Hotel Review: Hyatt Zilara Cancun, A Winning All Inclusive Resort

by Bill Shuman

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.

As the sunsets on the Zilara property hotel staff light the beach for special romantic dinners that have live music. Instead of paying we would sit at Pelicanos and enjoy the same music for free! Source: Bill Shuman

Booking

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 cabanas and beach chairs located down by the water. Source: Bill Shuman

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.

Avoid paying the listed prices as these room rates are often discounted to more reasonable prices.

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.

Taking advantage of these intro bonuses nets enough points to stay here for a week (175,000 points).

Check in

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).

The lobby of the Hyatt Zilara Cancun. Source: Hyatt

A view from the North side of the foyer. The beauty is that this high ceilings allow for acrobatic shows in the evening. Source: Bill Shuman

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.

The view from the 200 level room facing north that we had during our first stay. Source: Bill Shuman

The view from the 200 level facing southward. Even though Pelicanos roof line obstructs the view a bit it is still amazing for a base level room. Source: Bill Shuman

The difference in the view staying at a room on the top floor. Source: Bill Shuman

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.

The hotel staff prepared a nice welcome gift for us to celebrate our anniversary. Photo: Bill Shuman

The bed upon arrival at our room for our anniversary celebration. Source: Bill Shuman

 

The King Bed room, complete with a Jacuzzi tub. Source: Hyatt

Multi shower head bathroom. There was even two sink locations, one in this bathroom and one outside. Source: Bill Shuman

Each room has a hammock on the balcony so you can swing to the relaxing Caribbean breeze. Source: Bill Shuman

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.

Happy birthday celebration! Source: Bill Shuman

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.

It’s the little things that make a difference. Photo credit: Bill Shuman

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.

We liked to stop by the main lobby bar for drinks before dinner each night to enjoy the music. By night 3 we didn’t even have to order our drinks as the waitress Guadalupe went the extra mile. Source: Bill Shuman

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:

Pelicanos

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.

The pool and outdoor dining area around Pelicanos. It even has a bar in the back for those who want a drink without having to get out of the pool. Photo: Hyatt

Watching the sunrise from the table at Pelicanos during one of our final mornings at breakfast. Photo: Bill Shuman

I had never had Eggs Motul before coming to Cancun, but this traditional Yucatán dish turned out to be exquisite. Photo: Bill Shuman

Nope those aren’t his and her meals, but rather both mine. Surf and turf done my way. Source: Bill Shuman

A cowboy ribeye and lobster dinner. Lobsters are not included and was around $33 USD at each of the various restaurants that offered it. Source: Bill Shuman

Asiana

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.

The only proof that my wife actually tried a piece of sushi during our quiet lunch at Asiana. Photo: Bill Shuman

An authentic shakuhachi being played and adding to ambiance during dinner. Source: Bill Shuman

The Teppanyaki chef preparing dinner while providing entertainment. Source: Bill Shuman

Maria Marie

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.

My wife’s order of Enchiladas at Marie Maria. Photo: Bill Shuman

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.

The cozy La Adelita Cantina bar and dining area. Source: Hyatt

Chef’s Plate

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 open kitchen lets you watch the chef prepare each course. Source: Bill Shuman

A crab and tuna sphere with avocado and caviar that started off our evening for our salad course. My less adventurous wife didn’t care for the caviar. Photo: Bill Shuman

Fois Grae Cappuccino that served as the soup course. The piece of prosciutto provided the perfect balance of salty. Photo: Bill Shuman

A soursop flavor palate cleanser before the raviolis. I had never eaten, or heard of a soursop (it’s a fruit) prior to this. Always great trying new things. Photo: Bill Shuman

The accompaniment course: Rockerfeller Shrimp served with bacon and chestnuts. Photo: Bill Shuman

The main course for this evening was beef, my wife’s favorite. The meat was super tender. Photo: Bill Shuman

Coconut Banana dessert made with Malibu Rum with a chocolate truffle was a nice light way to end this wonderful dinner. Photo: Bill Shuman

Spice

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.

The new redesigned cafe that has a nice modern coffee shop feel. Source: Hyatt

Enjoying a few hot beverages outside of the new Casa del Cafe on our second trip. Photo taken by Hyatt Zilara Staff

The barista’s behind the counter of the cafe were adding their flair to our beverages each day. Photo: Bill Shuman

Activities and Entertainment

Pool

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!

