Infinite Margaritas and Sunshine: A Review of the All-Inclusive Hyatt Ziva in Cancun
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To round out my trip to Cancun, I spent two nights at the Hyatt Ziva, Hyatt's brand of all-inclusive family resorts. While I was certainly excited for the bottomless margaritas and 24/7 room service, I was eager to see how the experience would compare to the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott. Did I save the best for last?
Points people rejoice: The Hyatt Ziva Cancun fully participates in the World of Hyatt program, allowing you to earn and redeem points for stays. However, the Hyatt Ziva isn't officially aligned with a World of Hyatt category, as there's a separate award chart for stays at the chain's all-inclusive resorts.
Redemptions for standard rooms require 25,000 points per night on a single- or double-occupancy basis, worth roughly $425 based on TPG's current valuations. Should you have kids or friends in tow, there's an additional 12,500 points required per night per guest for the third and fourth guest sharing the same room. Valued at about $213, that may not be the best deal, considering that children probably aren't consuming $213 worth of food and drinks on a daily basis. It’s important to note that children up to 3 years old can be added at no additional charge.
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Since Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer with a 1:1 ratio to World of Hyatt, you could score two free nights at this property just by signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which is currently offering a 60,000-point sign-up bonus after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. Considering the all-inclusive nature of this property, that's really a phenomenal deal.
Since I was booking just a few days before my off-peak stay, rates were hovering at around $400 a night for an entry-level resort-view king room. I decided to pay cash for the stay and save the points for a more aspirational redemption down the line. Rates at this property start at around $300 during the fall and rise to $500 and more during peak times, like winter and the spring break season. Overall, I was impressed with the rates at the hotel, considering that I had paid a similar rate at the Ritz-Carlton for a less-than-stellar experience that didn't include any food or drinks.
Unsurprisingly, the Hyatt Ziva is in the Hotel Zone in Cancun. While the Ritz and JW Marriott are farther south along the Hotel Zone, the Hyatt is at the top of the Northeast corner of the long road. The property's location affords it incredible ocean views from many of the hotel rooms. Additionally, the property has two beaches, one on the west and the other on the east side of the property.
Since the hotel is a bit further north than some of the other hotels in Cancun, it is further from Cancun Airport (CUN), but not by much. The $35 taxi took about 30 minutes from hotel reception to airport check-in counter. There isn't much else to do in the immediate vicinity, but there are some luxury shopping malls about 10 minutes' drive to the south.
It was clear from the moment I checked in that I had entered a very different type of hotel than the Ritz and JW Marriott. The open-air lobby was spacious with many sitting areas. Reception was in an air-conditioned room off to the right.
The check-in area was incredibly crowded, and I was asked to wait in a 20-minute line for a receptionist. I asked about a priority line for Globalist or Explorist members, but everyone was being funneled into the same line. When it was finally my turn to check in, the front-desk agent neither apologized for the wait nor offered a smile but instead grudgingly asked for my passport and completed the process.
See the picture above for what check-in looked like when I arrived and the picture below for when I departed.
I had to specifically inquire about upgrade availability as an Explorist member, as the agent was prepared to assign me the exact room type I booked. With 547 rooms and suites at the property, there was definitely opportunity for an upgrade. In the end, the agent called her "rooms controller," who offered me a third-floor room in the club-level building.
It took 45 minutes from arrival until I was in my room prepping my stomach and liver for what would be an indulgent two days. This was definitely slower than expected, and turned out to be a harbinger of what I would come to expect from the Hyatt Ziva's service.
There were three buildings with guest rooms at the hotel, each with a unique vibe.
The most prominent was the pyramid building, which housed the standard resort-view and oceanfront rooms, along with the resort's dolphin-pool-view rooms and swim-up suites.
The next building, the 17-floor Club Tower, housed the hotel's club rooms and suites. Staying in the club-level building conferred additional privileges, such as private check-in and checkout, special bath amenities and access to an air-conditioned club on the first floor of the building (which I later learned was actually open to anyone staying at the resort!).
The last building, called Turquoize, was the hotel's adults-only luxury experience. Additional amenities included a VIP transfer to and from the airport, personalized butler services and private Jacuzzis on each balcony.
I was assigned Room 303, a 463-square-foot Club oceanfront room on the third floor of the Club Tower.
Initially, I was excited to be in the "quiet" section of the hotel, since each floor in the Club Tower only had six rooms. Little did I know that there was no need to set an alarm, since all the walls were paper thin and I easily heard my neighbors and guests in the hallway.
The room itself was tastefully decorated. The highlight of the room was the large, comfortable king bed. There was also a pullout sofa bed.
A small table with comfortable chair was back near the balcony.
The highlight of the room was definitely the complimentary minibar, especially with the enhanced snacks and spirits that came with the club-level room.
The small balcony had both ocean and resort views.
There were plenty of outlets near the bed and throughout the room.
Back near the entrance was the bathroom, which featured a large walk-in shower, toilet and dual vanity.
The safe and robes (which were collected and never replaced or hung up after use) were in the closet.
There was free, throttled Wi-Fi located throughout the property (including the beaches and pools), but I enjoyed complimentary premium Wi-Fi on account of my Explorist status. This 15 mbps download and 10 mbps upload connection would've cost $20 a day if it weren't for my status.
Overall, the room was modern but unmemorable. While the room was definitely much nicer than the Ritz-Carlton, the JW Marriott's recent room renovation put their rooms at the top of the three properties I visited.
Food and Beverage
Even though it felt like I ate and drank my way through the two-day stay, I barely made a dent in the food offered. I obviously didn't get a chance to try all if it, but overall I found that the plentiful choices didn't make up for the average flavor.
