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The Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa was a great place to spend a long weekend away from Europe with my kids. Pros: Great Gold amenities, a plethora of activities and amenities for families and honeymooners alike on a private island Cons: Expensive and inflexible ferry, lack of communication before arrival and an annoying reservation process for on-property restaurants.

When my good friends in the US (I’m based in the UK) suggested that we meet in the Seychelles for President’s Day weekend, I accepted without hesitation, even though my husband couldn’t attend, so that I could tick another remote island country off my bucket list. After weeks of eager anticipation, I set off alone with my 3-and-a-half-year-old and 18-month-old to an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa.

There are a handful of points options for hotels in the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles, but Hilton Labriz is the only one off of the main island of Mahe. Hilton has three properties in the Seychelles: a Doubletree, Hilton Northolme (which doesn’t allow children under 13) and the Hilton Labriz Resort & Spa. I soon discovered that Labriz is basically on its own island, Silhouette Island, in the middle of a national marine park — we needed to give it a try. I needed a family-friendly hotel that made flying alone for 10 hours in economy with two children under 4 worth the trip. And, the Hilton Labriz delivered.

Booking

It’s common to find nights going for 60,000 Honors points per night — a great deal considering the caliber of this property. However, at the time of booking I had exactly zero Honors points in my account, so I booked the lowest-level villa for $775 total for a two-night stay. Ideally, I would have charged this stay to a Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, but I was running out of time to hit a minimum spend for my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, so I used that card, though I still booked directly to get my Hilton Gold benefits (free breakfast being the most important of these) instead of through Hotels.com. After my stay, I earned a total of 15,770 points: 8,761 base points and 7,009 bonus points thfanks to my Gold status that I have through The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Instantly, I was offered a few upgrades — an upgrade to half board for 65 euros a day (about $75) (as breakfast is included, this would mean just adding dinner daily) and a free upgrade to a beach villa. I selected the free beach villa upgrade, obviously.

I had trouble getting Hilton to respond to my emails to confirm my ferry (I never received a response), so my previous hotel called and confirmed my ferry and the timing. The autogenerated email stated the last ferry left at 5pm, while the website said 6pm. There are only three ferries daily so it’s essential to plan carefully and confirm ferry times.

Location

Silhouette Island is off the northwestern part of Mahe, and it’s just three and a half miles from North Island, the ultra-luxurious private-island resort that will soon be joining Marriott where Prince William and Kate Middleton honeymooned. The Hilton has its own jetty and can arrange transportation from the airport. We came from another hotel in southern Mahe and took our own transportation to the jetty, which our driver knew by name. It was a 20-minute drive from the airport and 77 euros ($85) for a car of up to four adults and luggage. When I asked about child car seats, they said they could provide them.

The boat was 145 euros ($165) round-trip for adults, 50% off for children ages 4 to 11, and free for children under 4. Additionally, the Hilton reservations team told me that the boat transfer was complimentary if you booked a deluxe beachfront villa directly through Hilton.com.

There was also a helicopter straight from the airport in Mahe, which I didn’t even consider, but I would consider splurging on it next time, as a former employee I met made it sound out of this world. The helicopter was 638 euros ($715) one-way per helicopter with a maximum of 325 kilograms (716 pounds) of carried weight, including all passengers and luggage.

A helicopter flies over the Baie Lazare, Seychelles. (Photo via Getty Images)
A helicopter flies over the Baie Lazare, Seychelles. (Photo via Getty Images)

Check-in

I booked the 3:45pm ferry so that we weren’t stuck on the last ferry of the day. Pulling into the jetty, we were instantly on Hilton land, judging by the signage and staff uniforms. The Hilton website recommended arriving 30 minutes early for the ferry, but we arrived 10 minutes early and were fine. As we exited our taxi, our bags were whisked away and not seen again until they were brought to our villa later that afternoon.

The jetty was a freestanding building with lounge, bar, indoor and outdoor seating, bathrooms and a small play area. We entered and were seamlessly doing a soft check-in within moments. First, I was thanked for being a Gold member and given a small piece of paper stating my Gold benefits, which included free bike rentals at this property.

