Here’s Why the Park Hyatt Maldives is My Favorite Resort in the World…

Previous trip report installments

The Park Hyatt Hadahaa in the Maldives is my favorite resort in the world. Here’s why.

I’m not going to make the claim that it’s the very best resort. I haven’t been to every one and there are entire categories of resorts I’ve never been to (Aman properties, for instance).

And I’m not going to make the claim that it’s the best property in the Maldives. I’ve now been to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa three times, and haven’t been to any others. I haven’t been to Velaa Private Island, Cheval Blanc Randheli , One&Only Reethi Rah, or Huvafen Fushi. And I can’t compare it to the Conrad Rangali where many people spend their points in the Maldives (although fewer, I suppose, since the big devaluation).

But it’s my favorite place to go, and certainly my favorite place to spend points. As a Hyatt Gold Passport Category 6, a free night award is 25,000 points. You can use the Hyatt Visa signup bonus free nights, and transfer Chase points into Gold Passport. As I mentioned when detailing trip costs in the first section of this report, I booked a cash and points award. Orders of magnitude more reasonable than the W Maldives, and certainly a nicer property than the Sheraton Full Moon Resort (I’ve only seen pictures).

The Maldives is a real journey from the U.S. And once you make it to the capital, Male, you still have a domestic flight and a boat ride. I explained a year ago that I consider the distance and seclusion to be a feature, not a bug.

I actually need the distance and the journey in order to unplug. The trip moves me to a different world, where I’m able to relax. The time difference (note that the resort is one hour ahead of Male and even the domestic island where you land) means that I get up in the morning, answer the day’s emails before breakfast, and then don’t have anyone trying to reach me for the entirety of the day in the Maldives as everyone back home goes to sleep.

And of course when you’re there, it’s truly gorgeous. You’re on your own island, there’s nothing but the resort. And there’s just 50 rooms, and room are nice enough that people tend to seclude themselves. If they aren’t off doing activities like diving or spa, they may be snorkeling off their water villas or relaxing by their private pool.

Some enjoy the beach, a handful the resort’s pool, but you don’t really see many people.

The beauty, seclusion, great service, good food, and even the process of getting there make this a place that I’ve returned to three years in a row.

Since I have been to the resort before, tor this review I’m going to focus on what’s different, what’s changed, what I learned rather than spending as much time going through the basics. For that you can read notes from my 2013 trip and from my 2012 visit: Park Hyatt Maldives and Part II, Part III.

Weather… and Villa Type

Before my first stay at the property I had emailed asking for the most private water villa possible and I was lucky to get #51, the farthest villa at the end of the pier. Probably easy to do because the hotel was half empty that time. I specifically asked for the same villa in 2013, and they gave it to me. And I got it again this year. So I’ve only ever stayed in one room.

Here it is at night, with the shades closed.

There’s fruit, treats, and water waiting in the room — they provide both sparkling and still, in glass, cleaned and purified on property. They know my preference for still, and for lots of water, and they accommodate (it’s free in the room but they charge for water in the restaurants at lunch and dinner).

The iPad in the room details menus, activities, and the rest of information about the property.

Unlike most hotels you don’t get minis of shampoos and other toiletries, instead there are jars that get refilled to minimize impact on the environment. As with the water, plastic is avoided.

The morning, the evening, the water, the dock it’s all gorgeous.

My past two trips were in February. And December through March is a real sweet spot for perfect weather, although in some sense I don’t think there’s really a bad time to be in the Maldives.

We had perfect sunny days and clear skies most of the time, and the seas were calm.

I knew that May was shoulder season at best, what that means is the occasional downpour but then it goes away, clears up, and temperatures are hot. I’m happy with that.

It also means rougher waters, which can limit activities. And also wind the further out from the island you get.

And upon reflection, I was happy being there out of peak season but what changes for me is my preference for room type — in February I loved being in a water villa, on this trip I’d actually have preferred a pool villa with easy access out to the beach.

In the last section of the report I described the rough water from the airport to the resort There was choppy waters and wind out on the water (but not windy on the island itself). That meant we didn’t really take advantage of the benefits of the water villa — direct access into the ocean for snorkeling, lounging out on the deck.

