If the Maldives isnt already on your points-and-miles bucket list, it should be. This exquisitely beautiful destination is one of the most remote locations on Earth. It takes more than 24 hours to get there from the U.S. but I can promise you its worth it.
Even though its one of the worlds most exclusive, remote and expensive destinations, its paradise (literally) for points people there are many points properties of which you can take your pick. And, in recent years, there have been many high-profile openings of points properties, such as the St. Regis Vommuli Resort, JW Marriott Maldives, Waldorf Astoria Maldives Itaafushi and the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort.
These newcomers join the ranks of the already established properties that have been around for a while like the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, the W Maldives and the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, among others.
At the end of last year, it was decided that it was high-time that the team organize a large trip to the Maldives to check out several of these new properties and also check in on some of the standbys that people have been visiting for years.
As part of my duties on the TPG teams Maldives trip (its tough, I know), one of the resorts I was assigned to was The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, a newish property that opened in 2018. Its certainly not the most luxurious property in the Maldives, nor in Marriotts portfolio, but its not trying to be. What I found is that its a great option for those who dont want to shell out astronomical amounts of cash or points for a stay in one of the worlds most sought-after destinations.
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A Category 7 property in Marriotts award chart, the Westin Maldives will run you 50,000 points for an off-peak night, 60,000 for a standard night and 70,000 for a peak night. We were able to find standard award availability for my stay, so we booked three nights for a total of 180,000 points.
Since this is a Category 7 property, you can use an up to 50,000-point free-night certificate that comes with certain high-end cobranded Marriott cards such as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, which is offering a welcome bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
If youre low on Marriott points, its worth looking into the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening.
The Westin is located in Baa Atoll, one of three administrative divisions of the Maldives. In the Maldives, each hotel is more or less built on its own island. Depending on how close it is to the nations main gateway at Males Velana International Airport (MLE), youll either have to take a seaplane or a speedboat to get there.
Once youre at your hotel, youre at your hotel. Youre not going back into town to do any sightseeing, eating or shopping.
The Westin is about 70 miles from Mal Airport, and youll have to take a seaplane to get to and from the main island. The round-trip seaplane transfer between MLE and the Westin costs $475 per person. Theres no way around that cost, so build it into your budget if youre planning a trip here.
This might have been one of the best check-in experiences Ive ever had. It started at the airport.
Once my Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi (AUH) landed, a Westin staff member greeted me outside the arrivals section at the airport. He checked me into my seaplane flight on Trans Maldivian Airways, and escorted me to the Westin shuttle and drove me to the seaplane transfer area. While en route, the driver also told me that I had been upgraded to a Deluxe Pool Villa compliments of my Marriott Gold status. He also mentioned that the Westin has its own lounge at the seaplane transfer area, but we wouldnt have enough time to relax there before the next plane took off.
Once I arrived at the Westin via seaplane, I was greeted by many friendly staff members.
They immediately put my luggage in a golf cart and off I went. This view is certainly not a bad way to begin a hotel stay!
My personal butler, Shaffaf, brought me to my villa and completed my check-in from the room.
He gave me a tour of the villa and pointed out all the features (including an outdoor shower and a private pool!), while two members of the cleaning staff washed the windows.
Shaffaf explained some of the benefits of my stay, including a complimentary photo session, snorkeling gear, and even a kayak trip. I was also excited about the 10% discount on food and beverages, although he explained that the benefit didnt extend to breakfast.
There isnt a typical main lobby, but there is a small lounge with chairs and some desks.
Every time I walked through it, though, I was the only person inside.
There was an indoor seating area nearby, as well. At the end of my stay, I waited for my seaplane here, but other than that, didnt really get the use of it.
This may be one of the nicest hotel rooms Ive ever stayed in. For starters, It was huge.
The bed is Westins signature Heavenly Bed and it definitely lived up to its name.
One of the end tables had a phone, as well as some lavender sleep balm.
The other night table had a bluetooth-speaker, some outlets and light switches. There was a USB plug, which was great to have for charging any one of many devices that I had with me.