Like I mentioned earlier, I have Gold status through my Platinum Card® from American Express, but it is also included as an automatic benefit on the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend card and the Hilton Honors American Express Business card. With the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express you can get automatic Diamond status.

Everyone checking in was provided with a silver, reusable water bottle — water was free throughout the resort, and there were lots of filling stations. One of my distinct memories of the resort is seeing couples walking two by two holding hands and carrying the silver bottles with their free hands.

Then came the unveiling of our upgrade, which was done with fanfare.

“Congratulations, Mrs. Kristiansen!” the staff said. “You’ve been upgraded to a beach villa with private plunge pool.”

At no stage did the check-in attendant ask where my husband was or question why I was traveling alone with my two young children. They also clearly didn’t know I write for TPG, as there was no acknowledgment during my stay (the kids are a good cover) and considering how I later was rushed at checkout.

We did a quick walkthrough of the jetty, which felt like an executive lounge but with chargeable drinks and a great view. As it was nearly boarding time, staff ushered us to the boat. The crew carried my toddler in his stroller directly onto the boat, which was helpful. On board, there was a mix of families with babies and honeymooners on the boat, and everyone was in a great mood.

After a safety briefing, a video with information about the resort played on the boat with info about the island. The boat had two sections and rows of seats, all interior, and a loud motor. Within 35 minutes, we were pulling into the dock at Silhouette Island and greeted by a sign. We entered a small building where we were handed cold towels. I learned that Hilton Labriz management comes down to the dock three times a day to greet and say goodbye to every guest.

Next, we were moved onto long motorized carts and piled in with three other couples. The driver gave us a tour with canned but expressive commentary, explaining that Silhouette is the third largest island in the Seychelles and delving a bit into its French and British past.

We were taken through the small village, where approximately 30 people live and work to preserve the island. The agent proudly announced that the island’s medical center had German doctors. We passed the first of two diving centers and then reached the boundary for the Hilton, where we made a brief stop and a guard handed everyone a fresh coconut with a biodegradable pasta straw (they offered a gluten-free straw option).

The resort surprised me by being so lush and green. Over the coming two days, I fell in love with truly feeling like we in our own Eden. We drove past the two dive centers, gift shop, activity center, kids club, and pool. I had a nice lay of the land, as it was mostly in a straight line and on flat ground with cute bridges going over ponds and glimpses of the beach through the trees.

Room

The agent driving us on the golf-cart tour explained there were 57 beachfront villas in three categories and 67 garden villas (including the luxury mountain villas). We pulled up to our villa first, No. 237 on the far end of the resort. The driver came in and showed us the lights and asked if we had any questions while the others waited on the golf cart.

The main part of the room looked like many large hotel rooms, with a king bed, crib, desk, TV, minibar and sofa. The bed had a welcome setup (which I had to quickly clean up before the toddler ate the leaves) and was very comfortable, plus it fit all three of us easily.

The crib came with a toy and baby linens (my son never slept in it, as we all slept in the bed together).

The room came with a Hilton Labriz-branded beach bag and beach towels with aloe in the sitting area. 

There were a few welcome items on table. We later found ants all over them, so be very careful with your food in the room.

Behind the bed was a dressing area and vanity, which meant I could set up a changing station for the baby.

The bathroom was the real showpiece. The spacious bathroom had a TPG-approved shower and a toilet with a mostly clear door with a modesty panel, sinks on either side and a soaking tub.

From the bathroom was access to the plunge pool, lounge chairs and high outdoor shower.

The plunge pool had steps on the side that were perfect for my 3-year-old, who loves the water but can’t swim independently.

Most importantly, I could close off the bathroom or the exterior door to the pool to keep the boys contained, or keep it open and be able to see them near the pool no matter where I was in the villa, including on the toilet (yes, solo travel with kid issues).