And though storms didn’t last long, rain did get quite heavy a few times including once overnight where I could actually feel the swaying of the room while in bed. At the bar one staff member told us a story of an older couple that had put on and slept in the villa’s life jackets. (That was definitely overkill!)

With heavy wind, the day’s heat beat against the windows and the villa’s air conditioning just couldn’t compete. Despite the a/c running on full blast, temperatures inside the villa got up to about 78 degrees during the day and only down to about 71 at night. I admit I like it cooler than that, but I still loved the room and was happy overall. Air conditioning in the land villas brought the temperatures down a whole lot more.

I had the chance to try a regular ‘Park Villa’ on the last day, since we wouldn’t be leaving the resort until about 6pm and they would need our room for the next guest before that. They gave us a temporary villa to use that final afternoon.

The basic villas have a little bit larger footprint than the water villas, since they have the outside space. The villas on land with a pool seem a little bigger still. And some of those walk straight out to the beach. That’s what I’d want on a future visit in May or June.

Breakfast: Rumors and Fact

When I stayed at the property in 2012 and 2013, breakfast was free for all guests. It’s still free on all paid rates, but no longer free on award stays (although Hyatt Diamond members are entitled to breakfast).

Lots has been written and speculated on this, so here’s my experience and what the General Manager of the property shared to clarify.

Here’s what Gold Passport’s terms and conditions say about free nights.

5. Hyatt Gold Passport Free Night Awards are valid for standard guest rooms unless specifically stated as part of a particular award. All Hyatt Gold Passport awards are subject to maximum room capacity. Maximum room capacity may vary by hotel. Hyatt Gold Passport awards may be applied only to the guest room and do not apply toward food, beverage, incidental expenses or service charges.

When saying a free night does “not apply to food, beverage..” they’re talking about add-ons. They aren’t really saying that a room that otherwise comes with food and beverage doesn’t when staying on points. Award nights at the Hyatt all-inclusive properties are still.. all-inclusive.

On the other hand, the terms and conditions of the program don’t explicitly say that award nights come with all of the benefits and privileges afforded on a paid stay in a standard room. That’s usually how it’s understood of course (that if a paid stay comes with 2 daily items for pressing, a hotel doesn’t exclude the benefit for guests on points). I’ll leave it up to the program to decide if this is compliant.

Here’s how the General Manager of the property explains breakfast:

Gold & Platinum passport members redeeming awards no longer have breakfast inclusion but have a special reduced
Set breakfast rate of 30USD ++ .. Diamond Members now have a choice of either a set breakfast menu or a choice of up to three A ‘La Carte Breakfast items.

The truth is I consider breakfast to be well worth the cost. This isn’t an airport Hyatt Regency buffet. This is a fantastic meal.

Breakfast is served in the main restaurant which is just back from the pool and adjacent the bar.

One of the things I love about the property is getting up and walking to breakfast. I tend to do it on the early side, I’ll sit there for an hour or so just drinking coffee and enjoying the surroundings.

They’ll bring over a tower of appetizers — breads, fruit, and a local tuna dish.

And then you order off the menu. Most people won’t be able to eat more than three items which are in addition to the tower .

Here’s the breakfast menu. (Click to enlarge.)

Other Things to Know

Here’s a few more observations that stand out from this most recent trip.

  • The spa is more expensive than before, but fantastic. When I stayed last year I took advantage of a 3-day package that pushed the ‘per spa hour’ cost down into the $60s. That was 2 hours per day for three days and two people, still money but a great price in that it’s less than I’d pay at home and not at a resort and for less of a quality experience. The prices are higher now, over $100 per spa hour. You have your own treatment villa, indoor shower and outdoor shower, and I’ve never had a bad massage there. In fact I’ve even dozed off a few times…

  • Complimentary Diamond ‘sundowner’ cocktail and canapes is a daily highlight. In addition to breakfast and internet (which all guests receive free), Gold Passport Diamond members get a free cocktail between 6pm and 8pm. They call it a sundowner, you go to the bar or sit out on the beach and watch the sunset while enjoying a cocktail of your choosing, and they bring over a tower of small bites. This isn’t a meal, but a great way to start off your evening before dinner.