The living room was furnished with a couch, a side chair, dining table and chairs.
Speaking of the dining table and my Gold status, courtesy of The Platinum Card from American Express a welcome amenity awaited me.
It was a small gesture, but I appreciated the assortment of snacks and drinks.
Not only was there a minibar
but also small wine fridge, as well.
There was a Nespresso machine, which was a lifesaver when my jetlag woke me up at 5 a.m.
There was a small desk area, but I discourage you from doing any work while youre there.
The TV was mounted on the wall directly across from the couch, and completely hidden from the bed. If you like to watch TV before you fall asleep or leave it on while youre sleeping this could be an issue.
My favorite part of the villa, of course, was my private pool. It was connected via the living room.
There were two lounge chairs and a large couch on the deck.
This is not one of the popular overwater villas youll see all over Instagram youll have to pay more for one of those but it was the next best thing. I loved the privacy of it not to mention it was absolutely beautiful.
If you are interested in staying in an overwater villa, though, heres what they look like from the outside.
The bathroom in my beach villa was spacious and I loved the marble decor (my favorite).
The bathtub in the center of the room felt luxe and calming.
There were two sinks, and some amenities, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste and a nail file.
I also appreciated the two water bottles.
The hairdryer was high-quality a definite win in my book.
The outdoor shower was a really nice touch, although sadly I didnt end up using it because it was rainy every time I went to shower. It was very private, too.
There was a TOTO toilet, located in a separate WC.
The indoor shower was beautiful to look at, but it unfortunately flooded the bathroom every time I used it, and although I put a towel down to catch the water, it was sopping wet by the time I was done.
I liked the middle ground the hotel went for with its toiletries: not single use, but not bulk either. Instead, the products were ceramic bottles. I found them to be clean, but I use my own shampoo and conditioner so I cant speak to the quality of the product inside.
The Westin brands itself as a wellness-centric hotel, no matter where you are in the world. Since I was here for work, I knew I wouldnt have much downtime, but was looking forward to soaking in all of the good vibes whenever I could.
My favorite perk was the gym not because it was open 24/7, though it was, but because you could rent sneakers and gym clothes at no extra charge.
The gym also overlooks some of the beautiful overwater villas, so youre looking at a place where you really have no excuse not to workout.
Theres a multi-purpose sport court, which was used primarily for tennis by my observation. I am not a tennis player I cant even hit the ball but I often saw people playing.
The hotel offers several wellness classes at no extra charge. I took a wellness retreat class with an energy healer named Elizabeth, and found it to be really insightful and empowering.
There are plenty of watersports, including scuba diving, parasailing and snorkeling. They cost you quite a bit of cash, though. I went parasailing and it was another $115.
Although I am a certified scuba diver, I havent gone diving in years and wasnt totally comfortable going alone after all this time. Ive heard the diving is excellent, though.
Because most people hang out at their villas, there really isnt much of a beach.
In fact, when I asked the staff about where I could sit out on the beach, they kind of looked at me weirdly. There was a small alcove with about eight chairs on it, and every time I walked by, only a few were occupied.
There were also some couches on the beach area next to Hawker, the street-food restaurant.
The Westin definitely isnt one of those resorts where youll have to wake up early to secure a lounge chair for the day; everyone hangs out at their private villas.
There is an impressive public pool area. The Island Kitchen restaurant overlooks it.
There were a number of lounge chairs and some small couches.
The pool directly overlooks the ocean, and on a beautiful sunny day, you cant beat sitting poolside.
The Westin has one of the best spas Ive ever seen.
It is housed in an overwater villa and has a soothing, airy lobby.
The lobby and massage rooms have windows looking down into the ocean.
Ill probably never be over this view from my massage room.
I booked a 90-minute Signature Spa massage and it cost $200. Because Im a Marriott elite, I also got to choose an additional miniprocedure at no extra cost. I chose the face moisturizer those planes really dry out your skin.