I loved this villa because I did not have to think or figure out how to use it. Everything about the layout made it easy for me. Light switches were labeled, and the air conditioning was straightforward.

The outlets were universal.

The best part of the villa was opening the curtains and seeing the attached porch and steps to the beach with a water spigot for washing off sandy feet, treasures from the beach and toys.

While the design aesthetic was all a bit brown inside and out, the practicalities and stepping out your door and onto white sand with bright blue, calm water and pink skies could not be beaten. We played for ages just sitting on the back porch and running to collect dried coral in our buckets. I found it refreshing to be in a resort where the overall décor was not “Instagram-me-please” but instead centered on the locale.

Food and Beverage

Our initial tour of the property consisted mostly of learning which restaurants were included and excluded from the half-board package. He also rattled off which restaurants required reservations (we hadn’t made any) and the dress code, which made me panicky with two young kids. The higher-end restaurants were a Japanese restaurant and an Italian restaurant. We avoided these.

During the golf-cart introduction, I worried that we were in for a stereotypical all-inclusive resort without character. Although we had some growing pains the first night, my initial impression was incorrect, and I ended up finding the food to be really good value (other than the night buffet), and was amazed by the free kids’ meals on offer.

As someone who reads all the hotel provided literature and listens closely to tours (occupational hazard), I noticed the restaurant information included four restaurants that required reservations and two that did not. After checking out our room, the boys and I headed off to the one of the two that didn’t, Fourth Degree, the beach bar with fresh fish. I called the front desk to confirm kids were free there, and indeed kids under 11 ate free at all restaurants at all times. I ordered a golf cart, and within a few minutes, we were off in time to catch the end of the sunset.

When we arrived, the bartender discovered that we did not have a reservation, and turned us away saying that they were fully booked and our only option was Le Dauban, the buffet restaurant with a different nightly theme where all of the half-board package visitors dined. I stood in the street awaiting another golf cart while being eaten by mosquitos alone with my two tiny kids. I asked at the bar for bug spray for the kids and was told there was some in the minibar for purchase or at the gift shop. I started thinking I had made a mistake in choosing this hotel.

The golf cart soon arrived and brought us to Le Dauban. It was a themed Creole buffet for 1,050 rupees ($75) for me and free for the boys. I chose a table in the sand, not thinking through that walking through sand with two young children and plates of food was not a good idea. We moved inside.

Despite my initial disdain for the buffet concept, my sons ate the most they had in a week. My children gobbled up cucumbers, chicken, corn on the cob and watermelon. They powered through at least 10 small pieces of corn on the cob fresh from the grill.

I ate grilled fish, chicken and vegetables and drank loads of water, making it easy to stick to my clean-eating plan. Bottles of wine are available for 600 rupees ($45) and I noticed many colorful cocktails going to tables. An overwhelming sense of calm comes over me when my children eat well, so I started to finally relax.

It took a lot of effort to get the bill, and while we were waiting for our golf cart, my 3-year-old knocked over a heavy decorative fence that fell on top of him. No one asked how he was or helped me — perhaps the sentiment was that he was asking for it by playing near it or that I was handling it. A staff member came by and quietly put the fence back up without speaking to us. I then decided to wait outside and felt a bit trapped. The design scheme again was brown on brown, and my photos were not coming out well with all the buffet hot lamps.

The next morning, we picked up our bikes at 8:30am and headed back to Le Dauban for breakfast (7am to 11am).

“This is the restaurant where I hit my head!” my 3-year-old exclaimed as we walked in.

Our experience from the moment we walked in for breakfast was completely different from dinner, with staff falling over themselves to help us, carry plates and grab highchairs (which did always take a long time for them to find).

We discovered a play area after seeing another family go into a side room with a small playground and tables. I wondered where this magical playroom was the night before but was happy to now have access. The boys played while I drank my green tea and chatted with a dad from Dubai who was there with his daughter. I finally entered island mode as I had an adult conversation and drank a hot beverage. I did not leave island mode until checkout.

