Old Reviews – Reef Playacar

Reef Club Playacar Sylvie ~ Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

May 2009

Arrival: April 5 to 19. We were a group of 6 in the range of 39 to 67 staying at the Reef Playacar for 2 weeks, from April 5 to April 19. This is my 10th all inclusive hotel. I’ve stayed in resorts ranked from 3 to 5 stars, in locations such as Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico.

We found this hotel very charming in it’s jungle like setting. This hotel is located in a gated community where condos and seasonal villas are found. So essentially you are in a gated hotel within a gated community. Very safe.

We avoid larger resorts as we find them more impersonal. We liked the close proximity to Playa del Carmen (10-15 min walk). The Reef was a perfect size, very easy to meet people, the staff was super friendly. A simple greeting and a tip goes along way to getting great and friendly service. We tip at home and get less service, why wouldn’t you do it here??

Property, Beach and Pool: We loved the layout of the resort. Both pools were always clean. Most mornings we walked to Playa or went off the property. After our return we never had a problem rounding up 6 loungers by either poolside or the beach. The bars were very nearby with no waiting time for drinks. We did have one of the nicest beaches; I didn’t find it full of litter. You won’t need water socks here as it’s white sand, no rocks to hurt your feet. Some of the hotels along the way had no beach at all.

Restaurants & Bars: Jesus at the beach bar, Victor, Felix & Alejandro at the swim up bar, and Pablo in the lobby bar were the best! We ate at the Italian restaurant once and it was good. The buffet had a great breakfast. Sure, the buffet gets tiresome after a few days, but that’s true in every hotel I’ve been to. The food was ok. My advice is to be careful eating the meat. They have trouble cooking the meat and fish all the way through. Take the smaller pieces, they have a tendency to be well done than the bigger pieces or just ask them to re-cook it.

Rooms: We stayed in Bldg. 1 and 3 for the first week. After our return from Cozumel we were in Bldgs. 4 & 5. I’m not quite sure what some of the reviews are complaining about. Ours, both times, were very clean, spacious and not dated at all. It’s typical of what you’d find at a 3.5 to 4 star in any of the Caribbean countries. Our first room had a loud AC unit. My boyfriend fixed that with electrical tape he brought with him.

Some comments on here gripe about the fee for a safe. Every All Inclusive I’ve been to has charged for a hotel safe. It’s not unusual. My note of caution though is to be careful of getting a bill for water you did not drink! Report it to the reception desk as soon as it happens. It happened to us twice. I think a worker helped themselves to the water. I think this because my watch also went missing when this happened. Hence the importance of the safe!!

Excursions: There is so much to do in the Mayan and this area is so rich in culture and history. We took trips to Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and Tulum ruins. We also went to Xcaret for the night show. Previously I’ve been to Xel Ha, lots of fun. We walked to Playa several times and shopped at the Walmart, Mega and the Maya Centro mall.

The hotel offered a 2 night stay to the El Cozumeleno on Cozumel because they were overbooked. We had intended to go there for a snorkelling trip, so it was great to have our ferry fee and accommodations taken care of. The El Cozumeleno is a nice hotel, well laid out. The beach is like an aquarium. You can walk into the water and see beautiful yellow fish. If you snorkel further along the pier there, you can see clown fish and in the middle, halfway to the bouys you’ll spot a statue.

The hotel service on the other hand sucked! The food was not good. We were served wine in juice glasses! And the first night we were there, they had a beach party, cut out all the lights and we had to eat in the dark. Not only that, they ran out of glasses at the bar after the show and we couldn’t get drinks!!! It’s also the first hotel I’ve been to where the alcohol was measure when they made the drinks!

The rooms were nice, not really different than what you’d find at the Reef. They did not have fridges. The pools were filthy. Any time you looked in the pool you could see an oily film. Even first thing in the morning when you would normally find a pool pristine!

I would never go back to the El Cozumeleno but would definitely go back to the Reef Playacar.

Return home: None of us got sick during our stay.

Please contact me at travelissylvie@hotmail.com if you have any questions.

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Reef Club Playacar Lisa ~ Rhode Island

July 2006

Overall we had a great week…the weather was beautiful and the resort was adequate.

