My husband and I made a last-minute decision to switch our St. Lucia trip to a trip to Cancun instead. We spent 4 nights at the new Hyatt Zilara Cancun all-inclusive resort, and it was hard to leave because the experience was so wonderful. As you can see by the properties’ gleaming reviews on TripAdvisor, we weren’t the only ones that were wowed by the resort!
Rather than a standard review of my own, in this post you’ll find a condensed trip report with 10 tips I think you’ll find useful if you’re planning to take a a trip to the Hyatt Zilara Cancun soon yourself.
Free Nights Are Possible (and forget about using points to upgrade)
Unless you feel like shelling out up to $700 per night for two adults, you can take a deep breath knowing that free nights are possible. A sensible option is to use the two free night certificates from the Hyatt Credit card, but another option is to redeem 25,000 Hyatt points per night. The 25,000 points per night cover up to two adults per room for an all-inclusive stay. Hyatt points can be acquired via 1:1 transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards programs. Ultimate Rewards points can be accumulated via one of my favorite credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Visa.
Notice how the chart above gives an option to book a “Suite Night” for 40,000 points a night. Since the Zilara Cancun is an all-suites property, and all of them are ocean-view, I would not recommend spending the extra points for the “upgrade”. As a Hyatt Platinum member, we were given a great room on the 5th floor with fantastic views.
To book a free night at Hyatt Zilara or Hyatt Ziva, you’ll need to call 1-800-228-3360.
Adults Only, but Hyatt Ziva Cancun Coming Soon
One thing to consider is that the Hyatt Zilara Cancun is an adults-only property, meaning guests need to be at minimum 16 years of age. We did not get to bring the little man this time around, but it was also nice to have some quality adults-only alone time. The last time my husband and I had an all-inclusive “romantic getaway” together was in December 2009 when we visited a Sandals resort in Jamaica, and both of us agreed that the Hyatt blew Sandals out of the water.
The good news for those who have families is that the Hyatt Ziva Cancun is coming very soon, which will be a family-friendly all-inclusive property. We had the opportunity to pass the construction site (which was formally Dreams Cancun) on Punta Cancun, while on a morning bike ride. Our tour guide said they plan to have it ready by July 2015, which seems to be ambitious to me since it looked like only the concrete skeleton was in place, but he assured me that they are working to build it fast. I wonder when the resort will start accepting reservations?
There are several options to get from CUN international airport to the Hyatt Zilara. Of course the first option (and most expensive) was booking through the hotel itself. The Hyatt Zilara offers airport transfers in a fancy and shiny Lincoln Navigator for $125 round trip.
I personally don’t need to arrive in style, so after much research, I booked a round-trip airport transfer with a tour company called Discovery Mundo for $68. We had a private van that was easy to locate when we arrived (via a sign with my name), and they were also on time at the hotel to take us to the airport to go home. It is a service I definitely would recommend and would use again.
Let’s Talk About Wristband Colors
All-inclusive resorts are characterized by wristbands that let the staff identify who is a guest at the property. When you check into the Hyatt Zilara Cancun, you will be given a wristband of a certain color, to indicate your “status” with Hyatt or association with a vacation club.
Regular guests and standard Hyatt GoldPassport members will be given clear wristbands, while Platinum and Diamond members are given lime green wristbands.I also saw guests wearing white and gold wristbands; I later found out that this meant that they came from a time share or vacation package.
It’s easy to assume that the color of your wristband has an impact on the service you receive at the resort, but we didn’t notice any special treatment at all (or anyone getting denied anything), so I really don’t think the wristbands have much say in how your experience will be on the resort grounds.
Chefs Plate and Restaurant Options
Overall there are 5 restaurants at the resort – Pelicanos (poolside dining), Spice (buffet), Asiana (contemporary Asian food and sushi), Tapas & Pintxos (tapas), and Chef’s Plate (small-group dining that’s only available to guests booked in premium-level suites). There’s also a gourmet coffee bar in the lobby that serves all kinds of speciality drinks and desserts (similar to a Starbucks), along with a 24/7 lounge with entertainment and snacks.
We had a chance to experience all of the above, minus Tapas & Pintxos (we popped in around dinner one night, but I just wasn’t feeling the menu or the vibe at all). The food at Pelicanos was decent, but nothing to write home about. They had a nice menu with plenty of variety ranging from appetizers and salads to sandwiches, wraps, and seafood dishes. The best thing about Pelicanos is that it’s poolside/beachside with some nice views:
Believe it or not, we had the majority of our meals at Spice, the buffet. It was the perfect-size restaurant, and never over- crowded. Menu items changed daily, the choices were plentiful, and the food and presentation always looked nice and fresh. Our favorite meal here was breakfast, and we especially loved the fresh juices and made-to-order omelet stations.
