Rustic paradise: A review of Calala Island, a private island bookable with World of Hyatt points

Ever since Hyatt partnered with Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), World of Hyatt members have been able to use points to book stays at over 500 independently owned boutique hotels  across the globe from the South of France to the streets of Southeast Asia.
Some of these SLH properties stick out and one of these is Calala Island, a private-island retreat with just four rooms off the coast of Nicaragua that touts itself as part of the “NiCaribbean,” the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.
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As soon as the property became bookable through World of Hyatt for just 40,000 points per night, it shot to the top of our list of places that we had to get to. After all, how many private islands can you book on points? I booked the first nights I could find on points at the tropical resort. After my three-night stay at Calala, I can confidently say that this property is an absolute steal and deserves a spot at the top of your bucket list.

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Booking
As mentioned previously, Calala Island is bookable with Hyatt points. As of now, you can redeem for 40,000 points a night, but once dynamic pricing goes into effect, rooms here can be had for as little as 35,000 points per night on off-peak dates. At this rate, it’s an absolute steal, considering rooms regularly go for over $2,000 per night. I booked the hotel using Chase Ultimate Rewards that I transferred to World of Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio. As cash prices were $2,800 per night during my booking, this means I got 7 cents in value for each of my points, far more than TPG’s 2-cent valuation for Ultimate Rewards points.
The hotel consists of only four rooms, though only the junior suites (of which there are three), are bookable via points. Each room can accommodate two people, which means that a total of eight guests can occupy the island at any given time. During my stay, only two of the rooms were occupied: myself and my mom in one room and a couple in another room. Come to find out, they’re big fans of The Points Guy and also had booked with Hyatt points.
Related: The best hotel credit cards for 2020
If you’re short on Hyatt points, consider signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which is offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. You’ll be well on your way to a stay at this private-island paradise.
Unfortunately, Hyatt elite members don’t receive benefits at SLH properties despite their partnership. This is stated when you book online. Although we didn’t get elite-status perks, we were already enjoying so many benefits (such as nightly gifts during turndown), that I didn’t feel the loss.
Location
Calala Island bills itself as part of the Caribbean, and although it’s not wrong, getting to this hotel is a schlep. There are no major airports nearby. Instead, guests fly to Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, and then take a plane to Bluefields (on the east coast of Nicaragua), and from there board a speedboat to the island.

You can view this as a hassle, but you can also see it as a way to see a lot of Nicaragua on your journey to the hotel. From the taxi ride through the city to the two-hour boat ride, you’ll get to experience the country all the way to the resort.
Our speedboat to the resort.
The resort told us that a representative would meet us at 1 p.m. at Managua Airport (MGA) to shepherd us onto the flight to Bluefields. Our flight from Managua to Bluefields departed late and stopped at another island first (with no advance notice). Once we landed at the airport, we were met by another hotel representative who was practically dancing with excitement. After the two-hour boat ride, we made it to the resort after sunset at 6:30 p.m., well beyond the anticipated arrival time of 4 p.m. It wasn’t a huge deal to me, but don’t count on a seamless journey.
Unlike other resorts bookable with points, Calala Island‘s rate includes transfers. This means that the round-trip flight on a prop plane and four hours of speedboat journey will cost you nothing out of pocket. This is in stark contrast to popular resorts such as the Conrad Maldives, where round-trip transfers run upwards of $700 per person.
Unfortunately, transfers are limited to two departures per day, so if you arrive outside these hours, be prepared for a long wait.

To get to Calala, you can either choose to leave at at 5:45 a.m. or 1 p.m. at Managua Airport.
You can leave the island at either 5:30 a.m. or noon, for an arrival into Managua Airport at 9:45 a.m. or 5:15 p.m.

Check-in
Have you ever been greeted by an entire island upon your arrival? I have, now that I’ve stayed at Calala Island. It was a music-playing, coconut-offering extravaganza upon our arrival. Every member of the resort’s staff was present and the two managers swiftly escorted all four of us (all of the guests at the resort) to the dining area to outline the facilities.

There was no check-in, per se, and everyone was already familiar with our names and stay dates. With fresh coconuts in hand, we were guided to our rooms and given the details of dining on the island.
Property
In short, the island is gorgeous. Located in the Caribbean, it’s got picture-perfect white sand beaches and palm trees to spare. If you’re looking for an island paradise, look no further.

Room
I challenge you to find a resort more accommodating than Calala. When my mom and I eyed each other nervously at the mention of a single king bed in our hotel cabana, one of the resort managers, Claudia, offered me my own room.
Let me repeat that. Because my mom and I didn’t want to share a bed, the hotel manager offered me a separate room of my own with no additional charge. At a property that runs in the thousands of dollars per night, this is generosity unparalleled by any elite status out there.

The cabanas feature all-natural materials, like thatched roofs, wooden beams and decorative seashells. There is no air-conditioning, but the rooms had excellent airflow and two ceiling fans apiece. In March, this meant I was able to sleep under the covers comfortably without feeling stifled. If you choose to stay during the summer, however, be aware that temperatures skyrocket and even the most generous of airflow probably won’t save you.

Each junior suite consists of one king bed and a small couch.

The bathroom was fully stocked, but it is open-air, so things could get awkward quickly depending on who you’re sharing with. This is also true for the cabana at large, as its massive glass-fronted walls open directly to the beach. Island security guards walk by on occasion, so I’d be extra wary of wandering around immodestly, especially at night.

I asked the staff to cover up those holes in the middle of my outdoor shower, which they willingly did.

The toilet, while hidden behind a door, is open to the rest of the cabana. This means that no matter how much you love your roommate, things might get a little more intimate than you’re used to. The hotel did provide incense sticks and matches atop the toilets to help rectify this problem.
I was worried about bugs after reading some reviews from previous guests. However, I can safely say these worries were groundless. Did I find a huge horrific cockroach in my snorkel mask? Yes. But the island provides bug spray and bug killer everywhere on the island, so you don’t really need to worry.
Each cabana also features an outdoor patio, hammock and beanbag chairs.
My hammock and beanbag chairs.
Although there are only four rooms in the entire resort, they are all located along the same strip of beach. To combat accidental creepiness, the hotel asks that you use the back doors located inside each cabin to get anywhere you need to go.
Food and Beverage
Calala Island calls itself an “ultra all-inclusive” resort. Nearly all drinks are included, all your meals are free and most every activity costs nothing out-of-pocket.

Fish tacos at lunch.
Our first meal at the property was a lavish four courses. Because there were only four guests, the entire event took less than an hour, despite the decadence of the meal. The hotel is very good about dietary preferences and will make basically anything you’d like to order if they’ve got the ingredients.
The main dining area.
Barring special needs, your meal comes either prix fixe or available from a menu.

Unlike many other all-inclusive resorts, Calala Island has specific dining hours. Generally, you can expect to eat breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., lunch from noon to 4 p.m. and dinner from 7:30 p.m. on.
Lunch-time steak.
The food is some of the best I’ve ever had at an all-inclusive resort. No, it’s some of the best I’ve had, period. I’ve traveled to the Maldives and enjoyed resorts in Tahiti, but Calala’s chefs served up some of the tastiest food I’ve ever had.

Everything is fresh, skillfully prepared and arranged with care. Our fresh fruit was perfectly ripened. My steak was as tender as could be and if you felt the desire to fish for lobsters, they’d cook them for you perfectly.
Dessert during our four-course meal: chocolate cheesecake and peanut butter sponge cake.
Amenities
Calala Island is tiny, so the activities are focused on the water. If you don’t like water sports, you should head elsewhere. For everyone else, there are a host of activities to try. Want to picnic on a deserted island? Go spearfishing? The hotel has you covered, at no additional cost.

There’s a spa on the island, though it’s also outdoors, so if you’re looking for soothing music and air-conditioning this isn’t your jam.

There’s the infinity pool, of course, which is guaranteed to be uncrowded with a maximum of eight attendees at any given time.

In fact, we felt alone for the majority of our trip. There was no fight for pool chairs, our cellphones could be left unattended and our cabanas had a key that never needed to be used. The whole island feels safe, private and exclusive.

On our second day, we opted for island-hopping with our fellow guests, which meant we jumped back into the speedboat and motored out to our neighboring islands. This was one of my favorite activities. Surprisingly, I felt like an urban explorer. Yes, urban. The islands nearest Calala are filled with failed resort startups, and we saw the decaying buildings amid lush tropical vegetation.

Baboon Cay, a former resort.
Keep an eye out for the local wildlife, including sloths, iguanas and parrots.
It’s also true, however, that you can complete a walking lap of the entire island in two minutes and 30 seconds, so if you get island fever, the hotel may be a little small for you.
Service
Although the rooms are nice and the food is exquisite, what really makes the property stand out is its people. From the moment we arrived, we received unparalleled attention. There are 25 staff members for just four guests, and these people were overwhelmingly great.
Let me give you an example. At breakfast, I had ordered a mimosa. Nearing the bottom of my drink, a staffer made eye contact with me and hurried forward to mix up another mimosa, no words asked, complete with freshly squeezed orange juice. At any given time, there are at least two staff members waiting unobtrusively to help you with whatever you need.
The message-in-a-bottle left in our room.
Even better, absolutely everyone can help you with absolutely everything. On my first day I asked my in-pool bartender for help with my shower. I then asked the maintenance man for a freshly chopped coconut. Regardless of your request, you’ll receive smiles and prompt, helpful service.
Overall impression
Calala Island is a tiny property with big heart. From personalized doodles from the staff to the anything-you-can-think-of resort request system, everyone on the island is there to make your stay memorable.
If you’re looking for an authentic adventure with high-end touches, Calala Island is where you should be. Expect little, receive much and take advantage of all the amenities for an unforgettable experience.

There are a few downsides. The trip to the island felt very long, and there was the odd cockroach in my snorkel mask. Calala Island isn’t one of those perfectly manicured resorts you’ll find in the Maldives or Bora Bora. Instead, it’s an homage to unspoiled island beauty. With its luxe touches and attentive staff, Calala is a perfect paradise for blending a little bit of nature with a beach vacation.
Is it worth its rate in cash? Not to me, but on points it’s an absolute steal.
I’m already looking to return.
All photos by the author.

