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How to have a splurge-worthy Maldives honeymoon on a budget

Feb. 21, 2020
20 min read
TPG Maldives_Ryan Patterson
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The Maldives is, unquestionably, the ultimate honeymoon destination. Its many pristine islands make for a dream couples retreat filled with sand, sun and romance.

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But a Maldivian getaway to paradise in South Asia doesn't come cheap. The Maldives is known for luxurious overwater villas that are often only reachable by a pricey seaplane transfer from the airport. Dining at opulent island resorts is also notoriously expensive. Even if you're able to book your accommodations and flight to Male (MLE) using points or miles, you could still end up spending thousands more on extras.

(Photo by Brian Kelly/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Brian Kelly/The Points Guy)

But don't cross the Maldives off your list just yet. You may be able to have your dream Maldivian honeymoon in paradise -- including some splurges -- if you take note of our favorite strategies for making the Maldives a little more affordable.

Ready to plan that bucket-list trip to the Maldives? Visit TPG’s Maldives destination hub for more stories about traveling to the region on points and miles, where to stay and what to do while you’re there.

Seaplane and yacht transfers

The Republic of Maldives is made up of hundreds of individual islands (many private) -- and these stunning atolls are what make the island nation so special. Getting to these islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, however, is extremely expensive. Not only do you have to get yourself to Male, but from there many of the islands require a seaplane ride (usually lasting just 40 minutes or less) that costs between $300 and $650 (or more!) per person round-trip.

(Photo by Tom Grahsler)
(Photo by Tom Grahsler)

Although some resorts allow guests to fly to a nearby domestic airport and then take a boat to the hotel, this can cost just as much in the end. The Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, for example, charges $520 for a one-hour commercial flight from Male to Kooddoo (GKK), an island south of Male, followed by a boat ride.

Boat or yacht transfers can also be extremely time consuming, or even more expensive than the seaplane. Take the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, which charges almost $900 per person for a round-trip yacht transfer from Male.

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How to save: Stay close to Male

It can be difficult to enjoy that private island experience the Maldives is famous for without leaving Male. But you don't need to fly 45 minutes away if you're trying to make the Maldives work on a budget. The Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa is far from our favorite property here, but it is one of the most affordable whether you're paying with cash or points. And, best of all, the short 15-minute speedboat transfer is complimentary with your stay.

This means it's not the quietest or most remote resort in the area. But you'll spend more time soaking in your private plunge pool, and spend way less time (and money) transferring to and from the airport.

Overwater Bungalow at the Sheraton Maldives. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

How to save: Erase the purchase

Still set on celebrating your nuptials in paradise -- and far from Male?

Since you can't use regular hotel points or airline miles to pay for a seaplane transfer, fixed-value miles — like those you'll get with certain Capital One cards — will be your next-best option. Once you have a stash of points, you can use them to wipe a travel charge off your statement. At a rate of 1 cent per mile from some cards, you can use the miles as a statement credit to erase eligible travel purchases.

Opening a new credit card before your trip may be a good way to offset the seaplane expense. If both you and your partner open a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card a few months prior to booking travel, you could each earn a bonus of 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Assuming both of you meet the spending requirement for the full bonus, you'll collectively have $1,680 to put toward the seaplane (or other splurge-worthy expenses), essentially wiping these costs off your statement. You must use your Capital One card to pay for the seaplane (or other travel charges) and then erase the travel charge from your account if you want to use this method of saving in the Maldives.

Related: The best Capital One credit cards

Private island resort dining

Even if you use points and miles to offset the cost of your hotel (and you should), dining can be a huge expense. You're pretty much a captive audience in the middle of the ocean, so running to a grocery store or fast food restaurant for a cheap lunch won't work very well. TPG U.K. video director Jean Arnas was recently able to book a stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives for just 25,000 Hyatt points per night, but one evening spent more than $200 on dinner just for him.

The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly, racked up almost $200 in room-service charges for a lunch at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives comprising two plates: a lobster curry and green salad. Read that one more time: $200 for just one lunch. And check out our recent review of the St. Regis Maldives for a glimpse at how much meals cost there. It's a similar story.

(Photo by Jean Arnas)
(Photo by Jean Arnas)

How to save: Leverage elite status

Holding high-level elite status may entitle you to free breakfast at some of the most coveted properties in the Maldives. For example, Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond members can get free breakfast at the Conrad Maldives Rangali; Marriott Bonvoy Platinum elite members (and above) can enjoy complimentary breakfast at the St. Regis Vommuli and JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa as an amenity option; and World of Hyatt Globalists can enjoy free breakfast fare at the Park Hyatt Maldives.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)

Earning hotel elite status can take a lot of time and money. But it doesn't have to be so difficult. One of the easiest ways to get Hilton Gold status is to get the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express.

The Hilton Surpass, for example currently offers a welcome offer of 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. The welcome offer is worth up to $780, based on TPG’s most recent valuations. The card has a $95 annual fee (see rates & fees).

