As the weather is starting to get colder and the snow has already fallen in Memphis, I often dream about getting away to warmer climates. Recently, the Prime Minster of St. Lucia mentioned that Hyatt will be bringing their all-inclusive service to the island. That had me reminiscing about the two memorable stays my wife and I had during 2017 at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun.
The Hyatt Zilara and Ziva properties are the only all-inclusive properties in the Hyatt lineup, with the Ziva properties catering to families and the Zilara properties to adults 18 years and older. It takes a lot for me to want to go back and have the same experience twice, but after spending seven nights at the Zilara Cancun, my wife and I had to go back ASAP. Eight months later we had that opportunity for an additional 4 comped nights thanks to our signup bonuses from the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
Even now, a year later, I’m already itching to go back to one of my favorite places on the Yucatán Peninsula, Cancun.
The Zilara properties are part of the all-inclusive chain offered by Hyatt. Last year it required a phone call to book at these properties using points, but now I am able to secure a points booking through the Hyatt website. Even though it is part of the larger chain, the Cancun property is a bit different in that all of the 307 rooms face the ocean.
Rooms range in size and opulence from Junior Suites to Ocean Front Suites to a Presidential Suite. Floor, premiere restaurant access and beach cabana reservation all influence the room price.
The base level rooms, Junior Suites, are on the bottom floors, while the Ocean Views are placed in the middle floors, and the Ocean Front are on the top of the eight story building. The only exception are the Swim Up Suites, all located on the 1st floor. I personally wouldn’t spend the extra ~$200, or 15,000 points, a night more for a “private pool’ that you share with 7 other suites, which is less than 10 feet away from the main pool.
Getting There on Points
For those that want to travel to this property using points, you have two options: a base level room with a king bed, or a base level room with two double beds. Both of these rooms will set you back 25,000 World of Hyatt points a night for two people. Each additional person, up to 2, adds an extra 12,500 points per night. If you would prefer a swim up suite, those come in at 40,000 points per night.
The World of Hyatt Credit Card by Chase comes with an intro bonus of 60,000 points after spending requirements are met. That’s sufficient for two free base room nights with some leftover.
These rooms typically price around $450/night, putting the redemption value for Hyatt points around 1.8 cents-per-point. The rate is attractive, especially considering that food and drink are built into that pricing. As a World of Hyatt member, I don’t pay any resort fees or taxes.
Alternate Ways to Book the Zilara With Points
Don’t fret as the World of Hyatt is a transfer partner of Chase. This means that if you are able to accumulate a large amount of Chase points you can transfer them your Hyatt balance for more free nights.
- Chase’s Ink Business Preferred (80,000 points)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (50,000 points)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve (50,000 points)
Taking advantage of these intro bonuses nets enough points to stay here for a week (175,000 points).
We ended up using a reputable transfer company to get us to/from the resort which was 25 minutes from the Cancun International Airport (CUN). The total cost was around $30 for each one-way trip. The private shuttle operated by the Zilara costs around $150 round-trip.
Upon arrival at the Zilara we were greeted by several of the hotel staff members to assist with our luggage and to take us to a check in desk. Even though we are only Discoverist Members in the World of Hyatt program, we were given a private check in with the concierge staff and provided refreshment towels and champagne. During our check in process we were given resort vouchers that gave us discounts on services at the spa or renting a beachfront cabana. We did not use any of the vouchers during either of our trips as the services were expensive, even after factoring in the vouchers.
During check in we were also asked about making reservations for the various resort restaurants. Having a reservation is required for a few places and highly recommended for others. We also were given a form to fill out that let us choose our preference for pillows, aromatherapy scent, favorite drink, and any special reason we were there. The drink choice didn’t do anything during either of our stays, but the others choices were honored during our entire stay. The Zilara also did special things for our anniversary (first trip) and a birthday (second trip).
As we booked the basic King room, once using free nights and another using points, we were given rooms on the 200 level both times. We inquired about a complementary upgraded room as part of our Discoverist benefits and both times they would not honor it. I did annoyingly have the option of paying for the upgrade however.
During our second shorter stay, I opted for the upgrade for around $30 a night. The only reason we elected to take the upgrade is that during our first stay several other guests raved about their dinner at the resort’s exclusive restaurant, Chef’s Plate. I figured we would easily spend ~$120 for dinner at a nice restaurant elsewhere so the extra expense was a wash to have the experience.
