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“BEST B&B IN SAN JUAN del SUR - a frequent visitor”

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The Secret Cove Inn
Reviewed 25 October 2011

I stayed at The Secret Cove Inn in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua of October 2011 on my surfing trip and I must say, I felt at right home from the first time I met the colorful and witty owner, Ray Jackson. Centrally located to all the activities San Juan has to offer, it is only a short walking distance to the beautiful Pacific ocean. The Secret Cove Inn is a clean, quiet B&B with a friendly staff in a very secure location that boast's it"s own private 34' sailing yacht for those sunset cruise's. I would definetly recommend the Secret Cove Inn to anyone wanting to get off the beaten path....James H.

  • Stayed: October 2011, travelled solo
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2  Thank james h
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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30 - 36 of 43 reviews

Reviewed 21 September 2011

Wow, I can’t believe that it’s taken me so long to write a review about this place and share my experience with the rest of the travel community. My girlfriend and I stayed at the Secret Cove Inn, In San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua for the entire month of January 2011. The place is well... decent; it’s a small inn, with only 5 or so rooms. Aesthetically its very pleasant, nice colors, good decor, its small and cute, you get the picture. It’s owned by Ray, a retired lawyer/wanna be real estate developer from California , and his partner Donna.
So here is our story, we first arrive at the Secret Cove and are shown our room by one of the workers, the room included a queen size bed, shared bath, and last but not least a "security lock box" for valuables that was bolted into a night stand next to the bed. The room was decent by Nica standards (considering the price), we got the keys, put our stuff in the room, our valuables in the "security box" and then hit the town. The first few days were fine until we got the feeling that someone had been stealing money from the provided security box. Being owned by an American couple, perhaps we were a little naive to believe that this box and the inn itself was secure and safe to leave our money in. We had all of our cash in the box, and after a few days realized it seemed we were spending our money faster than we thought we were. About five days into our stay, we went to the ATM withdrew some US dollars, counted the money, kept the receipt, placed them in the "security box" then left for the evening. The following morning we opened the box counted the money and, surprise surprise, $60 was missing. Then it all started to make sense, what was happening was one of the people who worked at the inn had a duplicate key for the box and was stealing our money little by little when we were gone. We were shocked,and without accusing anyone in particular (they only had 3 employees), told both Donna and Ray that someone had been stealing from us out of our room. By this time we had done some accounting of cash withdrawn from the ATM vs. how much we typically spent in a day. Even using our lowest estimate, we figured that over $400 USD was stolen from us out of the "security box" in the room. Ray eventually filed a police report, but because we didn’t actually catch the person in the act of stealing there was little that could be done. Eventually other guests at the hotel came forward (remember there are only 5 or so rooms), saying that they too felt like money was being stolen from their rooms when they were gone. Ultimately one employee was let go, although we felt they had fired the wrong person (the work schedule made it near impossible for the person that was fired to steal from us). Donna was very sincere about the situation and assured us that she would compensate us for some of the money stolen with either cash or a discounted rate. Ray unfortunately didn’t handle the situation as well, and argued in typical lawyer fashion that although the money was locked in a security box provided by him that he was somehow not responsible for money being stolen. If anything, by providing us with a “security box” Ray just made it EASIER for employees to steal from the guests. Also, like I said, this happened only a week into our month long stay, but we had already PAID for the month and were kind of stuck. We decided to continue staying because Donna assured us that after the police report was finalized we would be compensated for our losses somehow. Unfortunately for us, shortly after the incident, Donna left to return to the United States, leaving only Ray in charge. A week before our stay was up we kept trying to talk to Ray about what was happening with our stolen money. He kept assuring us he was doing "something" about it, which ultimately amounted to him calling my girlfriend and I liars and doing anything about the situation. When I told him that Donna had given us her word that she would compensate us, he again called us liars then refused to give us a number or email to reach Donna back in the States.
All I can say is the place itself decent, but the vibe is weird, and the people running it even weirder. I can only liken it to renting a room in the home of your alcoholic grandparents. Like another reviewer posted before, the place really does make you feel like your intruding in someone’s private home. This was our first stop on our three months Nicaragua Trip, and because this was our first time in the country we initially felt more comfortable staying at an "American" run inn. This was a big mistake, when traveling in a country like Nicaragua, which I'll remind you all is still the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, its best to give your tourist dollars to the people who need it the most, the locals. We stayed in Nicaragua for an additional two months after leaving the Secret Cove and from then on only stayed in locally run inns and hotels, and we never had any problems. The local owners are much nicer people, the hotels are better, and they cost less.
Also the breakfast is ALWAYS gallo pinto with eggs and toast, which you can get literally anywhere in town for less than 1.50$ USD. P.P.S. don’t bother with Rays “Secret Cove Development”, the road to get to the development isn’t going to be finished anytime soon, and there’s a reason that 99% of Nica homes aren’t constructed from wood!

