Co-Founders Rafael Museri and Daniel Rudasevski opened the first location in Venao, Panama in 2014. Prior to that they had both traveled the world and begun managing real estate projects in the nearby fishing town of Pedasi starting in 2007. Their goal of changing the world of hospitality for a new community of travels has led them to open 26 locations in eight countries. The model has proven successful enough to land $95 M in funding ($23 M of the total coming from WeWork Founder Adam Neumann) in April 2018.
The company purchases old or vacated hotels, hostels or motels and up-cycles as much as possible when renovating the properties. Local artists are hired for murals, farm to table menus are offered and the price points have won a loyal base of customers who bounce between their Central and South America footprint.
My first stay is at their Playa del Carmen location. A resort town known for palm lined beaches and coral reefs, it’s located one hour south of Cancun and one hour to the north of Tulum. An increasing amount of companies and universities, even Harvard University, are identifying this region as a hotbed of expats, digital nomads and local/native tech entrepreneurs.
I was able to easily navigate their mobile site to find a private room available the night I needed it with less than an hour’s notice. I didn’t take the time to realize that I could have earned 5 AAdvantage Miles per $1 if I had booked it via Booking.com. Lesson learned for my stay at Mexico City. ?
After arriving, I downloaded their app, which is far more functional for booking activities, but will score you a room for a few dollars less than third party booking sites. Rather than saving the $6 for my stay in Mexico City by booking direct, I booked my room through Booking.com to earn 470 AAdvantage miles. (You can also score $25 off by clicking that link 😉)
Checking In & First Impressions
You can see there are growing pains within this quickly expanding company. Some things are digital. Others are paper. Some things make sense. Others don’t. My key had no room number on it. Power to my A/C was cut off for the first 30 min, but easily fixed with a flip of the switch. I was assigned a shared room, but had it to myself.
The WiFi isn’t great. Not for a property that wants to redefine what it means to “travel, work and explore”. Especially not for one that is located within reach of fiber internet. This was probably the most disappointing part of my experience.
There’s a chill feel to the place; one that I really dig until employees are too comfortable congregating at the bar or front desk. When I had a question about my reservation and some changes I’d need to make to is (adding an extra night) there was no one who could get me a definitive answer. The music outside your door might be a bit louder than you’d want it to be at 11pm…at least in my second room there were some ear plugs.
I had two different rooms during this stay (because this trip’s agenda has changed almost hourly). The most important things were that the A/C worked great, the rooms were clean and towels were plentiful. There are no toiletries…so it’s a good thing I collected some soaps from hotel stay prior.
The beds are comfortable, the pillows are the perfect mix of soft yet firm. In the shared room I stayed in the first night, there was plenty of space for three people and lockers. The second room is one of their traditional private rooms and came with a desk.
I was really happy with the variety of food choices and in particular with the items I had. For breakfast I enjoyed chia pudding with papaya and Mexican Shakshuka. With coffee, the total came in under $9 USD. Only issue was that the pot of coffee wasn’t ready until an hour into breakfast service.
For lunch I tried the Enchiladas Rojas – the best dish I’ve had while staying in the Riviera Maya region. The fish tacos got rave reviews from my fellow coworking and lunch companion, and we enjoyed a large portion of guac. $15 for my items (and the guac) + three beers = ??
I checked out after my first night at 11am before I realized I needed to stay a second night. The plan was to use the coworking space after checking out until I’d be picked up. Apparently that’s a no-go: when I asked about the internet dropping out, I was informed that I shouldn’t have been there in the first place without having paid for a day pass.
As I was going to need to book a second night, I headed to the bar for a lunch break, re-checked in and headed back with a new wristband and key in hand. The space had a few folks that popped in and out during the day. The biggest disappointment was that if you wanted coffee while coworking, you have to march down to the bar where they’ll pour you a cup of cold coffee. At least they’ll microwave it for you upon request. ??♂️
When the internet dropped a second time, my new coworking friend and lunch companion, Elizabeth, turned to me and said “I guess you get what you pay for”. Elizabeth it turns out is a new digital nomad. This, her first trip outside of the States, she booked a one way ticket to Cancun and is looking for her next destination: “somewhere in SE Asia”.
While she’s staying at a different hostel that was a bit cheaper than Selina, she paid for a monthly coworking membership for a reasonable $75 for 30 days. You can understand her frustration with slower than expected WiFi and having to trek downstairs and outside for coffee, but I’m just happy that she was smart enough to head to a coworking space at all.
I was excited to stay here, was looking forward to trying out all they had to offer and meant checking my expectations at the door. It’s too easy to get lulled into the world of loyalty programs and Platinum benefits. WiFi is available to everyone. There is no free breakfast…for anyone. There’s no early check-in or late check-out. There is a open bar for all guests from 8-9pm every night. (Make sure you ask for a double as they are a bit light handed when pouring).
For $45/night though, it’s a far better experience if you value authenticity over chain benefits and corporate designed menus. Hotel hopping through Cancun and the Riviera Maya region has allowed me to test out not only Selina, but Aloft Cancun and Temptation Cancun. Selina Playa del Carmen offered me a stay with all the amenities of the other two properties at a far more affordable price point. (That includes the added cost for food.)
When I needed to cancel my original booking in Mexico City while adding a night to my Playa del Carmen stay, the online support agent was quick to help. The customer base is total expat, digital nomad newbie…with the perfect amount of locals.
If you are a new digital nomad or traveling with a group of friends, Selina delivers everything it promises: events, culture, local community, free drinks and WiFi (albeit a bit slow). Sure there were a few bros at the bar bragging about their adventures in high school, but what’s a nomad watering hole with out them? I leave this first stay, satisfied with my experience, happy to refer them to friends and looking forward to checking out more of their locations.
The post Review: Selina Playa del Carmen was first published on Coworkaholic.