Latin America Taboo Travel

Secrets Huatulco Resorts

What to do when a couchsurfing experience goes awry? How about one night at an all-inclusive, adults-only resort.

Secrets Huatalco resorts

I grew up in the era of Club Med, which sounded exotic and fun, but was likely not something I would have enjoyed if I was an adult at the time. As a child I didn’t have television. My limited exposure to 1980’s advertising had a deeper impact on me. I remember full well the sparkling lens flares of rhinestones adorning the frizz-coiffed women in their high-waisted bikinis and body con dresses and with poofy shoulders, dancing and drinking and lounging by the pool. Somewhere in me, a seed was planted. 

Secrets Huatulco Resorts

Forty years later I am looking for any place I could stay along the coast in Oaxaca after a stupid Couchsurfing experience with someone that clearly didn’t want me there with my male partner. The Secrets Huatulco resorts pops up on the map and triggers some vague memory of encountering their advertising. 

They are not one of the “clothing optional” variations of Secrets, which is a resort chain across Latin America and the Caribbean that promises adults-only fun, but they still hint at naughtiness and all the things one can do in an “adults only” environment.

No matter what the context “adults only” can only make it better, in my opinion.

It is about $250 per person, which I figure isn’t bad considering they will give us more than 24 hours including early check-in and late check-out – as long as we store our luggage outside of our room on checkout day.

Secrets Huatulco Resorts mezcal

And so, I dive into the world of Secrets Huatulco resorts, with its sub-par, overpriced Mezcal that I have to pay for. I immediately learn that “all-inclusive” means “includes shitty options only”. 

The only exception to this is unlimited espresso drinks made from decent Colombian coffee, and pastries, of excellent quality, which is a dangerous mix for me and has me from the getgo. Sugar is a trouble drug for me. Luckily the cafe, unlike many of the other restaurants and bars, is not open twenty-four hours a day. Still, it’s open long enough for Second Dessert, which becomes a feature of every meal I eat at Secrets.

On arrival they give us prosecco (I’ve never paid for prosecco) and whisk away our luggage while getting ready the paperwork. We mill around the lobby aimlessly drinking crappy prosecco in Mexico, avoiding the eyes of the other people who are checking in, despite ostensibly coming here to adventure with them in this adult playground. We’re too sober and too much still in the vestibule to even acknowledge each other’s presence.

Eventually I’m back to sit down at the desk and go through the papers. There is a stunning number of signatures for one night. I’m protecting all of their property from any kind of damage me going on a raging bender could cause it, as well as signing away my life in multiple ways. There is a whole booklet of signatures and paperwork, and a thick manual for Secrets itself. This prompts many “should have read the manual” jokes.

I don’t even know what’s in the manual. Fire protocol?

Adult playgrounds come with lots of “you’re on your own!” liability warnings in the United States. The same is true of Burning Man. Who knows if any of it would hold up in court, but they give it their best shot anyway. 

There are other elements of the experience that remind me of Burning Man. A certain attitude of the attendees. Even though we are in Mexico, the bulk of the Secrets Huatulco resorts guests are from the USA. There’s a certain “fuck it, let’s party!” vibe that transcends any lens you put it through, wherein a crappy resort on a gritty beach can resemble a counterculture temporary city just by tether of the almighty party.

When finally shown to the room the endless hallways in endless buildings showing the horseshoe of the resort around the pool and bay, I’m reminded of a cruise, a retirement home, a spaceship, and a post-modern design wet dream all in one.

Secrets Huatulco Resorts

There are a lot of expansive, white, unshaded areas calling to mind for me more a Mediterranean vibe than a Mexican one. 

In a world where one’s room location equals one’s status, they give us a decent room. We’re not too far from the pool. However, it smells pretty moldy. I complain and they show me a different room, but this one has a crappy view and so we just return to the first room and open all the windows and doors and I grumble a bit about paying $250 for mold.

This is the moment I find out why Mexico would sell an entire bay off to a resort. I get my swim stuff on and eagerly pad out to the ocean, only to find the sand like coarse shards of glass. It’s difficult to walk on and impossible to get into the surf with because the break hurls pieces of sliceyness and it’s just a miserable time. 

This is the last I visit the beach. It becomes a lovely, decorative background for the experience. I make many jokes about the brochure. It does actually look like the brochure, just, well… for looking only.

Secrets Huatulco Resorts

Short of the beach, there is the pool. It’s one of the largest pools I’ve seen, and not designed for swimming so much as paddling up to one of the multiple pool bars. This is my first contact with the groupthink of the day, as I hear a group of drunk USAmericans shout in unison:


I float over to sate my curiosity at the hubbub, and see one of the staff with a tray of what looks to be between a half and two thirds size glasses of beer. The drunk patrons guzzle these happily. 

