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Beginning next fall, United will launch nonstop service to Tahiti from San Francisco will bring the French Polynesian paradise significantly more into the realm of reality for Americans. The island nation is home to some of the most luxurious hotels in the world, each touting the accompanying price tags. Today, I’ll show you how to either completely avoid paying or lower the large nightly rates the hotels demand. Let’s look at which properties could make great award redemptions and a few hotels you should book with the Citi Prestige 4th Night Free benefit to lower your out-of-pocket cost.
For all Hilton properties, you now have the opportunity to subsidize your hotel nights with Points & Money rewards. When you redeem points to cover the revenue cost of a property, they’re worth anywhere from 0.4 -1.1 cents apeice. This can actually be a good option at the below luxury properties, where you can cut the cost of a premium room by $1,000 per night for ~100,000 points. Also remember that Hilton elites of any level can redeem points for four nights and get the fifth night free. There are two Hilton properties in French Polynesia:
Conrad Bora Bora Nui
Award nights start at 80,000 points for a Garden View Bungalow. Availability goes from fairly decent in April and May to nonexistent during the summer and fall.
If you want to move up to a premium view villa or overwater bungalow on award nights, it’s going to cost you 331,000 points per night for a King Horizon View Villa and 439,000 points per night for a King Overwater Bungalow.
Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa
A King Garden Guestroom will cost you 80,000 points per night with availability being even tighter than at the Conrad. April and May are the best times to go if you want award nights; no standard award redemptions are available in the summer.
A King Lagoon Bungalow will cost 203,000 points per night, and the coveted King Overwater Bungalow is 256,000 points per night in the winter. This property actually looks a bit more enticing to me compared to the Conrad. Even the Garden Bungalows have a private plunge pool, and the property has French Polynesia’s only overwater bar. You can take a 30-minute ferry from Tahiti to reach Moorea rather than having to buy a ~$450 plane ticket to fly from Papeete to Bora Bora.
InterContinental Resort and Spa Moorea
The 27-acre property on the nearby island of Moorea is not a top-tier IHG property; 398-square-foot Lanai rooms in the main hotel block cost just 40,000 points per night. Almost every single day in January through mid-April has award nights available:
From my research, the property looks like one of the largest resorts available for booking with points and has almost any amenity you could want both indoors and out. There’s a dolphin center, turtle care center and every water sport imaginable including speed boats, glass-bottom boats and snorkeling excursions. If you’re traveling with kids ages 4-12, the aptly name Planet Trekkers Kids Club has half-day programs ($45; reserve in advance) designed to keep them engaged while you enjoy a few grown up activities.
InterContinental Resort Tahiti Resort and Spa
First, be aware that a major renovation will occur over the course of seven full months next year. From April 1 – December 1, 2018, this hotel will be updating the last three buildings of the resort to complete its full renovation project. During this period, standard, garden and lagoon view rooms won’t be available.
The hotel is located just 2 kilometers south of Fa’a’ā International Airport (PPT) if you’re looking to come to the island for a quick visit or stay here the night before your flight home. A one king bed garden view room in the main hotel block will cost you 40,000 IHG points per night, so even this hotel isn’t even a top-tier IHG property. Points and cash rates start at 20,000 points and $125 per night. Availability looks to be as good as the InterContinental Moorea’s.
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa and Intercontinental Le Moana Bora Bora
I lumped the very exclusive Bora Bora InterContinental properties together for one simple reason: From the time of writing this post until the end of the bookable calendar in November 2018, there is exactly one night at either property available for award bookings. That happens to be December 18, or the day this post was published. For 60,000 points on December 18, it’s possible to book an Emerald Overwater Villa at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa:
The same room will cost you $1,129 after taxes are applied to the base rate of $973 per night:
I’ve only heard fantastic things about the two Bora Bora IHG properties, but they simply don’t make award nights available. This is illogical and frustrating from a loyalty program perspective. Why stay loyal to a brand if I cannot redeem points for all properties?
The SPG properties in French Polynesia have a different kind of hurdle to award stays beyond just availability. You need to call SPG in order to find and book award nights for any of the properties. The two Bora Bora properties are Category 7 hotels, but you’ll find the following message for redemptions at the St. Regis:
And also for the Le Meridien Bora Bora:
I gave SPG a call to ask how many points were required per night and what the availability picture looked like.
St. Regis Bora Bora
For rooms during the month of February 2018, the phone agent quoted me 58,500 Starpoints per night for a one-bedroom overwater view villa like the one pictured above. There’s a mandatory $130 boat transfer fee per person. These rooms were selling for $1,225 per night after all taxes and fees, giving you a 2.09 cent-per-point redemption value. If you find yourself swimming in SPG points, this isn’t a bad use, and availability in the winter/early spring off season looked good from what the phone agent told me.
Le Meridien Bora Bora
I spoke with a representative who quoted 39,000 Starpoints per night for a classic bungalow. There’s also mandatory boat transfer along with turtle protection fees, totaling $125 per person. Cash rates during February, when I found almost wide open availability, would be about $525 after all taxes and fees. This only gives you a 1.3 cent-per-point redemption value and in my opinion should be avoided.
Le Meridien Tahiti
Big note here for those planning to go next year: Pontoon and overwater villas are closed until August 31, 2018 for renovations.
The Category 5 property requires between 12,000-16,000 Starpoints per night for a Deluxe ocean-facing room. I found prepaid rates for less than $200 per night, which in my opinion means you should skip the call center and just pay for the rooms given how many Starpoints would be required. Plus, rooms are only available on limited nights.
Citi Prestige 4th Night Free
In addition to the loyalty program bookable properties, there are other luxury properties that make French Polynesia a popular bucket list destination. While there’s no easy way to book these for free, you can take advantage of the Citi Prestige Card’s 4th Night Free benefit to drop your out-of-pocket cost by 25%. In order to qualify for the 4th Night Free, you need to book through the Citi online travel portal or through the Citi Prestige concierge and of course pay with your Citi Prestige Card.
This French Polynesian celebrity destination has its own island and is entirely eco-sustainable. President Obama came here to work on his book deal shortly after leaving the White House. I found rates in the low season of January that included breakfast for $2,600 on a four-night stay. The property even has a special for stays of three nights or more from January through June: You’ll get round-trip flights from Tahiti to Tetiaroa, home of the Brando, for free.
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
One-bedroom, beach view and overwater bungalows are actually the base rooms at this ultra-luxurious resort. Bed and breakfast packages in the January to March timeframe were the lowest rates I could find, starting at $1,160 per night. What I really like about Four Seasons and the 4th Night Free is the ability to combine the Four Seasons third-night free offer with the 4th Night Free from Citi Prestige and stay four nights for the price of two. The Four Seasons Bora Bora doesn’t currently feature this offer, but routinely check back on the offers page.
If I had to chose now, I’d probably redeem 320,000 Hilton points for five nights at the Hilton Moorea Resort and Spa and ask how much a cash upgrade to an overwater bungalow would be at check-in. With Gold status, we would receive breakfast and if no upgrade were available, we would still have our own private plunge pool. I honestly can’t wait to see if United opens saver space on the new route so I can book a French Polynesia vacation.
Featured image by M Swiet Productions/Getty Images.
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