Maldives On A Budget: Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives


My wife and I will be celebrating our 20th anniversary next year and we’re planning on going to the Maldives for the first time. It’ll be several months before I can book anything due to when award calendars open up, but I’ve started doing some research into all the different accommodation options there.

We’ll almost definitely be staying at the Conrad Maldives for at least some of the time using free night certificates, but provided we can stomach the expensive transfer charges levied per person to get to these resorts, it’d be nice to check out another property too.

The Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa and Alila Kothaifaru Maldives are top of the list due to the ability to book those by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt. The Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa is on my radar too following Greg and Nick’s trip there in 2021, although with Marriott’s upcoming devaluation we might get priced out of that.

During my research though, I came across an interesting option that I don’t remember seeing mentioned much before but which has the potential to be a great option for families and/or people wanting to travel on a budget – the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives.

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives (image courtesy of IHG)
Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives (image courtesy of IHG)

While the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives doesn’t have the cachet of the Conrad Maldives, Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, etc., it does appear to have a lot of things going for it.

Wide Open Award Availability

There’s a handful of dates in the next 6 months where there aren’t any rooms bookable with points, but other than that there’s wide open award availability.

There appears to be two room types bookable with points – 1 King Bed Garden View Villa and 2 Single Beds Garden View Villa. If you’ve got your heart set on booking straight into an overwater villa using points or free night certificates, you’re out of luck at this property. Having said that, I contacted the hotel to find out how much it would cost to upgrade to an overwater villa if booking one of these standard rooms with points. They advised that provided there’s availability in an overwater villa it would cost $290 per night before taxes and fees.

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives - King Bed Garden View Villa (image courtesy of IHG)
King Bed Garden View Villa (image courtesy of IHG)

Relatively Low Award Pricing

IHG introduced dynamic award pricing a few years ago which means award pricing can change from night to night.

That’s the case with the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives, but for large parts of the year you’re looking at award bookings costing 30,000-45,000 points per night. For example, here’s the pricing for the four month period from May 21-September 21.

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives award availability May-Aug
Award pricing May-Aug
Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives award availability Aug-Sep
Award pricing Aug-Sep

During that entire four month period there’s only one week where award nights cost more than 43,000 points. In fact, only two weeks out of that four month period cost more 40,000 points or more. That’s notable because of how IHG free night certificates work (more about that in a moment).

Award pricing isn’t always quite this low though. Pricing seems to get a little more expensive in October and a little more expensive still from November-January. That’s presumably due to weather – and thus demand – as the wet season in the Maldives runs from April to October.

Bookable With Free Night Certificates Without Needing To Top Up

If you have an IHG Premier and/or IHG Select (no longer available for new applications) credit card, you get a free night certificate at your card’s anniversary date each year. Both those certificates are valid for one night worth up to 40,000 points. The Premier’s certificate can be topped up with points for award nights costing more than 40,000 points per night, while the Select card’s certificate can’t be topped up. With award pricing less than 40,000 points on most nights though, there’s plenty of availability where you can redeem those more restrictive IHG Select certificates.

It used to be possible for IHG Select cardholders to also get the IHG Premier credit card. My wife and I each have both of those cards which means that between us we get four IHG free night certificates each year. If you’re in the same position, being able to book four nights in the Maldives for the cost of two $99 annual fees and two $49 annual fees (i.e. a total of $296 or $74 per night) is an absolute steal.

a bedroom with a glass door
2 Single Beds Garden View Villa (image courtesy of IHG)

4th Night Free

Both the IHG Premier and IHG Traveler credit cards offer every 4th night free on award stays. If you’re planning on booking with points rather than (or in addition to) free night certificates, that can save you a substantial number of points.

If you stay 8 nights, you get both the 4th and 8th nights free. Stay 12 nights and get the 4th, 8th and 12th nights free, etc. The way IHG calculates that is that they remove the cost of every 4th night rather than deducting 25% of the average cost for those four nights.

