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Emily Jablon: Daraius and I used our miles and points to have a fabulous honeymoon in Bora Bora.
We heard that the Maldives Islands rivaled the beauty and splendor of Bora Bora, so we planned a trip to decide for ourselves!
The Maldives is known for its luxury resorts, and most resorts have their own private island. There are beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear blue water. The islands also have fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving!
We booked 5 nights using Hilton points at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a 30-minute seaplane ride from Male, the capital of the Maldives. We booked this trip to make the most of our Hilton points before the Hilton devaluation last year.
Our $27,000 Vacation to the Maldives for ~$5,000 & How You Can Do It Too Index:
- Part 1 – Introduction & Planning
- Part 2 – Flights from US to India
- Part 3 – Flights from India to the Maldives
- Part 4 – Conrad Airport Lounge and Seaplane Ride
- Part 5 – The Grounds of the Conrad Rangali Island Hotel (Conrad Rangali Island Base Room)
- Part 6 – A ~$1,300 per Night Beach Villa for Free
- Part 7 – Saving ~88% on a $3,000 per Night Overwater Bungalow
- Part 8 – Activities at the Conrad Maldives
- Part 9 – Breakfast in the Maldives
- Part 10 – Cheap Food
- Part 11 – Underwater Restaurant
- Part 12 – An Afternoon in Male
- Part 13 – Male Airport and Plaza Premium Lounge
- Part 14 – Conclusion & Blog Giveaway
The Maldives are located in the Indian Ocean, just south of India. Getting to the Maldives is a long journey, but the trip is definitely worth it! Daraius and I have been to many beach destinations such as Bora Bora, Maui, and Kauai on miles and points, but the Maldives tops them all!
Traveling to the Maldives is also very expensive, but you can do it for much less than the retail cost! This trip would have cost us ~$27,000, but we only paid ~$4,300!! These series of posts will show you how you can also take a trip to the Maldives on miles and points!
Activities at the Conrad Maldives
There are a lot of fun activities in the Maldives. Some of my favorites were just lounging by the pool and snorkeling.
The activities can get expensive, but luckily the Conrad also offered many free activities, like swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, ping-pong, etc.
The Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa also has activities including snorkeling and scuba diving. You can use your Hyatt hotel points, or transfer Chase Ultimate Reward points to Hyatt for a free stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives.
My mom, Mark, and I went snorkeling in the resort’s house reef. It’s located near rooms 224 and 225. The hotel rooms around the reef would be perfect to stay in. However, Daraius and I stayed in room 207 and we appreciated how centrally located we were (it was a 5 minute walk to activities and restaurants). And we were still very close to the most incredible snorkeling I’ve ever seen!
We prepared for our snorkeling excursion by going to the activities desk and getting 3 life jackets. We are a little out of practice when it comes to swimming and I didn’t want to take any chances in the ocean! Plus the life jackets were great to have a relaxed swim out to the reef drop off.
We then went to the dive center to get snorkeling gear which included goggles and a breathing tube.
Mark got swim fins. They have many different sizes.
The equipment was all free, except for the prescription strength goggles that we got for my mom. In the end she didn’t think she needed them. It would have been better for her to try snorkeling with the regular goggles 1st to see if she needed the prescription goggles.
We got 2 extra goggles in case any of them leaked.
We were also shown a map with the good snorkeling destinations.
After we got our gear we went to our room and picked up my dive boots. Dive boots are waterproof shoes that help protect your feet when you snorkel.
I also changed into my snorkel shirt and shorts. Wearing these type of outfits helps protect against sunburn. With as much time I wanted to spend in the water, I didn’t want to risk getting a sunburn!
We walked to the beach by room 224 and put our stuff down.
The beaches near the snorkeling reef also have good swimming.
We tested out our equipment and then got into the water.
Since my mom was new to snorkeling I gave her a lesson on how to breathe and float along the top of the water.
She quickly got the hang of it. Mark had snorkeled before, but it had been several years.
After a few minutes, my mom got a little scared of breathing through the tube. So she decided to sit out.
Mark and I went on out towards the reef. There is a channel where you can swim out and see coral on either side of you. Mark and I got about half way out and then he turned back because his goggles were leaking.
I decided to keep going because I wanted to see the end of the channel. I was told about how the coral drops off and how the sights are beautiful. I kept swimming along gently and floated along the surface. Wearing the life jacket helped a lot because I could float without the need to swim.
The snorkeling was so amazing! I saw hundreds of fish in nearly every color in the rainbow. Some of them literally swam right in front of my face. The coral was uniquely shaped and just as beautiful as the pretty fish. If I wanted to, I could reach out and touch it. It was that close.
I’d highly recommend snorkeling on your 1st or 2nd day at the resort because it’s so fantastic. I wish I could have gone more!
You can also scuba dive, but you have to pay. The cheapest option is $150.
We went swimming for hours in the resort’s pools. The quieter island had a small pool.
I loved the infinity pool because it felt like you were swimming in the ocean.
My mom waded in the water while Mark swam a few laps.
The water sure felt great!
The views of the over-water bungalows made it even more special.
Rustom, Daraius’ dad, also enjoyed the pool.
The larger island had the bigger pool with more lounge chairs. It was also more centrally located with restaurants and shops nearby.
A grey heron visited the pool for a drink of water.
I loved seeing the detail of its feathers as it flew away.
Mark and my mom really enjoyed just splashing around. Mark is an excellent swimmer and would swim underwater for several minutes at a time.
