by Michael Blanding
Built in 2008, the same time as The Cove hotel next door, the Reef shares a similar upscale vibe that sets it apart from the previous three hotels at Atlantis resort. While the overriding attitude is one of exclusivity and luxury, there are some differences. Instead of a South Beach hotel, the lobby creates the feel of an Upper East Side apartment building — with marble floors and polished dark wood walls — albeit with a few beachy touches such as fishing net chairs and driftwood in an illuminated case under the reception desk.
The 500 rooms here are all apartments, ranging from studios to one-bedrooms to penthouses, all with multiple beds, refrigerators, and kitchens, making the Reef a good choice for families who are looking for a bit more luxury as well as — counter-intuitively — families on a budget, since its possible to save a good chunk of money by cooking their own meals rather than signing onto the expensive meal plans or paying a la carte at the restaurants. The apartments are subject to a unique arrangement, whereby they are owned by private owners as timeshares and rented out to guests with the owners and resorts splitting the profits. As a result, they have a very homey, lived-in feel, with each apartment living up to a certain standard of quality at the same time possessing individual touches that set each one apart.
Our Editor Loves
- Private pools and beach
- All-apartment accommodations with balconies
- Upscale refinement and family friendliness
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
All of the 497 rooms at The Reef are apartments with kitchens. A small number are one-room studio kitchenettes, while the majority are suites of various sizes with a separate master bedroom and a pullout sofa, as well as an extra bedroom in two-bedrooms suites. The largest, deluxe suites have 1,700 square feet of living area, and can house up to eight people and one toddler. The kitchen area in the studio apartments is small but serviceable, with a refrigerator under the counter and a granite counter for cooking. Full suites have larger kitchens with full-size refrigerators. All have balconies and views of the ocean.
The rooms are done in an elegant modern style, with a beachy color palette of beige and white accented with deeper colors, including gold and scarlet. Finishes are luxurious and couches and beds are ultra-comfy with satin sitting pillows and Frette linens. All rooms at the Reef also include flat-screens with DVD players. The bathrooms are particularly grand, with twin marble vanities, tub, and shower and chi chi Red Flower bath products; depending on the size of the suite, apartments include one or two extra bathrooms for extra privacy. Even the smallest apartments also feature private balconies overlooking the ocean or pool area. In terms of price, they are significantly less than the similar rooms at The Cove, but higher than anything in the towers, starting at $505 a night.
Rooms come in Terrace View, Harbour View and Ocean View for studios and one-bedroom suites. Suites range from 974 to 1,718 square feet, with one-bedroom suites able to accommodate four people plus a child under 4, and two-bedroom suites can fit eight people and a child under 4. Two- and three-bedroom penthouses, ranging between 2,471 and 3,102 square feet, can accommodate six or 10, respectively, plus one child, and offer full kitchens, dining areas, living room with sleeper sofas, in-room washer and dryer, private bedrooms with king and queen beds, and four balconies.
After reading many complete opposite reviews on the Reef, it was with some trepidation that we arrived at the hotel. Our stay was lovely. Absolutely no complaints. Our room was clean, and cleaned very well each day. We were given plenty of bottled water each day. The staff everywhere was super friendly. Everybody from the ground staff to housekeeping always said hello and asked how our day was going. The grounds are immaculately kept and are beautiful, and there are plenty of things to do throughout the day. Yes, the restaurants, and even room service are insanely expensive, but we were expecting this. Areas that could use some improvement, are: The kitchenette could be better stocked with plates and cutlery, sponge, as we did not have many or any of these items. Opening the waterpark at 9 AM for hotel residents only, would be nice. The lines for many of the waterslides were very long.
Rated as one of the top hotels in the Bahamas, I need to be the guy who tells you this place is not that great. Day 1 air con not working, hospitality was rude when we called to inquire about it. If you want a 6 pack of beer its going to run you about 64 bucks. Overall the resort is beautiful but the people that work here just have bad attitudes. Much happier in Cancun or Bali. Will never come to the Bahamas again.
Note: Most activities and attractions are available when staying at any of the six Atlantis hotels.
While the Reef is a good choice for families because of the room types, it does have the drawback of feeling a little bit removed from the action, set out on a point overlooking an offshore reef. (Indeed, $10 from every room goes to the Kerzner Marine Foundation to support its efforts to reseed and revitalize the coral.) The Aquaventure water park, however, is only a little walk through the cove, and it's possible to walk to Royal Towers by passing by Dolphin Cay.