Kelp jerky, $60 naps and so many gym classes I got banned: My stay at the Equinox Hotel

It was a stay so good I fainted. Or rather, it was a stay so good I decided to have an IV drip just for fun — and then I fainted.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In an office full of Hilton Diamonds, Hyatt Globalists and Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elites, I rarely receive the same kind of premium perks as my colleagues when I stay at hotels.
But at one of New York City’s newest hotels — the Equinox Hotel at Hudson Yards — I can flex an entirely new kind of preferred membership: My Equinox fitness club all-access pass.
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(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
I’ve been a devout Equinox member since 2015. I use my membership to take classes at 26 different locations around Manhattan and get access to premium bathrooms and lockers no matter where I am in the city. So, ever since the wellness brand broke ground on its first-ever hotel venture, in Hudson Yards (the largest private real estate development in the history of the country), I’ve been dreaming of a staycation at this luxury property.
Related: Use your points to book a wellness retreat
When the 212-room Equinox Hotel began welcoming guests in July, we wondered if people would really want to bed down in a hotel run by a fitness brand. The answer, it turns out, is unequivocally yes. This is a review of a two-night stay at the flagship Equinox Hotel in New York City. But it’s also a story about how a wellness powerhouse cracked the code on sleeping in a city that, until now, supposedly never slept — and how much people are willing to pay for the privilege.
Booking
The Equinox Hotel isn’t part of any loyalty program, though eligible American Express and Chase cardholders can book this property through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) and Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resorts Collection (LHRC), respectively for some nice perks.
Related: Booking hotels through a credit card portal
Both luxury hotel booking programs include elite-like perks such as daily breakfast for two, an upgrade on arrival when available, a $100 property credit and other extras. Travelers should note that, on the same date, a stay booked through Amex FHR (available to those with The Platinum Card® from American Express), was pricing at $585, while the Chase rate was nearly $100 more ($675). Booking direct through the property or through an OTA like Hotels.com and you’d pay only $555 on that same evening, making the Amex FHR rate the best overall value, with the $100 property credit and breakfast.
Related: The best credit cards for hotel stays in 2020
We booked a two-night stay in late January through Hotels.com (for a nonrefundable rate of $465 per night) because we had earned a Hotels.com free night (worth up to $345) to help offset the cost.
Whether booked through an OTA, a luxury hotel program or directly through Equinox, guests essentially receive memberships to the Equinox Hudson Yards fitness center (read: the hotel gym) for the duration of their stay. That includes access to all the facilities, including a eucalyptus steam room, dry sauna, multiple pools and unlimited fitness classes.
Location
The Equinox Hotel is located in the heart of New York City’s flashy new Hudson Yards development on the city’s far west side, at the coveted 33 Hudson Yards address. Tucked between 11th Avenue and 33rd Street, the hotel is across from the Vessel, a futuristic Thomas Heatherwick-designed landmark that, in the summer, doubles as the world’s most ostentatious workout prop. From many public areas, you can admire views of the remaining exposed west side rail yards and the Hudson River beyond.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
If you’re in New York City for a convention at the Javits Center, the Equinox Hotel is extremely convenient, though that’s pretty much it. Hudson Yards, and this entire part of the west side, feels far from just about everything you’re likely to do. It’s also still very much in development; getting to the hotel both on foot and by car can be impeded by the massive construction zones all over this part of Manhattan.
One upside to the location is that it connects to the High Line, which runs south through Chelsea to the Meatpacking District. The hotel is also a 10-minute walk to New York Penn Station. On the subway, travelers can get here via the 7 train or, perhaps better, take an Uber, which will drop you off right out front. Later this year, Hudson Yards will also be home to Edge, the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere.
Check-in
Official check-in at the Equinox Hotel is 3 p.m., but I wanted to arrive early and drop off my luggage (er, gym bag) and scout out the property. So, I called around 10 a.m. to see what time I could check in, and was told to come by anytime. As I found out later, getting late checkout wouldn’t be so easy: When I asked at the front desk the following day, I was only able to get an additional 30 minutes tacked on to my staycation.
There are two separate entrances at the Equinox Hotel: One for guests and one for gym members. The 60,000-square-foot Equinox fitness center is technically a “destination club,” meaning you need a membership to that specific club or a “destination access membership” to get in.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Guests entering the hotel walk through a modest entryway that reminded me of the Times Square Edition. Attendants in white Karl Lagerfeld jackets directed us to walk through the stone-and-wood space, past an undulating metal wall that made you feel as though you were traveling through some kind of portal, and to the elevator to the 25th-floor lobby.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Upstairs, in an ultramodern space complete with black stone floors and Zaha Hadid-designed sofas, hotel staff members wore custom white pantsuits and manned two freestanding front desks constructed of resin and stone.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Every design element seemed luxurious — or at least expensive — including the custom light fixture suspended over the Stephen Starr bar and restaurant below.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
At check-in, I found out just how far my unconventional “status” would go: During my stay, I’d receive free gym clothes laundering as an Equinox member (talk about elite perks, right?). I also received a complimentary “Quantum Harmonics Brain & Body Boost” treatment at the spa as a perk of Hotels.com gold status. I inquired about guesting additional people into the gym during my stay, to which I was told, “No limit … within reason.”
Then I was given two room keys and directed to a separate elevator bank up to the 32nd floor.
Number of free Golden Delicious apples consumed during two-night stay: At least three. (Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Room
Hotel rooms in New York City are notoriously small, but when I opened the door to room 3217, I was stunned by the amount of square footage (400, to be exact) in the entry-level Deluxe City View guest room.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
There was a sprawling entryway with a black marble console and a trio of floor-to-ceiling adjustable mirrors.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
The space was large enough to accommodate excess luggage, fashion shows or full workouts — the latter, if I had to guess, was the point.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Rooms at the Equinox Hotel are basically sleep temples, with serious soundproofing (including padded walls and upholstered leather headboards) that effectively blocked out the cacophony from the construction sites and train yards below.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
All-natural, spring-free Coco-Mat mattresses are designed to keep you cool at night. By some sort of sorcery, they really don’t transfer movement, either, and even travelers with restless partners should be able to sleep through the night undisturbed. It helps that the beds have two separate duvets, too. This is also supposed to help with temperature regulation, but it means your bedmate can’t hog the covers either.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Everything in the room is whisper quiet (there’s even a specially designed A/C system) and all the commonplace sources of ambient noise and light have been eliminated. At night, custom blackout blinds conceal every trace of light from the 10-foot windows. Once I finally figured out how to turn off the bedside tablet (flipping it face down on the night stand), the only luminescence my eyes detected was a tiny green flash from the smoke detector.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Turn on the room’s night settings and everything becomes impossibly dark, quiet and cool — 66 degrees, supposedly the optimal temperature for sleep. But simply sit up and step off the bed, and a motion-activated light illuminates the floor with a soft glow.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Instead of a desk, the room had an angular velvet chaise and a marble pedestal table. This seemed like a style-over-substance decor decision, but when I actually sat down to write on my laptop, I realized it was a smart substitution: The table height was perfect for working or eating room service, but the chaise was far more comfortable for lounging or watching television than the furniture you usually find shoved into the corner of a hotel room.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
A TV equipped with an Apple TV box was recessed into the wall across from the bed, though it took me until the second night to realize it wasn’t working (the only channels I could get were CNN and a screensaver of Monet paintings). I considered calling the front desk for help, but after three fitness classes and an invasive medical — ahem, spa — treatment, I could hardly stay awake once I climbed into bed.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
The bathroom, which could be completely closed off from the rest of the room by a sliding louvered door, was a revelation. Sadly, there was no bathtub (select suites have black-marble soaking tubs) but the stone walk-in shower had a trio of adjustable taps and a bench (if you’ve ever tried to shave the back of your knee, you’ll know why I used the word “revelation” here).
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
I couldn’t figure out how to get all the taps on at once, which was frustrating, and having the faucet on the side of the sink was also a bit awkward.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
But there were many surprising details here that offset those small annoyances. Among them: Towels with loops that easily hung onto hooks without sliding off, and hooded boxer-inspired Reigning Champ bathrobes that guests could be seen wearing all over the hotel.
Like the foyer, the mirror panels in the bathroom could also be adjusted, so you could see the back of your head — perfect for hot styling tools.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Instead of the fitness brand’s signature Kiehl’s products, I was surprised to find an array of Grown Alchemist amenities made from botanicals harvested from the nearby High Line park. Yes, really. I can’t remember the last time I tried a hotel product I liked so much. I went to buy it at the spa, and I was thrilled the room had full-size dispensers so there was no limit to how much of the calming evening cleanser, fragrant with chamomile, Tasmanian pepper and tangerine, I could use.
Amenities
Usually, this is the part of a hotel review that would talk about the gym and spa. But the Equinox Hotel is essentially a massive fitness mecca with rooms piled on top, so instead, I want to tell you about the utter glory and insanity of the ensuite minibar — basically a closet filled with everything from Diet Coke and roasted nuts to mysterious tonics, potions and lotions.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Take almost everything you thought you knew about hotel minibars, run those preconceptions through a Pilates reformer and ask Gwyneth Paltrow to restock the amenities. The result is the Equinox Hotel RoomBar.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Spread across more than half a dozen drawers and shelves, the in-room “minibar” included everything from a complimentary Nespresso station to healthy snacks (crispy almond-butter Brussels sprouts; spicy Thai and spirulina-flavored kelp jerky) and familiar soft beverages.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
There were also locally crafted liquors and chilled bottles of wine and Champagne; fitness gear and accessories to use during your stay; and Rhone athletic wear for purchase.
There were also shelves and drawers stocked with dietary supplements, and other wellness products you can probably buy on Goop.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Among the most baffling was an ampoule full of “hypertonic” (read: seawater) you’re supposed to consume on an empty stomach to promote “cell renewal, energy levels and protein synthesis,” whatever that means. I was also intrigued by the Magnesium Ease spray that promised to aid with sleep and muscle recovery with just three spritzes, and a vial of mysterious “brain fuel” that apparently improves concentration and other “cranial” functions.
I think I’ll stick to my daily iced coffee, thank you very much.
But after perusing the very entertaining (and expensive) selection of products, I decided to change into my gym clothes, grab a free bag of popped turmeric-and-garlic-flavored water lily seeds and head downstairs to the gym.
Fitness center and spa
The Equinox Hotel is anchored by a 60,000-square-foot fitness center with everything you’d expect to find at a hotel gym (cardio equipment, free weights, weight machines) — just at a massive scale. I couldn’t even count the number of treadmills.
Related: The best hotel gyms on earth 
