Here’s Why the Park Hyatt Maldives is My Favorite Resort in the World…

Previous trip report installments

The Park Hyatt Hadahaa in the Maldives is my favorite resort in the world. Here’s why.

I’m not going to make the claim that it’s the very best resort. I haven’t been to every one and there are entire categories of resorts I’ve never been to (Aman properties, for instance).

And I’m not going to make the claim that it’s the best property in the Maldives. I’ve now been to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa three times, and haven’t been to any others. I haven’t been to Velaa Private Island, Cheval Blanc Randheli , One&Only Reethi Rah, or Huvafen Fushi. And I can’t compare it to the Conrad Rangali where many people spend their points in the Maldives (although fewer, I suppose, since the big devaluation).

But it’s my favorite place to go, and certainly my favorite place to spend points. As a Hyatt Gold Passport Category 6, a free night award is 25,000 points. You can use the Hyatt Visa signup bonus free nights, and transfer Chase points into Gold Passport. As I mentioned when detailing trip costs in the first section of this report, I booked a cash and points award. Orders of magnitude more reasonable than the W Maldives, and certainly a nicer property than the Sheraton Full Moon Resort (I’ve only seen pictures).

The Maldives is a real journey from the U.S. And once you make it to the capital, Male, you still have a domestic flight and a boat ride. I explained a year ago that I consider the distance and seclusion to be a feature, not a bug.

I actually need the distance and the journey in order to unplug. The trip moves me to a different world, where I’m able to relax. The time difference (note that the resort is one hour ahead of Male and even the domestic island where you land) means that I get up in the morning, answer the day’s emails before breakfast, and then don’t have anyone trying to reach me for the entirety of the day in the Maldives as everyone back home goes to sleep.

And of course when you’re there, it’s truly gorgeous. You’re on your own island, there’s nothing but the resort. And there’s just 50 rooms, and room are nice enough that people tend to seclude themselves. If they aren’t off doing activities like diving or spa, they may be snorkeling off their water villas or relaxing by their private pool.

Some enjoy the beach, a handful the resort’s pool, but you don’t really see many people.

The beauty, seclusion, great service, good food, and even the process of getting there make this a place that I’ve returned to three years in a row.

Since I have been to the resort before, tor this review I’m going to focus on what’s different, what’s changed, what I learned rather than spending as much time going through the basics. For that you can read notes from my 2013 trip and from my 2012 visit: Park Hyatt Maldives and Part II, Part III.

Weather… and Villa Type

Before my first stay at the property I had emailed asking for the most private water villa possible and I was lucky to get #51, the farthest villa at the end of the pier. Probably easy to do because the hotel was half empty that time. I specifically asked for the same villa in 2013, and they gave it to me. And I got it again this year. So I’ve only ever stayed in one room.

Here it is at night, with the shades closed.

There’s fruit, treats, and water waiting in the room — they provide both sparkling and still, in glass, cleaned and purified on property. They know my preference for still, and for lots of water, and they accommodate (it’s free in the room but they charge for water in the restaurants at lunch and dinner).

The iPad in the room details menus, activities, and the rest of information about the property.

Unlike most hotels you don’t get minis of shampoos and other toiletries, instead there are jars that get refilled to minimize impact on the environment. As with the water, plastic is avoided.

The morning, the evening, the water, the dock it’s all gorgeous.

My past two trips were in February. And December through March is a real sweet spot for perfect weather, although in some sense I don’t think there’s really a bad time to be in the Maldives.

We had perfect sunny days and clear skies most of the time, and the seas were calm.

I knew that May was shoulder season at best, what that means is the occasional downpour but then it goes away, clears up, and temperatures are hot. I’m happy with that.

It also means rougher waters, which can limit activities. And also wind the further out from the island you get.

And upon reflection, I was happy being there out of peak season but what changes for me is my preference for room type — in February I loved being in a water villa, on this trip I’d actually have preferred a pool villa with easy access out to the beach.

