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Today’s post comes from PDX Deals Guy who has previously written about using the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program in Las VegasTicket Resellinghow to earn up to 2.625% with the Bank Americard Travel Visa and his experience with Silvercar. You can follow him on Twitter and look for the latest deals on his website.

Hyatt Zilara Cancun Review

My wife and I just recently returned from a great 8-night trip to the Hyatt Zilara Cancun. This is one of two Hyatt Zilara properties (the other being in Jamaica) that are “adults only” all-inclusive (AI) resorts. Hyatt also has Ziva “family” AI resorts in Mexico, including one that just recently opened just up the road from the Zilara in Cancun.

All-in-all, it was a fantastic and relaxing vacation, which is exactly what a mid-winter trip to a Mexican AI should be. We had previously experienced the Moon Palace and Sun Palace AI resorts in Cancun, so we were eager to see the difference.

Booking

hyatt zilara cancun review
Hyatt Zilara Cancun Lobby.

The biggest difference for us in moving from our previous Palace Resorts experiences was that our stay at the Hyatt Zilara was “free” – or at least paid for entirely with Hyatt points earned via the travel hacking skills I’ve acquired here at Miles to Memories and other fine blogs out there. Specifically, Zilara requires 25,000 Hyatt points per night (or free night certificates from the Chase Hyatt credit card), which I transferred over 1:1 from Chase Ultimate Rewards. That rate covers the entire AI experience for 2 adults. Additional adults in the same room are 12,500 per night, so you’re really better off going in even numbers and getting a room for each pair of people.

Once you’re ready to book, you’ll need to call Hyatt to book the reservation, as their website does not support online booking of AI resorts with points. There is also no points and cash option available, nor can Diamond Suite Upgrades be used.

hyatt zilara cancun review

Since I mentioned the Palace resorts in Cancun, I will make a quick comparison, especially for the sake of anyone thinking of making the switch to Hyatt like we did. Besides the ability to book with Hyatt points (versus cash or time-share weeks probably being your option at Palace Resorts), we found the Sun Palace and Hyatt Zilara to be very comparable in just about every way.

The Zilara is a bit larger, but other than that it’s not surprising that both are on TripAdvisor’s top-10 list of Cancun hotels. (The Zilara did give us one quick sales pitch for their “membership club,” which seems to be something of a holdover from the previous time-share ownership of the building – before it was acquired by Hyatt, but less so than you’ll experience at the Palace Resorts.) The one thing that the Moon Palace has over both (besides being enormous) is an on-site championship golf course, to which some time-share members have unlimited “free” access (and I believe you can buy those “golf” weeks from some members on eBay).

Airport Transfer

A great tip that I picked up from Angelina Travels before my trip was to use Discovery Mundo for airport transfers to/from Zilara. Their price was $73 (per couple) for us, which was about half of the service offered by the hotel itself. Discovery Mundo has someone waiting for you right outside the airport, holding a sign with either your name or their company name. Then that person takes you right to a private (non-shared) air-conditioned van or SUV, and our wait was about 10 minutes after clearing customs. The ride to the hotel is about 20 minutes, and they will want to pick you up at your hotel on the way home two and a half hours before your flight.

Rooms

hyatt zilara cancun review

Most of the rooms at Zilara are identical, or nearly identical, or so I’ve been told. The exceptions are the ground-floor swim-up suites and we heard mention of (and think we saw larger balconies for) some “presidential” suites. From what I’ve gathered in talking to Hyatt and other folks who have been to Zilara, I don’t believe there is any way to guarantee one of these other types of rooms when booking with Hyatt points. There is a 40,000 point “suite” booking option, but all the rooms at Zilara are considered ocean-view suites, so I haven’t been able to confirm that the extra 15,000 points per night guarantees you anything. Maybe it would increase your chances at an upgraded room, but I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Since we didn’t experience the swim-up suites, I’ll leave the commentary on them to someone else. But I will list some quick pros and cons we observed for the swim-up rooms. Pros: quick/easy access to the pool and beach area, your own pool lounge chairs that you don’t have to fight for, a semi-private pool that you share with four to six neighbors, and I’ve heard the rooms are a bit larger. Cons: some lack of privacy being just above ground level, the private pool and lounge chairs are in the area that gets shady before the rest of the pool area, less of an elevated view of the ocean from your room, and whatever other negatives you might ascribe to being on the ground floor of a hotel.

