The Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta offers just the right mix of all inclusive luxury, family friendly service and gorgeous beachfront sunsets. The resort caters to English speakers, accepts US and Canadian dollars and is just a short cab ride from the charming Old Town of Puerto Vallarta.
Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta Review
When I started traveling regularly, I turned up my nose at the idea of an all-inclusive resort. Not for me, I figured. I wanted an authentic experience, not some vacation in a resort bubble bearing no resemblance to the real world outside its walls.
Then I stayed at an all-inclusive.
For relaxation without worry that you will overspend the vacation budget, all inclusive cannot be beat. But most of them still suffer from being in that resort bubble.
That was one of the best surprises about Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. The resort is just a $5 Uber ride from the Old Town. So, yes, you can stay on property for your entire stay, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, venture into town to explore the public art along the waterfront, wander in and out of the charming shops (yes, there is a Señor Frog’s bar, but no one says you have to stop there), and smile at the locals strolling alongside you. I felt safe, even walking around the neighborhood after dark.
Things to Do at Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta
A friend once called an all-inclusive a “cruise ship on land.” He was referring to the many things to do on the resort property. That’s certainly true at Hyatt Ziva. Each day, activities range from stretching classes on the beach to aquarobics in the pool to nightly entertainment.
We booked a kayak tour. It was scheduled to be an hour, but we were having such a great time paddling, then resting and chatting while we looked at the scenery that we were on the water for 2 ½. We returned to the beach, famished and ready for dinner.
Don’t Miss Seeing Puerto Vallarta
This town was put on the tourism map by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. He came to Puerto Vallarta to film “Night of Iguana” with Ava Gardner. She came to keep an eye on him. They both fell in love with the area and built a house up on the hill, drawing their famous friends to visit and turning the eyes of their fans south to this tropical paradise.
“In the 1960s, there was a little Beverly Hills in Puerto Vallarta,” said Beto, our Los Veranos tour guide.
I was surprised to find that Puerto Vallarta is in the Central time zone, the same as my hometown, Chicago. But it’s as far south as Hawaii. That means you get the virtual guarantee of gorgeous weather without the 9+ hour flight. My direct flight from O’Hare International Airport was just over 4 hours long. (If you have never applied for a passport before, read our tips for first timers.)
We booked the City and Tequila Tour through the onsite activities center. It certainly wouldn’t work for families with kids—half the day was spent in the mountains at a tequila distillery. For me, it was interesting to learn about the process. And to learn that the only liquor that can rightly call itself tequila is made in this Jalisco region of Mexico from the blue agave plant.
We also learned that there is a proper way to drink tequila. Here, my friend Ramon demonstrates:
Make Your Own City Tour
Another easy option is to hop in a cab or take an Uber into the Old Town. Take a stroll, do a little shopping, or just people watch.
TravelingMom Tip: The streets are actual cobblestone and the curbs can be high. It’s not an easy walk for people with mobility challenges. If you have a child in a stroller, bring either a lightweight umbrella stroller that is easy to carry or a heavy duty stroller that can take the bumps.
The Rooms at Hyatt Ziva
This property was built 45 years ago, but it has been completely renovated since Hyatt took over 3 years ago, making it an “all new hotel with a lot of history,” hotel officials said. Every room has an ocean view, some have their own hot tubs on the balcony and 8 are “swim-up” rooms, with an infinity pool bordering the balcony.
My room in the club tower was bigger than your average hotel room, featuring a plush king bed, a giant TV, a comfortable sitting area, a desk that I never used and a luxurious bath with a double shower. One wall was glass, with patio doors that slid open to an oversized balcony furnished with two chairs and a table (which I used as my desk) and a double chase just right for chillin’ while watching the waves crash ashore.
The room also had a mini fridge, stocked with beer, wine, soda, and water. I prefer sparkling water; all it took was a mention to the bellman who walked me to my room and the fridge was magically stocked each day.
There also was a smattering of snacks—a small bag of chips, a cookie and a couple of other things—but it seemed unnecessary. After all, this is an all-inclusive. That means you can eat for 24 hours a day if you like. You can walk down to one of the 5 restaurants, pop into the 24-hour coffee and snack bar, or just pick up the phone and order room service. (I recommend the steak tacos. Deeee-lish.)
5 Restaurants, No Waiting
At some all-inclusives, the buffet is the main event. There is a buffet at the Hyatt Ziva and, while it has really good food, the Vivaz Buffett is definitely not the best place to eat at Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. In addition to the buffet restaurant, there are 4 gourmet restaurants with top-notch table service. Each one is better than the last.
