Overwater bungalows are found in some of the most exotic places on earth, particularly the Maldives and French Polynesia. These also happen to be some of the most expensive places on earth. In the midst of all the options to redeem points for an overwater bungalow in one of these beautiful locations, one hotel stands out as incredibly valuable while being the most reasonable option for those who know how to work the travel game.
Not everything I’ll quote will be free though. Sure booking a hotel room is free to book but if you’re going to make the journey do it right and upgrade to an overwater bungalow. Shouldn’t that be on everybody’s bucket list? So prices for upgrades could be free, a small amount of points or as much as $500 a night – but I want to give you all the options.
Before we list all the hotels with overwater bungalows let’s talk about how to redeem points for such a room. You may find that many of these hotels have standard rooms on the beach and not over the water. The problem is that for many hotels the standard room you can book points with is commonly not an overwater room. So each hotel chain will talk about earning points, getting upgraded to the overwater bungalow and then list the hotel options by location.
Let me start by giving one general strategy for getting upgrades.
- Get status. There are a number of ways to get free status – credit cards, status matches, promotions, links, etc…
- Ask for an upgrade touting your status and loyalty. If the hotel confirms your upgrade in advance, which is possible in slow season, it’s your lucky day.
- If they do not upgrade you based on status, email the hotel directly and ask how much it would be to upgrade. They may have even included prices in their reply but if not, send a polite email asking, “how much would it cost to upgrade from [standard room] which I currently have booked with points, to [an overwater bungalow]”. Be specific as to what room you have and what room you would like so they can give you a price. You can even do this before you book in order to decide if it’s too pricey ahead of time. One way to predict this price is by taking the price difference between the two rooms. But ultimately they can charge what they want.
InterContinental Hotel Group (Priority Club)
Earning points: First you should know that racking up points is easy if you’re loyal to this hotel chain. Between promotion and their credit card you could rack up points fairly easily. But the credit card also gives a free night at any IHG hotel, which in this first example is worth nearly $1,000 and possibly more. Yet the annual fee for the card is only $49. (Here is a link that still work for the 80,000 point credit card).
Getting upgraded to the overwater bungalow: IHG does not currently have an option to upgrade rooms using points (although I wouldn’t be surprised if that changed this summer). Still there are two options. The first is that those with Ambassador Status get a guaranteed room upgrade. Even if it’s only one tier that is enough for the Intercontinental hotels in Bora Bora. Ambassador Status costs $200 or 32,000 points but it could be well worth it simply for the other benefits (although it’s a status only good at InterContinental branded hotels). And I think you’ll find it’s even cheaper than paying for even 1 night of an upgrade. But you can always try to ask for an upgrade as an elite member (it’s very easy to earn Platinum Status as it can be earned by points or with the card). Also a lot of these hotels are known for having a price for upgrading to overwater rooms.
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort &thalasso Spa
- 50,000 points for a standard room and a value of $1,000 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are only one upgrade tier away and a $100 difference!
InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora
- 50,000 points for a standard room and a value of $700 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are only one upgrade tier away!
InterContinental: Resort Tahiti
- 30,000 points for a standard room and a value of $300 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are three upgrade tiers away (or about $140 difference).
InterContinental: Resort And Spa Moorea
- 25,000 points for a standard room and a value of $400 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are four upgrade tiers away.
Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu
- 20,000 points for a standard room and a value of $300 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are four upgrade tiers away and a $200 price difference.
Holiday Inn Resort: Kandooma Maldives
- 35,000 points for a standard room and a value of $275 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are five upgrade tiers away and nearly $300 difference.
Hyatt Gold Passport
This is pretty simple as they have only one property with overwater bungalows and that’s the Park Hyatt in the Maldives.
Earning points: Hyatt hasn’t had a good promo in the last year or so and thus most of my points are from spending on the Hyatt visa. That card gives two nights at any hotel but you may be better off going after a couple of Chase cards that earn points and transfer to Hyatt. By having those cards you could rack up a ton of points and then redeem them for the Park Hyatt for 22,000 points a night.
Getting upgraded to the overwater bungalow: Unfortunately this Hyatt property does not allow using points for suite upgrades nor does it accept suite upgrade certs. However, they have been know to be generous to Diamond members when there is a lot of availability to upgrade from a beach to overwater villa. Still, it seems safer to secure an upgrade into an overwater bungalow for $350.
Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
- 22,000 points for a standard room and a value of $750 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are two upgrade tiers away and a $350 difference.
Earning points: As stated in my recent post on Rethinking Hilton HHonors new rewards pricing, my current strategy would be to get the Reserve card for the two free weekend nights. If you have points to burn there may be some good options but I’d rather use free night certificates. Still there are a number of ways to earn as there are multiple credit cards and you can transfer from Amex.
Getting upgraded to the overwater bungalow: Unfortunately Hilton doesn’t have great upgrade options. They have premium room rewards which are insanely priced, where they multiply price by points to make premium rooms available. Since I’m already ditching the points plan the only other scheme is to email/call and ask to buy an upgrade… which can be pricey.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
- 95,000 points for a standard room and a value of $1,150 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are one upgrade tier away but a $500+ price difference.
