I recently posted a list of my top 10 all-time favorite award redemptions. These were the truly memorable experiences that I’ve had thanks to points & miles. Missing from that post are the awards that I haven’t done yet, but that I’m eager to try. These are the awards that appear to offer experiences above and beyond what I’d likely find elsewhere, and (often) beyond what I’d be willing to pay if point awards weren’t an option. In this post, I’ve listed my top 10 most anticipated award stays. I’ll follow-up with my most anticipated award flights in a separate post.
It was really hard to limit my most anticipated stays to just 10 so I’m going to throw in a handful here. In no particular order, these just missed the top 10 list:
- Calala Island. Calala Island is an all-inclusive resort that is part of SLH (Small Luxury Hotels of the World), and it’s bookable through Hyatt at 40,000 points per night. And this place is really exclusive. It offers only four rooms: 3 junior suites and 1 master suite. The main reason that this isn’t on my top 10 list is that getting to the island sounds like a nightmare.
- Hyatt Regency Casablanca Ambassador Suite. Thanks to Hyatt offering multiple ways to book premium suites at a fair award price, this huge two-bedroom (+living room & kitchen) suite can be booked at very low rates. When I first wrote about this opportunity, the suite was advertised as including a private butler. The website no longer mentions that part, but it still looks like it could be a fantastic option for a family.
- Cala de Mar Resort & Spa Ixtapa, Mexico. This oceanfront property looks gorgeous. It was #38 on Travel & Leisure’s Top 100 Hotels in the World for 2020. Book this Preferred Hotel for 55K Choice Privileges points per night.
- Yellowstone Valley Lodge, Livingston Ascend Hotel Collection. If the website is to be believed, this rustic lodge offers awesome mountain views and a truly unique experience. Book this Ascend Hotel Collection property for 25K or 30K Choice Privileges points per night.
- The Liming Bequia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines. Award nights book into 1 bedroom suites. Each 1 bedroom suite includes a private infinity pool. Book this SLH property with 40K Hyatt points per night. Unfortunately award availability here is very difficult to find.
- Vacasa Vacation Rental. This one isn’t really a specific property that I’m looking forward to but rather the idea of booking an expensive 1 bedroom home for only 15,000 Wyndham points per night (actually 13,500 points per night because I have a Wyndham Earner card which offers a 10% award discount). See: Wyndham Vacasa: Great Value is Real!
Here now, in descending order, are my top 10 most anticipated award stays…
#10 The Broadmoor – Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States
Colorado Springs is a great place to visit (I love hiking around Garden of the Gods!) and I believe that The Broadmoor would be an awesome place to stay. Reader Brant reports “Having been to the Broadmoor Resort many times, I can report that it is truly magnificent. The complex has so many amenities and amusements, it would be difficult to mention them all. Horseback riding, snow skiing, ice skating, golf, the list goes on. It you like the mountains and fresh air, you’ll love the Broadmoor!”
The Broadmoor, a Preferred Hotel & Resort, can be booked with 45K Choice Privileges points per night. That can be a great value when you start with Citi ThankYou points since Citi Premier and Prestige cardholders can transfer to Choice at a 1 to 2 ratio. But… be prepared for a huge headache when trying to book it. See: Preferred Hotels & Resorts via Choice: Value unlocked. Frustration assured.
#9 Miraval Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
Hyatt offers three Miraval health & wellness resorts in the U.S. (Tucson, Berkshires, and Austin). These are bookable with points at the standard rate of 65,000 points per night, double occupancy (or 45K for a single). This rate includes all meals, many activities, and $175 per night resort credit per person.
I have long wanted to visit a Miraval resort, and thanks to the latest Miraval 2 nights for the award price of 1 promo (which runs through Jan 31, 2022), I finally booked a stay at the Tucson area resort (actually, I’ve booked a number of Miraval stays in the past two years, but due to Covid I had to cancel each of them up until now).
My wife and I are very much into fitness activities and hiking, both of which are featured here. It should be great!
#8 Hana-Maui Resort, Hawaii
This resort is currently a Destination by Hyatt property, but is intended to be added to the Alila brand once all renovations are complete. My favorite Hyatt, Ventana Big Sur, is an Alila and I’d like to think that the Hana-Maui resort will one day be just as great.
