Book this, not that: Which far-flung international islands to book with points, which to skip
An overwater bungalow trip to a remote island like the Maldives or Bora Bora is a staple on many travel bucket lists. And luckily, nowadays, there are plenty of ways to enjoy these once-in-a-lifetime destinations on points. However, the experiences and value you’ll get can vary greatly from property to property. Some have limited lodging options, and some are harder (and more costly) to get to.
Here are the top far-flung international island adventures you can book with points and some that you might want to fly on by.
Book: Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa
The Maldives is home to over a dozen points hotels. However, some offer far better redemption value than others, such as the Le Méridien Maldives. This is a relatively new property that opened in 2021.
Rates here range from 48,000 to 56,000 points per night, but if you stay five consecutive nights on points, the least expensive night is free, which could effectively bring the nightly rate to 38,400 points. You can top off your Marriott Bonvoy 35,000-point free night certificate with Marriott credit cards like Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.
You can upgrade to a sunrise overwater bungalow for just 10,000 extra points on most nights.
By comparison, most Marriott Bonvoy hotels in the Maldives cost at least two to three times as much per night and charge significantly more points for overwater villas. The Le Meridien charges $420 per person for seaplane transfers, which is fairly low compared to other resorts in the Maldives.
Related: 10 private-island resorts you can book with points
Skip: Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa
With room rates starting at just 41,000 points per night, the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa is also one of Marriott’s lower-priced properties in the Maldives. However, in this case, you get what you pay for. When the TPG team visited the property a few years ago, there were a lot of flaws, such as trash in the water, disappointing overwater bungalows and a constant stream of air traffic due to the proximity to the airport — the opposite of what you’d probably want from a trip to the Maldives.
If you want to choose a resort on the lower end of the points scale in the Maldives, you’ll likely be better off booking the Le Méridien instead.
Related: This isn’t your grandparents’ Sheraton: Marriott unveils first group of properties with the brand’s new vision
Book: Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
If you’re looking to redeem Hilton Honors points for a trip to the Maldives, look no further than the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Although Hilton also fields the stunning new Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, it’s a lot more expensive — both the room rates and the on-site dining.
Standard awards at the Conrad are hard to come by but cost 120,000 per night, compared to the 150,000 points you should expect to spend at the Waldorf. If you manage to find standard room award space, you should be able to book the sunrise water villa at the standard rate. The hotel is home to an underwater restaurant, possibly the perfect place to use the $250 annual resort credit from the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.
The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: How to maximize Hilton free night awards
Skip: Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
The Park Hyatt Maldives is a solid hotel, and you can certainly get great value from your World of Hyatt points here. However, if what you want from the Maldives is an exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime experience, unfortunately, the Park Hyatt may not be the best choice.
The resort is aging. Additionally, many reviews state the food is pricey and just average, which is a problem when you’re on an island in the middle of the ocean. Plus, it’s harder to get to than other Maldivian resorts, as it requires both a commercial flight and a boat ride.
Related: The most award-friendly hotel program: Everything you need to know about World of Hyatt
Book: InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
If you find award space, the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso offers Emerald overwater villas for 120,000 points per night. TPG values IHG Rewards Club points at 0.5 cents apiece, so considering these villas go for over $1,000 per night, this redemption is a steal. These rooms offer over 1,000 square feet of space and direct lagoon access.
To get to the resort from the airport, you must take a boat transfer, which costs 7,334 Pacific Island Francs (around $65 per person). This is fairly reasonable compared to other high-end resorts in the area, which can charge well over $300+ per person for transfer fees.
Related: 10 incredible overwater bungalows you can book with points
Skip: The InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa
While the Intercontinental Tahiti routinely offers rates under $300 per night, it's dated and doesn't hold a candle to some of the Marriott, IHG and Hilton options on neighboring islands.
Located about two kilometers from Faaa International Airport (PPT), this property is popular for flight crews on rest. When TPG's Kyle Olsen visited French Polynesia in 2021, passengers and crew filled the lobby and hallways, namely, with United Airlines' arriving Dreamliner from San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
If you take the United Airlines flight from SFO or the Delta Air Lines flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), you'll likely arrive after Air Tahiti's last flight out. Consequently, you'll likely spend the night in Tahiti before heading to a neighboring island.
If you find yourself in Tahiti on an overnight connection, consider booking the recently opened Hilton Hotel Tahiti.
Related: Which should you choose? 5 top Bora Bora resorts and how to book
Book: The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
No hotel in the Pacific offers overwater bungalows larger than the St. Regis Bora Bora. When the hotel first joined Marriott Bonvoy after the SPG acquisition, you could book it for just 60,000 points per night. Now, room rates start around the six-figure mark and top off with room rates around 120,000 points per night — if you find award space. Finding five consecutive nights here for a free night is difficult.
When TPG's Kyle Olsen stayed at the hotel on points in 2021, the hotel offered him and his family a complimentary upgrade to a two-bedroom overwater bungalow with a private swimming pool, thanks to his Ambassador Elite status. It was, as he said, "the best hotel stay of my life."
Related: How I’m spending over 5 million Marriott Bonvoy points
A trip to a destination like the Maldives and Bora Bora is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people.
You’ll likely have a positive experience at any of these hotels. Still, you want to ensure you’re getting the best experience possible, and some remote island hotels fare better than others. After all, if you're using your hard-earned points and traveling the distance, it better be worth it.
Additional reporting by Kyle Olsen.