At lunch, we ate poolside at the main pool. There seemed to be unofficial family areas and couple areas, so we grouped in with the families.

I ordered the seared-tuna salad for me and crudités and fish sticks and fries for the boys. I loved their flexible poolside cups and that sparkling water and still water were always free and came in large glass bottles that they reused.

The food came promptly and came to 168 rupees ($12). It might be the only time I’ve ever thought that lunch at a hotel pool was a great deal. We returned the next day and replicated the exact experience, only sitting in different chairs. We had issues with getting the bill, but this seemed to happen at every meal, no matter the restaurant.

Our second day was Valentine’s Day, and I received a knock on the door from room service in the afternoon after my youngest napped. It was a gorgeous fruit plate. When I opened the card, I realized my husband had sent it. The boys and I sat on the deck having a picnic.

I returned from the bathroom and found my oldest son sitting at the desk eating a can Pringles from the minibar. We were charged 88 rupees ($6.50) for the tiny Pringles can that read “69 cents” on the packaging. I added “hide minibar snacks” to my mental checklist of how to kid-proof a room.

The second night, we made it to the beach restaurant and enjoyed freshly grilled fish and vegetables and watched the sunset. It came to 510 rupees ($35), and the boys ate free. I had the red snapper, which was delicious.

Amenities

Hilton Labriz had plenty of amenities, many of which I never visited, like the diving center and spa, despite being in an active but relaxed state of constant motion. I cannot imagine anyone is ever bored with the plethora of activities for everyone and all ages. The true test was that my boys did not watch one moment of screen time the entire time on the island, and the 3-and-a-half-year-old didn’t even request it.

The entrance to the pool and attached bar and beach area was a thatched-roof gazebo with a few stairs and a water station and towel station. You could also enter directly from the beach.

There was an unofficial adult pool closer to the ocean and a very shallow pool where even my toddler could stand comfortably. It had bits of shade and a whirlpool tub in the middle.

The deeper pool never seemed busy while we splashed around and had floaties just around the pool for use. The tiles around the pool became burning hot during the day, which became difficult with my kids, who do not keep their water shoes on, so I had to carry them from the pool to the loungers for lunch.

The beach area was basic, with plastic white loungers, and I noticed the Wi-Fi didn’t reach. There was drink service, though. The sand and sea were stunning, and the water had a gentle entry before dropping off.

We mostly stuck to the beach outside of our villa.

The Jungle Fun Kids Club for children 4 to 12 is open from 9am to 6pm daily. My children were too young, but we could have arranged babysitting (although my emails to do so prior to arrival went unanswered). It had much more of a daycare feel. I spent a few hours there and did not see one screen used, which was a relief after having been in several kids clubs that mostly use TVs as entertainment.

The woman who ran the kids club was lovely but leaving the resort soon. She explained that the general manager’s daughter attended the Kids Club daily as a nursery school, so this made me think that he was personally invested in how things are conducted there. The ball pit was a huge hit with my boys and a nice reprieve after lunch in the sun.

There was a schedule for the kids club but, as it was slow, they did not follow it. Kids chose their own activities, and it had a very calm feel.

I found it extremely helpful to run over to the kids club whenever my 3-year-old needed to use the toilet or I needed to change the baby. It was near the pool and was clean and had small toilets, sinks and a changing table.

Both days at 11:30am, a small train did a tour of the island for the children. We happened to be nearby the first day when it took off, so we joined in. The following day, my boys had the coveted front seat next to the driver. It played an obnoxious ice cream-truck-like song, but he agreed to turn it off on our ride the second day. They allowed other young children (6 and 8) to go on it without their parents, because the kids club supervisor was on board.

Outside the kids club was where the resident turtles lived. There were feeding times for them daily, but my sons were uninterested.

The activity center was open from 8am to 6pm and sat in the middle of the resort with a few games and miniature golf, tennis courts and the gym. They also had a sign-up sheet for bicycles available to borrow from 8am to 6pm (not overnight). They arranged all fishing, boat trips and activities besides diving, such as beach yoga and Creole cooking classes. There was a hike that was appropriate for children over 6 or so, but all other activities did not allow children. I look forward to coming back with my hiking boots.