Hotel guests and club members enter a sprawling, living room-style lounge area and coworking space marked by chevron-patterned wood flooring that extends up the walls toward the ceiling, oversized velvet sectionals and geometric leather ottomans.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Sheer volume aside, the amenities likely to appeal most to travelers are the heated outdoor pool and roof deck; the indoor saltwater lap pool; the hot and cold plunge pools; and unlimited access to Equinox’s robust lineup of group fitness classes.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Between the official check-in time (3 p.m. on Friday) and checkout time (noon on Sunday), I took as many classes as possible: Vinyasa yoga, a barre class, a kickboxing-focused circuit called Rounds, a HIIT-style class called Whipped and Anthem, a spin class that’s basically Equinox’s version of SoulCycle — though, since Equinox owns that, too, you can always just take an actual SoulCycle class downstairs at the adjacent studio for an additional fee.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
The sixth class I took was a late-afternoon Barrel Sauna Meditation course that’s exclusive to this club. An instructor leads a 20-minute guided meditation inside the barrel saunas with no more than six students inside.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Come summer, the sundeck here is apparently quite a scene, with cocktails circulating around the pool chairs. But during the winter, there are four freestanding barrel saunas travelers can use — along with the pool and outdoor showers — as part of a regenerative post-workout circuit.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
As a person who absolutely loves working out, I can honestly tell you I was having the time of my life seeing how many classes I could feasibly cram into a weekend stay. That is, until I received the dreaded nastygram from Equinox: “Oh no! That’s your third missed class.”
Continue reading: How to stay fit while traveling
Equinox members will recognize this digital slap on the wrist as the one you receive when you book, but late-cancel or skip, three classes within a 30-day period. The punishment? You can’t make online reservations for classes for an entire week.
I know what you’re thinking: No, I didn’t actually skip any of these classes.
Prior to checking in at the hotel, I tried to book some of these classes through the Equinox app in advance so I’d get a head start on my marathon weekend of wellness. But because I don’t usually have access to this location, I wasn’t able to sign up.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Unless you have an Equinox membership that includes access to the Hudson Yards location, you’ll need to register for classes through the concierge. Because my hotel reservation was under the same email that’s linked to my gym membership, the Equinox app was seeing that I’d signed up for these classes — but hotel guests don’t check in this way. Instead, my name had been put on a guest list.
And, honestly, after showing up for my third or fourth class, they weren’t even checking me in at that point. They just waved me along like, “There’s that crazy girl with all the questions who keeps taking photos of everything.”
Because the app never registered me checking into the gym, I had been banned from booking more classes by Saturday night.
Though the concierge could keep adding me to the list, he couldn’t help me with my personal membership problem. For that, I had to reach out to the gym’s manager. It took me a couple of days to get an answer from someone who could waive my punishment. It struck me as a bit odd that, as a longstanding gym member and a paying hotel guest, I’d been penalized for making great use of the facilities. Though it was a small nuisance, it’s strange Equinox hasn’t encountered this yet — or at least bothered to come up with a workaround.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
After all, Harvey Spevak, executive chairman and managing partner for Equinox, told The New York Times in 2019 that the idea for the property came from Equinox members who were choosing hotels based on accessibility to Equinox clubs.
And though I’d been told at the front desk I could add multiple people to the guest list — in my circle of fitness fiends, having access to this club is like getting guested into a Centurion Lounge — when I tried to do so with the concierge, I was told only hotel guests on the reservation were allowed on the guest list.
Strength training is more fun with views of The Vessel — I promise! (Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Again, I was a bit surprised that the experience wasn’t more seamless. Where, I wondered, was the extra love for members who weren’t just paying upwards of $500 a night to be hotel guests, but who pay more than $200 in dues every single month?
I did love the complimentary gym clothes laundering service (typically $10)  that — as promised — had my clothes picked up, washed, dried, folded and returned in about two hours.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
There was another quirk to the fitness club experience. Guests are promised 24-hour access to the gym, but when I inquired at the front desk about this, I was told the club closes to guests when it closes to members (times vary depending on the day). You don’t get exclusive access to the sprawling gym floor, studios, swimming pools or lounge areas.
Instead, guests can be escorted by security to the sixth-floor E by Equinox, the brand’s notoriously expensive, ultra-exclusive training club. I could not wait to see what a $500 monthly gym membership gets you. Privacy, it turns out, and not much else.
The spartan floor has two mismatched treadmills, a single step machine and a few benches (the space is intended more for personal training than sitting on a stationary bike for an hour). All the marble, leather and opulence, it turns out, is reserved for the locker rooms, which have private changing rooms, toilets, showers and vanities.
Oh, and the Fiji water and fruit selection in this neck of the wild Equinox woods is excellent.
Many Equinox clubs have spas, but few have the sort of lavish, high-tech, ultratrendy treatments you’ll find at the Equinox Hotel. Everything on the treatment menu seems to promise to make you slimmer, stronger or smarter — or some combination of the three.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
I was tempted by the Facexercise Body Sculpt + Tone massage that promised to make me look leaner, or the $1,800 Lunar28 facial that came with a set of serums that retails for $1,600. This is all supposed to resurface your face and make you look supernally luminous but, for some reason, my budget request to pay for this was denied. Bummer!
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Instead, I decided that — in the name of good travel journalism — I should try the treatments that promised to cure jet lag. Or, at least, leave you feeling well-rested and alert.
I won’t go into the details here (that’s for another story coming shortly) but the quick version is that I took advantage of my complimentary Quantum Harmonics treatment, which promised to give me the experience of getting at least three hours of sleep in 30 minutes. It’s billed as “immersive sound and harmonic resonance therapy” on a Wave Table. I didn’t wake up from my nap (normally $60 for 30 minutes) feeling groggy, as I usually do. But I’m also not sure I ever actually fell asleep.
The next day, I wanted to try something more, er, involved: a supervised IV nutrient drip. I requested the $250 Jet Lag formula — a shockingly bright infusion of Vitamin C, zinc and other vitamins and minerals — and the CliffsNotes of this tale is that having an IV inserted at a spa isn’t any less petrifying than a doctor’s office to someone who faints at the sight of her own blood (that’s me).
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
In my semiprivate relaxation “pod” overlooking the still-exposed western railyard, it will surprise absolutely no one to know that I may have just ever so briefly passed out after the IV was inserted.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Fortunately, I passed out under the supervision of a registered nurse and already had an IV hookup of fluids in a fancy spa with fancy dried fruits and fancy teas and infused water. If you’re going to faint, I can recommend the spa at the Equinox Hotel as the place to do so.
After I recovered from the shock of the IV (and of having convinced myself to voluntarily pay hundreds of dollars for this experience) I very nearly stopped panicking long enough to enjoy the view.
Food and beverage
Shortly after opening, the Equinox Hotel welcomed Electric Lemon, a concept from James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Stephen Starr.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
I’m not sure why, but I expected the restaurant and bar to be dead during my stay. After all, a winter storm was rolling in, it was frightfully cold and windy and, to most New Yorkers, Hudson Yards is just out there. 
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
But from relatively early in the morning until late, late at night, this place was bustling with a young, very stylish crowd. Every seat seemed to be full, and in the summer, they no doubt spill out onto the 8,000-square-foot terrace, with its original Jaume Plensa sculpture and reflecting pool.
I’m not usually one for visiting “hip” places, but this was certainly one of those.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Over the course of the weekend, I had dinner and drinks here, as well as a light lunch. The clean, health-focused American menu was fun and almost fanciful.
On Friday night, my boyfriend met me at the 24th-floor restaurant for dinner. It was around 8 p.m. and we were told that, without reservations, we could either grab seats at the long, communal table for an hour and 30 minutes (the pressure!) or wait until 10 p.m.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Neither of us had eaten much that day, so we promptly filled in seats between two other parties at the communal table and set about ordering the newly fashioned deviled crab crudo with ginger dressing ($24), and a black bass served with poblano, salsa borracha and a side of warm tortillas ($41) that seems to be a menu mainstay. We also ordered the Atlantic cod ($36) which was cooked well but entirely too salty.
The drinks were excellent (try the Blue Thai with vodka, galangal, Thai basil and blueberries) but, as with everything in this neighborhood, gut-wrenchingly expensive even by New York City standards: a cool $18. Then again, you can’t buy a condo in this building for less than $5 million, so the menu prices were consistent with the kind of crowd Hudson Yards seems so determined to attract.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Like dinner, room service in the morning was prompt, filling and tasty — but cost an awful lot of money for food I wouldn’t venture back to Hudson Yards for — $34 covered the small pot of coffee and avocado toast. After compulsory service charge and tip, the bill totaled more than $53.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
I placed my order through the tablet, and my meal — packed neatly into a metal bento box-style arrangement (a refreshing departure from those oversized and somewhat embarrassing carts) — arrived within 30 minutes.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Coffee and other light beverages were available by the pool deck, though I suspect this space is more for cocktails and food during the summer.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Back at Electric Lemon for lunch — this time in front of the gas fireplace by the bar — I was impressed by, of all things, a dish called “fancy vegetables and dip.” The artful arrangement included broccolini, heirloom carrots, rosy pink lettuce and other leaves and roots.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
At street level, just past the fitness club entrance, there’s an outpost of Juice Press, typical for New York Equinox locations. I ordered an iced turmeric latte with ginger, vanilla, honey and oat milk. This is, after all, the Equinox Hotel, right?
When I’d finally exhausted all my onsite options (and consumed three or four of the free Golden Delicious apples in bowls all over the hotel), I started to venture off into Hudson Yards for sustenance. For guests who find the hotel’s dining venues limited, there are other overpriced places to eat in the immediate vicinity.
One in particular — Tavern by WS — is an elegant brasserie in the same tower as the hotel, though you’ll have to leave the building and go around the corner to get there.
This is the kind of fare you’re probably going to be craving after six workout classes and a puncture wound. At least, I know I was. Lobster ravioli and a steaming bowl of minestrone with San Marzano tomatoes and pole beans was just the ticket.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
Overall impression
I drank gallons of snake oil during my two-night stay at Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards and I loved every single sip.
Before checking in, I thought I’d love the Equinox Hotel, if only for its proximity to my gym. Like so many members, missing my Thursday morning kickboxing class or Monday evening cycling class can be one of the less-fun parts of traveling. I am a creature of habit, if nothing else.
But I can honestly say now the Equinox Hotel is one of my new favorite properties in the city for a staycation.
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
In the refined glow of Hudson Yards, guests can count on a good night’s sleep — the kind you usually have to work 80-hour weeks to earn. In fact, the hotel experience was more seamless than the fitness club experience, which seemed somehow to not take into consideration the Equinox members the hotel was supposedly designed for in the first place.
By the time I wrapped up my final gym class of the weekend — a 45-minute kickboxing circuit — I was famished. So, I just may have grabbed that $12 bag of kelp jerky on my way out.
All photos by the author.