It can be a particularly valuable perk if at least one of your nights would be expensive and you have some flexibility with the dates you visit. For example, at the time of writing this post the nights spanning September 9-16 cost 65,000-74,000 points per night – much more expensive than dates during the preceding few months. If you were able to adjust a four night stay so that your dates were September 6-10 rather than, say, September 11-15, it would place the expensive night as your final night.

a white rectangular object with a black background
4 nights before 4th night free

If you have the IHG Premier or IHG Traveler credit card, you get that 4th night free. Remember how I said IHG removes the cost of that 4th night rather than deducting 25% from the total cost for those four nights? This is why the benefit can be so valuable:

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives award availability - 4 nights with 4th night free
4 nights with 4th night free

That four night stay drops from 173,000 points to 99,000 points – significant savings. That makes the average cost 24,750 points per night which is an incredibly low price for the Maldives given that these are IHG points.

See this post for even more details about how the 4th night free benefit works: New IHG Sweet Spot: Dynamic Pricing + 4th Night Free For Huge Savings

10% Points Rebate

If you still have an IHG Select credit card, you get a 10% points rebate on award stays. That stacks with the IHG Premier & Traveler 4th night free benefit if you have one of those cards too, thereby leading to even more savings.

In the example given above, that four night stay would be further reduced from 99,000 points to 89,100 points or an average of 22,275 points per night.

Stock Up On Points With The IHG Premier Credit Card

At the time of publishing this post, the welcome offer on the IHG Premier credit card is 175,000 bonus points when spending $3,000 in 3 months. You’ll earn at least 3x on that spend, so you’ll earn at least 184,000 points when meeting the minimum spending requirement. You can find the latest welcome offer and card details below.

Card Offer and Details
140K Points ⓘ Affiliate
140K points after $3K spend in 3 months
$99 Annual Fee
This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details).
Recent better offer: 175K after $3K in spend (expired 4/6/23)
Earning rate: 10X IHG ✦ 5X travel, dining, and gas stations ✦ 3X on all other purchases
Base: 3X (1.89%)
Travel: 5X (3.15%)
Dine: 5X (3.15%)
Gas: 5X (3.15%)
Brand: 10X (6.3%)
Card Info: Mastercard World Elite issued by Chase. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: 10K bonus points + $100 statement credit after you spend $20K in a calendar year + make one additional purchase ✦ Diamond status after $40K in purchases + one additional purchase in a calendar year
Noteworthy perks: Anniversary free night e-certificate good at IHG properties up to 40K points per night ✦ Ability to add an unlimited number of points to a free night certificate to book a higher-level hotel ✦ Fourth night free on award stays ✦ 20% discount on points purchases ✦ Platinum elite status ✦ Up to $50 in United TravelBank cash per year (must register your card with your United account)

One of the card’s benefits is that you get every 4th night free, so with 184,000 points – and depending on your dates – you’d almost have enough for 8 nights free at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives.

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives - Garden View Villa outdoor seating area (image courtesy of IHG)
Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives – Garden View Villa outdoor seating area (image courtesy of IHG)

Buy Points

IHG frequently sells their points for 0.5cpp (cents per point). That means 30,000 points can be bought for $150, 40,000 points for $200, etc. To see how that compares to cash rates, let’s look at the night of May 21 which is when they’re charging exactly 30,000 points for the night.

The cheapest price with free cancellation is $207 for the night, but with taxes and fees you’re looking at $276.13. Buying 30,000 points would therefore save you $126.13 for just that one night.

The savings from buying points get even better if you have an IHG Premier or Traveler card and can therefore also take advantage of the 4th night free benefit. Let’s assume the first two of those nights of a four night stay cost 37,000 points per night and the final two nights cost 36,000 points per night; based on the screenshots of award pricing earlier, that seems to be a reasonable expectation. The final night costing 36,000 points would be free, meaning the total cost for the four nights would be 110,000 points. When IHG points are on sale for 0.5cpp, that number of points would cost you $550, or an average of $137.50 per night. If paid rates were an average of $275 per night, you’d be saving 50% over the cash rate which represents fantastic savings.

