You don’t need to be Joe Jonas or Idris Elba to have an A-list Maldives vacation
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest credit cards information and benefits in addition to further reporting. It was originally published on July, 17, 2019.
There’s a reason the Maldives are a celebrity favorite. From Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’ high-end honeymoon to Idris Elba’s Christmas vacation, the island nation is chock-full of stunning resorts.
While Turner and Jonas stayed at the Soneva Fushi resort in the Maldives’ Baa Atoll, Elba spent his time at the One&Only Reethi Rah. Aside from amazing ocean views, sunset cruises and sprawling beaches, what do these two resorts share? An insanely expensive room rate.
Villas prices for the Soneva resort usually go between about $1,597 a night to $31,730 a night for the 9-bedroom Private Reserve, with similar prices at the One&Only Reethi Rah. So, if you have the pocket change to fork over $90,000 for a few nights at the Soneva — by all means, do it. But if not, there are ways to enjoy overwater bungalows in the Maldives for free.
That’s right, you don’t have to be a celebrity to travel like one — all you have to do is finesse some points and miles.
Getting to the Maldives is surprisingly easier than you might think. Despite being lauded for its geographic isolation, the tiny Malé (MLE) airport has become a hub for international travelers over the past few years, in part due to the plethora of award program hotels available for booking. But, if you do have some issues finding points flights to MLE, flying to Colombo, Sri Lanka is the next best thing — just keep in mind that flights from Sri Lanka to the Maldives tend to cost about $200 round-trip.
Over 20 airlines currently fly to the Maldives. Keep in mind that for some of the best resorts in the Maldives, once you get “there” you may still need to purchase an onward plane ticket or take a boat to get to your resort (or both).
At TPG, our favorite points-redeemable properties in the Maldives include the St. Regis Maldives (which might be the single most aspirational points hotel in the world and likely the most similar to Soneva luxury-wise), the Westin Maldives, the Category 7 Park Hyatt Maldives, the Conrad Maldives and the Waldorf Astoria Maldives.
The St. Regis is a Category 8 in the Marriott Bonvoy program. At a standard rate, it’s a relatively tame 85,000 points per night, which is on par with what it used to cost as part of the Starwood Preferred Guest program. During off-peak, this hotel can be had for as little as 70,000 points a night, which is an absolute steal.
The Westin is a Category 7 hotel, which means that with Marriott’s new peak/off-peak pricing, rates can be anywhere between 50,000-70,000 points, depending on the season. The best part about this? Finding an off-peak date means you can use the annual free night certificate that comes with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card at this hotel. That’s awesome!
The Park Hyatt Maldives is a Category 7 with World of Hyatt. It will set you back 30,000 points per night and will be worth every single one. And while Hyatt added a Category 8 to its award chart along with the Small Luxury Hotels integration, the Park Hyatt Maldives has yet to see a change in cost. One of the best things about this hotel is the incredible ease with which you can earn Hyatt points. As a 1:1 transfer partner with Chase, you can utilize one (or some) of Chase’s many signup bonuses, like the 60,000 points that come with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, to snag yourself some free nights here.
Meanwhile, Hilton has some of the best possible redemptions here for award travelers, with base hotel rooms at the Conrad Maldives costing 95,000 points per night with the option to book an overwater villa. Happily, in 2017 Hilton adjusted the base room for this resort, which means the overwater villa will cost the same as a beach villa — still just 95,000 points/night.
An even more luxurious option, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives shows up on the Hilton Honors website at 120,000 points per night, making this officially the most expensive points hotel in the Hilton portfolio — and for good reason. Photos of this points-redeemable property simply don’t do it justice:
Fortunately for those looking to experience the best that Hilton has to offer, there are some huge signup bonuses available via Hilton’s co-branded credit cards with American Express:
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express ($450 annual fee, see rates and fees): Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. (Note also that this card comes with an annual free weekend night certificate valid at nearly all Hilton hotels).
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card ($95 annual fee, see rates and fees): Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card (no annual fee, see rates and fees): Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
While free Maldivian vacations are actually possible, it’s crucial that you have the right credit cards and have acquired enough points if you want to make it happen. Fortunately, each of these hotels offers several different ways to earn points for an award stay, including signup bonuses and even transfer partners.
Featured image courtesy of Soneva Fushi.
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