As for our “standard” room, it was quite nice. The bed was very comfortable (choose your pillows from a menu at check-in) and the large jacuzzi tub with ocean view was fantastic. The bathroom is not terribly private (you’ve been warned, in case you care), but plenty big, with two sinks, a decent-size closet, and a big shower with two heads and side jets. Robes and pillows are provided, the latter of which is nice for the marble floors.

hyatt zilara cancun review
View from our balcony.

Two last broad thoughts on the rooms. First, I didn’t get the feeling at check-in that my Hyatt Diamond status did much for me in terms special treatment. In fact, as Angelina mentioned, Hyatt Platinum and Diamond members both get the same color wristbands (not that it probably matters). Perhaps status could help to get an swim-up suite, depending on availability (a friend of mine with Platinum status got one for part of his stay recently). That said, they did happily give me 3pm checkout on the day we left, which coincided with my shuttle bus pickup time.

The second thought is regarding floor selection. It appeared to me that the 6th floor (out of 8 floors) had mostly private balconies, so you may want to request a room on that floor. Otherwise you may get to know your neighbors if you both happen to be using your balconies at the same time. Also, unless you don’t think you’ll mind noise from the evening entertainment in the lobby, you will want to avoid the centrally-located rooms on the bottom four floors (that open up to hallways exposed to the lobby).

Food and Drink

hyatt zilara cancun review

This is why you go to an all-inclusive, right? In all seriousness, it is probably the most controversial part of the AI experience. My perception is that a lot of AI’s are known for having marginal food (and drink) quality, at best. I suspect this stems from lower-quality resorts. In my experience, at Hyatt (and the Palace Resorts) the food is mostly very good, if not great. Like many things in life, I suspect it’s all about expectations. But we were generally very pleased with the quality and variety.

In terms of variety, there were four to six different restaurants (depending on how you define them), a coffee shop, a VIP lounge (with snacks and a self-service bar), and a few full bars (with bar service at all the restaurants). You can read about each of them on the hotel website, and even see menus, so I won’t spend a lot of time breaking them down.

What I will share is a quick laundry list of some tips and favorites:

  • Make hibachi table reservations at Asiana a few days in advance (maybe make two or three reservations, as you can always cancel).
  • We have heard from a few other folks, and agree ourselves, that the pool restaurant (Pelicanos) is a favorite spot for the view and good food (love the french toast at breakfast, steak and fish tacos at lunch, and the steak and shrimp together at dinner!). But if you’re a bit unlucky like us and have some windy days, you will definitely want to seek out any calm evenings to eat there.
  • If you like coffee (and liquor!), don’t miss the Mayan (flaming!) coffee at Tapas at dinnertime. In the morning, grab a coffee in the coffee shop and stop by the main lobby bar to have them add some Bailey’s!
  • The variety and quality at the buffet restaurant (Spice) is actually quite impressive. (You may want to follow my lead and show up at 10:55 each night, just before closing, and ask for a plastic cup and spoon to get some sorbet or ice cream to take back to your room!)
  • If you want to consider the Chef’s Table (more private dining experience), be sure to check out the daily menu ahead of time, as it varies significantly.
  • Finally, remember that room service (decent menu selection) and honor bar (stocked with sodas, snacks, beer and four types of non-top-shelf liquor) is included in the AI experience!

One last very important tip! Don’t forget to ask for whatever top-shelf liquor you want in your drinks. If you don’t ask, of course you’ll get the well. Our personal favorite of the week was the Don Julio margarita on the rocks, with a dash of Grand Mariner!

Pool and Beach

hyatt zilara cancun review

If you didn’t come for the food and drink, then you probably came for the pool and beach (maybe both!) The pool is somewhat split between an activity pool (occasional volleyball, water aerobics, semi-loud music, etc.) and a more quiet pool, with the split being the bridge to Pelicanos restaurant. The pool is surrounded by cabana day beds (nice and cushy, but could use a couple extra pillows) and lounge chairs.

