Let’s dream a little. When you’re able to travel to the places you want rather than places that allow you to come — where is it going to be?
I don’t always crave luxury stays. In fact, I rarely do. My wife hates flying, so I almost always fly solo (and I can tough it out in a regular hotel room 🙂 ). However, for my first post-pandemic journey I want something special. Something quiet, with beautiful decor, impeccable service, sumptuous breakfast buffet, and a mint chocolate on my pillow. And, oh, 2 more things: it would have to be a good value points-wise and cost me [almost] nothing out of pocket.
Getting an almost free stay at one of Hilton luxury resorts is quite easy, actually. Hilton, unlike some other hotel chains, doesn’t add resort fees to rewards stays. And having a Diamond status extended through at least March 2021 gets me access to breakfasts (and hors d’oeuvres in some locations, too), although Gold is equally good in most places.
Getting decent values is another story. To me, a fair value of a Hilton point hovers around 0.4 cents, although I always aspire to do better. It hurts me almost physically to overpay because to me miles and points are just another form of money. Well, maybe not now, when we’re all grounded, but that’ll pass.
Since Hilton dropped its rewards chart in favor of dynamic pricing, I had to find the common denominator that would work for the purpose of this exercise. So to compare apples to apples I checked the dates for one month: February 2021. Please understand that Hilton being Hilton, the point costs can change on a whim, so don’t hate me if you find any discrepancies.
Which is also why you may want to consider booking your next-year stay now if you find availability for the property you want. Most Hilton hotels and resorts allow you to cancel a rewards booking 48 hours before your check in (although always check the cancellation policy from your particular hotel and read this cautionary tale from Frequent Miler).
I’ve also excluded Hilton Luxury Resorts from North America and the Caribbean from my research. You very well might feel differently and it’s fine, but I want to fly far, far away for my next aspirational trip.
And with all that in mind, I’ve set out on a mission to find the best current Hilton point values for the most opulent laid-back Hilton resorts in 2021, starting with …
Hilton overwater villas
OK, I know what you’re thinking …
1. Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi is creme of the crop of Hilton luxury hotels
This new drop-dead gorgeous resort with huge 3,000-square-foot villas featuring their own decks and pools looks so amazing that even the outrageous price of 120,000 or 480,000 points for a 5-night stay for elite members (and who isn’t a Hilton elite nowadays!) almost doesn’t make me cringe. The only problem is, you might not find too many regularly priced rooms next year, although they exist.
Note that the yacht transfers from and to the airport will set you back $600 per person one way plus taxes.
And this is the slice of paradise you’re getting. While a Reef Villa is not fully overwater, the terrace certainly is. And look at the value: 1.5 cents per points, and that’s before any taxes and fees. Yummy!
This would be the ultimate Hilton Luxury Resort in the Maldives if it weren’t for the spanking new Ithafushi. However, compared to the Ithafushi, this 95,000-point hotel (380,000 points for 5 nights) with considerably smaller villas (“only” 925 sq. ft.) shines a little less brightly, although from the reviews I’ve read some prefer Conrad for better wildlife than WA. Anyway, this is the villa you want for the
Note that the seaplane transfer to Conrad Maldives costs $590 per round trip. If you arrive in Male after 10 pm or depart before 9 am you’ll have to spend a night in Male.
There is another Hilton hotel in the Maldives — SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton. The room costs “only” 85,000 points, which is cheaper than Conrad or Waldorf Astoria — unfortunately, this rate puts you only in the “Sky” room, while the overwater room would run you 258,000 points for the dates I checked in February 2021. Should you be willing to pay cash though, the 904 ft. King Over-Water Villa costs $769 a night, which doesn’t seem too unreasonable for what you get.
A villa here should cost you 89,000 points per night or 356,000 points for 5 days. However, there are 2 problems with the Conrad Bora Bora Nui. There are very few available standard rate dates. I’ve counted 6 in December, 3 in January, and only 2 in February.
Another issue is that the 89,000-point rate doesn’t put you into an overwater villa. Now, it’s not that the 1,000 sq. ft. King Garden View Suite is a terrible value, but are you flying halfway around the world for this?
Probably not! You want this villa, but it’ll set you back 476,000 points. Ouch! I would consider a paid upgrade.
Just kidding: I wouldn’t. I’d just go someplace else.