Almost ready for its close up: A first look at the reopened Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
Five words you never want to hear on the other end of the line as you’re packing for vacation: “Your reservation has been canceled.”
A preemptive call to The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, to inquire about airport transportation options had me breaking into a sweat, and not the kind induced from lounging on a beach under the Caribbean sun, as an agent tried to pull up my impending booking. Luckily, with a little digging, they were finally able to locate the still-intact reservation but I couldn’t help wondering if the mix-up was an omen for the trip.
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The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas was in its third month of operation when I visited, according to one staff member I spoke to, after being closed for a $100 million renovation to repair damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017. As I learned from my colleague Summer Hull, you just never know what you’re going to get when visiting a newly opened property.
What I found upon arrival was a hotel that may be open, but wasn’t quite offering guests the full resort experience yet — which could be a dealbreaker for some considering the cost of a stay at this property.
Rocking chairs welcoming guests at the entrance to The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

In This Post

Booking
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas is a top-tier Category 8 Marriott Bonvoy property. This means award nights will cost you 70,000 points for an off-peak night, 85,000 for a standard night, and 100,000 for a peak night redemption.
Predictably, a stay — even mid-week — at this property wouldn’t come cheap in the middle of high season for the Caribbean. Had we paid cash, we would have paid about $1,000 per night, but we wanted to keep our cash outlay to a minimum so instead chose to redeem 155,000 points (for one off-peak and one standard night) which TPG values at around $1,240.
The resort quotes a daily resort fee of $85, but I was “only” charged $50 upon checkout.
If you’re low on Marriott points and are eyeing a redemption such as this, consider signing up for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening.

Location
Getting to the island of St. Thomas from New York was a dream: a quick nonstop flight from Newark (EWR) to St. Thomas (STT) meant wheels down by 2:50 p.m. local time. The drive from the airport to the resort, however, was a different story.
Related: Best ways to use miles in the Caribbean
The Ritz-Carlton is located on the east end of the island, 10 miles from the airport. The hotel does not have any type of shuttle service in place and the island does not currently have Uber so your only option is to grab one of the many taxi vans waiting in the airport lot. You have two taxi options: Pay $90 cash for a “private shuttle,” meaning you have the van to yourself, or $18/person to ride in the same vehicle but with additional passengers. And by additional passengers, I mean seven additional passengers — so get ready to get close if that’s the route you go.
A view of the Ritz property at night. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 
You could also rent a car, but beware that the quality of rental cars in the U.S. Virgin Islands is often not great, and you drive on the left-hand side in the USVI, which could be difficult for those used to right-hand driving on the mainland.
Because St. Thomas is very hilly, be prepared for a long drive (in our case, about 45 minutes) up very steep and winding roads. If you’re prone to car or motion-sickness, maybe skip the free shots offered at the airport Margaritaville on your way out.
Check-in
My husband and I arrived at the resort around 3:50 p.m. We were met by friendly hotel staff who directed us to the check-in desk where a cold towel and delicious iced beverage (with optional Cruzan rum topper!) appeared within minutes. Despite official check in being a mere 10 minutes away (4 p.m.), the room was not ready. This was especially hard to comprehend after a staffer mentioned the hotel was only 40% full at the time of our visit.
The lobby is airy and decked out with brand-new furnishings. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 
The receptionist asked us to drop our bags with the bellman and wait at Sails, the resort’s closest beach-front restaurant, while the room was readied. As we hopped on a golf cart to head down to the water, my husband had to ask that our luggage be moved from the middle of the unattended valet driveway to a secure storage room.
Golf carts at the ready to transport guests from the lobby to their room. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 
An hour later, we finally received a call that the room was ready. We waited 15 minutes for the bellman to meet us at Sails as directed by the receptionist but eventually gave up when no one showed, and walked back up to the entrance to retrieve our luggage and room keys.
Room

The room — especially the bathroom — at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, was the highlight of the stay.

The term “well-appointed” is defined as “having a high standard of equipment or furnishing” when it comes to a building or room and this certainly was true of our standard king room. All the furnishings looked brand-new, modern in design, and the room was spotless.

The bed was large and luxurious with plenty of pillows to go around and crisp, clean linens.

A king bed fit for a king — what more could you ask for? (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

Outlets were within arm’s reach of any horizontal sleeping position and ample in number. The only downside to the bed setup was that the thermostat was obscured behind a large lamp on the bedside table, making it almost impossible to read or adjust the temperature without doing a furniture shuffle or some type of neck gymnastics.

Plenty of outlets, but you had to work for thermostat access. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

Oddly, no protective or decorative covering was fitted onto the lower mattress, which made for a strange-looking setup.

Some things are better left unseen. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

That said, the top-of-the-line bed situation coupled with the sleekest and quietest ceiling fan I’ve ever seen made for a great night’s sleep.

Aside from the bed, the room also included a chic faux-reclaimed wood desk with leather chairs under an oversized rattan light fixture.

A large and in charge desk made for the perfect spot for breakfast. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 

There was also a sleek set of drawers under the flat-screen TV that housed a mini-fridge and DIY Nespresso coffee station with all the fixins’.

The coffee station was discreetly tucked into the set of drawers. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

There was also a chaise lounge in the room that, while large for the room, was quite comfortable.

The perfect spot for a little catching up on work. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

The closet was big enough to fit an entire resort wear collection and housed the room’s safe, which was easy to use and large enough to accommodate a bevy of electronics and travel documents.

Love a good hotel room robe. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

The balcony was spacious albeit no frills, with two basic loungers and chairs at the ready.

The perfect spot for catching a sunset sky. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

This outdoor space would have been the ideal spot for relaxing except for the fact that the view from our building was of the ongoing grounds construction as well as the back of Sails, with limited views of the water. If a good view is a priority, make sure to request a room in one of the buildings that faces east and not north.

View from the balcony of the lush grounds, but limited water. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
As the grounds and property were still very much a work in progress, many of the foot paths were muddy from landscapers.

Lots of greenery — and lots of mud. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

The bathroom was beyond spacious with a shower stall, private toilet, large vanity area and the kind of deep soaking tub that vacation dreams are made of.

Could have spent the entire stay just in the tub. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

The vanity had ample counter space around his-and-hers sinks as well as an additional shelf for storage needs. The lower shelf of the vanity was lined with automatic track lighting that turned on as soon as you walked in — a smart and useful feature.

A private toilet is always appreciated. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

The shower was spacious and included a Raindance showerhead. Asprey amenities were fully stocked in both the shower and main bathroom area.

The shower situation was just as nice as the tub. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The usual suspects. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

The toilet seat was one visit away from sliding off but was promptly fixed after a call to the front desk.

Clean, but needed a little tightening. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

Food and beverage
Our first dining experience on the property was at Sails waiting for the room, where we began our vacation with high hopes.

The covered beach-front area was a godsend between afternoon rain showers. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

The service, as we would experience throughout our stay, was top-notch. The local staff were friendly, attentive and the best part of every meal.

The chips and guac (called Hallamole on the menu, $14), on the other hand, was frankly terrible. Stale cuts of various root vegetables were piled into a basket with a side of guacamole that was oxidized and tasted store-bought.

Sails root chips, guac and salsa. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

 Tuna poke ($29) and the Red Hook fish tacos ($20) followed suit. Both were disappointing.

The tuna poke looked much better than it tasted. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

Fish tacos with more mayo than Mahi Mahi. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

The good news is you’ll have no trouble finding solace in the frozen drinks, a favorite being the B.B.C. (Baileys Banana Colada, $16), which was basically banana pudding in drink form with booze mixed in.

The Baileys Banana Colada a.k.a. the B.B.C. will make you forget all your worries. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 
Dining at Alloro for dinner, where “fine dining transports you to Sicily by way of St. Thomas,” was not as disappointing, but still not great. We were told the restaurant was booked up when we walked in, and that the only seats were at the bar, which was more than fine with us, but odd considering all the empty tables.
A beautiful space, to be sure. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
An eggplant caponata starter ($16) was served atop an arugula salad with no dressing and undressed grilled bread. The pizza ($21) and pasta dish ($19) were not offensive but nothing memorable. The resort is lucky to have such incredible staff working, who at least made the experience pleasant overall — and also knew how to make a great Negroni.
You can get better pizza and pasta at the airport. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

The property’s surf-and-turf restaurant, Bleuwater, was not open for dinner during our visit (despite the website listing hours of operation as 6 to 10 p.m. daily), which reception was unable to confirm or deny when we called for reservations.

The restaurant was, however, open for breakfast (if you can find it — the space is unmarked except for faded lettering over a nonworking entrance). It was the best meal we had during our stay. Opt for the breakfast buffet ($32/person) and enjoy fresh juices, pastries, a selection of standard breakfast items from the hot bar and a cold bar of meats and cheeses. 

A variety of pastries were available to choose from for all your carbohydrate needs. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

A hearty cheese-and-meat selection did not disappoint. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

The fresh fruit was a much-appreciated highlight, as were the fresh fruit juices. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

A hot bar came stocked with all the basics: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and breakfast potatoes. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

Again, the service was amazing. 

Not wanting to try our luck again at Sails, we ventured over to the beach-front lunch spot on the residence side of the property. We opted for what seemed like the safest choices: a crispy chicken wrap ($19) and a steak quesadilla ($27). Not exactly island food, but it did the trick.

The crispy chicken wrap. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

The $27 steak quesadilla. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)

On our last morning, we opted for room service: bagels and cream cheese, fruit smoothies and coffee ($79 total). We were told it would take 35 minutes but the food did not show up until almost an hour after we ordered.