My husband and I traveled with another couple for a weeks vacation.
We booked through a local tour agency, but did our own research and booked our own flights. We will definatley fly direct next time…

ARRIVAL – On arrival at the hotel we were greeted promptly. The desk clerk spoke very good english, and assisted us in moving our rooms so that we could be in the same building. The lobby was small but nice enough. The grounds were beautiful, small paths (well lit at night), jungle like atmosphere. We had been given a map that was somewhat misleading, as they had evidentally been making some changes. We never found a spa, the gym was moved, the ocean lounge closed (now the gym)…

ROOM – We had a king size bed on the third floor with a balcony looking out to the Riu next door. Room was adequate; bed was a bit hard, a/c was noisy at first (very prompt maintenence and repair), safe was available at no extra charge, mini bar was empty but for water for $1 (hint you can buy a 1/5 liter bottle in gift shop for $1.50). When we questioned the changes, we were told by our local travel representative that the management is always changing things.

BEACHES AND POOLS – There is definately some leftover hurricane damage…the beaches are eroded and smaller…there is exposed sandbags, and rocks all along the beach. But hey your in Mexico and it is still good…The website we had been viewing for the last 6 months had described two pools; one as being adults only and the other an activities pool. There was no adult only pool…and most times you had to wait for the preteens to leave the poolbar to order a drink.

FOOD – Buffet food was ok, not a huge selection, but not bad. We ate at the snack bar which is open from 11a -6p and then 11p – 2a. (nothing seemed to open on time, sometimes early sometimes late) good burgers, sandwiches, wings, etc. We ate at the Italian restaurant one night, service was slow, portions small for the men, food was good though. We never made it to the Mexican Grill (only open 2 days a week) but we heard it was wonderful. We spent a lot of time at the pool bar, Feliciano our bartender all week was wonderful. We tipped him in the beginning of the week and the end of the week, about $18 each time.
Although they say tips are included…if you have good service, tip…these guys make about $9 a day. If you see Feliciano order dos mosquitos….you’ll enjoy them!

EXCURSIONS / ACTIVITIES – We hiked down the beach to find a banana boat ride which was a lot of fun. We took the ferry to Cozumel and took a snorkel trip on the Fury Catamaran, snorkeling was good, but the beach stop after was just ok…we were hungry and tired at that point…lots of flies on the beach. The guys scuba dove and had a great time, saw lots of fish and turtles…my friends husband was certified so he did a 100 foot dive and really enjoyed it. They booked those through the hotel water club. I recommend walking the beach and getting prices on any water activities, then see if your hotel will match, if not you know where to go.

SHOPPING – We did not shop much, but you can take a short walk out the hotel in one direction to a small shopping area, or a bit of a longer walk in the other direction to 5th Avenue for lot’s of shopping and restaurants. We usually walked there and took a $5 cab ride back to the hotel. We ate at a restaurant one evening and it was real good. There is lot’s to choose from and everyone offers coupons. If you’ve never shopped in Mexico or 5th Avenue, then a hint to shop around and never pay full price. One shop may charge as much as 5 times more than a shop down the street…

WEATHER – Our weather was wonderful. Hot but not too hot, humid but not too humid. We had clouds and a sprinkle, but nothing to right home about.

OVERALL – It was a nice week, but our friends who travel to Mexico often feel they would try going back to The Reef Coco Beach which is now renamed to The Grand Coco Bay. They had a better week there, felt that it had just those few extra amenities which make it higher in the star rating. Or they would go back to The Iberostar Tucan, which definately has more amenities.

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Reef Club Playacar – Mayan Riviera Bartek

March 2006

My girlfriend and I, ages 27 and 24 vacationed at this resort post Wilma.

Loved it. I am not a big fan of the ‘mega’ hotels. This place is more like a village with a bunch of 3 level houses that are in great shape. There is no damage to this hotel at all. The lobby is very nice, but small, the walk to your room is fantastic, the landscape at the resort is like a tropical jungle. Our room was very nice, clean and well stocked with everything you need.