We did have lunch twice at Asiana to check it out (once was for a hibachi cooking class and the other was a sit-down small plates/sushi lunch). The restaurant itself is beautiful and the food presentation was lovely. I heard that the place really gets busy during dinner hours because of the hibachi experience. The food wasn’t spectacular (but good), but I didn’t expect it to be, after all, we were in Mexico, not Tokyo.
On our last night, we dined at Chefs Plate. Mind you, I was booked in a lower-level suite, but I did my research and learned that others had success in reaching out to the hotel’s concierge team and they were able to get a reservation. I figured it didn’t hurt to ask, so I did just that. A few days later, I got a reply saying that they would be willing to give me a reservation. The Chef’s Plate restaurant has two nightly seatings – 6pm and 9pm. Since I feel like I’ve become an old lady, we chose the 6pm seating so that I could be in bed by 9.
When we arrived, we checked in and were brought into the dining room where we sat at a “community table” with about 6 other couples. It was really nice to socialize with the people sitting around us while enjoying dinner. Dinner was a 6-course menu and the plates were prepared adjacent to us so we could see the action. The food was pretty good for what it was, but I especially loved the concept of an “intimate, exclusive dining experience”.
It’s Impossible NOT to be Fit
What could be quite possibly my favorite part of the entire resort is the amount of daily fitness activities they offer. With that being said, as a guest here, it’s impossible NOT to be bit. You can make every excuse in the book, but we looked forward to our daily sunrise yoga class, the bike ride, pilates reformer classes, water aerobics, tennis, and beach volleyball (my husband’s favorite).
Staying fit while away is important to me (especially when you’re eating unlimited portions around the clock!), so the fact that the Zilara has a jam-packed schedule of fitness offerings, really got me excited.
Tipping goes a long way
As I mentioned previously, the service here is outstanding. All of the waitstaff we encountered, the entertainment team, housekeeping, and spa personnel were phenomenal to say the least. They really did go out of their way to make sure they are providing the absolute best service. While tips are not necessarily expected (nor did they give you “pressure vibes”), they were absolutely deserved. With that being said, we made sure we had about $100 cash with us for our trip and we tipped appropriately. The employees were genuinely grateful and some even went the extra mile for us (For example, the pool guy gave us a bottle of complementary sunscreen, cleaned our sunglasses daily, and brought us tons of pool-side snacks after we tipped him $3).
Reserve Your Cabana Early
The pool and resort grounds are beautiful, and if you’re the type that likes to sunbathe by the pool, make sure you wake up and go claim a cabana or chairs early. After 7:30am, it’s a battlefield. Our strategy was to get down by the pool by 7, drop off some towels and magazines at a cabana, and then go do yoga and have breakfast. If you’re a beach bum, the beach cabanas seemed to be available all day.
Spa is Surprisingly Reasonably-Priced… but Mediocre at Best
While away, we always like to treat ourselves to some sort of spa service, but we often never do so at resorts because the prices are astronomical. When I looked at the spa menu at the Zilara Cancun, I was shocked to see how reasonable the prices were for a 5-star resort.
To put it in perspective, my husband and I opted for the couples room where he got a 50-minute deep tissue massage, and I got a deep-cleansing facial (they have a policy against massages for pregnant women). The price on the menu was $99 and $109 respectively, which isn’t outrageous for a resort.
Prior to our treatments, we had access to the spa facility (men and women are separate), where we were able to enjoy the whirlpools, saunas, steam room, etc. When it was time for our appointment we were escorted to our treatment room where we remained side-by-side.
The price was reasonable, but we found the service to be mediocre. My facialist was super polite and professional, but her touch and technique felt amateur. My husband asked for very deep pressure, and told me that it was very light and gentle the whole time and that the massage was just “ok”. I guess YMMV, but good thing the price didn’t scare us away!
On another note, when we checked out, I saw that the spa charges were listed in pesos, so before paying the bill, I did a quick conversion to see if paying in pesos or dollars was a “better deal”. Believe it or not, with the tip included for both services, the total came out to just $177 when I left the charge in pesos! What a nice surprise.
They Do All-Inclusive Right
I know by now I’ve written a novel, but I just want to leave this post off on one note – I am truly impressed with Hyatt’s move into the all-inclusive market. I’ve been to A LOT of all-inclusive properties all around the Caribbean throughout my years and this was simply the best experience I’ve ever had.
I couldn’t have asked for a better vacation (and I’ve even become a “travel snob” to some, hehe).
Have you had a chance to visit the Hyatt Zilara Cancun or any of the other Ziva or Zilara properties yet? If so, what did you think?