Bagels for breakfast: You can take girl out of New York… (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, also offers a Club Lounge (complete with a killer balcony area) where you’ll find a light breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks (!) and dessert served daily for $400 per day per reservation.
Given how expensive it is to dine on-property and how, well, not great, the food was during our stay, I would 100% opt to go this route if returning. On our walk-through one evening the selection of bites looked incredible (much better than what was being offered at the actual restaurants) and the self-serve bar speaks for itself.
The other move would be to take advantage of the local restaurants and bars that are a short taxi ride away in Red Hook.
The patio outside Alloro restaurant. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Amenities

When all the construction is complete, guests will have access to two pools on the resort’s property. However, only one of the two was open while we were there, so we were given access to the pool at the adjacent Ritz-Carlton Club residence property.
The pool that was open at the resort was a smallish infinity pool just steps from the beach. The pool deck was adorned with about a dozen lounge chairs and a few cabanas.
The only pool open on the hotel side during our stay. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 
The cabanas remained untouched during our stay. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 
Due to construction, a large metal fence limited the deck space as well as the sunlight at the open hotel pool, which is probably why we rarely saw many guests hanging here.
Some serious shade. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The pool was also noisy as one would expect from a working construction site. The pool currently under construction should be a nice family-friendly option once complete.
I called to check in with the resort about the progress of the construction on this pool, and the agent I spoke to told me that it should be open by the end of next week, as it’s just awaiting a final water inspection.
Ongoing construction at the second, family-friendly hotel pool. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
An overview of the hotel pool and beach area. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The best part of the beach was the sunscreen station. A nice touch for those on a quick vacation not wanting to check a bag full of liquids or not wanting to buy a new bottle of sun block on the island.
A sunscreen for everyone — even pasty New Yorkers. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 
The pool at the Ritz-Carlton Club next door, however, was massive and offered a much better selection of lounge chairs and access to sunlight for those seeking an extra dose of vitamin D.
The beach on the residence side was also in better shape (softer sand, better beach chairs and trees for the sun-averse). It was about a five-minute walk from the hotel pool area, and worth the trip.
Picture yourself in one of those amazing hammocks. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
The gym was brand-new, with plenty of cardio and weight machines to choose from, and offered a better view of the ocean than our room.
Come for the workout, stay for the view. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
There were plenty of free weights to choose from. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Brand new cardio machines. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 
Complimentary earphones, water, towels and fruit were also supplied.
All the necessary gym amenities, a nice touch. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 
The tennis courts looked great but we were unable to use them due to frequent rain showers and high winds during our stay.
Nonmotorized aquatic activities were included with the stay. We took out and enjoyed kayaks and snorkeling gear. Standup paddleboards were also available, although we opted not to take them out due to the rocky nature of the beach.
Service
The restaurant and grounds staff at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, were excellent from start to finish: friendly, speedy and knowledgeable. Reception was hit or miss, at times unable to answer basic questions about operations. We did receive prompt service to repair the toilet as mentioned above, which was appreciated.
The gorgeous atrium at night. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
Overall impression
The grounds at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, were beautiful — the flora and fauna were abundant and tropical — and that’s even with ongoing construction.
Blooms on blooms. (Photo by Jane Frye/The Points Guy)
 
There was a good deal of mud on footpaths and in grassy areas where crews were working during our visit. The footpaths are also very poorly lit, so a walk to dinner or around the property at night was precarious.
The room was top-notch and the staff wonderful. Once construction on the hotel pool is finished, it should be a nice play to catch some rays, relax and take in the scenery in peace.
Once the final details are finished on this property and operations have had a chance to smooth out the kinks, this resort will be worth considering for your next visit to St. Thomas, especially if you can do it on points. The food could still be a gamble, but if you opt for the Club Level option and/or dine in Red Hook as a Plan B, you should be good to go.
Featured image by Jane Frye / The Points Guy.

5 best hotels in Hawaii with Marriott points

Winter impends. If you’re strategizing to escape the tumbling climate, it’s a great time to visit Hawaii. While the rainy season is between November and March, you can still count on plenty of sunshine and great temperatures.
You probably want a free hotel stay.  Thankfully, you’ve got plenty of options by redeeming Marriott points. Marriott has over 30 hotels and resorts on the island, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a hotel that’s perfect for you. If you’re looking for the best hotel credit cards to discount your Polynesian getaway, open one of these cards:

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express® Card – 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card – 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card – 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card – 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Below are five of the best Marriott hotels in Hawaii — they’ve not only received great ratings on TripAdvisor, but also provide for fantastic value from your Marriott points. Also read our Marriott Bonvoy review to learn the best ways to use Marriott points.
Treat yourself to gorgeous ocean views at one of the best Marriott hotels in Hawaii with points. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)
Best Marriott hotels in Hawaii with points
Marriott has plenty of hotels and resorts scattered all over the islands. Whether you’re looking for a hotel with great views, easy access to a beach, a central location, walking distance to a number or restaurants, or a more secluded hotel location, you’re sure to find one that fits your preferences.
We chose hotels that had three main characteristics:

Great value when booked with Marriott points
Great locations
At least a four-star rating on TripAdvisor

Here are our top five hotel picks!
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua is one of the best hotels in Maui. Staying here, you’ll be treated to amazing views of the island, top-notch customer service, a plethora of amenities and luxurious rooms. The entrance of this hotel doesn’t lead you to a paradise of white sand and glass lagoons. Instead, it’s surrounded by thick forests, lush fields, and a golf course. The nearby beaches are more rugged and volcanic.
This hotel has been rated one of the best hotels by US News and World Report, but if that’s not enough to convince you, you can also look to the number of reviews on TripAdvisor. It’s got 4,000+ reviews and an exceptionally high rating. Guests constantly rave about the food, cleanliness of the nearby beaches, and proximity to a number of pools, restaurants, bars and other lounges.
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua is all about the green. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)
Price: The Marriott award chart sorts their hotels by “category” and prices them according to which category they fall under. This is a Category 7 hotel, meaning you should expect to spend 60,000 Marriott points per night. Off-peak award nights cost 50,000 points, and peak dates cost 70,000 points. This hotel routinely sells for  $1,100+ per night, meaning you can receive a Marriott points value of 1.83 cents per point. That’s an excellent deal.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is a great hotel for couples and families who are looking for a more secluded location.
The hotel is located on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island, and has a 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor with 1,500+ reviews. Many guests who have stayed here before say that the nearby beach, Kauna’oa Bay, is one of the best on the island, especially during the summer months when the water will be nice and warm.
The hotel also has a number of amenities, such as a golf course, tennis courts, a spa, and pools.
Price: This is a Category 6 hotel, which costs 50,000 points per night. During off-peak dates you’ll spend 40,000 points, and during peak dates you’ll spend 60,000 points. It’s not abnormal to find a room costing $850+ after taxes. You should receive a value around 1.7 cents when booking an award night at this hotel. You can even use the annual free night you receive from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (worth 50,000 points) for a free night here.
The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
Kauai is widely considered to be the most beautiful of the Hawaiian islands. It’s less developed than the other main islands, and therefore more relaxed and less challenging to enjoy unadulterated countryside. The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas lies at the very top of Kauai. Its unique location gives it a fantastic ocean view of both sunrise and sunset (isn’t that why we all go to Hawaii?).
Take a swim at the Queen’s Bath, a famous sinkhole just northwest of the resort. Or take a waterfall tour — there are plenty on the island.
(Photo by Don Landwehrle/Shutterstock)
Price: This is a Category 7 resort — you’ll pay 60,000 points per night. Off-peak dates will run you 50,000 points, and peak dates cost 70,000 points. Rates can reach $500 after taxes, so you can expect to receive of 0.83 cents per point.
The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, Ka’anapali
With over 1,300+ people on TripAdvisor rating this hotel 4.5-stars, you can’t go wrong with The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, Ka’anapali hotel.
You’ll find that this hotel offers a full-service restaurant, beach bar, and gym/fitness studio. This is also a great hotel for those who will be traveling with kids because they offer a children’s beach pool and play area. In fact, numerous guests on TripAdvisor have commented that this is an extremely friendly hotel for those traveling with toddlers.
Price: This is a Category 7 resort, so expect to pay 60,000 Marriott points per night. Off-peak dates cost 50,000 points, and peak dates cost 70,000 points. Prices here are often $550+, so you can bank on a value of 0.91 cents per Marriott point.
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach is more of an apartment complex than a hotel. You won’t find standard hotel rooms, but instead residential studios and suites with separate living spaces. Perhaps the best part of this hotel is that every single room has a stunning ocean view with a balcony. You’ll receive a kitchenette as well, meaning you can save big money if you choose to hop down to the supermarket and prepare your own meals.
The hotel is only half a mile from the world-famous Waikiki beach, which may just be the most action-packed strip in Hawaii. Tons of restaurants and bars, and lots of water sports. Try your hand at surfing! It’s hard to find a more placid and forgiving waves than at Waikiki.
The Ritz-Carlton Residences in Waikiki have plenty of picturesque pools and balconies where you can drift off to the sound of the neighboring waves — like an infinity pool on the eighth floor. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)
Price: This is a Category 7 hotel, meaning you’ll pay 60,000 points per night. Off-peak dates cost 50,000 points, and peak dates cost 70,000 points. You’ve got no chance of finding a room here that costs under $600 after taxes, so you can expect to receive at least 1 cent per Marriott point at this hotel.
Bottom line
If you’re looking to visit Hawaii, you can’t go wrong with staying at a Marriott hotel. And with 30+ hotels all over the islands, there’s a very good chance you can find one that fits your preferences.
If you want to know how to earn Marriott points, check out these credit cards:

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express® Card – 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card – 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card – 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card – 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months

Let us know your favorite Marriott hotel in Hawaii. and subscribe to our newsletter for more travel inspiration for redeeming your miles and points.

OpenTable quietly limited discounts on Kayak hotel bookings

In January, we reported that a new partnership between OpenTable and Kayak would allow customers to use OpenTable Dining Points toward discounts on hotel stays. 
At the time, both brands publicly stated customers could save up to $200 per reservation on hotel stays booked via a dedicated Kayak portal using OpenTable points.
It appears, however, that the maximum discount has been capped at $80 total per reservation — 40% of the original maximum discount promised. Both Kayak’s and OpenTable’s announcements have been updated to reflect the new discount range of $20 to $80 per reservation, although third-party sites still retain the original verbiage.