In the last section of the report I described the rough water from the airport to the resort There was choppy waters and wind out on the water (but not windy on the island itself). That meant we didn’t really take advantage of the benefits of the water villa — direct access into the ocean for snorkeling, lounging out on the deck.

And though storms didn’t last long, rain did get quite heavy a few times including once overnight where I could actually feel the swaying of the room while in bed. At the bar one staff member told us a story of an older couple that had put on and slept in the villa’s life jackets. (That was definitely overkill!)

With heavy wind, the day’s heat beat against the windows and the villa’s air conditioning just couldn’t compete. Despite the a/c running on full blast, temperatures inside the villa got up to about 78 degrees during the day and only down to about 71 at night. I admit I like it cooler than that, but I still loved the room and was happy overall. Air conditioning in the land villas brought the temperatures down a whole lot more.

I had the chance to try a regular ‘Park Villa’ on the last day, since we wouldn’t be leaving the resort until about 6pm and they would need our room for the next guest before that. They gave us a temporary villa to use that final afternoon.

The basic villas have a little bit larger footprint than the water villas, since they have the outside space. The villas on land with a pool seem a little bigger still. And some of those walk straight out to the beach. That’s what I’d want on a future visit in May or June.

Breakfast: Rumors and Fact

When I stayed at the property in 2012 and 2013, breakfast was free for all guests. It’s still free on all paid rates, but no longer free on award stays (although Hyatt Diamond members are entitled to breakfast).

Lots has been written and speculated on this, so here’s my experience and what the General Manager of the property shared to clarify.

Here’s what Gold Passport’s terms and conditions say about free nights.

5. Hyatt Gold Passport Free Night Awards are valid for standard guest rooms unless specifically stated as part of a particular award. All Hyatt Gold Passport awards are subject to maximum room capacity. Maximum room capacity may vary by hotel. Hyatt Gold Passport awards may be applied only to the guest room and do not apply toward food, beverage, incidental expenses or service charges.

When saying a free night does “not apply to food, beverage..” they’re talking about add-ons. They aren’t really saying that a room that otherwise comes with food and beverage doesn’t when staying on points. Award nights at the Hyatt all-inclusive properties are still.. all-inclusive.

On the other hand, the terms and conditions of the program don’t explicitly say that award nights come with all of the benefits and privileges afforded on a paid stay in a standard room. That’s usually how it’s understood of course (that if a paid stay comes with 2 daily items for pressing, a hotel doesn’t exclude the benefit for guests on points). I’ll leave it up to the program to decide if this is compliant.

Here’s how the General Manager of the property explains breakfast:

Gold & Platinum passport members redeeming awards no longer have breakfast inclusion but have a special reduced
Set breakfast rate of 30USD ++ .. Diamond Members now have a choice of either a set breakfast menu or a choice of up to three A ‘La Carte Breakfast items.

The truth is I consider breakfast to be well worth the cost. This isn’t an airport Hyatt Regency buffet. This is a fantastic meal.

Breakfast is served in the main restaurant which is just back from the pool and adjacent the bar.

One of the things I love about the property is getting up and walking to breakfast. I tend to do it on the early side, I’ll sit there for an hour or so just drinking coffee and enjoying the surroundings.

They’ll bring over a tower of appetizers — breads, fruit, and a local tuna dish.

And then you order off the menu. Most people won’t be able to eat more than three items which are in addition to the tower .

Here’s the breakfast menu. (Click to enlarge.)

Other Things to Know

Here’s a few more observations that stand out from this most recent trip.

