How Secret Bay Became the Caribbean’s Most Unique Luxury Resort
You know the moment you arrive, when you see the trees and the cliffs and the faint outline of Guadeloupe in the background. Then you start to see the wooden villas appear in the heart of the rainforest.
Dominica’s Secret Bay isn’t like any luxury resort in the Caribbean.
And that’s precisely the point for a hotel that single-handedly turned Dominica into a luxury destination and has since set the standard for what an eco-friendly, “six star” luxury resort can achieve.
When proprietor Gregor Nassief set out to create Secret Bay more than a decade ago, the plan was “not hotel rooms per se,” he tells Caribbean Journal.
The idea was to cultivate “a home way from home, where guests could experience the luxury of time and space and reconnect to themselves, to the ones they love and to nature.”
At its core, Nassief says, “it was about finding the balance between luxury and the preservation of the natural environment. That’s where discrete, personalized and authentic service, along with the thoughtful design and the architecture of the villas, played such a critical role.”
What started with just four villas at the edge of a cliffside in Portsmouth, Dominica has become not just the leading luxury resort on the island but one of the most celebrated resorts, well, anywhere in the world.
Secret Bay has since expanded, with what are now 20 villas, including a thriving residential component called the Residences at Secret Bay, a nod to the growing trend in the Caribbean toward residential resort ownership.
The villas are the centerpiece: striking, eco-friendly design that includes private infinity-edge plunge pools, with indoor-outdoor showers, state-of-the-art appliances and endlessly high-level technology. Plainly, you won’t find units like this at any other luxury hotel in the Caribbean, ones that so effortlessly blend into the landscape yet manage to deliver such unbridled luxury and design — along with ultra-personalized concierge service for every unit.
Secret Bay is now a member of the culinary-resort portfolio Relais and Chateaux, and includes everything from the longest funicular in the Caribbean and a “no-menu” dining experience that gives guests a locally-sourced, authentic, extravagantly delicious dining program.
But even with this growth, the resort has stayed true to its low-density, environmentally-focused ethos.
“Throughout the evolution, the ratio of built structures to land has never exceeded 10 percent,” Nassief says. “So from the perspective of what we set out to create – the luxury of time and space, deep connection, authenticity, privacy and seclusion – we have not changed a bit. Our DNA is very much the same as it was 12 years ago.”
That is in large part due to the exacting demands of today’s luxury travelers, who are looking for a very different product than they might have been a decade or two ago.
“The luxury traveler is really looking for understated luxuries like bespoke service and access to exclusive destinations that are still being discovered,” Nassief says. “When you consider Dominica, the ‘Nature Island,’ and all the natural luxury it has to offer, it’s really an experience that cannot be replicated. Our villa hosts are second to none, creating tailored experiences for guests where no two visitors have the same experience. We’re seeing this kind of service have such a positive impact on guests who want a relaxed experience where they don’t have to make a ton of decisions. That’s true luxury.”
The resort has even debuted its first-ever ADA-friendly villas, accessible for guests in wheelchairs and even including special lifts that allow them to move between the two levels of the two-bedroom villas — a very rare feat for a resort set in the middle of the rainforest.
“When looking at Secret Bay, because of the rugged nature of the terrain and the unspoilt beauty, this is probably the last place you would think that would be accessible,” he says. “ But we really wanted to be inclusive, and our main amenities are also accessible, including our beachwalk, lap pool and welcome house areas, along with the new funicular.”
So what’s on the horizon for Secret Bay?
This year will see the addition of a few more villas, this time tailored for the needs of family travelers. That’s along with something called Bwa Dean: Food, Art and Brewery, though Nassief won’t share more than that it is a “unique” brewery concept.
Deeper into the future, it’s more of the company’s purposefully slow, methodical approach to development.
“We have been evolving slowly, every year adding villas and new amenities as it makes sense. It’s our preferred approach as it allows us to continuously reevaluate, reinvent and evolve in a way that constantly surprises and delights,” he says. “Our master plan is not carved in stone, but we have some exciting new villas and special amenities planned. It’s a secret for now.”
For more, visit Secret Bay.