Travelers with hotel elite status may also get free or discounted happy hour cocktails, complimentary ensuite snacks or a bottle of wine or Champagne.

Related: Credit cards that help you earn elite status faster

How to save: Book the right hotel

Travelers can also cut down on per diem costs by carefully booking a hotel that includes plenty of "free" food and beverages. At the all-Club InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort, for example, you'll get:

  • Daily breakfast at either Cafe Umi or The Retreat (your choice)
  • Daily afternoon tea (including club sandwiches) from 3 to 5 p.m. daily
  • Evening digestif of cheese and wine at The Retreat, or a nonalcoholic selection at The Pool Bar
  • Complimentary water and soft drinks at The Retreat, The Collection and The Pool Bar

The rates at this resort are fairly standard for a room in the Maldives, but come with many extras that other hotels don't offer. Although points ring in at 100,000 points per night, every room comes with the aforementioned Club InterContinental benefits that can greatly reduce the cost of food and beverages during your stay -- especially when you can easily pay $45 for a bottle of water at on-site hotel restaurants elsewhere in the Maldives.

If you sign up for the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card (which currently has a 140,000 bonus points + 1 free night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.), you can enjoy a fourth award night at no additional charge, giving you even more bang for your buck.

Exclusive Maldives experiences

The Muraka Villa at the Conrad Hilton Maldives is billed as the first underwater villa in the world: a three-bedroom living space that comes with a private pool, butler, chef and nanny. You can sleep and shower under the turquoise waters, starting at a cool $40,000 per night. This is the ultimate honeymoon experience, but spending an annual salary on a one-night hotel stay would likely leave some honeymooners drowning in debt.

So, let's assume that's not going to happen with your budget. Fortunately, there are other, less expensive once-in-a-lifetime experiences you can only have in the Maldives.

(Photo by Tom Grahsler)
(Photo by Tom Grahsler)

How to save: Dine at an underwater restaurant

Ithaa is the underwater restaurant at the Conrad Hilton, where you can dine nearly 17 feet below sea level. It offers a $200 prix fixe, four-course lunch menu that is by no means cheap — but, compared to $40,000, is more feasible for the average traveler, especially for a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon splurge. Guests can also opt for a more affordable morning cocktail during the restaurant's early happy hour every day from 11 a.m. to noon. (Happy hour, it seems, arrives a bit earlier in the day in the Maldives.)

(Photo by Tom Grahsler)
(Photo by Tom Grahsler)

Non-hotel guests can visit the restaurant for lunch only, but you must arrange your own transportation.

So, if you’re staying elsewhere but want to eat at Ithaa, ask your hotel to coordinate a speedboat transfer. Expect to pay a $30 surcharge, which will be added to the bill for any diners not staying at the hotel.

Related: The best credit cards for restaurants and dining out

How to save: Book an underwater spa treatment

Located in the North Malé atoll, Huvafen Fushi is home to the world's first underwater spa, the Pearl. Newlyweds will love the underwater couples treatment rooms, with views of the surrounding reef. Treatment packages such as the Underwater Dream or Underwater Rendezvous don't come cheap (between $275 and $395) but are just a drop of turquoise water in the Indian Ocean compared to a night at the Muraka Villa. Travelers can get access to Huvafen Fushi's spa by booking a day rate at the property.

How to save: Visit an underwater art exhibit

The Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi features a half-underwater art installation, the Coralarium, in the middle of the sea. The structure and its sculptures act as an artificial reef, and many marine species have already made it their home since the Coralarium opened in 2018. Many of the ceramic starfish sculptures have been designed to attract coral, crustaceans and fish, making this a living and breathing collection of art. Resident marine biologists offer guided tours of the Coralarium for guests several times per day. Although this property isn't cheap, you can redeem approximately 45,000 Accor points for a night here. And remember, Accor is now a Capital One transfer partner: Just another reason to open a Capital One card or two if you have a Maldives honeymoon on your vision board.

(Photo courtesy of the Fairmont Maldives)
(Photo courtesy of the Fairmont Maldives)

Luxury resorts

Consider Baros Maldives, if you will. Villas at this independent luxury resort start at more than $1,000 a night -- and overwater villas cost closer to $1,500. Still, it's one of the top-rated hotels in the Maldives, thanks to its incredible house reef and gorgeous villas with outdoor showers and private plunge pools.

During a recent stay, Brian Kelly noted how much he enjoyed the Asian-inspired packages at the hotel's Serenity Spa. But, without the chance to use traditional hotel points to offset the cost, (the Baros Maldives isn't part of a loyalty program) a stay there can be prohibitively expensive.

(Photo by Zach Honig)
(Photo by Zach Honig)

How to save: Use award nights

Joining the loyalty program well in advance of your trip can help you save money on your honeymoon. For every 10 nights you stay at properties booked through, you'll get one night free up to the value equivalent to the average cost of your 10 paid nights.

