The Reef 28 Unveils Beach-Chic Hospitality in Downtown Playa del Carmen

Wrttten By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor and Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine 

Photography courtesy of The Reef Resorts.

The Mexican state Quintana Roo is perhaps best known as the home of the venerable tourist city of Cancun, which is revered for beautiful white coral sand beaches, hot nightlife and everything in-between. Thousands of tourists flock to this destination monthly. However, travelers would do well to take just a 45 minute ride by car from Cancun International Airport to check out what its sister city of Playa del Carmen has to offer. This Caribbean beach town, which is located on the easterly side of the Yucatan Peninsula, is growing in popularity since it boasts its own share of dreamy Riviera Maya beaches along with fabulous golf, bars and restaurants, shopping, and super-cool things to do like explore Mayan ruins or snorkel in the Cenotes caves and caverns.

What’s also notable about Playa del Carmen is the emerging breed of luxury all-inclusive hotels and resorts attracting jet-setters worldwide to this exotic paradise. Paramount among these is a sexy new adults-only beach-chic oasis called The Reef 28, which is the newest all-inclusive offering from the family-owned hospitality operation The Reef Resorts that opened in May 2018. According to Corrina Terenstra, The Reef 28’s Director of Sales and Marketing, this particular hotel is a passion project for the owner and his family—and it shows in the painstaking design and décor details, and apparent attention to quality at every guest touch point.

Another noteworthy, this destination exemplifies that a hotel need not be sitting on top of the beach to be fabulous and in high demand. “This property manages to have the Caribbean feeling and atmosphere, while still being downtown, in the heart of everything,” Terenstra notes. And she’s right, as my own visit to The Reef 28 confirmed it’s comfortable walking distance to the famous Mamita’s Beach Club as well as a wide assortment of bars, restaurants, and the kinetic Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) offering both world-class shopping and luxe boutiques in tandem with small indigenous shops replete with art and culture from the region. Guests can also shuttle to the two other nearby Reef properties in Coco Beach or Playacar to enjoy those beaches and all-inclusive amenities. Tours and excursions of every sort are also just a short drive away from the hotel. Indeed, The Reef 28’s location provides amazing access to pretty much all that Playa del Carmen has to offer—the beach plus so much more.

Relative to what the hotel, itself, has available…it’s much. First, The Reef 28 is a decidedly high-end luxury offering for discerning travelers who also prefer the warmth and personalized service that a boutique property can proffer. What I also personally adore about this location is its authenticity. I’ve stayed at some resorts in Mexico where you would never know you’re actually in the country, let alone one specific city or another. However, The Reef 28 reflects the area’s authentic culture. Terenstra points out that the privately-owned property hires indigenous talent and that every detail is thought through and created by a detail-oriented native team. This certainly extends to its food and beverage program that includes Mexican chefs and cooks who add a delicious Mexican touch to most if not all cuisine.

And speaking of cuisine, this is another feature helping this property make its mark in the region among locals and tourists, alike. The hotel has two elegant on-site restaurants featuring fresh Mexican and Asian fusion flavors, Cachito and El Asiatico, as well as the more casual Ventiocho’s that serves a wonderful breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet along with service that’s second to none. These eateries defy what’s expected of typically underwhelming all-inclusive fare. Rather, the restaurants boast inventive gourmet cuisine rivaling the world-renowned eateries peppered throughout Playa del Carmen. And no worries about those vacation calories as there’s a rooftop fitness center as well for those so inclined.

Three bars are also resident—La Cantina Del Mezcal, Lounge Bar 28, and the stylish ARRIBArooftop bar—where guests can sip and savor premium cocktails and even delight in al fresco breakfast or lunch with a view. The loungy ARRIBArooftop is also especially noteworthy as here, the seductive infinity pool is surrounded by plush cabanas, loungers and other comfy seating while local DJs set a festive vibe while patrons socialize and soak in the sun or starlight. “We wanted to create a space that was more about connecting than escaping,” Terenstra adds.


