Introduction: A Hop to the Maldives
Review: Park Hyatt New York
Review: Emirates Lounge JFK
Review: Emirates First Class A380 JFK-DXB
Review: Park Hyatt Dubai
Review: Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai
Review: Emirates First Class 777 DXB-MLE
Getting to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa
Review: Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
Review: Etihad Business A330 MLE-AUH
Review: Etihad First Class Lounge
Review: Etihad First Class A380 AUH-JFK
Review: American Business A321T JFK-LAX
It took a ton of travel to get there, including one huge plane, one big plane, and a small plane and a boat, but that’s part of the allure of the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, and any resort in the Maldives, for that matter.
This is as remote, as removed from absolutely everything, as it gets on Earth. The entire island is a ten minute walk around the perimeter of the beach, and there are no other islands to be seen looking out into the horizon. Spending time at this resort means getting away from everything and retreating to the rhythms of island life, waves and relaxation. I was interested in testing out whether this would be more relaxing or nerve-inducing after a week in the sand. It definitely was the former. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Park Hyatt is located in one of the southernmost atolls of the Maldives, an island nation southwest of India and Sri Lanka. There two ways to travel to the Maldives from the US: East or West. West means going through Asia on carriers like Korean Air or Cathay Pacific. East generally means traveling through the Middle East on Emirates, Etihad and Qatar. From the capital in Male, you take a short plane ride an hour to the south and then a boat to get to Hadahaa.
The Park Hyatt is a category 6 Hyatt Gold Passport property, meaning it costs 25,000 points per night for an award redemption. Given the standard rates for this hotel, especially over the holidays, it represents a fantastic award redemption opportunity; one of the best, in fact.
For our six night stay we redeemed 100,000 Hyatt points earned through a combination of staying at Hyatt properties and transferred over from Chase Ultimate Rewards, plus two free night certificates earned from Danielle’s Hyatt Credit Card. Award nights book into a standard Park Villa, a large villa with outdoor shower and direct beach access. As a Hyatt Diamond member, we were entitled to a free upgrade to a Park Pool Villa dependent upon availability on check-in, which we received. The Park Pool Villa is exactly the same as the Park Villa with the addition of a small soaking pool between your villa and the beach.
Because we were traveling so far for a unique and special occasion, we decided to splurge and upgrade to an Overwater Villa for the last two nights of our stay – a fantastic decision which I’ll describe further below.
Park Pool Villa
After arriving by speed boat, we were taken by golf cart directly to our Park Pool Villa, number 7. The villas line the perimeter of the small island, so there’s not far to go no matter where you stay, but I liked the particular location of our villa: it was super close to the pool and restaurants without being on top of them, and had one of the most private beaches on the island.
You approach the villa from the side and enter on your right. Further back, you’ll hit the private pool and then, after that, the beach.
The room is designed in Park Hyatt fashion: simple, clean, elegant. The decor is heavy on wood, leaving a jungle-chic feeling. The bed was extremely comfortable, and there was a small lounge chair and a day bed in the room as well (not pictured).
Through the sliding door behind the bed was the bathroom, with its massive walk-in rain shower, and beyond that the outdoor shower and bathtub.
When staying at a Hyatt property as a Diamond member, I get to choose between a welcome amenity and 1,000 Gold Passport Points each stay. Normally, the amenity is a small bit of food or drink, and not nearly as worthwhile as the extra points, so I go with the latter. At this property, however, the welcome amenity is a large bowl of fruit, nuts, olives, chocolates and a bottle of champagne.
On this stay, I decided to forgo the points…
Outside, there is a comfortable sitting area next to the pool. I’m normally a huge fan of pool villas – there’s something special about having your own pool at a resort. But this pool is particularly small, and very shallow (.9 meters deep, if memory serves me). We did not use it once. Would I pay for an upgraded room with a pool? No way. But as a free perk, who’s going to complain?
The best part of our villa was, without question, its private beach, which is particularly private at this villa, given the curve of the island and jungle growth. We sat out there for hours during the day, even ordering room service once or twice directly to our beach encampment. At night, we’d lay out and stare up to a sight of stars more majestic than I’ve ever imagined.
When we checked in to our room, we were met by our host. Every guest at the Park Hyatt receives a host, who is there to make sure everything is OK, make you food and activity reservations, tell you about the island, and just check in on you every day.
Throughout our stay, our host was mostly absent. He found us every other day or so to say hello and encourage us to attend that night’s special (expensive) meal. We noticed that most other guests were visited by their host at breakfast, and multiple other times throughout the day. Many of the guests we spoke with received all sorts of tips and useful information from their host. Eventually, we got jealous of the special attention, and befriended another host to make up for it!