When we arrived, I saw a family riding bicycles (free all day for elites, free for two hours per day for everyone else) and couldn’t wait to get my two boys in a box bike. My 3-year-old had other ideas, but they had wheeled options for all ages. The highlight of our stay ended up being cycling around the resort on the shady and quiet roads.

The following day, the toddler refused the box bike in favor of a plastic ride-on bicycle of his own that I pushed. I happily watched my very urban 3-year-old ride around in the streets without a care in the world. They had helmets that he wore after choosing his bike (none fit the baby).

The gift shop sold useful items such as bug spray for 250 rupees ($18.50 USD) and sunscreen for 450 rupees ($35 USD) along with knick-knacks, swimsuits and toys.

I saw a sunhat that was 600 rupees ($45) but decided to hold off.

Rare tortoises, large fan coral, and pelagic fish bring scuba divers to the Seychelles, but I could not do any diving or snorkeling with the kids in tow. I did make it out on the water to snorkel on another beach once my friends arrived and had a great time.

There were two dive centers, one in town and one in the resort. Dives at Hilton Labriz were available from 950 rupees ($70) with rental equipment for 309 rupees ($20) and a short boat ride for 221 rupees ($15). Two-hour snorkeling trips started from 771 rupees ($55). They have PADI-certification courses for children starting at age 8 with a 30-minute pool-based class.

The Hilton Labriz’s Eforea Spa was up in the hills above the beach, and I didn’t even end up seeing it, let alone getting a treatment. They specialized in treatments for couples. Sixty-minute massages started at 1,750 rupees per person ($125).

Wi-Fi at the hotel was complimentary, fast and worked well in the rooms, but was patchy by the pool and didn’t reach the beach. All of the Seychelles islands are known for poor cell reception and Wi-Fi coverage.

When we left, we scheduled the 2:30pm boat for our departure. At 12pm, I walked into our room and found a cleaning crew in there frantically cleaning and setting up the room with an extra bed for the next family. The housekeeping team explained that a family had arrived on the 9am boat and needed the room ASAP because their baby was crying. I stood there alone with my two kids and said that I could probably get them out in 10 mins. On the plus side, I got to see the room set up with the sofa made up and an extra bed brought in. They said the next family had two parents and three children.

We rushed out and to the checkout building that you had to visit before leaving. There was no automatic checkout available in the Seychelles, and you had to run your card in person.

I became increasingly agitated, as it took 15 minutes to run my card and my kids started annoying honeymooners sitting quietly. I spoke with the manager and told him that I did not like being rushed out and suggested that they line up the times of people arriving and leaving, since they know the boat times. I acknowledged that I’d automatically assumed I would get a late checkout, but to find out that another family’s early check-in was seemingly more important than my checkout was frustrating.

He de-escalated the situation very quickly and found a garden villa that they could make up for the boys and me in time for baby’s nap. I calmed down fast, although I didn’t want the villa because the whole ordeal had taken a while and we needed to get lunch. We waited at the pool before returning to the welcome center an hour later for our golf-cart ride back to the boat. The golf cart usually drops you off at a bar, but we went up to the jetty to watch the next crop of lucky guests pull in.

Overall Impression

I loved this resort, as it just hit the right balance for me of being family-friendly without being too loud, obnoxious or cheesy. Also, it allowed me to be on a resort and in a safe, contained place alone with my young children without feeling like I was missing out on the Seychelles experience.

The honeymooners I spoke to were all very happy with it as well, despite there being families on the resort. The resort created enough space and activities for everyone and never felt crowded.

I have never met a happier staff, which made me easily get over the checkout process. I found out that most of the staff live on the premises behind the kids club in staff housing. I could feel how much they all got along and were enjoying their jobs and life on this beautiful private island. I’d jump at the chance to return to this resort — though hopefully next time we’ll have a longer stay.

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