If the room cost doesn’t deter you, a domestic flight from Papeete to Bora Bora on Air Tahiti Nui runs $500+, and a Conrad boat transfer from Bora Bora airport would run you around $130. However, your Air Tahiti Nui ticket includes a free transfer to Vaitape, from which point you can catch the Conrad’s boat shuttle for about $6. Hey, every dollar counts, no?
I haven’t been able to find a single standard room rate until the end of schedule. If that changes in the future, I’ll update this post. However, if you’re willing to pay cash, this is one of the most “inexpensive” rates I’ve ever seen for an overwater bungalow. No pool, though.
The best overwater value (IMHO): Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. 380,000 points for a 5-day vacation in a guaranteed overwater villa at one of the very best Hilton luxury hotels.
Hilton Seychelles resorts
Located on a Marine National Park island, the Labriz with its excellent beaches and hiking trails nearby seems to be the most popular Hilton property in the Seychelles. 80,000 points (320,000 for 5 days) will put you in a King Garden Villa, although some (dated) reviews indicate that Diamonds might get upgraded to a Beachfront Villa with Plunge Pool.
From what I’ve gathered from some reviews comparing these 2 resorts, each one has pros and cons. For one thing the Northolme costs more: 95,000/380,000 points. The Labriz is larger, more remote, and has a nice beach, while the Northolme is much smaller and with a smaller beach, too. However, the Northolme is in Mahe island, which makes it easier to explore other areas of the Seychelles.
Both Labriz and Northolme seem to be great resorts, according to limited reviews I’ve perused, so … split your stay between them and you can’t go wrong.
This is the third resort in the Seychelles, and it’s quite cheaper than the other 2 — just 70,000 points per night. However, it’s nothing like the Labriz or Northolme; you’re getting a 450 sq. ft. hotel room, which might be a beautiful hotel room, but it’s not a stand-alone villa.
And the value doesn’t seem to be there for me unless you get a free upgrade to a Grand Deluxe Room With Jacuzzi, and even then, just barely. However, some reviewers say snorkeling is much better on that side of Mahe.
Here are some limited and a bit dated Flyertalk reviews to research further.
Conrad Koh Samui
Oh brother, I love that place! This is the only Hilton Luxury Resort from my list I’ve stayed at, and what a stay! If you think you might get a little bored in the Maldives, Seychelles, or Bora Bora, Koh Samui is a no-brainer. When it started getting dark, I would hop in the car (and yes, you need a car if you stay at Conrad, or you’ll spend a fortune on cabs), and drive to Lamai or Chaweng for cheap yet excellent food, drinks, and entertainment. Good times! Read my detailed Conrad Koh Samui report here.
There is only one problem. I haven’t found any regular room availability (95,000/380,000) between December 19, 2020 and June 1, 2021. Keep checking, though, it’s bound to change.
Special mention: Conrad Bali
I almost didn’t include Conrad Bali. Almost!
I love Conrads. And I love Bali. And this Conrad seems to be everything one would expect from one of the top Hilton luxury resorts. So what happens when you combine these 2 things?
A lukewarm value proposition, unfortunately. See for yourselves.
Don’t you love it how Hilton is charging twice the points for a marginal $10 increase in the cash rate? If that’s not a perfect example of super-charged dynamic pricing I don’t know what is! 🙂
Another reason why I’m not too excited about Conrad Bali is that it’s in Nusa Dua, which is not the area where you want to stay in Bali. The beaches aren’t great (although they aren’t great almost anywhere in Bali), and there aren’t many cultural and historical things around there or so I was told by my guide, who was excellent! But since we’re talking about pampering ourselves silly, 3-4 days at Conrad would be OK to unwind, I guess, but only if you’re Diamond and get upgraded to a Conrad Suite. I don’t remember all the privileges you get with a Conrad Suite, but a guy I had a drink in Bali with swore by it despite the boring location.
Come to think of it, if you hire a guide with a car for a few days (and you should because it’s extremely affordable), who cares where in Bali you’re staying? Just don’t waste the points. If you’re an Aspire cardholder, use the $250 resort credit and the $100 Conrad credit.
Anyway, these are my suggestions for getting a free and lazy post-pandemic vacation in one of Hilton Luxury Resorts.
What are yours?