Where to stay in the Maldives using points and miles
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new hotels that have opened in the Maldives. It was originally published on June 22, 2019.
If I’m being entirely honest, I hadn’t really heard of the Maldives until I started collecting points and miles. But it took just one picture of a stunning overwater villa to convince me that I absolutely needed to go and experience the island nation for myself. Thankfully, I got to cross that trip off my bucket list early last year, and it was worth every penny. If you haven’t been to the Maldives before, you’re in luck. With several new hotels opening up across the tropical nation’s 26 island atolls, you have more ways than ever to take this dream vacation using points and miles.
Half of the appeal of the Maldives comes from its geographic isolation, which makes getting to Male (MLE) and on to your hotel a bit of a challenge. Be sure to check out our guide to the best ways to get to the Maldives with points and miles for ideas about how to cover your flights with travel rewards credit card points and airline miles. Keep in mind too that, once you get there, you’ll almost certainly have to pay an additional fee for a seaplane or speedboat transfer from Male to your hotel. Make sure to pay attention to the transfer fee at whichever hotel you pick, as they range from approximately $100 to $700 or more per person.
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All that being said, what are your options for using points to stay in this incredible destination? Here’s a run down.
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.
It should come as no surprise that one of the world’s biggest hotel chains has a plethora of properties from which you can choose in the Maldives (five to be exact). Here’s a brief comparison of the different resorts:
|Hotel||Current award category (standard points per night)||Round-trip transfer cost (per person)|
|St. Regis Maldives||8 (85,000)||$745|
|W Maldives||8 (85,000)||$505|
|Sheraton Maldives||6 (50,000)||$142|
|Westin Maldives||7 (60,000)||$475|
|JW Marriott Maldives||8 (85,000)||$600|
Now that Marriott Bonvoy has implemented peak- and off-peak pricing, these rates vary based on seasonal demand. On the upper end, Category 8 hotels cost 100,000 points during peak season while Category 7 properties will fall as low as 50,000 points during off-peak travel dates.
While these hotels are all in Marriott’s top three award categories, don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re created equal. At the top end of the spectrum is the St. Regis Maldives, which might be the single most aspirational points hotel in the world. Awards book into the garden villa shown below, and with four of them at the entire property, expect competition for award space to be fierce.
While I’m generally not a fan of peak pricing, the good news is that it has made it easier to score a trip to the St. Regis Maldives, if you’re willing to pay 100,000 points per night. In fact, many days in February, one of the busiest months with the best weather, are available for award redemptions. You can even book a five-night stay to take advantage of Marriott’s fifth night free on award stays for much of the month.
With garden villas selling for $1,200 or more on those dates, you’ll lock in a respectable redemption value of about 1.2 cents for your 100,000 Marriott points, significantly higher than TPG’s valuation of 0.8 cents each.
However, the real beauty of the St. Regis Maldives (and much of the appeal of the destination as a whole) comes from the picturesque overwater bungalows. The garden villas are nice, but they’re the only rooms on the property that don’t offer direct water access. I would strongly recommend using your points to upgrade to an overwater villa, which cost anywhere from 125,000 points per night on the lower end up to 195,000 points per night during peak season. While the Marriott website isn’t always great about displaying availability for these premium rooms, the app does a much better job giving you all your options.
One of the newest additions to Marriott’s Maldivian portfolio — the Westin Maldives — tends to be even more generous when it comes to award space. That’s because more than half of its 70 rooms are Island Villas, the roughly 1,500-square-foot standard accommodations with private decks and pools you can book on points. While the experience won’t be quite as premium as the St. Regis, you’ll save over $200 per person on transport fees, and you certainly won’t be suffering with your private pool and beach. Booking here will also save you 25,000 points per night, assuming standard award rate, a pretty significant sum.
(Editor’s note: We’d highly recommend booking this property sooner rather than later. It wouldn’t be surprising to see it jump to Category 8 in Marriott’s next round of category changes.)
The Category 8 JW Marriott is the most recent Marriott property to open in the Maldives, and while it was offering overwater villas as its base award rooms for a while, those now require a very reasonable upgrade copay of $59 or 24,000 points per night.
