The Reef Playacar Resort and Spa

The Reef Playacar Resort and Spa is a unique beachfront resort set in the midst of a remaining patch of Mayan jungle in the Playacar area just south of Playa del Carmen.  The resort has done a great job of interweaving the 18 stand-alone guest room buildings and amenities amongst mature mangroves, palm trees, onsite cenotes, and pathways with branch railings all under a cool, shaded tree canopy–it gives the impression that the resort belongs here and is a natural part of the jungle setting.  Meandering wooden walkways lead guests past waterfalls and the occasional Mayan statue, while seating surrounding the ancient mangrove located in the middle of the resort provides an afternoon respite for those who crave tea, flambéed coffees, or a quick bite to eat.  Metal courting benches are popular on resort grounds indicating that couples are more than welcome at The Reef Playacar, while the Kid’s Club and shallow section of the main pool reminds guests that families with young children can feel at home here as well.

The Reef Playacar aerial view

Aerial view












Since the property is not large, most winding pathways will eventually take vacationers to the pool and beach areas.  The Reef Playacar has two pools–the upper level pool has the swim-up bar and shallow children’s section, while the lower level pool is the site of aqua-related activities.  Both sundeck areas include loungers and shade palapas while the upper level pool has several Bali beds (they are complimentary, but reserve them at the front desk).  There are flights of stairs between both pools with several different levels for seating; some of these levels have additional Bali beds with ocean views.

The Reef Playacar swim-up pool

Upper pool with swim-up bar










The Reef Playacar activities pool

Activities pool, courtesy

The Reef Playacar stairs to lower pool and beach

Stairs going to the lower pool and beach, courtesy








Playacar beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Yucatan with soft white sand and brilliant turquoise water–it is probably one of the biggest selling points of the resort.  Shaded loungers and Bali beds are at a premium here since there is not much natural shade to speak of at this particular location.  There is a section for upgraded guests, but with only half a dozen loungers they go quickly.  Upgraded guests with Premium room packages will enjoy the addition of the beach bar, Nico’s Lounge (open noon to midnight), since drinks with top-shelf liquor are complimentary; Standard and Superior room package guests must pay an additional charge by purchasing a Premium bracelet if they want to access Nico’s (different from the room upgrade since the bracelet allows guests the alcohol privilege only).  Nico’s offers shade umbrellas, padded rattan furniture, and has live entertainment on occasion.  What it lacks, however, is sufficient space for the number of upgraded guests as well as a sufficient supply of top-shelf alcohol–there are repeated instances of running out of certain types of liquor at this location.  There is beach wait service, but it is known to be on the slow side so plan accordingly.  Water sports enthusiasts have the opportunity to check-out kayaks, boogie boards, snorkeling equipment, and paddle boards, while the few hobie cats available can only be used under certain weather conditions.

The Reef Playacar Nico's Lounge Bar

Nico’s Lounge Bar at the beach














Many resort areas have been renovated and/or updated within the past several years including the theater/bar area, lobby, La Terraza restaurant, and guest rooms.  Even with renovations, rooms are basic but clean with light colored wood furniture, minimal wall artwork or decoration, and tiled floors.  All rooms include a small balcony with table and two chairs, but balconies overlooking the main path are typically within a stone’s throw away from other guests walking and talking on this path.  Ground floor balconies close to the main path have no privacy; unless one has mobility issues and can’t climb the stairs up to other floors, it may be advisable to request a room on the second or third floor.  Different room categories offer different perks–Standard Package rooms have the most extra costs for guests, while the Premium Package offers the most amenities including premium alcohol.

The Reef Playacar guest room

King bed guest room










The Reef Playacar is in an excellent location not only for its beach but for its nearness to Playa del Carmen’s famous 5th Avenue.  The resort is an easy 15-min. walk along the sidewalk to the outskirts of the main shopping vicinity (go out the main entryway and take a right), or a 20-min. beach walk to Señor Frog’s and the Cozumel ferry, both of which are also located on the outskirts of Playa del Carmen (once on the beach turn left).  Adults interested in booking The Reef Playacar for five or more nights may want to consider booking directly through its website for the following incentives:

  • complimentary WiFi in all resort areas
  • late check-out (depending on availability)
  • choice of spa or snorkel package

(Spa Package):  $100 spa certificate, bottle of Prosecco delivered to one’s room, one in-room continental breakfast for two

(Snorkel Package):  one complimentary snorkel tour per adult with professional guide.

