Yesterday CNN.com ran a piece on overwater bungalows that led off with my stay at Bora Bora Nui, then a Starwood property and the newest on Bora Bora and now a Hilton property and one of the very best award redemption values out there.
(A basic-level room redemption won’t get you the overwater bungalow but will get you a suite-size bungalow, and plenty of people get status upgrades or buy ups to overwater. Plus I’d expect Hilton’s new premium room redemption offerings to spread here and allow for overwater redemptions, though those are likely to be a less great value.)
For many, Bora Bora represents the utmost in aspirational redemptions. The story’s author told me that Bora Bora Nui is now her screensaver. And indeed, it was absolutely stunning. As regular readers of this blog know, I’m not much of a photographer. But ever picture looked like a postcard despite my poor photography skills.
I’m much looking forward to booking the Park Hyatt Maldives, it’s hard to beat 22,000 Hyatt points per night for a beach villa there and the standard difference in rates between a beach villa and beach villa with pool is about $100 and it’s another $100 more or so for a water villa. I’m hopeful that when I reach out to the property they’ll be willing to confirm the buy up at booking on an award redemption. I do have plenty of Hyatt gift certificates from the Capital One credit card promotion burning a hole in my pocket.
Places offering overwater bungalows are often quite secluded and a inconvenient to get to from my home perch in North America. You can get mileage awards to Tahiti, Delta miles are best-positioned because they partner with both Air France and Air Tahiti Nui which fly Los Angeles – Papeete. American miles are good for Air Tahiti Nui. Using miles in a Star Alliance program require flying via Auckland, New Zealand — not an easy award in and of itself — and then the Auckland – Papeete flight isn’t even daily, plus of course it’s a lot of extra flying out of the way from the US. (Hawaiian offers once-weekly Honolulu-Papeete flights on Saturdays and LAN flies via Easter Island as well, also a good bit of out of the way flying to go via South America.) And once you make it to Tahiti you have to separately buy your intra-French Polynesia flights.
Meanwhile the Maldives will involve pricey transfers once you make it to Male, also not the easiest thing to do, you can fly British Airways via London Gatwick or Emirates via Dubai, Singapore via Singapore or Malysian via Kuala Lumpur to name a few. Or buying flights on Sri Lankan. I’ll most likely fly to Columbo, Sri Lanka which is much easier to get to and buy a flight from there, Colombo is certainly an inexpensive place to fly from. And then there’s the seaplane transfer to most of the Atolls, the Park Hyatt involves a flight and a boat and costs nearly $500 per person roundtrip.
Overwater bungalows are cool, but beachfront can have an equal appeal and it’s hard to imagine a better deal from a price-value standpoint than the Le Meridien Khao Lak, getting a beachfront villa with private pool for $250 or less much of the year using this or that discount promotion like z3r, z4r, z5r, z6r, the various get a free night or two or percentage discount on various night stays. I stayed there when the hotel offered their rooms in Ugandan Schillings instead of US dollars by mistake, and they offered to honor the room rates at an average of $33 per night inclusive of tax and breakfast. I had their two-bedroom villa at that price.
And it’ll be a pretty great stay, I’m sure, at the Conrad Koh Samui where all of their rooms are standalone villas with private pool facing the ocean and angled for best views of the sunset.
I’m always in search of the best value aspirational properties, so any ideas from readers here are much appreciated. I wasn’t overly enthralled by my villa with pool at the Westin Siray Bay in Phuket, though having the villa was certainly a plus and it’s a beautiful property, it just needs to work on service.
What are the best values out there for use of points, or relatively modest price for incredible resort experiences?