What do you get when you mix the most stunning and beautiful tropical destination with a legendary luxury hotel brand? The answer is The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli resort, an aspiring hotel that sits high on the list for many award-winning travelers.
In the first chaos of the Marriott-SPG merger, I was able to score three nights in this property in a water villa last year, paying only 85,000 points per night for a $ 3,000 + room. At the time, it was arguably the best hotel I have ever stayed in, and I didn’t think anything would ever be able to compete with these views.
This year we decided to go back to the Maldives and stay in the W to mix things up. My girlfriend and I both love the W Hotels brand and were curious to see how the Maldivian version would compare to the hotels in the big cities we had visited in the past.
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I can honestly say that it took me less than 12 hours to fall upside down to the Maldives of the W and at the end of my five day trip, I knew one thing: however far and expensive this is a hotel I see myself coming back year after year, whenever I can. St. Regis is the pinnacle of refined luxury, but the W Maldives combine beautiful villas and a healthy and vibrant coral reef with an active and social atmosphere that made our trip flying too fast. Here are six reasons why the W is my new favorite hotel in the Maldives.
Ready to plan that trip to the Maldives wish list? Visit the TPG destination hub in the Maldives for more stories on how to travel to the region in points and miles, where to stay and what to do while you’re there.
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Other basic rooms are available for awards …
The W marks its first win on numbers only, with the key figures in play here being “4” and “25”. Four is the number of The St. Regis garden villas, which is the type of room where the book is awarded unless you are willing to pay thousands of points or hundreds of dollars in cash (per night) for the ‘update.
The luxurious 1,600-square-foot villas have private pools, but this is the only type of water access they offer. In fact, these rooms are the only four on the island that do not offer direct access to the water, either via the beach or the stairs of a villa on the water. Of course the ocean is only a couple of minutes walk away, but why are you flying to the Maldives just to be somewhere where you can’t even see the water?
Related: The best ways to get to the Maldives in points and miles
In comparison, the W has 25 “basic” rooms available for award booking, leading to much better award availability all year round. It is simply a question of supply and demand. With both hotels equally rated as Category 8 properties (although it is possible that they have different dates for peak and off-peak prices), most travelers are likely to default to The St. Regis and perception of superior luxury. More and more people chasing fewer rewards available at The St. Regis open up a lot of space, making rewards at the W much easier to obtain most of the time.
Related: say goodbye to the dark and the clubby: here’s what awaits us for the brand W.
… And those basic rooms are MUCH nicer than at St. Regis
The Maldives have quickly become synonymous with water villas that allow you to dive into the turquoise water from the comfort of your room. At The St. Regis, you’ll have to pay handsomely to move from a garden villa to one that can see the ocean, not to mention the one above. In comparison, in a moment “pinch yourself because it seems too good to be true”, the basic premium rooms of W Maldives are water villas. That’s right, you simply pay 85,000 points per night for a standard reward (or 70,000 for off-peak times or 100,000 for peak periods) and you’ll automatically find yourself staying on the water.
The W water villas are more welcoming than The St. Regis, but are well designed with a manta-shaped rocking chair, jellyfish cushions and a glass porthole in the floor that allows you to watch the animals swim under you. During our stay, we saw a group of small sharks and eagle rays and too many fish and squid to count.
Related: Full Maldives Review W
Of course, they also have a large deck with a children’s pool, sun loungers and a large circular sofa and a staircase directly into the water. It is a simply stunning villa and the W makes it easier for people to fulfill their lifelong dream of being on the water than any other hotel I know of in the Maldives.
To really drive this point home, if you prefer to stay on land in one of the W’s two-story beach oases, you’ll have to pay extra for that privilege. Although this may seem counterintuitive and contrary to everything related to the Maldives, we opted for the last two nights in an oasis on the beach and were very happy with that decision. Moving from a water villa to a jungle tree house made us feel like we had started a completely new journey. We loved some of the more “W” design elements, including the large swinging sofa on the upper deck and the outdoor tub and shower.
Cheaper seaplane transfers
One of the reasons why the Maldives remain such an exclusive destination are the various costs associated with traveling there. Although you can book a hotel for free using points, you will have to pay hundreds of dollars for a seaplane or speedboat transfer from the capital of Male (MLE) to your hotel and you can expect to spend extravagantly on food and drinks too.
Further Reading: Your Ultimate Guide to Hotel and Resort Transfer Rates in the Maldives
The transfer fee is a bitter pill to swallow, since every year for a two-person reservation I owed more than $ 1,000 before I even stepped foot on the property. St. Regis is one of the worst offenders here, charging $ 745 for a round-trip seaplane transfer. It’s almost 50% more than the W, which costs $ 505 per person more manageable (for a flight that takes exactly the same amount of time, I should add).
Award-winning travelers will also have to make a serious budget before planning a trip to the Maldives, but the W is much more accessible than the St. Regis in this regard. We ended up spending around $ 500 less on seaplane costs this year, which meant we had more money for food, drinks, water sports and massages.
A healthier coral reef and better marine life
While some people prefer to spend their holidays on the water, the Maldives are one of the few places in the world where your backyard is home to sharks, rays and countless species of fish. The ability to climb off the bridge and snorkel through the vibrant range of colors (or dive into some of the world’s most famous dive spots if your speed is greater) is a big reason why many people choose to travel to the Maldives on others. beach destinations.
The water at The St. Regis was clean and free of any visible pollution, but the marine life that we encountered during our three day stay was average. My girlfriend jumped into the coral reef and had a lot of fun, but she said the site as a whole wasn’t all that memorable.
Related: Full review of The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort
In comparison, even a quick Google search shows that W is known to have one of the best coral reefs in all of the Maldives and, more importantly, it is the only point hotel that regularly makes those lists. Our experience corresponds to this, since we have seen dozens of sharks and eagle rays around the property and the two dives that my girlfriend did, fish head and manta point, were among the best I have ever done.
In the meantime, my favorite was eating at Fish, the W fish restaurant at the end of the pier. Every night we saw a dozen or two dozen sharks swimming around the lights in the ocean and the waiters even threw ice cubes at them, which they absolutely loved! Whether you are looking to snorkel, dive or just watch from the dock, expect to make new aquatic friends while staying at the W.
An activity full of commitments and a social calendar
One of the most common hesitations that I hear from people who are considering a trip to the Maldives is that they are not sure what they will do to spend time on a remote island. Normally I reply that at least the first 48 hours will pass to wander the property with jaws hitting the sand while absorbing natural beauty, but I will admit that I was a little worried that I would be bored at the end of a five-day stay.
In classic W fashion, this could not have been further from the truth. Waiting in our room upon arrival (I was also given a copy to browse through while waiting in the seaplane lounge in Male) was a weekly activity program, which included several fitness classes spread throughout the week: boxing, muay thai, pilates , yoga, etc. There was a solid variety in the selection and timing, and I liked boxing in the morning and I even started trying yoga for the first time (I couldn’t say no to the sunset views).
When you add all the other activities available on this island, it’s easy to stay fit and active if that’s what you’re trying to do. We went paragliding on our first day, which offered incredible views as we flew high over the island. We also tried bobbing at sea, a motorized underwater vehicle that combines the adrenaline rush of Jet Skiing and the breathtaking views of snorkeling or diving. Indulge in a couples massage, some amazing meals and lots of time relaxing by the pool in our villa or snorkeling in one of the many clearly marked canals (with free snorkeling equipment that we have been encouraged to keep for the duration of our living room), and there was not a single moment when I felt bored.
You will find yoga and fitness classes in most of the island’s resorts like this, but the staff’s active encouragement to participate has helped create a very social atmosphere on the island. We made friends with several other guests during our stay and enjoyed watching the employees work with different skills. When you have the same waiter for breakfast and dinner, it’s easier to start talking and continue a conversation and get personalized advice on food and activities. The island’s smaller size also made it easy to mingle with the staff as they made their way to Sip a sunset drink with the guests. My girlfriend is planning to pursue a divemaster internship in Indonesia later this year, and one of her diving instructors at the W had worked on the same island she was interested in. Instead of their conversations being limited to morning diving sessions, she was able to put them in the bar and make a personal decision about an important career decision she is considering.
Anything / every time by very dedicated staff
“Good service” means different things to different people. Some prefer formality and privacy, while others (myself included) prefer a friendly and personable approach. This is part of the reason I find myself constantly gravitating towards Ws, which are the only hotels where I have had a waiter sitting at our table and started a conversation while taking our order.