Allowing consumers to apply OpenTable Dining Points toward hotel stays was a clever way for OpenTable to drive customers back to its restaurant reservation platform. In the highly competitive space, OpenTable has had to fight for space against new competitors such as Resy, Quandoo and even Yelp’s proprietary reservation platform.
Since both OpenTable and Kayak are owned by parent company Booking Holdings, Inc., it made a lot of sense for the brands to offer perks that wouldn’t put revenue into a competitor’s pocket. But it’s very likely the brands began losing too much revenue under the original discount model, since many no-frills budget hotels can be reserved for less than $200 per night. This would explain why the company, which also owns Booking.com, Agoda, Priceline and Rentalcars.com, would scale back the cash total on each discount allowed per reservation.
And though the rate of redemption remains the same, OpenTable and Kayak now offer travelers slightly different redemption options. Originally, OpenTable Dining Points could be applied to each reservation in 1,000-, 2,000-, 5,000- or 10,000-point increments. Now, customers can choose to apply anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 points for each reservation. Every batch of 1,000 OpenTable Dining Points is equivalent to $20 off.
Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy.

How to Tell if You’re Staying in a Dirty Hotel Room

AAA recently announced its new Inspector’s Best Of Housekeeping award for hotels that set the highest bar for cleanliness. This new award recognizes those properties that go beyond the standard for AAA diamond ratings. So which cities have the cleanest hotels? The list might surprise you:

New York City (161 hotels)
Houston, Texas (90 hotels)
Washington, DC (78 hotels)
Orlando, Florida (69 hotels)
Charlotte, North Carolina (68 hotels)
Austin, Texas (63 hotels)
Nashville, Tennessee (61 hotels)
San Diego, California (60 hotels)
Anaheim, California (50 hotels)
San Antonio, Texas (49 hotels)

If you’re not one of AAA’s professionally trained hotel inspectors, what should you be looking for when you check in to get an idea about the level of cleanliness at a property?
Related: These Are The Worst #HotelFails and Easy Ways Hotels Can Fix Them
Reneta McCarthy, a senior lecturer at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, spoke with TPG about some of the key points and tips for travelers for their next stay.
McCarthy said that while something might look clean it’s impossible to know for sure how well something was cleaned. She did say there are clues that you can look for to get an idea of how much time and effort went into getting your room ready for you though:

Is the room free of dust and hair?
Are the bathroom amenities arranged?
Are the bathroom amenities new?
Is the room organized and tidy?
Is the bed well made?

McCarthy points out that if your housekeeper didn’t take the time to do these simple things well, then there’s a good chance they were less than thorough with cleaning and disinfecting your room.
“Most housekeepers take their job seriously, and do a great job,” McCarthy told TPG. However, she pointed out that the latest figure she heard was that there are around one million open jobs in the hospitality industry. The sector is currently experiencing a labor shortage and with housekeepers needing to clean 10 or more rooms each day in a typical hotel, there is a chance things are going to be missed.
If you’re really worried you can use those same disinfecting wipes you have in your bag for the plane to wipe down surfaces you might be concerned about in your hotel room, like door handles or the TV remote.
For the latest travel news, deals, and points and miles tips please subscribe to The Points Guy daily email newsletter.
Featured photo by Getty Images

5 Best Marriott Hotels in Hawaii With Points

INSIDER SECRET: Even during peak travel season, you can still find lots of award availability at many Marriott hotels. 
Summer is officially here, and it’s one of the more popular times of year to visit Hawaii. You can enjoy great weather and avoid most (if not all) the rainfall, which makes for great conditions for hiking, snorkeling and swimming.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, you’ll have plenty of options by redeeming Marriott points. Marriott has over 30 hotels and resorts on the island, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a hotel that’s perfect for you.
These cards can help you earn more Marriott points:

Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

We’ve picked our top 5 choices for best Marriott hotels in Hawaii with points. These are hotels that have not only received great ratings on TripAdvisor, but also provide for fantastic value from your Marriott points.
Treat yourself to gorgeous ocean views at one of the best Marriott hotels in Hawaii with points. (Photo by Color Me Maui Photography/Shutterstock)
Best Marriott Hotels in Hawaii With Points
Marriott has 30+ properties scattered all over the islands. Whether you’re looking for a hotel with great views, easy access to a beach, one that’s centrally located and within walking distance to a number or restaurants, or a more secluded hotel location, you’re sure to find one that fits your preferences.
We chose hotels that had 3 main characteristics – great value when booked with Marriott points, great locations, and at least a 4-star rating on TripAdvisor.
Here are our top 5 hotel picks!
1. The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua is arguably one of the best hotels in Maui. Staying here, you’ll be treated to amazing views of the island, top-notch customer service, a plethora of amenities and luxurious rooms.
This hotel has been rated one of the best hotels by US News and World Report, but if that’s not enough to convince you, you can also look to the number of reviews on TripAdvisor. The hotel has nearly 4,000 reviews with a 4.5-star rating. Guests constantly rave about the food, cleanliness of the nearby beaches, and proximity to a number of pools, restaurants, bars and other lounges.
Rooms here can go for as much as $1,000 a night, but can also be yours for 60,000 Marriott points.
2. Sheraton Waikiki
The Sheraton Waikiki is a good hotel to consider if you’re looking for a centrally located hotel. According to TripAdvisor, there are 200+ restaurants and 75 attractions located within 0.3 miles, giving you plenty of options to explore without the need to drive anywhere!
The Sheraton Waikiki is located right on the beachfront, so you can enjoy beautiful sunrises and sunsets without having to travel too far. (Photo by Mikela Bond/Shutterstock)
The hotel is also located right on the oceanfront, so you’re not sacrificing a view for the convenience of being close to all of those attractions.
Rooms here can be pretty pricey, but redeeming points can save you a ton of money. For instance, I found availability in July for 60,000 Marriott points per night. That’s much more preferable to paying the cash price of $949. 
3. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is a great hotel for couples and families who are looking for a more secluded location.
The hotel is located on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island, and has a 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor with 1,500+ reviews. Many guests who have stayed here before say that the nearby beach, Kauna’oa Bay, is one of the best on the island, especially during the summer months when the water will be nice and warm.
The hotel also has a number of amenities, such as a golf course, tennis courts, a spa, and pools.
If you have enough points to book an award stay, you’ll get some great value for your points because rooms here can be pretty pricey. I found a room in July for $711 per night, but it can yours for 50,000 Marriott points.
If you’re looking to get away from the busier parts of the island, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is a good choice. (Photo by mhgstan/Shutterstock)
4. Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel
The Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel is located on the historical site where Hawaiian King Kamehameha once lived, which should be a telltale sign that this is a pretty good location. In fact, more than 3,500 people on TripAdvisor have rated it 4-stars overall, with slightly higher marks of 4.5-stars specifically for the location and cleanliness of the rooms.
This is another beachfront hotel, so you’ll be treated to quick access to Kailua pier and great views of the ocean. The hotel itself offers an infinity pool, gym, spa, restaurants and a bar. You’ll also be in very close walking distance to a number of restaurants.
Rooms here can go for 25,000 Marriott points or $300+ per night, so you’ll probably want to redeem your points first. For instance, I found a room in August for $341. That’s a good amount cheaper than the other hotels on this list, but it’s still not exactly pocket change.
5. The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, Ka’anapali
With over 1,300+ people on TripAdvisor rating this hotel 4.5-stars, you can’t go wrong with The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, Ka’anapali hotel.
You’ll find that this hotel offers a full-service restaurant, beach bar, and gym/fitness studio. This is also a great hotel for those who will be traveling with kids because they offer a children’s beach pool and play area. In fact, numerous guests on TripAdvisor have commented that this is an extremely friendly hotel for those traveling with toddlers.
The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, Ka’anapali is great for those traveling for toddlers. (Photo by makenamedia/Shutterstock)
Award nights will cost 60,000 Marriott points per night, which is a good option considering rooms here can be pretty pricey between $500-$800 per night depending on when you visit. For instance, I found room availability in August for $695 per night.
Bottom Line
If you’re looking to visit Hawaii, you can’t go wrong with staying at a Marriott hotel. And with over 30+ hotels scattered all over the island, there’s a very good chance you can one that fits your preferences.
You can also very quickly earn Marriott points with these Marriott credit cards:

Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

If you’ve stayed at a Marriott hotel or resort in Hawaii, let us know what your experience was like!
And here are some of our other articles if you’re interested in learning more about Marriott:

Marriott Bonvoy Review
Marriott Points Value
Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status
Best Way to Use Marriott Points
How to Transfer Marriott Points to Airlines
How to Earn Marriott Points
How to Setup a Marriott Account
How to Use Marriott Points
Marriott Award Chart
Do Marriott Points Expire?

Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below, and subscribe to our newsletter for more tips on smart ways to redeem your miles and points.

The Hotel With the BEST, Easiest to Earn Elite Status: Hilton, and It’s Not Even Close

How much is free hotel breakfast worth to you while traveling? Would you pay a flat fee of $70 for guaranteed free breakfast at hotels for an entire year?
Depending on the number of nights you stay and the caliber of hotels you book, the answer is probably a big yes.
What about room upgrades? Would you pay a one-time fee of $20 for a year’s supply of certificates entitling you to an upgrade if EVER the hotel has a better room available?
I would. I’ve bribed the hotel front desk with more than that.
Okay, what about bonus points? Would you part with, say, $5 to earn 80% more points for your next 12 months of hotel stays?
DUH.
Those theoretical prices are effortless to achieve. But you’ll have to purchase all those perks as a bundle. Here’s how.
With Hilton Gold status you could enjoy free breakfast all over the world, including beautiful Bali. (Photo courtesy of Hilton)
Hilton Gold Status – The BEST Mid-Level Elite Status in Existence
I like to play a little game with myself before opening a new credit card. I look at the card’s annual fee and divide that dollar amount between all the card’s benefits. If I think it will save me money (without adding hassle to my life), then the card is a no-brainer.
Cards like the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (See Rates & Fees) and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card  come with a $95 annual fee. One of the perks that come with the cards is Hilton Gold Status, which means you’ll receive free breakfast at every Hilton hotel, room upgrades when available (up to an executive room with free hotel lounge access!), and 80% bonus points.
The cards also come with other perks, like 10 free airport lounge visits, a welcome bonus easily worth $600+, and other stuff. We won’t get into that now. You can read our review of the Hilton Ascend and review of the Hilton Business Credit Card if you want to hear about those things.
With Hilton’s Gold Elite Status alone, you should be able to receive a value greater than $95 with just a couple of stays. As long as you stick with Hilton hotels (they’re just about everywhere), you’ll make out like a grand larceny Bond villain with Gold Elite Status.
Actually, it’s hands-down the best mid-level elite status in existence. You won’t find a better alternative for such a low price and minimal energy. It’s why lots of folks have started switching their stays from Marriott to Hilton after their merger.
The free breakfast thing is a particularly big deal. Team member Jasmin saved ~$140 in one sitting with this perk when she took her family to the Conrad Tokyo.
Information for the Hilton Honors Business Card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets and has not been reviewed by the card issuer.
Jasmin and Her Kids Ate for FREE at the Conrad Tokyo With Her Hilton Gold Elite Status. (Photo by Jasmin Baron/Million Mile Secrets)
Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt all offer mid-level status for having their cards. None offer free breakfast with that status and all offer less generous points bonuses for stays:

Marriott’s Gold elite status gives you 25% bonus points (55% less than Hilton)
IHG Platinum elite status gives you 50% bonus points (30% less than Hilton)
Hyatt Explorist elite status gives you 20% bonus points (60% less than Hilton)

Simply by owning the right credit card, your hotel experience can shift dramatically upward!
Note: You’ll also receive Hilton Gold status when you have either The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. The overall benefits are much better than the Hilton credit cards, but only if you use them all.
If having super valuable hotel elite status and saving cash during your stay is your primary objective, the $95 annual fee Hilton cards are what you want.
Bottom Line
If you’re going to hold a hotel credit card, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck with a Hilton card like the Hilton Surpass or the Hilton Business card. Even if the cards didn’t have limited-time increased welcome bonuses worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars (check out this article for more details on the current Hilton card offers) the card would be worth much more than its $95 annual fee.
That’s because it comes with Hilton Gold Elite Status, the best mid-level elite status you can possibly earn on a credit card. Other hotel credit cards won’t give you near the perks of these Hilton cards. Upgrades all the way to an executive room with hotel lounge access when available? 80% bonus points? Free breakfast at EVERY Hilton hotel??
Yeah, that’s the best elite status you can get with a $95 credit card. And it’s not close.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass Card, please click here.

Hyatt Points Review: Big Value and Easy Redemptions for Beginners and Experts Alike

INSIDER SECRET: You can earn Hyatt points directly with The World of Hyatt Credit Card. But if you don’t have the card, you can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio!
Hyatt hotels operate under a number of different brands, including Andaz, Park Hyatt, Miraval, Hyatt Regency, and many more. And with hundreds of locations worldwide, chances are you’ll be able to find a Hyatt hotel nearby for your next trip.
You can redeem Hyatt points for free award nights at any of their hotels worldwide, and it’s easy to see how many points you’ll need thanks to their award chart.
You can get incredible value with your Hyatt points. Award nights start as low as 5,000 Hyatt points, and top-tier hotels like the Park Hyatt New York (which easily run more than $1,000+ per night) can be booked for just 30,000 Hyatt points. So regardless of how frequently you travel, it’s easy to earn enough Hyatt points to make good use of the program.
Here is our full Hyatt points review.
Open the door to the world of free award nights at hotels, even if you’re brand new to the miles and points hobby! Here is our Hyatt points review. (Photo by Sompetch Khanakornpratip/Shutterstock)
Hyatt Points Review 
If you’re thinking about whether Hyatt points are worth earning, here are a few standout features of the program:

Points are easy to earn. You can earn points on cards like The World of Hyatt Credit Card. You can also earn Ultimate Rewards points on any of Chase’s 7 cards, and then transfer those points at a 1:1 ratio to Hyatt
They have an award chart. You can easily see how many points you’ll need to book a certain hotel. And unlike paying with cash, prices do not fluctuate throughout the year.
You don’t need many Hyatt points to redeem for a free award night. Award nights with Hyatt start at just 5,000 Hyatt points, making it easy to earn enough for a free night stay.
Points are very valuable. You can get score some pretty amazing deals at Hyatt’s basic and high-end hotels. For example, you can book a stay at the Park Hyatt New York for just 30,000 points, where rooms can go for as much as $1,000+ per night.
High-quality hotels. You’ll find thousands of reviews online that rave about the quality of both the service and quality of the rooms, even in their more basic category 1 hotels.
Hotels are located worldwide. Hyatt has hundreds of hotels located worldwide, so there’s a very good chance you’ll be able to find a Hyatt hotel for your next trip.

How to Earn Hyatt Points 
Earn Points Directly With The World of Hyatt Credit Card
Right now when you apply for The World of Hyatt Credit Card, you can earn a welcome bonus of up to 50,000 bonus points. You’ll earn 25,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening.
You can read our full review of the World of Hyatt card here.
Earn Points Indirectly With Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio. Here’s a list of Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points.

Card Sign-Up Bonus & Minimum Spending RequirementsOur Review

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your accountRead why this is the top card pick for small business owners

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your accountThe #1 card for beginners

Chase Sapphire Reserve50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account
Lots of folks love this premium credit card because of the ongoing perks!

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card$500 bonus (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your accountRead our review of the Ink Business Unlimited

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
$500 bonus (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your accountRead our review of the Ink Business Cash

Chase Freedom Unlimited

3% cash back on all purchases for the first year, up to $20,000 spent; then 1.5% cash backEarn 3% cash back up to $20,000 in first year (Then, 1.5% cash back on ALL purchases)

Chase Freedom$150 bonus (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your accountHere’s our review of this great no-annual-fee card!

Other Ways to Earn Hyatt Points
Here are a few other ways to earn Hyatt points. They’re summarized below, and you can read the full details in our guide here:

Staying at Hyatt hotels
Signing up for promotions (such as email surveys)
Staying at Mlife hotels
Renting cars with Avis
Purchasing FIND experiences

How Much Are Hyatt Points Worth?
Read about some of the best uses of Hyatt points here
The amount of value you get from your Hyatt points will be based on which hotel you book and when you book. But you can normally expect anywhere from two to four cents in value per point.
Generally speaking, you’ll get the most value from your points at the higher end Hyatt hotels during busy travel seasons. But you can also get great value from lower-end category 1 hotels as well. 
You can get some pretty amazing value from Hyatt points by redeeming for their high-end hotels like the Park Hyatt New York. (Photo by Inspired By Maps/Shutterstock)
Most category hotel 1 hotels run around $100-$150 per night. But because category 1 hotels cost 5,000 Hyatt points, you can almost always get at least 2 cents per point in value at a lower-end Hyatt hotel.
High-end hotels like the Park Hyatt New York will cost a fixed 30,000 Hyatt points per night. These rooms can go for as much as $1,000+ per night, so you’d be getting closer to 3.5 cents per point in value.
How to Use Hyatt Points
You can redeem your Hyatt points at any of their 14 brands worldwide:

Andaz
Alila
Thompson Hotels
Hyatt Centric
Park Hyatt
Miraval
Grand Hyatt
Hyatt Regency
Hyatt Zilara/Hyatt Ziva
Hyatt Place
Hyatt House
The Unbound Collection by Hyatt
Destination Hotels
Joie de Vivre

Redeeming your Hyatt points is as simple as finding an available hotel on the Hyatt website, and then completing the booking process.
Step 1. From the Hyatt Website, Enter the Details of Your Next Trip
From the Hyatt home page, enter the details of your trip such as the city, dates of travel, and number of guests, to find nearby hotels.
From the Hyatt home page, enter the details of your trip to find nearby hotels. But make sure to select the “Use points” option!
Step 2. Review Available Hotels From the List
You’ll be given a list of available hotels for your dates of travel, along with the number of points needed to book that hotel.
You’ll see a list of available hotels, along with how many points you’ll need for an award night.
Step 3. Select a Hotel and Complete the Checkout Process
Once you’ve decided on a hotel, select the specific room accommodations and then complete the checkout process. It’s as simple as that!
Once you’ve selected a hotel, confirm the type of room you’d like to book and then complete the checkout process!
Do Hyatt Points Expire?
Read our post: Do Hyatt points expire?
Hyatt points do expire after 24 months of no qualifying activity. 24 months is a long time, but if you’re worried about having your points expire, there are a number of easy things you can do to keep your points active.
Earning Hyatt points is one qualifying activity that will reset the 24-month expiration counter. The easiest way to do this is to be card member of The World of Hyatt Credit Card and to use it to earn points with your daily purchases. You can also:

Stay at a Hyatt hotel
Transfer points from the Chase Ultimate Rewards program to Hyatt
Buy Hyatt points
Earn Hyatt points through partners like Avis.

Read our guide on how to prevent Hyatt points from expiring for the details on all of the different ways you can keep your points from expiring.
Bottom Line
Hyatt points are extremely valuable for all types of travelers. With award night redemptions starting at just 5,000 points, even those new to traveling can quickly earn enough for a free night stay. More frequent travelers can also take advantage of redemptions at Hyatt’s high-end hotels, which can yield a phenomenal value.
Hyatt points are easy to earn, and with hundreds and hundreds of locations worldwide there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find one close by on your next trip.
Have you booked any great deals lately with your Hyatt points? Let us know in the comments below! And here are some posts if you’re interested in learning more about getting the most from the Hyatt program:

Hyatt Points Value
Hyatt Status
Best Use of Hyatt Points
How to Earn Hyatt Points
How to Create a Hyatt Account
Hyatt Award Chart
Do Hyatt Points Expire?

Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you can stay up-to-date on the latest news in miles and points.

