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Why I Booked a Trip to the Maldives Last December

Feb. 21, 2017
10 min read
Why I Booked a Trip to the Maldives Last December
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No matter how you slice it, the Maldives is really far for Americans — and really expensive. To get from New York (JFK) to Dubai (DXB) and on to Male (MLE), the capital of the Maldives, it's about an 8,730-mile journey — some 200 miles longer than the ultra long-haul from Dallas (DFW) to Sydney (SYD). And once you get to Male, your journey has just begun. To get to your final atoll, you may need to take any combination of boat, seaplane or propeller jet — and the cost of those travels may be even more expensive than your long-haul flights there!

So, why do Americans bother when Hawaii and the Caribbean are a stone's throw away? First, because the Maldives is far away and expensive, the islands are pretty exclusive. The only traffic you'll face at most resorts is that of a golf cart whizzing down a wooden walkway. You feel disconnected, and since they're in the middle of the Indian Ocean, far from the hustle and bustle of major cities, the stargazing is spectacular. Add in the world-class scuba diving and ultimate Instagram bragging rights, and the Maldives is the ultimate honeymoon destination — or simply for those who want to spike their likes on Instagram.

I went to the Conrad Maldives in November 2013 when I locked in the rate of just 50,000 (then HHonors) points per night. I was going to India for the first time, and I was recently scuba certified. So, I figured I'd tack on a Maldives trip, risking the fact that May through November is rainy season. And sadly, my luck didn't pan out as it rained five out of the six days I was there, though I was still able to get in some decent dives since the underwater world isn't as affected by rain showers as terra firma. Even though the room was a great deal using points, food was extremely expensive (especially the underwater restaurant).

In addition to costs being expensive while you're there, most hotels using points are really pricey:

Category Points per Night
Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa SPG Category 6 20,000-25,000
W Maldives SPG Category 7 90,000
St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort SPG Category 7 90,000
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Honors Category 10 95,000
Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa Hyatt Gold Passport Category 6 25,000

As you can see from the above chart, the best value is probably the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, at 25,000 points per night — worth $450 based on my most recent valuations — and rooms routinely go for $800+, so this is a solid redemption for a beautiful resort (stay tuned for more in my upcoming review).

But when we wrote about the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort offering overwater villas for just 32,500 Starpoints per night — worth $878 based on my valuations — or 26,000 per night with the fifth night free, I jumped on it. I was eyeing a late-December Christmas holiday, and to my delight, five nights were available from December 23-28 over Christmas.

Best use of 26,000 @spg points ever #drunkonrelaxation

A post shared by Brian Kelly (@thepointsguy) on

From there, I decided I might as well compare it to the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, but sadly no rooms of any type were available for award redemptions, so I paid $1,560 per night, getting the 4th night free with Citi Prestige Card for a Park Sunset Water Villa. A splurge for sure, but I wanted to be able to review an overwater villa at the Park Hyatt and St. Regis head to head. I'll review the resort later, but here's an early tip: Spending 25,000 points for a regular villa on land is a great option, and paying full price for the overwater villas is not worth it in my opinion (though if you can upgrade for a couple of nights to experience it, it isn't a bad option).

To cap off the trip, I decided to spend New Year's Eve at the No. 1 hotel in the world per Travel + Leisure, Nihiwatu in Sumba, Indonesia (a 45-minute flight from Bali). The hotel isn't part of any points program, though it is part of the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts portfolio. If you book through Amex FHR, you'll get noon check-in when available, a room upgrade when available, daily breakfast for two people, guaranteed 4:00pm late checkout, complimentary Wi-Fi and a unique property amenity of a complimentary 50-minute massage for two people. For my stay, however, I again decided to use my Citi Prestige Card and paid $1,381 per night for lodging (including meals and activities) and got the 4th night free.

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Not a terrible way to spend the last day of an exhausting, but fulfilling year✈????

A post shared by Brian Kelly (@thepointsguy) on

For flights, I went with Singapore Suites from New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA) to Singapore (SIN) and finally on to Male (MLE) in business class. If I were to have used cash, my flight would have cost more than $10,000 — however, I redeemed 191,250 KrisFlyer miles for the Suites flight JFK-FRA-SIN and 29,750 miles for the SIN-MLE flight in business class. In all, the 221,000 KrisFlyer miles I redeemed were worth $3,315 based on my valuations — a fantastic redemption given the price of the ticket.

It can be pretty difficult to get from the Maldives to Nihiwatu, but here's the best way to do it: Redeem Singapore KrisFlyer miles to fly from Male (MLE) to Singapore (SIN) and then on to Bali (DPS) for 29,750 miles + $200 at the business saver level or 15,725 miles + $173 at the economy level. From there, you can get a one-way ticket from Bali (DPS) to Sumba (TMC) on Garuda Indonesia for $70 or a round-trip ticket for $129.

And for the return, I went from Bali (DPS) to Seoul (ICN) and on to JFK in Korean Air first class for 95,000 miles (thanks to my 100,000-point Chase Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus) + $190 in taxes and fees. For a ticket that cost more than $7,000, I got some great value from that redemption.

All in all, my trip wasn't cheap but I still saved a huge amount using miles and points, and it was truly the trip of a lifetime — more on that later.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.