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Book this, not that: Which far-flung international islands to book with points, which to skip

Jan. 16, 2023
8 min read
InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso
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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

MARRIOTT

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

Sheraton Maldives. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

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.

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Related: This isn’t your grandparents’ Sheraton: Marriott unveils first group of properties with the brand’s new vision

Book: Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

Underwater Ithaa Restaurant at the Conrad Maldives. TOM GRAHSLER/THE POINTS GUY

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

Park Hyatt Maldives. BRIAN KELLY/THE POINTS GUY

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

InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso. JT GENTER/THE POINTS GUY

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

Intercontinental Tahiti. ZACH HONIG/THE PONTS GUY

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

KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

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

Bottom line

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.

Featured image by JT GENTER/THE POINTS GUY
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.

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  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees