Back in May, I had a 5-night stay at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta on the Western coast of Mexico. While I’m not typically one for all-inclusives and beach/pool vacations, the entire trip was a gift from my significant other, and I wasn’t going to turn that down.
The Ziva brand is of course one of Hyatt’s two all-inclusive brands, the other being Hyatt Zilara. The only substantive difference between the two brands is that Zilaras are adults-only, while Zivas are not. The six Hyatt Ziva/Zilara properties are located throughout Mexico and the Carribean, and many of the more popular locations have been reviewed extensively. There is not as much information out there, however, about the Ziva Puerto Vallarta other than a few quick posts from some of my fellow bloggers. The most seems to be TravelwithGrant’s review from a trip last August, so I figured a quick overview might be of use to some. My only other recent all-inclusive experience was at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun in the spring of 2016, so frankly I don’t have much other context with which to compare this property. That said, I’ll try to offer a comparison of the two where it’s relevant.
This review will be split into two parts. This post will cover booking, our arrival and check-in, general details of the property, our room, overall service, and a few miscellaneous tidbits. Part 2 details some of the numerous activities available at the property as well as all of the dining options.
As I mentioned above our stay was five nights, and we utilized the fourth night free benefit on my Citi Prestige card to make the booking. No trickery or gaming involved here; we simply booked a AAA rate through the Citi Prestige concierge.
I also applied a (Diamond) Suite Upgrade (the Citi Prestige Concierge was able to do this) to the reservation to confirm into a Club Ocean Front Hot Tub King room. It looks like TravelwithGrant got the same room type as a non-Diamond/Globalist, and a couple of non-Diamond/Globalist Flyertalkers have reported getting complimentary upgrades to this same room type as well without having to use Suite Upgrades. In addition, it seems like top-tier elites generally don’t get complimentary upgrades to either of the two suites that are above this room type, so I’ll echo what Monkey Miles said about the value of using a Suite Upgrade at this property being somewhat equivocal.
TRANSPORTATION TO HOTEL
We arrived into PVR around 1:30 PM on a Tuesday afternoon and found immigration/customs to be fairly quick and easy. Apparently around the time of our trip, AA at DFW was short on Mexican immigration forms and thus only a few people on board were given them. I’m not sure how those particular passengers were selected to receive them, but the vast majority of the plane had to pick up and fill out forms after we landed. The only real hiccup in getting through immigration was finding a pen, as the waiting area had 2-3 pens total for several hundred passengers. Fortunately for us, an incredibly kind Southwest employee who was passing by gave me his personal pen to use and simply asked me to find him at baggage claim and return it, which of course I did after we were through.
As is the case in airports in Mexican tourist areas, the ground transportation area of the arrivals hall was a little chaotic. Unlike in Cancun, where pre-booking transport to/from the airport is the recommended approach, taxis at PVR are decently priced and not difficult to secure. Having read this very helpful Flyertalk thread, we decided to just get a cab at the airport rather than pay extra to pre-book a shuttle service. Only government-approved taxis are allowed to pick up at the airport (this restriction does not apply to drop-offs), so there is only one taxi company and they are heavily regulated. There is a set price for hotel drop-offs, depending on which zone the hotel is in, and payment is taken at the desk in the arrivals hall lobby. Armed with some pesos we got at an ATM in the lobby of the arrivals hall, we simply walked up to the official taxi counter and told them which hotel we were going to. They handed us a ticket and directed us to a stand outside where another employee was standing, and within two minutes we were on our way to the Hyatt. Total cost was about $20-25 for two people in a private taxi.
We arrived at the Hyatt Ziva about 30-40 minutes after leaving the airport, and entered the grounds of the property through the security gate. They seem pretty serious about security at the property, as a guest name is needed to enter, while a “check out ticket” was needed to leave through the security gate on our departure.
As our taxi pulled up to the open-air lobby, we were greeted by several employees.