Park Overwater Villa
After four wonderful nights in our Park Pool Villa, it was time to move on to our Overwater Villa. I almost regretted the move as we were packing up – I loved our little island home and didn’t want leave! But it’s hard to regret moving to what we were about to witness, so the feeling was short-lived.
The Park Hyatt is very used to guests switching up or down from one villa category to another during their stay – we weren’t nearly as unique as I’d like to believe – and they had the system down pat. We just packed our bags and voila they magically upped and moved to our new home in the Indian Ocean.
The Overwater Villas are built along a curved pier which stretches off the west side of the island. All villas are the same, but the last two go for a higher nightly rate because of their added privacy. Personally, the idea of being all the way down at the end of the pier (and the requisite walk there and back for every trip to the main areas of the resort) seemed totally unappealing. On the other hand, the first few villas are barely out over the water. When picking a villa, it seems the goldilocks rule applies: get one not too close, not too far out, but just right. We were given villa 43, six villas out over the water, but still close enough to make the treks back to the pool easy. Perfect!
Inside, the room is slightly smaller than the Park Villa, with similar decor and furniture. The bed was, once again, super comfy.
The bathroom contained a large (albeit super uncomfortable) bathtub with one of the best views in the world. Unfortunately, the water pressure out on the pier leaves much to be desired, so filling up the large bathtub took almost an hour, at which point the water was cold. D’oh!
Opposite the tub was a vanity with two sinks and tons of personal products. Around the corner was a large rain shower with a skylight, making it feel like you were showering outside.
As nice as the villa was inside, the main point and purpose of this change of scenery was what was outside. Each overwater villa has a deck along its back with comfortable lounge beds, 180° views of the Indian Ocean, and almost full-privacy. Sitting out on the day bed reading was the most spectacular experience imaginable, incredibly relaxing, and everything that a resort destination like the Maldives is all about.
The overwater villas stretch out over the largest portion of the Park Hyatt’s lagoon, and the waters below them are filled with some of the best coral reefs surrounding the island. There is a private ladder down in to the water from each villa which we used frequently for direct snorkeling access. If snorkeling is your thing, this is your spot to visit!
There is one caveat that you should know before considering booking an Overwater Villa. With no shade to speak of, the villa is baked in sun all day long, and the air conditioning unit inside is unable to keep up with the rising heat. Even with the AC at full blast, by late afternoon it registered 28° Celcius (about 82°) inside. If you can’t take the heat, get out.
Across the board, the entire Park Hyatt Maldives property is stunning in its elegant yet simple architecture. The whole property is easily walkable. It’s a 10 minute walk around the island’s perimeter on the beach, and all public areas are either paved or covered in soft white sand.
I didn’t wear shoes once during the seven days we were there!
You’ll notice that not one of the pictures below has another human being in them. I didn’t specially arrange for empty shots. With only 100 guests at full capacity, the island feels empty most of the time. You can go hours without seeing another person, which adds to the perception of remote seclusion that is what makes this place so fantastic.
You arrive to the island at the end of a beautiful pier, which is also a fantastic spot for snorkeling, especially if you like seeing small sharks.
The focal point of the resort is the Dining Room, which opens up to the pool. Breakfast and lunch are available in the Dining Room, and dinner is available there as well as in a second Maldivian-themed restaurant, Island Grill. To the side of the main building is the pool bar (where I’m standing in the picture below) which serves drinks and small bites all day and night.
Just beyond the pool is the expanse of Hadahaa’s pristine beaches, so the view from breakfast is nothing short of spectacular. I could have sat in the Dining Room all day drinking coffee and reading.
Down on the beach you’ll find little other than pristine white coral sand which stretches on and on and on.
Over by the bar the beach is filled with some lounge chairs and day beds, perfect for playing during the day or relaxing to watch the sunset at night. On Saturday nights, the resort hosts a local Maldivian dancing troop that turns this area into a little performance hall of sorts. We enjoyed the local flair (and the free drinks and appetizers to boot).
One of the most interesting aspects of our stay was the back-of-house tour we joined one afternoon. The Director of Operations took us to the center of the island where all the staff lives and works and showed off the extensive systems in place to support, protect and serve Hadahaa’s guests. Needless to say, the amount of thought and work that goes in to operating a resort like this, while seriously minimizing its environmental impact, is impressive.
The most important topic to many, of course, the resort’s food has both good and bad going for it.
