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I had the opportunity to go on the trip of a lifetime to the Maldives last December after finding a brilliant combination of availability and discounted awards at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort. I had already been to the Maldives back in 2013 — I stayed at the Conrad Maldives on Rangali Island on that trip — but figured it was a good time to go back and visit the beautiful and remote island nation. This time, I decided to stay at two resorts, the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa and the St. Regis.
Getting to the Maldives is a huge endeavor, involving thousands of dollars, points and more than 24 hours of travel on a combination of jets, seaplanes and boats. Not to mention, there are only a handful of points hotels once you get there. Below is a comparison of the two resorts I stayed in, which should help you gauge what’s important if you’re thinking of planning your own island getaway.
Price and Value
For a little background, here’s a look at some of the points-hotel options that are available in the Maldives.
|Category||Points Per Night||Cash Rate (for a regular room in December)||Value Per Point|
|Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa||SPG Category 6||20,000||$433||1.7-2.1 cents|
|W Maldives||SPG Category 7||90,000||$1,080||1.2 cents|
|St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort||SPG Category 7||90,000||$2,103||2.3 cents|
|Conrad Maldives Rangali Island||Hilton Honors Category 10||95,000||$732||0.7 cents|
|Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa||Hyatt Category 6||25,000||$1,000||4.0 cents|
|Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives||IHG Category 7||40,000||$242||0.6 cents|
While rates at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa start at more than $1,000 per night, you can still redeem 25,000 Hyatt points for a standard villa. That’s a value of more than $0.03 per point. You can also do what I did and pay with the Citi Prestige Card to get the fourth night for free. Of the two hotels, the Park Hyatt has better award redemption possibilities and it’s much easier to redeem points at the resort.
You’ll be spending more if you decide to stay at the St. Regis Maldives, which has rates starting at $2,011 or 90,000 Starpoints per night for an overwater villa. I was lucky enough to get in on an SPG deal that allowed me to stay there for just 26,000 Starpoints a night, which amounts to $0.07 per point in value. Rates were actually 32,500 Starpoints per night when I was booking my trip, but because Starwood Preferred Guest offers its members the fifth night for free on award redemptions, I ended up with a real bargain.
Intergalactic spaceship to planet ZEN. Or Overwater Villa. You can’t redeem Hyatt points for them, but you can upgrade regular point redemptions (25,000 points a night) with cash for $560 a night based on availability. For my stay during peak season there were no points rooms left, so I paid $1,560 a night for the Overwater Villa and I’ll get the 4th night free for using the Citi Prestige card. Not cheap, but this stay allows me to re-qualify for Diamond for 2017 and I’ll earn 3x points for paying with Prestige.
Chase Ultimate Reward points are transferable to Hyatt as well. Currently, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card will give you 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account, so just the sign-up bonus alone could get you two free nights at the Park Hyatt. Or, if you’re looking to stay at the St. Regis and are in need of some Starpoints, you can apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
When it comes down to it, the recently opened St. Regis wins in terms of wow factor. Everything here — from the incredible views to the massive decks that give you your very own plunge pool — just screams luxury. You’ll get your very own butler and a room that’s fully controlled by an iPad. Inside the massive bathroom, you’ll find a bathtub that looks out onto the ocean. Check out the video below for a closer look.
The on-site Iridium Spa, a 1,850-square-meter overwater relaxation zone, is completely stunning. Between the private suites, a massive hydrotherapy pool and the Iridium room — where you can drink the resort’s exclusive Iridium tea while looking through glass floors at the sea life below — you will be blown away.
The Park Hyatt, on the other hand, opened in 2009 (it was originally operated by Alila Hotels & Resorts) and its features feel a bit dated compared to those at the St. Regis. The overwater bungalows don’t include plunge pools whereas most other properties in the Maldives do. Nevertheless, the room is quite nice, with views of the crystal clear blue waters. It’s spacious but not overly luxurious.
The island itself also feels much more quaint than Vommuli, where the St. Regis is located. You can easily walk around the entire island that houses the Park Hyatt — which you can’t do at the St. Regis — and there’s just something special about that. Note that Hyatt recently purchased an island that’ll operate as a satellite resort for the Park Hyatt Maldives, and once the property is constructed there, it may be a better contender against the St. Regis.
Although the St. Regis may be more luxurious, the Park Hyatt definitely wins as far as service goes. The smaller island gives the resort a more homey, community feel and although there are four tiers of rooms at the Park Hyatt, the level of service seemed to be the same for all customers at all levels. I found the staff to be more accommodating and even got to meet the General Manager of the property, Mariano Silvestri, who gave me a back-of-the-house tour so I could get a better idea of how the resort functions.
The service was not as good at the St. Regis. There are multiple tiers of rooms and customers — billionaires frequent the island, many of whom stay in the two-story Jacob Astor suite that comes with its very own Bentley golf cart. I understand that when you pay more, you get more but what bugged me was that I was told I couldn’t dine at certain restaurants or do certain activities like scuba diving because it was all booked up! It’s especially frustrating when you’re on a tiny island and you can’t fully enjoy everything the resort (supposedly) has to offer. Our butler also made a few mistakes, including forgetting to clean our room. After talking to Mr. Silvestri (the GM), we were able to go diving and get a restaurant reservation without waiting for days, but you really shouldn’t have to beg. Because the Park Hyatt was much smaller and able to accommodate all its guests, I never was turned away from a restaurant or activity there.
At some resorts in the Maldives, you’re limited to just a few, basic activities and restaurants. One of the main perks of the St. Regis is that there always a ton of activities to keep you busy, even though, as I mentioned above, I did have some issues with actually being able to do some of them. One of the best experiences at the St. Regis is the option to take a waverunner out at sunset — a guide will show you around the island and you may even catch a glimpse of flying fish (rentals cost $195 plus tax for 30 minutes or $290 plus tax for one hour).
The St. Regis also has a beautiful tennis court, which is a rare find at hotels in the Maldives. I had plenty of options to stay in shape here, too, thanks to a variety of exercise classes and a nice on-site gym — I tried anti-gravity yoga (which costs $80 for a 75-minute session) and a pretty intense bootcamp class that really had me sweating. You’ll also find all the usual activities, like scuba diving and snorkeling available at the resort. I also had a chance to try out traditional Maldivian fishing — and got to eat what I caught, too! — which you can try for $105 per person, or $800 for groups of up to six people. Here’s a video showing what that was like:
While you’ll find fewer options at the Park Hyatt, there are activities like scuba diving and snorkeling, as well as traditional Maldivian fishing, which you can do there for $100 per person. I also borrowed a kayak one day from the Park Hyatt and ventured around the island for a good workout. Overall, I was pleased with my stay at the Park Hyatt, even though there were fewer things to do at this resort. Anyone can take a back-of-house tour, which was a cool, behind-the-scenes way to see how a Maldivian hotel functions. If all else fails, you can always go scuba diving, which is fantastic in this part of the world, though it isn’t cheap (prices vary).
Overall, the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort beats the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa. The St. Regis really just gives you the whole “wow” package and its brand new property, gorgeous spa and endless amounts of activities will keep you entertained for as long as you’re there. That said, the Park Hyatt is definitely not a bad choice either — the setting is more quaint and the property definitely scores some major points on service. I did enjoy my stay there — the island itself was fun to explore as well — and I’d like to go back there on points someday, but not if I had to pay full price.
Have you ever stayed at either of these hotels? Tell us about your experience, below.
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