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All-Inclusive Resorts

Hyatt Ziva Cancun – Great Family Resort

Cancun. All-Inclusive. Family-Friendly. Dolphins. Sunrise AND Sunset. You have found the right blog post. Hyatt Ziva is the place!

“Let’s not talk about going home." Those were the words from our very own teenagers. This is a true story. Here’s what has been dubbed the best vacation ever! Let us show you why!

Ziva View of Hotel Zone

All four of our kids patiently waiting for the boarding call.

How Did I Survive as a Teenager without Technology?

Pro Tip: If traveling with kids (even teenagers), we have found it useful to use Ziploc bags for storing clothes for each day. Compressing the air out of the bags helps maximize suitcase space too!

Pro Tip: Use 2 gallon Ziploc Bags

We landed in Cancun and quickly navigated our way through Customs & Immigration. This is the view that awaits you in the transportation area. Don't fret, everyone is there to help. If you have transportation arranged in advance, the driver will be waiting for you with a sign.

We quickly found our driver and loaded up for the 20 minute ride to Hyatt Ziva.

Ok, enough about the journey, let's get to the destination. We arrived! COVID protocols were in effect when we arrived but the experience was very pleasant. 

Hyatt Ziva boast one of the most beautiful entrances of any of the Cancun Resorts. Their location on the northern tip of the traditional “hotel zone" in spectacular. 

The above photo doesn't do justice for the spectacular view. Let's get a little bit closer. I didn't know if I wanted to run to the pool or the ocean first!

The staff at Hyatt Ziva is so welcoming and friendly. We were quickly escorted to the Club Tower for check-in.

Tammy enjoying a glass of champagne - one of many!

We were excited to be in the Club Tower. This was the view from our 3rd floor room looking south towards the hotel zone.

Mr. Oinkster Approves.

Check out this awesome view from a much higher floor!

Wow What A View!

This is the view looking east from yet another room.

View Looking East

We had adjoining rooms with plenty of space for everyone. Having a ceiling fan in each room was wonderful too.

King Size Bed.

The bathrooms are appropriately sized, and the shower is plenty big enough.

Club Tower Bathroom

Staff kept the snacks and refrigerator stocked. Guests can ask for a variety of different items and adjust quantity amounts as needed.

Let's check out the rest of the resort property. The kids loved the pools the best. In fact, we rank Hyatt Ziva pools #1 overall for families among all the hotel zone and Playa Mujeres resorts. The cabana's by the main pool are awesome (extra fee…but worth every penny).

The Pools

The Main Pool

Main Pool Cabana Beds

View from the Sahara Pool

The swim up bar is popular and spacious

Forget Your Float? No Problem.

The Beaches

Enough about the pools, how about the beaches? The great thing about Hyatt Ziva is, being situated at the northern tip of the hotel zone, guests are rewarded with more than one beach option! 

This is the north facing beach. Unlike the south-facing beach on the other side of the property, this beach is isolated from the public. The water isn't as clear as the south-facing beach but with views of the red & white striped lighthouse and the evening sunset frames this beach nicely.

Did I mention the south-facing beach? Wow. Wow. Wow. Protected by a manmade jetty that protects the beach from wave erosion. This beach is accessible by the public but the beach is so large, the public is never an issue. And the Hyatt Ziva staff are constantly making sure the public does not access the resort property. 

Manmade Jetty

This beach offers access to the double-deck family cabana ($199-$249 per day depending on time of year). This was the location of the family cabana we rented one day.

Manmade Jetty

Here's the show stoppers…At Hyatt Ziva, you are rewarded with Sunrises and Sunsets!




Did someone say dolphins?! Yes we did! Everyday you can watch the dolphin swim and play. For an additional fee, you and your family can suit up and play with the dolphins.

@Moods is the exclusive teen-only lounge to hang out. There is a virtual reality simulator! Or they can play pool or foosball. Centrally located, this is a really cool place to just chillout, and it’s not hidden in some basement, so it’s easy to get too.

