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With mostly red-eyes and no direct flights, getting to Jamaica from the West Coast can be a challenge. But it’s leaving the island that’s actually harder — if only because its inhabitants don’t want you to go.
Toward the end of my stay at Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, I heard countless cries of “You can’t leave yet!” and “You must come back soon!” On my return to the airport, my driver made me promise to bring my family this year.
This warm departure was only a small slice of the friendliness I felt from the accommodating staff at Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall and Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, two distinct all-inclusive resorts on one 1,200-foot stretch of white-sand beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica. When I arrived for the March 20 grand opening, I was greeted and assisted by multiple concierge with their hand over their hearts — Hyatt’s signature “service from the heart” gesture — before being shown to my one-bedroom oceanview junior suite in Zilara, the 234-room adults-only side of the property.
The junior and butler suites are rock-star status: All feature an in-room refreshment center (read: personal bar with premium liquor), personalized beach butler and concierge services and private check-in and checkout. My 673-square-foot suite also offered a king bed, a work desk and a balcony with a sofa. Translucent, sliding doors to the bathroom contribute to an open, spacious floor plan, and the rainfall shower and enormous soaking tub had me swooning.
Even small things made me feel like a VIP. Upon discovering I had indulged in one of the room’s miniature whiskeys, my daily mini-fridge restocker, Brandon, swapped out all of the tiny liquor bottles for whiskey, then asked to kiss my hand before leaving.
And the pampering goes on. The property’s full-service spa features 11 treatment rooms, a sauna, a steam room and a plunge pool. (Services such as massages and facials may be booked for an additional fee.) I requested my 50-minute Swedish massage in one of the three private beach cabanas that are part of the spa’s small outdoor extension.
The sounds of the waves lapping at the shore combined with the expert hands of my masseuse, Rosemary, soothed my limbs, sore from snorkeling and kayaking along Rose Hall’s private beach.
Guests at either resort can enjoy one complimentary round of golf (and a discounted rate thereafter) at acclaimed White Witch Golf Course or Cinnamon Hill Golf Course, both located about 20 minutes from the hotel. Additionally, all guests may indulge in 24-hour room service, lounge on plush beach cabanas scattered throughout the resort, use the fitness centers and partake in activities such as water aerobics, beach volleyball, kayaking, windsurfing and a short catamaran excursion — all complimentary. Wi-Fi access and transfers to and from Sangster International Airport are also included.
Formerly a Ritz-Carlton, the family-friendly Ziva is the resort’s larger side and has undergone expansions and soft renovations; the latter will continue over the next 18 months. The 387-room property has no shortage of escapes, with one sprawling pool, two hot tubs, five restaurants and four bars (including stunning Moroccan rooftop bar Fez), not to mention a coffee shop, a quick-eats venue, a few more free-standing bars and one of my favorite spots: Barefoot Jerkz. This jerk-chicken shack, which I rarely saw without a line of hungry beachgoers, sits right on the sand and serves up juicy, grilled, jerk-spiced chicken.
Further sustenance can be found at Zilara, which has two bars and three restaurants exclusively for its guests. Petit Pariz offers French fare, Flavorz provides a sampling of everything and Horizonz focuses on meats and seafood. The latter was where I had the most delicious meal of my stay: an appetizer of smoked marlin, followed by the surf and turf of buttery lobster and perfectly cooked steak.
There were a few minor hitches in my experience — service was often quite slow; several guests reported spotty hot water; a few outlets and light switches in my room didn’t work; and some landscaping was still underway — but the resort staff was always ready and happy to help.
Overall, my stay gave me a hearty taste of Jamaican hospitality, and I left for home still feeling that warmth — and a sunburn.