So, I’d like to visit once this becomes an Alila property, but truthfully I’d be thrilled to visit anytime. Based on reader feedback (like this), I won’t plan to visit until the place has been redesigned as an Alila property.
Maui was the first Hawaiian island my family ever visited, and we absolutely loved our two day jaunt to Hana on Maui’s remote eastern coast. A stay here would be a great excuse to return.
The Hana-Maui Resort is a category 7 hotel and therefore costs 30,000 Hyatt points per night, standard.
#7 Hotel Paracas, a Luxury Collection Resort, Paracas, Peru
This Marriott Luxury Collection resort in Peru was ranked #11 in Travel & Leisure’s Top 100 Hotels of the World for 2021. The resort is currently Marriott category 5 (35K points per night, standard), but Marriott will be ditching its award charts in March 2022 so the award price will be tied closely to the cash rate after that.
Via Frequent Miler Insiders, a group member wrote: “Hotel Paracas is amazing. They have a free boat that takes you to the islands (they call them the mini Galapagos) and you get your own cottage. Great food too.”
#6 Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Sacred Valley, Peru
Even though this Marriott Luxury Collection resort was ranked only #92 in Travel & Leisure’s Top 100 Hotels of the World for 2021, I’m more excited about a stay here vs. Hotel Paracas (above) which ranked #11. This hotel features a private train station to Machu Pichu!
Via Frequent Miler Insiders, one group member wrote “Tambo del Inka is exquisite. Highly recommend!” and another wrote “Tambo del Inka (Spg luxury collection) in Urubamba, is one of my favorites spg hotels that I have ever been to” (this was apparently before it became a Marriott).
The resort is currently Marriott category 6 (50K points per night, standard), but Marriott will be ditching its award charts in March 2022 so the award price will be tied closely to the cash rate after that.
#5 SLH Resort or Hyatt’s Magma Resort in Santorini, Greece
I haven’t yet had the chance to visit Santorini, but it’s high on my list. When I do, I may stay in one of the 10 SLH (Small Luxury Hotels of the World) properties on the island that are bookable with Hyatt points (usually at 40K per night). Two of these were on Travel & Leisure’s Top 100 Hotels of the World for 2021: Canaves Oia Epitome, Santorini, Greece, and Canaves Oia Boutique Hotel, Santorini, Greece.
On the other hand, it can be frustratingly hard to find point-award availability at SLH hotels and Hyatt has a new (not yet opened) Unbound Collection resort on the island: Magma Resort Santorini. This will most likely be a category 7 resort, and so will cost 30K standard or (more often) 35K peak. The website states: “Magma Resort Santorini is located on the lava-made slopes of Vourvoulos, on the tranquil side of Santorini, nestled among traditional old vineyards, offering panoramic vistas of the Aegean Sea, yet in close proximity to popular cosmopolitan destinations such as Fira and Oia, noted for its Instagram-worthy sunsets.” I like that this one isn’t located directly in over-crowded Oia.
#4 Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai
This Marriott Luxury Collection resort often lists in the top hotels of the world. Every room is a big beautiful suite with it’s own pool. And, regardless of whether you book with cash or points, the resort is all-inclusive. The room rate includes all meals and snacks and two desert activities per day!
The resort is currently Marriott category 8 (85K points per night, standard, but this one is usually 100K Peak), but Marriott will be ditching its award charts in March 2022 so the award price will be tied closely to the cash rate after that. Since the cash rates here tend to be extremely high, you’ll want to book this one before March even if you plan to stay later in 2022 (you can book 11 months in advance).
#3 Alila Manggis, Bali, Indonesia
Honestly, I don’t know much about this resort except that it gets great reviews, it ranked #20 in Travel & Leisure’s Top 100 Hotels of the World for 2021, it’s an Alila brand (which I love!), and it’s dirt cheap with points: only 8,000 Hyatt points per night, standard. There are tons of great and cheap resorts in Bali, but this happens to look particularly enticing.
