Choosing the perfect all-inclusive resort can be an overwhelming task. With so many options available, it’s difficult to decide which resort offers the best vacation experience. Excellence and Secrets are two well-known all-inclusive resorts that often come up in conversations about the best places to stay.
I’ve stayed at resorts from both hotel chains (3 in total so far) and have even written separate posts about the restaurants at Excellence Playa Mujeres and Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun, so needless to say I definitely have opinions about both!
If you’re debating between these two top-notch resorts (which a lot of people have been lately), you’re in the right place!
This article will provide a comparison between Excellence and Secrets resorts in order to help travelers decide which one is better for their upcoming vacation. I’ll also share a few of my thoughts on which resort you should pick depending on what you value in an all-inclusive stay.
Let’s dive in!
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Table of Contents
Secrets Resorts: Overview
Secrets Resorts is a highly acclaimed all-inclusive luxury resort brand that delivers an unparalleled vacation experience in the world’s most stunning destinations.
Each of their properties has a rating of 4.5 to 5 stars, making them some of the most high-end resorts available when it comes to quality and service.
Secrets Resorts is a part of the AMResorts collection, which also includes Dreams Resorts, Now Resorts, and Zoetry Wellness & Spa Resorts. The brand has multiple properties in top vacation destinations throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America, such as Cancun, Los Cabos, Punta Cana, and Montego Bay.
Visitors love Secrets Resorts for its exceptional amenities and top-quality services, including gourmet dining options, premium drinks, and 24-hour room service.
Guests also have access to numerous activities and entertainment options, such as water sports, golf, live shows, fitness classes, culture classes, and nightly entertainment, making Secrets Resorts an ideal destination for couples seeking a romantic getaway or for groups of friends seeking a luxurious vacation experience.
Overall, Secrets Resorts offers an exceptional all-inclusive vacation experience, and its reputation for exceptional service and amenities makes it a highly sought-after brand in the travel industry.
In fact, Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun has received some of the most prestigious travel awards and recognition in the world including the AAA Five Diamond Award, Travelers’ Choice Best of The Best in 2020, and the Travelers’ Choice Award from 2009 – 2020!
Excellence Resorts: Overview
Excellence Resorts is a luxury all-inclusive resort chain that offers world-class amenities and exceptional service to its guests. Each of their resorts has a rating of 5 stars, making them one of the premium resort brands in the world.
The brand has several properties in popular vacation destinations across Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, with each resort offering a unique experience for guests. Some of the popular locations of Excellence Resorts include Playa Mujeres, Riviera Maya, and Punta Cana.
Visitors love this resort chain for its elegant and sophisticated design, lavish accommodations, gourmet dining, and personalized service. The resorts also offer a range of activities, including spa treatments, water sports, and fitness programs, making them an ideal destination for couples and adults looking for a luxurious and relaxing vacation experience.
Excellence Resorts is a part of The Excellence Collection, a group of luxury all-inclusive resort brands that offer exceptional vacation experiences in breathtaking destinations worldwide.
The other sister brands of The Excellence Collection include Finest Resorts, which is a family-friendly brand with properties located in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and Beloved Hotels, which is an adults-only brand with properties located in Mexico.
Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun vs. Excellence Playa Mujeres
And rightfully so! They’re both 5-star adults-only all-inclusive resorts that have some of the best marks and best reviews on the web. For this post, these are going to be the resorts we compare.
Let’s start with a quick and dirty review of Secrets Maroma Beach!
REVIEW: Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun
The five-star resort of Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun is tucked away on a beautiful secluded beach, Maroma Beach, providing you with the ultimate private luxury vacation.
In a nutshell, Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun is an adults-only AAA 5 Diamond Award Winner property with 13 outdoor pools, 7 different restaurants, and a cute little coffee shop that serves something a bit different every day.
There are a total of 412 rooms spanning multiple 4-story buildings. There are two main ocean-view swimming pools in the middle of everything, plus semi-private pools for guests who opt for swim-up rooms.