The first night I arrived, I had appetizers at the hotel's buffet restaurant, Mercado, which had an Asian-themed buffet for dinner. I enjoyed the sushi and salad bar and saved the rest for the pictures.
Mercado was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and had plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. It felt like I could get my daily exercise strictly from walking up and down the buffet.
My second stop was Chevy's, the resort's diner, which felt like I had stepped into a Johnny Rockets.
I thought the burger and "fries" (more like potato wedges) were OK at best.
I also had a chance to visit Lorenzo's, the hotel's Italian restaurant, for dinner one night.
There I enjoyed some (smiley emoji) crema di pomodoro, squash Sorrentino and an offensively bad pizza Margherita.
The other restaurant that I tried was Tradewinds, which served classic American fare by day and transformed into a steakhouse at night. My three-course dinner began with a quinoa salad, was followed by grilled salmon and ended with a warm apple tart. Again, the food wasn't necessarily high-quality, but, boy, did it feel good to leave dinner without signing a check.
For those keeping score at home, that's four restaurants in two nights. Unfortunately for you (and fortunately for my waistband), not all restaurants were open every night (and no schedule was given in the rooms or during check-in). Therefore, I missed dining at the hotel's other three restaurants: a French bistro, a teppanyaki restaurant and a beachside taqueria.
Outside of traditional mealtimes, various food carts roamed around the pools.
Plus, there was a 24/7 lounge that offered rotating light bites. And then there was room service all day and night -- you're not going hungry here!
My favorite dining venue, however, wasn't a restaurant. It was Pasteles, a dessert parlor featuring ice cream, baked goods, gummies and other sweet treats. Having access to a full dessert parlor is a dream come true for my sweet tooth.
When not stuffing myself with food, I was drinking. I was really impressed with the included alcohol selection at all the bars, with spirits like Belvedere and Grey Goose vodka, Johnnie Walker Black and a bunch of tequilas like Don Julio and Herradura. All the bartenders were friendly and eager to aid my quest to hydrate.
Oh, and while water was served in single-use plastic bottles, no drinks were served with straws. Welcome to 2019.
The all-inclusive experience didn't just end at food and beverages. The hotel had three large pool areas. The first, largest and most crowded was in the center of the resort, just down the steps from the main lobby. There were many chaise loungers set up around this pool, and there was even a swim-up bar and Jacuzzi built into the pool.
Just off the pool was one of the resort's beaches, which featured many chaise loungers lined up one atop of the other.
Also in this main area by the lobby was the dolphin pool, which housed the resort's four dolphins. The dolphin experience is subcontracted to Delphinus, which offered various different dolphin experiences for an additional cost. The kids club featured a miniature outdoor waterpark, as well as an indoor room with games for kids.
Up one floor from the main lobby was the hotel's adults-only infinity pool, reserved for guests staying in one of the Turquoize rooms. There was also a bar up there, but I didn't have access to it. The last pool, which was always less crowded than the main pool, was between the Club and Turquoize towers. While this pool was considerably smaller than the larger main pool, it was definitely more relaxing. There was also a (lukewarm) Jacuzzi here, which was the perfect end to long days outdoors.
There was also a beach by this pool, which was also considerably less crowded than the main area.
The hotel's 24/7 gym, overlooking the dolphin pool, offered plenty of LifeFitness machines and an extensive weights area.
There was a short walking path along the ocean that passed the hotel's wedding canopy and Cancun sign.
On my last day, I splurged for a spa treatment. After all, there is nothing harder than spending four days reviewing hotels in paradise.
Aside from being incredibly impressed by the treatment itself, the spa facilities were gorgeous.
There was a hydrotherapy circuit of cold, hot and lukewarm indoor pools, as well as sauna, steam room and relaxation areas. Since the spa wasn't included in the room rate, it happened to be empty, further adding to its relaxing and rejuvenating ambience. I'd highly recommend a treatment or day pass ($40) if you need a break from the hustle and bustle outdoors.
So yes, there was certainly more to do here than your traditional hotel, but the question comes down to whether you would prefer a more intimate experience at a hotel like the Ritz or JW Marriott or a more crowded hotel that has something to offer for everyone.
Service wasn't one of the many inclusions at this hotel. My check-in experience got my stay off to a rocky start, and it didn't really recover.
There was no one helping set up lounge chairs or distributing towels at any of the pools. The poolside food service was also inconsistent, as waiters only came around offering drink orders and refills every hour or so. Most of the time, however, I found the pool staff congregated by the bar hanging with their colleagues.
As a pescatarian dining at an all-inclusive resort, I needed to ask lots of questions about the menu. Most of the staff I interacted with couldn't answer my questions and needed to loop in their supervisors.
Compared to some of the other all-inclusive resorts I've stayed it, there were few upsells. Aside from the spa (which left flyers by the bedside during turndown every night), everything was truly included. There were no premium liquor packages or overpriced photoshoots. Once you arrived, (almost) everything was included.
Overall, it's hard to offer good service at such a large resort. If you're looking to be pampered, spend your time in the spa or at another resort. If you can fend for yourself, then don't let the service, or lack thereof, bother you.
Whether the Hyatt Ziva is the best hotel in Cancun depends on who you are and your travel style. This hotel is perfect for families or groups looking for an easy experience without the hassles of splitting the check, finding food at odd hours or worrying about menu prices. Once you show up, leave the wallet in the safe and enjoy the modern rooms, two beaches, three pools, and 17 restaurants and bars in this expansive resort where there is truly something for everyone.
However, if you're looking for a quiet, more personalized stay, head elsewhere. Otherwise, you may end up disappointed that this all-inclusive resort includes lackluster service and only mediocre food.
All photos by the author.