First thing’s first. When planning to come to Hadahaa (or any secluded island resort, for that matter) you need to expect going in to your visit that food will be expensive. As a guest you are a captive on the island, there is literally nowhere to go other than the resort’s kitchens to eat. I knew that the Park Hyatt Maldives was no exception going in, and had read about this extensively on other blogs.
And, in some ways, I was pleasantly surprised by the affordability of eating on the island. As a Diamond member, breakfasts were free and unlimited. We generally got to brunch each morning around 10 AM and the massive amounts of delicious foods held me over easily until late afternoon. (Breakfast is also included on paid stays, but not on award stays for non-Diamond members).
Every afternoon we received our second Diamond “gift”, something the resort calls “Sundowners” – a cocktail and a plate of canapé, gratis. I looked forward to our ritual of sitting on a daybed by the beach watching the sun set each evening over a free drink and freshly prepared snacks.
That’s where the freebies end. Everything else costs an arm and a leg, sometimes more. One evening we decided to attend a special barbecue dinner on the beach featuring Maldivian, Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines. It cost $100 a head, plus tax and service charges totaling 22%, no drinks included. And the food was cold.
That’s where the Park Hyatt disappoints. The quality of its food was extremely hit or miss. And when you’re paying upwards of $100 per person for a meal “miss” is not acceptable in my book.
The Maldivian tuna curry at breakfast was fantastic and totally different from anything else I’ve ever eaten. The Thai iced tea is delicious. In Villa Dining offered a fried rice that was out of this world and, all things considered, very affordable.
On the other hand, there was the cold barbecue, which was not a one-time occurrence. I tried to order a plate of crudité and dip one night from In Villa Dining and it took ten minutes on the phone before the chef understood what cut vegetables were. Twenty minutes later I received a beautiful plate of all sorts of vegetables with a side dip: mashed potatoes.
During our Back-of-House tour we visited the staff dining hall, where we saw all sorts of delicious-looking local curies. On our last night on property, our waiter friend special-arranged for Danielle to get the curry from the back for dinner. It was ten times more delicious than anything on the menu.
Park Hyatt would benefit from putting some attention into standardizing the consistency of its dining offerings. I’m OK with paying up for good food on a remote island, but the quality should match the price. And there are some aspects of its service that don’t make sense: why, for example, can you only order foods like the delicious fried rice to your villa (and not the Dining Room or pool)? Why is water free and abundant at breakfast, poolside and in-villa, but $10 a bottle at lunch and dinner?
One of my favorite parts of traveling the world is meeting new friends in the most unlikely of places. My grandparents, prolific travelers themselves, have age-old friends from some of their vacations, and I have always admired these relationships.
We enjoyed meeting many of the other visitors to Hadahaa when we were there, including Justin and Alyssa, points enthusiasts themselves from Austin, who were on a vacation closely mirroring our own. We compared points-collecting notes, tips and ideas, and I loved hearing about some of the fantastic trips they’ve pieced together, mostly for free, through the hobby. They travelled to the Maldives on Qatar Airways, so when Qatar had its recent massive sale, I reached out to Justin for advice on the airline. One of these days, hopefully, I’ll be able to pull his arm hard enough to get him to write a guest blogger column on his travel experience. Hint, hint!
The Park Hyatt Maldives is a major destination throughout the points enthusiast community, and for good reason – its remoteness presents an exciting challenge to booking fanciful and fantastic award tickets, and at only 25,000 Hyatt points per night, the resort is a fantastic value and very attainable (transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points). Most of the Americans that we met there were vacationing on points, and very proud of it.
The last morning we were there, in fact, proved this fact best. As I came up to the Dining Room for breakfast, I noticed a familiar face sitting at the table next to mine. None other than Brian Kelley, aka The Points Guy, had arrived at Hadahaa overnight!
Brian was the first blogger who got me into the points game, and I am deeply grateful for everything he and his blog have taught me over the years. What a treat to meet him there, of all places. It was so ironic, and fitting, to run in to The Points Guy in person on a trip that represented the tour de force of my points-collecting hobby!
The Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa is a magnificent resort in one of the most remote locations on earth. I am very glad and feel extremely privileged to have been able to enjoy a week of relaxing on this most-beautiful of spots. The resort staff are truly attentive, the grounds are gorgeous, and the rejuvenating splendor of totally removing yourself from everything for a week cannot be underplayed.
The food leaves much to be desired, especially considering its great expense. And I took significant issue with our experience transferring by boat to the resort. But, bottom line, would I go again?
The Maldives are a special place, and their grandeur comes from the endless sun, spicy curries and the solitude of being in the middle of absolutely nowhere. If you can stand the long distance travel necessary to get there, I highly recommend you check this property out.