For most travelers considering this resort, one of the best things about this resort is the fact that it is for adults only. That means no crying kids, no loud restaurants, and no splashing havoc in the pools.
THE ROOMS AT SECRETS MAROMA BEACH
The spacious rooms at Secrets Maroma beach were renovated in 2018, turning them all into chic and modern suites. They feature massive 2-person whirlpool tubs, sitting areas, and either private balconies or swim-up pools, depending on which room you book.
Your room will come with a wonderful bed or two, minibar, Nespresso machine, light snacks, water, bathrobes, cozy slippers, and turn-down service (which means a prepped bed and pillow chocolates) each night.
There will also be a little tablet in every room that serves as a remote control for the TV as well as a schedule of the daily activities offered at the resort.
Through the tablet, you can also check the weather, order room service, browse the fancy pillow menu, see what restaurants are open, and check out what other services the resort provides (spa deals, culinary experiences, cabana rentals, etc).
THE RESTAURANTS AT SECRETS MAROMA BEACH
In addition to the daily breakfast and lunch buffet, the resort also has a wide range of high-quality dining options available, including a steak restaurant, a seafood restaurant, Japanese teppanyaki, Italian cuisine, French cuisine, authentic Mexican cuisine, as well as a wine cellar with over 200 different vintages.
In total, there are 9 restaurant options, not including the coffee shop that serves up light bites throughout the day.
On specific days, there is even an outdoor Mexican-themed buffet paired with live entertainment that is not to be missed.
And if that wasn’t enough for you, or you’re looking to celebrate a special event, you can opt for romantic dinners for two on the beach for an extra charge.
There is also an exclusive beachfront bar/restaurant area specific to members of the Preferred Club. But even without this, you will have tons of food options throughout the day.
Despite the size of the resort, the restaurants don’t feel overcrowded. And while some of the restaurants do serve better food than others, they all make the presentation of the food a priority.
Out of the many restaurants available, our favorites were: Seaside Grill, the steak restaurant, Oceana, the seafood restaurant, and El Patio, the Mexican restaurant.
If you’ve tried all the restaurants at Secrets Maroma Beach and are interested in a night out or want to visit another one of AMR’s resorts, you can!
As part of the privileges of Unlimited-Luxury®, through the Sip, Savor & See program, you can enjoy a complimentary dinner, drinks and live entertainment at one of the nearby, participating resorts from 6pm to 1am!
THE BARS AT SECRETS MAROMA BEACH
You will be glad to know that Secrets Maroma Beach serves unlimited top-shelf liquor at its 6 bars and lounges on the property.
These bars include the swim-up bar Manatees, lobby bar Rendezvous, pool and beach bar Barracuda, the theater bar Showtime, Sugar Reef poolside bar, and the Desires music lounge bar.
In addition to these bars, there will be many other opportunities to grab an alcoholic beverage. During our stay, we enjoyed a ‘fire coffee’ drink from an after-dinner coffee cart. We also got handcrafted tequila/gin cocktails from a tequila cart by the pool on one of our pool days!
And of course, upon arrival, you will get your complimentary glass of champagne!
THE ACTIVITIES AT SECRETS MAROMA BEACH
There is no shortage of things to do at Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun. This is great for people like me who struggle with sitting still and relaxing the mind!
During your stay, you’ll find that there will likely be something to do at every hour of the day when you’re not busy eating or sleeping.
Here’s what a typical day looked like at Secrets Maroma Beach:
- 9:30am: Bike Ride
- 9:30am: Stretching Class
- 10:30am: Spanish Lesson
- 11am: Pool Volleyball
- 11:30am: Kayak Tour
- 11:30am: Mexican Handmade Bracelets
- 1pm: Water Aerobics Class
- 2:30pm: Bingo
- 3:30pm: Kayak Tour
- 3:30 pm: Art, Wine & Cheese
- 4pm: Beach Volleyball / Pool Volleyball
- 4:30pm: Beach Soccer
- 5pm: Ping Pong Tournament
- 8pm: Monday Night Football
- 9pm: Mexican Folklore Show
- 11pm: DJ Party
And the best part is on the next day, the list of activities changes! You will truly never be bored.