I’m not in college anymore, but it sure felt like it in the middle of the foam party at the Hyatt Zilara. Source: Bill Shuman

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.

Hanging out in the middle of the pool with the infinity ledge and sea behind us. Source: Bill Shuman

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.

Evening Entertainment

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.

Several stories in the air hanging on with no hands or feet. No problem for this performer. Source: Bill Shuman

Don’t worry if one person hanging isn’t impressive enough for you as this act had two. Source: Bill Shuman

If acrobatics aren’t your thing then you might enjoy the live music, dancing, and fire-throwing outside on another night. Source: Bill Shuman

Photography

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.

Getting to know these birds down by the pool during our second trip. Source: Hyatt hotel staff

After dinner, we would go and watch the evening shows in the lobby. Source: Hyatt hotel staff

Sky Gym

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.

Watching the sunset from just outside the Sky Gym by the lap pool. The best part, there was no one else there! Source: Bill Shuman

Final Thoughts

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.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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10 comments

Mike Saint December 22, 2018 - 11:17 am

Great post and spot on target. This is a great property. I discovered this many years ago when my wife and I burned both of our free Hyatt sign up bonuses we got from the credit card and stayed here 4 nights. It’s a great property and one of the few all inclusive places we’ve gone to that actually had good food.

We’ve gone back a few times and had a great stay each time.

Reply
Bill Shuman December 22, 2018 - 11:59 am

Mike,

Awesome to hear you had the same great experience that we have had. Our second stay we did the same thing with sign up bonuses. Great deal, especially combined with free flights using our Companion Pass. Thanks for reading and responding!

Reply
Annie December 22, 2018 - 12:35 pm

Avoid Ziva/Zillara Rose Hall like the plague. I’ve been three times and it went from great to absulutly awefull.

Reply
Bill Shuman December 22, 2018 - 1:19 pm

Annie,

Never been to those properties so I can’t comment, but I keep seeing comments like yours about those properties. If you haven’t been to Cancun, give them a try before dismissing the Hyatt Zilara/Ziva brands.

Reply
Henry December 22, 2018 - 12:59 pm

Thanks for this comprehensive report. We are going there for the first time in January for 7 nights on points and hoping our Globalist status may help get us a room on a higher floor. We also plan to use a private car service for about the same $$ you mentioned as we have used that company in the past and have always been pleased. Your restaurant tips are most appreciated.

Reply
Bill Shuman December 22, 2018 - 1:17 pm

Henry,

Needless to say I’ve got a tinge of jealousy. Glad this review helped you out. Enjoy your stay and report back afterwards with your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Reply
Sharon December 22, 2018 - 7:54 pm

Beware of this Hyatt Zilara. We went there last year for 4 days and 3 days in I got *very* sick from something (probably the drinks at the pool bar we think) although we are far from partiers and I only had two drinks that whole day and night but I woke up with horrible vomiting and diarrhea which kept me up and running to the bathroom all through the night until finally I couldn’t even get off the bathroom floor and had to wake my husband and he called the house doctor up who gave me an injection and some medication which cost us in the hundreds of US dollars. It was a horrible experience and I was sick afterwards for 2 more days where I couldn’t eat and was bedridden. How’s that for a great stay at a very expensive resort?

Reply
Bill Shuman December 22, 2018 - 9:26 pm

Sharon,

Ugh! That sounds like a terrible way to spend a vacation. I’m sorry your experience was less than stellar. Thanks for reading and sharing.

Reply
Acker December 23, 2018 - 4:54 am

Really comprehensive post, thanks My husband and I have gone to Grand Hyatt Playa 4 times in the last two years, we really, really love it. Food/drink in Mexico is reasonable so the free food/booze wasn’t enough to get us to try Zilara. I think Playa is an undiscovered gem, plus we love the daily $20 (+ tip) massages we get a 5 min walk down the beach from GH. I’ve read lots of write-ups about Zilara but yours is the first that got me thinking we should spend 2 nights there after Playa – maybe it will become our next go-to.

Reply
Bill Shuman December 23, 2018 - 9:20 am

Acker,

Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ve heard lots of good things about the Grand Hyatt in that area. One additional small perk of trying someplace new is getting credit toward Hyatt’s badge explorer/free night.

Reply

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