Virtual Simulator

Virtual Simulator

Last but not least….FOOD! Our kids loved all the restaurants at Hyatt Ziva. They had everything from pizza, Lasagna (Lorenzo’s), Japanese (MoonGate), and Steak (Tradewinds). Tradewinds was also the location of the best breakfast on the property, although the breakfast buffet at El Mercado was great too. 

Tres Cervezas had the BEST hamburger any of us had eaten anywhere (Stateside or abroad).

This is the iconic Chevy's restaurant.

El Mercado's Breakfast Buffet

Craving Japanese? MoonGate is your savory option. You can choose to sit at the grill and watch the “show" (similar to most Japanese Steakhouses) or you can elect for a table off to the side and order of a menu. We chose the show!

One side of Moongate:apos:s dining room

Chef had mad skills!

Best Beef Wantons Ever!

And the sweetest place at Hyatt Ziva is definitely Pastels. Check this place out! It was always a great stop for ice cream and other baked goods during the day, and especially after the evening entertainment show each night. 

From our family to yours, we hope you enjoyed this review. If you need any free travel planning services, for Cancun, Disney properties, cruises, or anywhere else, just send us a message!

2021 Year of the All-Inclusive Resorts: Secrets Cap Cana Arrival Day

Greetings friends! Eddie here. Tammy asked me to take on the roll as blogger for this trip, so when your beautiful, travel agent wife asks you to carry your weight, you gladly respond “As you wish” (The Princess Bride fans will get that reference).

Our 2021 travel year started in Punta Cana (Dominican Republic). With COVID still lingering around the globe, our options were limited but still luxurious and tropical. In 2020, we had traveled to other All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico, like Unico and Excellence Playa Mujeres, so we wanted to venture to a new destination and selected Secrets Cap Cana. Here we go…

The Punta Cana International Airport was surprisingly quaint. No mobile ramps or modern architecture to detract from the tropical paradise that awaits you. The thatched terminal rooftops left no doubt you had arrived to the Caribbean. 

The Customs and Immigration areas were spacious and well marked for travelers.

COVID safety protocols were in full effect. Since this was our fourth international trip during the world pandemic, we were used to these measures, and so was everyone else around us.

The baggage claim area maintained the charm of thatched ceilings and open breezeways. The warm tropical breezes were beckoning us.

Punta Cana Baggage Claim

Once you exit baggage claim, the shuttle/taxi area is very easy to navigate and find where you need to go. We had arranged transportation to Secrets Cap Cana through Mike Fisher Tours and Travel.

The drive from the airport to Cap Cana was a very short 15 minutes. We've arrived!

The welcome staff was friendly and very helpful. They always enjoyed pausing a moment for a great picture!

In typical Secrets fashion, we were handed a glass of champagne upon arrival to kickoff vacation! 

Eddie, Tammy, and our two newest travel buddies: Julie and Angela!

Tammy enjoying her champagne while I perform my duties as business photographer.

The open-air lobby area is reminiscent of other Secrets Resorts. Their architects and designers do such a wonderful job creating great signature views as soon as you arrive.

We were staying in the Preferred Club for this trip, so we were escorted to the Preferred Lounge for check-in. Along the way you get an opportunity to see restaurant locations or subtle landscape elements that make each walk memorable.

Jourdain was patient with our questions.

This was my favorite restaurant.

My mother's side of the family is Italian (shout out to the Lazzuri peeps!), so naturally I quickly see the Italian restaurant Portofino's on the walk to check-in. This restaurant would later provide a great outdoor dinner experience on Day 2.

There's something about wine bottles hanging from a tree that mesmerizes me, as if calling out my name.

After a short five minute walk, we arrive at the Preferred Club lounge for check-in.

Karla helped check us in as we waited for our Room Host (sometimes referred to as a “butler”) Oliver, to arrive.

Yes, I believe those are watermelon margaritas.

And who else would it be, none other than the famous Javier! He was fantastic behind the Preferred Club bar. I watched him handle a many obnoxious and loud guests with grace in the evening hours. 

Oliver is on his way…here's where we're headed!

Oliver is going over the details of the room. COVID cleaning protocols are visible throughout the room.

Yes, Tammy is still nursing her margarita.

The snacks and refrigerator were stocked with plentiful options. If you wanted more or less of particular items, your room host can easily accommodate.