#2 Six Senses Laamu, Maldives
This resort in the Maldives ranked #80 in Travel & Leisure’s Top 100 Hotels of the World for 2021 and it gets fantastic reviews. One thing that particularly intrigues me here is that the resort supports a sizable team of marine biologists who do research on the island and interact with guests both formally (via education sessions) and informally (for example, Katie Genter reports being invited to watch a marine biologist as she dug up a recently hatched sea turtle nest for research).
Six Senses Laamu is bookable with 100K IHG points per night. I booked a 4 night stay for next year. Thanks to the IHG Traveler card, I got the 4th Night Free, so I paid only 300,000 IHG points. Plus, I’ll get 30,000 points back thanks to having the IHG Select card (no longer available to new applicants).
#1 Punta Islita, Autograph Collection
I found this resort when I was desperately trying to find a great category 6 Marriott where I could use a 7 night stay certificate before it expired. I ended up using the stay certificate at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain instead, but I continue to be intrigued by this one. The hotel gets mostly glowing reviews but some complain about the long, steep climb through the rainforest to and from the beach. As someone who loves to hike, I see that as a positive, not a negative!
There’s no resort fee here and yet they many activities are included: “art/cooking/monkey safaris and more.” The resort is currently Marriott category 6 (50K points per night, standard), but Marriott will be ditching its award charts in March 2022 so the award price will be tied closely to the cash rate after that.
The above list includes four stays bookable with Hyatt points, four bookable with Marriott points, one bookable with Choice points, and one bookable with IHG points. Strangely, no Hilton hotels made the list. To be sure, there are Hilton resorts that I’d love to visit in the Maldives, Hawaii, Bora-Bora, and Mexico, but for whatever reason they’re not ones I’m highly anticipating at the moment.
What did I miss?
There are many, many amazing places around the world that are bookable with points. No doubt there are many that I either don’t know about or didn’t think to include in the above list. Do you have award stay favorites that you’ve been to or are longing to visit and which didn’t appear either on my list above or in my top 10 all-time favorite award redemptions? If so, please comment below. I can’t wait to add new adventures to my list!
Just home from staying 3 nights at Ventana Big Sur and 2 nights at Hana Maui. In short, the Ventana Big Sur is night and day better than Hana Maui. Finally got a decent room at Hana Maui after complaining to Hyatt Twitter. Room at Ventana was OK, and loved the fireplace, but the facilities and food at Ventana is in another league than Hana. I would take it off your list.
Thanks for the mini-review. I won’t take it off the list, but I will change it to specifically say that I want to go after it is converted to an Alila. My assumption is that they’ll make big positive changes before rebranding it.
Of all the great places we stayed this past year, Al Maha is clearly a #1. #2a is Ventana and 2b is LeMeridien Maldives, #3 is Miraval Austin, #4 is Hana. I guess #4 would have been better if treated better.
End of #3 “but this happens looks particularly enticing.”
Greg, #3 Alila Manggis–you mentioned this is only 8k per night–which pts currency? I was assuming Hyatt, but I don’t see this property on Hyatt’s website. NVM…sorry oversight. I see it now!
Thanks for pointing this out. I didn’t realize that I hadn’t explicitly said that it was with Hyatt points. Fixed.
Also, for others, here’s the resort on Hyatt’s website: https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/indonesia/alila-manggis/dpsak
Iguazu fall Sheraton was great for location. Sad that it’s no longer SPG hotel. Falisia Luxury Collection was very nice for exploring neighborhood and countries close by
Greg, I don’t know about the hotel, but the town of Paracas is a dump or at least it was 8 or 9 years ago. “Mini-Galapagos” my ass, LOL. Getting to Islas Ballestas involves a long and bumpy bus ride from Lima, then a long and bumpy boat ride, and when you finally arrive you wish you didn’t. There were almost no birds to be seen, absolutely zero animals, although you could SMELL their recent presence. Just rocks and that incredible stink! It was completely nauseating. Everyone on my boat was happy to go back when it was over.
You certainly should be more excited about Tambo del Inka. I’ve never stayed there but heard and read great things about that property, and it’s close to some really cool places; Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Cuzco. Day and night compared to Paracas, IMHO.
AlMaha was AMAZING!!! Stayed there for 2 nights for free due to a SUB for the Ritz-Carlton card.