If you're like most travelers, your previous hotel stays haven't averaged $1,000 per night. But that's OK. You can use the value of the free night(s) for a discount at Baros, or a similar boutique property in the Maldives. If you've been staying at hotels that average $350 per night, you can discount that amount, making the cost more manageable. Reserve your reward night on the app to avoid an extra $5 fee charged when booking online. (Hey, $5 is still $5, even in the Maldives.)

How to save: Redeem points

You can always use flexible points currencies to offset a luxury hotel splurge. Or fixed-value miles, like those you'll get with Capital One, can be used to erase at least part of your stay.

Travelers may also choose to book through the Chase or American Express travel portal to redeem points. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, you'll receive 1.5 cents per point in value when you redeem through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

You can book the all-inclusive Pullman Maldives resort through Chase Travel for about 64,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per night in March. And the aforementioned Baros? That would set you back 63,690 points per night next month. Four Seasons resorts in the Maldives will set you back between 96,000 and 144,000 Chase points, depending on the night. Just remember, these redemptions will fluctuate wildly depending on your travel dates.

But this may also be a great time to use a stash of traditional hotel points to book your stay. Now may be the best time to book the Category 7 Park Hyatt Maldives for 30,000 points per night, because in March 2020, Hyatt will introduce peak- and off-peak award pricing.

If you have Bonvoy points, rates can vary depending on dates, but the Sheraton Maldives is the most affordable (50,000 per night for a standard award night). We recommend the St. Regis if you have a deep enough points stash to pay 85,000 points per night for a garden villa. If you want to stay in one of the fabulous overwater villas, that can set you back anywhere from 125,000 to 195,000 points per night during peak season. If you're booking any Marriott resort on points, be sure to stay at least five nights to take advantage of Marriott’s fifth night free on award stays perk.

If you want to split the difference and go for an option situated between the Sheraton and the St. Regis, check out the Westin Maldives where standard rooms go for 50,000 - 70,000 Marriott points per night.

Westin Maldives (Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

If both partners got the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card while the bonus is increased to 100,000 bonus points awarded after $5,000 in spending in the first three months, that would be a cumulative 200,000 Marriott bonus points to work with. Marriott allows you to transfer up to 100,000 points for free in a year, so you could combine points into one account, enjoy the fifth award night free benefit and be well on your way to an affordable honeymoon hotel booking in paradise.

Related: Best Marriott credit cards

For Hilton loyalists, we love the new Waldorf Astoria Maldives, but this property costs 125,000 Hilton points per night. If you don't want to spend quite that many points, you may want to consider the Conrad Rangali at 95,000 Hilton points per night, or the Saii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection property at 85,000 points per night.

The aforementioned InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort charges 100,000 points per night, but the club-level benefits may make a stay here even more valuable overall.

For budget travelers, there's always the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma, which costs 45,000 IHG points per night. Yes, even at a Maldivian Holiday Inn, you can find overwater villas and pavilions.

Related: Where to stay in the Maldives using points and miles

Spa treatments

You might as well go all-in for a spa treatment while you're at it. This is your honeymoon, after all. Plan to spend around $250 per treatment, the average cost of a one-hour massage at many hotel spas in the Maldives.

(Photo by Tom Grahsler)

How to save: Book through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts

If you're spending cash (even for just a night), consider booking your Maldives honeymoon through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program (available to American Express cardholders with a Platinum- or Centurion-branded card, including The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express), many properties offer a $100 to $150 spa or property credit to be used during your stay (among a variety of other benefits that may include elite-like perks such as late checkout, daily breakfast and complimentary Wi-Fi).

Some resorts currently offering a spa credit when booked through Amex FHR include:

How to save: Ask about discounts

Travelers should also inquire about spa discounts. At the St. Regis, for example, treatments in the early morning and late evening hours are discounted. Travelers with elite status may find they have access to spa discounts, or extended treatments at no extra cost. During a recent trip to the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, Brian Kelly got an extra 30 minutes added on to his massage, a perk of being a Hilton Diamond member. A few years back, TPG's Summer Hull received a discount on all spa services and activities at the Park Hyatt Maldives that were booked before arrival, so stay on the lookout for that sort of option, too.

(Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

Oh, and if push comes to shove, remember: This is your honeymoon. It may sound silly, but make sure the hotel knows you've flown all the way to paradise to celebrate you marriage. Whether it's a spa discount, a bottle of bubbly or a simply a heartfelt congratulations, it never hurts to ask.

Related: These are the best spas in the Maldives

Bottom line

A honeymoon in the Maldives is expensive, but using these tips, you may be able to cut down on costs along the way without sacrificing luxury.

And even though a Maldives honeymoon can be a costly endeavor, you'll be happy to know that your points, miles and cash may buy you a whole extra hour every single day of your stay. That's because many Maldives resorts set their clocks an hour ahead to offer travelers 60 more minutes of daylight, such as the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, The Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives and the Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort.

There's no better honeymoon splurge than buying island time, right?

(Photo by Ryan Petterson/The Points Guy)

Featured image by (Photo by Ryan Patterson/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.