This is part 2 of our trip to Cancun, but let’s recap part 1 first. In the first leg of our trip, we wanted to experience the local color so we stayed at a modest hotel in downtown for 3 nights. We walked around to see Mercado 28, play at Parque de la Palapas, and enjoy the local Dia de los Muertos celebration. We also went on an all day excursion to visit Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and X’Canche Cenote. It was a ton of fun, but we were ready to hit the beach and relax after 3 busy days. In part 2, we moved to the Hyatt Ziva Cancun, a luxurious hotel in an amazing location. Frankly, it was a ridiculous upgrade.
This was our first experience with an all inclusive resort. Previously, we’ve always traveled DIY. I’d reserve a modest hotel and find interesting stuff to do. I never really liked the idea of an all inclusive resort. Why travel all that way if you’re going to stay at the hotel all the time? That didn’t make sense to me. I’d rather immerse myself in the local culture. Well, as much as a non Spanish-speaking tourist can anyway. (Mrs. RB40 speaks a little Spanish.) However, I wanted to maximize our credit card sign up reward and Hyatt Ziva was a great property in a beautiful location. Let’s see if this all inclusive experience changed my mind about this mode of traveling. Read on…
Our hotel situation on this trip was a bit of a mess. Check it out.
- 3 nights at the Suites Gaby in El Centro (downtown), Cancun.
- 4 nights at the Hyatt Ziva in the hotel zone.
- 2 nights at the Krystal Urban in a newer area in downtown.
At first, I wanted to change hotel just once, but I couldn’t make it work. We had 4 free nights at any Hyatt through our credit card sign up bonus and we choose the Hyatt Ziva in Cancun. However, these free nights are only applicable to standard rooms and they were sold out on the days we wanted. I barely got 4 consecutive nights and I had to call Hyatt’s booking service a bunch of times. That’s why we stayed at 3 hotels, but it worked out for the best.
Staying at the luxurious all-inclusive Hyatt Ziva in the middle of our trip worked out really well. That’s because we could check in early and check out late. We got to enjoy the awesome amenities for 5 full days even though we stayed for four nights. Our arrival flight got in late and our departure flight left late. I think that’s pretty standard for the west coast to Cancun. The travel days meant we’d get 3 days and 4 nights if we went straight to the Hyatt Ziva. By putting this stay in the middle of the trip, we ended up with 5 days and 4 nights. That’s pretty nice, right?
Checking in was great. We left Suites Gaby and arrived by taxi at the Hyatt Ziva around 9:30 am even though our official check in time was 3 pm. My theory is the earlier you check in, the better room you’ll get. This theory held true this time and we got upgraded from the standard room to the club tower. Yes, I got lucky again! Our room on the 12th floor had a gorgeous view.
The club room also came with the club lounge access and nicer refreshments in the mini fridge. The best thing about the club room was the better view. The other stuff was no big deal because food and drinks were available elsewhere in the hotel. Our room wasn’t ready until the official check in time; however, we could enjoy all the amenities as soon as we arrived. The amenities included all the alcohol you can drink, food from numerous restaurants and carts, beach access, pools, spa, fitness center, and kids club. We left our bags at the check in and went to explore the property.
The location of the property is insane. The Hyatt Ziva is located at the tip of the hotel zone in Cancun and it is surrounded by the ocean on 3 sides. Check it out on Google Maps.
There is a small private beach on the north side and a huge public beach on the south. The eastern edge is a cliff, but the view is still great. Most of the standard rooms have the eastern view. The club tower where we stayed and the Turquoise Tower (adults only) have the southern view. The view to the south features the expansive white sand beach and many hotels in the Zona. The view from our room was great. It seemed almost like the Vegas strip with all the brightly lit hotels.
On site beaches
- Private beach – This was my favorite spot on the property. The sand was white and fluffy without a lot of seaweed, rocks, or other junk. It was the best sand I’d ever seen and I’ve been to a ton of beaches all over the world. We spent many hours here sitting under the straw huts and chilling out. The beach side servers were great and they always asked if we wanted anything to drink. Activities on this beach included snorkeling, kayak, stand up paddleboard, a trampoline, an iceberg to climb, and eating from various food carts. This was the busy side of the hotel.
- Public beach – The public beach on the south side was bigger, but the sand was not as nice. There were a lot of shells and rocks mixed in with the sand. It was a good beach, but I liked the north side better. We hung out at the pool on this side, but didn’t spend as much time out on the beach itself. There is a gazebo on this side and we saw many wedding ceremonies when we were there.