Marriott’s W Maldives does exactly what you’d expect a W hotel to do. It brings a South Beach-style party to the middle of the Indian Ocean. Availability is decent here, and this can be a good property to consider if you’re looking for a little more excitement on your relaxing vacation.
However, there’s one Marriott property in the Maldives that might not be the best use of your points: the Sheraton Maldives. You can read editor-at-large Zach Honig’s review of the Sheraton Maldives to find all the reasons you might want to skip this hotel, but it boils down to dirty beaches, a lack of privacy and mediocre food. Sort of the exact opposite of what you expect when you’re paying top dollar for this type of vacation.
Earning Marriott points
If you’re short on Marriott points, the program does allow transfers from both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, though you’ll tend to get better value through other transfer partners. With the Bonvoy program now in full swing, there are also plenty of Marriott credit cards you can get to boost your balance quickly, including two with limited-time increased welcome offers:
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 100,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 50,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Enjoy complimentary Platinum Elite status with your Card for the 2021 status year. Offer Expires 1/13/2021.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.
World of Hyatt’s award chart is quite generous at both ends of the luxury spectrum, but high on the list of “too-good-to-be-true” awards is the Category 7 Park Hyatt Maldives. This property has bounced between Category 6 and 7 a few times over the years, but it currently costs 30,000 Hyatt points for a free night. Note that, effective March 2020, Hyatt will introduce peak- and off-peak award pricing.
Seaplane transfers cost $520 round-trip, which isn’t cheap but noticeably lower than the St. Regis. Not only are Hyatt points incredibly easy to earn — between transferring them from Chase Ultimate Rewards or applying for The World of Hyatt Credit Card — but award availability at this high-end property is surprisingly good. There are multiple five-day stretches over peak holiday travel times that you can book with points.
Cash rates here aren’t as sky-high as you might see at other remote resort properties, but that’s in no way reflective of the experience you’ll get. Park villas include outdoor waterfall showers and direct beach access, and you might even get lucky and score an upgrade to a park pool villa.
Earning Hyatt points
Hyatt is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you can transfer points from the following cards directly to your World of Hyatt account:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Alternately, The World Of Hyatt Credit Card is offering a bonus of up to 50,000 points after meeting tiered spending requirements. You’ll earn 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months and another 25,000 points after spending $6,000 total on purchases in the first six months of account opening.
Hilton currently has three properties in the Maldives: the Conrad Maldives, the Waldorf Astoria Maldivesand the more recently opened SAii Lagoon, a Curio Collection hotel. With Hilton Honors’ dynamic-pricing system, award rates at most properties fluctuate from day to day, and the price you see is the price you pay. And as you’d expect, these high-end properties require a fair amount of points.
Here are the award rates we’re seeing:
- Conrad: Consistently prices out at 95,000 points (worth $570 based on TPG’s valuations)
- Waldorf Astoria: Consistently prices out at 120,000 points (worth $720), though availability is limited
- SAii Lagoon: Consistently prices out at 85,000 points (worth $510)
If you’re redeeming Hilton points for a standard room, you can book either a beach villa or water villa at the Conrad, while the Waldorf books into a massive, 2,518-square-foot beach villa. Unfortunately, the SAii Lagoon classifies the King Sky Room as its standard accommodations for awards, which is a 473-square foot room with a sea view and private terrace. While you’ll save on transfer costs, I’d highly recommend spending the extra points for the Conrad or splurging for the Waldorf.
Keep in mind too that Hilton makes it easy to upgrade to premium rooms directly on its website, but the prices are staggering. For example, a superior water villa at the Conrad costs a whopping 332,000 points per night, and the other two properties have similarly sky-high rates. Given that standard rooms at the Conrad and Waldorf are massive and filled with amenities, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to pay more than 3x as many points to upgrade.
All three of these properties are also eligible for the free weekend night certificates that you can earn and receive from the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (after spending $15,000 in a calendar year), The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (one after spending $15,000 in a calendar year and a second after spending a total of $60,000 in a calendar year) and The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (one at account opening and upon card renewal each year, and a second after spending $60,000 in a calendar year). These cards also include automatic Hilton elite status, though unfortunately the usual perks don’t all apply at the Conrad Maldives. Check out this link so you know what to expect if you do book an award stay here.
