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Typically when Padma says, “Please pack your knives and go,” it means say sayonara. For me, it meant I was jetting off to Secrets Akumal Riviera Resort to watch the Top Chef finale in the very spot where the last two chefs faced off in their final head-to-head showdown in Mexico. It was a ritzy red carpet experience from start to finish, as giant outdoor screens were set up around the neon pools. We sipped and savored at the cocktail party and rejoiced in reality show glory. If you’re considering heading to the ultra-posh Secrets Akumal, here’s my honest review.
While the actual filming of Top Chef had taken place weeks earlier (sadly Brooke didn’t make a guest appearance), our trip was a chef-driven experience fit for foodie royalty. Throughout the week, we learned how to properly pair wine, how to prepare ceviche and how to execute a tasting menu. We ate our way around the nine international restaurants on-site as the delightfully agreeable staff catered to our every whim and craving.
Then, there were the unique, private food experiences that made the adventure that much more special. We were treated to a progressive dinner in the wine cellar and an exquisite meal of regional delicacies. Standout dishes included everything from molecular gastronomy preparations with smoking chocolate and truffles served right on the table itself to local snacks you’d find at a street market (like grasshoppers!). We were able to watch our meals being plated and prepared right in front of our eyes at the kitchen table, an enclosed glass structure complete with zoomed in video cameras that captured food as art and put it on display like entertainment.
You’ve seen the commercials for Secrets Resorts: a beautiful bikini-clad couple gazing lovingly at each other on an idyllic beach. It’s a honeymoon resort. Or at least, a romantic retreat. I would never have considered going there had I not been invited. But I’m here to let you in on a little secret: Secrets is a complete paradise, whether you’re coupled up or not. Basically, I’m here to let the secret out.
The best comparison I have for this type of travel is a luxury cruise liner on land. If you’re looking to relax in style and have every whim catered to, you won’t do much better. Every day has a full itinerary of activities and unlimited food and beverages options so you can be as active or as gluttonous as you want. Basically, they make it so there’s no reason to ever leave the property as every request is delivered “with pleasure.” Sometimes it’s just really nice to be in a place where the biggest decision you have to make is whether to commander a lounge chair, hammock or cabana. Don’t get me wrong, choosing between the beach and pool, pina colada or margarita is a tough, but who said you can’t have it all? This kind of pampered extravagance is not for everyone, but it is a completely mindless kind of vacation where you don’t have to lift a finger, which is basically the very definition of paradise.
A Few Things I Loved:
- 24/7 dining with all-inclusive mini bars, top shelf liquor and room service (they even had a privacy box built-in to the closet so the food can be delivered incognito if you don’t feel like getting dressed! It’s like they read my mind…)
- Built-in beer bottle openers in the marble bathrooms
- Ridiculously large Jacuzzi tubs and dual shower heads in every room
- Rooms with private swim-up pools (holy extravagant)
- Snorkeling with the giant sea turtles right on the beach (sadly, I had less luck than my friends)
- Nightly dinner shows and Vegas-style entertainment (the Beatles show was reminiscent of Cirque de Soleil)
- So much food (all-inclusives can be hit or miss, but most of the meals were solid, including the buffets, hibachi and sushi)
- The touches of regional delicacies (so many amazing local wines)
- The Spa-aaah and hydrotherapy pool
- The endless variety of rainbow drinks
- “Swing-up” bars, which make for excellent photo opps
- Free, reliable WiFi everywhere
- The nightclub, while cheesy, was a place to let loose without having to feel self-conscious or worry about anything at the spring break part of Cancun. There’s something to be said for a place where you can let your guard down
- Not having to bring wallets or money anywhere
- The plush oversized loungers and poolside cabanas (wonderful for napping in the sun)
- Seeing exactly where different Top Chef scenes were filmed
- Easy access to the rest of Tulum
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