If you pick up nothing else before you go, here’s the key tip. If you want a decent bed and/or chairs, you’ll probably need to go down to the pool by 8 or 9am to get towels and claim your territory. I also recommend bringing a few magazines you don’t care about, so that you can leave one “personal item” besides towels. As annoying as this system is, you’ll soon learn that it’s the “game” at the resort. While you might be able to get an employee to help you claim a chair or bed that hasn’t been used in hours (other than holding a towel), I wouldn’t count on it. Again, it’s kind of annoying, but if you aren’t an early riser, you might want to set an alarm to make a quick run down to the pool deck in the morning.

hyatt zilara cancun review

The pool itself is great. The temperature is perfect, not to cool or warm. Perfect for wading up to the swim-up bar for drinks! The wifi at the pool is pretty spotty, and understandably worse the further you move towards the beach. We relied a fair amount on our AT&T data plan, which, as of this writing, includes 1 GB of data per month in Mexico (extra $20 per GB over), if you sign-up for the free Mexico plan while you’re traveling.

The beach might be more of a draw during the hot summer months, but while we were there in January it was far less-used than the pool. If you prefer the beach (and if the wind isn’t blowing too much sand), then you won’t have any problem getting your choice of cabana beds or lounge chairs at the beach. Some places in Cancun have a lot of seaweed on the beach and in the water, but we did not experience it to any bad degree. In fact, we had a great time jumping waves in the ocean on a few occasions. It is quite a sight looking up and down the long stretch of hotels along the Cancun beach. You might even enjoy a walk or jog on the beach, or being approached by merchants selling trinkets.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a vacation where you have nothing to do but relax in the sun, and potentially have way too much to eat/drink (why do they put scales in the rooms?!), then Zilara Cancun is a solid choice, especially for those of us with access to Hyatt points. There are other aspects to the resort I haven’t covered here (since we didn’t partake much), including evening entertainment in the lobby, local shopping and tours, the fitness center, and the salon/spa.

The resort feels like a solid 4-star experience, and I doubt you’ll be disappointed with that frame of reference. The service from the locals who work in the resort is solid and sincere, if not perfectly uniform and well-trained, as you might expect at resorts in some other geographies. Take a big stack of $1 bills for tipping throughout the week (you won’t otherwise have any use for cash), and we found the employees to be very appreciative.

Have you been to the Hyatt Zilara Cancun? If so, how do your experiences compare? If not, feel free to pose questions here, and maybe one of us who have been can take a stab at answering.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Our experience was awesome. We got an upgrade (diamond member) green wrist bands. Private check in. Food was ok. Preferred spice restaurant. Everything was awesome. Super great service. Excellent room. Shower was amazing. Fully stocked mini fridge. Couldn’t beat it. Would love to go back soon!

    • Glad to hear that you enjoyed your experience too. Did you get an upgraded room, or do you just mean the green wrist bands? (We did not notice a difference in service level based upon wrist band colors, and Platinums and Diamonds both get green.)

      Not surprising that different people can have slightly different perceptions. Sounds like we both enjoyed ourselves, but I’d say the food was better than okay (albeit not always fantastic). Whereas you mention the super great service, but we found it to be a bit uneven at times (great people, but maybe not always great training).

    • For book-with-points inventory, you must call. Doesn’t show online. You might be able to glean something from the cash-price inventory, but not as far as I know. If they don’t have inventory for some/all of the nights you want, it doesn’t hurt to call back. We originally had to book 2 of our 8 nights at the Ziva, due to 2 of the nights not being available at Zilara. But I called back a few times, and they ended up opening inventory for those 2 nights just a few days before we arrived.

  2. I’ve used Hyatt Diamond suite upgrades here multiple times. Is this a new rule or is the place just busy during the time you went? I stayed at Zivi 3 times and Zilara once in Jamaica. I think it’s a beautiful resort.

    • It wasn’t too busy/full when we were there, but they said there were not any swim-up rooms available (appeared to be accurate). I was told when we booked (only available via phone) that they did not take DSU’s, but I may have been told that in error. If someone has recent experience (either way), let us know.