Our bags were taken and tagged with our room number, while we were escorted by a bellhop to check in at the club lounge, which is located on the ground floor level of one of the two towers of the hotel. The “lounge” is simply a small lobby area near the elevators of the ground floor of the club tower. In addition to a check-in desk that was always staffed with at least one agent during normal business hours, there is a small area behind the desk with a dedicated bartender/food server during the day, a rotating selection of various snacks, and a bar with “premium alcohol”. Supposedly the alcohol selection here is better than what is on offer at the other bars at the property, but we didn’t find this to be the case. We didn’t end up using the lounge at all during our stay except for a quick stop I made one afternoon to grab some tasty but very greasy spring rolls. Apparently the wings are very good as well, but I didn’t get a chance to verify.
As I mentioned above, I had applied a Suite Upgrade to our reservation and we were already confirmed into a Club Ocean Front Hot Tub King room. I asked at check-in if they’d be able to put us into a Plunge Pool Suite (the next category up), but as I expected and as is common at resort-type properties, they only offered the room as a paid upgrade. After check-in, we were escorted by the bellhop with our bags up to our room on the 10th floor.
CLUB OCEAN FRONT HOT TUB KING ROOM
Of the two towers at the property, the club tower is the one that has not yet been renovated, and our room showed some minor signs of wear and tear. That said, the room was a good size and comparable to our ~650 square foot Ocean Front Junior Suite King at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun. A unique feature of the room is that the wall panel that holds the mirror in the bathroom can be “rolled back” into the wall, essentially removing some of the wall dividing the bedroom and the bathroom. I also thought the hot tub on the balcony was a particularly nice feature, and we made use of it almost every night. In addition, there was a safe and a mini-fridge with water and soda along with airplane-sized bottles of gin, whiskey, tequila, and rum that was refilled every day. There also were a couple of bags of chips and other small snacks that were replaced every day.
After unpacking, we decided to take a walk around the property. The total area of the property is a good size but not unreasonably large; walking from one end to the other takes about 6-7 minutes. The ends of the property are more or less bounded on one side by the club tower and the other by the Asian-themed restaurant PureZa, with the second tower not far from the restaurant. In the middle of the property is the central building, which has an open-air lobby and check-in desk, a coffee shop, gift shop, offices, the lobby bar, and the gym and spa facilities on the upper floor. In addition, a couple of the hotel’s restaurants and bars are attached to the main central building as well.
There are several pools and hot tubs spread throughout the grounds, and, excepting the secluded/shaded pool and hot tub, all are right on the beach.
Moving from the club tower towards the other tower, they are:
- An adults-only pool and hot tub near the club tower
- A small kids pool
- A rectangular pool next to the kids pool
- The large main pool split into two parts by a small pedestrian bridge
- A larger adults-only pool with swim-up bar that is adjacent to the main pool
- A final pool and hot tub that are off the beach and shaded under some large trees
There is also a private beach that extends for the length of the property and can only be accessed from the hotel. The sand was nice and not rocky, and the temperature of the water in the ocean was comfortable for the most part. Colored flags were used to signal conditions of the water and the presence/absence of “dangerous” marine life, but from what we saw the flags were changed out at what seemed to be scheduled times every day.
We spent most of our time in the two adults-only pools, finding them to be generally less busy than the main pool, but also made some time to go to the beach and into the ocean several times.
As with other high-end all-inclusive properties in Mexico, there was a great service attitude among all of the hotel employees. While service was not as polished as it might be at fancier places, not a single staff member was even remotely unpleasant at any time during our stay, and every single person we interacted with seemed genuinely happy to be there. They generally went out of their way to make us feel welcome and comfortable and to help with what we needed.
There are servers at each pool and on the beach that regularly pass by to take drink orders and drop off drinks. While on the whole service was pretty fast, we did find ourselves waiting for upwards of 30 minutes for a drink when things were busy (not really an issue, as there are two bars flanking the main pool area). Tipping is not expected though not uncommon, and we ended up tipping a few of our favorite poolside servers and the housekeeping staff member who serviced our room for the duration of our stay.
In part 2, I’ll cover activities at the hotel as well as all of the dining options.
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