The more I’ve traveled the more I’ve realized hotels just aren’t something I get excited about. Sure there are certain ones that are special, usually a unique location, but most of the time they just feel like another hotel. So when I think of Miraval my first thought its, “Am I going to be stuck in that hotel the entire time?”.
I think that might just be me though. I spent a few nights at Ventana and I didn’t feel like it was particularly impressive (one big reason may be living in CA my entire life). We have some pictures of a ridiculous desert we go there.
Staying next wee at the Hana Hyatt, just after staying at the Big Sur Ventana. Staying in Austin at the Miraval in January, BOGO deal, and Al Maha next March, then Le Meridian. Seems we like the same type resorts. All those above on points.
@Byron – don’t let Hana put you on the Garden side, gotta be Ocean. TIP: take the path that runs along the far ocean side by the huge banyan tree (to right as facing ocean). It leads to 5+ food trucks lined up, can eat for $30 for 2, bfast too if you don’t have Globalist. Need your key card to enter/exit the gate on side.
I stayed at the Hana Hyatt this past August. The beautiful view of the infinity pool (as reproduced in this article) involves some smoke, mirrors, and a clever photographer. It’s a pretty standard pool that looks that way only if you stand at just the right angle. (And, the pool was so warm, it was anything but refreshing).
Overall, I wasn’t impressed. Granted I was there at a challenging COVID time for them, but many of the other places on the list are far superior. Even though the points redemption value was pretty favorable compared to the room price, I still felt that I got lousy value for my points. And, no AC is tough there during the day, although they did provide a fan in the unit.
As Pam noted, stay by the ocean if you can. Garden is kind of depressing and too far from the ocean. In addition to the food trucks described, there is another Thai truck behind (ocean side) of the property that is quite good (it’s a few blocks from all the other trucks). There is also an entrance to a very cool hidden beach, but it is a tad difficult to access and the staff is not allowed to tell you how to get there. There are a number of places online that will give directions.
And…. what does it tell you about the Hyatt when @Pam and I are enthusiastically suggesting Food Trucks?
My two cents.
My wife and I did a two-night award stay at Miraval Tucson in fall 2020 using a BOGO promo that stacked with another discount at the time. Cash price including taxes would have been close to $4,000. I think we ended up spending about 50,000 Hyatt points. It was worth it for the serene atmosphere and delicious unlimited food. The hiking you mentioned, though- there are far better public trails nearby. Either low-altitude desert trails in the winter, or up in the Santa Catalinas or Santa Ritas in the summer.
I didn’t include any places that I’ve already stayed at.
You might want to add an addendum with links to review posts for hotels that you might have included had you not already stayed there.
For a first visit to Santorini, I would strongly recommend staying at a place with a view of the caldera, ideally a nice balcony. If you have your own balcony to watch the sunset, there is no need to spend much time on the crowded streets of Oia. If/when we go back, we said we would stay at the SLH property in Imerovigli (On the Rocks). Imerovigli overlooks the center of the caldera, is less busy, and is actually the highest point overlooking the caldera. We did a morning hike out to Skaros Rock (before the crowds came), which was just lovely.
I would add a couple Waldorf properties to the list, in Amsterdam and Cabo. We used free night certs there and these were definitely in my top 5 points redemptions.
While it comes with a significant cash component, I have an upcoming stay I’ve been looking forward to for nearly three years now. I have a fully prepaid stay at the Fogo Island Inn booked with our old buddy, the Citi Prestige 4th night free. I got ~$2k back from Citi based on rates at the time.
It was originally planned for summer 2020, but they’ve graciously allowed me to move the reservation by a year, twice, for no fees/upcharge even though rates are higher now. Here’s to hoping that next year is the year!
On the flip side, it sounds like you graciously allowed them to hold on to the payment through the pandemic, which was probably a help to them. Sounds like win/win graciousness all around.
