Myself and my girlfriend stayed at the Reef Beach Huts for 9 nights at the end of April. It is worth pointing out that St Lucia had some HORRENDOUS weather that week which, if continuous in the Caribbean like it was with us bar 4 days, means there is quite literally nothing to do, especially down at the Reef.
However, having said that, there are some serious issues with the Reef that need to be addressed. Firstly , I understand that it's $60/night for a room and thus basic and trust me, I have stayed in simple huts on beaches in Central America & Africa for more like $15 a night which are FAR better.
On more than one occasion the power went down, the water stopped working, our toilet was blocked almost continuously even after requests to have it fixed, the water backed up in our shower from the drain outside (thus smelling), our room was cleaned only once and the rooms were insanely dark which means that when it rains (and boy did it rain), it is a very depressing place to be as you cant even read a book in your own room.
The main reason we went there was to learn to Kite. I'm at an intermediate level so didn’t need the basics, more the board work. However, by the time we arrived, the foreign instructors had left and the centre seemed like it was being run for the 3 local guys, who were supposed to be working there, rather than the paying guests / Kiters. In all 9 days I was there, I went out for 90mins. On more than one occasion, when the wind was good in the mornings, the local guys would go and ride for an hour, leaving the guests waiting........there is NOTHING more annoying. For the experienced Kiters, they had to pay for Kite storage, safety, launching and landing.....I don't think I saw the employees launching or landing a kite once.
Nevertheless, by far the most upsetting / annoying / oppressive factor of the stay is the fact that there is a local bar / dance hall next to the huts. For 3 of the 9 nights we were there, they had some of the loudest music I have ever heard. Don't get me wrong, I love Ibiza and loud music, but when your shack is shaking due to the base and you can't sleep through silicon ear plugs then this is totally unacceptable. I spoke to the owners about this and it seems to be a genuine problem they have with the owner of the bar renting it out for "birthday parties" but it came very, very close to ruining our entire holiday. We actually checked into a very nice hotel for our 2nd last night (this saved the holiday) and on coming back for our last night, were told at 8pm that a party would be happening.....no call / email earlier in the day to let us know so we could stay on in the other hotel. The last night at the Reef left a very sour taste in our mouths.
I don't want to be too negative and there are some positives. The beach is beautiful (in the sun), its lovely seeing the locals hanging out and swimming, some of the staff at the Reef (especially Shelly, Elisa & Vincent) are fantastic and the food / drink is cheap, albeit OK in taste.
In short, the weather is a massive factor. We checked into a nice hotel for one night and were left wondering why we didn't stay there for the whole holiday. I think it’s great to be staying in basic cheap rooms on the beach but you have to get the balance right. The rooms have to be clean, the toilets have to work and you HAVE to be able to sleep at night, otherwise it is just torture.....quite literally.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
August 3, 2011
It's an unfortunate truth that when hundreds of guests pass through your facility every season, once in a blue moon, you "lose" one. Nice as this couple were, and hard as we tried - as we always do, and even harder when we realized things weren't going well - we just couldn't turn this one around, especially as we were not made aware of most grievances until an email received at 11pm on their last night.
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The weather was truly awful that week, with huge thundering rain storms during what is normally the dry season. So the opportunity for kite surfing lessons was greatly reduced, and with other pre-booked guests also lined up for lessons, time on the water was necessarily short for everyone. The guys who work at the kite centre came in early some mornings, before working hours, to get some personal kiting in. Obviously, it's annoying for a guest chomping at the bit to have a go, to see that, and a little flexibility on our part with working hours might have saved the day. But by the time we were made aware of this, it was too late to fix. The same goes for the toilet not flushing properly. One of the staff checked this out during the week, used a plunger, and honestly believed it remedied. Management was only told late on their last night that it had never flushed properly. Subsequent removal of the toilet bowl by a plumber, after their departure, revealed that a glass make-up bottle had fallen into the loo so that it appeared to to flush OK when tested. It can happen.
As for the water and power situation: St Lucia sustained severe damage to its watersheds during hurricane Tomas, last October (our worst storm in 30 years). During heavy rains, the mains (pipe-born) water is shut down for several days to prevent mud from clogging up the water company's filters and pumps. We have back-up water tanks at The Reef so guests can shower and flush and the restaurant can function, but the system relies on an electrical pump (hot water continues to be fed through gravity). Disruptions in electrical service are pretty rare in St Lucia, but can occur for brief periods if lightning has struck a pole somewhere. I don't recall if this was the case during their stay, but it's possible power may have been down for brief periods. It can happen anywhere.
One point I would like to make, though. The loud music from neighbouring bars is a long-standing problem we battle with at The Reef. The local police are finally realizing the value of tourism development in the south, and at least ensure that noise pollution gets closed down at 2am, but there is no denying that from time to time, we are powerless in the face of the disregard of our neigbours (one of whom incidentally owns Juliette's Lodge hotel, 1 mile upwind...). We are never notified of such parties ahead of time, but always try to warn guests as soon as possible, help make arrangements for alternative accommodation if required, and do not charge for that night at The Reef. It is true that on the evening in question, this couple was told about it only at 8pm... because that was the time they returned to The Reef from a stay elsewhere on island (Ladera Resort as it turned out, where rooms cost between US$380 and US$680/night plus 18% - that's 7 to 13 times more expensive than The Reef: hard to compete with that!). When we received an email at 11pm complaining about the noise, we called and spoke with them, apologized, did what we could with the authorities, and arranged to meet the following morning to discuss matters further. So it happened. We refunded them for 3 nights, again apologized, and also immediately followed up with the centre staff concerning their criticisms there.
As I said, you win some and, unfortunately, once in a blue moon, you lose some. It was sort of a perfect storm of bad circumstances, and we all felt genuinely sorry that their holiday had been a disappointing one.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.