For many people the Maldives are a bucketlist destination, and unfortunately, it’s an expensive one. Luckily, there’s also the option to stay in a luxurious resort on points. With all the big hotel chains present in the Maldives, let’s have a closer look at which of the properties bookable on points are the absolute best.
In this blogpost we’ll only look at the most luxurious and expensive resort of every major chain, so for Marriott we’ll only look at the St Regis and not at the J.W. Marriott or the W Resort. For Hilton we’ll look at the Waldorf Astoria (sorry Conrad!), for IHG it’s the InterContinental and for Accor we’ll take a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of their Raffles property (even though the Fairmont and the Pullman are good hotels which you can book on points, too).
We thought he best way to determine which resort is the best would be to make different categories and determine the best property for each category. 4th place in each category gets 1 point, 3rd place gets 2 points, 2nd place gets 3 points and the winner gets 4 points. In the end, we’ll just count the scores and the champion will be known.
Category 1: Villas
- 4th place: InterContinental – The resort is new, the villas have everything you might need, but competition is fierce and we just didn’t get a wow-effect here like we did at the other properties.
- 3rd place: St Regis – Never expected to have the St Regis in 3rd place, because when we arrived there one year ago, it was the hotel with the best hardware we had ever stayed in. The villas are big and beautifully appointed. The bathrooms and the dressing are two areas Laura still dreams about and the technology through the in-room iPad actually works.
- runner-up: Waldorf Astoria – The size of the villa and the deck alone would make this a winner in every other country than the Maldives. Our Grand Overwater Villa was huge, brand-spanking new and you had 8 or 9 different areas to sit or lay on your private deck with pool.
- winner: Raffles – The biggest bathrooms, the biggest dressings and definitely the biggest beds of all contenders. We were totally in love with the whole design as well, which makes Raffles the clear winner of the Villa category. Thank God the hardware was so good, because on both our stays here we didn’t have the best weather, so we spent quite some time inside hiding from the rain.
Category 2: Beach
- 4th place: Waldorf Astoria – If you’re staying in an overwater villa, there’s only 1 part of the beach that’s accessible, and it’s located where the water sports centre is and the main pool. Since the beach is man-made and has just been built, the sand wasn’t particularly soft either. If you’re staying in a beach villa, it’s a different story though.
- 3rd place: InterContinental – The island has some nice parts and beautiful beaches (especially close to the lighthouse), but the beach around the man-made lagoon doesn’t have the softest sand.
- runner-up: Raffles – Being such a small island there aren’t a lot of beaches, and most of the beach is in front of the beach villas, but on the right side of the main pool there’s a beautiful beach with very soft white sand where you can spend all day.
- winner: St Regis – There are so many beaches where you can just relax and the sand here is the softest we’ve found in the Maldives (after Gili Lankanfushi – probably our favourite resort in the world). We’ve seen more beautiful beaches in the Maldives, but none of them in a resort which you can book on points, so St Regis is the winner of this category.
Category 3: Service
- 4th place: InterContinental – We enjoyed good service here, but it wasn’t as warm as in the other resorts. Our butler did a great job and was very attentive, but we could only call him from our in-villa phone or we had to ask another member of staff to call him when we weren’t in our villa. In the other resorts you can communicate with your butler by WhatsApp or you get a mobile phone which you can use to call him or her.
- 3rd place: Raffles – Having stayed here twice in less than a year with almost no other guests, and service was attentive and very personal. We were never asked for our villa number, we were always addressed by name, but you could just sense that staff morale wasn’t very high. Staff in the Maldives live from the service charge, and when occupancy is low and the guests are mainly media stays who don’t spend much money, the staff doesn’t earn much. In the 6 months between both our stays many members of staff left the property, resulting in new and less experienced staff. We sincerely hope the resort starts getting more bookings, because it has so much potential.
- runner-up: St Regis – While the service level can definitely be improved in the food outlets (some wrong orders and a bit slow at times), our butler was simply amazing. There are no words to describe how well he did his job to make our stay as memorable as possible. We would have taken him back home in our suitcase were it not for the seaplane’s weight restrictions.
- winner: Waldorf Astoria – We have never felt so welcome as here. From the moment we set foot on the island until we were back in the capital we were treated like royalty. One day we were laying by the main pool and I had told our butler earlier that I wasn’t feeling too well. The in-villa-dining team brought us a get-well-soon kit with fresh coconuts and a fruit platter and 10 minutes later another member of staff brought us some cocktails, cold towels and a facial mist, all complimentary. You could feel they genuinely cared about their guests.
Category 4: Food & Beverage
- 4th place: InterContinental – Every good meal here was alternated with an average one. The complimentary afternoon tea wasn’t very good (but we find that of most afternoon teas outside of the UK), but we did like the daily complimentary cocktails between 8 and 10pm.
