By Laini Miranda and Dave E. Leiberman
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Nestled in the cliffs above Bermuda’s famous pink sands and turquoise waters sits The Reefs Resort & Club, claiming an unsurpassed location along the prized South Shore. With only 54 rooms, all with ocean views, The Reefs combines the intimacy of a boutique family hotel with the luxury of five-star dining, a world class spa, and other amenities – ideal for our babymoon.
When we started planning our babymoon, we knew we wanted a relaxing beach vacation. We considered everything from Curaçao to Greece, and ultimately decided that we wanted a place relatively easy to travel to and without any risk of Zika (in 2023 we were surprised we still had to even consider this, but were advised to nonetheless).
Bermuda is, incredibly, a two-hour flight from New York City, and while it offers dream beaches and snorkeling akin to the Caribbean, it has managed to stay 100% Zika-free. Also, we got engaged here six years ago, so this felt like the perfect place to celebrate our next chapter!
Part of what makes Bermuda’s beaches so beautiful is the fact that there are not many big resorts dotting the shoreline. The downside is that many resorts rely on shuttles to take their guests to and from the beaches and other amenities. Since we were somewhat familiar with the island from our previous trip, we knew we wanted to be on the South Shore—home to many of the most spectacular pink sand beaches.
The Reefs, a four-star boutique hotel, is one of only three beachfront resorts on the South Shore, and the only one in such close proximity to our favorite stretch of beaches and coves. The famous Horseshoe Bay Beach is just a 5 minute drive (or 1.5 mile walk if you’re looking for some exercise), and Church Bay Beach, home to some of Bermuda’s best snorkeling, is a 15 minute walk the other way. The Reefs itself boasts its own small private beach with boiler reefs that rival some of the best known snorkel spots on the island. They offer free use of snorkel gear, kayaks, and paddle boards.
We arrive on a morning flight and are greeted at the airport by our Reefs-arranged driver, whose thick Bermudian drawl brings back memories of our last visit and reminds us of Bermuda’s multicultural history. We enjoy an informative drive to The Reefs along one of Bermuda’s three main roads (North, Middle and South) and, after checking in, head straight to Coconuts for lunch. This is when, within our first hour of being here, we experience two wonderful things about The Reefs: first, the delicious fish chowder, which almost had a Hungarian pot roast sensation; second, the sweet familiarity of a few of our fellow guests at this quiet little resort. There aren’t many little kids at The Reefs during our stay, but the young family sitting at the next table, with a toddler and a newborn, become friendly faces on the beach, in the pool, and at breakfasts over the next few days.
We find The Reefs to be the perfect size. Its accessible layout enables us to easily move between breakfast, lounging on their private beach, lunch at Coconuts, daiquiris with our feet in the sand, snorkeling (weather permitting), lounging by the pool, an occasional workout in the well-equipped gym, a spa visit, etc.
Built in 1947, the Dodwell family has managed The Reefs since 1973 and has cultivated a truly warm ambiance at the resort. From the moment we arrive and are given their signature welcome drinks (Laini’s a mocktail), we feel we can fully unwind in the relaxed atmosphere of this intimate retreat. The staff remembers us day to day and we enjoy seeing their familiar faces at our meals. We aren’t surprised to hear that some of the staff have worked at The Reefs for 20 or 35 years, which makes for the family vibe at the resort.
Our room is located between the pool and the main indoor dining area. As with any Bermuda resort, be prepared for stairs, since the rock walls along the shore mean that you will likely have to do some walking to get down to any beach on the South Shore. For Laini nearing the end of her second trimester, this is still quite doable. There are also golf carts that staff use to shuttle people who prefer not to take the stairs down to Coconuts and the beach.
The Reefs maintains the charm of a 40+-year-old family-owned and operated resort, with modern property-wide renovations. As of Summer 2023, all of the rooms at The Reefs have been upgraded with fresh paint, new furniture, floors, and decor. The beautiful ensuite bathrooms were all renovated in the past five years, and the furniture by the pool and beach are brand new. Apparently there are plans to update the furnishings, windows, and carpet in the main dining room and other areas throughout the property this winter.
We enjoy a cliffside room, with a sliding glass door to a patio facing directly out to the water. We love waking up to the view of the ocean and winding down with the moon rising above the sea. The Reefs offers several types of rooms at different price points (though remember all have ocean views so there really isn’t a bad room!). Pool view rooms are above the infinity pool area; cliffside rooms are dotted throughout the property and are perched directly on the cliffs with nothing between you and the sea; eight Junior suites are outfitted with soaking tubs in the bathroom and step-down seating areas next to their spacious furnished balconies.
In addition to the rooms bookable online, there are several higher-end accommodations that can be booked by calling The Reefs’ reservations line. Three Point suites offer 680 square feet of luxury, with an attached sitting room opening onto a large balcony with private hot tub; the bathrooms in these suites also feature a Jacuzzi and rainwater showers. For larger families there are also two- and three-bedroom cliffside cottages. Sharing The Reefs’ prized location and amenities is The Reefs Club, a residence section of the resort open only to club members who own one of their two- or three-bedroom residences. Owners get exclusive access to a lounge, private infinity pool, fitness center and rooftop putting green. The Serena Spa physically separates the resort from the club. The Reefs offers one of these condos for rent for those wanting to experience the amenities without committing to the full club membership.
