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Living in Los Angeles, I take for granted the great weather, diverse cultures, easy beach access and close proximity to forest escapes. I assumed a trip to Mexico would feel too close to home.
Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta made a fool of me. Set between lush jungle and a private white-sand beach with views up and down the coast for miles, the all-inclusive resort is nothing like home — it’s more like a dream.
Located on the southern coast of Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta’s Golden Zone, the secluded AAA Four-Diamond hotel takes advantage of the destination’s beauty — the resort is built to keep guests facing the ocean at all times — as well as its culture. Less than a 10-minute drive away is the cobblestone Zona Romantica and Malecon seaside promenade.
“There’s nothing like Puerto Vallarta,” said Alexander Stadlin, CEO of Playa Resorts Management, the operational component for Playa Hotels & Resorts, which partnered with Hyatt Hotels Corporation in 2013 to create its own brand of all-inclusive hotels throughout Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. “This resort keeps the flavor of what Mexico is all about and the soul of what Vallarta is.”
Opened last December, Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta celebrated its official grand opening Feb. 24. After a $20 million renovation and expansion, the former Dreams resort property has a brand-new lobby, fitness center and spa, as well as 335 all-suite accommodations that include 14 swim-up suites, eight one-bedroom suites with plunge pools and two presidential suites. Weddings, honeymoons and vow-renewal ceremonies can be celebrated at the beachfront gazebo or rooftop wedding lounge with a private kitchen, bar and bridal salon.
My room had a king-size bed, a mini-fridge that was restocked daily and a balcony with an outdoor tub. The spa-style bathroom featured a rainfall shower, a double vanity and a jet tub. Free Wi-Fi access, 24-hour room service and a kids’ club are also available for guests.
Choice and quality drive Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta’s dining options, which are overseen by executive chef Maximo Garcia Lopez and include three a la carte restaurants; buffet spot Vivaz; four bars; one coffee shop; and food carts scattered throughout the property.
Casa Grande serves traditional Mexican food, plenty of tequila and a list of desserts almost as long as the regular menu. I sampled nearly the entire ice-cream selection, which includes flavors such as mole, avocado and tequila.
Italian trattoria Melanzane offers an a la carte menu for formal meals or an antipasto bar for casual dining, or guests can enjoy Vietnamese and Thai cuisine at Pureza. Steak and seafood spot Blaze keeps it simple (order the catch of the day, served grilled with lemon) and fresh (be sure to start with the aguachile or ceviche). All dining is first-come, first-serve; no reservations are allowed.
To work off their feasting, resort guests can rent complimentary kayaks, boogie boards and snorkel gear, or step literally across the street to take a guided tour of the jungle. On-site daily activities run the gamut, from dolphin and whale watching to tequila tastings and yoga and Pilates classes. The turtle-release program led by a local licensed expert is a highlight for children and parents in the fall.
There is no shortage of activities available outside the resort, either. Golf, ziplining, kayaking, fishing and even kayak fishing can be found nearby. I attempted to spend all my time swimming the warm waters of the resort’s 1,250-foot stretch of beach cove, but for those who prefer to make less waves, multiple pools, including one for adults only, can be found across the resort.
Butler service is offered poolside, as well as at the beachside lounges that sit under thatched umbrellas — and guests take full advantage. In the time it took me to drink one pina colada, I observed a guest blissfully make his way through three strawberry daiquiris.
Whether it’s a face-plant or a slow ease into relaxation that guests wants, Hyatt indulges. The rooftop Vita Mar spa invites the latter: All guests are welcome to use the hydrotherapy pools, sauna and steam room, or reserve services such as massages, facials, body wraps and mani-pedis for an additional charge.
I thought I knew what I would find in Puerto Vallarta. But on my last night, as I sipped a Mexican coffee in my private outdoor Jacuzzi and nibbled on a concha sweet bread while the sun set in brilliant oranges and reds, I knew I was terribly, deliciously, wonderfully wrong.