Cancun & Cozumel
Hyatt Zilara Cancun
Cancun is known to be one of the top destinations for all-inclusive resorts and spring breakers. Although this was an atypical trip for us, Cancun and Cozumel won our hearts in the end. Our stay at the Hyatt Zilara was fabulous in every way. It far exceeded our expectations for an all-inclusive resort. From the bright blue waters of the Gulf to the city night life, we had a spectacular time.
The only word to describe the Hyatt Zilara is elegance. The night before we had stayed at your average all-inclusive hotel, so you can imagine how we felt walking in to this 5-star beauty. The exterior of the building had a modern Roman style that resembled the pantheon. When we walked in the front entrance, the main lobby expanded into sky high ceilings and overlooked the lobby bar with the blue ocean waves crashing behind it. The huge corridor allowed a nice constant breeze to flow through. We felt like we were on vacation from the moment we arrived. The staff were very friendly and throughly explained the resort and activities to us. We were offered cold waters and a cool, wet towel the moment we walked in. It was much appreciated after our hot walk over. We had a smooth check in process and were allowed to use the facilities even though we had arrived a few hours early. We had them hold onto our bags and we ran to the beach!
The room was everything we hoped for. We stayed in the Ocean Front Luxury King Suite. The room had unobstructed ocean views, a hammock, and a jacuzzi. The bathroom had a double head shower that was refreshing at the end of each beach day. There was a mini fridge stocked with water, beers, sodas and juices. On top was a full bottle of Stoli vodka, Crown Royal, a coffee bar and some snacks. We were happy campers. The best part was the touch screen that you could use to order room service, make spa appointments, etc.
Each resort room had a balcony facing the ocean. The first level rooms all had swim up pool suites with access to the main pool and beach. Each morning fresh towels were laid out for the swim up suites. All of the rooms had either a hammock or swing on the balcony. The rooms were modern and very cleanly. The best part was the beautiful ocean views as you walked in.
The resort had a cute shop in the main lobby with boutique style beach clothes, beach supplies, snacks, sunglasses, jewelry etc. Be wary as shop is pricey. We went to purchase some sunscreen and they tried to charge us $25! Needless to say, we bought it in town instead.
The hotel had nonstop events taking place during our stay. Every day there were morning yoga options out on the oceanfront pavilion. They had different types of food and cocktail events, a glow party, beach parties, and more. One night we came back from dinner and they had an acrobat show in the main lobby. The dancers and gymnasts were very talented. Servers came around taking drink orders so we didn’t have to leave our seats. It was a cool surprise!
The Food & Drink
For an all-inclusive resort, we were delighted by the food and beverage options. Not only were the cuisine choices plentiful, but the quality of the food was high. There were multiple types of cuisine: Mexican, Asian, Italian, Japanese, and more. Majority of the restaurants were first come, first serve, except the Chef’s plate, which was a gourmet set dinner menu and is available only to guests staying in a suite.
- Asiana – Asian cuisine (sushi, sashimi) – casual
- Casa del Café – coffee shop, smoothies, gelato, pastries, sandwiches, etc. – open 0600-2300
- Chef’s plate – gourmet multi-course meals (different cuisine each day)
- La Adelina Cantina – Mexican cuisine, signature tequila cocktails – casual attire
- Maria Marie – fine dining Mexican cuisine
- Pelicanos – oceanfront Caribbean cuisine, international options – casual
- Spice – gourmet, waterfront buffet dining – casual for lunch, smart casual for dinner
- Tequileria Beach Bar – our favorite bar – Butler drink service to beach, no dress code. Try the mojitos!
- Time out – open 24 hrs – games, snacks, alcohol self-serve bar 1100-2300
The best part of the hotel was the private beach. Cancun has amazing turquoise blue water that instantly screams “vacation”. The waves crashing along the shore could make anyone feel at peace. We spent most of our time enjoying the views and walking along the soft sand.
Naturally, we spent every sunset down by the water. The ocean somehow turned an even brighter shade of blue and the skies lit up with pink hues. Even though we were on the east coast and could not see the sun setting, the sky still looked unbelievable. After soaking up the beauty and taking advantage of the best photo ops, we would head to dinner to enjoy the rest of the night.