So….you wanna see the beach! So did we. We quickly grabbed our bathing suits and headed out to the Preferred Club beach area!

This was a great way to unwind from a quick flight and relax before dinner. You can see more beach, pool, and property pictures here.

Secrets Cap Cana Beach, Pool, and Property Amenities

Thinking about vacationing at Secrets Cap Cana? Read this first. Tammy and I have visited other Secret Resorts (Secrets Akumal and Secrets Maroma) but this would be our first vacation to the Dominican Republic and Secrets Cap Cana. Let me say, it did NOT disappoint!

From the moment you arrive, the Secrets brand of open-air lobbies welcomes you home.

Cap Cana has one of the widest and most beautiful beaches we've ever visited. 

Lobby bar area

Plenty of seating through the lobby

Frequent visitors to Secret Resorts will recognize Coco Cafe. Strategically located in the lobby with fantastic views over the property.

View from outside Coco Cafe

Lets take a look inside Coco Cafe real quick.

Muffins, Donuts, Cake. Yes, please.

Lets cut to the chase. Here's the pool area. 

View from the beach.

Early morning walk view

Luis helped me every morning

The best feature of Secrets Cap Cana is the view of the beach from the pool. Fantastic.

View from our pool location

Obligatory “Wish You Were Here” photograph.

Tammy and our two travel buddies, Angela and Julie, enjoying some quality pool time.

Can't vacation without a “drinks in the pool” picture

Want a night time picture of the pool? Here you go.

Swim Up Rooms provide same colorful glow

The Preferred Club Pool area was small but intimate. Seating was understandably very limited during COVID-restrictions.

Oceanfront Bungalow

Here is the headliner…The Beach!

Tammy was my model this evening.

Preferred Club Beach Area

View from our beach chairs under the Palapa

Bali Beds Available for Extra Fee

Early morning strolls provided some of the best picture opportunities.

Beach Wedding Setup

The clear water wasn't beaming with fish but I was able to see several conch shells.

I placed it back where I found it.

One last stop – the fitness center, just in case you want to burn off some calories. The center had plenty of well-maintained machines and weights to keep up with any fitness routine.

Standalone Facility next to Building 9

Secrets Cap Cana is a fantastic resort. I wish we could've stayed a few more days. Stay tuned for a review on some of the restaurants we visited.

Excellence Playa Mujeres

Hi, I'm Eddie (My friends call me Fast Eddie but that's a story for another time). It looks like my beautiful, talented, travel agent wife, Tammy, has handed me the reigns for this blog. I question her decision but if you're married, I know you understand the art of compromise. Here's a picture of compromise when your wife tells you to get on the swing when you don't want to.

Now, I think you should know right up front that I'm not as eloquent with the written word as Tammy, but I am honest and to-the-point…which I think most people appreciate. If you're into connecting with an authors feelings or intimate thoughts, you can try reading some of Tammy's trip blogs on the Grand Canyon, Disney World, or Alaska!

Having provided that disclaimer, lets get started!

Trying to celebrate a wedding anniversary in the middle of a World Pandemic is difficult, but we haven't let COVID slow us down yet (Disney During COVID and Unico 20.87). So off we go!

Before we take you straight to Excellence, this blog may be your first introduction to Mexico! If so, WELCOME! After you arrive to the Cancun International Airport and depart immigrations, you will have to pass through a rental car and resort sales area. 

If you have pre-arranged transportation to your resort, which we highly recommend, you don't need to stop in this area. Just keep walking to the double doors that lead outside to the transportation hub. Here you will see all the private transportation and public transportation options. Tammy and I prefer pre-arranging transportation with Kalido and Amstar. Each of them have provided great service. Tip and shameless plug:  If you book your trip with Tammy, not only will she help you select the perfect resort, she will also prearrange your transportation for you (her travel agent service is at no cost to you!) 

This is the hub where your transportation greeter will escort you and your baggage. Here you will meet your driver.

We selected Kalido for this vacation. Our driver was Adriano Sosa. He was one of the best drivers we've ever had. Kalido drivers have always been polite, helpful, and safe.  