In order to take advantage of these offers, guests must email their confirmation number to


Type of Resort:  Family-friendly

Pro:  Beach, two pools, onsite cenotes, Bali beds, no dinner reservations needed

Con:  Lots of extra costs, WiFi ($), limited supply of premium alcohol

Best Suited For:  Vacationers looking for a smaller, more jungle-like resort setting, budget-minded travelers who want a great beach, couples

No. of Rooms:  196

Room Amenities:  King or two dbl beds, A/C, balcony/terrace, digital safe, flat screen TV, table and two chairs, ceiling fan, telephone, alarm clock, iron/ironing board, hair dryer, shower, and toiletries.  There is no room service; WiFi is an extra cost unless some upgrade is purchased or the reservation is made on the resort’s website.  Here is a brief rundown of guest room categories:

  • Standard Package:  King or two dbl beds.  This package has the following restrictions:  domestic alcohol only (no international or top-shelf), extra charge for digital safe, included dinners are at the buffet and the Italian a la carte (Botticelli); La Terraza a la carte is an extra charge.  WiFi is free only when booking five+ nights on the website.
  • Superior Package:  King or two dbl beds, mini-bar stocked daily with sodas and beer, coffee maker, robes, complimentary digital safe, bottle of wine upon arrival, 25% spa discount.  This package has the following restrictions:  domestic alcohol only (no international or top-shelf), WiFi is an extra charge unless booking five+ nights on the website.
  • Superior Jacuzzi Package:  King or two dbl beds, balcony Jacuzzi, mini-bar stocked daily with sodas and beer, coffee maker, robes, complimentary digital safe, bottle of wine upon arrival, 25% spa discount.  This package has the following restrictions:  domestic alcohol only (no international or top-shelf), WiFi is an extra charge unless booking five+ nights on the website.
  • Premium Package:  King or two dbl beds, mini-bar stocked daily with sodas and beer, coffee maker, robes, complimentary digital safe and WiFi, bottle of wine upon arrival, 25% spa discount, access to Nico’s Lounge beach bar, international and top-shelf liquor at all bars.  This package has the following addition:  when booking five+ nights on the website, guests have access to the sister resort, The Reef Coco Beach, for an a la carte dinner at Samurai (Asian restaurant).  Transportation is an extra cost.
  • NOTE:  Three stories with no elevators.  Make sure to bring copies of confirmation details due to check-in confusion.

Physically Challenged Rooms:  Not available

Resort Amenities:  Two pools (upper pool with swim-up bar and adjacent children’s section, and lower activities pool), spa, beauty salon, Jacuzzis (at upper pool and spa), fitness center, tennis courts, bicycle use/group ride to Playa del Carmen, motorized and non-motorized water sports, theater, pool and foosball tables, dive center, beach wait service, Bali beds, beach massage tables, Kid’s Club (ages 4-12), gift shop, jewelry store, concierge, and tour desk.

Restaurants/Bars:  There is one buffet restaurant (Chula Vista–no A/C), and two a la cartes including Italian (Botticelli) and Mexican (La Terraza Grill).  A la cartes do not require reservations.  There is an ice cream parlor in addition to the coffee/tea station near the cenote, and a deli snack bar by the pool which also serves tacos from 10:30 p.m. until 2 a.m.  Guests upgrading to the Premium Package can visit The Reef Coco Beach just north of Playa del Carmen to dine at the Samurai a la carte.  Bars include a swim-up and pool bar, lobby bar, upstairs bar near the lobby, disco bar, and Nico’s Lounge beach bar.  NOTE:  Guests with Standard and Superior room packages may purchase a “Premium Bracelet” in order to access top-shelf alcohol in all bars and restaurants.

Entertainment:  There is an onsite theater which hosts evening shows and music, including a children’s mini-disco, while a beach party with live music is typically held once per week.