[Please excuse the formatting issues. I hate WordPress for this reason.]
We stayed at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun for four nights. You can read the highlights here. This post is encapsulates our “itinerary” in photos. Unlike most of our trips, the goal of this trip was to relax with minimal activities. Happy to report that we accomplished this. As a result, our itinerary consisted of relaxing, eating, and drinking.
Day 1: 12/30/31
A perk to flying out of DFW is the ultimate airport lounge – American Express Centurion Lounge. It was 6:15am and I opted for sparkling over coffee despite minimal sleep. Ed made the grown-up choice of yogurt and fruit. Our flight into Cancun was a quick two hours plus change.
Upon arriving, we were told that we couldn’t check in until 2:15pm. We were, however, upgraded to a premium room and comp’ed the Chef’s Table. In the meanwhile, we wandered around the property, booked our NYE dinner (gratis, but contact them in advance to RSVP) and wine (not required, but we splurged).
Upon checking into our room, we were blown away by our view, the hot tub, and Netflix. I think, in this order, too. It was nice to see a mini bar filled with free drinks. They have a contraption that holds full bottles of alcohol that you pour out with no limit. I promptly broke this. Oops.
While Ed napped, I drank (all of) our complimentary bubbly (unlike resort bubbly, this was not as sweet) on the balcony and tried to maneuver in a hammock. I was quasi-successful.
What we ate:
Lunch @ Asiana – we ate sashimi, seared tuna salad (the best), hot pot shrimp soup, shrimp roll, and a few other things I don’t recall. Given that it was our first meal, we may have gone overboard. However, I like the fact that portions at this resort are small so there’s minimal waste. Dining at all-inclusive resorts is interesting. They always try and concoct fancy dishes, but they usually fall flat from ingredients and execution. I’ve learned to adjust expectations accordingly. In Mexico, fish is always a sure bet.
Dinner @ the Tapas & Pintxos restaurant – there are three different type of dress codes – casual, smart casual, and formal. We didn’t comply with smart casual, so we had to go back and change. While this was a small convenience, I like that they upheld these rules. Dinner was solid. Cold tapas were self-serve. Of the hot tapas, I really enjoyed the garlic shrimp one. I had a few margaritas with Don Julio.
Day 2 – 12/31/15
We woke up to minor hangovers (well, one of us had it a bit worse). Nonetheless, I had read that you can reserve cabanas and pool chairs by placing a towel/book on them. Determined to win at this game, I woke up around 6am, reserved a cabana, and promptly went back to sleep. When we went back after breakfast, someone stole it by placing their towel and book on the bed. I stole it back and promptly napped. I was awakened by an older man, yelling at me in German, ostensibly because he thought I stole his cabana. A duel in two languages took place and he lost. I felt minor pangs of guilt – he was an older man with his wife. I should be respectful of elders, no? Then I noticed that he took one for him and a separate one for his wife!
As I’m typing this, I can’t help but giggle by the ridiculousness of the event. My outrage. His outrage. Over a freaking cabana.
I also tried my first activity trying to get ahead of my “work out more” resolution. Aqua Aerobics with Angie was surprisingly hard and a lot of fun. At one point, you had to carry your partner across the pool. Since Ed was not present, I carried a random woman. We ended with some kumbaya type thing where we held hands and floated. In the afternoon, I read, Ed napped (ongoing trend), and we got ready for the big night.
The NYE event at Hyatt Zilara Cancun comprised of a show and dinner with arranged seating. To our right was a family of four from Brazil. To our left, a couple from Kansas City, MI. Across, a couple of women from Japan, and finally, a couple from Korea. I loved how this resort was such a melting pot of different cultures. Unfortunately, it made communicating a bit challenging. We made do with a lot of heavy gesticulation and “cheers”!
We loved the show, especially the aerial dancers! Next level athleticism. I asked Ed if we should learn how to do this. He shot me of a look of: “sure, but I don’t want you to die”.
The hotel did a great job with preparing the dinner, show, and the after-party. We didn’t stay, but it looked like a lot of fun. The party was held on the beach with a cool dance floor.
We went back to our room shortly after the show and watched two episodes of Jessica Jones. Exhausted, we fell asleep around 12:30am.
What we ate:
Breakfast @ Spice – Super tasty! Fresh fruit, omelette bar, all types of bread, cold cuts, etc. I loved the yam noodles (hard enough to find the Bay Area) and papaya.
Lunch @ Pelicanos – I had the grouper filet, which was delicious. Ed didn’t love his food. We shared the coconut shrimp. The salsa and guacamole were mixed together and kind of watery. Incredible views.
Dinner was the New Year’s Eve event. Good pre-fix menu with beautiful presentation. They were great about switching me to a vegetarian meal. The Taittinger was delicious.
Day 3 – 1/1/16
It’s amazing what a minimal night of drinking will do to a couple. We woke up fully rested, ready to eat and relax. I looked forlornly at the full poolside cabanas and my not-so-inner competitive spirit sparked. I was determined to get the best one the next day.
After the established routine of breakfast at Spice and coffee at Coffee House, we headed for the beach.
I was surprised by how few people were on the beach. It was almost as though there was an invisible shield around the hotel (or the hotel owned the beachfront). I don’t know what the answer is, but I did notice a few hotel guards turning around non-hotel guests. This resulted in a very quiet experience. The waves were still a bit tumultuous though the seaweed problem wasn’t really a big deal. We played in the water for all of five minutes.