As soon as we exited our van and before we enter the resort doors, the Excellence staff sanitizes your luggage, provides hand sanitizer, and requires guests to walk on a sanitation pad.  

Entrance through the front doors of Excellence offers the view of a seemingly ordinary lobby area.

But when you take a few steps forward, the lobby opens up to this spectacular view!

The COVID precautions continue at the check-in desk with temperature cameras and plexi-glass.

Excellence staff decorated the room door to help us celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Oscar did a fantastic job helping with the luggage and showing us the room.

We had a fantastic swim up room in Building 7 with a king bed, full-size tub, and beautiful view of the lazy river outside.

This room was fabulous. Having said that, there is one area for improvement. What is difficult to know by looking at this picture is how small and low these bathroom mirrors are fixed. For anyone shorter than 5'3″, they will struggle to see more than the top half of their head.

Like most resort showers, there are two shower heads, with one being a large rainfall element. The shower dimensions are huge.

The winner of the mini-bar contest goes to Excellence! Forget the mini-bottles…They provided full bottles of liquors for consumption during the stay. So, if the all-inclusive alcohol at all the bars wasn't enough, you could still stumble back to the room. Or, if a subtle evening is more your speed, you could enjoy a quiet evening with a drink on the patio. 

The actual mini-bar was reserved for some delightful beverages too.

After we unpacked and settled in, we decided to take a stroll around the resort. The pools and beach are stunning.

The Prelude Terrace Bar provided a festive environment for bands and musical entertainment.

Stars Theater was a fabulous open-air venue that provided entertainment every evening at 9:00PM. During our stay, the theater hosted a range of options from Fire Dancers to the Michael Jackson Tribute Show. 

Excellence is home to Aroma, a specialty coffee and pastry restaurant. The drink menu offers a variety of options for guests.

There were 20 different flavors of sorbet. Check 'em out!

The pastries and donuts were unbelievably fresh and hand-delivered every morning by the pastry chefs themselves.

Aroma also has pre-made sandwiches for a quick bite. Perfect for a meal-on-go before you head to the airport.

One of our favorite restaurants was Spice. You didn't need reservations unless you wanted the traditional dog-and-pony hibachi show. We opted for a quiet table and ordered off the menu. The decor, lighting, and food were all perfect. 

Although chicken teriyaki wasn't on the menu, the kitchen was kind enough to replace the steak teriyaki with chicken for Tammy. The tenderness was perfectly moist. Better than any Asian dish we've had back home. 

I opted for the Kung Pao that was packed with flavor.

But the best stuff of the night was dessert. The Banana Tempura with warm chocolate sauce was sinfully good. OH. MY.

Every restaurant was perfect. The food. The atmosphere. The service.

But I won't bore you with all the details of every menu item we savored, but I have to devote a few sentences to our meal at the Indian restaurant Basmati.

I can't adequately describe the flavor, spices, and aroma this dinner delivered. We love Indian food and have never tasted anything this good. The Korma Chicken (cashew nut, rich poppy seed flavored finished with rich cream) and Chicken Kadhi (chicken, green pepper, onion, tempered with roasted blended spices) was off the chart. The kitchen was also able to prepare a dish of Butter Chicken that wasn't on the menu. This meal was the highlight of all meals.

Here are some delicious pictures of other food favorites we enjoyed!

Oh! I almost forgot to mention the most important meal of the day…breakfast. Tammy and I chose to enjoy breakfast two mornings at The Lobster House which provided some great views.

And like most great resorts, the drinks were plentiful and delicious. 

Having stayed at Unico a few months ago, we were eager to see how Excellence Playa Mujeres compared.  It was almost on even par in all areas. There were two clear areas where Excellence exceeded expectations – the food and the beach.  Every single meal was fantastic and the beach had plenty of lounge chairs, palapas, a long stretch of area to walk and activities such as jet skis and parasailing just steps away.    

