Should I pay for an overwater bungalow? The short answer to this rhetorical question is yes but that would not make for a great post. The question is more one of principle. On the one hand if you are going somewhere that offers overwater bungalows, chances are good that it is in a remote island locale which took you forever and a layover to reach. Jetlagged, how can you pass up on the main attraction. On the other hand even if you are flying and staying for free, it does not mean that everything extra should be a ripoff.
Let me present to you four examples of my overwater bungalow booking experience at the Conrad Maldives and my upcoming Tahiti Triumph Trip Report to demonstrate.
- Conrad Maldives: The Conrad Maldives, or as John Oliver calls it, every churner’s pit stop. Many of us have been to this overrated resort armed with Hilton Gold believing that our struggle to find a first class flight there should warrant not only a discount on the overpriced $500 seaplane but also a discount for an overwater bungalow. Perhaps you have had some luck in getting a discount for an upgrade at this resort which is just as memorable for its terrible service as its scenic bungalows to cut you a deal on a bungalow, but I certainly was not. I paid an additional $620 a night for a bungalow with a hot tub. While there, I met other points travelers who scoffed at the idea of paying for an upgrade, electing to stay at a basic villa for no additional cost. Looking back, I can’t believe I paid such an insane premium but it was by far the best choice that I made on my $77,000 Trip Heard Round the World tour.
- The Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana: For this upcoming trip, I was able to maximize my stay certificate by booking a room at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana. The standard room is a beach bungalow and unlike my experience with Hilton, I have not been bombarded with emails offering me the ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to upgrade. If an upgrade happens for free on arrival on account of being a Platinum Elite or via email correspondence, then I’ll count myself lucky. I’m only there for one night so paying a premium is not worth it.
- The Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso Spa: The Thalasso Spa, or as John Oliver calls it, the Socialist Republic of Bora Bora. Here, everyone who books a room on points receives an overwater bungalow at no additional charge if one is available at the time of booking. This really makes me question how the Conrad Maldives can charge such an obscene premium. At the same time, it shows that the good people at Thalasso understand that the reason people come to Bora Bora is for the bungalow experience. They kindly spare you the premium for the room upgrade but most assuredly will get you on the excursion and dining options.
- The Hilton Moorea: I booked 5 nights at the Hilton Moorea for 280k, a great deal given the devaluation of yesteryear. What I will do there for 5 nights is another story. One thing I won’t be doing is paying the premium for the panoramic overwater bungalow which is $270/night, still far below the Conrad. The other option was an upgrade to a water bungalow for $111/night. Tired of bungalow calculus, I emailed the hotel and asked if there was an offer available for Hilton Diamonds. They offered me a free upgrade for one night and $89/night for additional nights, a great bargain.
So what has TPOL Learned? I believe it is worth paying for the bungalow no matter where you go. If it’s your first time in Maldives, then pay your dues, literally, and enjoy the sunset from your own slice of heaven. If it’s your second, third, or hundredth time, pay for the bungalow because life is too short to sit idly in the sand trying to rationalize how spacious your garden bungalow is.