  • The spa is more expensive than before, but fantastic. When I stayed last year I took advantage of a 3-day package that pushed the ‘per spa hour’ cost down into the $60s. That was 2 hours per day for three days and two people, still money but a great price in that it’s less than I’d pay at home and not at a resort and for less of a quality experience. The prices are higher now, over $100 per spa hour. You have your own treatment villa, indoor shower and outdoor shower, and I’ve never had a bad massage there. In fact I’ve even dozed off a few times…

  • Complimentary Diamond ‘sundowner’ cocktail and canapes is a daily highlight. In addition to breakfast and internet (which all guests receive free), Gold Passport Diamond members get a free cocktail between 6pm and 8pm. They call it a sundowner, you go to the bar or sit out on the beach and watch the sunset while enjoying a cocktail of your choosing, and they bring over a tower of small bites. This isn’t a meal, but a great way to start off your evening before dinner.

  • Food is very good. It isn’t cheap. But it’s also not more than you’d pay at top end resorts in the Caribbean. Meals were certainly less here than at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, for instance. The food wash fresher and the ambience orders of magnitude better, too.

  • Private dinners aren’t really more expensive than a full meal in the restaurant Last year I did a private dinner on the dock, they brought out the resort’s telescope, and the chef prepared a special dinner based on a conversation that we had with the outstanding Director of Food and Beverage Jean-Pierre Joncas. This year we were on property to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday, and were going to go fishing and hopefully eat our catch on that special night. The rough waters didn’t cooprate and he set up a private dinner for us… which was essentially what we would have paid eating in the restaurant though we had a custom menu and dedicated staff.


    Here’s the menu from our private dinner, click to enlarge

I Can’t Wait to Return.. a Fourth Time

I’ve been to Bora Bora, Bali, Phuket, Koh Samui, and any number of other resort destinations. There are so many places in the world, and I love experiencing things that are new. I almost never go back to the same resort twice, and even my favorite destinations can sometimes take awhile before getting back into the rotation.

But I keep coming back to the Park Hyatt Maldives. Three years in a row. I don’t have a trip in 2015 planned yet, but certainly 2015 or 2016 at the outside if things get away from me I’ll want to be there again.

The place is beautiful, the food is good, the snorkeling fantastic, the service top notch. You’ve got your own island with only a few other guests. And points, for me at least, help to make what would be a much more expensive trip into the range I feel comfortable with. And that’s why I didn’t mind so much departing…


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. That outdoor tub and shower are the reasons my wife and I, respectively, will never stay in an overwater villa. They’re indescribably refreshing after snorkeling or lounging on the beach, especially considering the weather. I didn’t use the indoor shower once in a week.

    The Park Villas are perfect — especially if you can get a somewhat private one with a nice section of beach and close to the unbelievable house reef.

  2. I think you forgot the Chase credit card links 😉

    A few more conversions at $200-$300 a pop and you will be on your way back there in no time 🙂

  3. Wow, I miss Hadahaa already. I was also there from 27th May to 30th May. When were you there?

  4. I agree with almost everything you said, except the food quality. Breakfast was great, but other meals tended to be uneven, and often bland. Very bland, even on Maldivian night. Once the hamburger was awesome,next only so so. Vegetarian options very bland. Breakfast was uniformly great. I gave input on it, maybe it’s gotten better since February (I was in the villa right behind yours).

    But you know what? I really don’t care that much, it was so awesome, I’m dying to go back!!! Food was much better at the Conrad Rangali, but it’s the park hyatt I dream about. It’s about $100+ a night more pricey since I went because of breakfast and OWB upgrade cost , but it’s still worth it!

  5. @Beachfan really didn’t try the vegetarian options, and I had a burger the first night of my first visit and wouldn’t repeat. I tended towards Asian options, and then grilled meat and seafood at dinner.