  • Food is very good. It isn’t cheap. But it’s also not more than you’d pay at top end resorts in the Caribbean. Meals were certainly less here than at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, for instance. The food wash fresher and the ambience orders of magnitude better, too.

  • Private dinners aren’t really more expensive than a full meal in the restaurant Last year I did a private dinner on the dock, they brought out the resort’s telescope, and the chef prepared a special dinner based on a conversation that we had with the outstanding Director of Food and Beverage Jean-Pierre Joncas. This year we were on property to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday, and were going to go fishing and hopefully eat our catch on that special night. The rough waters didn’t cooprate and he set up a private dinner for us… which was essentially what we would have paid eating in the restaurant though we had a custom menu and dedicated staff.


    Here’s the menu from our private dinner, click to enlarge

I Can’t Wait to Return.. a Fourth Time

I’ve been to Bora Bora, Bali, Phuket, Koh Samui, and any number of other resort destinations. There are so many places in the world, and I love experiencing things that are new. I almost never go back to the same resort twice, and even my favorite destinations can sometimes take awhile before getting back into the rotation.

But I keep coming back to the Park Hyatt Maldives. Three years in a row. I don’t have a trip in 2015 planned yet, but certainly 2015 or 2016 at the outside if things get away from me I’ll want to be there again.

The place is beautiful, the food is good, the snorkeling fantastic, the service top notch. You’ve got your own island with only a few other guests. And points, for me at least, help to make what would be a much more expensive trip into the range I feel comfortable with. And that’s why I didn’t mind so much departing…


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Actually, forget it… Found my answer on FT. Looks like as a Diamond its probably not worth it

  2. Just a data point, but I had free breakfasts at the PH Maldives earlier this year on a free night + $350 upgrade. I have no status with Hyatt, but assumed it was the upgrading that got me the breakfast.

    It’s a great resort but I agree that outside of breakfast the food was pretty forgettable.

  3. Interesting that the breakfast menu is bilingual in Chinese. Guess that informs about guest demographics

  4. @Gary – No worries, I just assumed you were busy.

    In this thread I asked if you had any opinions on the excursions and activities on offer. I have my PADI diving certification, and my husband is considering getting his before this trip.

    Previously I had asked, in one of the UA devaluation threads, if you had any insight on if and where money goes in partner award redemptions. I can see a number of possibilities and would love to see a post on the topic.

    Beyond that, nothing especially of note. 🙂

  5. @jered – the property has an ipad app you can download if you’re in the apple ecosystem that details menus, excursions, prices, everything at the resort!

  6. I found the food excellent at the Park Hyatt overall, though I did notice some issues with consistency on a few occasions. I have also stayed at the Conrad and thought it too was a wonderful property. Like Beachfan, Park Hyatt is still our favorite for the much better reef and greater feeling of remoteness and serenity. Interesting enough, we thought the food was much better at Park Hyatt. We weren’t impressed by the food at any of Conrad’s restaurants, especially Ithaa.

  7. @Jered

    Make sure to get your classroom hours for diving in before coming to the Maldives. The point is to be in the water, not wasting time sitting watching videos in a classroom. The wonderful thing about diving here is that you can do it off the jetty on the island and have a wonderful experience. You do not have to spend a day taking the boat out to a dive site. Diving is also reasonable if you do it off the island rather than taking the boat out.

  8. We were there for a week the end of May. We loved the overwater villa. Although, Gary you are completely right about the temperature in the villa. If it is a sunny day, it is unbearably hot in the room. The bathroom however stays cool! I am sure we freaked out house keeping by taking our lounge chairs from the deck into the bathroom. It was the only cold place during the day. It also speaks the size of the bathroom, that two full lounge chairs fit comfortably.

