I did my research, and I found a deal that sounds too good to be true. Hyatt offers two free nights at any Hyatt worldwide, if you get their credit card, and spend $1000 in the first three months. Hyatt is also starting a foray into the all-inclusive market. They currently only have three: two in Cancun, and one in Jamaica. In Cancun, the Hyatt Zilara is for adults only, whereas the Hyatt Ziva welcomes families. The rate for a room at the Zilara ranges from $500 to $800 a night, which includes all food and drink. I decided this would be the best way to spend our four free nights.
I was worried that Steve would balk at Cancun - He is not a fan of Mexican food. But, to his credit, he was willing to give it a try. I have been to Cancun once before, as a stop during a cruise. My six hour visit to the port, barely gave me an impression to go on. To be honest, I was a little weary – Cancun conjures up images of coeds, drunk on cheap booze and partying to loud music.
It turns out there was need to worry, Steve and I just returned from four exquisite nights in paradise. The Cancun airport is a shit show, but I pre-arranged transportation through USA transfers ($55 RT for a private car). The ride to the hotel was a easy 25 minutes. We were greeted at the Zilara with drinks and cold face towels. A generous tip during the check in process may have persuaded them to give us an upgrade to a front ocean view suite on a high floor. Additionally, we are granted access to a reservation at Chef’s Plate, the specialty restaurant on grounds that is only available to the guests of the more expensive suites.
Our room was on the sixth floor (out of eight), with a balcony large enough to string a hammock across from one end to the other. There was a Jacuzzi for the two of us, situated with the view of the ocean. The bathroom included a double rain shower, and the mini bar was packed with alcohol and snacks, all free for the taking.
Although this is my first time at an all-inclusive resort, I've been on several cruises and I expected the level of food to be about the same as cruise fare, which is to say, I didn't have high expectations and I was OK with that.
The Hyatt Zilara has five dining options including a buffet, Mexican, tapas, Japanese, and general continental fare. My expectations were pretty accurate; The food ranged from OK to really delicious. Steve found a walnut ice cream that he loved and indulged in every night, and I had a Sea bass that was so outstanding, I had the exact same entrée the next night, which is unheard of for me.
The Japanese restaurant includes a teppanyaki bar which we are also able to get reservations for the first night. Our chef gave us a fun little show with twirling knives and spatulas, and there was, of course, a display of flames, but the food itself was average. My noodles are good, but my ribeye it was overcooked.
Our next two dinners were at Pelicanos, the outdoor open air eatery by the pool. This is where I had my delicious Sea bass, cooked perfectly, served with a salsa Verde. Both nights, we sat with the view of the ocean lit by the full moon; It is hard to ask for a more romantic setting.
The last night was the trumped up six-course chef's tasting menu at Chef’s Plate. We are seated communally at a long table with seven other couples. Hysterically enough, they are all Asian, making Steve the minority in the room. The food was fine, but honestly I would have been happier with a third night of Sea bass. We never got to the Mexican restaurant (remember, Steve doesn't like Mexican food) or the tapas place (The wait was half an hour and we weren't willing to do that), but the buffet was an excellent choice for breakfast/lunch. My favorite part was the guacamole bar. It was fresh, creamy, and bright with jalapeno, cilantro, red onion and tomato. Paired with the salsa Fresca, I basically ate a whole lot of chips and guac for lunch. Everyday. The person at the grill in the buffet, was also skilled. The grilled shrimp and flank steak were excellent. For breakfast I would indulge with churros dipped in a caramel sauce.
We received excellent service everywhere we went. Although, technically tips are included in the all-inclusive experience, Steve and I made sure to bring plenty singles; we tipped the staff every time they brought us a drink or a meal. This insured that we had attentive service throughout the trip. A very nice man named Julio kept us stocked in mud slides, watermelon mojitos, piña coladas, and frozen lemonades in our poolside cabana.
A word about the cabanas. There are plenty of beach cabanas available, but the pool cabanas were a hot commodity. People would get up at the crack of dawn to put down a towel/magazine/bag, claiming their spot. I had no problems with this. It actually became one of my favorite rituals of the trip. I would naturally wake up around 6am, claim our cabana, and wait for the sunrise. However, if neither of you are early birds, I can see how this would be a really frustrating practice. The cabana themselves are lovely – four poster beds, with drapes to block the sun. This would enable you to lie by the pool all day long without burning, Steve's greatest fear. The ocean was stunning polar ice blue, with soft white sand. The waves were rough, so we primarily stayed by the heated pool and swim up bar.
Speaking of fears, the zika outbreak had me nervous. Leading up to the trip, I did copious research and ultimately decided it would be OK for us to go. We were armed with three different kinds of insect repellent, including one that was 98% DEET. My fears are completely unfounded. I literally did not see a single mosquito. And trust me, if there was one, it would've found me (mosquitos, apparently, love Chinese food).
Our room attendant also added some romantic touches every night: champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, or rose petals on the bed or Jacuzzi. This is my favorite picture of the whole trip:
The hotel had a few activities offered each day: yoga, bike rides, Spanish lessons. My favorite was the guacamole making lesson. There was also nightly entertainment: variety shows with dancing and aerial acrobatics, and a live band. Every Tuesday afternoon, there is a foam party in the pool. I was worried we were a little old for such shenanigans, but it turned out to be outrageous, juvenile fun. I wish I had gotten a picture of us dancing in the foam.
On our way back to the airport, our driver asked us if we had visited the museum and we laughed. We told him no, we entered the resort on Sunday and did not leave until it was time to go home. I could not have asked for more lovely, romantic and relaxing vacation. I'm already plotting how we can get back there.