After lunch (it’s almost always breakfast -> find cabana -> lunch) at Pelicanos, I read my book (Outlander – thanks Jenn, it’s awesome) and napped. Ed is really terrible at the Cabana Life so he went to explore, nap, gym…in that general order.
I loved the bar by the beach with the rope swing chairs. There were a lot of tequila options, but contrary to my shirt, I enjoyed just one pina colada, but had multiple sparking waters with lime. I honestly believe that the latter tempered the “we’re at an all-you-can-drink resort, drink all the drinks!!!” feeling.
That night, we had reservations at Chef’s table which meant we had to dress formally. Long pants and shirt with collars for men and dress with sandals for women. We didn’t know this coming in so Ed had no pants aside from jeans. This resulted in our one and only trip outside of the resort to the “Flamingo Mall” across the street. This mall was a ghost town given that it was New Year’s Day. Minimal heckling. We found white pants that actually looked good and were $30 USD vs $45 in the resort store.
The view from this resort is great for sunrises, but not as much for sunsets. The trick is to go to the top floor. Nonetheless, I dragged Ed down to the beach for a photo-op and mandatory jumping photo.
What we ate:
Breakfast @ Spice – if I could have this every morning, surely, I’d look like a supermodel. I eat a giant plate of papaya, slurp down a green juice, and carefully avoid the hash browns. Ed goes for the omelette with the crazy spicy salsa, sausage, and a thousand pastries.
Lunch @ Pelicano’s – Ed realized that Spice was also open for lunch!!!! He felt a huge loss at not having taken advantage of this earlier. I enjoyed my shrimp mofongo.
Dinner @ Chef’s Table – I know this is supposed to be a big deal and it was nice dining with just a few other couples. However, the chef didn’t talk to us and we didn’t learn much about the food. While everything was tasty and I appreciated the presentation, the quality wasn’t a huge departure from what was available elsewhere in the resort. The menu does change each night so perhaps some nights are better than others. I appreciated the fact that, again, they were able to take my dietary habits into consideration and replaced the goat with tuna. We bought a bottle of Veuve. Funny how paying for nothing makes you feel so thrifty.
We also discovered that the 24 Hours Lounge offered the most delicious guacamole. Ed went after dinner and after he threatened to have two dinners – Chef’s Table and Spice.
Day 4 – 1/2/16
I couldn’t sleep. All night, I was dreaming, obsessing, and plotting about my perfect poolside cabana. I guess my brain, for once relaxed and not stressed about work or some other thing, settled on cabanas. I finally gave up on sleeping and woke up around 4:45am. The prior night, I had even pre-packed my cabana hunting gear and slept in my bikini. I was ready to go. It turns out that others were just as obsessed as the tier one (yep, I made my own tiers) cabanas were already taken. Ed assumes that they must’ve been super shady and dropped the towels before they went to bed. THE NERVE.
The upside to cabana fever (haha, get it?) is that I witnessed a glorious sunrise. It was also very relaxing sitting in the dusk, with closed eyes, feeling the gentle wind on my face.
Ed always laughs at my fascination with sunrises and sunsets. As a soldier, he’s seen his fair share, and not always in the most favorable conditions. As the girlfriend of a soldier, this makes me even more thankful for each sunrise and sunset that we are blessed with.
And on a superficial, but important note: the lighting makes for amazing selfies.
Ed doing his best Vanna White with my trophy.
Because, in addition to cabana life, you also need to reserve the loungers submerged in the pool. These are the most genius lounge chairs ever as they shade your face from the sun with enough space to comfortably read your book/Kindle. Ultimate relaxation level: achieved.
The pool itself was Olympic sized, apparently. Although, if you tried to swim the length, there would be quite a few human obstacles in your way. I was very surprised by how…adult…everyone acted. I didn’t see one obviously drunk or misbehaving (aside from the German couple) guest. Given the plentiful and free alcohol, this is amazing.
That night, the Fang party went to Asiana for teppanyaki. This, along with Chef’s Table, were the only two restaurant options that required reservations. As a result, we missed checking out dinner at Maria Marie, the Mexican restaurant on property.
After dinner, we checked out the musicians on stage and saw this older couple dancing. They were so happy, well-coordinated, and pretty solid dancers doing the “wiggle”.
What we ate:
Breakfast and Lunch @ Spice (big surprise)
Dinner @ Asiana – I really love Teppanyaki. The artistry. The gimmicks. The heavily buttered fried rice. Everything! For vegetarians or vegans, this is probably not ideal as they use one grill for all your food. Ed had steak and I had tuna (surprise! I better check my mercury levels when we go home).
Day 5 – 1/3/16
On our last day, Ed woke up at 4am with the claim of insomnia, which I knew was actually Cabana Fever. He successfully claimed the very best cabana on the property.
I went down around 7am with the auspice of going to yoga (which was cancelled) and found this weary solider asleep.
The resort had emptied out considerably by this point. This only made us not want to leave. Ever.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t “do mornings. It’s amazing how long your day is when you’re up before 8am. After a hearty breakfast, lunch, reading, and pina coladas, we did what all good vacationers do – we played with my selfie stick. You can get a sense of how isolate the resort felt by this point and, honestly, for much of our stay. For this very reason alone, we will absolutely return.
The hotel extended us a late, 2pm check out. By this point, we weren’t in any great hurry to get to Playa del Carmen. We packed and said goodbye to our beautiful room, view, and resort.