7 amazing hotels around the world you can book with points
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Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials note that the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing some travel guides because we should all use this time to think about and plan our next adventures. TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until later this year — and even then, be mindful of cancellation policies.
Having hotel points opens up a whole world of possibilities when it comes to accommodations, whether it’s using them for last-minute nights at a midrange property for a special event or splurging on a high-end resort.
And while the world’s major hotel chains have plenty of luxury properties that are too costly for many people to stay at without the help of points and miles, there’s an even-more-exclusive group of hotels typically reserved for the ultra-wealthy; those who likely haven’t seen the inside of a commercial aircraft in years and only sit in the backseat of their luxury vehicles.
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Many of these uber-posh retreats (think: almost-private islands and luxe desert camps) are simply out of reach for the vast majority of people. There are, however, plenty of properties around the world that seem like they’d only cater to those with millions in the bank, but are actually bookable with points.
Let’s take a look at some of the most out-of-this-world hotels, and how you can stay for (almost) free thanks to your points and miles.
North Island, A Luxury Collection Resort, Seychelles
Cost in cash: From $5,600 per night
Cost in points: From 365,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night
How does an almost-private island vacation on a chain located off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean sound to you? Yes, it sounds like the very definition of paradise to us, too. Recently, this ultra-exclusive resort with just 11 private villas joined the Marriott Bonvoy family as a Luxury Collection property — which means you can use your points for a stay here.
Related: The best Marriott cards for 2020
Predictably, you’ll need a lot of points to secure a room at this private-island paradise. Marriott has said that, because it’s so different from just about every other resort in its portfolio, it doesn’t fit into the award chart that tops out at Category 8. At North Island, you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of 365,000 points per night. According to Marriott, it includes “breakfast, complimentary use of an island buggy, morning yoga, kids activities and more.”
While you’ll have to shell out a massive amount of points for a stay at this property, it’s not actually a bad deal, considering the nearly $6,000 price tag for one night. Though do note you’ll be on the hook for the helicopter transfer to the island, which will set you back almost $1,800 for the round-trip journey.
Despite the high nightly rate in points and costly extras, we can’t think of a better place to use Marriott points if you’re sitting on a whole lot of them and want to treat the whole family — or a group of really good friends — to a trip they’ll never forget.
Necker Island, British Virgin Islands
Cost in cash: $5,000-$8,000 per night
Cost in points: 1.5 million Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles
For an exclusive private-island retreat closer to home, look no farther than Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. The 74-acre oasis north of Virgin Gorda and east of Puerto Rico is home to just 17 rooms.
Typically, you have to rent the entire island and can bring up to 34 guests, but from time to time Virgin Limited Edition makes certain “Celebration Weeks” available, during which you can book an individual room (you can view the available 2020 weeks here). The best part? These are available to book with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles — a whole lot of them.
If you want to book a Celebration Week with points, you’ll need to commit to a seven-night stay, and it will cost you 1.5 million Flying Club miles for a room in the Great House. At current TPG valuations of 1.5 cents per Virgin Atlantic mile, 1.2 million miles is worth $22,500. Considering you could pay up to $8,000 per night for a room, you’ll be getting a tremendous value for your miles.
Points bookings are restricted to those who have Virgin Atlantic Silver or Gold status; however, you may be able to status match to Virgin Atlantic from another airline or hotel program. And, thankfully, you can instantaneously transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic, all at a 1:1 ratio. Booking with miles is only available by calling an agent directly.
Cost in cash: $1,650 to $3,500 per night
Cost in points: 40,000 World of Hyatt points per night
Calala Island is a private-island resort (do you see a theme here?) in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Nicaragua — a part of the world that’s calling itself the “NiCaribbean.” Calala bills itself as an “ultra-all-inclusive” property, which means that just about everything, including the majority of activities offered at the resort and the round-trip transfer from the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, are included with the nightly rate.
Perhaps one of the best possible uses of World of Hyatt points in existence, Calala Island will truly make you feel like you’re on your own island in paradise. There are only four rooms total at the resort, meaning at most you’ll be sharing the island with just seven other people.
TPG’s Carissa Rawson recently stayed at the resort and called it an “homage to unspoiled island beauty.” Don’t go in expecting the perfectly manicured beaches and made-for-Instagram spots like some resorts have. Calala Island is all about connecting with nature and getting away from everything — and everyone. What could be more luxurious than that?
Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
Cost in cash: $1,500 to $3,000 per night
Cost in points: 120,000 Hilton Honors points per night
It’s not technically a private island, but resorts in the Maldives are typically so private you won’t even notice. The new Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi is one of the island nation’s newest properties, and also one of its best. The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly, had the chance to stay at this property at the end of 2019 and he wishes he’d had more than just four nights at the property — it’s that amazing.
The best part? You can book a “base” room, which measures more than 2,500 square feet, is right on the beach and has a private plunge pool, with your Hilton Honors points. At 120,000 points per night, it did essentially create a new, top-tier category within the Honors program, which hasn’t yet spread to other properties, thankfully.
You’ll have to work to find availability, but if you do, it’ll be worth the effort — this property “flawlessly embodies what it means to have a Maldivian vacation,” Brian said.
Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai
Cost in cash: $1,500 to $3,500
Cost in points: 85,000 Marriott points per night
Many all-inclusive resorts have a bad reputation for skimping on the quality of the food and drink offerings and not giving you your money’s worth. Al Maha does it differently, which is part of the reason why many at TPG consider it to be one of the best possible uses of Marriott Bonvoy points. Award rates include everything except alcohol and entitle you to three meals and two desert activities per day. You can choose to dine in the comfort of your own villa at no extra cost or eat in the main restaurant overlooking the vast expanses of desert. The food is top-notch as well, whether you’re craving Western dishes or something more local.
Complimentary activities range from falconry to archery to desert walks and drives, with two coming at an additional charge. When TPG’s Ethan Steinberg visited Al Maha, he raved about the dune-bashing excursion, which is one of the two activities that cost extra. You drive away from the resort and through a gate, leaving behind all traces of civilization in favor of an endless sea of dunes. Then, you spend an exhilarating (and at times, terrifying) hour swerving up and down the sides of the dunes, some of which are 50-feet high. You really feel like the car could tip at any moment, but the drivers are highly skilled and handle the vehicle with aplomb. Just make sure to keep your windows closed!
Park Hyatt Sydney
Cost in cash: $1,000 per night
Cost in points: 30,000 World of Hyatt points per night
Who’s ever woken up in a nondescript hotel room in the middle of a trip and, for a moment, struggled to remember exactly where you were? Well, that’s not possible at the Park Hyatt Sydney, where you open your window to sweeping views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, one of the most iconic cityscapes on earth.
This location is perfect for tourists and business travelers alike, as it straddles the central business district and provides easy access to ferries taking you out to some of the prettier and less-well-known beaches. Perhaps the best part is that, thanks to Hyatt’s generous award chart, you can book this fantastic hotel for only 30,000 points per night.
Points transfer 1:1 from Chase Ultimate Rewards, so if you just signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can look forward to two free nights here after earning the 80,000-point welcome bonus once you spend $4,000 in the first three months of holding the card.
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila resort
Cost in cash: $500 to $1,000 per night
Cost in points: 30,000 World of Hyatt points per night
When Hyatt acquired Two Roads Hospitality group in 2018, it opened up tons of new possibilities for those with World of Hyatt (or Chase Ultimate Rewards) points. One of the best properties that was integrated into the World of Hyatt program as a result of the acquisition is Ventana Big Sur, an Alila resort.
Located off the Pacific Coast Highway about three hours south of San Francisco International Airport (SFO), the property is in one of the most scenic parts of California, if not the entire North American continent.
The whole resort gives off a California cabin vibe — a very luxurious one, to be sure. The property feels isolated and is set harmoniously among trees and overlooking the majestic Pacific Ocean below. Make sure you don’t miss the infinity-edge hot tub overlooking the impossibly tall trees and gorgeous mountain landscape in the distance.
Thanks to points and miles, resorts around the world that you’d think would be off-limits are very much within reach thanks to the earnings you’ll rack up with everyday spending or just by signing up for a specific credit card and earning a welcome bonus.
So, go ahead: Go all-out on your next vacation and treat yourself to something spectacular.
With reporting by Ethan Steinberg.
Featured image courtesy of North Island, a Luxury Collection Resort, Seychelles.
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