All of the staff are too nice. I did not have one bad experience. Bartolome is a host at the Italian restaurant, he was able to arrange reservations for us many times. He has lived in the Greater Toronto Area for 2 years – so he is a big fan of Canada. Neri was a great waiter at the buffet, always ready to serve, get you this, ask if you want more of anything – something you would expect at a fine restaurant here in Canada. One catch, he knew we tipped – so my story may be very different from someone else’s. Leo the entertainment guy was full of energy. He offered marange (sp?) lessons to us. The maids were fine. We tipped them $2 a day, did not experience the fancy towel animals but we did get turndown service every night.

We booked a la carte most nights as it was unlimited. I was not a big fan of the buffet – too much salt and butter, it was difficult to eat healthy. The Italian restaurant is fine. Nothing too special about the food. I had beef there most times I went and my girlfriend had salmon. The Mexican restaurant to me was fantastic, my girlfriend says that her food had way too much butter in it. Great taste, but it comes with a tag of 100,000 calories…

We ate out in the city as well. Do no remember the names of the places but they are pretty good. Some are more popular than others as you will see if you go. I wanted to try the more authentic Mexican restaurants. Did not get sick from the food at all.

Small but it does the trick. From the pictures we saw before booking the vacation we were somewhat surprised to later find out that there is the RIU Palace on the left of Reef and some houses on right (walking out of the hotel). The beach is cut off on both sides and the distance from the pool area to the ocean is about 30 feet. Does not look at all like the picture of Sunquest.

DO NOT GO to Cozumel for snorkeling. The reef is no more. The hurricane was over the island for over 60 hours. We wasted time and money going there. The ferry costs $20 per person for a two way pass. The snorkeling will cost you from $40 to whatever you can get them down to. We are able to pay only $15 per person for the snorkeling tour in a glass bottom boat. We were both very disappointed with the reef. It was mostly sand and rocks, only a few fish. The tour guy at our resort played dumb and said he did not know it was that bad – so did the concierge at the hotel – she was very sorry that it was so bad and told us that she would advise others of the conditions. She mentioned that Puerto Morales was better – but at this point we were all snorkeled out.

Tulum and Xel-Sha tour. I really liked this one. The site is small but worth the short trip. They will tell you it takes about 20-30 minutes to get there, which might be true if you go non-stop, but all the tours buses stop at other hotels so unless you are at the Baha Principe, be ready for 1 to 1:30 bus ride. Tulum tour should be a little longer I think. I would have liked more time at the beach there – very beautiful. Xel-Sha is a huge tourist destination and the snorkeling there was much better than at Cozumel. However, the water there is not too clear. Lots to do there, swim with dolphin’s at an extra charge, more activities at an extra charge…this part of the trip was too long.

So many stores on 5th avenue…one can go crazy. You want braids amiga? Honeymooners? Great Prices! Come my friend. Are you from Canada? Are you from Germany? They all want your $. I was not there to shop, we did pick up a few things but for the most part we were there to walk around, have some food and be away from the resorts. The town was about a 15 minutes walk from the resort. I would not cab it, unless it is late at night, the street on the way back is not lit up very well. Also, the sidewalks had random 3 foot deep holes in them. I am serious. So watch your step. Make sure you never pay full price. I’ve people just pay the sticker price a bunch of times. A good starting point is cutting the price in half, then going down another 10%. If they say no, walk out. On your way out they will ask you to come back and talk more about the price. If not, there are about another 100 stores with the same items.

We landed in rain. It cleared up and was about 25 to 30 for the rest of the vacation. While waiting for a phone, I talked a couple that was there for two weeks, they said that the week before was cold. I learned that when we arrived, winter there just ended. I have no complaints about the weather.