Room Tip: They say two of the rooms have AC, but when we were there they didnt work. Some rooms have a TV, but...
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  • Stayed: January 2011, travelled as a couple
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7  Thank doitjustin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
RJesq, Owner at The Secret Cove Inn, responded to this reviewResponded 5 October 2011

Baffling. The purpose of the boxes was to store passports, tickets and other travel documents. None of our employees were discharged. The Natuonal poloice investigated the allegations at our request. Employee prints were not found inside the box. Room keys are required for entry into a room; they are kept under separate lock and key and the box keys are only available to guests. We have since discountinued use of the boxes without problems from guests. We had no way to determine what these guests placed in the boxes but they did stay an additional month after the incident for a discounted rate.

Happy news. The tourist road south to the Costa Rican border is under construction and the first 5 kilometers has been completed.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 August 2011

I enjoyed my stay in San Juan del Sur mostly because the accommodations at this lovely B&B were excellent. Clean spacious rooms, and free use of internet and a landline USA phone line made staying in touch with home easy. The host, Ray Jackson, is a very knowledgeable help with travel arrangements and an all around good conversationalist. I can highly recommend this little place for long or short term visits. The large rooms share a bath and some are airconditioned. The casa is close to everything.

Room Tip: all rooms are clean and comfy
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  • Stayed: July 2011, travelled solo
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1  Thank lori r
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 January 2011

We stayed 2 nights and really enjoyed ourselves. There are 4 rooms, 2 of which have A/C so make sure you specify what you want. A/C costs a bit more, but not significantly. Ray & Donna can provide info about the area and help with travel plans. The common areas are very comfortable and you feel like you're visiting a friend's house. Breakfast is included and in SJDS this place is good value. Overall, a good experience. Thanks Ray & Donna!

  • Stayed: January 2011, travelled as a couple
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Thank Gary B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 January 2011

The place itself is nice, but its a bit too pricey for what you get (we paid 22 USD for a double room). The common area / kitchen is very clean. However, they did not clean either our room or the bathroom (that we shared with another room) for the whole time we stayed. The room was alright but the shared bathroom got a bit gross after 4 days..

Brakfast is included in the price, which is alright. They do not have any computer you can use. The staff (one in the day, and one in the night as a guard) were very friendly. They don't speak English but are doing their best in communicating. (they work about 12 hours a day and 6 days a week, dont forget to give them a tip :)

It was only one owner there when we stayed, American Ray who's in his 70s, he's in general a quite nice and very talkative man but we felt a bit uncomfortable around him unfortunately. When we had breakfast and he was there, we felt like we couldn't eat "too much" (and we're two girls that don't eat that much really). That could have been just a feeling in our minds, I really don't wanna be unfair to him. But then, if we watched a film or something on the tv in the common area in the evening, he could come to sit down and just change channel in the middle of our film, without saying anything! It felt like he wanted to show us that he was the owner and he decided what to watch on tv in his house. Very strange to me. (Well, we payed to stay there and there's no tv in the bed room. It felt like if you would stay with friends or relatives just a bit too long, that will say when it's a bit uncomfortable atmosphere) Well, the place is nice and staff friendly, but due to the price, the uncleaned bathroom, and the atmosphare we felt from the owner I would not really recommend this place and I'm really sorry to say that.

