How to book overwater bungalows with points
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Overwater bungalows are staples in some of the most exotic and remote locations on Earth, particularly the Maldives and French Polynesia. These also happen to be some of the most expensive destinations.
Did you know that you can book straight into an overwater villa with hotel points? There’s one hotel chain that’s especially good about this.
Not everything I’ll quote will be totally free. Sure, booking a standard hotel room at one of these fancy resorts can cost you zero dollars — but if you’re going through all this effort to reach a place like the Maldives, do it right and upgrade to an overwater bungalow. Shouldn’t that be on everybody’s bucket list??
We’ll examine all the options for securing a room on stilts.
How to book an overwater bungalow for cheap (or even free!)
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.
With each hotel chain, we’ll 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.
- Earn hotel elite status. There are a number of ways to get free status, including 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 the 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 cost to upgrade. If they don’t include a price in their reply, send a polite email directly asking how much it would cost to upgrade from a standard room (which you’ve reserved 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 to decide if it’s too pricey ahead of time. You might predict this price by calculating the price difference between the two rooms, but ultimately they can charge whatever they want
Earning points: First you should know that earning IHG points is easy if you’re loyal to this hotel chain.
Getting upgraded to an overwater bungalow: IHG doesn’t have an option to upgrade rooms using points. Still, you’ve got two other possibilities.
The first is that those with Ambassador Status get a guaranteed upgrade to the next room type. If you’re eying a suite, you’ll receive it as long as you book the room type directly under it (though note that this upgrade does exclude some suites — so for example if you book a premium suite, you won’t necessarily get upgraded to the Presidential Suite).
You can buy Ambassador Status for $200 annually. It could be well worth it simply for this benefit (although it’s a status only good at InterContinental branded hotels). You’ll likely find that it’s cheaper than paying for an upgrade even for one night.
You can also try to ask for an upgrade as an elite member. It’s very easy to earn Platinum status, as it comes complimentary with the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.
If all else fails, you can inquire about the cash price to possibly upgrade.
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
- 100,000 points (I think) for a standard room and a value of $1,100+ per night
- Standard rooms are overwater villas! But good luck finding availability…
InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora
- 100,000 points for a standard room and a value of $700 per night
- Overwater Bungalows are only one upgrade tier away
InterContinental Resort Tahiti
- 63,000 points for a standard room and a value of $400 per night
- Overwater Bungalows are three upgrade tiers away (or about $140 difference)
Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu
- 20,000 points for a standard room and a value of $300 a night.
- Overwater Bungalows are three 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 look to be 10+ room types away and nearly $300 difference
This is pretty simple as they have only one property with overwater bungalows and that’s the Park Hyatt in the Maldives. Right?? Let me know there’s a hotel I’m just not thinking of at the moment.
- 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
- Up to 30,000 more bonus points, with 2 bonus points per dollar spent on purchases that earn 1 point, up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening
This is a mediocre offer. I’d instead suggest going after cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points. They instantly transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio.
By having cards like this, you could rack up a ton of points and redeem them at the Park Hyatt for 30,000 points per 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 certificates. However, they have been known to be generous to Globalist members when there is a lot of availability to upgrade from a beach to an overwater villa.
Still, it seems safer to secure an upgrade into an overwater bungalow — although depending on when you go, it can be a legit fortune. If you’re going on popular dates, you may even be charged $600+ per night!
Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
- 30,000 points for a standard room and a value of $1,100 per night
- Overwater Bungalows are three upgrade tiers away and generally a $400 difference
Earning points: My current strategy is to get the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card to begin my journey to free overwater villas with Hilton. Upon opening the card, you’ll get one weekend night at nearly any Hilton on the planet. And after your cardmember anniversary, you’ll get another identical weekend night. These can be used at Hilton resorts with overwater bungalows. The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
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 Hilton points:
- There are multiple Hilton credit cards that offer 100,000+ point welcome bonuses after meeting minimum spending requirements
- You can transfer Amex points to Hilton at a 2:1 ratio
- Hilton gives you tons of points per dollar for paid stays. If you pay for Hilton stays anyway, you’ve probably got a significant stash of Hilton points
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 the price by points to make premium rooms available. Since I’m already ditching the points plan, the most reliable “scheme” is to email/call and ask to buy an upgrade — which can be pricey.
