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By: Frank – @dugup46 – When Danielle and I sat down 8 months ago to plan our Valentine’s Day trip, it only took 10 minutes to set our hearts on the Caribbean. Being from Pittsburgh, we knew we wanted to escape the cold, and there aren’t many better places in the world to do that than Jamaica. However, the problem is never where to go, but how to get there… or more precisely, how to get there for free!
- Air Travel / Transportation – How we got there, and how we got around.
- Accommodations – Where we stayed on the island.
- Adventures – Write-ups of the activities we enjoyed during our visit.
- Total Trip Cost Breakdown – How much we actually paid for our trip.
Air Travel / Transportation
This one was a no brainier for us. There is no easier way to get to Montego Bay, Jamaica, than using the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. Although flying to Jamaica isn’t cheap, even on rewards, using a few Southwest gift cards that we obtained through the American Express Platinum card airline reimbursement, even the fees were covered!
- Ticket 1: Southwest Rapid Rewards (31,170 Southwest miles)
- Ticket 2: Southwest Airlines Companion Pass (Free!)
- Taxes: $240.58 (Paid with SW gift cards obtained through Amex Platinum reimbursement)
Since we stayed at the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, they actually have a lounge inside Sangster International Airport that provides free transportation to the resort! And to top it all off, they have complimentary shuttles that can take you into the city for shopping or other activities. Basically, all transportation costs are included in the resort costs below!
We had our minds set on Jamaica, now it’s all about where and how. We sat down and looked through all of our frequent flyer and hotel award programs through the free application – AwardWallet.com. We decided a long time ago that spending less time in more places was the best way for us to travel. Some people want to spend two weeks everywhere they go – which is great; however, we generally feel a couple days is just fine if that means we get to see an additional location later on in the year. Since we both had President’s Day off, we knew we could fly down there for two nights and get back in time for work on Tuesday.
After looking through our point programs, we felt the best option was to use the two free nights we received from the Chase Hyatt Credit Card (no referral here, just the application). After that, it didn’t take long at all to decide on the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, which is one of Hyatt’s ALL INCLUSIVE resorts! What better way to maximize a couple free night certificates?! Please note, the certificates are only allowed for single or double occupancy, sorry families!
The resort was beautiful, and they really take all inclusive to a new level here! They have 13 restaurants and bars to choose from, and there is a new one around every corner. We enjoyed great food selections, amazing staff, and the most picturesque beach that could make a magazine cover jealous.
I will be following this post up with a full, detailed review on the resort – so please check back frequently!
Given that we only had two days and nights on the resort, we were limited on our “adventures.” We didn’t get a chance to see any of the country, and we elected to just relax on the beach and enjoy our couple days of nice weather. This was the first time I have ever been in the Caribbean, and my typical vacations consist of nonstop action, so it was a great relief to do… well… nothing for a couple days.
In saying all of that, let me focus on a couple of the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall’s restaurants in this section!
Horizons – Our first meal was at Horizon’s for lunch. Horizons featured international foods from seafood to burgers. We landed on a Jerk Chicken Wrap for an appetizer and shared the Skirt Steak entree. We were too full of pretzels and peanuts from the flight to eat much more! The food was beautifully presented and tasted great!
Brazil – The first night on the resort we ate dinner at Brazil, a Brazilian themed restaurant that serves endless meat on giant skewers (Texas De Brazil or Fogo de Chao for those familiar). Waiters walk around table-to-table looking for people who have signaled them using a green and red card that you leave on your table: green means ready for more food, red means hold off for now. While the food quality and staff were fantastic, it just wasn’t our favorite place (although many people said it was their favorite place in the resort, so make sure to stop there!)
Choicez Buffet – For breakfast we walked down to Choicez which is on Ziva side of the resort. The food and service were great. This is a must stop if you are only coming for a couple days, especially for dinner! The outside patio area has some great ocean views and the wide selection of foods is terrific. Danielle kept mentioning the buffet, but I was very hesitant. I’m glad she won, because the selection was incredible!
Barefoot Jerkz – The second day we stopped at Barefoot Jerkz (pictured above) for lunch. This place was magical. They serve BBQ style chicken, pork, and sausage with their spicy Jerk Sauce in a small stand right on the beach. This place is a must stop and probably our favorite place on the resort (I know it was mine!)
Urban Heat – Our last morning we stopped at the Zilara lobby in Urban Heat. I grabbed the french toast, which was incredible, and Danielle had an egg white omelette, fruit, and a hash brown, which she enjoyed as well.
Overall, we were very impressed not only with the quality of the food, but the diversity. There is a type of food for everyone (although none are as good as Barefoot Jerkz, so you have to stop there!)
Nightly Entertainment – The Hyatt Zilara/Ziva has nightly entertainment on the far eastern side of the resort (The Ziva side). Our first night was a Michael Jackson concert which was very cool! We didn’t stay for the entire show as we were pretty tired and called it an early night. Our second night (Valentine’s Day), they had a couple’s game show. We passed on that altogether. Our biggest form of entertainment that night was sitting down by the ocean at one of the fire pits and just conversing.
The best thing about the resort is the wide variety of options. Concerts, game shows, throwing a football with the staff, or just relaxing by the beach. There is something to please everybody on the resort.
Total Trip Cost Breakdown
The Hyatt Zilara and Ziva Rose Hall in Jamaica not only make for an incredible use of the two free nights received from the Chase Hyatt credit card but would be a great place for a paid stay as well. This is one of my favorite credit card sign up bonuses, and I’m sad to know I won’t qualify for it again in the future, with Chase’s new application rules.
If you live in a cold area, like we do, and are looking for an escape – this place needs to be on the top of your list. The better move would be for you and your significant other to both get the Hyatt card and stay there for four nights! The resort is much less crowded from June-November, and the sweet spot seems to be September when all the kids go back to school. Just note, if you go when the resort is less crowded, they only open a handful of restaurants a night – so make sure you stay four nights to experience them all!