There are 3 really nice pools on the property, but we only went to two of them. That Google Maps picture above is old. There are new pools on the property now.
- North Pool – This was the busy side of the hotel. There were all kinds of activities around this pool. We saw water cycling, some kind of aqua yoga, water volleyball, and various other activities, all with an accompanying soundtrack. Mrs. RB40 refused to do any of them. She said she was there to relax and I agreed with her. 😉 There was a nice swim up bar here too. Most of the restaurants are around this area.
- South Pool – The south pool was much less busy. The guests can relax more on this side of the hotel. We had a good time swimming around and hanging out at the cabana. We liked this pool because it didn’t have the constant pounding music like the other side of the hotel.
- Adult only pool – There is an adult only pool at top of the Turquoise tower. That whole tower is for adults only so we didn’t go there.
- Dolphin pool – Oh, I almost forgot. There is a dolphin pool next to the north side pool. You can swim with the dolphins, but it costs extra to sign up. We didn’t feel motivated enough to do it.
Ahh… The bottomless drinks. On our first day, I tried to limit my alcohol intake to about a drink every 90 minutes. It felt great to be able to order whatever I wanted all the time. Normally, I’d enjoy just one or two drinks and call it good. That rule got thrown out the window because the drinks were included in the price of the hotel. Hey, I might as well over indulge once in my post college life.
My favorite drink was the Mezcal Paloma. I had a bunch of those. Even RB40Jr got in on the action and downed many Strawberry Daiquiris and Pink Panthers, no alcohol, of course.
Unfortunately, one drink every 90 minutes was a bit too often for me. I didn’t sleep very well that first night and I cut back to a drink every 2-3 hours for the rest of our stay. That worked out better. I was happy and boozy without feeling nauseous. Anyway, I drank more during our 5 day stay than I normally drink in a year. That probably wasn’t good, but it was just a short visit. We’ll detox when we get home. Those free drinks were dangerous. 😉
We did a pretty good job moderating our alcohol intake, but food was another story. We ate a ton of food and enjoyed almost every bit of it. If we didn’t like a dish, then we’d just leave it and order something else. I felt so spoiled. I’ll go through one eatery at a time and give you my impression of each.
Habaneros is a Mexican restaurant next to the north beach. They made a nice variety of excellent ceviches and seafood cocktails. I also liked the tuna tartare here. The taco al pastor was a disappointment, though. The 30 pesos street tacos in town tasted much better. Despite the taco letdown, Mrs. RB40 and I really enjoyed this beach side restaurant.
Chevy’s was RB40Jr’s favorite restaurant on the property because they serve classic American fare. His favorite food of the trip was the hot dogs here… What can I say? Kids like kid food. The milkshakes here were good too.
The Moongate was actually 2 Asian restaurants in one space. We tried the teppanyaki grill first and enjoyed it. The rice and miso soup weren’t seasoned very well, but the shrimps and steaks were great. The show was a lot of fun as well. Another night we came back for the ala carte side of the restaurant. They serve a variety of Asian dishes on the menu and we ordered sushi rolls and a Pad Thai. The sushi rolls were great and RB40Jr ordered a second eel roll. The Pad Thai was a bit different than I’m used to, but it was good too.
The Tradewinds was a classic steakhouse and our favorite place for breakfast. We had breakfast here twice and had a great experience both times. Dinner here was good too. I ordered a rib eye steak and it was huge. The steak was tender and flavorful, but it was too big for me. It turned into a chore toward the end of the meal and I was really stuffed. That’s not really a complaint. 🙂
Another favorite of mine was the Casa Café. Imagine being able to get whatever drinks you want from a café at anytime. It was awesome. I had a bunch of iced mochas and cookies while we were there. The café was a really nice touch.
El Mercado was the buffet. We went there for Brazil night and had more meat. It was good, but we never go to buffets so we can’t really compare. I prefer to eat at one of the other full service restaurants. Why get your own food if the server can bring it for you? Oh man, I sound so snobby…
Lorenzo’s was an Italian restaurant. We only went here for pizza at lunch. Mrs. RB40 thought Italian food didn’t really fit Cancun so we didn’t make it to dinner. The pizzas were good and RB40Jr ate most of his pepperoni pizza.
La Bastille was a French restaurant which served adults only. You also needed to wear long pants and dress shoes here. We didn’t make it because RB40Jr was with us for dinner. We could have dropped him off at the Kidz Club, but just didn’t do it.
