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"Our Favorite All Inclusive, But Don’t Stay Here"
In early January, I visited the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall with my family. A bit of background on us: I’m a recent graduate of a prominent hospitality program, and now work for a major hotel company based in the United States with no properties in Jamaica; my parents are in their early 60s. This was my 15th all inclusive resort in the Caribbean and Mexico, across a number of brands, including Beaches, Dreams, Breathless, Club Med, Iberostar, and Breezes--but our first stay with Hyatt’s new all inclusive brands. This Hyatt complex definitely impresses and earns its spot as our favorite resort we’ve visited. Is it perfect' No, but it’s close. So you may be asking why I’m discouraging you from staying at the Zilara when I’ve called it our favorite. No, I’m not being selfish and trying to keep a slice of paradise to myself. If we were to return, we’d stay at the Ziva, and get access to the same great resort at a lower cost. But more on that later. Below, I’ve outlined the good, the meh, and the ugly of the hotel to help determine if the resort is right for you. The Good STAFF: The staff here was probably the best I’ve seen at any resort, inside or out of Jamaica. We didn’t meet a staff member without a smile on their face, and everyone was willing to go above and beyond. Jason, at the front desk, in particular remembered my family, and was very helpful at getting me checked into my room (even though it was in my parents’ name, and their flight was delayed) and coordinating the return shuttle so my parents and I could ride together. Even our waiter in DiRoza, the Italian restaurant where we dined twice, tried to remember our drink preferences from our previous visit. FOOD AND DRINKS: The food here was probably the best of any all inclusive we’ve visited. I’d say it was good to great, depending on the restaurant. The biggest challenge is that sometimes food was served cold when it should have been hot. There was never an issue getting a drink on the beach (constant beach waiters stopping by to take orders), and alcohol across the resort was top shelf (e.g., Absolut, Stoli, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Captain Morgan--in addition to local favorites like Appleton rum). I found mixed drinks to be somewhat watered down though. We had a chance to dine at each of the restaurants, and I’ve summarized our thoughts below: -Choicez: The main buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner--though we never ate here for the latter. Pretty setting with outdoor terrace facing the ocean. For breakfast, you have your typical breakfast fare (omelet station, pancakes, french toast), plus rotating Jamaican breakfast fare. Great muffins and bread (which is true across all restaurants). Breakfast was pretty repetitive. A nice touch: the make your mimosas and bloody mary bar. Lunch had a pizza station, pasta station, and miscellaneous proteins. Overall, fine. Rating: 3/5 -DiRoza: Italian restaurant for dinner. The wood-fired pizza here was the first meal I’ve ever had at an all inclusive that I would happily pay for if I had it in a restaurant. The pasta portions were a bit small, and it was weird to serve fried ravioli as an entree (and not indicate as such on the menu). We had to wait 30 - 45 minutes for dinner each time we went here. Service was unimpressive. Rating: 4/5 -Fuzion: Asian restaurant for dinner. Three concepts: Yakitori (Japanese grill), a la carte, and Wok (stir fry); we tried all but the latter. The Yakitori meal started with salad, sushi, and soup (all of which were meh), but the grilled proteins for the entree had a great sweet sauce on it. The a la carte food was also very good. One of my top favorite restaurants at the resort. Rating: 4/5 -Calypzo: Beachfront restaurant on the Ziva side serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner a la carte. We only ate here for lunch, and found the food to not be as good as other spots on the resort. They also have a pizza place here which serves home made croissants for breakfast and various pizzas in the afternoon. Rating: 2/5 -Horizonz: Beachfront restaurant on the Zilara side serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner a la carte. We never had breakfast here. For dinner, the restaurant offers authentic Jamaican cuisine, which I really appreciated, as too many all inclusive resorts focus on stereotypical interpretations of a few cuisines (e.g., french restaurant with servers in mime outfits). Dinner is served family style, which was a lot of fun (even though I might have chosen different dishes if I was eating alone). There’s also a snackbar nearby that offers burgers, nachos, and flatbreads. Rating: 4/5 -Brazil: Brazilian steakhouse for dinner. You start with an appetizer buffet with salads, sushi, shrimp, and other charcuterie. Then, your server will stop by your table with 7 different types of meat to sample. We wished they would have told you what types of meat were available so we wouldn’t have filled up on some of the meat we like less (e.g., turkey), when some of the meats we would have preferred came to our table later in the meal (e.g., lamb). We had to wait ~20 minutes to get in here. Rating: 4/5 -Petit Pariz: French a la carte for dinner; adults only. Service here was very good. I had a really juicy chicken breast, but other than that it was a pretty unmemorable meal. We had to wait ~30 minutes to get in here. Rating: 3/5 -Urban Heat: International cuisine, served a la carte for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My mom loved the wings served at lunch. Breakfast was basically an a la carte version of the buffet (including the mini buffet they offered)--and after one breakfast here, we reverted to the buffet. The sliders at lunch were dry and cold. Rating: 