      I agree that it’s a beautiful resort. I just think expectations are important. I wouldn’t want someone going in expecting a 5-star experience, because it’s not that. But, as I said in the post, if you have 4-star expectations, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

  3. We just got back on Feb 6th from our second trip here. We absolutely love it. We have used points both times and paid for an upgrade to a presidential suite to have the 8th floor guaranteed. We are now trying to figure out when we can go back again! I also agree that being a Diamond doesn’t mean much at this property. The only benefit we received was a late check out. This is our favorite of the 3 Hyatt AIs (Ziva Rose Hall and Ziva Puerto Vallarta) that we have tried.

    • I, too (like Dino), would be interested to know what you paid for the upgrade (or did you possibly pay the 40k point rate)? And did you set it up in-advance, or just at check-in? I didn’t realize there were presidential suites on the 8th floor. It looked like there were some on the 5th floor (I think), as I noticed some larger balconies (on 2 sides of some rooms). Doesn’t sound like you’ve been in a standard room, but I’d also be interested to know your impressions/description (photos?) of the presidential suite.

      The late check-out benefit was nice for us, too, given that we were picked up by our airport shuttle a bit after 2:30. So we were able to enjoy the pool & beach until 2pm or so that day and then go back to our room.

      I’d also be interested to know what made the Zilara Cancun better than the other two Hyatt AI’s you’ve been to.

      Thanks for your comment and any further reply.

    • I have a short stay booked for April. My dad and I each booked our own room. I know, waste of free nights, but we just don’t share a room when we travel. Would love to know about the presidential suite as perhaps that’s an option so we can share a room. Can you tell more about the configuration of the room and the upgrade cost?

      On another note, I see several mentions of Platinum status not getting much, as well as DSUs. My room is booked on free nights, so am I correct that I can’t use a DSU even if they were offered?

      • I’ll let someone else who knows more about the Presidential suites reply to that question.

        As for the DSU’s, I’ve been told that they do not work at all at the Hyatt all inclusive properties. And I believe you’re correct that they wouldn’t work on a pure points (or free cert night) anyway, only cash or cash+points bookings.

  4. I just got back from the Zilara, Saturday. I enjoyed my five nights there and echo most of the points you made but I will add a few of my own personal opinions. I would not bother with the Chef’s Table or Asiana again. I was not impressed. The Asiana was stiffling hot and the food OK, but, frankly, the least impressive hibachi grill I have experienced. Not bad, just nothing special and, again, it was miserably hot. The Chef’s Table did not impress here either. It was very fancy and a bit dramatic, if you enjoy that sort of thing, but the foods failed to impress me. Maybe I am just unsophisticated. Frankly, if I go again, I will skip the Asiana and the Chef’s Table in favor of Pelicanos. I really enjoyed the food and atmosphere here. I liked the breakfast buffet at Spice but preferred the lunch and dinner at Pelicanos. I did not try Tapas. It is an easy (15 minute) walk to a nice shopping mall to the south or a flea market to the north. The staff were all very nice and I really liked the place. I just was not impressed with the two restaurants I mentioned, but the others more than made up for it. I also got a light approach for a presentation on the ownership club, Real. I only do those when the incentive is good and the reviews indicate a low pressure experience. The incentive (gift) was pretty mediocre and I read some horrific reviews on line that described the actual presentation experience, so I steered clear. Maybe it’s a great deal, but I just don’t want to spoil a vacation by getting a high pressure sales pitch.

    • Thanks for your comments, James. Great to add more personal experiences and opinions.

      I’ll agree that the hibachi experience at Asiana was nothing special. It is better at the Palace Resorts, and some long-time Zilara-goers we sat with said it used to be better. Too bad. But we still enjoyed it (enough to go a second time). I’ve heard the heat is bad if you go when the sun is coming in, but we went after sunset. We found that sitting on the side of the hibachi was annoying due to blowing air from the air vents in the ceiling. But we were perfectly comfortable when sitting in 2 of the 4 seats along the long/main edge. We did not eat in Asiana, other than the 2 dinners at the hibachi table.

      Your opinion of the Chef’s table fit with what we heard from others. Then again, we talked to other people who loved it. But we chose not to do it, and found that there was enough variety among the other restaurants. We also liked Pelicanos and Spice, and after a couple days you get a feel for your favorite times (menus) to go to each. Tapas is a little small and odd. There were some things worth trying, but the only reason we went back a 2nd/3rd/4th time was for a Myan coffee (dessert).