Good Value Speedboat Transfers

One of the most expensive parts of a trip to the Maldives involves getting to your resort from Malé airport. With many points-bookable options, you’re looking at paying $500+ per person for round trip seaplane transfers.

The Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives is one of the exceptions though, partly because transfers are conducted by speedboat rather than seaplane. The 45 minute round trip speedboat ride costs $130 nett per adult and $70 nett per child under 12 which means a family of five could get to the Holiday Inn Resort for less than the cost of one adult flying to a different resort like the JW Marriott Maldives Resort.

Free Kids Meals

Another reason this resort could be a good place for families to visit is that children aged 12 and under stay and eat for free when sharing their parents’ room. That could save larger families a significant sum because that policy applies to up to four children and is valid when choosing meals from the “Kids Eat Free” menu.

Something important to bear in mind though is that the maximum occupancy on the rooms bookable with points is three people. That means that if you have 2+ kids and want to book with points, you’ll have to decide which one you love more and leave the rest behind 😉 Alternatively, a family of 4-6 people could book two rooms with points and have 2-3 people in each one. If you assign a parent to each room (even if that’s not how you actually sort out your sleeping arrangements), that would allow up to four children under 12 to eat for free.

a pool with chairs and a dock in the water
Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives overwater villas (image courtesy of IHG)

Free Breakfast With Diamond Status

Towards the end of 2022, many people jumped on the opportunity to get free Diamond status with IHG and extended that through 2023 by paying for Ambassador status as that extends Diamond status despite that not being a published benefit for Ambassador members.

IHG revamped their loyalty program last year which means that for the first time members with top-tier status (i.e. Diamond) can choose free breakfast for two as their welcome amenity. That benefit will apply at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives which can help reduce the cost of meals there.

Reasonable(ish) Meal Pricing

Eating at hotel restaurants in the Maldives is never going to be cheap, but the Holiday Inn Resort has lower meal pricing than many other hotels.

In fact, they offer all kinds of meal pricing options. You can order meals a la carte from the restaurants on-site, or you can pay for one of several different meal plans – bed & breakfast, half board (breakfast & dinner), full board (breakfast, lunch & dinner) or all-inclusive which also includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

The upcharge for each of these dining packages depends on the rate type you book. If you’re planning on booking with points or free night certificates, that’ll be a room-only rate which means the upcharge will be:

  • Bed & Breakfast – $30 per person
  • Half Board – $90 per person
  • Full Board – $125 per person
  • All-Inclusive – $195 per person

While those prices aren’t cheap, they are reasonable for the Maldives, especially if you’re planning on drinking a lot while you’re there.

When reaching out to the hotel to get details about dining packages, they sent me a PDF which provides comprehensive information about dining packages, a la carte pricing, drinks menus, restaurants, etc. That pricing is obviously subject to change and so it’s worth reaching out to the hotel before your stay if you want up-to-date details, but here’s what they sent me in February 2023.


Everything I’ve written so far is all well and good, but one of the biggest questions on my mind was if the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives is actually worth visiting. To my somewhat surprise, it appears it is.

The resort has more than 1,500 reviews on the IHG website with an average rating of 4.8/5. While that’s a little higher than reviews for the resort on other sites, reviews are still very good elsewhere. Google Reviews has it at 4.5/5, at 8.7/10, Trip Advisor at 4.5/5, Expedia at 8.8/10, etc. That suggests they provide a solid experience, even if service likely isn’t going to be as stellar as somewhere like the Conrad.

Getting To The Maldives

About a week before COVID resulted in worldwide travel restrictions, Nick published this post sharing tips for how to book flights to the Maldives and hotels there using the bonuses earned from two credit cards. While that post is three years old, most of the information in it is still valid, so that’s worth checking out if you’re planning a trip to the Maldives and would like to be able to do that with as little money out of pocket as possible.