3/5. -Barefoot Jerkz: The beachfront jerk shack, offering chicken, pork, fish, and sausage during the afternoon. Not too spicy, and great to get some easy access to authentic Jamaican food. Rating: 4/5. -Bitez/Grindz: The coffee shops on the Ziva side. Both had pastries available throughout the day (delicious!) and assorted coffee drinks. Bitez also had ice cream and sorbet. The Zilara side had a similar coffee shop, in the lobby, which serves smoothies throughout the day. Rating: 5/5 -Union Jackz: The sports bar. Lunch is served on weekends, and bar food for dinner on weekends. We never ate here, just drank and watched the Knicks at night--but it was a really well-designed, comfortable space. It seemed like there was food everywhere around the resort (Fruit on the beach! Surprise crepe or hot dog food cart by the pool! Poolside paella!), and we appreciated the variety of options--particularly a la carte. We liked the no reservation policy, and the Applebees-like beeper system to let you know when your table is ready. LOW KEY ACTIVITIES: We liked the fact that everything was so low key. Sure, the Z Crew was leading activities on the half hour, but they weren’t getting aggressive to get you out of your seats. Activities included watersports (sail boats, windsurfs, stand up paddle boards, kayaks), tennis (1 hard court), corn hole, ping pong, and beach volleyball. Definitely not as active as some resorts we’ve been to, but we wanted a low-key vacation so not bothersome. FITNESS CENTER: There are actually two--one on the Ziva side and one on the Zilara side. We frequently the Zilara one, and loved the new equipment and big windows. Probably the nicest hotel gym we’ve seen--all inclusive or not. WIFI: Worked across the resort--including the pool and beach--without issue. And it was free! NO BUGS: My mom was concerned about zika, but we saw very few bugs throughout our stay. I think between my mom and I, who typically get attacked by mosquitos, we got one bite. LOCATION: Only a 10 minute drive from the airport on the free resort-coordinated shuttle. The airport lounge was also a nice place to start our visit. And nothing like being through security 30 minutes after leaving the resort on departure day! The Meh A few elements of the hotel were just okay: ROOMS: Our room was recently renovated, and really nicely appointed. We were in room 1430, fourth floor of the building attached to the Ziva lobby. We found the location to be very central, and we had a beautiful ocean view (even though we only paid for a resort view--great bonus!) We liked that there was an umbrella in the event of rain. The biggest pro of the room--there was practically no humidity. We’re used to getting into an unpleasantly wet bed at night in the Caribbean, so it was nice to have dry room at night. The pillows and bed was very comfortable. A few minor gripes though: -There was no hanging rod in the closet -The drawers, while plentiful, were very shallow, making it hard to put away our clothing -The balcony didn’t have any lights, so it became unusable after dark TENNIS: One tennis court is available on top of the Zilara gym. While it’s relatively new and in good condition, we mainly wished there was more than one court available. That said, it was never hard to get our 5 or 6pm reservation each day. The tennis rackets were in better repair than some other resorts we’ve been to, but they still could use new grips and restringing (some more than others). The Ugly There’s a bunch of other challenges facing the resort: BEACH: The beach is one of the biggest downsides to this resort. We knew it was a man made beach, but we didn’t expect it to be as rocky as it was. The Zilara beach was virtually unswimmable because of the rocks (and murky water, making it challenging to watch footing), while the Ziva beach was very shallow because of the break wall. There are much nicer beaches in Jamaica than this one. For lounging, it was pretty good--most of the beach is shady (even away from palapas), but there’s still sun if you want to find it. I particularly liked the swing chairs in the middle of the beach. ZIVA ELEVATOR: One night while coming back from the Ziva lobby bar, we got stuck in the old elevators in that building for 15 - 20 minutes (just as a guest was getting staff to rescue us, the elevator mysteriously moved). What was scary, and frankly a huge safety issue, is that the emergency phone in that elevator did not function. Management must address this immediately. LAYOUT: There never seemed to be a direct route to anywhere. The lighting on the paths at night could be improved to make guests more comfortable walking from guestrooms on the Zilara side to the Ziva side for dinner. ZIVA/ZILARA SPLIT: In our opinion, there was no reason to turn this into “two” resorts. Adult guests at the Ziva and Zilara can freely walk between properties without question, sit wherever they want on the beach, and use facilities from both resorts. According to the staff, Horizons, on the Zilara beach, is open to Ziva guests for dinner as well--and Petit Pariz (advertised as Zilara only) is really only adults only, regardless of which resort you’re staying at. We felt like we spent $100 extra per night to stay at the Zilara and didn’t see the added value. Would we return to the Zilara' Probably not. To the Ziva' Most definitely. Might as well save the money for golf, spa treatments, or excursions, rather than to get access to the same amenities. Summary If you’re looking for an all inclusive with great service, good food, high-quality alcohol, and a low-key, laid-back vibe, this is the place for you. With some additional construction, I’m sure the beach can be much improved. If you’re looking for an adults only resort where you won’t see children, look elsewhere--there really is little dividing the Ziva and Zilara. Consider the Ziva for the same great experience at a lower price point.