IHG Rewards Review: Find Out What You Need to Know About This Changing Program

INSIDER SECRET: IHG will be switching to dynamic award pricing by the end of 2019, so don’t hold on to your points too long!
IHG Rewards, the loyalty program for InterContinental, Kimpton, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and more, can be a tricky program to navigate. Between rewards from cards like the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, large bonus multipliers and frequent sales, IHG points are incredibly easy to earn, but redeeming them for a good value requires patience and just a bit of luck.
IHG used to have broad appeal even to travelers who were primarily loyal to a different hotel chain, but even that is changing and the opportunity cost of sticking with IHG keeps going up.
We’ll take a deep dive into the program in this IHG Rewards review to help you decide whether it makes sense for you.
In our IHG Rewards review, we’ll show you how IHG points can help you score free nights at hundreds of InterContinental hotels around the world, like the InterContinental Dublin. (Photo by Jasmin Baron/Million Mile Secrets)
IHG Rewards Club Review
While IHG Rewards Club currently uses a fixed award chart for free nights, it has announced plans to move to a dynamic pricing scheme soon and it’s anyone’s guess what that is going to mean. The current award chart uses wildly inflated prices, which means it could take you a long time to save up enough points for top-tier redemptions.
While many hotels have weak no blackout date policies, IHG doesn’t even bother with one. Hotels are allowed to restrict the number of rooms they make available for award redemptions, which can be a problem at upscale brands like InterContinental and Kimpton. IHG elite status is also comparatively less rewarding, but it’s easy to jump straight to Platinum elite by holding the right credit card (more on that later).
Another reason I’m not the biggest fan of IHG is that it doesn’t have as many diverse brands within its portfolio. Marriott has multiple luxury offerings, including St. Regis, Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott, W Hotels and Westin, while IHG only has InterContinental and Kimpton for those seeking a luxury stay.
If you prefer less-upscale accommodations, there are more options. IHG hotels include:

avid Hotels
Candlewood Suites
Crowne Plaza
EVEN Hotels
Holiday Inn
Holiday Inn Club Vacations
Holiday Inn Express
Holiday Inn Resorts
Hotel Indigo
HUALUXE
Kimpton
InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
Staybridge Suites

If you’re new to IHG, read our guide to how to set up an IHG account.
How to Earn IHG Rewards Club Points
1. Stay at IHG Hotels
By far the simplest way to earn IHG points is by booking cash stays at an IHG hotel. Depending on the brand and your elite status, you’ll earn points at the following rate per dollar you spend:

IHG Elite StatusPoints Earned at Most IHG BrandsPoints Earned at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites

General Member10 points per $5 points per $

Gold Elite11 points per $5.5 points per $

Platinum Elite15 points per $7.5 points per $

Spire Elite20 points per $10 points per $

You’ll need to book your stay directly with IHG in order to earn points. Stays booked through an online travel agency like Expedia or with bank points (like Chase Ultimate Rewards points) normally won’t earn IHG points or be eligible for elite benefits.
2. Use the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
Apply Here: IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
Read our review of the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

You can earn 80,000 IHG points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. That’s more than enough for a night at a luxury InterContinental hotel, or up to eight nights at the lowest-category locations.

With this card you’ll also get:

10x points per dollar you spend at IHG hotels
2x points per dollar you spend on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants.
IHG Platinum Elite status (late checkout when available, complimentary upgrades (subject to availability), a welcome amenity, 50% bonus on the base points you earn and your IHG points won’t expire with elite status)
Anniversary free night worth up to 40,000 points
Fourth night free on standard room award stays of four nights or more
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years
10,000 bonus points after you spend $20,000 each account year
No foreign transaction fees

This card is affected by the Chase 5/24 rule, which means if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards from any bank (excluding certain business cards) in the past 24 months, you won’t be approved. If you’re new to miles and points or are below 5/24, I suggest you skip this card and apply for more valuable Chase credit cards first.

3. Buy Points
IHG is one of the many programs that allows you to buy points, and it frequently runs discount promotions. Each account is allowed to purchase up to 100,000 points per calendar year.
I recommend you buy these points only if there’s a points sale, you have a specific redemption in mind and have already confirmed that there are available award rooms on the dates you’re traveling. Always check the paid price of the room to be sure you’re getting a better deal with points.
As an added bonus, IHG Premier card holders get a 20% discount when they purchase points and pay with their IHG credit card. However, this perk does not stack with IHG points sales.
4. Transfer From Chase Ultimate Rewards (BAD VALUE)
If you’re short on points, running out of time and buying points (see above) isn’t an option for you, you might consider transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG. IHG uses a very inflated award chart, with the most expensive hotels pricing out at 70,000 points per night. Still, Chase points only transfer at a 1:1 ratio, the same as Hyatt where the top tier costs half as much.
I can’t think of a single scenario where this would be a good use of your Chase points, unless you need a few points to top off your account. But it’s worth knowing all of your options.
Redeeming IHG Points for Free Hotel Nights
Standard Award Nights
Even though IHG uses a fixed award chart, you won’t find it published anywhere on the IHG website.
What we do know is that free night redemptions start at just 10,000 points per night for the lowest category.

The most expensive hotels top out at 70,000 points per night, including InterContinental properties in London, Bora Bora and Hong Kong.

In between you’ll find most luxury hotels and many properties in big cities hovering around the 35,000-50,000 point range.

Points & Cash
Any time a room is bookable with points, IHG will also offer a points & cash option. What’s interesting to note is that when you book this way, IHG actually sells you the extra points and then debits them from your account instead of just charging your credit card. You’ll generally pay a rate of between 0.7-1 cent per point, with the cost dropping the more points you decide to buy.
The exact rate will vary based on which pricing package you pick and what property you’re staying at, but you’d usually be better off buying the points outright during a sale instead of using this method.
You can combine points and cash to stretch your IHG points for more stays.
How Much Are IHG Points Worth?
Now that we understand how to earn IHG points and the two most straightforward ways to redeem them, it’s time to ask the all important question: How much are IHG Rewards Club points really worth?
I keep using the InterContinental The Willard Washington DC as an example, so let’s stick with that. The property costs 70,000 points for a free night award, or about $600 for cash rates most nights. This gives you a rough value of 0.85 cents per IHG point, though the numbers aren’t always so rosy.
My all-time favorite use of IHG points was redeeming 35,000 for a mini staycation at the InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin, located in a historic old state guesthouse. Cash rates at that property are generally $200 a night, giving me a redemption value of about 0.6 cents per point. I find this to be a good baseline, and I generally peg IHG points at 0.5-0.6 cents each.
While it’s certainly possible to lock in a higher redemption value, this generally only happens at top-tier properties and it’s always a gamble whether you’ll find award space. I based my value half on the average of my own personal redemptions, and half on how much I’d be willing to pay to acquire IHG points. That’s the piece of the equation that often gets overlooked when we talk about value. It’s not just how much you should be trying to net from your redemptions, but also at what price would you be equally happy if someone gave you points or cash.
PointBreaks
In addition to standard award redemptions and points & cash bookings, IHG also offers a promotion about once a quarter called PointBreaks. IHG selects a few dozen hotels and discounts them to 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 points a night. You can check out the current list here.
IHG PointBreaks hotels change every quarter, and the best ones sell out fast.
This promotion used to be a surefire way to score luxury hotels at a steep discount, but IHG has slowly and repeatedly devalued it over the years. There seem to be fewer and fewer luxury hotels with each iteration, with most of the list being composed of various Holiday Inn properties. While there are occasionally InterContinentals on the list, remember you’re competing with other travelers for award rooms and the hotels are allowed to limit their award inventory.
IHG Elite Status
IHG Rewards Club offers three different tiers of elite status:

IHG Gold Elite (10 nights or 10,000 qualifying points)
IHG Platinum Elite (40 nights, 40,000 qualifying points or holders of the IHG Premier card)
IHG Spire Elite (75 nights or 75,000 qualifying points)

The primary benefits of IHG elite status are the bonus points, welcome amenities and priority check-in. IHG offers some of the weakest room upgrades to its elite members, with even top-tier Spire elites not entitled to space available suite upgrades. My primary hotel loyalty is to Marriott where I hold Titanium elite status, and comparatively speaking, I’ve never been impressed with the upgrades I’ve received at IHG hotels.
IHG elite status doesn’t compare to other hotel chains like Marriott.
IHG is rather unique in that it offers the ability to pay for elite status. For $200 a year you can join the InterContinental Ambassador program, which comes with (only) Platinum elite status and a few other benefits such as a free weekend night (at InterContinental hotels only, combined with a paid weekend night), late check-out, and a food or bar credit of up to $20 per stay.
Since you can get Platinum status just as easily by holding the IHG Premier credit card, a good idea for any serious IHG traveler, the added benefits here seem rather limited outside of the free weekend night certificate.
IHG Rewards Club FAQs
Q: Is It Worth Collecting IHG Points?
A: This is a tough one, and ultimately a very personal decision. While I used to enjoy IHG when the old version of the IHG card (no longer available) offered an uncapped free night at any IHG property in the world, I’ve wound down my interactions with IHG since they capped the free night at 40,000 points.
I think almost every type of traveler (luxury, budget, business, etc.) would be better served with one of the other hotel chains, but if you frequently find yourself staying with IHG or like their brands, there’s definitely value to be had in the Rewards Club loyalty program.
Q: How Many IHG Points Do You Need for a Free Night?
A: Free nights start at just 10,000 points, but in most big cities in the US and around the world, expect to pay a minimum of 30,000 points for a decent hotel. If you have your eyes set on a luxury brand like Kimpton or InterContinental, you should raise your budget even higher, to 50,000+ points a night.
Q: How Much Are 50,000 IHG Points Worth?
A: The value depends on how you choose to use them, but if you gave me 50,000 IHG points I’d probably redeem them for one free night at a nice InterContinental property. That’s probably going to net me ~$300, which is on the higher end of what I value IHG points at.
Q: What’s the Best Way to Earn IHG Points?
A: Hotel stays, credit card spending and buying points on sale are all great ways to rack up IHG points. While you can transfer them from Chase Ultimate Rewards, that’s a relatively bad value and something I strongly advise against doing.
Bottom Line
IHG’s inflated award pricing and lack of a no blackout date policy makes it tough, but not impossible, to find good value redemptions in the IHG Rewards Club program.
I’ve stayed at some incredible InterContinental hotels for free over the years, and I’ve always left impressed with the unique and local twists each hotel puts on the brand’s overarching luxury design. More budget-minded travelers may find good value at family-friendly or extended-stay brands like Holiday Inn Express or Staybridge Suites.
If you like IHG hotels, the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card comes with 80,000 IHG points after meeting minimum spending requirements, but there are more valuable Chase credit cards you’ll want to consider first because of the Chase 5/24 rule.
IHG Rewards perks like points+cash redemptions and the PointBreaks promotion list are a saving grace, but IHG certainly has room to improve if it wants to remain attractive to award travelers.
To learn more about IHG, check out these guides:

Our review of IHG status
Find out about IHG points value
Learn how to navigate the IHG award chart
How to setup a IHG account
See all the current IHG promotions

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