Your Experience

I’m sure there are some readers who’ve had a chance to stay at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives. If you’ve had a chance to experience the resort, what were your thoughts?

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HI Kandooma is a best kept secret
In 2014, did 4 nights there and 5 nights Rangalli.
Believe it or not but Kandooma was a far superior stay.
The service at Kandooma topped Conrad.
The speedboat ride to the resort in the pitch black darkness was awesome.
So, a great choice for when your flight arrives when the seaplanes cannot fly.
We went for my partner’s 40th birthday.
I asked both resorts for a specially made birthday cake.
Kandooma did a most awesome full sheet cake that was perfectly decorated which we shared with the entire restaurant and staff.
Conrad did a small round cake fit for two. I could have forgotten 4 cakes at Kandooma for what I paid at Conrad.
I could go on and on.
We felt special at Kandooma but more like a number at Conrad.
Don’t get me wrong as we did enjoy both resorts.
But, the one that I thought would be most awesome was not.

We flew EVA and Singapore. Going, planned a long enough layover to do that free tour tour of Singapore. On return, planned a two night stay in Singapore to enjoy the sights.

Here is a video I made:


I have heard numerous negative comments after trips to the Maldives. That said I think travel hacking world concentrates on it because it is an expensive destination that can be had for a lot less with miles/points. “Your stay needs to be less than a week because it gets monotonous” along with comments of “did it, done it, never again”. I also hear the comments that the Maldives will be underwater because of climate change, so let’s see it before it’s gone.

Another commenter stated that because of its distance to travel being long, one should try to stay in a nicer property. If you subscribe to Travelzoo, they always have specials for the Maldives. Many times $1500/night property will be less than $500/night. I know this is a miles/points blog, but not everything is available as an award.


Appreciate the article, but the room especially bungalow really looks below a certain level.
Plus you can see from satellite photo how close the island to resident island, not really secluded.
For a reasonable priced big family Maldives trip I’d probably go with something all-included like Lily Beach or Lux South. And I personally probably won’t go lower than Le Meridien.


Great post Stephen. I took my wife and 3 year old daughter there last February. We only had enough points for the first 4 nights of an 8 night stay. Also, I only had Platinum IHG status at the time so no free breakfast. So we were significantly out of pocket for the whole stay given that my wife and I took the all-inclusive option which included alcohol and all the meals.

As you wrote, this would be a great deal if you were Diamond status and were given an upgrade to an ocean view beach house. We were given a nice upgrade even though we only had Platinum status. I would advise families to only do the breakfast and dinner option and skip the alcohol. The ala carte restaurant (which I thought was better than the regular buffet) is reasonably priced should you need to do lunch but doing a late breakfast and early dinner should take care of your appetite.

One issue I had with this resort was the lack of a “house reef” where you could snorkel and see a diverse array of marine life. However, the resort does offer free snorkel trips early in the morning. I went once and was able to see quite a bit of stuff but if you are there for the big fish, you would be better off booking a dive trip with the resort. I did not see anybody doing that on our trip so you would probably have the boat to yourself.

One of the days we did the evening seafood buffet in a special restaurant. If I remember correctly, it was an upcharge but definitely worth it. The food was AMAZING as was the scenery since the restaurant is right on the beach where you can watch the shore birds and the crabs come out at night. Our daughter loved being entertained by the wildlife as we ate dinner. Personally, I could not get enough of watching all the fruit bats fly around the island and lazily hang in the trees. It’s just one of the many unique things in the Maldives.

Service was really good. We felt like honored guests and the management went out of their way to see we were taken care of. The pool area was really chill for families and we made friends with a couple from India with a daughter the same age as well as a couple from England with a 6 year old daughter. That was one of the highlights of the trip was seeing our little girl get out of her COVID induced clingy phase and make friends with other kids.