- 3rd place: Raffles – With only 3 restaurants, longer stays might end in repetitive meals. The food quality was good and the sushi was divine, but other than that, we were never really blown away by the food. Prices have gone up considerably since our first visit and many dishes aren’t included in the half-board and full-board packages anymore! Expect to pay an extra $100 for some Wagyu or lobster.
- runner-up: St Regis – The best à la carte breakfast in the world, some great restaurants and probably one of the best bars to have one or two sunset cocktails. Some might say it lacks a proper overwater restaurant although apparently they have a larger food menu at the Whale Bar now, which is overwater.
- winner: Waldorf Astoria – With 10 or so different restaurants, each one more beautiful than the other, the clear winner. Food prices are definitely not low, but you get what you pay for. Every meal was an experience here and we only had 1 disappointing meal out of 10.
Category 5: Reef & Lagoon
- 4th place: Waldorf Astoria – If you’re staying in an overwater villa, you’ll only have a few meters of that turquoise water everyone expects in front of your villa. The positive about that is that the reef is only a few meters away from your deck, which makes snorkelling really easy.
- 3rd place: St Regis – Not the most turquoise water in the Maldives although the bad weather might have played a part. Snorkelling was average, with lots of dead coral (as almost everywhere in the Maldives), but with plenty of fish, rays and reef sharks.
- runner-up: InterContinental – The colour of the water is really spectacular in some spots, especially close to the lighthouse and in the lagoon. We didn’t get to snorkel as winds were too high during our stay, but apparently there are some very good spots.
- winner: Raffles – Some of the best snorkelling we did in the Maldives (that award goes to the Shangri-La, which is the southern most resort in the Maldives), and when the sun is out, the water turns beautifully turquoise.
Category 6: Transport
- 4th place: Raffles – This resort is so far south you need to take a domestic flight inside the Maldives and there’s nothing sexy about that. The lounge you have to wait in is tired and the domestic flight is 100% economy. Although it’s less cramped than most seaplanes, you don’t get the spectacular views because of the altitude you fly at.
- 3rd place: InterContinental – A short seaplane flight. 95% of seaplanes in the Maldives are the same: hot and cramped but with stunning views. The resort’s own lounge is nice and comfortable.
- runner-up: St Regis – Almost identical to the InterContinental but with a slightly higher rating because of a more luxurious lounge experience. If you’re lucky you might also be driven from the airport to the lounge by the only Bentley in the Maldives!
- winner: Waldorf Astoria – When you have to take a seaplane to a resort, you might have to wait a couple of hours before actually getting on the plane. At Waldorf Astoria you get transferred by a yacht and you don’t have to wait for anyone. You’ll find food and free-flowing champagne on board and can even use one of the bedrooms if you want to take a little nap. The only thing missing is the beautiful views from the sky.
Category 7: Spa & Wellness
- 4th place: InterContinental – We had a very mediocre spa treatment at the InterContinental. The couple treatment rooms are nice and overwater, but the treatment is still the most important aspect for us, so a last place finish.
- 3rd place: Raffles – The spa is absolutely beautiful and we had a great massage here, but the skin analysis we had was very amateurish and just not up to the Raffles standard.
- tie for 1st place: Waldorf Astoria & St Regis – Both resorts provided us with incredible treatments by highly skilled therapists. The Waldorf Astoria has a beautiful garden where you can relax before and after your treatment and offers treatment rooms both on the ground as well as overwater. The St Regis only provides overwater treatment rooms, but has the largest hydrotherapy pool in the Indian Ocean. Impossible to choose a winner, so it’s a tie for first!
Category 8: Activities & Experiences
- All resorts offer an extensive list of activities and special experiences. We had some wonderful private dining set-ups at all of the resorts, but didn’t do enough activities to make a ranking, so no points are being given in our second to last category.
Category 9: Price
For this category we have taken the price per night for a base room in high season (but not peak season) + the cost of the transfer (per person) + the relative cost of food & beverages. This category is not about value, just absolute cost.
- 4th place: Waldorf Astoria – $2810/night + $740 yacht transfer + the most expensive f&b of all 4 resorts
- 3rd place: St Regis – $2310/night + $740 seaplane + 2nd most expensive f&b of all resorts
- runner-up: Raffles – $2060/night + $500 domestic flight + 3rd most expensive f&b of all resorts
- winner: InterContinental – $1120/night + $740 seaplane transfer + cheapest f&b of all resorts
InterContinental: 15 points (4th place)
Raffles: 21 points (3rd place)
St Regis: 22 points (tied for 1st place)
Waldorf Astoria: 22 points (tied for 1st place)