Better off elsewhere: A review of SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton
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To The Point
The new SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton doesn’t really feel like it’s in the Maldives at all. Pros: Quick transfer from Male Airport (MLE) and a decent fitness center. Cons: Busy room decor, expensive and unappetizing food, several miscommunications with the staff and not as budget friendly as it seems.
When the TPG team caught wind of a very reasonably priced points property opening in the Maldives, we were intrigued — to say the least.
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During a team trip to the Maldives late last year, I was assigned to check out that very property. I had no idea what to expect from this resort, as there was barely any information online about it, and I just couldn’t get a great sense of it from photos on the hotel’s website. So, after three nights at The Westin Maldives, I checked in to the SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, and what I found was … not exactly the relaxing Maldivian vibe you travel so far to experience.
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.
The SAii Lagoon Maldives is part of Hilton’s Curio Collection and opened in October 2019. We booked the most basic room, a King Sky Room, for $550 per night for three nights via hotels.com. Because of that, we earned 10x miles on our Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card — 16,500 Capital One miles for the whole stay. Now, however the 10x earning promotion with Capital One and hotels.com is over, so your best bet is likely going to be to book directly through Hilton.
I have Diamond status with Hilton but because we didn’t book directly, the benefits didn’t transfer over — except for free breakfast. More on that in a second. (If you’d like elite status with Hilton, do yourself a favor and check out our guide to the best Hilton credit cards since you can get top-tier Hilton status simply by having the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. And, of course, if you’re interested in joining the club, you’ll want to brush up on the Hilton Honors program first.)
If you’re looking to use points for a stay like this, you can expect to pay at least 85,000 points per night. You can jump-start your Hilton points earning with the 150,000 point welcome-bonus with $4,000 on spending in the first 3 months after getting the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.
One of the biggest pros about SAii Lagoon is that it’s only a 15-minute speedboat ride from Malé’s Velana International Airport (MLE). This is great news if you’re not a fan of seaplanes (or their fees) and also gives you greater flexibility if the weather isn’t great. Trans Maldivian Airways, which operates the seaplanes throughout the Maldives, will halt flights if there’s bad weather. If the weather during my trip was any indication, that’s a high possibility.
Virtually all hotels in the Maldives occupy their own islands, but SAii shares one both with the Hard Rock Hotel and a marina with some shops, restaurants and a spa.
As I’d quickly find out, SAii relies on the marina for a lot of its facilities and activities.
Unfortunately, the check-in process wasn’t seamless. After arriving via speedboat, I had to track down a staff member so that he could check my name off a list before we proceeded to reception.
From there, he instructed me to get on a golf cart that would then take me to check-in.
On the plus side, I was handed a signature welcome drink and was asked to make myself comfortable on the couch. The drink tasted like apples and cinnamon, but I couldn’t tell exactly what was in it.
After about five minutes or so with no further contact, I went up to the check-in counter to see if I could check in, and the staff looked at me like I had two heads. They asked me to give them another two minutes, and someone came over to check me in shortly after.
Don’t get me wrong — I don’t mind waiting. I was frustrated because the staff seemed disorganized and almost as if they didn’t know guests would be arriving, all the while keeping guests in the dark about the delay. A little communication would have gone a long way — after all, most guests will be on the tail end of a pretty long journey at this point in the process.
Ultimately, a staffer explained the resort map, restaurants and benefits to me and escorted me to my room. My carry-on was ahead of the game and was already there waiting for me.
When it comes to design, I’m a pretty minimalist type of gal. My style is general modern and I usually prefer solid patterns and neutral colors, especially in hotels where I’m often there to relax and sleep.
So when I walked into this room, I almost started to laugh at how different the design was from my general preference. If I’m being honest, it looked like Home Goods and TJ Maxx had a baby … but necessarily not in a good way. Now, design is, of course, personal preference so some travelers may love the aesthetic. I’m just not one of them.
There are bold colors, patterns and designs … everywhere.
To me, it felt like I was in a children’s room instead of in a high-end resort in the middle of the ocean.
There was a TV that faced the bed, though I admittedly didn’t spend any time watching shows on this trip so I can’t speak much to the channels it offered.