Other activities not listed above include group workout classes, snorkeling, sailing, tequila tasting, Mayan lessons, horseshoes, archery, making your own pizza, darts, aqua spinning, flag football, batting practice, life-size chess, and mini-golf.
And for an additional fee, you can also enjoy the following: scuba diving, romantic dinners on the beach, special culinary experiences, wine tasting, and more.
THE POOLS AT SECRETS MAROMA BEACH
The two main ocean-view pools are usually quite lively as this is where most guests go to hang out throughout the day. One of them features a swim-up bar, while the other features an infinity-style look and feel facing the beach.
All of the beach chairs come with umbrellas for shade to prevent travelers from getting burnt to a crisp!
You can actually order drinks from the pool hosts that tend to come around every 30 minutes or so to check on you. They do a really great job of making sure you’re satisfied and clearing any cups or plates from your area, so don’t forget to tip them!
Every once in a while, you may even catch the tequila/gin cart rolling by. You can get some pretty creative drinks here by allowing the bartender to make whatever he wants for you. My special request was to get a drink featuring passion fruit pulp. What I ended up getting was this creative and delicious handcrafted cocktail served in a bell pepper!
THE BEACH AT SECRETS MAROMA BEACH
Next up is the white sand beach that sits just a few steps away from the pool area. Though we didn’t get to enjoy too much of the beach due to the cold front and rain that rolled in for a few days during our visit, the time we did spend at the beach was great.
The sand was soft and fine and the water was refreshing and warm enough to enjoy by the time the sun was in full effect.
And while seaweed tends to be an issue in the Riviera Maya during certain times of the year (more so during the summer months), there were only very small amounts of seaweed washed up on the shore during our trip. It was hardly noticeable for me as I’m used to seeing massive piles of kelp on our Northern California beaches!
THE SPA AT SECRETS MAROMA BEACH
The Secrets Spa by Pevonia® is a haven for rejuvenating body and facial treatments, soothing hydrotherapy, relaxing massages, and pampering salons. You can even get the fish pedicure if that’s your thing.
At first glance, all I could think was how absolutely gorgeous the interior of this place was. And as soon as our spa experience started, I simply did not want to leave!
If you’re looking for some real R&R, be sure to hit up this first-class spa during your time there. I cannot recommend it enough!
The cool thing is that each spa treatment comes with a complimentary hydrotherapy circuit hour, which is an added bonus to the amount of money you’re paying for your service.
No matter what treatment you choose, be sure to linger a bit longer and enjoy the ambiance of this area. In the ladies’ locker room, there is even a ‘relaxation room’ for you to lay down and enjoy.
REVIEW: Excellence Playa Mujeres
The Excellence Playa Mujeres is like a little slice of heaven on Earth.
This adults-only, all-inclusive resort is situated just north of Cancun, Mexico and is loved for its kids-free environment (which, let’s face it, can really add to the relaxation factor).
From the moment you arrive and are greeted (with a cold towel, a glass of champagne, and nothing but smiles from the staff) to the moment to check out of your suite (spacious, luxurious rooms with a well-stocked minibar) and wave goodbye, you will truly be living the life.
THE ROOMS AT EXCELLENCE PLAYA MUJERES
The rooms at Excellence Playa Mujeres are luxurious and elegant, designed to provide guests with the ultimate comfort and relaxation. The decor style is modern and sophisticated, featuring a neutral color palette with accents of warm wood and pops of color in the artwork and furnishings.
The rooms come equipped with a range of amenities, including a king-size bed or two double beds, a furnished balcony (lounging area with hammock!) or terrace with views of the ocean or garden, a spacious bathroom with a rain shower and a separate whirlpool tub, and a flat-screen TV with satellite channels.
Other in-room features include a fully stocked minibar, a Nespresso machine, and a premium liquor dispenser. Should you opt for the swim-up suite (which we always do), you’ll get easy access to the pool from the outside of your ‘backyard’.