Honorable mention: InterContinental Porto – Palacio das Cardosas, an IHG Hotel. I’m a Spire Elite, but was not an Ambassador at the time of my check in at the magnificent hotel. I was upgraded to best in house duplex suite! It was tre’ fabulous! Located in the very center of old Porto, Portugal comprising one entire side of the Plaza Mayor. Porto will definitely charm and endear in a way that Lisbon simply cannot and there isn’t a better place to experience it all form than the InterContinental Porto – Palacio das Cardosas, an IHG Hotel!
Agreed – I stayed there in 2018 and loved both the hotel and the city enough that I changed my plans to extend my stay and spend more time there. I very much look forward to returning.
That sounds great, thanks for the suggestion!
Punta Islita is a very cool place – was there with my family in 2019. I’m sad to hear that the resort now has a charge for many of the popular activities now, but the property is still worth a visit. The breakfast is very good, and you can go into the ocean at the beach area. The waves were medium sized when we were there. Also, do not sleep on the restaurant in Punta Islita town — Don Ramiro. It’s a cool change of pace, with local flair, and the owner is an entertaining guy (used to work as a cook at the resort).
We were at Punta Islita for three nights immediately pre-COVID (mid-February 2020) and absolutely loved it. Beautiful views of the ocean from virtually everywhere in the resort. As far as the “long, steep climb through the rainforest”, you will have absolutely no issue (we normally walked down the hill to the beach and took the free van up the hill, which will come on demand, but we walked up the hill too). We were there on points and got upgraded to a very nice room with a hammock like the one in the picture and a private pool. Food was so good at the restaurant that we ate there all three nights, which is something we almost never do. The zip lining was a lot of fun, the horseback riding (including on the beach) was great, and the monkey walk was was OK (learned a lot, but didn’t see many monkeys). If you go, Liberia is closer–we wanted to stay at another absolutely awesome property in San Jose not on your list (Marriott Hacienda Belen–seriously, take a look) and it is a four hour car ride between the two resorts (which can be arranged through Punta Islita in advance).
was considering the hana maui property for my parents but the no ac part was a no go for them regardless of any situation
Yup really stuffy even with the ocean breezes
now all we need is an article on how to earn enough points to do these stay. am not talking about signing up for multiple cards and blowing entire stash on 1 stay.
There’s this cool site, frequentmiler.com. . .
Punta Islita’s great reviews come primarily from what they offered pre-covid. The real value at this property came from the free zip lining, horseback riding, and kayaking to the ocean. Those were amazing free activities that all now have a charge. The remaining free activities, while fun, are only a small shell of what was previously offered (and resulted in great reviews). Those activities are still offered but at a significant cost (especially if traveling as a family, and even more so if you want to do the activities multiple times).
That’s a bummer! Hopefully they’ll get the message and bring those free activities back.
This is disappointing to hear. My family visited Punta Islita over Thanksgiving in 2018 and 2019 and got to partake in zip lining, horseback riding, art classes, cooking classes, birdwatching, evening hikes – all for free (though we did tip). Do you recall what the prices for these activities are now?
Hotel Emma in San Antonio is a Preferred Hotel bookable with 55,000 points (though in fairness I haven’t tried & instead booked direct with iPrefer & AMEX FH&R). It’s off the Museum Reach part of the Riverwalk, a couple of miles from that main action (& throngs of people).
The Emma (named for the previous brewmaster’s wife and 2 mistresses!) is really 2 buildings. The historic Brewhouse is the old Pearl brewery & the modern addition has gorgeous Riverwalk views.
The hotel anchors the Pearl complex, a carefully-curated assortment of non-chain restaurants & retail. You can even book a meal at the adjoining Culinary Institute of America outpost, Savor. The billionaire who sold Pace picante sauce owns the entire complex & is quite specific about the hotel & its environs.
The Emma is hard to describe other than you have to see it & stay there to understand why it’s so dang expensive but worth it. The hospitality of the entire staff is as fine as anywhere I’ve been (the front desk mgr trained at the Langham brand). Even the turndown service & 24-hr coffee butler are exceptionally well trained. The on-site market is like a mini Balducci’s.
This is a true destination hotel. Those coming for the normal SA attractions are probably not the same customer base being targeted, but a stay here can certainly be tied into a typical tourist stay, too. Make sure to catch the hotel-led historic tour of the property.
Thanks Pam. That does sound fantastic!