I would also be remiss to not mention the sleek and modern guest rooms and sophisticated hotel interior in general, which all takes inspiration from the colorful Caribbean and the unique characteristics of marine life. This is an all-suites destination, so every room is either a Junior Suite or a Master Suite. Conveniences abound, from hair irons to high speed Internet to in-room Nespresso machines and daily stocked mini bars. Other luxuries also allow for moments of intimacy and relaxation, like plush bedding, towels and robes to a bedside Jacuzzi and private patios or terraces in the Master Suites.

According to Mr. Montalvo, CEO of The Reef Resorts & Spa, “It was time to embrace what people really want from a vacation. Adults are looking for their own adventures and their own way to feel a part of a genuine—even transformative—experience. At The Reef 28, they get to be a part of the party, the culture, the cuisine and fun that makes Riviera Maya Mexico’s thriving Cote d’Azur.” The property is designed to help guests move at ease from beachfront to rooftop bar lounge.

It’s clear The Reef 28 has set its sights on offering a new kind of “all-in” experience in Playa Del Carmen.” So leave the kiddos at home and escape to this romantic adults-only all-inclusive retreat where your own play-date in paradise awaits.

Merilee Kern, MBA

Merilee Kern, MBA

As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern is an internationally-regarded consumer product trends expert and hospitality industry voice of authority—a travel, dining, leisure and lifestyle expert who spotlights noteworthy marketplace innovations, change makers, movers and shakers. She reports on exemplary travel destinations and experiences, extraordinary events and newsworthy products and services across all categories. Reach her online at, on Twitter at, on Facebook at and on Instagram at

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above may have been provided or arranged at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

11 Key Considerations for Prize-Driven Diet Programs

By Merilee Kern, MBA

Since research has proven financial incentives and penalties to be highly effective in motivating weight-loss, there’s been an uptick in the number of organizations looking to capitalize on the cash-driven dieting idea and add their spin to an already crowded marketplace. The trick, both for employers seeking to bolster workplace wellness programs and for individuals looking for an extra source of motivation to shed a few (or more) pounds, is determining the legitimacy of the organization in question. Choosing poorly could make the entire endeavor a bust or, worse, could land you in the heart of a scam.

According to the experts at HealthyWage—an industry-leading purveyor of corporate and team-based weight-loss challenges and cash-driven diet contests for individuals, both employers and individuals, alike, should consider the following when looking to start a pay-for-pounds program:

1. Prize funding.
Where does the prize money come from? Is it guaranteed and, if so, how is it guaranteed? Know how you’re being paid for your success, and the safeguards that have been put into place to guarantee payout when the time comes. Also important is to know when payments will be made and the options for receiving those prizes, noting any fees involved or possible causes for delay. If the organization you’re dealing with does not have quick and upfront answers to these questions, it may be wise to move along.

2. Tools & Accountability.
A large part of weight-loss success, with or without financial incentives, are the tools and accountability measures provided along the way. What tools, resources and overall support mechanisms does the organization or program offer to help you be successful? An initiative lacking in resources and/or any sort of accountability program may not have your weight-loss best interest in mind. Don’t discount what is (or is not) provided for your benefit—to ultimately facilitate your success—during the diet process.

3. Verified weigh-ins.
A process for verifying weight both at the start and finish of a challenge-driven program, whether through a third-party or some other clearly defined protocol, is essential for eliminating fraudulent participants and ensuring payout when it’s is due. If there is no verification or audit process in place, or the established process can be easily undermined, the program and its reward are most likely too good to be true.

4. Better Business Bureau.
It’s prudent to always check with the Better Business Bureau before doing business with any online company (or most any other company, for that matter). Check the rating—nothing less than an “A” should be acceptable. If there are complaints, make sure they’ve been resolved and read through the corresponding information that the company has provided in response to any issue before moving forward.