In summary, this resort makes the Maldives accessible for families with small children but you will pay for all the extras to make it special. However, this resort had really good food and the Phillipino singing duo in the evenings was unbelievable. I forgot to mention that there is a “locals island” right across the inlet with a construction site but I don’t think it was active. It is kind of an eye sore but if you are in the main beach area, you won’t see it. If you lower your expectations of what the Maldives has to be, then you will be pleasantly surprised by the Holiday Inn Kandooma.

Disclaimer: We flew from Warsaw which required a 6 hour flight to Dubai and then a 4 hour flight to Male. As others have pointed out, doing this trip from the U.S. would be grueling, especially with kids. You would need to pair with with a week in another destination to make it worth your while.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark

For travelers from North America, a 3 or 5 day stopover in Dubai or Doha on the way to Male would work well. When I stayed at Al Maha a few years ago, several guests I met mentioned they were on their way to the Maldives.


Awesome post, excellent budget option, thanks for all the information!


I’m also generally in the camp of feeling like a trip from US to Maldives is too much travel. I personally would be 100% happy at a resort where I can just disconnect, but I can find that closer and certainly wouldn’t go there from the US unless I had the whole overwater bungalow thing – so Holiday Inn would not be my choice. But I absolutely cannot imagine taking KIDS on that trip from the US! Really seems like a special occasion adults experience if going all that way.

Scott H

Stephen, can you please talk a little about what you plan *to do* in the Maldives? I’ve never heard much about it being a great scuba destination, and snorkeling over sand gets old pretty quickly. If one is just going to sit in a beach chair, there are lots of places that are easier to get to and cheaper. Is this a destination to cross of a list? What am I missing???


did a liveaboard in Maldives nearly 20 years ago….when it was popular with european divers, but not on any award / travel hacker radar. Nevermind American radar. I recall looking and writing a blog about the travel statistics – hardly any americans. Most would have no idea then where it was. I only knew as I was more into scuba then.

Was living in BKK at the time – so it was a cheap flight to get there. $250 r/t?

some world class dive sites, but numerous – not anything close.

surely one’s experience depends on the outfit you are with and how good they are at identifying / going to nice reefs. Quality of divemasters / captain. Nevermind warming seas these days – coral bleaching.

Male is crowded and nothing special. Less then special. Cramped. I met a local couple via Hospitality Club (Not sure if that still exists) and they were trying to get off the island.

I imagine staying at a lux resort is a nicer experience then my shared room on a liveaboard (had 2 diff boats as first one broke down, then transferred to a much larger / lux one — used by Japanese groups)..but nevertheless…I feel Maldives is vastly over-rated.

My sister recently went there (Non-diver) staying at the Dusit Thani. Paid stay. I wasn’t jealous.

I guess if over the top luxury and privacy (Not underwater life per se) is what one craves on a little flat island/islet…then sure go for it…but it’s a long way to go to do that. Much closer places for that in the Pacific or Atlantic I reckon. Pacific for scuba, Atlantic – less so.

I remember we toured some island/islet for half a day….it was flat and incredibly boring. Would not want to be born in the Maldives.

If somebody said here’s $5,000 credit / or equivalent in miles/points but you must spend it on SCUBA / snorkeling diving destinations only, and you have 2 weeks or even a month….I would not use any of it in the Maldives. I’ve SCUBA’ed in about a dozen countries spread out over the world FWIW.

Ask yourself – what kind of scuba / snorkeling scenery do you want? Soft coral? Hard? Big animals? Migrations? How important is top side – nightlife and/or scenery? Drift diving? Macro life? Let that be your guide…along with coral conditions?