Room and Service
During our first stay we were in the Junior Suite King room and for our second stay we were placed in an Ocean Front Luxury Suite King room. Even though Hyatt’s website states the former is 653 sq. ft. and the latter is 758 sq. ft. I would be hard pressed to tell you where the extra square footage was when I was in the room. The layout and amenities between the two rooms were exactly the same. One other benefit we found out about being on the higher floors was the lobby noise from the shows was significantly less. However, almost all of the shows ended around 10pm, so this might not be a big deal to most.
During our first stay, we had access to liquor in the room, but apparently the hotel had too many issues and the in room bars were removed before our second stay. This really wasn’t that big of a loss to us as the liquor that was stocked in the bars was of lower quality than what was served at the actual bars. On the second trip, if I wanted a night cap within the room I just told the hotel bar staff and they were usually more generous with their pours.
The housekeeping staff we had during both of our stays did an incredible job of maintaining the room. Each day they came twice; once in the morning and also around 6-8pm to turn down our room. The staff was ninja like as we never once saw them in or around our rooms during either of our stays. We appreciated that they went the extra mile to make our stay more enjoyable.
Overall, the service at this hotel was first class. By the end of both of our trips, several of the servers and staff members knew my wife and I by name. They often would bring our favorite food or drinks without even being asked. We even had a staff member or two remember us during our second trip from our first stay and I promise we didn’t do anything special that would’ve made us that memorable! Overall, we spent 11 nights at this property and not once did we encounter any staff member who wasn’t walking around with a smile and a friendly greeting.
Food and Beverages
There is a general perception about all-inclusive resorts food quality being sub-par. Being that I’m a food person, I naturally shared this fear. However, that worry was quickly put to rest from our first meal as the food from all of the restaurants was amazing. At this property there are five restaurants: 1) Pelicanos; 2) Asiana; 3) Maria Marie; 4) La Adelita Cantina; and 5) Chef’s Plate. In addition there is one buffet, Spice, and the a cafe, Casa del Cafe, which was recently redesigned. I’ll break down each below:
Out of all the restaurants at the Zilara this was our favorite. The fact that this was the only sit down restaurant open for breakfast on the property meant that we stopped here frequently. Although there are many embolden birds reminding you that you are eating outdoors, they left us alone the majority of the time. As far as food, I almost never ordered the same thing and never was I disappointed in quality or quantity. In addition to eating here for breakfast, we would usually stop by for lunch or dinner as they offered a wide range of choices from tacos to burgers and steaks. The best part of the all inclusive experience is you could order whatever you wanted and as much as you wanted.
Asiana is split into two dining areas. The first is more casual area where you can order a variety of Asian cuisine that includes fresh sushi. This serves both lunch and dinner. The second, is by reservation for dinner only. This portion of the restaurant houses four Teppanyaki areas that each seat 8 people. The entire restaurant has a calm, tranquil feel to it that is amplified by the live shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) player and moving water coming from the coy pond found at the entrance.
Naturally, being in Mexico, means you are going to find some excellent Mexican cuisine and at Zilara property that is located at Maria Marie. This dinner only restaurant, facing the Nichupte Lagoon, is the place to be if you want a beautiful sunset over the water while dining. Therefore, it is recommended to book a reservation for this location upon check in.
While we dined here we were serenaded by live music that added to the ambiance, without being overpowering. We also really enjoyed the decor around the building that had a local flair. Service here tended to be a bit slower than other other restaurants. That might have been because this restaurant seemed to be the place where large groups dined and also might be due to the fact that the bar also services the patrons dining at Chef Plate.
La Adelita Cantina
My wife and I did not dine here at all in our either of our stays. Part of that was the menu served here was less appealing to my wife as it contained a lot more seafood than others and the other reason is that we found it a bit too casual for our liking for dinner. My wife and I preferred a higher end feel for dinner as breakfast and lunch were often our casual meals. The Cantina, like Chef’s Plate, shares its space with Maria Marie. In our four dining experiences at Maria Marie we always noticed that the smaller spaced Cantina was full.