Additionally, guests staying in Excellence Club rooms have access to exclusive amenities, such as private check-in and check-out, a private lounge, and a private beach area with concierge service.
THE RESTAURANTS AT EXCELLENCE PLAYA MUJERES
There are 11 wonderful restaurants on the Excellence Playa Mujeres property with cuisines ranging from Italian, French, Spanish, Japanese and more. Many of them have ample seating with no wait, which is super convenient.
However, if you happen to head to dinner at prime time, you may have to wait approximately 10-30 minutes. The longest we waited was about 5 minutes at Barcelona, the Spanish tapas restaurant.
In case you have to wait, the restaurant will give you a flashing device that buzzes when your table is ready. While you wait, why not grab a drink at a nearby bar and enjoy the cool breeze and live music out in the common areas before dinner?
With so many options to eat and drink on the property, do note that not all places are open at the same time. Every night, there is at least one restaurant closed for dinner. None of the restaurants require a reservation, however there are some tips to take note of (details below).
Toscana was by far our favorite restaurant! This spot serves meals at all times of the day. During breakfast and lunch, you’ll find extensive buffets, allowing you to help yourself to a variety of international cuisine to satisfy whatever craving you might have. Their breakfast buffet was the highlight of every single day for me!
At dinner, the restaurant features Italian food, bringing the tastes of Tuscany to the shores of the Caribbean. Pastas are hand-rolled and sauces are slow-simmered to create beloved Italian fare in an elegant setting. Toscana is the largest restaurant on the resort and there is rarely a wait for a table. You’re welcome to dine inside or outside in the patio.
Aroma was the next highlight in terms of food. This coffee/dessert shop is the way you should start every morning and/or end every night. With small-batch roasted beans, freshly baked pastries, and artisanal espresso drinks, Aroma brings the neighborhood coffee vibes right to you in Cancun.
Unlimited pastries and dessert bites? Uh, YES PLEASE. We loved the ability to just walk up to the assortment of desserts/pastries and just grab and go! We really enjoyed the midday coffee drinks as well as the fruit tarts here. We recommend trying something different each and every time you stop in. The variety there is insane!
THE BARS AT EXCELLENCE PLAYA MUJERES
There are a total of 11 bars located throughout the property and a nice cold drink is never more than a few steps away. Some bars have food options available, such as self-service ice cream, brick oven pizzas, and even poke salad bowls.
There are several bars located throughout the resort, including swim-up bars, beach bars, and indoor bars. The Martini Bar is a popular choice, serving a variety of creative and classic martinis in a sophisticated setting.
The Blue Bar, located on the beach, offers refreshing cocktails, beer, and wine, and is perfect for enjoying a drink while soaking up the sun. The Sports Bar is a great option for sports enthusiasts, offering a range of beers, snacks, and large-screen TVs showing live sports events.
For guests seeking a more relaxed atmosphere, the Aroma Cafe serves freshly brewed coffee, tea, and pastries. Additionally, guests can enjoy live music and entertainment at the Music Lounge or dance the night away at the Disco.
THE ACTIVITIES AT EXCELLENCE PLAYA MUJERES
During my stay at Excellence PM, I was shocked at how many activities were offered on any given day. I don’t have the daily schedule anymore, but here’s a taste of the free/included activities offered by the resort.
- Aerobics and water aerobics
- Water polo
- Yoga classes
- Spanish lessons
- Dance lessons
- Cooking lessons
- Beach volleyball
- Beach soccer
- Table tennis
- Board games
- Air rifle shooting
- Casino nights / bingo
With so many fun activities, we really had to pick and choose between what we wanted to do — lay by the pool and drink, try all the foods at the restaurants, or engage in a group activity! Boy, that was hard to do during our 5-night stay.
THE POOLS AT EXCELLENCE PLAYA MUJERES
At some point, you’re bound to hit the pool at the resort! Excellence has got you covered with 7 total swimming pools, including 3 for Excellence Club. There are also 4 total independent hot water jacuzzis, including 2 specifically for Excellence Club members.
