Is this what paradise is like?
Sipping on an iced coffee (because what else would I be drinking?) under a white draped cabana by a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the city, I had to pinch myself a few times.
Was I at home, dreaming?
It certainly did not feel like home. And why would I want it to? After all, this was Playa del Carmen. Dan and I didn’t come to Mexico to feel at home. We wanted to feel away from home. The Reef 28 felt like paradise.
We were invited to experience this brand new hotel on our recent trip to Mexico. Newly opened in May 2018, if you’re travelling to the Riviera Maya, it is the perfect all-inclusive, adult-only hotel. A departure from the traditional hotels you might find in Mexico, we loved The Reef 28 for its boutique luxury experience, impressive extras, and romantic views that made us not want to check-out.
When we arrived the first thing we noticed was the chic and contemporary lobby, complete with fun swing chairs and a cocktail bar while you wait. We happened to arrive before the normal check-in time but the hotel concierge and reception greeted us with a warm smile and kindly arranged for us to receive our room key early. We were also given cool leather bracelets to wear, which gave us access to all the restaurants on-site, bars, and amenities. It’s not the typical plastic kind you get at other all-inclusive resorts. Even their bracelets are modern and stylish! This is one resort bracelet I actually wanted to keep for keepsake.
You cannot get a better location than this. The Reef 28 stands perfectly in the heart of Playa del Carmen. It’s one block from the lively walking street of Quinta Avenida and one block from the coveted Mamitas Beach. Unlike some of the resorts in the hotel zone, the location of The Reef 28 allows you to step outside and actually experience what Mexico is really like. Everything is in walking distance. Local bars, cafés, and restaurants stay open until late and something is always happening at the Town Square.
There are no shortage of luxury amenities. The spa at Okom is a place to relax your mind and senses from the outside world. They offer a hydrotherapy area, sauna, steam room, manicures, pedicures, facials, and a long list of massage options.
A fully equipped gym is also available from 6am-12am but, to be honest, we didn’t use it because there was so much more of the hotel we wanted to experience.
Where we did spend most of our time was on the rooftop deck. It is one of the largest and, in our opinion, one of the best rooftops in Playa del Carmen. Between two jacuzzis (one hot and one cold), idyllic draped cushioned cabanas and a heated infinity pool with romantic views over the city – we didn’t want to leave. This is where we felt complete bliss.
The bar Arriba played a good mix of top hits with classic dance music (Fridays are salsa night), and the poolside dining from our cabana was heavenly. The staff handing out Mexican brownies mid-day was a nice treat.
When you’ve been baking all day in the sun or exploring the city, it’s nice to come back to a comfy room. We were delighted to find a King size bed, luxuriously spacious bathroom with large glass doors and a rain shower, a separate sofa bed, and sitting area. There was more than enough space for two people.
The bed was very cozy and there was a cute door hanger provided to “shhh” people away when you were ready to call it a night.
We also appreciated the little luxuries they offered, like the botanical wellness products in every room. Most hotels give you generic products, sometimes chemical-based or animal-tested, but everything at The Reef 28 is organic and eco-friendly, from the shampoo to the hand soap and lotion.
The only downside about our room was that we didn’t have the greatest view from the balcony however, we didn’t mind all that much because the views from the rooftop made up for it.
For a city that is metres away from the ocean, do you know how hard it is to find good ceviche in Playa del Carmen? Until we landed at The Reef 28 we hadn’t found real ceviche.
The ceviche and fish tacos at Cachito were, by far, the best we found on our trip. Cachito is the Mexican restaurant on the premises with a notable menu. Their menu was designed by a chef who has cooked for people like Barack Obama and Cindy Crawford. Each dish offers an innovative take on traditional ingredients.
Like guacamole with grasshoppers.
I’ll be honest, I may have had the courage to order guacamole with grasshoppers but shock kicked in when it arrived at the table. I couldn’t believe this actually existed and the waiter laughed at me because I wasn’t exactly as quick to dive in. He made our experience really fun and memorable. I think he was a new waiter at the restaurant because he had never tried grasshoppers either – so he helped me by eating the first grasshopper for me, as a trade that if he ate one I had to eat one too. I eventually made good on my word and I was pleasantly surprised. These little guys were in fact kinda tasty, crunchy and salty.
Cachito was our favourite restaurant but the hotel has plenty of other dining options with 3 different restaurants on-site. If your palates crave a change from Mexican food, El Asiatico serves up Asian-inspired dishes. Arriba, by the pool, offers light bar snacks like burgers and wings and, when you don’t feel like leaving your room, you can order room service which we found had really good variety (the quesadillas are excellent).
All restaurants are à la carte, except for Veinti8cho which is where you’ll enjoy your breakfast buffet in the morning.
Activities & Extras
One of the best highlights of The Reef 28 Hotel is all the extras you get when you book. If you like water activities you get free, unlimited access to kayaks, paddle boards, sailboats, lifejackets, and goggles. Guests also get free access to The Reef’s other two sister properties – The Reef Playacar and The Reef Coco Beach – all 4-star resorts. A shuttle runs every hour between each resort where you can get the same all-inclusive access to the beach and all amenities.
If you’d rather stay in-land you can use their free bicycles to explore the city or book one of their excursions – swim with dolphins, zip line through the jungle, or visit the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins before the grounds open.
The Riviera Maya is also home to the second largest coral reef in the world which means snorkeling is one of the best things you can do here.
Because there are so many options, the hardest decision you’ll have to make is deciding how to spend your days – do you relax in the sun all day or customize your vacation with a different adventure each day?
The rates vary depending on the season but considering all the inclusions you get, such as meals, activities, access to 3 different resorts, and its quality rating of 4.5 stars, the value really is impressive.
If you book The Reef 28 Resort, you’ll receive a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine with 3-nights reservation or more.
Who is this hotel for?
This hotel is ideal for couples who want an affordable luxury getaway with plenty of extras included. It’s for those who want to be close to the beach while still being able to explore city life and local culture, unlike hotel-zone resorts. This place really is the best of both worlds.
The Reef 28 Hotel checked all the boxes for us and was everything we could ask for in an all-inclusive boutique luxury hotel. The staff were unbelievably courteous and warm, the food was excellent, all the extras you get when you book are really impressive, and the spectacular rooftop make us want to return again.
I was a guest of The Reef Resorts. As always, all opinions are my own.