  6. Maldives smaldives = whoopdeedoo. With all due respect to the Maldives, there’s no better place on the planet than Hawaii. One week in Maldives = utter boredom. One week in Hawaii = best weather on the planet day in/day out, surf all day, swim, snorkel, hike, bike, paddleboard, afternoon siesta then jujitsu, school, surf again. Eat your choice of Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Indian, Morrocan grinds, all/any of which guaranteed to swamp any resort food. Zero chance any Maldivian resort can out sushi us. Now, after dindin, shower up to hit the clubs where one will find hot chicks enough to make you blind. How many hot chicks (you can count tourists) in the Maldives?? (ans: none). then finally go to sleep… only to do it all over again the next day, next next day, and every day. We LIVE the Dream every day! Maldives? you can have it all day and no Hawaiian would even blink

  7. @mo opinions vary.

    Visited Hawaii last year, back soon.

    Important point though — in the Maldives you will be on property at the resort. Some find that boring. If you do, don’t go. For me it was a slice of paradise.

  8. There’s far more to the world than point hotels. Check out the FS Kuda Huraa in the Maldives, Trisara, Amanpuri or Qualia and you will have a much broader perspective.

  9. Hey Gary— I fully agree that the Maldives are a fantastic place to be, and the Hyatt is a wonderful property. However, in all fairness, you really should try some other properties when you’re there. A seaplane ride from MLE makes this trip much, much easier, and I really don’t think it would interfere with your desire to disconnect from everyday life. If you insist on staying somewhere with points (where they make a big deal about recognizing your status) I don’t think there are many people who would rate the Hyatt above the Conrad or the W. YMMV

  10. @NYBanker-I totally agree with you-it’s a very narrow viewpoint. But points hotels, air, travel is what points bloggers focus on because points are the “currency” of their readers.

  11. Thanks for the report… Can’t wait for my trip this August. A couple questions:

    Would you think the waters will be calm enough for an OTW room mid August or would you advise a Pool villa?

    In a prior post you had mentioned communicating coffee preferences. Is there an espresso machine in the room? Is there in room coffee in the AM? (I prefer having some as I get ready and before breakfast).

    Re: breakfast. Is there a difference between the ‘on points’ Diamond breakfast and the breakfast offered for paid stays? Is it 3 items per person or per room? As a diamond guest having booked on points before the devaluation, will my breakfast be as you described or any different?

    Thanks!

  12. Do they have a tsunami warning system? Seems like a roll of the dice every time you visit.

    Agree with Mo – 5 hour flight and I am in paradise Without worrying about my hosts persecuting people in their spare time.

    Have you ever been to the Greek islands? Another set of islands that is quite civilized – I’d go every year if Greece was as close as Hawaii

  13. Great trip report one of your best
    Ok I’m going to celebrate my lifetime Diamond status!!!!

  14. I’m so excited; I can’t wait for my trip even though it’s not until November! I’m definitely going to book some of the special dinners. Of all the crazy miles/points trips I’ve booked this year, I’m looking forward to this the most, followed by an additional 4 days at the Park Hyatt Istanbul.

    Gary, do you and your wife dive at all? I’m really curious to hear about the SCUBA offerings at Hadahaa, but I’ve not seen much online.

  15. Gary, are there many bugs in the Maldives? Or is there always a breeze? Do you have to use bug spray?

  16. @Nick I never used bug spray, the only bug issue I had was on my first trip, any uncovered food would attract ants. Less so on future visits. I do know they treat the island daily or at least they did.

  17. @Boraxo I don’t know about their tsunami warning system, but I understand tsunami risk is low since they’re in pretty deep waters, the 2004 tsunami really didn’t do that much damage there I think. (Non-expert sense of the matter)

  18. @Brian there is an espresso machine in the room. I do not believe there is a difference for a Diamond on points vs a paid stay, although perhaps on a paid stay you could eat more than 3 entrees plus the bread, tuna, fruit. (OMG) Your breakfast on points should be what I describe, like mine, I believe.

  19. @Brian – oh, and while i am not a meteorologist or weather expert, and i have only gone in february and may, my sense is that August is still the wet/windy season. Could be perfect weather, could be like I experienced, more likely like what I had than the better weather in February I’d think.