Between 1 and 4 pm, the beach would get a little hot, so we took our towels and headed to the pool. Pelicanos has a swim-up bar that was a refreshing addition to our beach day. The mojitos were amazing and helped cool us down. The pool area is large with many cabana options. However, the cabanas go early and it’s first come, first serve. Be sure to claim a spot early in the morning if your planning on lounging by the pool all day. The beach cabanas were almost always available. Both the pool and beach have butlers that come around and take your order. Even though tipping wasn’t required, we tipped them for working so hard in the heat. Plus, a mojito in hand at all times was a must!
Mexico is full of activities, both water and land, but we always prefer the water ones! Our first excursion was diving with ScubaTony in Cozumel. The Meso-American barrier reef stretches over the Yucatán peninsula and extends down to Belize and Honduras. The reefs are full of marine life and world-class diving options. Cozumel is well known for its drift and night diving. We planned a day two tank day dive as we only spent one day in Cozumel.
The Ultramar ferry departs from Isla Mujeres, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen. We decided to take a one hour private transportation service down to Playa del Carmen and then a 30 minute ferry to Cozumel. Unfortunately, we did not know Ultramar had a shuttle from Cancun to Playa del Carmen ($47 round trip shuttle & ferry). We could have saved quite a bit of money if we had booked the shuttle instead. That being said, our private transportation was very comfortable and was arranged by the hotel. We would have given them 5 stars, but their credit card machine was down and it was hassle for us to return to our room to get our debit card to get cash out. Other than that only issue, the service was wonderful.
Once we arrived on Cozumel, we hopped on a taxi and headed to the Marina Fonatur for our dive trip. We met our guide Pedro and the owner, Adam. All of the staff were extremely friendly and helpful. The boats are smaller, which was nice as we had a small group and the sea conditions were calm. The reefs were only a few hundred feet off the coast, so it was a smooth ride. We stopped to pick up a family of three along the way. Our group had a wonderful time. Both dives had smoothing to offer. On the first dive we saw a few sea turtles and large coral formations. The second dive we saw our first nurse shark and even more turtles. The nurse shark was about 8 feet long or so and graceful. The second dive was a lot of fun because it was mire of a drift dive. Although, it did make chasing the nurse shark difficult!
Our guide, Pedro, was awesome. He was a lot of fun to dive with and extremely helpful. We had an issue with our weights during our dive and he fixed it immediately. He made us feel very safe and we were able to continue our dive. ScubaTony was quick to respond through out our planning. We would highly recommend using them for your Cozumel dive! We loved how they were willing to pick up divers up from their hotel if it’s within range. We had an amazing time with not only the crew, but the other divers. Be sure to use ScubaTony for your next Cozumel dive trip!
Deep sea fishing was definitely the highlight of our trip. For Gregg’s birthday, we reserved a private charter out of Cancun with hopes of catching a sail fish. February to June is the main sail fish season off the coast of Isla Mujeres. After much review, we decided to go with Kianah’s Sportfishing Cancun charters. The staff were very professional and did everything they could to catch us a sail. After about 5 hours of near sea sickness, we hooked a sail! It was the most beautiful fish we’d ever seen. After a 7 minute battle, Gregg reeled up his prize. We were on cloud nine. We released the beauty back in to the sea and headed back to shore. The first mates celebrated with us over a couple cervezas. Our trip was officially complete. Excellent service and effort from the entire Kianah’s Sportsfishing crew!