Near the swimming pool is the activities desk. You can sign-up for many activities, but they are very expensive.
You can go tubing…
rent a boat for a day, water ski…
…go fishing, snorkeling, and ride on jet skis. These activities are expensive though!
The paddle boats were free.
Near the activities desk was table tennis. Mark and Rustom had fun dueling it out!
I sat back and watched the game while taking in the scenery.
There was also a volleyball net.
Swimming Under the Over-Water Bungalow
One day I went for a dip behind my parents’ bungalow.
I then went into the ocean below. There were jagged rocks at the bottom. So ideally I should have worn my water shoes. But because I didn’t have them with me, I carefully went in without them.
The water was clear, but shallow, and I didn’t want to step anywhere because I was afraid of hurting the coral.
Fish Spotting on the Conrad Bridge
After dinner 1 evening, we walked back to our parents’ bungalows. We heard that you can spot many fish from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm on the bridge, so we stopped to have a look. The bridge was barely lit, except for thin lights along the sides.
We saw lots of rainbow fish…
…little fish, and even a huge manta ray! The manta ray was so big, and so fast that I could hardly get a picture of it.
It was much bigger than the stringrays I pet in Bora Bora.
Cocktail Reception at the Vilu Restaurant
Before dinner, we decided to go to the Vilu Restaurant for cocktail hour. Hilton Gold and Diamond status members get free drinks during happy hour every night from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
Hilton Gold and Diamond members plus 1 guest also get free breakfast every day at Atoll Market. You get free Hilton Gold status when you sign-up for the Citi Hilton Reserve and the American Express Hilton Surpass cards.
We started off with a round of pina coladas, the classic cocktail of the day.
You can choose almost anything you want and the staff will make it for you. We had fun trying the different specials of the day.
Soon we were on to our next round of chocolate martinis.
We were offered an appetizer to eat, but the portions were very small.
Don’t expect to get your fill at the reception, because the food portions were extremely small (bite size). And we were only served 1 plate.
The next evening, we played a round of UNO with a gorgeous view of the ocean.
My mom was on a winning streak and everyone was having fun trying to beat her.
We were served jamon iberico on a biscuit. We only got 1 serving and were not offered any more after that.
Manager’s Cocktail Reception on the Beach
Tuesday nights managers invite the guests to have drinks with them by the beach. We received a letter the day before informing us of the event.
It started at 6:45 pm, which was a perfect time to take pictures by the beach and watch the sunset.
There was live music which made it more enjoyable.
There were a few different kinds of white wine.
There was also juice.
During the reception the managers occasionally greeted guests and asked how their stay was. The head restaurant manager and sous chef introduced themselves, and I was the 1st to thank them for handling my fish allergy with the utmost care and attention. I literally put my life in their hands, so it meant a lot to thank them personally.
We also met the hotel manager and learned about how she moved to the Maldives from Hong Kong and is lucky enough to live on the resort!
Servers walked around with plates of food. There was much more food here than at the cocktail reception, but it still was not enough to replace a meal.
How You Can Do It Too!
Our favorite way to get to the Maldives from the US is with American Airlines miles on Etihad or Qatar Air.
If you’re willing to book separate award tickets (i.e. 1 award ticket from the US to Hong Kong & another from Hong Kong to the Maldives), you could even fly on Cathay Pacific or Malaysia Air using American Airlines miles to the Maldives.
Here are ways to get lots of American Airlines miles. And here’s my series on using American Airlines miles. It could also be worth using an award booking service to book the flights for you.
You can also use Alaska Airlines miles on Emirates or Cathay Pacific. And folks say you can get the Alaska Airlines credit card multiple times.
We used United Airlines miles because we wanted to go to India first. But folks who only want to fly from the US to the Maldives would likely use American Airlines miles or Alaska Airlines miles.
1. Using American Airlines Miles
A flight from the US to the Maldives costs:
- 45,000 American Airlines miles 1-way in coach
- 67,500 American Airlines miles 1-way in Business Class
- 90,000 American Airlines miles 1-way in First Class
You can use American Airlines to fly many different ways to the Maldives, including on Etihad, Sri Lankan, Qatar, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airways. If you want to book on Etihad, first find the available flights on the Etihad website and then call American Airlines to reserve the tickets. See this step-by-step guide for more information.
2. Using Alaska Airlines Miles
From the US to the Maldives you’ll pay:
- 42,500 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in coach (Emirates)
- 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in coach (Cathay Pacific)
- 62,500 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in Business Class (Cathay Pacific)
- 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in First Class (Cathay Pacific)
- 72,500 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in Business Class (Emirates)
- 90,000 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in First Class (Emirates)
You can book Emirates flights on the Alaska Air website, except for Cathay Pacific, which has to be reserved by calling Alaska Airlines customer service. See this post for more ways on using Alaska Air miles to get to the Maldives.
And folks say you can get the Alaska Airlines credit card multiple times.
3. Using United Airlines Miles
To fly from the US to India, you’ll pay:
- 42,500 United Airlines miles 1-way in coach
- 70,000+ United Airlines miles 1-way in Business Class
- 140,000 United Airlines miles 1-way in First Class
Here’s a post on how to use United Airlines miles.
And here’s how you can get the airline miles and hotel points for your trip to the Maldives!
There are a lot of activities at the Conrad Rangali Island hotel! My favorite activities were free, swimming and snorkeling. The snorkeling was the best I have ever seen!
I also enjoyed the cocktail reception each night. Enjoying a few drinks, playing cards, and sharing stories with my family in paradise are the moments that will stay with me forever.