  20. @Gary – You never reply to my questions… I feel like you don’t like me for some reason! 1/2 🙂

  21. Hi Gary, I was there on points 2 months ago (mostly inspired by your previous reviews) and I concur with your views – it’s the most amazing resort I’ve ever visited.

    However, I didn’t really like the new policy on breakfast. Imagine you buy an airline award ticket on business class – only they don’t serve you food, since it was an award ticket – food is for paying business class passengers only. What they did to the breakfast at PH Maldives is exactly that. Points reservation don’t get the breakfast, revenue reservations do.

    I understand the breakfast is worth the price and all that, but that’s not the point. I wouldn’t like airlines copying this way of thinking.

  22. While I enjoy seeking out ideas to stretch my travel dollar through the use of points, some of the articles posted by points bloggers seem to be the antithesis of what real travel is about (at least as I see it). What sort of local culture are you really experiencing staying at 5 star resorts with the uber rich from other countries and staff who are paid to kiss your a$$ from sun up to sundown? I’ll trade my couple weeks sleeping on bamboo floors for $2/night in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh for any amount of time at the Park Hyatt Maldives; and trust me when I say I can afford $800/night rooms. I just choose not to. Where’s the value?

  23. What a fabulous trip report! Thank you for that. I will probably never make it there in my lifetime but now it almost feels like I’ve been there.

  24. Like Brian asked – is it 3 items per room or per person? Also can you opt for diamond breakfast in the room, possibly for a small upcharge like many Hyatt’s? And if so how much? Or no not at all?

  25. @ Brian:
    We were there in August of 2013 for 6 nites and weather was perfect whole time. Have a great trip.

  26. Next time I’m going for the all-inclusive food and booze deal they offered at $300 per day pp. My $8 diet cokes added up.
    That doesn’t include the mini bar or room service, though.

  27. @Gary, right you are, the costs are in the first post, and the title says so!

    My memory isn’t what it used to be.

    Re food, my wife is the vegetarian, I ordered similarly to you. Did you make any special requests regarding preparation?

  28. @Bruce – I spend time in India too, and around Southeast Asia, I’ve had plenty of experiences that are far more ‘authentic’. Which is sort of different than a resort experience. For me both have a place, I don’t see how this isn’t “real travel” but call it what you will, I had a fabulous time!

  29. Do you think the half board option at 100 pp/n is worth it for a plat with no free breakfast? Tough for me to get a sense without having been to the restaurants…

  30. @Chas – the half board option gets you more food, though your options are a bit more limited as I understand it. You won’t do worse than break even.

    Another money saving tip is pre-booking excursions and spa at 10% off. Personally I don’t like planning ahead and locking in what I’ll be doing on a given day but there’s some savings if you want to do that.

  31. Do you have a recommendation on how to do a combo Park Hyatt/Conrad trip splitting the nights?

  32. BTW would you rate this property over Vendome PK? Just spent 6 nights in heaven there……

  33. @JustSaying I imagine you’d just fly back to Male and take the transfer from the airport to the Conrad, but you could ask both properties if there’s anything more efficient.

    And hard to compare a resort like this to a hotel in the middle of the city. They are two completely different experiences. I suppose I do prefer the Maldives, but Vendome is a very good hotel and especially as a Gold Passport Diamond member.

  34. Thanks for your great contributions to the cause………last night I had drinks at a Relais and Chateau with a gentleman who used 780k AMEX points to fly Business AF IAD-CDG………..as I started explaining my 270k UA FC from SFO it became clear to both of us what a gift Boarding Area is to its’ readers…………Thank you!

  35. Gary – remember when Hyatt had the awards including a set number of dinners? We redeemed this here and it was by far the best value we have ever received. They even included our private beach dinner as one of these.

  36. @Mark – I used a ‘Passport Escapes’ award on my first stay on-property in 2012. And paid everything else with certificates obtained from Capital One’s 100k signup bonus (1.7 cents per value redemption which was unheard of for Capital One points).

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