Earning SPG Points Internationally at St. Regis Punta Mita

Oct 1, 2015

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One of my absolute favorite types of points are Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.  They are so versatile and valuable whether you use them for SPG hotels as I usually do, or you transfer them to one of their many airline partners.  They only thing I “don’t like” about Starpoints is how hard they are for me to earn.  If you are like me and don’t have a ton of SPG hotel stays, your primary way of earning Starpoints will likely be via the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.

Earn More Starpoints Around the World

The SPG Amex earns 1x on most charges, but earns 2x points on charges at SPG hotels.  Since Starpoints are harder to earn than some other types of points this means I absolutely want to use my SPG Amex for charges when I stay at SPG hotels, but until recently that hasn’t always made sense.  For example, I stayed at SPG hotels in Spain earlier this year, but skipped using my SPG Amex for my eligible hotel charges because the card still charged a foreign transaction fee that would have tacked on an extra 3% or so to my charges.  That means I missed out on valuable SPG points!

However, effective August 11th, the SPG Amex over-went a benefits makeover and no longer charges foreign transaction fees!  This means I no longer had to leave SPG points on the table when staying at SPG hotels outside of the United States!  To celebrate this change the SPG Stars program that I have been a part of the past several years allowed me to select an international SPG property to visit and put this new card perk to use.  How could I say no to that?!

Since we were going to be traveling with a very young infant I immediately narrowed my search to somewhere within a 2-3 hour nonstop flight from Houston.  It would have been super cool to go somewhere like the St. Regis Bali as Johnny Jet did under this program, but that wasn’t the most logical selection for us over a long weekend with a two month old and kindergartener.  We needed to stick closer to home while still exploring somewhere we had never been before.

Taking the Amex SPG Card on the Road

In the end we selected the St. Regis Punta Mita in Mexico.  While I have been to Mexico several times, I had never actually been to the Pacific Side that is home to Punta Mita, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, and more.  In my mind this side of Mexico was further away than it really was as flying into Puerto Vallarta was just a 2.5 hour nonstop flight from Houston.  Even with a two-month old, the flight went by very quickly!

The arrival into Puerto Vallarta was pretty simple with only a 5 minute wait to clear customs and immigration during our Saturday afternoon arrival.  To keep things as simple as possible we pre-arranged transportation to the St. Regis through the resort since the hotel is about a 45 minute drive from the airport.  The price was $1,990 pesos to the resort from the airport, and $1550 pesos from the resort to the airport.  That comes in at a little over $200 USD for the round trip journey in a SUV that seats up to six.  There are cheaper ways to get to and from the resort, but little did we know at the time that spending that money was one of the best travel decisions we have ever made.

Our ride started off uneventfully enough, but apparently a very important bridge when going from Puerto Vallarta to Punta Mita was under construction, and as a result we ended up in the craziest traffic we have ever been in with people totally abandoning all traffic laws and even paved roads.

It was insane; it made the 45 minute journey turn into several hours.  This is not a normal occurrence, but it was the situation on the day we arrived.  Needless to say, Hades broke loose with my two-month-old during that time, too, since she hates most car rides.  It was quite the stressful drive, and I can’t even imagine what we would have done if we had rented a car and were trying to make the drive ourselves!  We might have just turned around and gone straight home on the next flight!

Needless to say our nerves were shot by the time we got to the resort, but that all changed very quickly.

Video Review of St. Regis Punta Mita

If you would like a video review of the St. Regis Punta Mita – subscribe to our youtube channel and watch the video!  Little C and Baby S also make appearances!  If you prefer a written review, here are 2000 words for your enjoyment…

Checking in at the St. Regis Punta Mita

The area where the resort is located is very private, and you must go through two staffed gates to enter.  The only other resort in the area is the Four Seasons, so as you can probably guess it was a pretty “upscale” place.  We were welcome upon arrival by people assisting with our bags, offering us cool towels, and most importantly by this point in the journey, delicious complimentary margaritas.  It was my first “real” drink in over a year, and that made it taste even better.  For the little crew and those who didn’t desire an alcoholic beverage, they had “mocktails”, too.

The check-in area overlooked the property and you could see all the way to the ocean.  There were ample seating areas where you could relax with your beverage while completing the check-in paperwork.

Prior to the trip, my #1 concern was having enough space for the four of us – especially since my two month old doesn’t always sleep through the night and makes a good amount of noise even when she is sleeping.  I didn’t want this to cause my 5 year old (and us) to be chronically sleep deprived for the duration of the trip.  I had emailed the resort trying to negotiate upgrades to different larger room types, but we never really settled on something that would work within our price range so I just decided to let it go and make the best of it.  While the Amex Stars program covers a base room for our three night stay, any upgrades would be on my dime.  I had already spent several hundred dollars changing the date of the trip when our baby developed issues in her early weeks, so I was hoping to keep additional trip expenses to a minimum.

However, my space concerns were quickly put at ease when I was told at check-in that because of my SPG Gold status we had received a “very nice” upgrade.  They didn’t specify what that looked like and I didn’t dare ask.  I just started holding my breath that we would have a little extra breathing room or perhaps a nice view of the ocean.  Well, did we ever…

St. Regis Punta Mita Two Bedroom Suite

After loading up on the golf cart we quickly arrived at room number 6701.