Yeah, I’ve wondered for years what there was to actually DO in the Maldives that would justify the enormous expense and travel time. I’ve never seen an answer to this. I will say that this Holiday Inn deal seems a heck of a lot better than the cost of what most bloggers pay to visit (especially since the food/additional transport costs seem far more rational). But I still don’t understand what would motivate me to go half a world away to do it. Like I once visited Mauritius when I was in South Africa and that was pleasant enough, but I’d never recommend anyone go half a world away to see Mauritius. FWIW, I am planning on visiting French Polynesia for the first time in decades because all the new USA service has made promo award tickets there almost as cheap as Hawaii, and it’s only a few more hours of flying time. If you go to Moorea and stay away from Bora Bora (high additional transport cost), eschew the overwater bungalow gimmick, and book villas/bungalows on airbnb. it’s a surprisingly affordable vacation. Why isn’t there blogging about Tahiti?


well…people were blogging about Tahiti.. some years ago. When one could use IHG any property certs there! I recall some blog by Travel Is Free – Drew. You can still find it with a search there. Or maybe his wife will chime in.

I’ve research Mauritius before…yeah, if you are in South Africa, looks like a good reasonably distanced escape -but nothing overly special to go from the Americas or Asia.

I’ll reserve Bora Bora for when I’m within someone special someday…for now as a solo traveller more into camping / past life places……it will remain in the distance.


I was def into the TIF vibe of travel…lovely folks! I wasn’t sure about the Maldives either tho it sounded…aspirational? Ended up there when AirAsia wouldn’t let me on board a flight to India (apparently I needed a transit visa even though I was not leaving the airport…my bad. The flight cost $12 so whatever). I was stuck in KL figuring out how to connect to Italy (had AA award flight from India to FCO). Figured out a ticket to Maldives was $150, boom! AA kindly rebooked my flight and I had a whole day in Male.

As far as I can tell, beaches are cool but that’s it.

The next year I took a job on a cruise ship and visited French Polynesia a couple times. Tahiti was also meh but some of the other islands were super cool. I think Raiatea and Nuka Hiva were my faves. Rarotonga was a blast, I would hike across the whole island every time (there’s a cool hike up to the “Needle” geological feature halfway). Would recommend any of these.

Nick Reyes

I think there are very few places in the world where you can do something that you can’t also do elsewhere. Sure, you’ll only see the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but there are lots of cool buildings to see in lots of cities around the world. Yeah, you can enjoy great street food in Bangkok, but you can also get great street food in lots of other places, etc. I think the draw of the Maldives isn’t a specific thing to do, it’s the relative isolation, beautiful beaches, and feeling of being disconnected. Gary at View from the Wing has often said that because of the specific time difference with US Eastern time, you’re basically never bothered by emails or other distractions, there’s nobody on the beach trying to sell you something, and you may go a full day without even seeing many other people depending on where you stay. It’s about as quiet and peaceful an experience as possible. I find it very relaxing.

After my first trip there, where I stayed at the Sheraton, I had the perspective that “yeah, it’s got nice beaches, but you can get nice beaches without flying half a world away and at far less cost” — almost the same perspective as you. Now quite a few years later and at a different point in my life (and having gone and “done” a satisfying number of things), the thought of disconnecting somewhere without any noise or distractions and just listening to the sounds of the waves without really worrying about anything at all has growing appeal to me.

I still enjoy going places and doing things and “experiencing” the world, but I also appreciate the chance to just relax and do nothing at all. Sure, you can do that anywhere — and some will prefer to do it on a mountain or in a tent or on a run or on the couch. I see the appeal of doing it on a pristine beach on a secluded island. If you don’t, there’s nothing wrong with you — you’ve just got different preferences. That’s cool.

In regards to why there isn’t more blogging about Tahiti, I personally just didn’t love it. Bora Bora took my breath away. Tahiti didn’t. I’m not saying that Tahiti is a bad place to visit, just that it didn’t really leave an impression on me the way that Bora Bora does when you’re boating across that gorgeous blue water and looking at the mountain and it actually looks like the pictures. Again, it’s not for everyone, but I’d gladly go back. I’d also check out Moorea (I didn’t have enough time on my trip).