If you would like more details, you can contact me at bartekczerczak@hotmail.com

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Reef Club Playacar – Mayan Riviera Marcia ~ Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

March 2005

My sister and I stayed at the Reef Club Playacar for a week at the end of January, 2005. We had made our reservations on the advice of our travel agent who had just had a client return from this resort. It was through TNT vacations, and we were extremely pleased with the trip. The resort is small in comparison to some, but we found it very clean with a mostly helpful staff and many amenities. The buffet was always well stocked and while there wasn’t a huge choice, we were pleased – particularly with the many fresh fruits and vegetables. The Italian restaurant was very special. We ate there two nights and thoroughly enjoyed the quality of the food and treatment. The pools were cleaned every morning (I didn’t once miss a sunrise, so was up early and saw this done each day), the grounds were picked up and maintenance was ongoing. Unfortunately, the beach had suffered from erosion, although it was still beautiful, and was in much better condition than some of the larger resort neighbors. The rooms were not huge, but certainly spacious enough for comfort. The towels were changed daily and we had plenty. There were even face cloths, unlike other resorts we have visited. During the last part of our stay, out television lost audio, but we didn’t miss it. Who wants to watch much tv when you have a view of the Caribbean? I would and have recommended this resort to others, and wouldn’t hesitate to go back again.

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Reef Club Playacar – Mayan Riviera Brian & Cathy — Mississauga, ON

October 2003

Prior to reading this review, please note: we travel to the Mayan Riviera twice a year and are by no means ‘travel experts’ but feel that we are able to give a realistic and detailed review of this vacation property. This review is based on a comparison of our several trips to other hotels in the Mayan Riviera such as the Iberostar Quetzal, Barceló Maya Beach Resort and the Copacabana to name a few. As far as we are concerned, the Mayan Riviera is a spectacular and beautiful vacation destination, however the Reef Club Playacar, unfortunately fell below our expectations.

Our two week vacation at the Reef Club Playacar (referred by a friend) was not quite what we had hoped for or expected. We would NOT describe this property as a "4 star resort". It was far below our expectations, and may be more appropriately described as a 3 star property.

We arrived on Sky Service on Oct 4th in the evening. Typical charter flight (no leg room, questionable food and very uncomfortable seats). Once at the Cancun airport the customs process/baggage pick up was quick and we boarded our bus to the resort. We stopped to drop off people at Paradisus (looked very opulent, with marble and waterfalls in the lobby area) and the Riu (also looked amazing) and then finally our resort at 10 pm – what a disappointing first impression. The check in area was not like the other hotels, firstly the lay out was not as grand as the other hotels, but more importantly, the lack of quality customer service! The check in staff were rude and appeared to be somewhat bothered by the fact that new guests had arrived.

After leaving the check in area, our ‘first impressions’ began to improve. The walk to our room was very nice – warm and inviting – a jungle like setting. The resort is small and quaint with approximately 200 rooms. Again, the look of the resort once out of reception area is very nice. The beach is quite large (wide and deep) with private homes to the north and other resorts to the south. The Reef Club Playacar offered 2 pools, 1 buffet restaurant, 1 specialty Italian restaurant and a snack bar.

Rooms: Definitely NOT comparable to other hotels that we have stayed at. The beds and pillows were as hard as rocks. The air conditioner was as loud as a stampede of bulls (but we were fortunate to have it working as many other guests complained that theirs was not). No coffee maker. No mini-bar. If you want water, they leave 2 bottles in your room, for 10 pesos each (word of advise, keep count – we only drank 3 bottles for our 2 week stay, however they tried charging us more upon check out). Also, the Alba brochure states in-room safe but fails to mention you have to pay $2 US daily for a lock & key for the use of it – all inclusive, this resort is NOT. There is satellite TV – 4 channels in English, the rest in Spanish. The closet – very large and spacious. Bathrooms – typical, however regarding the towels, you had to hunt them down as the maids – some days – replenished them, and other days NOT. I guess the maid service knew we were married and only required 1 towel a day because that is all we ever received. One day we did not even receive a bath towel, just one that was about as large as a face cloth! The only nice thing about the room, is that all rooms have a balcony (2 plastic chairs, no table) and look into the either the jungle or garden area. One last laugh, the Alba brochure states that all the rooms have been redecorated — not sure when, but maybe in the 80’s!