However, the aforementioned Amex Hilton Aspire comes with automatic Hilton Diamond elite status, which comes with complimentary suite upgrades. An overwater villa is a double upgrade, so you could conceivably leverage your Diamond status to up your chances.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
- 95,000 points for a standard room, and a value of ~$600 per night
- Overwater bungalows are two room categories higher, but a $650 price difference.
Saii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton
- 85,000 points for a standard room and a value of $550 per night
- Overwater Bungalows are five upgrade tiers away and cost around $1,000
Waldorf Astoria Maldives, Ithaafushi
- 120,000 points for a standard room, a value of $1,300+ per night
- Overwater villas are two room categories higher, costing $2,000+ per night
Conrad Bora Bora
- 89,000 points for a standard room and a value as high as $1,500 per night
- Overwater bungalows are five room categories higher and cost $1,900 per night
Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa
- 80,000 points for a standard room and a value of $600+ per night
- Overwater bungalows are six room categories higher and cost $950+ per night
Earning points: There are a number of Marriott credit cards that help you quickly accrue points through welcome bonuses. Just be sure to read this post to understand all the application rules — they’re a bit confusing, so we spell them out for you.
Getting upgraded to the overwater bungalow: Marriott has “Suite Night Award” certificates that allow you to request suite upgrades at the time of booking. However, this probably won’t help you for two reasons:
- Marriott won’t actually begin looking for an upgraded room for you until five days before check-in
- Many resorts that offer overwater bungalows are often “all-suite” properties, meaning even the base room is some kind of spectacular villa. Suite Night Awards don’t upgrade you when you’re already booked into a suite
Also, if you have Marriott Platinum status or above, you’re entitled to suite upgrades upon arrival. This has netted me an overwater bungalow upgrade at the St. Regis Maldives — and I’ve heard similar experiences from others.
However, I really think Marriott is the way to go if you want an overwater villa. Marriott often allows you to upgrade your room with either straight points or a mix of cash and points. I’ll show you what I mean below.
Note: Marriott has peak and off-peak award pricing. I’m going to give you standard prices only.
St Regis Bora Bora Resort
- 85,000 points per night and a value of $1,300+ per night
- Overwater bungalows are two room categories higher and cost $2,000+ per night
- You can pay 85,000 points and $600 to be upgraded
Le Méridien Bora Bora
- Honestly, I cannot find availability for the entire year. I’ll update when some pops up.
Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa
- 60,000 points for a standard room, a value of $1,000+ per night
- Overwater bungalows are three room categories higher and cost $1,300+ per night. However, you can lock it in by simply paying 18,000 points extra per night or $60 extra per night!
St. Regis Maldives
- 85,000 points for a standard room, a value of $1,700 per night
- Overwater villas are one room category higher and cost $2,000+ per night. However, you can reserve it by paying 10,000 points extra per night, or just $25 per night!
- 85,000 points for a standard room — which is an overwater bungalow!! Book straight into it with points. This room costs $1,000 per night
- 60,000 points for a standard room, a value of $600 per night
- Overwater bungalows are three room categories higher and cost $800 per night. However, you can book into this room for 78,000 points per night, or 60,000 points and $90
JW Marriott Maldives
- 85,000 points for a standard room — which is an overwater bungalow!! The room normally costs ~$950 per night
- 85,000 points for a standard room, a value of $850. I cannot tell if this is an overwater villa or not, but it looks like it
Transport to your hotel
Since these are some of the most exotic locations on earth, transportation can be tough. Getting around locally can cost a fortune. For example, the St. Regis Maldives has its own air taxi that costs $745 per person round-trip. Do your research on transport to your hotel. After all, these are some of the most luxurious hotels in existence.
Even in French Polynesia, you need a flight to get from Papeete (the capital) to Bora Bora – which can cost hundreds. 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.
If you’re hunting overwater bungalows on a budget, the clear winner, far and away, is Marriott. A few of the hotels book directly into overwater bungalows with points — and these hotels have plenty of availability. Plus, it’s not hard to earn Marriott points.
Many other Marriott hotels allow you to upgrade to an overwater bungalow with a nominal amount of points or alternately adding a few bucks (sub $100) per night to your bill.
The runner-up might be IHG, as the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa is an all-overwater-bungalow resort. But finding availability is murder. Let us know if we missed any overwater villa hotels! And subscribe to our newsletter for more posts like this delivered to your inbox once per day.
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