      Interesting observations on the vacation club stuff. I agree that it’s only ever worth it if they offer a lot, if even then. In my opinion, steering clear makes for a more enjoyable vacation. And at least steering clear seemed pretty easy at Zilara.

  5. My wife and I stayed there last March (2015) for two free nights from Hyatt card. Echo your experience – very well executed all-inclusive experience, from rooms to beach/pool to food. Would definitely return again.

  6. We were at Zilara Cancun in August — the worst time to be there weather wise (blistering hot) – yet it was a wonderful experience, all around for three nights.. Two years ago, we stayed at the Zilara Montego Bay for three nights, plus 3 at Holiday Inn Sunspree (now Resort), and this trip, we also spent 3 days at the Wyndham Viva all-inclusive about an hour south, at Playa del Carmen — so we may have more of a comparative basis that others. A few quick notes:

    Zilara Cancun rooms are all superb for facing the ocean – as in Ocean Front. (At Zilara Jamaica, with a few exceptions, you are much, much further away from the ocean….; you’re lucky to see it, much less hear it. Cancun Ziva has the same problem — only worse — there, they give the reward nights to “garden facing” rooms…. bah hum bug. Some reward.)

    Zilara Montego Bay by far has the best food of all three — all the a la carte restaurants are off the charts wonderful, especially the french place. (Bit of an unfair comparison though, as you also have access to several restaurants at Montego Bay Ziva — adjoining property)

    The Cancun Zilara beach is plagued by rough surf — with frequent red flag warnings….. par for the course there, I gather. (Kudos to staff for arranging bus transportation to who knows where — beaches without the red flags I gather)

    Best beach and atmosphere by far goes to Wyndham Viva Maya at Playa Del Carmen. (helps having that large island off short — which protects the beach from heavy surfs…. Only nicer beaches we’ve ever been to were at Aruba — but they’re now spoiled by those miserable oil drilling barges parked off the coast) Worse/roughest beach we experiences was at Hyatt Zilara Montego Bay. (really rough surf, narrow beaches, limited sand — and oh how we loathed the security everywhere…. e.g., Jamaica has a serious problem with its beaches being “walled off to the public….” By contrast, in Mexico (like Florida), you can walk, walk, walk to your heart’s content.

    Worst thing about the Viva Maya was the HEAT — the dining areas were open-air OVENS…. and oh yes, the lack of reliable internet. ***ggggrrrrr. (management lunacy on that)

    Oddly enough we likely will go back to Viva Maya first — in winter — in part at Wyndham points are even easier to earn that Hyatt’s….. that and the beach there is really that nice and superior to anything at Cancun. (and the drinks and entertainment — just wonderful)

    Yes, the Hyatt Zilara’s are wonderful….

      • Ah, but sorry about all the typos and autocorrect mistakes….

        One thing I left out was how we saved serious money on getting to and from CUN airport…. the BUS! (yah, I know, TIF cheapskates we are — but I loathe the thought of paying more on taxis than I do for anything else on the trip)

        First, the ADO bus system really is first class…. (nicest buses I’ve ever experienced) you can get from the airport to the downtown transfer station for between $5 and $8. Then take one of the local buses from there out to the hotel zones for UNDER a $1…. (You may even get a serenade from musicians along the way) Ok, the local buses mostly cater to …. tah dah…. locals…. but they go every five to ten minutes round the clock, and stop right in front of Zilara. Oh, and bring some pesos to tip the delightful minstrels who may serenade your journey on the local bus.

        Only hurdle is if you have too much luggage…. THAT was a challenge on the local buses (think old US school bus leg room) But luggage is no problem with the ADO buses — load it underneath. (and yes, we took ADO to Playa del Carmen too…. that too super cheap (under $5)…. and then very short/cheap taxi over to Viva Maya) We did all this without knowing a word of spanish…. other than basic courtesies.

        Didn’t feel like we lost much time either…. and no need to worry about getting ripped off by the (lying) time share con-artists that hover like vultures all over visitors as you get off the plane at Cancun, just after the thieving, if “official-looking” money exchange stands….. 🙂

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