The room had a wooden dresser and a closet with a fairly well-stocked minibar.
There was also a selection of alcohol, including spirits and wine.
Water bottles and a coffee pot were readily accessible, too.
The hotel also provided beach towels and a beach bag, which was a nice perk. Am I the only one who always forgets to pack a beach bag?
The bathroom was another mix of dizzying colors and patterns. The orange and green-ish, brown-ish door gave off a bit of a barnyard vibe.
The shower door was shaped in a cool, although not necessarily practical, design.
Although I only used the resort’s shower gel, because I bring my own shampoo and conditioner, they featured MIY Aroma Lab products.
The bathroom did hold some very good news. The hairdryer passed the ‘Samantha Rosen hairdryer test’. As I’ve mentioned before, I hate it when hotels skimp out on decent hair dryers, but this one was legit.
There were two sinks along the marble countertop.
They also had some amenities out, including a toothbrush, body lotion and even a shower cap.
The room dials controlled the overhead fan, as well as the lighting.
There was also a thermostat, but it didn’t go below 22 degrees Celsius (about 72 degrees Fahrenheit).
I loved the private balcony. It faced the water and was a great spot to get some work done during the day.
Added bonus: There were rarely people sitting out on this section of the beach, although that could have been because of the on-and-off moody Maldives weather.
I didn’t stay in an overwater villa, but here’s what you can expect yours to look like if you opt for one.
Food and Beverage
At the risk of sounding, well, picky, I’m just going to come out and say it: I have a bone to pick with the food at this hotel.
Let’s start with breakfast. SAii doesn’t have a dedicated space where they serve breakfast, so they use the Café del Mar in the marina.
On its face, the buffet doesn’t look terrible.
There are the usual suspects — an omelet station, some pastries, cold cuts, cheese, fruit and cereal.
If only you could smell through your screen, though. It was not pleasant.
The food was largely inedible. I ordered an omelet or scrambled eggs with spinach every day and it simply didn’t taste good. And it wasn’t a fluke, either, as it didn’t get any better after the first day. None of the other options looked appealing, so this was as good as it was going to get.
My Hilton Diamond status softened the blow with free breakfast, but it will cost you $25 “plus plus” without status. The “plus plus” means taxes and government service charges — easily another $10 or so. Although $35 or so for a breakfast buffet isn’t the worst deal in the world, it is if you can’t eat the food.
Since Café del Mar is technically not affiliated with the hotel, you first have to get a voucher at the hotel’s reception desk before you eat. The $25 covers food and a towel for the pool, but you’ll have to pay the difference if you order more food than that, an inefficient process.
Lunch was also confusing. You could either eat at the hotel’s restaurant, Miss Olive Oyl — yes, that’s actually the name of it — or head over to the marina to grab a bite at the aforementioned Café del Mar.
For lunch, the food at the café was decent, not great but definitely edible. Plus, after my terrible breakfast here, my options were very limited as to where I was going to eat lunch. More on that below.
There’s a small coffee shop located next to reception, called Bean/co, but every time I wanted to grab a coffee, no one was there, so that didn’t work out.
SAii Lagoon has an Italian-Thai fusion restaurant called Mr Tomyam that I was excited to try. I asked someone at reception to make a reservation for me during my second day there (if you watched my takeover on The Points Guy’s Instagram, you’ll already know this). Unfortunately, the reservation was never processed. Three phone calls and 45 minutes later, I finally had a reservation at Ministry of Crab, a seafood spot in the marina.
It wasn’t great by any means, but my meal here was probably the best I had at this resort. They do give you a lot of food for what you paid.
I was eventually able to dine at Mr Tomyam the next night, although I was told the restaurant was fully booked and that I wouldn’t be able to grab a reservation until 9 p.m.
At 8:30 p.m. I received a call that I could come earlier, which was welcome news. But when I got there, the restaurant was empty. Interesting.
I ordered a papaya salad with mozzarella cheese and pesto.
It sounded delicious on paper, but it was drenched in sauce, making it soggy and overpowering. I ate less than half.
The eggplant parmesan I ordered was decent, but certainly nothing to tell your friends back on the other side of the world about.