The food options at The Reefs are some of our favorite aspects of the resort. Breakfast is an incredible feast held in the main dining room in the center of the property, where guests can opt for the buffet or order from the menu. Choose the “Breakfast Included” rate when booking for the full breakfast experience. Most mornings we go with the buffet because the myriad options satisfy anything we could possibly be craving: Bermudan salt cod breakfast (with the traditional stewed tomatoes and potatoes), breakfast casserole (different everyday), American hot breakfast (sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, French toast, pancakes), a waffle bar with different fresh fruit jams and all the fixings, a yogurt bar with some of the best fresh granola we’ve tasted, made-to-order omelets, pastries, and cereals. The tables overlook sweeping vistas of the ocean and palm trees, whether you choose to sit inside the dining room or on the veranda.
Coconuts is the casual lunch and dinner spot right on the beach where we spend several afternoons looking out at the ocean, with fans to cool us off after baking in the sun. With The Reefs’ location tucked into the cliff face and Coconuts strategically built into the lower corner of the rock wall, you can see all the way down the shore from just about any table. Try the Coconuts’ Burger, jerk chicken wings, shrimp tacos, and fish chowder (served with optional accompaniments of dark rum and hot sauce).
If you’re not feeling like having a sit-down meal, servers from Coconuts will also bring you food and drinks right to your lounge chair. The virgin strawberry daiquiri and piña coladas are perfect while relaxing on the beach. Reservations at Coconuts can be made for a table on the sand for a romantic beach dinner, and their famous BBQ beach party is open to all guests every Thursday evening.
Aqua Terra is the fine dining option, in the same dining room used for breakfast. This is the place to enjoy grilled meats like pork chop, filet mignon, dry aged striploin, or a half rack of lamb. They also have plenty of vegetarian and fish options. In nice weather, reserve in advance for a seat outside on the veranda.
Aqua Terra is also home to the Sunday brunch that seems to be a hot spot among locals. When we first arrived at The Reefs we saw hoards of people walking in and out in their Sunday best. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time if you plan to dine in on a Sunday. La Serena Spa also offers its own menu with some healthier items for those enjoying spa services, and the Clubhouse offers more straightforward fare in the bar area as well as room service, and afternoon tea with an array of both savory and sweet snacks everyday at 4pm.
We are fortunate to experience massages at La Serena Spa, which we highly recommend (Laini’s was the best prenatal massage she had during her pregnancy). The waiting room itself, with its complementary fruit bowls, comfortable lounge chairs, and wall of windows with beautiful ocean views, enhances the serene and rejuvenating experience. We enjoy relaxing there before and after our massages, carefree except for a keen interest in a lizard posing through the glass on the nearest palm tree.
The property also has newly renovated tennis/pickleball courts.
Next to the courts, though not officially part of The Reefs, is Oleander Cycles, which has apparently worked with the resort for over 30 years renting mopeds and Twizies to guests. We were surprised to learn during research before the trip that tourists are not able to rent normal cars, and have to either rely on Twizies, mopeds, taxis, or public transportation. We don’t end up renting our own ride, but while there we learn about Pink, a bike sharing app, and Hitch, a Bermuda version of Uber that we find useful to “call” taxis (note that the fees end up being a little higher on the app than with old fashioned hailing).
At some point during your stay, perhaps on a windier afternoon (or in a tropical storm, in our experience) we highly recommend going for a walk, run, or bike ride on the lovely, sheltered Bermuda Railway Trail, which you can get to by walking just 10 minutes from the Reefs to the other side of the island. This 22-mile-long former rail line, which was the only form of motorized transportation in Bermuda between 1931 and 1948, was transformed into a gem of a scenic trail, featuring gorgeous wild tropical foliage along beautiful, rockwall-lined properties. (Pro tip: use an app like Windy to find the calm spots on the island and plan your days accordingly. When it was super windy on the south shore, we made the long journey to the Clearwater Beach area and couldn’t believe how peaceful and quiet those little beaches in the Cooper’s Island Nature Preserve were!).
Throughout our time in Bermuda we are struck by the feeling of being completely detached from our day to day lives, on this very small island paradise in the middle of the ocean, yet surrounded by everything we could possibly need at The Reefs.
Bermuda is idyllic from May, June, September, and October with temperate weather, bathtub water and blue skies. July and August are also very popular times to visit, with just slightly higher humidity. November, March, and April offer slightly cooler water, with the trade-off fewer people on the beaches. Hurricane season runs June through November, but as we can attest, even hurricanes can mean fun waves in still bathtub temperature water, and virtually empty beaches. And amazingly, The Reefs will usually credit your stay in the unlikely chance a hurricane forces you to cancel your trip.
We couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect place to spend our babymoon. At the Reefs, we were able to be totally relaxed on picture-perfect beaches and enjoy amazing food and all the luxuries of a world-class resort, while being taken care of at such an intimate and laid-back place far away from our daily lives. All of that at just a 2 hour flight from NYC made this exactly the easy, stress-free, luxurious beach vacation we were hoping to enjoy before welcoming our newborn.
The Reefs is currently offering 20-30% off on stays from now through May 15th!
Book your stay at https://www.thereefs.com or call (800) 742-2008.
The Reefs Resort & Club, 56 South Shore Road, Southampton SN02, Bermuda.
For more information or help planning your Bermuda visit, contact the Bermuda Tourism Authority, https://www.gotobermuda.com/, 1-800-BERMUDA or on the island 441-296-9200.
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