I still had no idea what to expect, but when we opened the door I spit out the margarita in my mouth because, well, holy moley.  This. was. all. ours.  I couldn’t believe it.

There were two bedrooms, a huge living room, a full kitchen, two full bathrooms, one half bathroom, two outdoor showers, more closets than I ever counted, and our very own pool.  Actually, there was not only our own pool, but also our own hot tub.  It was over 2,000 square feet of absolute insanity. I have never gone from being stressed on the drive in to the resort to so insanely relaxed and excited in such a short amount of time.  The margarita buzz didn’t hurt, but I truly felt like I had just stepped into someone else’s life and I loved it.  I couldn’t believe it, but I loved it.

I was beyond relieved that there was this whole hallway separating the two bedrooms, so having enough space (and relative quiet) to sleep at night wasn’t going to be a problem at all.

As soon as I learned we had our own pool and plenty of space, I also went ahead and booked a babysitter for Baby S through the hotel because we could enjoy the pool and beach in front of our room completely insane villa with our five year old while the babysitter had S nearby.  I was nervous about booking a stranger in another country to watch our baby, but since we would be in very close proximity, I went for it.  In the end, the babysitter was the sweetest lady, and I wished we could have her on all of our travels!  She was so good that I would give preference to returning to this property just to use her again because she was so great with our baby.  Her name is “Indy” for those who want to use her – she watches kids several days a week at the St. Regis and has been doing so for years.  I cannot recommend her highly enough.

We spent countless hours in the very warm pool outside of our suite.  It was so warm that by the afternoon it felt as warm as bath water, so we were able to take our baby for her first swim.  In the evening the sunsets were intoxicatingly beautiful from our back patio, but this was also prime mosquito time, so viewing the natural beauty came at a cost if you weren’t covered in bug spray.

The over-the-top accommodations at the St. Regis were just the beginning.  The service was just as top notch as the surroundings.  All of the rooms at this resort have access to the St. Regis Butlers who can bring complimentary morning coffee or tea (it was delivered discreetly every morning at 5AM since my husband is an early bird), assist with setting up activities/tours/meals, and pretty much anything else.  You could call them, or even better, iMessage with them!

Since we had emailed back and forth with the resort many times before arrival, they knew this was our first trip with our new baby and as such they had things in the room like a baby bathtub, baby bath products, toys for both of our daughters, a small robe for our 5-year-old, a crib, and even “baby” decorations in the second bedroom!

There is no question that our insane upgrade enhanced our stay in numerous ways, but truthfully the entire resort was fantastic.On the last day I asked for a quick peek at some other room types since I knew the chances of lucking into this two-bedroom suite again were slim to none.  We saw a junior suite that has an expanded living area as shown below.  This room type is often $100 – $150 more per night than a standard room, but it would have enough space to accommodate a rollaway bed.
We then saw a deluxe suite which is around 1,100 square feet and seems to often be about $200 more per night than a standard room.  This room type has a dining table, couch, and larger living area that could easily sleep a couple of kids while the parents were in the raised bedroom above.

We also saw a standard room, but I don’t have photos since the room wasn’t yet totally put back together by housekeeping when we visited.  It was a fine room at over 600 square feet with the same outdoor shower and large bathroom that all of the rooms on the property enjoy.

With a family of four, I would love to at least be able to enjoy the extra space in the deluxe suite if we returned here, though the most budget conscious choice would be the room with two queen beds.  In terms of using points or cash, this is a Category 7 SPG property, so it rings in at 30,000 points per night.  There’s no question the property is “nice enough” to warrant that category, but personally I wouldn’t want to spend that many points per night if the going rate was somewhat reasonable.  I’d rather earn SPG points both from the SPG program and using the SPG Amex and save my points for a better return.

I have seen deals like “third night free with breakfast included” and similar here that bring the per-night price to a level where you would just be getting about 1.25 cents per point return for your SPG points, so that wouldn’t be worth it to me for a redemption.  This is by no mean a “cheap” resort, but it isn’t unreasonably expensive for what it is compared to similar resorts in Hawaii or beyond.  Our family of four had room service every night during our three night stay (since S can get cranky in the evenings), ate well for lunch, had a few drinks, and charged everything but the babysitter and transportation to the room, and walked out of there with about a $600 bill for our three night and four day stay.

Things like the kid’s club, paddle boarding, and more were complimentary, so I felt like we got a pretty good value here even though one certainly isn’t paying Motel 6 prices.  Granted, our room was covered by the SPG Stars program, so that certainly helped keep our costs low, but I did not at all feel nickel and dimed at this property.

Given the amazing service, the tremendous setting, and the close proximity to Houston, I very much hope we can return to the St. Regis Punta Mita.  That two-bedroom suite was outstanding, but even though I highly doubt we will ever step foot in that room again, I very much hope we will return to the resort.  Oh, and I haven’t even shown you the pools, meals, and activities, so stay tuned for that post.


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