We caught a couple of bonito fish on the way out. The guys even fileted the fish for us, so we could cook our catch! Obviously, after getting some fish kissing photos 😉
Cancun is known for its “spring break-type” nightlife scene. The strip was filled with resorts and bars that had music and dancing all night long. We stayed low key and didn’t take part in the crazy night life. Instead, we attempted to explore the city. One night we decided to check out a local seafood restaurant in Juarez, where we could try the famous Mayan dish, Tikin Xic. Unfortunately, the bus ride took over an hour to get there from our hotel and we got there too late. Apparently, Juarez is a safe town during the day, but we do not recommend venturing after dark. Majority of the town was closed for the night and it did not seem like a good place for tourists to roam. We ended up not getting our authentic, local dish and found about as touristy as a restaurant can get, Casa Tequila ($$). That being said, the margaritas were delicious, the tikin xic was phenomenal, and we felt safe. The restaurant can be found in the Zone Hotelera (Hotel Zone) and was a short bus ride back to our hotel.
One of the things we love most about Mexico is the food. We had originally booked a reservation for Gregg’s birthday dinner at Navios. Due to an earlier thunderstorm, the restaurant lost power and we had to last minute find somewhere nice to have dinner. Somehow we found the best restaurant of the entire trip in five minutes! Porfirio’s ($$$) is a waterside, upscale, contemporary Mexican restaurant. We cannot say enough wonderful comments about our experience. We were upset that we had to pick somewhere to eat so last minute, but the staff helped us get seated right away. We had a great table out on the patio with a water view. The energy and atmosphere of the restaurant was awesome. The music was just right, the lights were dim perfectly, the cocktails were delicious, and the food presentation was exciting. If you love mango as much as us, be sure to try the Mango Morrón cocktail! For queso lovers, order the flamed cheese. On top of everything else, the service was impeccable. We could tell how important the customers were to the staff and the managers. Everything was just perfect. Porifirio’s truly made Gregg’s birthday celebration a night to remember.
It truly is difficult to choose what our favorite part of the hotel was. If we had to choose one thing that set the hotel apart from the rest, it would be the spa. Now it may have been the 8 hours of deep sea fishing in the Mexican heat or the fact that the spa itself was pure serenity, but we have never fallen asleep so quickly during a massage. The treatment itself was incredible, but the facilities were very impressive. Before our massage, we enjoyed the spa pool, sauna, and steam room. There was a selection of teas, fruit water, and light snacks available to the guests. We loved that the facilities were shared, so we could spend time together. The atmosphere was extremely relaxing. After using the facilities, we waited in the common area for our therapists. We were provided aromatherapy hot, bead pillows for our neck. It was a nice subtle gesture that got us into the ultimate state of relaxation. On arrival to our couple’s massage suite, we were welcomed with a rose petal foot wash and diffused essential oils. This wasn’t necessary, but the extra effort made a huge impact of our mindset. We were so relaxed and at ease. It didn’t take a full 80 minutes to pass out. The massage itself was wonderful.. from what we remember!
The gym at the Hyatt Zilara was one of the nicest hotel gyms that we have seen. All of the equipment was brand new, top of the line. It had everything from barbells and dumbbells to cables and smith machines. There were treadmills, bikes, etc for cardio and plenty of machines. Being avid gym-goers, we were very impressed. The nicest part was the outdoor, infinity lap pool. Facing the west side of Cancun, we hung out here to catch the sunset. It was quite and peaceful compared to the main pool.
The main forms of transportation in Cancun are the city bus and taxis. If staying in the hotel zone, city buses come every few minutes and are 5hr cheapest option to get around. Each time we hopped on, it was about 2 pesos per person. We took an hour bus ride to Juárez and only paid a single fare. If you want to get somewhere further, quickly, we would suggest a taxi. You can have your hotel call for one or get one from the main road, boulevard. Any long distances can be reached with private transportation. We arranged these rides through the hotel. We are usually willing to pay more because we know the company will be reliable and safe. We preferred to walk to close destinations when possible and used the bus mainly if the distance was more than a half mile.
Overall, the transportation was easy to figure out and use. The buses aren’t the cleanest, so if we were going out to a fancier dinner, we would prefer a private taxi ride. For the most part, the bus was extremely convenient. Be sure to have pesos on you at all times!
Our trip to the Yucatan peninsula exceeded our expectations in every way. It is a absolutely a vacation for all types of travelers. Thank you to the Hyatt Zilara, ScubaTony, and Kianah’s Sportfishing for helping make our Cancun experience so memorable!