Buffet Restaurant: Very friendly and courteous staff. Breakfast – typical, Lunch – ok on days, Dinner – where to begin….. If you were there before 8 pm you had a choice of a minimal salad bar, 2 soups, and usually a grill of something – meat etc, sometimes pasta and a choice of 14 hot bins. As for eating after 8 pm at the buffet, forget it. The 14 bins of hot food were combined into 7 bins – yummy! Usually potatoes, rice, pasta, sauce, mystery meat, and 2 veggies (cauliflower and carrots, sometimes fried bananas). Not the best of choices, but if you were hungry, you could always have potatoes and rice. A giggle about the Buffet: On the TV, channel 2 -a video of the resort showed an endless bountiful beautiful buffet, this was only for show as from what we saw, this NEVER happened. We had a good laugh over that one!

Specialty Italian Restaurant: This was one of the few positives of the resort. The food and service was wonderful as was the romantic atmosphere. There are no restrictions to eating here, so if you want you can eat there every night, you just have to make a reservation in the morning at the buffet restaurant.

Snack Bar – Absolutely terrible, some days were better than others. Generally, they offered nachos with a cold yellow cheese sauce, french fries, hot dogs, Quesada’s, congealed pizza and last but not least, the hamburgers – yummy hunks of bone mixed with pieces of meat – nasty! One good thing about the snack bar is that the bar service was great. They served drinks during the day (9 to 5 only) and they have the cleanest glasses!!

Pool Bar – Absolutely filthy – pieces of food, feathers and other unidentified objects swirling around a slick filmy oil! On a positive note, the bartender(s) were very friendly, outgoing and provided quick service with a smile. Again, we have to say, the most disappointing thing about this pool is the odour and the fact that it is not clean. Guests were able to enjoy the facility all day and all night long – so not too sure when or if the pool was ever cleaned or when chemicals were added.

Sports Pool: This is where a lot of various games were played with the energetic and enthusiastic entertainment staff. This pool was relatively clean but very busy at times.

Beach: The beach is truly the best part of the resort. The sand was soft, and the beach, deep and wide. The ocean was a fabulous turquoise blue, refreshingly cool. At times the ocean was very still and at other times wavy but great. Some fish but not like other resorts in the Mayan Riviera we have stayed at. Lots of broken beach chairs, most had cushions. Limited beach towels available, on 2 days of our 14 day stay, we had the opportunity to use the beach towel service. Thankfully, when travelling we bring our own beach towels! One last positive note, they had bar service on the beach, this was a nice touch.

Lobby Bar – There is an open air lobby bar, located on top of the check-in area, which peers over onto the parking lot/street below. The hours of operation of the lobby bar were from 6 pm to 2 am. The nightly shows also took place in this area, in a separate, closed in theatre (we did not see any shows and therefore, cannot comment on them). The bar definitely lacked atmosphere, sometimes playing music, other times they had the TV blaring either a sports channel or a movie of which you could not hear due to the crackling speakers. There were 2 pool tables. Again, as compared to other resorts, this lobby bar lacked any kind of atmosphere and was boring for the most part. For those interested in dancing, take note, no disco.

Hospitality Suite: On the last day of our vacation our flight did not leave until 8:30 pm, so we had to check out at noon as we were being picked up at 4:30 pm. No late check out allowed. A hospitality suite was offered, but you had to book it early in the morning. The only problem, when we arrived for our ‘time-slot’ there were NO towels available. It appeared that we were not the only ones who had this problem as the people who used the room prior to us resorted to using the bed sheets for towels! Thankfully we took our one and ONLY clean towel from our room that morning! So, in summary, there were no towels, no hair dryer – just a filthy, dirty room left in a mess by the prior guests.

Helpful Tips: 1) Bring your own beach towels and extra suntan lotion as at the resorts lotions are extremely expensive. 2) Carry at least $50.00 US dollars at all times as you can never be sure if credit cards are accepted or if an ABM is in close proximity (example: at the airport our luggage was over the allowable limit and had to pay an extra $5.00 CDN per kilo. The Airport DID NOT accept credit cards and we had no cash left over!).

3) Call your credit card company prior to leaving your home country to advise them that you will be travelling for a specified amount of time to avoid your credit card being declined.

In conclusion, this resort is an adequate vacation destination, however, with our experiences travelling twice a year to this area, we were very disappointed with this resort. We definitely would not recommend this property as there are by far many other more beautiful resorts for the same value in the Mayan Riviera.

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