This is the pride of the food and beverage department at the Zilara. If you ask any employee which place you should have dinner they will without a doubt point to this one. As we paid for the upgrade during our second stay we were able to enjoy one dinner here. As the restaurant only seats 10 people at two times seating is extremely limited and is reserved for guests staying in top tier rooms. We also spoke with a couple on our first trip that was able to gain a reservation here as an apology from the hotel for a significant error that was made.
The dinner experience in total lasted around 2 hours and while we were dining did not feel the slightest bit slow. There was two waiters, each serving one half of the table, who operated in sync with each other the entire night. While waiting for the food between courses we were able to watch our executive chef prepare the meal in the open kitchen. Before each course was presented the chef explained what was in the dish and answered any questions the table had about the inspiration, preparation, or ingredients chosen. I enjoyed being able to learn about some new food and hear about the thought process behind the creation of each dish.
The buffet here was one of the more popular choices as it was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast and lunch options were pretty similar each day with your traditional offerings. Dinner each night had a unique theme which included Italian, BBQ, Asian, and Seafood to name a few. There was a bread table, salad bar, pasta area, and ice cream station set up for each of the lunches and dinners. Overall, my wife and I enjoyed eating here for breakfast if we needed a break from Pelicanos, or if we were looking for a quicker meal. Even though this was buffet food, we found the quality to be above average and would of had no problem eating here more than we actually did.
Casa del Cafe
On our first trip, this cafe was smaller and only contained seating for a few people. That changed prior to our second trip as they moved the location of this cafe. The new redesign provides for a larger seating area with some seating outside the cafe (but still indoors). This gives a wonderful view of the sea while enjoying your beverage, pastry, or dessert. My wife and I often stopped in for fresh coffee, cappuccinos, or smoothies. We tried some of the desserts, but as they were the “stock” hotel desserts, and not homemade we didn’t waste anymore precious calories eating them.
Activities and Entertainment
Going to a beach resort my wife and I had little plans to do much else relax, eat, and drink. As such, we spent a lot of our time at the pool, in a cabana, or at a restaurant. Even if that’s not your thing, the Zilara still has lots to do. Each day by the pool there was a whole host of activities that anyone could participate in or free including water volleyball, bags, and guacamole making. There is even a day when the event hosting staff brings in a foam machine!
Speaking of the pool, the one at the property is massive stretching the length of the property. In the center is an infinity edge where you can just relax with a view of the sea. There are several ledges that are only about 3″ in the water that allows for sitting in the sun while being comfortable.
The only complaint that we had both times is that at the Zilara people are able to get up early to put their things in a cabana. This sometimes meant a “saved” cabana would sit empty until late into the afternoon. The Zilara staff generally did not interfere with guests doing this, or remove things after a designated time. Overall, this gave me the same feeling as Southwest’s non official policy on saving seats.
Almost every evening the foyer is the focal point for festivities. Hyatt contracts out to a local entertainment company to provide their guests with evening entertainment. Some nights we were able to listen to local music, while other nights we got to experience a marketplace where vendors sold handmade goods. They even had a churro cart! The best of the entertainment in my opinion was the dance and acrobatics. These performers used the high foyers in the Zilara to complete breathtaking acts of beauty and bravery.
One of the things that changed between our first and second stays was the addition of a Zilara onsite photographer. During the second stay we were approached many times by the staff to take pictures. If we said no, they quickly went about their day. If we agreed, the photos would link to our room. We could then go see them in the gift shop at any point. The pictures they took were outstanding! We were able to get some really fun couples pictures that we didn’t get on our first trip. At the end of our second stay, we ended up buying 5 of the photos for around $100. While expensive this was nothing compared to the $50 our dolphin excursion wanted for one photo.
If like me, you want to burn off some of those extra calories being indulged you’re in luck. The Zilara had a wonderful, lightly used gym that looked brand new, called the Sky Gym. This gym offers plenty of cardio equipment and a moderate range of weight lifting machines. There is even a spin class area and a Pilates area if your looking for something class oriented. In addition to those, there is also a lap pool located just outside the gym area. As the gym faces west its a great spot to go watch the sunsets.
The Zilara property in Cancun for Hyatt is the exact definition of a diamond in the rough. This property is perfectly situated on the beach and has a unique advantage for points bookings being that all the rooms are ocean facing. On those days in life where nothing is going right the conversation in my home usually sounds something like this: “Bad day?” “Yeah…” “Wanna go to Cancun?” That is because we know that the staff, food, and experience at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun is second to none.