I realize that with unlimited free anything, the staff has had to limit the portion size. For alcohol this means smaller size everything, and watered down drinks. I don’t end up drinking any of the unlimited alcohol. I do end up paying even more money for mezcal.

Even with the limited portion sizes, unlimited alcohol carries a heavy weight. As far as I can tell, much of the staff’s responsibility is minimizing the damage of overconsumption of alcohol. Secrets Huatulco resorts claims to have scooped up many of the staff from small villages in Mexico where they wouldn’t have received an education, with the bulk being from the local region, which makes most of its money off of fishing and subsistence farming.

The staff is impeccable, obviously Secrets doesn’t skimp on their training.

They provide world class hospitality service in fluent English and Spanish. I feel absolutely sorry for them as handlers of fat, drunk, often racist middle Americans. More than once I see two to three staff flanking some large, drunk USAmerican who is leaking various bodily fluids – either escorting them to their room or I’m sure some hidden medical facility that one could maybe find if one read the manual.

After realizing that puking in the pool from one too many mini-beers is not a rare event, I’m less excited about the pool.

Secrets Huatulco Resorts restaurant

I’m on the hunt for restaurants. It becomes clear, again, that all the included restaurants basically serve recombinations of crap ingredients, with a heavy emphasis on sugar, dairy, and wheat. My partner and I shell out money on top of the all-inclusive room price to eat at a decent Oaxacan restaurant. We could have walked 40 minutes and bought a tlayuda from the side of the road for 1/10 of the price and likely made from better ingredients with more care, but hey, shhhhhh, it’s a Secret.

The location of Secrets Huatulco resorts is weird.

It’s in the middle of nowhere, really. Undeveloped, unattractive brush and crags on all sides. I suppose if one is going to pretend that one’s resort has literally everything a person could need – then making everything 5-10 times the price one would pay elsewhere and putting it somewhere where one really can’t reach anywhere else is key.

Almost everyone I meet staying at Secrets is from the United States. Due to this, USAmerican English is the only language I hear, except maybe if the staff is talking to each other. In the US, it’s really not rare to hear hotel staff speaking to each other in Spanish. And so, the audio soundscape of Secrets Huatulco resorts identical to what it would be if the place where in the United States. It even feels like the US, not like Mexico

“Mini-Beers!” is now a frequent pepper of said soundscape, resounding through most of the buildings that horseshoe the pool, with the exception of the fancy restaurants inside the building that don’t have a pool/ocean view as a part of their offering.

I marvel at these people, many of whom have traveled very far to be here, who would come to a foreign country only to immerse themselves in a landscape wherein they have no idea they are in a foreign country. I’ve been to half the states in Mexico and can confidently say that Secrets Huatulco resorts would not be on any of my recommendation lists.

This same phenomenon is reflected in the food, which is crafted with a USAmerican diner in mind. Very little of what is served at Secrets Huatulco resorts is Oaxacan food, or even Mexican food. Pizza, burgers, steak, fries – all readily available. There’s even an Italian restaurant on site, which of course serves Italian American fare, not Italian food from Italy.

There’s irony in this. Some portion of the experience/room price is involved in getting these ingredients that make USAmericans feel safe and comfortable all the way from the United States to here on a random cove on the Oaxacan coast that isn’t served by any major highways. Like, if people actually wanted local food instead of crap USAmerican junk food, the “all-inclusive” price could be made lower.

Secrets Huatulco Pool

I overhear some entertainment on the way back to my room and run away from it. Definitely white people music. I can handle the watered down food because I can pick and choose, but watching drunk white USAmericans dance while bored Mexicans play music they don’t want to play is too much for me.

And with that I’ve pretty much exhausted what there is to do at Secrets. There’s some exercise classes I could make the next morning, but I’m too busy with Third Soy Mocha and Second Dessert to get myself there. 

My partner and I pass out early, not at all using the room for fun adult time. It’s a little icky thinking of the kind of sweaty, overindulgent, grease-laden sex that might have been had in the bed we are sleeping in. The room, by the way, is no different from any other hotel room. It’s not specifically outfitted for adult fun. In my mind, “all inclusive adults only” should at least involve a sex swing.


The next day, speaking of Burning Man, is the day where we buy Burning Man tickets, which is a harrowing event that involves clicking on something at an exact moment and shelling out $500. It’s definitely an adults-only moment. Doesn’t come with the concierge experience of Secrets Huatulco resorts, so I’m glad for Second Dessert afterwards.

I leave Secrets Huatulco resorts feeling bloated, miserable, and with a sugar hangover. The Secret that Secrets knows is that adult fun is the same consumptive fun we provide for  children, just with different materials. The secret to Secrets is that one will be so sick from over-indulgence of various kinds that one will not want to engage in any kind of adult fun. Ha ha, fun secret.


Other Oaxacan adventures:

Burning Man is a better adult playground:

Lap Dance

Hot Israeli


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