The worst offender among the restaurants, though, was the dinner buffet at Miss Olive Oyl. I went here the first night after checking-in.
(As mentioned above, the restaurant also serves lunch. I didn’t end up eating lunch here, but I did check out the menu.)
For the dinner buffet, there was one small room to grab dishes, including salads, fruit and a pasta station, as well as an outdoor barbecue.
It looked like the hotel version of Hudson News.
I grabbed some grilled tuna and vegetables since everything looked pretty gross. That turned out to be not good either. My bill at the end? $92 … and I didn’t even have alcohol.
I know food in the Maldives is notoriously expensive, but $92 for sub-par food just isn’t OK. Do you know what else you could get for $92? Five servings of the mafaldini at Lilia in Brooklyn or six servings of the spicy rigatoni at Carbone in Manhattan.
Toward the end of my stay, the staff informed me that there are meal plans available. They range in price, depending on how many meals you get, and all include restaurants from the Hard Rock. The cheapest plan is $75 per day and doesn’t include lunch. Depending on your individual situation, that may be a better option.
When you go to the Maldives, you’re probably going to spend the duration of your trip at your hotel. Why? Because the Maldives is actually a collection of over 1,000 islands and each hotel essentially has its own private island. So do your research and make sure the activities are enough to keep you satisfied.
The SAii Lagoon has snorkeling, kayaking, diving, fishing and more. Some activities are free.
There was a nice pool area that overlooked the ocean.
There were also some pretty comfortable couches to hang out on and read a book or relax.
You could also use the — you guessed it — marina’s facilities at Café del Mar. I found them to be a little nicer than the SAii’s, although they were playing loud house music every time I walked by.
If the beach is more your speed, there were lots of beach areas at the SAii and I found them to be mostly unoccupied. Granted, it was cloudy and rainy for the majority of my stay, but there were some pockets of sunlight.
There’s also a spa, although it’s not located in the hotel, but instead is found at the marina. I found the heavy use of the marina to be very confusing and gave the impression that SAii did not have adequate facilities for its guests and had to rely on a third party to accommodate them.
I was a big fan of the gym.
It wasn’t spacious, but it was immaculate and in a centrally-located area within the hotel.
This is probably not a surprise at this point in the review, but I was not impressed with the service at SAii Lagoon. The staff often gave off an “I can’t be bothered” attitude and there was little-to-no sense of urgency about anything.
Case in point: On the day I checked out, I was told a buggy would pick my luggage up at 1 p.m. so that I could make the 2 p.m. boat to Malé Airport. By 1:15, there was no buggy to be found and my room key no longer worked. I had to call the front desk twice to make sure they were sending someone.
It wasn’t until about 1:20 that I got some assistance. I was hoping to grab a quick bite to eat before departing, but because of the delay, I was told I wouldn’t have time. When I told a staff member that this was yet another miscommunication, the answer was: “Sorry. Maybe you can get something at the airport?”
Again: I don’t expect the staff to move heaven and earth, and yes, I was cutting it somewhat close even if the buggy had arrived on time. But an hour to grab a salad and check out should have been sufficient, and how the situation unfolded was disappointing.
This next part isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but is something to be aware of as it was different than my experience at the Westin Maldives. Many members of the staff that I encountered did not have a strong command of English, which did make communication just a bit more challenging.
All that said, I do want to end on a high note with the nice surprise my housekeeper left me one day.
Save your money, especially if you’re coming to the Maldives from the U.S.
To spend over 24 hours to get here, go back and forth on slip-ups with staff, pay upwards of $500 or 85,000 points per night and easily over $100 for subpar meals daily would be a tremendous disappointment for a honeymoon type of trip.
This particular hotel doesn’t even feel like it’s in the Maldives. I often had to remind myself I was actually there and not at beach-themed resort at Disney World or a mid-tier property in the Caribbean.
With the money you’d end up spending here, you’d be better off just going to the Caribbean or Hawaii. To come here just to say you went to the Maldives defeats the entire purpose and there are much better options nearby. For example, the Conrad Maldives is just 10,000 more Hilton points per night. My advice? Pick somewhere else in the Maldives or otherwise, at least for now. Your stomach and blood pressure will thank you.
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