I love Thai food, so Pureza, which serves an incredibly interesting Asian fusion cuisine, was my favorite. The steak at Blaze also gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.
The other restaurants are Melanzane (which serves passable Italian cuisine) and Casa Grande (delectable Mexican fare).
TravelingMom Tip: One restaurant is closed each day, so plan accordingly to be sure you get a chance to try them all. Also, no restaurants take reservations. When I visited, the resort was 93 percent full, but I never saw people queued up waiting for a table.
In addition to the specialty restaurants and the buffet, there is a 24-hour coffee shop, which has donuts and pastries in the morning and sandwiches later in the day. Or, you can settle in on your balcony and listen to the waves crash ashore while enjoying a room service dinner. Did I mention the yummy steak tacos? Yeah. That’s the thing to order.
The Vitamar Spa
One of the best things about traveling without the kids is having the time and space to indulge yourself. And the Vitamar Spa is the place to do it.
I had one of the best massages of my life, then headed to the spa’s private hot tubs and pool overlooking the beach and ocean. Nirvana.
TravelingMom Tip: Book your spa appointment on the morning of a full day at the resort. The price of the service includes access to the full spa for the entire day. Unfortunately, I did not plan appropriately and booked my massage on the morning of my last day so I wasn’t able to take advantage. If you don’t want to spring for a spa service, you can buy a day pass for $25.
Hyatt Ziva Kidz Club
So often, resort kids’ clubs are stuck in the basement of a hotel. The room might be draped with primary colors, but you still know it was built to be a corporate conference room. The Hyatt Ziva Kidz Club, which is included in the price, is housed in a happy space, secluded at one end of the beach. The space overlooks the turtle rescue area, has its own self-contained splash pool, a craft corner and a separate area for older kids with the tools they covet: a TV and video games.
The Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta Beach
This, of course, is the raison d’etre. Sadly, my busy 3-day visit was too short to spend the time on the beach that it deserves. The staff calls it an “exclusive” beach. While all beaches in Mexico are officially public beaches, this one becomes exclusive because it’s bounded on each end by gorgeous natural cliffs. That means people can’t just wander by. Access is controlled by the hotel and getting through the gates requires checking in with a guard, who checks a list for names and room numbers.
That also means this resort doesn’t require those annoying wristbands that tell the staff you paid to be there. If you’re on the beach, the staff assumes you are a paying guest. All you have to do is give your drink orders to the wait staff, lounge on a chaise under a thatched umbrella, wrap up in a cushy, oversized beach towel or wade into the warm surf.
The waves seemed to grow stronger as the day wore on. So if you’ve got little ones, hit the beach earlier in the day and keep a good hold on them.
Before you go, check out our family beach vacation packing list.
Wildlife on the Beach
We were lucky enough to be visiting during turtle nesting season, which lasts from August to January. Each time a turtle lays eggs on the hotel beach, the staff marks the spot with a yellow flag to warn off visitors during the day. When it happened in the middle of a beach volleyball game, the staff declared “game over” because nothing trumps the turtles.
At night, the staff digs up the eggs and moves them to the protected turtle nesting area near the Kidz Club. When they hatch, the day-old turtles are released back into the sea while we humans cheer them on. During the height of nesting season, it can be a nightly occurrence at Hyatt Ziva.
We learned that turtles born under the watchful eye of humans have a 30 percent chance of survival. Those born in the wild have only a 10 percent chance of surviving. There are 2 primary reasons the Hyatt turtles have a better shot at survival:
- They release the turtles at night, making the tiny tots harder for predators to see.
- The crowd of humans cheering on the turtle babies help keep the predators away.
Beginning in December, there’s another big wildlife attraction at Hyatt Ziva: the whales who winter in the Bay of Banderas and can be seen from the resort.
A Final Note about Tipping at Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta
Tipping is not expected but always appreciated. And, truly, the staff was fabulous, so it always felt like the right thing to do. I got top-notch service from everyone, including from the maintenance staff. When I had a problem with the door to my balcony, I called the front desk. She promised to send someone within 15 minutes. Fixing it was critical: I needed to sleep with the door open so I could hear the waves crashing ashore as I drifted off to sleep.
Sure enough, two men arrived within 15 minutes, took apart the locking mechanism, lubricated it and put it back together, all in less than 20 minutes’ time. I wasn’t even late for dinner.