Earning Hilton points
The best way to earn a significant amount of Hilton points quickly is by opening an Amex Hilton credit card (terms apply):
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Earn 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
The IHG Rewards program has perhaps the biggest gap of any major hotel chain between its high-end brands and its more affordable ones. While the Maldives is one of the priciest vacation spots in the world, for a long time IHG had exactly one hotel open there — a Holiday Inn!
Now in all fairness, this isn’t your standard, run-of-the-mill Holiday Inn, as it’s probably the only one in the world to feature overwater villas. Your 45,000-point award night books you into a standard room, though with cash prices starting as low as $150 a night, you might be better off saving your points. It’s also one of the only Maldivian hotels where speedboat transfers can cost more than the room itself, at $229 round-trip per person.
IHG has also recently opened two more properties in the Maldives: the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort and a new hotel in Laamu that does not yet participate in the IHG rewards program. At the InterContinental, cash rates for beach villas start at around $1,000 and overwater villas price out closer to $1,500. IHG has finally added award space at this property with beach villas costing 100,000 points per night, more than any other property in the IHG portfolio.
Earning IHG points
The best way to earn a quick haul of points is by opening the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which is currently offering a welcome bonus of 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. IHG is also a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, though given the high award rates in the program, your Chase points can bring you much better value elsewhere.
Accor’s Live Limitless loyalty program (ALL for short) doesn’t normally get a lot of attention from award travelers, though now that Capital One has added Accor Live Limitless as a transfer partner it’s worth taking a look at some of the chain’s properties in the Maldives.
Unlike the other hotel groups on this list, Accor points are worth a fixed value of about 2.2 cents each towards the cost of your stay. This means there are no sweet spots to save up for, and it also means that you can redeem points to cover only a part of the stay (though you have to redeem a minimum of 2,000 points at a time, giving you 40 euros or about $44 off your stay).
Accor has a whopping 50 unique brands, and with eight hotels in the Maldives it even edges out Marriott, the world’s largest hotel conglomerate. Accor offers a mix of affordable and luxury hotels with its cheapest property, the Angsana Velavaru, starting at about $360 a night for a beachfront pool villa.
On the more luxurious side you’ll find the Raffles and Fairmont Maldives, with base rooms (beach villas at both properties) starting around $1,000. Given how seasonal of a destination the Maldives is you can expect this number to vary throughout the year, though based on Accor’s fixed value award chart you can expect to redeem about 45,000 points per night for a $1,000 room. If you choose to upgrade to an overwater villa it will cost a few hundred dollars more per night, and you can choose whether to pay that with cash, points, or a combination of the two.
Earning Accor points
Outside of earning points from actual hotel stays, the fastest way to earn Accor points is to transfer them from Capital One miles at a rate of 2:1. If you’re low on Capital One miles you can top up your balance quickly by opening the following cards:
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business: Earn 50,000 miles after you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
Award nights in the Maldives tend to be incredibly expensive, but if you’re not fiercely loyal to a single hotel brand, you might want to consider an independent hotel. These often boast many of the same amenities — modern, spacious rooms, pristine beaches and top notch food and service — but at a fraction of the cost.
You can book these independent hotels using a card with a purchase eraser like the Capital One Spark Miles for Business or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Or, take advantage of a pay-with-points redemption option like you find on the Chase Sapphire Reserve. You can score some great deals this way, such as an all-inclusive beach suite for only 38,400 points a night:
Or an overwater villa at the LUX* South Ari Atoll for just a hair more:
However, if you go either of these routes, just be sure to read reviews of the property first to make sure it will live up to your expectations.
Finally, don’t forget a program like Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express in your wallet. These will undoubtedly be pricey, but with added perks like complimentary breakfast, an on-property amenity and an upgrade upon arrival, when available, you may find plenty of value this way.
While the Maldives is often thought of as an exclusive and unattainable dream destination, that’s not entirely accurate. Sure, it’s hard to get there, but you have a decent number of alternatives to stay for free using points.
We’re seeing solid availability at Marriott locations for 2020, but no matter what hotel chain you prefer or what type of points you have, you should be able to get started planning your Maldivian vacation using points today.
Featured photo by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy.
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