Loterie Farm Ziplining, hiking trails that lead to the summit of Pic Paradis (offering some of the best views of the island) and Maho Beach, where the runway of Princess Juliana airport is just meters behind, bringing those Boeings and Airbuses within an arm’s length as they land!
Secrets St. Martin is exactly what the name suggests – the vision of Secrets and vibrant culture of St. Martin, wrapped into a relaxing, one-of-kind experience.
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