    We also had multiple experiences watching dolphins swim by our room, which completely justified the over water villa. Our first morning, we woke up to dolphins swimming and feeding near our deck. Waves and storms are a good thing for dolphin spotting. They always came out when it started storming.

    We really really enjoyed all of our meals on the island. Both breakfast and dinner. We love fish so that most likely played into our enjoyment. Eat things that are local and it will be fantastic. Never once ate a beef dish. Highly recommend the tuna sashimi and calamari as a light mid-day meal at the bar. Once we discovered the calamari, my husband had it every day.

    I highly recommend the reef fishing trip. They prepare the fish you catch. It is like going on a sunset cruise and fishing trip all in one. We ended up with both fresh sashimi and grilled fish from our fishing excursion. It was a really good dinner deal.

    Ask for a behind the scenes tour during your visit. It truly gives you an appreciation on the work that goes into the resort and the effort for conservation.

    We loved our stay. I was really nervous beforehand about reviews that I read and the price. I can say that it was worth experiencing and exceeded my expectation. It was bitter sweet leaving knowing that it will be awhile before we return. There are just too many new places to go in the world.

  9. @Lindsay –

    Thank you for the report and advice! Our trip is still 5 months away so I’m trying not to obsess about it (especially since I have others in the interim), but it certainly is one of the more expensive ones. I’m glad to hear that you found it worth the price.

    I have my PADI certification, but Brian still needs to get his — we have a friend here in Boston who is a DSO, so he’ll do that this summer. Did you find that the enforced a longer than 12-hour flight-after-diving surface interval at the resort? One of the other trip reports he found complained about this.

  10. is it just your pictures, but i don’t see what’s so great from them. i’ve seen much prettier places including, bora bora, tahiti, etc.

  11. We arrived on Sunday night, and it’s as lovely here as you’ve led us to expect!

    I had requested villa 51, which they had reserved for us some months ago, but it’s currently being repaired so we are in 49 instead. The weather was quite harsh our first day and a half, and it’s taking its toll on the water villas…. the ocean ladder on 51 and part of the decking were torn clear off. It’s sunny today, but still too windy for SCUBA on other than the house reef (which is still quite beautiful).

    Villas 47-51 are currently being upgraded to a new 4th class of Over Water Sunset Villa, at a higher price point. Ours has not yet seen that upgrade.

    The staff are all attentive and friendly. No one explained limitations on the Diamond breakfast to us, but we’ve mostly stuck to the sets which are plenty of food. We were greeted with a bottle of champagne as well as a variety of snacks on arrival, and the sundowner cocktails and canapes are an excellent amenity.

    I wish it were a bit less windy, but the one thing the staff cannot control is the weather. I just hope that we are able to get our pre-paid dives in before we depart!

  12. @jered enjoy the trip and hope the weather settles down! Any idea what the upgrades to the villas farther out on the pier, besides the price i mean? 😉

  13. @garyleff I’m told that the furniture will be “upgraded” although nothing beyond that. On the Hyatt site you can see that they’re only booking these villas (45-51; I misspoke earlier) for up to two guests rather than three, so the sleeper couch must be getting removed.

    I’m also told there are plans to build a Presidential Villa at the unmaintained end of the jetty. Given the increasing popularity of the property they’re looking for new ways to monetize the limited space they have.

    If Julian, the GM, is at the cocktail hour this evening I’ll see if I can get more info on the Sunset Villa upgrades….

  14. @garyleff Julian said the furnishings are not changing; the new class has been created because they get many requests for “the further-out villas” and the only way they can guarantee that to guests is through creating a new booking class. Which totally makes sense, and gives them a revenue opportunity now that they seem to be quite frequently fully committed.

  15. We had a 6:30pm departure from the island, so they were graciously able to move us to a Park Villa for the afternoon of our final day. It was very nice — I don’t think I’d be disappointed in any of the villas at the resort — but as a diver I appreciated the amazing reef just four feet from my room when we were in 49.

  16. @jered – thanks, that’s what I thought so i was intrigued by the possibility of other upgrades. And in fairness to the resort, the overwater villas closest to land are NOT the same in terms of desirability as the ones farthest out on the pier…

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