Yeah, Moorea is the interesting option because it’s STAGGERINGLY cheaper than travelling to Bora Bora. You take can take the ferry from Tahiti (Papeete) and stay in cheap (under $100) private airbnb bungalows with excellent reviews. I was there decades ago and it was pretty close to paradise, but I’m sure there’s been more development since.All the new (discounted) air service from California is enticing me to return (an alternative to Hawaii) so I can report back after my trip. Overall, I am sure the culture of French Polynesia is better than the culture of the Maldives (combining France with Polynesia seems a homerun for tourists) so that’s another consideration.


Just curious about your favorite destination. We like seeing big animals and colorful coral (so far we’ve been to Belize and Costa Rica). Liked the coral in Belize and liked seeing sharks, octopus, turtles, sting rays, etc. The small fish are nice but we’re not into identifying them. What would be your recommendation?


I have a couple of dives off Caye Caulker in Belize 15+ years ago. I do recall some nice coral tubes and maybe some sea fans…sounds like you’ve explored more then me though, never dove in Costa Rica. Topside only 20+ years ago. I passed on the Belize Blue Hole…nice to look at from above, but after hearing from someone who did dive it compared to my past experience…didn’t sound interesting. It’s ALL RELATIVE to your expectations / desires / comfort level.

By many measures the Caribbean is nothing compared to SE Asia / Micronesia! …more underwater diversity there. But have to watch out for coral bleaching, over fishing, and dynamited / damaged reefs. South Philippines has some great soft coral. Lookup APO ISLAND off Negros Oriental. It’s a marine reserve…AMAZING! Fabulous boat ride to get there.
Lots of nudibranches too. But the soft coral…. Indonesia nearby is amazing in the right places.

Palau in Micronesia was great (And far cheaper)…but again…my scuba life was in 2003-2010…so things will/may have changed. Blue Corner – heard of it? In the top 10 of dive sites? I once read a poll, and it was often #1.
Micronesia is more HARD coral, less soft.

The harder to get too…usually the better the diving / snorkeling. But not always.

CENOTE diving near Tulum was awesome in 2007…presuambly it’s still the same now, but with lots more tourism infrastructure for better or worse. I’ve read SABA is great in the Caribbean, but I have no experience there. You could combine cenotes with beaches/scuba off Cozumel. Never been to Cozumel, but in the right season the water is very clear I read. Don’t know about the underwater life/coral…but then…maybe just being underwater on hot days might be a thrill.

Picking up a travel dive book (or some dive blogger) and watching youtube videos for places may be helpful.

If you like big mammals and want to stay near the USA…you might consider Baja – Sea of Cortez. Couple years ago did snorkeling only of Isla Epiritu Santo – off La Paz. The sea lions were amazing friendly…and even some nice coral. scuba not necessary at all…but there were some doing that. In the right season – whale sharks, eagle rays in huge numbers around La Paz. Another day…

But again…La Paz is somewhat off the beaten track (Cabo being the prime destination).

Is it a scuba focused trip, nature+scuba, or topside culture + scuba? Must answer that. If for example u want culture + scuba, then maybe Egypt interests you. Red Sea diving with pyramids/temples. Did a couple dives in Sharm El Sheikh before food poisoning cut the diving short. But maybe I return next year to Egypt…want to go to Luxor again, could combine with Marsa Alam, which I’ve read good things about.

rick b

Too bad Misool Eco Resort can’t be done on points. That’s one overwater bungalow I’d actually want to stay at.


Thank you for the detailed response! We’re probably going to Egypt next year and will look into diving at Sharm El Sheikh for sure! I heard there’s great diving in that area.

rick b

LOL, not a scuba diving destination? It’s one of THE scuba diving destinations, but you have to go on liveaboard in the right season. And you have to go on liveaboard, not sit on the overpriced resort.

Late July to October is Manta aggregation season in the north atolls. During our winter it’s more about sharks.

