It’s all about expectations: A review of IHG’s Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives

Dec 3, 2021

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When searching for hotel award nights in the Maldives, one IHG resort stands out. While most IHG Rewards properties in the Maldives typically cost 100,000 points per night or more and have limited availability, the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives is usually bookable for significantly fewer points.

Since I’m all about stretching my points for as many nights as possible, I decided to try this Holiday Inn Resort during a recent multi-hotel Maldives trip. I found the resort not far from Malé had excellent snorkeling, modest waves for surfers and beautiful sunsets. Here’s my take after staying five nights in two different room types.

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In This Post

Quick take

The Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives isn’t a luxury resort. So, not surprisingly, it doesn’t offer the quality, amenities and service you’d expect from a luxury property. However, this resort is an appealing option for travelers who want to stretch their IHG Rewards points for a potentially longer stay in the Maldives.

The beach-themed rooms are comfortable, albeit basic. Although the resort doesn’t offer many complimentary activities, the pool area is usually lively. There’s good snorkeling in the resort’s lagoon and plenty of places to relax around the resort. Plus, surfers will enjoy catching waves from “surfer’s corner.”

Related: Maldives vs. Bora Bora: Which remote island chain should you visit?

Getting there

To reach the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives, you’ll need to fly into Malé (MLE) and then take a resort-organized speedboat. The resort is in the South Malé Atoll, just 45 minutes by speedboat from the international airport.

Expect to pay $229 per adult ($139 per child) for round-trip speedboat transfer with other guests from the airport. However, the resort offered half-price transfers as part of a promotion when I visited.

Related: The best ways to get to the Maldives on points and miles

Booking details

The Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives has 66 villas, 74 houses (effectively two-story villas) and 20 overwater villas. You can usually only redeem IHG Rewards points for a generic “Sleeping Room,” but you’ll likely be assigned a garden-view villa. Due to dynamic pricing, you’ll typically need to redeem between 31,000 and 67,000 points per night.

For my stay, I paid 46,000 points for one night that I booked last minute. But for four nights I booked back in May, I paid 28,000 points per night for the first three nights and zero points for the fourth night thanks to the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card‘s fourth-night reward perk.

Booking Holiday Inn Resort Maldives with points
(Screenshot from ihg.com)

If you prefer to pay cash, generic “Sleeping Room” rates start around $270, while overwater villa rates start around $607.

Related: 13 ways to stock up on IHG Rewards points

Things we loved

  • You can snorkel in calm, clear water by villas 76 to 95, where we saw stingrays, black-tipped reef sharks, squid, clams, coral and a variety of fish.
  • The water sports center offers a complimentary boat to a nearby reef for 45 minutes of snorkeling each morning.
  • The a la carte dining menu is reasonably priced (for a Maldives resort). The Maldivian tuna steak was tasty and filling.
  • The pool is usually active, and there are outdoor table games near it, including pool, foosball and ping pong
  • With a fourth-night-reward, this resort can be a steal when redeeming IHG Rewards points.

Drawbacks

  • Large groups frequent this resort. There were no snorkeling tours available for over two days during my stay due to a large group, and the sunset bar was taken over by the same group for private events.
  • Besides the daily 8:30 a.m. snorkeling boat, there aren’t any complimentary activities, talks or tours.
  • The rooms are functional but basic. Most villas have open-air bathrooms and only one chair indoors. Some sliding doors in our overwater villa were difficult to open and close.
  • Even for the Maldives, the Wi-Fi was slow at 0.97 Mbps download, 4.81 upload and 6 ms ping.
  • The speedboat ride from the airport may be windy and rough. A motor on our outbound boat broke, so we had to switch to another boat in the open water.

The vibe

The Maldives is a quick hop from the Middle East and Europe, and we mainly saw guests from these regions during our stay. The resort attracts a mix of corporate retreats, families, couples, solo surfers and groups of friends – most of whom seemed to be on half-board, full-board or all-inclusive meal plans.

Unlike other Maldives resorts we visited, the photo-worthy pool area is popular with guests and, in general, we noticed more guests out and about. Security guards and resort staff roam the property to ensure no one crosses between the nearby local island and the resort.

Related: Book this, not that: Which far-flung international islands to book with points, which to skip

The room

We’d booked a generic “Sleeping Room” with points and were assigned the second-least expensive room type: an ocean view villa with beach access. This room had a strong air conditioning unit for the sleeping and desk area.

Between the outdoor bathroom, wood flooring and outdoor living area, the vibe was beachy. The curtained closet, director-style desk chair and slightly difficult-to-open drawers only added to the feel.

After two nights, we received a call saying we’d be moving to a lagoon view overwater villa for our last two nights. This room was still beachy but was larger and offered more indoor seating areas.An outdoor bathtub provided views – but little privacy unless you lowered the shade.

The overwater villa featured a deck with a table and two chairs and a lower patio with two lounge chairs, an overwater net and a ladder into the water.

