As happens more often than you might think, in February I suddenly realized we had some hotel nights that would expire quickly if we didn’t use them. Elliott and I each have a Chase Hyatt card, and each of those credit cards awarded us two nights at a Hyatt hotel after we met a certain spend requirement. In the past the banks were often willing to extend the expiration dates on unused certificates, but they are no longer doing this for the most part. Several years ago we had the cards and used our free nights at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, which we absolutely loved. But this year we had no plans to go to Hawaii before the hotel nights’ expiration date, and since Chase was no longer willing to extend the expiration date, we had to find another option.
I quickly researched the best Hyatts at which to use the award nights issued by Chase. Sometimes there are restrictions on how you can use free nights such as these, so I wanted to make sure I knew the rules before getting excited about any specific properties. To my surprise, I found that Hyatt all-inclusive properties are included in those you can book with the Chase free night certificates, and Hyatt has all-inclusives in Jamaica and Mexico – both of which are about mid-way between our two home bases of Ecuador and Philadelphia.
I booked four nights for us at the adults-only Hyatt Zilara in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The Hyatt Ziva is the next door “twin hotel” that accommodates families, and we would have access to both. I knew we wouldn’t leave the property, but didn’t feel too guilty since we’ve been to Jamaica before (and seen a couple of the sites). I tried not to do too much research on the property since I love surprises, but I did read that this particular one had a full schedule of activities. Since I don’t sit still for too long at one time, I was psyched.
When we arrived we were checked in right away. We went right up to our room and were tickled to see my name on the TV on the wall!
The room was spacious and gorgeous, with a desk, love seat, table and chair and bed with white linens.
It had a mini-bar in which everything was included, so we were sure to follow the advice someone had given us to take the snacks each day!
The bathroom had a huge tub, separate tiled shower, terry-cloth robes and lots of toiletries, including a mini scrubby thingy!
And we had a balcony with an outdoor lounge/bed, table and chair, and views of the pools and sand and ocean beyond. We were going to like this place!
Normally, I would have wanted to jump right into a pool or the ocean, but the weather was not what we expected. There were such strong winds that despite the temperature, it felt too chilly to go in water, even for me. The hot tubs were barely warmer than the pools, so it wasn’t even tempting to go in them! We were hungry though, so we had lunch at Blue Grill by Calypzo, a beachfront grill serving fresh seafood. We sat for a while on one of the swinging chairs on the beach and just relaxed. We had a bean bag toss, and then went inside and pretended our bathtub was the hot tub since the actual hot tub was too cold. That night we had some of the best mozzarella sticks at FuZion, the Asian Grill! (Go figure…)
The next day we slept in and I had an amazing jerk chicken burrito at Jamaican Rootz by Horizon.
I walked along all of the beaches scoping out a few good spots for Elliott to do yoga. While he did some yoga I tested out each swimming area on the various beaches. None of them were great; I tried finding the deepest one, and as they got deeper, they had more seaweed. Once Elliott finished yoga-fying, we did have fun bobbing in the water, ducking under the waves and throwing seaweed at one another.
That evening we went back to the gym and did a new workout. Dinner at the Italian restaurant Di Roza that night was actually our least favorite meal. The caprese salad and bruschetta were both very good, and the pesto gnocci was so delicious I was tempted to order more. But they forgot to make the pizza I had ordered, and it wasn’t finished until Elliott was just about finished with his parmesan crusted tenderloin. Once the pizza arrived, I didn’t even enjoy it – the bleu cheese (or goat, or gorgonzola) totally overpowered the other cheeses, to the point where I didn’t like the taste at all!
On Day 3 we sat by the Ziva pool.
I did the 11am Aqua Gym but I did it outside of the pool because the water felt too cold to go in! I worked up a sweat though so when the class was more-or-less finished I did dip in the pool quickly. At 12pm we took the Reggae class together. Elliott found a few moves he liked and said he wants to incorporate them into his future dance moves. After lunch at Choicez, we went back to the beach we had sat on for a long time yesterday. After relaxing we went for a beach walk and played bean bags again. I went swimming in the ocean again and Elliott joined me for a few minutes.
When we got back to our room, we had another welcome message – this time for Elliott:
We had dinner at Brazil (a Brazilian steakhouse), and headed to the gym for another workout.
On our fourth day I joined the Reggae dance class by the pool which was a lot of fun and Elliott joined me part way through. We had lunch inside our hotel at Urban Heat by Flavorz. We finally got to sit on these cool “pretzel stick” chairs (sorry, no photo!). I tried a new drink – Planter’s Punch – which I liked a lot. It tasted great and was extremely visually appealing, with the drink color changing ever so slightly from top to bottom. It looked like a red-orange sunset! For lunch I had a beet salad and a salmon dish – both were absolutely delicious.
Afterwards I went swimming in the Zilara pool for the first time! I first swam in the lower pool, then went exploring the upper pool and the long narrow parts that go along the first floor junior suites with lounge chairs in the pool. Later we went to the gym together and did another kick-butt workout – you’ve got to burn off all those included food and drink calories somehow!
We went to Choicez for dinner. It was Moroccan Food which Elliott really likes and the live entertainment show was going on outside, so we asked to sit outside so we could listen and half-watch. There was a great steel drum band playing on the stage. The drummers were also dancing at times which was impressive, and at the end, they came out one at a time and did some amazing break-dancing and gymnastics-type moves. We walked back to Zilara and found a fire pit just for us, and sat for a little while. The fire pits at night were one of our favorite features of the resort, and sitting by them after dinner had become a nightly ritual.
On our last day we had to check out early so I set an alarm for 6:10am! I was determined to have some pool time and enjoy our last morning before leaving. I got us packed and headed out at 7:30 and claimed us some awesome chairs right next to the pool. It was the nicest day since we had arrived! We both went to the yoga class on the boardwalk leading to the gazebo. I was impressed – there were a bunch of people, the instructor had us do some tough poses, and the class lasted an hour long. I was happy!
Afterwards we ate breakfast just across the way at the Blue Grill by Calypso – it was fitting as our first meal had been there too. After breakfast we went back to the pool and we went swimming one last time. Then we sat at the pool bar and ordered our last drinks – a Dark & Stormy for him, and a Bob Marley for me. It was so much fun, finally sitting on those in-the-pool bar stools and enjoying drinks in the sun! I went for one last swim under all the waterfalls as I said goodbye to the Hyatt Zilara.
We packed the rest of our things and went downstairs for the free shuttle, hoping one day we can return again!