This is the point where I have to recognize that the hotel knew I was going to write for TPG before I arrived. It’s possible that he received slightly better service (or at least more attention) because of this, but based on the way I observed the staff interacting with other guests, I think it’s safe to say that a surprise awaits you when you stay at the W.
I want to give a special cry to Chunky (yes, this is his real name and yes, there is an extraordinary story behind which he would like to tell you), the head of Whatever / Whenever that’s what W calls his concierge team . In most W hotels any / every time it’s a cute branding tactic and nothing more, but the guy made Chunky embody that philosophy every minute of the day.
He is an embraceable guy with a strong personality and he found a way to control us at least once or twice a day during our stay. You would also see him go around for breakfast every morning, making sure that each guest made the perfect trip he wanted.
When we decided to change rooms from the second to the last night, Chunky allowed us to choose exactly the villa we wanted and to block it for us. We have to decide what time to make the move, allowing us to maximize our afternoon on the water and move to our beach villa just in time to walk next to Sip for some sunset views.
Another great thing that Chunky did was to help us order when we ate on the fire (steak and grill) and then the fish. The menus rotate fairly regularly in these restaurants, so Chunky was able to suggest some off-menu selections he strongly recommended, including the mixed Tandoori dish on fire and the cuttlefish ink pasta and lobster with fish. All the waiters laughed every time we said “I know it’s not on the menu but Chunky said …” Off-menu seems to be a pretty big thing here, so definitely ask your waiter what he recommends before making your choices!
Instead of having only one point responsible for our stay, every single staff member had an acquired interest in learning what we wanted to do and make it happen. Restaurant reservations were handled via a short message on WhatsApp or WeChat and every other staff member took the initiative when it came to their departments.
For example, my girlfriend mentioned the first day as we were collecting snorkeling gear how much she wanted to dive with the manta rays. Unfortunately, they had no planned manta point dives for that week, but in the next two days Greg of “Down Under” (the dive shop) was able to put together both a dive and a snorkeling manta where we saw 20+ of those wonderful and majestic creatures. Normally there is a minimum of four people for the snorkeling trip, but Greg has forced some staff members to join us so that we can go out and enjoy the activity.
My only complaint: slightly limited dining options
Every time I see a flight or hotel I try to be neutral and balance all the good things with areas where a particular property or airline could improve. In this regard, the Maldives W made me work much harder than I was planning on my holidays. The only thing I think the property could do to improve would be to expand its dining options a little.
As mentioned above, Fish and Fire are the hotel’s two main restaurants, which offer fresh fish on the pier or a delicious grill and an Indian menu to be enjoyed with your feet in the sand. What I didn’t realize until my arrival in Male is that each restaurant is only open four days a week on a rotating basis.
In the end we didn’t worry, given that Chunky’s off-menu suggestions gave us the opportunity to try Fish in different ways but, given the number of guests who spend to be in this resort, I don’t like the idea of the property that determines what kind of dinner you eat. Dining in the room is always an option, with restaurant quality food and views that will not disappoint (if you are staying in an oasis on the beach I highly recommend ordering and enjoying at least one meal on the upper deck) but there is a change that I would like see the W to do: expand the sushi menu in Sip and turn it into a viable dinner alternative.
Sipping is the hotel’s main bar, which offers some of the best views on the island and draws a crowd around the sunset.
You will also find a small sushi menu in Sip, with a type of roll, some fish salads and sashimi and sushi dishes to share. The food was delicious and with a few minor changes (i.e. some other food options) this could easily be a third option for dinner which allows people to eat with the sunset instead of getting up and moving afterwards. I understand that space constraints probably prevent the W from opening new restaurants on the island, but this seems like a simple and tasty way to avoid menu fatigue and rely on the strength of freshly caught fish.
When I returned from the Maldives last year, many of my friends joked that after being at St. Regis I was spoiled for life and no hotel would ever be able to compare. While The St. Regis still has a slight edge when it comes to pure luxury, I will be returning to W as soon as possible. There simply isn’t a bad room on the island, whether you stay with the incredible basic option of staying in a villa on the water or you choose to pay for the beach oasis. There are many activities to keep you entertained during your trip and marine life, a huge strength to visit the Maldives, is among the best in the country. Whether you are looking for an isolated and romantic holiday or a more social experience, the W Maldives is one of the best values on the points of the region.
Featured image of Ethan Steinberg’s W Maldives / The Points Guy