I loved the wooden room keys. And I appreciated that both room types provided a french press for coffee, along with flip-flops, umbrellas, a beach bag and beach towels.

Related: 10 incredible overwater bungalows you can book with points

Food and drink

You can buy various meal plans, but a la carte is the way to go if your rate doesn’t include meals.

Meal plan
(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

The buffet is the only dining option with most of the meal plans. You can also pay per meal for the buffet – breakfast is $37, lunch is $48 and dinner is $104 – but the only meal I’d consider doing so for is breakfast. I enjoyed my made-to-order scrambled eggs from the egg station but can’t recommend the pre-made pancakes and waffles.

We tried the lunch buffet one day but were disappointed. Everything we tried was OK – the Indian dishes and desserts were best – but nothing was impressive. And strangely, no one was actively tending some of the staff-served food stations.

We also ate one lunch and one dinner at the a la carte restaurant, Bokkuraa Coffee Club. In short, we found the food for both meals better than what we’d eaten at the buffet. The Maldivian tuna steak ($34) is a great pick, as it’s fresh, filling and a relatively good value. The chicken burger ($32) was also filling but needed extra flavor via a sauce or spice.

I ordered a tandoori chicken pizza from room service one night. The room service line was constantly busy when I called, but reception connected me with someone to take my order. Once I ordered, it took 35 minutes for my pizza to arrive. The pizza was freshly made and baked in the pizza oven. But for the cost ($33), the Maldivian tuna steak is a much better value.

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

Amenities and service

This Holiday Inn Resort has a large pool situated between the restaurants and the beach. This pool is the heart of the resort and was always lively (but not overly crowded). There are showers located near the pool that you can use before check-in or after check-out if needed.

There are beaches scattered around the resort island including a large beach near the pool, where the water sports center is located. You can get or rent needed equipment here (masks, snorkels, fins and life jackets are free of charge) and book snorkeling excursions. Next to the water sports center are offices where you can book yoga sessions and surf lessons.

On the other side of the island, the spa is near the walkway to the overwater villas. The spa offers a variety of packages that provide slightly better value than the a la carte menu, but you’re still paying inflated resort prices. My husband and I each splurged to enjoy a 90-minute COMO Shambhala Massage through the “Stay Romantic” package. The floors of the treatment villa cracked loudly several times during our massage, but otherwise, I found the massage relaxing and professional.

The gym is near the spa. Although you can access the gym with a room key, you’re technically supposed to make a reservation with reception before using the gym to limit occupancy.

The staff members at this resort were friendly and generally tried their best. For example, I appreciated how the housekeeping staff left extra water when they noticed we drank a lot of it and tailored the coffee supplies based on what we’d used most.

Finally, as part of each hotel review, TPG staff members are supposed to see what a hotel does when a guest needs a new key. The front desk agent recognized me by name when I asked for a replacement key and I didn’t need to present any other proof of identification. Especially considering the resort was relatively full, identifying me by name was impressive.

Related: Loyal to paradise: All you need to know about the Maldives’ Border Miles program

Out and about

As with most Maldives resorts, you’re captive to the resort until you leave. So, although a local island (Guraidhoo) with about 3,000 people was just a short swim away, signs throughout the resort noted it is illegal under Maldivian law to cross between the resort and Guraidhoo.

If you want to get off the island during your stay, you’ll need to take an excursion with the resort. Luckily, the resort offers a free one-hour snorkeling boat to a nearby reef each morning at 8:30 a.m. — go ahead and book these for your entire stay when you arrive. You can book more extended snorkeling and diving trips away from the resort as well, including a seasonal manta ray snorkeling trip for $69 per person that seems like a great deal.

Related: These are the best times to visit the Maldives

Accessibility

This resort doesn’t have any specific accessibility features and none of the rooms are labeled accessible.

Neither of the rooms I tried on this trip would have been ideal for guests with limited mobility. In particular, the shower area in the ocean view villa would have been challenging and a slip risk for guests with limited mobility. The wooden boardwalk and outdoor areas of the overwater villa also would have been difficult for guests with limited mobility due to uneven boards, limited railings and slippery surfaces.

However, there are many reasons an individual might need an accessible room. So, contact the resort with specific questions as you plan your visit.

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

Checking out

The highlight of my stay at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives was the easy-to-access snorkeling from the overwater villas or the lagoon beach. I loved seeing black-tipped reef sharks, stingrays, squid and a variety of fish without having to leave the resort or even venture far from my villa.

This resort can be a great value when redeeming IHG Rewards points. However, for most points and miles collectors, this resort won’t be the final destination. As such, I’d book this resort again using IHG Rewards points as my first stop after landing in Male. I’d then use the resort to overcome jet lag and ease into my vacation for four days (getting a fourth-night reward) before moving on to another more luxurious resort booked with points.

Featured image by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

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