..And a highly personal oppinion - if I would go to San Juan again I would try to find a place with a local owner, they probably need your dollar the most. This was the first place we stayed in during our travelings in Nicaragua and we decided to go there due to the great reviews on tripadvisor, unfortunately we could not really agree this time.

  • Stayed: October 2010, travelled with friends
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5  Thank Myranm
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 January 2011

I spent 4 nights at the Secret Cove at the end of December. Ray and Donna, the owners, we’re away on vacation so I never met them. Their son and grandson were watching over the place. Both were great people. Friendly. Helpful. Polite. Their staff doesn’t speak English, but they try really hard to communicate and take care of you. You can’t ask more. Sean arranged a session with their massage therapist (or just massage lady) on the roof deck. She did an excellent job. They also set up surf lessons for me with Louies next door, which was great.

The downside…
No hot water. Normal, I think, for this country.
Breakfast could vary slightly. But it was very good.
No views from room windows. But I didn't go there to hang out in the room.
Their website pictures don’t do the place justice. So you have to take a leap of faith.

The upside…
Like home.
Friendly people.
Affordable.
Free phone calls to the states.
Kitchen to use.
They help arrange things like surfing, massage, etc.
They offer advice on restaurants, getting around, and keeping safe.
Great location right in town.
Etc, etc, etc.

On the whole, it’s a great place at a great price. I’m considering staying there for a month someday while learning Spanish.

Enjoy your day.

  • Stayed: December 2010, travelled solo
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Thank km3021
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 December 2010

We read the great reviews on TripAdvisor and decided to give it a go. It was a little hard to book, since we had to call a couple of times just to make sure they got our reservation. Even then, they forgot to record it and we had to proactively email them so that Donna could send us the security deposit request. She said she'd send us the final payment request a day or two before we arrived and help us book tours, which of course never happened.

When we first arrived at the Secret Cove, the atmosphere was very unwelcoming as no one spoke English or smiled. We were shown to our room, which consisted of two twin beds we had to push together. The room was tiny and the windows were very small. On the bright side, the common room area was very nice looking and there was a hammock in the upstairs common area that was nice if you felt like relaxing.

As far as cleanliness goes, everything seemed very clean when we first arrived although our room and bathroom were never cleaned throughout the duration of our stay which got a little gross. Since the toilet paper in Nicaragua must go in the waste bin rather than the toilet, the toilet garbage got very full in our 5 day stay and the wind knocked down the garbage a few times, making the floor unappetizing to step on. The toilet also eventually got clogged and proved itself useless, which was never attended to.

Service-wise, the people were nice but not helpful. The American owners who speak English didn't help us book anything when we asked and if we wanted to make a local call they simply directed us to places where we could pay for a call. Breakfast was free which was nice, although it was essentially the same thing every day. Since we never received the final payment request for our stay over the Internet as promised, they forced us to pay for our stay in cash the day we left.

This was extremely inconvenient, as it took away from our cash for the remainder of the trip. Even when we asked if they could just have Donna send the final PayPal request that day like she said she would so that we could pay by card, her son and grandson refused, as if it was our problem and not theirs. Out of all of the places we stayed in Nicaragua, this was by far the worst (and ironically more expensive than the other places we stayed).

  • Stayed: December 2010, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank TMS86
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about The Secret Cove Inn

Address: Av El Albanil, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Region: Nicaragua > Rivas Department > San Juan del Sur
Amenities:
Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi )
Hotel Style:
Ranked #38 of 53 B&Bs / Inns in San Juan del Sur
Price Range: £18 - £21 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 5

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