Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
All the amenities you want in a Bermuda resort, including a beautiful beachfront, three restaurants, and a spa -- but dowdy and dim communal areas and so-so rooms fall short of the competition.
Set along a pristine cliff overlooking Christian Bay, this 65-room hotel near the southern shore’s major beaches has all the amenities of its neighbors, and yet it somehow falls short by comparison. The circular main entrance and pretty pink buildings with traditional Bermudian white roofs lend a quaint neighborhood style, and a few steps onto the open terrace unfolds amazing and expansive views of the ocean and beach below. But once inside the lobby and the main building -- which includes two restaurants, a lounge, and a spa -- the scene changes drastically. The hotel first opened in 1947, and in certain areas it shows. The ambiance is dull, dark, and lacking any real style. Low ceilings and wood paneling might be an unsuccessful attempt at warmth -- it feels more outdated than cozy. The rest of the areas are peppered with various incongruous design elements -- lamps with wicker shades, colonial-style furniture in bland colors, and exposed dark wood beams overhead -- for a look that just can’t seem to pull it together.
Interiors aside, the resort is a stunner. The ocean views from the small infinity-edge pool are amazing. The private beachfront may not be as large as those at at the nearby Fairmont Southampton and Elbow Beach, but its pink sand and intimate cove are idyllic in every sense of the word. Other bonuses are the on-property watersports shop for quick (and free) snorkeling and kayaking; the lively beachfront Coconuts restaurant, which is a huge hit with the locals; a quaint, if not totally Zen-like, spa; and free afternoon tea and snacks that will fill you up well beyond dinnertime.
Overall the property has a serene, quietness to it. But that's not to say that children will be shunned here -- if anything, the laidback vibe seems to work for just about every type of guest.
One point of contention with some guests, however, comes from the Reefs Club, which was added in 2009. This wing of privately owned condominiums features all of the property’s best amenities -- spacious and modern rooms with private Jacuzzis, a nicer pool and fitness center, and even its own bright and airy lobby -- but it remains off-limits to hotel guests. Some rooms here are available for rent -- for a heftier price tag, of course -- but only until they've been purchased by a permanent owner. So if feeling like a second-class guest while you're paying $400-plus per night isn't your ideal tropical getaway, you might consider heading over to the nearby Elbow Beach resort, where the rooms are newer and larger.
In Southampton Parish, near tons of beaches, golf courses, and island attractions
Just west of the massive Fairmont Southampton is a great place to be -- close enough to all the best attractions, but far enough away to avoid the overflowing tourism spots. Should The Reefs’ nice little beach along Christian Bay get too crowded, you’re close to some of the nicest beaches on the island, including local favorite Horseshoe Bay. Golfing options abound with four courses, a golf academy, and a driving range all located within a three-mile radius. And one of the best cultural attractions on the island, Gibbs’ Hill Lighthouse, which gives an amazing birds-eye view of Bermuda and has a charming restaurant, is within walking distance.
In an effort to permit as few vehicles as possible on the island, car rentals are strictly forbidden. Even locals are allowed only a single car per household -- something you’ll likely appreciate when you see the lush, winding roads that unobtrusively snake through the island. Taxis are reliable and metered according to state law, so there is no need to negotiate fares; however, rates are exceptionally high.
Those looking to save on cab fare might consider renting a moped, the islanders’ preferred means of transportation. While safety may be an issue for some, a local speed limit of just 35 km (about 21 mph) will likely assuage most fears. Consider the less expensive ferries and local pink-and-blue buses to cover longer distances between “the hook” (Bermuda’s westernmost island), the main city of Hamilton, and the beaches along the southern side of Warwick, Southampton, and Paget.
Despite renovations in the last few years, decor and quality is a real toss-up.
Some might consider variety the spice of life, but when it comes to booking a room at The Reefs, predictability would be much more preferable. Though the 1940s historic property was renovated in the last few years, the results are far from consistent. Sure, all 65 units have ocean-view balconies, terracotta tile floors, nicely dressed beds, modern technology, and (mostly) contemporary furnishings. But when it comes to the bathrooms, the spectrum ranges from spacious and modern to outdated and depressing. At their best, the bathrooms have lovely soaking tubs, rainfall showerheads, smooth granite-style countertops, and nice vanity stools. At their worst, they resemble the average uninspired bathrooms of ultra-budget chain hotels. Renovations are on-going so all bathrooms will be updated.
If you want to eliminate any chance of surprise, splurge for one of the two- and three-bedroom condominiums at The Reefs Club, which was added in 2009. These units are impeccable, with gorgeous stone showers, egg-shaped soaking tubs, full kitchens, expansive private balconies with Jacuzzis, and spectacular island-modern design throughout. These units also afford guests the use of extra amenities -- an additional infinity-edge pool, a bigger gym, and a nicer reception area -- that are off-limits to regular hotel guests. Keep in mind though, once all of the units are sold, they’ll be removed from the rental pool forever.
A mid-size fitness center with weekly classes, a lovely private beach, a cosy library, and an infinity-edge pool with amazing views
Three restaurants are centered on surf and turf, but each has a distinct atmosphere
The Reefs’ restaurants stick to local cuisine and they do it incredibly well. In the main resort, just off the lobby, Royston’s is a small open-kitchen restaurant open for dinner and Sunday brunch, featuring surf and turf-style specialties like the Aussie braised lamb shank and the steamed bass wrapped in banana leaf. Across the way is the nautical-themed Ocean Echo, which has amazing ocean views via floor-to-ceiling windows. Open for dinner only, the menu here is a bit stiffer than at Royston's, with uninspired versions of chicken, fish, and meat.
Down by the beach, Coconuts is a big hit with islanders. Guests gush over the fare, which is the most inventive of the three restaurants with interesting tinges of international cuisine. Start with the tequila-cured Atlantic salmon or the Portuguese-style clams and chorizo. Other influences include a few Indian entrees, one or two vegetarian options, and even some Asian-inspired dishes. Don't miss the homemade ice cream for dessert.
Location is everything at this cliff-top resort in Southampton Parish. Expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean dominate everywhere -- from the 65 rooms and 19 condos (all of which have ocean-view balconies) to the pool, private beach, and three restaurants. But those planning to spend all of their time ogling the views from their rooms better hope that luck is on their side: Several units’ bathrooms are in serious need of updates, but renovations are in progress.