"Memories to cherish "
My stay at this hotel was incredible. My mother and I stayed 4 nights and how we wish we could of stayed longer. The hospitality from the staff was so personable, warm, and helpful-one of the main reasons why we enjoyed our stay so much. Our welcome from the porter Dane was fantastic and one to remember. Janeth and Travis from the Horizon restaurant was so nice and patient when we were deciding what to eat as we were spoilt for choice! Brendan from the zilara pool was also a star, lovely man....not forgetting Dean from the Brazil restaurant who over fed us...safe to say we made a few friends😊 Food choice was great. There is a variety of restaurants that cater to all different types of food. Quality and service was top notch and I had no complaints. Rooms were decent. Clean, spacious and appropriate for our stay. Entertainment throughout the hotel is lively both in the day and at night. I found all activities were appropriate and enjoyable and fun for all ages. Beach and hotel stunning. Overall great stay, certainly would recommend and definitely would visit again! Loved it.
This is one of those hotels that looks EXACTLY like the pictures on the internet. Our room was gorgeous. The only thing is the humidity makes everything damp in your room if you want the balcony doors open. Bed was comfy and the complimentary robes were so nice. No shortage of food & drinks either!!!
We travelled as a couple from the UK 27th Dec - 3rd Jan, we stayed in a Junior Suite on the 4th Floor and we were extremely happy with our stay. It is such a beautiful hotel and our suite was stunning, very spacious and perfectly clean. There was absolutely nothing was too much trouble. The staff are incredibly friendly and the grounds are exquisite. Big shout out to Rodney at the pool bar - he always had a smile on his face and kept our drinks flowing. The food is tasty and the restaurants have a lovely atmosphere. The burger snack bar and jerk chicken shack were delicious - we loved the staff here particularly. Only improvement could be better labelling for allergy sufferers such as myself. The first few days there were very few sunbeds available at 8:05 as many people took towels the day before and claimed sunbeds very early and sometimes never sat on them all day. Staff did always find other sunbeds for guests but this could be rectified if "claimers" towels were removed after a certain period of time and there was a towel card system. A very personal thank you to all of the staff that helped my fiancé carry out his proposal. I was blown away by the effort to make it unforgettable and also in keeping it a secret this will always be such a special memory for us both. We loved our trip, we loved the hotel and we loved Jamaica - we will be back!
"Second time a charm"
We've done a lot of AIs. Most we really liked, but always wanted to try someplace new. We where at the Zilara in May & returned in December. We were so happy the first time I told my husband to forget anyplace else. We had a swim-up room, which I loved, because I could go out and lay in the sun, before the pool opened. Francine, the concierge, greeted us like family. Arnold at DeRosa made a special request pizza (amazing) and Anthony at the pool grill, kept my husband happy with his burgers. C'an't forget Brandon and how the drinks coming. The staff at the Zilara are there to accommodate. We've already booked our next visit for my husbands birthday, in May. CAN"T WAIT!!!
Credit cards accepted by the hotel: Visa - MasterCard - American Express
Check-in: 3:00 PM , Check-out: 11:00 AM