The really fun thing about the pools? There’s a lazy river surrounding them, plus hammock areas with hammocks right over the water for your lounging enjoyment!
The pools all have palapa-style umbrellas that are a bit more aesthetically pleasing than they are functional. They can’t be lowered or moved, so depending on what kind of sun exposure you want, you’ll need to move your beach chair instead of the palapas.
There are some Balinese-style beds (with flowy hanging curtains) around the main pools that are first-come-first-served, but you’ll have to get out to the pools early if you want those (they go quite fast).
THE BEACH AT EXCELLENCE PLAYA MUJERES
The beach at Excellence Playa Mujeres was, I must say, just okay.
You can expect the same palapa umbrellas and sun lounger chairs that are found at the pools. Plus in the Excellence Club areas, there are cushy sun beds and Balinese-style beds as well.
Since it faces east, it gets good sunlight in the early morning and midday, so if your main objective is to tan to the sound of ocean waves, the beach is just fine. It also has amazing sunrise views.
Having said all that, the actual beach was definitely lacking. Sure it had white sand which felt so cozy underneath my feet, there was a decent amount of sargassum on the shore, plus the water wasn’t as clear/blue as other parts of Cancun.
THE SPA AT EXCELLENCE PLAYA MUJERES
The spa at Excellence Playa Mujeres is an oasis designed to provide guests with the ultimate relaxation and rejuvenation experience. The spa offers a range of treatments, including massages, facials, body wraps, and hydrotherapy, performed by highly trained therapists using natural and high-quality products.
The spa also features a hydrotherapy circuit, which includes a range of hot and cold water experiences such as hydro-massage pools, pressure showers, sauna, steam room, and ice-treatment room. Guests can also choose to relax in the outdoor Spa Garden or enjoy a yoga or Pilates class at the fitness center.
My massage at Excellence Playa Mujeres was a standout experience. Because I had let the resort know that my partner and I were celebrating our anniversary, they ended up putting wedding-style flowers in my hair during the last part of the massage!
I was shocked at the level of personalization and care they went to to make guests feel special.
While this spa was a nice experience, I much preferred the aesthetics of the spa at Excellence Riviera Cancun — it was so much newer!
Secrets or Excellence: Which All-Inclusive Resort Is Better?
Ultimately, what’s considered “better” really depends on what you value in an all-inclusive stay. If you value the best beaches, one resort might be better than the other. The same goes for if you value food, drinks, entertainment, etc.
Here’s a breakdown of the different categories I judged the resorts by and my pick for which resort takes the cake for that category.
For The Best Pools: Excellence
The pools at Excellence are, in my opinion, far better than the ones at Secrets Maroma. Especially if you want to lounge and float along a lazy river-style pool! Aside from that, there are also many separate pools and private lounging areas that made the grounds feel more private.
Secrets has 1 main pool and an infinity pool located near the beach, but aside from these two pools, there weren’t many other areas where you could enjoy the water away from other hotel guests (unless you opted for the swim-up suite).
For The Best Restaurants: Excellence
While scouring the web for potential all-inclusive resorts to stay at, the number one thing I considered during my research was the number of restaurants each resort had. Excellence, clocking in at a whopping 11, came out on top when it came to the number of restaurants on the property.
Not only do they have a lot of restaurants to choose from, but the quality of the restaurants was certainly above average.
Now I’m not going to sit here and say the food tastes 100% culturally authentic, nor am I going to claim that it tastes like Michelin star-rated quality, but it’s certainly better than what you can get at some of the more affordable resorts. Much better!
And if you can pull yourself away from Toscana, try room service for breakfast!
In terms of food quality though, the food at both Excellence and Secrets was comparable. Excellence just got the point for having more restaurant offerings, plus little snack carts that pop up randomly in the mid-afternoon!
For The Best Drinks: Secrets
While Excellence excels at the additional touches related to food (crepe carts, ice cream carts throughout the day), Secrets excels at the additional touches related to drinks!