While it doesn't have any specific family activities associated with the hotel, the Reef does provide good access to Paradise Beach, a secluded beach nice for sunbathing -- however, due to its exposed location, it can be a little windy and the water a bit choppy at times. A better choice for water activities is the Cascades Pool at the Cove, a beautiful pool that is accessible to Reef as well as Cove guests, or a short walk to Cove Beach.
For more activities located throughout the Atlantis property, see our Atlantis Resort review.
The Reef doesn't offer any restaurants, though it is close enough to the Cove for guest to easily take advantage of the restaurants there, including Mosaic, Mesa Grill, and Cascades Grill, or to take a shuttle to the eateries at the restaurants at the other hotel properties. One bonus of staying at the Reef is the convenience of a bona fide Starbucks in the lobby, perfect for those guests who can't really start their vacations until they've had a double soy cappuccino.
For those looking to self-cook in the apartment kitchenettes, both the Cove and Royal Towers have convenience shops selling food, but selection is mostly limited to pre-processed snacks, cereal, and breakfast pastries. To buy real groceries, you'll need to hire a cab to go into Nassau, where there are several good grocery stores right over the bridge from Paradise Island. An even better idea if you can plan ahead, is to make a deal with your taxi driver to stop at a grocery store on the way to the resort, so you can stock the cabinets when you arrive. It should add an additional $20 to $30 to the fare to have him wait while you shop.
Planning & Tips
All about the Extras
Babysitting can be arranged through the resort -- for a price. Sitters are $25/hour for one child, $10 each additional child up until 10 p.m. and $30/hour, $10 each additional child after 10 p.m. There is a three-hour minimum. Unless your child has special needs or you are planning on staying out after 10:30 p.m., it probably makes more sense to put the kids in the Kids Club instead, where they'll be well cared for and entertained.
Wi-Fi Internet access is available in public areas and rooms for $21.95/day for up to four devices, with discounts for multiple days.
For those rooms without a washer/dryer, the resort also offers laundry service every day except Sunday.
Check-in is at 3 p.m. and check-out at 11 a.m.
The Art of Smart Timing
Atlantis is located in a sub-tropical climate, similar to that of Florida. So it doesn't see the year-round hot temperatures that more Caribbean locations enjoy; however, it does have a pleasant climate year-round, with over 300 days of sun annually. You are most apt to see rain during the wet season, between June and November, which is also when you'll see the highest temperatures, averaging between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The only time you are risking a real rainout is during "hurricane season," between late August and early November, when sporadic hurricanes do occur.
Temperatures during the dry season, between December and May average between 60 and 80 degrees, with less chance of rain. Atlantis drops its rates slightly during spring when demand is lower, and you can sometimes find bargains on room rates. Truth be told, however, this is a popular destination year-round, so don't go expect to find real cut-rate deals.
Thankfully, the sheer size of the resort ensures that it never feels crowded, even when hotels are at capacity. The only exception to this is lines at the most popular waterslides, which are likely to be long at any time of year. Visit early in the morning or at the end of the day -- especially at the Mayan Temple -- for your best chances of a quick ride. Even though its slides are arguably better, the Power Tower tends to be less crowded than the Mayan Temple.
The closest airport to Atlantis is Nassau International Airport (NAS), which is approximately a 45-minute drive from the resort. (Note: when booking, be sure to select Nassau, and not Grand Bahamas, which is 150 miles away!) Transportation to the airport can be arranged through the resort for a charge of approximately $100 each way; it's more economical to hire a taxi, which costs about $40 each way. Once at the resort, complimentary shuttle services are offered between the various properties, with waits of never more than half an hour, and frequently less.
For Mom and Dad
While your kids are at Club Rush or Club Crush, sneak off to see a comedy show or a movie in the Atlantis Theater, sing along to your favorite performer at Atlantis Live, try your hand at a game of poker in the Casino or dance the night away at the adult-only nightclub Arura. There is also an adults-only pool located at the Cove that also offers up to 20 cabanas for privacy. And if you only have time for one cocktail, choose from one of the 40 restaurants, bars and lounges sure to please any drink desire.