5. Credible testimonials and reviews.
Both corporate partner and actual participant testimonials will speak volumes when it comes to the legitimacy of the organization you are dealing with. Media coverage should also be considered. What media outlets are covering the organization, and are any high profile? And, what exactly do they have to say about the programs being offered? Look for testimonials from Fortune 500 companies, major national magazines, top-tier newspapers and major network TV coverage.

6. Experts.
Who is behind the company and the programs offered? While most organizations will tout the body of research highlighting the effectiveness of employing financial incentives and penalties for inducing weight-loss, dig a little deeper to understand the background of those designing and contributing to the actual weight-loss programming. Industry experts, physicians and researchers should be present, either on staff or in advisory roles.

7. Third party products.
Should not even be a consideration. If the organization you are working with requires you to purchase outside supplements, accessories, food or any other products in order for you to win the prize for your weight-loss, keep moving as there are likely ulterior motives and additional costs at hand.

8. Extra/hidden fees.
Like third party products, there should be no additional or hidden fees beyond what is paid up front (or via a clearly outlined installment payment plan). Fees to “unlock” features, to reveal standings or receive your winnings are an indicator that something may be fishy—or at the very least that facilitating your success is sadly cash-conditional.

9. Charitable relationships.
If a company indicates that they donate to a charity based on your loss or your success in their program, make sure you fully investigate those claims before signing on the proverbial dotted line. Is the charity itself legitimate? How much do the charities actually receive? Do the charities list the organization as an official donor? Is it a charity that aligns with your personal values? Does the charity itself make sure that the donations reach the intended recipients? Research everything to make sure everyone is on the up and up, not just playing on your heart strings.

10. Dedicated support.
If you’re endeavoring to start your weight-loss journey with cash prizes in mind to keep you motivated, inevitably you are going to have questions. Make sure the organization has Customer Support available and is responsive to your questions before getting started. Whether by email, by phone, or both—a live person should be prompt, courteous and knowledgeable about the product.

Further, if you’re a business owner, HR, benefits or other professional looking to partner with a dieting-for-dollars organization for a group initiative, there should be a step beyond Customer Support to make sure the endeavor is fruitful. Having an account manager dedicated to the success of your company and proactive in throughout process is essential. Your account manager should provide you with polished and professional marketing materials to promote the program among employees, as well as best practices for improving enrollment. They should remain involved from roll-out through wrap-up and reporting, and available to answer any and all questions you may have about the program before, during and after.

A lack of any one of these should send you seeking a more established purveyor.

11. Transparency.
Stats and standings are a necessity. If you are not able to track your progress toward your goal, or see how close you are to achieving your prize, something is amiss.

For business groups, the company-side administrator should have insight into their program whether through an employer dashboard or other reporting process. Key metrics may include how well the employees are performing and how much cost-savings or other benefits have accrued as a direct result of participation. From enrollment to overall weight-loss, analytics and performance should be transparent from the start.

Whether participating individually or on a company team, if such stats and standings are not available, move on to another organization where these metrics are a readily and eagerly provided.

Given the financial upside and the fact that they’re just plain fun, it’s no wonder that diet competitions and weight-loss betting programs are exploding in popularity in homes and companies across America and beyond. However, a touch of due diligence for the considerations above is critical before you pay to play, or you just might be left with a bad taste in your mouth.

Merilee Kern

Merilee Kern


Freelance writer and two-time fitness champion, Merilee Kern, is a wellness industry veteran, consumer health advocate and influential media voice. Her ground-breaking, award-winning “Kids Making Healthy Choices” Smartphone APP for children, parents/caregivers and educators (iTunes) is based on her award-winning, illustrated fictional children’s book, “Making Healthy Choices – A Story to Inspire Fit, Weight-Wise Kids” (Amazon). Merilee may be reached online at Follow her on Twitter at Facebook at

***Some or all of the information detailed above was provided and/or arranged to accommodate this report, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***