There were lots more opportunities to grab cocktails outside of the standard bar areas. From the cocktail cart going around the pool area to the fire coffee drink from an after-dinner coffee cart, their drinks were so creative!
For The Best Beach: Secrets
Secrets Maroma Beach has a far better beach than the one at Excellence. That’s not to say that the beach at Excellence Playa Mujeres is bad, I’m just saying the one at Secrets Maroma Beach is amazing!
I loved how the sand was amazingly soft and fine, as well as the fact that there was always someone combing the waters for excess seaweed.
For The Best Spa Experience: Excellence
I gave this point to Excellence due to the fact that the entire spa experience was so much more personalized than any other spa treatment I had ever experienced in my life.
From the guided 1-hour hydrotherapy session to the fact that your massage therapist braids your hair once your massage is about to come to an end, I felt a bit more cared for at Excellence than at Secrets.
For The Best Service: Both
This one’s a tie! At both resorts, we have always been treated outstandingly! All of the staff members are beyond friendly and helpful — even when you’re not expecting it!
At both resorts, there are staff members cleaning and keeping the resort clean at all times (clearing up the pool areas, removing seaweed from the beaches) as well as those making sure all guest requests are met (delivering room service on time, bringing out food orders to the pool areas).
I will say though, having stayed at Excellence twice, they do treat you like family! During check-in for my second stay, they said “Welcome home!” to us upon arrival and even left a few gifts for us in our room (matching sun caps and luggage tags). These little touches definitely made us love Excellence that much more.
I haven’t had a repeat stay at Secrets yet, so I can’t speak about the repeat visit experience there!
Best For Families: Finest Playa Mujeres (Excellence Resorts sister brand)
Both Excellence and Secrets cater to the adults-only crowd.
If you are planning an all-inclusive stay with kids, Finest Playa Mujeres is an excellent alternative. As mentioned, Finest is actually a sister brand of Excellence Resorts (both under Excellence Group).
The resort has a dedicated Kids’ Club, where children can participate in supervised activities such as arts and crafts, games, and educational activities. The Kids’ Club also has a splash pool and a playground for children to enjoy.
For younger children, the resort offers a baby club with trained staff who can provide childcare services for infants and toddlers. The resort also has a water park, complete with slides and a lazy river, providing endless fun for the whole family.
In addition to the water park, the resort offers a range of activities for families, including beach volleyball, soccer, tennis, and mini-golf.
For families seeking privacy, the resort offers family suites with separate bedrooms and living areas, as well as swim-up suites for easy access to the pool.
My Personal Favorite: Excellence Resorts!
I’m not going to declare a winner (I’ll leave that to you to decide), but rather just provide you with what my personal preference is — and that is Excellence Resorts!
But if I had to pick one over the other? I like Excellence Riviera Cancun just a tad bit more than Excellence Playa Mujeres.
Why? Because the spa at Riviera Cancun was much newer and more relaxing than the one at Playa Mujeres.
If that’s of no importance to you, then either one will give you an amazing experience that’ll be hard to forget. The service and level of personalization and care they put into your stay are truly unbeatable!
Excellence Playa Mujeres OR Excellence Riviera Cancun?
If you’re debating between whether to stay at Excellence Riviera Cancun or Excellence Playa Mujeres, the choice will be hard. Both will give you amazing and unforgettable experiences, but I personally enjoyed Excellence Riviera Cancun more.
A few reasons why:
- The rooms were a tad bit more affordable at Excellence Riviera Cancun
- The hydrotherapy spa area was newer and more up-to-date at Excellence Riviera Cancun
- During the day, there was an ice cream stand that appeared at Excellence Riviera Cancun (this was not at Excellence Playa Mujeres during our last trip, but EPM did have a gin and tonic stand one evening that ERC did not have).
Aside from those factors, everything else between the two properties is nearly identical, from the hospitality, food, and overall atmosphere! The restaurants are practically the same at both of these properties, so I wouldn’t let that determine which property you choose.
Regardless of your choice, you’ve already made the right one by considering an Excellence Resort!
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