from Aledo, Texas
Submitted on 01-08-2017
Our family of 4 (Mom, Dad, two boys - 21 and 16) stayed at Mia Reef for 5 nights after Christmas 2016. We‚??ve stayed along the Mexican/Central American coast over 30 times, and Isla Mujeres 4 times, since the early 1990‚??s (snorkeled around the resort back in El Presidente days) and had previously stayed in 3 other hotels (Nabalam, Nautibeach, Ixchel) but not tried this place as we usually prefer non-inclusives. However, since our vacation was short we decided to go easy all inclusive. We had ...
Our family of 4 (Mom, Dad, two boys - 21 and 16) stayed at Mia Reef for 5 nights after Christmas 2016. We‚??ve stayed along the Mexican/Central American coast over 30 times, and Isla Mujeres 4 times, since the early 1990‚??s (snorkeled around the resort back in El Presidente days) and had previously stayed in 3 other hotels (Nabalam, Nautibeach, Ixchel) but not tried this place as we usually prefer non-inclusives. However, since our vacation was short we decided to go easy all inclusive. We had a poor first impression the first night, so first the negative. We arrived tired in early evening, and check in went smoothly until we got to our ‚??deluxe villa ocean front suite‚?? (#1011), which was a reasonable sized room with balcony overlooking the calm cove side, but the room only had a king bed with a small single cot pushed up against it. Though one of our boys is in fact a minor, we had purposely paid for 4 adults through the hotel website and requested 2 double beds to avoid such a situation. We complained to the front desk who informed us that we had only booked for 3 persons, but once we produced the reservation papers and credit card bill (as anywhere in Latin America bring all your paperwork with you), the front desk guy said there were a few checkouts the next day and they might be able to move us. In the meantime we called our credit card company to confirm we could contest the charges for a prorated refund (and let the front desk know we could), and visited a couple other Playa Norte hotels to arrange alternate accommodations, if needed. After dinner at the buffet and a night of poor sleep (my wife, I, and our ‚??smaller‚?? (5‚?? 10‚??) son shared the king bed) I talked with Araceli, one of the managers, who much to my pleasant surprise had already arranged to move us to a similar suite (#1025) on the open ocean side with 2 double beds (we actually preferred the crashing waves of the ocean side and the room was surprisingly quiet due to storm resistant glass on the sliding doors). From then the trip improved and we grew to like this resort.
Hotel and grounds ‚?? The hotel is relatively small - about 90 rooms in the main hotel, 50+ suites/villas on a separate part of the grounds, all on its own small island connected to the main island by a wood bridge - and a great size for getting familiar with the place and getting around, but not so small that you can‚??t find your own space. There was quite a bit of construction on the villas, and ongoing minor renovations elsewhere, which while distracting at times really impressed us as the Mia company, more so than Avalon the previous owner, seems seriously committed to improving and maintaining this place. An aside is that there were a few polite but insistent folks wandering about marketing time shares, which was a bummer but not unexpected. One of them told my wife she looked unhappy (she was - upset stomach) and asked why she looked like she had no sun (strong sunscreen), but we nicely turned down her invitation for a ‚??short‚?? sales pitch, returned to our vacation, and avoided that salesperson the rest of the stay. Back to the resort - the grounds are fairly spacious and are adjacent to both the large calm protected shallow cove at the end of Playa Norte, and the open ocean. The actual beach area is on the cove side and is small but we found seats every day even given the holidays, and there is plenty of opportunity to hang in the larger shallow water area in front of the beach or wade across to a larger beach area near Nabalam at the end of the main Playa Norte beach (it‚??s also worth walking the length of the beach past Nabalam for the beach scene and beach bar hopping ‚?? Buho‚??s with its swing bars and Mayan Beach Club are fun). The part of the beach/cove adjacent to Mia Reef is now by far the best part of the overall Playa Norte beach, which is still the best beach on Isla Mujeres although most of the main part across the cove from Mia Reef has partially eroded (geotubes/jetties to preserve the sand have taken away some of the ambiance) from hurricanes and the more influential city of Cancun dredging the sand for themselves some years ago. In addition most of Playa Norte was overrun with holiday travelers (primarily day trippers from Cancun) while we were there, whilst the Mia Reef (since it‚??s on its own islet) and the cove were relatively tranquil. There were a lot of snorkel tours who came in to feed the fish at the back of the cove under the bridge to the resort, but they didn‚??t impinge on the resort beach area. As far as snorkeling, most of what used to be living patches of reef rimming the resort are dead from too many snorkelers; however for strong swimmers on a relatively calm day parts of the reef around the corner near the villas are still living and offered decent snorkeling.
Food/drinks ‚?? We ate breakfast and lunch all but one day, but dinner only one night, on site (also had breakfast at Mango Caf√© mid-island, and dinner at Lola Valentina, Rolandi‚??s, Angelo, Qubano in town only a few minutes‚?? walk from the resort ‚?? Lola Valentino and Mango great, the rest very good. The town is still fairly quaint and cool after 25 years and is a must visit even if just for shopping and a local flavor, and renting a golf cart for at least a day is highly recommended to get the feel of the entire island). The dinner buffet the night we were there had a mix of typical Mexican, stir fry, a meat, and a couple fish choices and was a nice spread to us; however we are pretty low maintenance and it might be underwhelming to those used to the larger Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum all inclusives. Breakfast was good to us with both American and a smattering of Mexican foods, and a good sized fruit and pastry section. Lunch was a dialed back version of dinner, and complemented when closed between lunch and dinner hours by a hamburger/hotdog stand, as well as by a great snack shack on the beach which served seafood tacos, wraps, and ceviche, and which was in our opinion the best food at the resort. In retrospect we would have skipped the lunch buffet and eaten at the beach shack had we tried the food earlier. In addition, there was a room adjacent to the lobby which is open around the clock and variously stocked with sandwiches, snacks, coffee, and sodas.
Service ‚?? By and large the staff were extremely friendly, similar to the smaller hotels we‚??ve stayed at along the coast, reflecting the relatively small size of the resort and the laid back nature of Isla Mujeres. As elsewhere in Latin America, don‚??t expect service to be fast (you‚??re on vacation anyway) but we were surprised at the efficiency of most of the service, and the accuracy of our food and drink orders. Though the staff didn‚??t seem to expect tips, we tipped a fair amount for good service and attitude, and they were definitely appreciated. We especially want to compliment the following staff (in no particular order) who gave outstanding service: Abraham and Jacob in the restaurant (who were great guys and very attentive and responsive); Ilse who did much of the beach service (she had lots of energy and a great smile ‚?? Mom loved her - and was very efficient taking everyone‚??s orders all over the beach and filling them quickly); Roberto at the taco stand (who in addition to serving us great food recognized when Dad needed a beer and walked it out to him); Luis at the bar (who made sure Mom had just the right tasting drink); our 2 maids in #1025 (sorry don‚??t know their names but they were very friendly and did a great job cleaning, and making sure we had 4 towels for 4 people!); Antonio the bellman in the lobby (who was very patient with us to make sure we approved of our new room, helped us move all our stuff from one room to the next, and also helped us get a cab very quickly so we could make the ferry); and again Araceli the manager (thanks Araceli!).
We rarely review on Tripadvisor (and didn‚??t realize how long this review had become) but we are rooting for this resort under its relatively new management and felt it deserved a review. Mia Reef has a unique size, a very unique and enviable setting, a friendly staff, and good service. If they continue on the path they are going it should be a great resort, one of the best on this coast for those who prefer a relaxing and more personalized vacation.