My massage was incredibly relaxing and I got to pick an engraved stone that said love, hope or gratitude. I chose gratitude for obvious reasons.
Food and Beverage
The Westin boasts three restaurants, in addition to a bar. When youre in the Maldives, theres no other option other than dining at your hotel, which means youll be getting very acquainted with the on-property restaurants.
Most of the time, I dined at Island Kitchen.
This is the resorts go-to for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I found the restaurant (and the hotel) to be fairly empty during most of my stay. On more than one occasion, I was the only person dining.
Although there was no St. Regis Bloody Mary bar to be found, the breakfast buffet spread was massive.
It had an omelette station, of course, and plenty of Asian dishes to try.
For lunch and dinner, youll find classic menu items like salads, burgers, paninis and pizza. I knew coming into this stay that food and beverages would be expensive, but I still suffered some sticker shock.
This pepperoni pizza was $28. It was good, but not groundbreaking. As mentioned earlier, I received a 10% discount on dining thanks to my Marriott elite status.
Because the hotel is a wellness-focused property, there was an eat well section. Options included papaya salad, Chinese Liang ban tofu, shrimp salad and steamed catch of the day.
One night, Island Kitchen hosted a Maldivian barbecue. Guests were able to choose seafood for grilling, as well as a selection of sides. I had the tuna and it was tasty.
The Pearl is the fanciest restaurant on the island. Youll need to make a reservation, which you can do by calling ahead or finding one of the helpful staff members at any of the restaurants.
I had the sushi plate of my dreams. Im still not over it.
I also dined at Hawker, the Westins street-food-style restaurant, one night. All of the restaurants are in the same general area, but I liked its location on the beach it really gave it a more relaxed island vibe.
Although it was street food, prices here were still sky-high. For example, pad thai with shrimp was $30, in addition to the taxes and service charge. You could get three orders of pad thai for that price in New York City, and thats saying something. So much for street food.
For a health-branded hotel, though, I was surprised to see so many unhealthy options at virtually every meal. I wasnt expecting a full-out Canyon Ranch experience, but there was a bread basket at almost every meal, in addition to menu items like cheeseburgers, pasta and sandwiches. There also werent that many vegan or vegetarian options, so be prepared if you have any dietary restrictions.
Overall, the service at the Westin Maldives was superb. The staff members were incredibly warm and welcoming, and knew me by face and name almost immediately.
Its the little things, like staff knowing your name, that make you feel at home in a hotel especially when youre staying basically in the middle of the ocean by yourself. In general, staff members were exceptional about asking about my day, checking in on how everything was going and inquiring if I needed anything.
Specifically, my butler, Shaffaf, was incredible. He was able to keep up with my needs without being intrusive. For example, he popped into breakfast on my last day to let me know my seaplane transfer was delayed. He even helped track me down when my mom needed to get hold of me and couldnt reach me on my phone and started calling the hotel. (Sorry, Mom, I was at a Wellness Retreat!)
However, a few events made me uncomfortable. My housekeeper not the same as my butler, to be clear followed and messaged me on Instagram, as well as friended me on Facebook. It stands to reason that at this point the resort staff knew I was reviewing the property for TPG.
The next night, I came home from dinner to see him waiting in my bathroom for me, running a bubble bath with flowers. While the gesture might have been appreciated by couples on a honeymoon, it left me a woman traveling alone shaken and uneasy.
I loved my stay at the Westin Maldives, despite a few minor things here and there of which I wasnt the biggest fan. However, at the end of the day, staying at a resort like this, in a location like the Maldives, is never going to be a bad time.
Its also a steal if youre looking for a great way to redeem your Marriott points. Its a great spot for couples on their honeymoon, for sure, but I also noticed a number of families with young children, too. Every room has a fair amount of privacy, and many come with their own plunge pools.
You will find the Westin is a beautiful, intimate property with warm and helpful staff, beautiful beaches and views, and quality food. If youre looking for a luxurious stay without shelling out top dollar, you cant go wrong with the Westin Maldives.