This is Hyatt’s first venture in the Dominican Republic. It’s owner-operator Playa Hotels & Resorts’ 23rd Caribbean property and Playa’s first ground-up build. “We set out to define what ‘all-inclusive’ means in the Dominican Republic,” says COO Alex Stadlin. Has he succeeded? After a visit in December, says Sharon Pomerantz Strelzer, luxury travel advisor and owner of Travel Made Special, “I re-booked my family for Christmas.”
The Caribbean Marco Polo
The Hyatts occupy 40 acres fronting a white-sand beach so long that some parts are fairly empty. This, in spite of having 375 rooms in family-oriented Ziva and 375 for adults-only Zilara, whose buildings form two horseshoes facing the beach.
My wife and I sat on our balcony and admired the sea sparkling in the sun. We waded out for hundreds of feet in the calm, shallow water. On the Ziva side children made sand castles or herded beach balls into hockey nets. Ziva’s water park, marketed as “state of the art,” actually is. Ditto, the Kidz Club and Teen Zone.
We took out kayaks and SUP’s; went Hobie Cat sailing with watersports employee Marco (aka Marco Polo). Some guests were good sailors; some played volleyball. Sure, many just lounged on the beach or at pool bars with drinks, but most guests seemed fit, intelligent, and never rowdy. A few got massages at a beach pavilion.
FYI: The Larimar Spa hadn’t opened yet, but it’s open now, with a cenote-inspired design, a sky-lit lagoon, and the D.R.’s first Himalayan salt lounge. The sprawling fitness center has everything.
Tips: Dining, Rum, the Club, the Swimouts
Each of the four al fresco and five primarily indoor restaurants have unique decor and cuisine. We ate several breakfasts and lunches at Zilara’s Pier buffet, and Brando’s French-Polynesian serves such a sublime sea bass confit with passion fruit butter that we returned for the same meal. We also returned to Shutters Beachside (Club only) for the salmon tiradito in tiger’s milk. Bravo, Playa, for hiring Peruvian chef Oskar Valle—and for offering serious sipping rums: Brugal 1888 and Leyenda. No reservations are required, servers are hip to food allergies, and Ziva’s adult guests may dine at Zilara.
Of course, the many Club perks in Ziva or Zilara (we had a Club Ocean View Junior Suite King) include personalized concierge service, an amenity I sometimes find useless. However, when we wanted different pillows, my butler, Leony Villavicencio, delivered them in no time. And when I joked about the worn-out shoelaces on my sneakers, he reappeared with two pairs of long, strong laces.
Another surprise: Ziva’s decor, pull-out couches and all, is as sleekly stylish as Zilara’s. When booking swim-outs, remember this: Zilara’s Building 5 faces the sun almost all day, so book its (non-Club) swim-outs for winter. Building 6’s swim-outs (Club) are often in shade, so book those for May-October. Ziva’s Buildings 2 and 3 offer a similar choice.
What’s In it For Travel Advisors
“I have yet to see staff that were more genuine with their from-the-heart service,” says Strelzer. “And this resort invested heavily in interior design.”
She recommends Ziva-Zilara to “well-heeled couples” of any age, honeymooners or families who want an upscale all-inclusive.”
Kim Goldstein, president and travel consultant for Journeys Inc., observes, “Ziva-Zilara has an amazing beach, an adults-only section, a nice water park, fresh and modern rooms, and trendy restaurant decor. It’s a decent size, but it doesn’t feel mega.” She calls it “a game-changer in the Dominican Republic.”
Goldstein, honored at Playa’s Spotlight Awards, also noted how efficiently the front desk checked in her large group. Between that, the other amenities, and the “gorgeous beach and rooftop wedding venues,” she views Ziva-Zilara as a smart choice for weddings and groups.
Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana: hyattzivacapcana.com
Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana: hyattzilaracapcana.com