The room service was another great option for lunch. We got an order of crab cake and a club sandwich and they were excellent. We wanted to try the other items on the menu, but there were too many things to try at the restaurants. It was liberating to order whatever we want from the room service menu.
Pasteles was a shop full of sweets. It looks really impressive, but almost everything was just too sweet. We enjoyed the desserts at the restaurants much more. I think they should replace this shop with something more practical. A bakery would be a much better compliment for the cafe.
Bars – There were 5 bars around the property. This wasn’t a big deal to us because the servers will get you drinks at the beaches and pools. We went to check out Tres CerveZa’s, a sports bar, and that was cool. They had good chicken wings and a bunch of TVs tuned to various sports. They also brew their own beer here. Unfortunately, the house brew was an IPA at the time. I’m a huge IPA snob and I liked Portland’s IPA much better. Our IPAs are more nuanced and subtle. Their IPA was good, but I love Portland’s IPAs. Mrs. RB40 isn’t into IPAs. That was it for our bar experience. Juana Margarita had tequila and mezcal tasting, but I wasn’t up for it.
Whew, we ate a ton of food while we were at Hyatt Ziva. I didn’t weigh myself, but I suspect I gained a couple of pounds. That’s the peril of staying in a luxurious all inclusive resort. We haven’t been to other all inclusive hotels so I’m not sure how the food compares. We were pretty happy with the meals. Some dishes were really good and some were just okay. You just need to find the right dishes at the right restaurant.
The Kidz Club was another great thing about the all inclusive resort. It opens from 9 am to 9 pm and we could drop RB40Jr off whenever we wanted. There is a small water park there and other activities to do. The staffs were very good too. We sent RB40Jr off to the Kidz Club an hour or two everyday so we could have some alone time. This was a great feature for families.
There were shows at the terrace every night. We saw a magic show, a Mayan show, and a break dancing performance. They were fun and gave us something to do after dinner.
The service was awesome. They left us a bottle of Champagne and a little cake in the room to welcome us on the first day. I told them we were there to celebrate our anniversary. We got married in July so this was actually a late celebration. 🙂 The bellhop brought our luggage up later and that was great too. The maid came to clean our room in the morning, and also did a turndown service in the evening. All the hotel staff were great and everyone went the extra mile to be friendly. All the friendly staff made us feel special.
On our last night, they left us a custom dessert plate and a nice note. It was a very nice gesture, but we didn’t eat any of the sweets. We couldn’t eat anything else by the end of the stay. (Well, RB40 ate the yellow ring and half a peanut butter cup).
What I didn’t like
The only thing I didn’t like was that the AC was turned down at night. It got warm and I didn’t sleep comfortably through the night. That’s a minor complaint, but why can’t they be like other hotels and let the guests pick the temperature? It seemed like a cheapo move to save electricity.
Mrs. RB40 had no complaints. She was pretty happy.
All inclusive evaluation
So how do I feel about all inclusive resorts now? Mrs. RB40 and I had a great time and we can see why so many people enjoy this kind of vacation. The stay was extremely relaxing and there were a ton of amenities. You can eat good food whenever and however much you want. Drinks were a wave away. We could relax at the pool and the beaches were just steps away. It was almost too easy and I felt a bit guilty. Shouldn’t you have to exert yourself a bit to enjoy a vacation? We felt like Hansel and Gretel being fattened up. Heh heh heh.
We really enjoyed our stay and would go back if we ever get another chance. I highly recommend the Hyatt Ziva Cancun. However, we’ll probably go back to our DIY travel for a few years before visiting an all inclusive again. I value the exposure to the local color and adventures more than the luxurious stay. It was great to be able to experience both side of Cancun on this trip, though. 5 days/4 nights was just the right amount of time for us. We were beginning to feel restless.
Cancun expense report
Amazingly, our luxurious Cancun trip cost less than $1,200. That’s way below what we spend normally on our international vacations. The flight and the most expensive hotel were funded with credit card rewards. The Hyatt Ziva cost $570+ per night. That’s pretty expensive and normally, I wouldn’t pay that much. The 4 free nights was a really nice reward from the Hyatt credit card. In the end, it was a great trip for a very affordable price.
*Special thanks to Mr. Crazy Kicks for making me jump on the Hyatt’s 4 free nights sign up bonus. Unfortunately, I think that bonus is gone. Now, you get certain number of points instead of 4 free nights anywhere.
What about you? Have you ever been to an all inclusive resort and how do you like that kind of vacation?
For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.
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