Hilton Maldives Iru Fushi Resort & Spa
- 70,000 points for a standard room and a value of $540 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are two upgrade tiers away.
Hotel Bora Bora
- 95,000 points for a standard room and a value of $600 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are two upgrade tiers away.
- 80,000 points for a standard room and a value of $375 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are three upgrade tiers away.
Starwood Preferred Guest
Let me start by saying that Starwood sucks for these aspirational awards. They have a list of hotels where they get to charge whatever they want and many of these hotels are on the list. I’d skip this part but you may have an infinite amount of SPG points.
Earning points: Obviously you earn points with their loyalty program but you can make more ground on the credit cards (here is the Starwood Personal and Starwood Business card). They earn 1 point per dollar which generally goes further with Starwood.
Getting upgraded to the overwater bungalow: You can actually book upgrades for award stays at the time of booking but you need to call. Give Starwood a call and see how much it would cost. If it’s considered a suite upgrade, you may notice that it can cost double the amount of a standard room. At that point you might as well try a different program.
St Regis Bora Bora Resort
- 120,000 – 140,000 points and a value of $1,300 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows available for standard redemption.
- Must call Starwood for availability.
Le Méridien Bora Bora
- Starts at 60,000 points in low season for standard room and a value of $800 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows available for 90,000 points a night.
- Must call Starwood for availability.
Le Méridien Tahiti – Overwater bungalow is far from the standard room.
- 16,000 points and a value of $300 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are four upgrade tiers away and a $400 difference in value.
Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa
- 20,000 points for a standard room, a value of $400.
- Overwater Bungalows are two upgrade tiers higher.
Le Méridien Ile des Pins – A 2 tier upgrade and the bungalows don’t really sound like they’re overwater.
Marriott does not currently have any properties but has announced plans to open a JW Marriott in the Maldives. It appears that Radisson Blu is building in the Maldives as well. Which is great news for those of us with hundreds of thousands of Club Carlson points from their recent promotions. It says they are looking to build the Radisson Blu brand as a luxury name in the hotel world. It’s very welcome.
Transport to your hotel.
Again, since these are some of the most exotic locations on earth, transportation can be tough. Getting around locally can be tough. For example the Conrad in the Maldives has it’s own air taxi that costs $500 for a round trip. You can look into hiring private air taxis as well but either way it’s expensive. So do your research on transport to your hotel. After all, these are some of the most luxurious hotels in the world and their taxi isn’t cheap.
Even in French Polynesia you need a flight to get from Papeete (the capital) to Bora Bora – which can be a couple hundred. However, the ferry to Moorea is pretty cheap. But it’s actually much less spread out than the Maldives making it a cheaper option for transport.
Getting free flights across the world.
Male (capital of the Maldives) is actually really easy to get to using miles (it’s the local transport that kills you).
Tahiti is reachable on Air France using Delta Skypesos (a good use of Delta miles!) and Air Tahiti Nui using American Airline miles (not bookable online). Again, this gets you to Papeete not Bora Bora. Although I’m unreasonably optimistic that Air Tahiti Nui will become a OneWorld partner and I’ll be booking flights between PPT and BOB using British Airways Avios sometime next year.
For other destinations like Vanuatu and New Caledonia I recommend using United miles to get there on Air New Zealand.
The Maldives is very expensive to explore and it seems that I would have to pay $350 a night to be in an overwater bungalow at the Park Hyatt Maldives. So a four night stay plus two people roundtrip just to Male would cost $2,400. I mean, that’s way better than paying $1,500 a night but I’m not sure if it’s how much I’d want to pay for four days. Perhaps someone needs to sell me on the Maldives.
Tahiti is slightly harder to get to using miles but it can still be done and the options are more reasonable. What is obvious to me, is that the InterContinental Hotels in Bora Bora are by far my best options to stay in an overwater bungalow for free. And since they cost the same amount of points, I might as well stay at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort &thalasso Spa.
Everything about the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort &thalasso Spa is right. The rooms are enormous – 100 square meters with a separate living area, balcony and direct access to the water (and has a four person maximum). While it sits above the beautiful lagoon it is separated from the ocean by a small strip of land where the main area of the hotel sits. It’s stunning.
For 50,000 points this hotel is a steal as the flexible rate is $1,100 for the standard room. Again , you get 80,000 points for the credit card completely free. If you’re making a trip like this, get yourself and your spouse the card (160,000 points) and upgrade one of you to Ambassador before the trip. (Plus, I could use my free night certificate that I got for keeping the card). So with my Ambassador status and loads of points, this is not only the free option, it’s one of the highest values. Again, even Ambassador status can be bought with points, it guarantees an upgrade and and makes the room completely free.
That is what I’m going to do. At least two nights free and two more nights when we both pay the $49 annual fee. But my plan is to wait a little as it probably won’t fit in the next year anyways and hope award availability gets better to Bora Bora. Either way, I’ll save some Priority Club points and then make a trip to Tahiti next year. Stay there for a couple of nights. Check out Moorea for a couple of nights and then head on over to Bora Bora for a while. While it’s tempting to spend all the time at the nicer InterContinental Hotel, it might be more exciting to spend a couple nights at the InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora which is on the main island.
We better start saving the points now.