There are a lot of resorts that provide wonderful service and amenities in Cancun. Excellence Playa Mujeres ranks in our Top 2 (A trip report of our Top 5 resorts coming soon). As we wrap up this trip report, here are some positive elements if considering Excellence Playa Mujeres: 

  • Plentiful Beach Palapas
  • Lounge Chairs in Pool
  • Breakfast views at The Lobster House
  • Large room shower
  • Wide Beach
  • Agave restaurant (Awesome Mexican Food)
  • Spice (Great Asian/Better than Unico)
  • Basmati Indian Restaurant
  • Toscana Italian Dinner/Breakfast

Also….Excellence Playa Mujeres has some wonderful art. Check out a few of these landscape sculptures. These sculptures as scattered throughout the property and add to the elegance.

When we returned home I noticed that we didn't have a lot pictures of ourselves from this Anniversary retreat, but I'll leave you with one of my favorites during our dinner at Toscana.

UNICO 20.87. Arrival Day

To read about our covid travel experience, click here.  

Unico is a fabulous resort. Our visit was during the Summer of COVID and the resort had taken all the necessary precautions to keep their guest safe. The fabulous staff were always wearing their mask. Our room host, Adriano, met us in the lobby upon arrival.

Adriano goes over details with Tammy

When you arrive, guests are welcomed with a refreshing beverage – Jade (cucumber and mint). I later had some vodka added to mine. 

Aromatherapy menu for guest room diffuser

After discussing the aromatherapy options, spa treatments, and dinner reservations, Ernesto took care of our bags and escorted us to the room.

Ernesto was super helpful

We passed through Bar Balam, then proceed outside through covered walkways on the way to the room.


Bar Balam

Beautiful display cases in Balam Bar

Pool table in Bar Balam

Anticipation was building with each turn on the way to the room.  All we wanted to do was unpack and go poolside.

The grand lobby

Corridor leading to the resort restaurants.

Breezeway view

After a pleasant walk to the room with Ernesto, we arrived!  And it was amazing.  But first, Ernesto showed us some of the room’s amenities.

Fridge stocked w/ soda, water & beer.

And now, the big reveal…..and it was spectacular!

Fabulous bedroom with a view

A HUGE bathroom

The unbelievable balcony view

Plenty of balcony space

View of sunrise from the balcony

This was the start of a great vacation.  Stay tuned for more resort photographs and a review of resort restaurants and menus.  

COVIDcation Travel? No Problem – Riveria Maya, Mexico

So, COVID-19 has you down and out? Don’t fret. There are still lots of travel options available, including international destinations. Most amusement or resort destinations have reduced capacity numbers, making you feel like royalty when you arrive.

The airports were empty. It felt like we were in an episode of The Walking Dead.

Charlotte International Airport’s main passenger hub. Pre-COVID, there would be thousands of people in this areas hustling to their gate:

We had a connecting flight in Miami. We were curious if Miami International would like the similar to Charlotte.  Yep. To our surprise, even at 10:00 am, Miami International was eerily similar to Charlotte. Empty, vast corridors allowed families to skip without obstacles as far as the eye could see.

Even the more narrow corridors where food kiosk operate feel voluminous.

The casual emptiness allowed us time to enjoy the many art decorations throughout the airport.


Social distancing and masks were common in all the public areas.

Starbucks had well-established 6′ apart markings on their floor.


How were the flights, you ask? Great! We flew American Airlines to-and-from Mexico with no problems at all. Drink and snack services were suspended but most people brought their own food and drink onboard.

The flight to Cancun was half full.  

Mask were mandatory, even if worn upside down!

We made it!  Let the COVIDcation begin.  

Arriving in Cancun International is uneventful. Everyone flows like cattle toward immigration and customs. The entry process is easy. Once through customs, you will pass through a corridor, bordered with resort and hospitality businesses on each side. There is really no need to stop or speak with individuals unless you have no clue what your plans will be in Cancun.

One of these passenger vans is ours! My lovely wife, Tammy, will hook you up with the best transportation options available.

Public transportation area outside the arrival terminal:



This COVIDcation was to the all-inclusive resort, UNICO 20.87, just a short 70-minute drive south of the airport. UNICO provides several safety precautions for guests.  

There’s a digital imaging thermometer at the welcome counter, and staff are masked up to welcome guests.

Guest step onto a disinfectant tray and staff provides hand sanitizer as guest arrive.

Let the fun begin!