Wouldn’t say it’s mind-blowing diving, but definitely worth doing once or twice.


very helpful you shared the original PDF the hotel sent you! Personally I really don’t see the appeal of Maldives being out of nowhere. Ok, so the sea is pretty, what else? I can be done with it in 5 min. Let’s go party ! where?

Last edited 1 year ago by CMX

I guess I understand the appeal, while at the same time it is 100% not my thing. Some people just want to totally disconnect, and going to a remote island seems like a great way to do that. But I know for me, and especially for my significant other, this would not be a good vacation. Though I have aged out of the “let’s go party” days, I definitely prefer to be less isolated. And I know being more or less captive on a resort would be torture for my SO, who would probably check a suitcase full of ramen noodle cups because he would refuse to pay for overpriced hotel food for that long of a period of time. But the great thing is, with so many people having the Maldives on their bucket list, perhaps there is just slightly less competition for the places that appeal to me!


Are taxes collected on award stays at this Holiday Inn? The booking page mentions all kids of taxes, some fixed, some as percentages:

6.00 USD per guest per night not included in rate effective 18 April, 2023 through 22 April, 2023
27.6% per stay not included in rate effective 18 April, 2023 through 22 April, 2023
10% Service Charge,16% GST and Mandatory Maldives Green Tax of USD 6.00 per person per night will be collected at the resort.

Btw, May-November is the monsoon season, it rains more often and rates are lower.


Excellent post and analysis. I’m not trying to toss cold water on the deal, just throwing out an opinion. And that is … a budget Maldives vacation makes sense for travelers from close locales, i.e. India, Middle East, Singapore, etc. But if you’re coming from halfway around the world—the U.S.—then what’s the point of going to the Maldives at all if you can’t do it right? I’m talking overwater villa with a plunge pool overlooking a tranquil lagoon. You can get the “normal” resort experience in Hawaii, Mexico or the Caribbean for a fraction of the travel headache. We did Le Meridien last year and are sitting at the W Resort this very moment (all on points, mostly garnered thanks to following Frequent Miler advice—Thanks!). (And bank bonuses to cover the seaplane transfers, if that’s a concern.) And I can tell you, for this oldish couple, it’s the exotic overwater experience that makes or breaks the deal. To each his own, though, of course.


“doing it right” is subjective. This can be helpful to many people, especially with kids as mentioned.


I stayed at this property in 2017 to see it prior to taking my mother on her 70th birthday trip and thought it was meh so cancelled our stay for September 2017 and then we stayed at the Vivanta by Taj which was far superior.

At the Holiday Inn the sand was super shelly and much of the beach area was not swimmable. The rooms were average at best and the food pricing was higher than at the Vivanta by Taj.

We found a great paid rate at the Vivanta by Taj which was only slightly more than I valued the IHG points at back in 2017. I want to say it was about $300 per night. The rooms were far more upscale, the service was far more refined and polished, and the resort was far prettier with more white sand beach and few shells. This was a far better value and similar in price when we went to the cash rates at the Holiday Inn. Sadly, the property has changed names but I still believe it is a Taj property.

So in conclusion, I felt the value just wasn’t there even though I used free night certificates and points for my stay at the Holiday Inn.


The two Vivanta resorts in the Maldives are “starting from $885” in April, over $1100 with taxes. So definitely not $300 you were able to get them for in 2017. On the flip side, this is an all-inclusive rate.

Last edited 1 year ago by satellite

Awesome analysis Stephen! Very helpful for people like me who like the stretch the value of my points.


Hey Stephen, this is just an excellent write up and I was sure hoping you’d do one on this place. It really is off the radar for most folks looking at the Maldives, but for people on a budget who still want bragging rights, it looks fantastic! I’ve studied this Holiday Inn resort myself because, as you know, I’m always looking to maximize points redemptions. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my 10 night stay in an overwater villa at Le Meridien Maldives last year which I booked for only 250,000 Marriott points. That will never happen again! Hopefully, you actually go to this Holiday Inn Resort and do a full trip report. Thanks for the great work!