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Mrs. Selfish and I recently completed a stay at the Conrad Rangali in the Maldives, back in November of last year. In the miles & points world, this was considered one of the most desirable Hilton properties in the world, up there with the Conrad Koh Samui and Hilton Bora Bora.

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Somehow we managed to stay at all three properties last year, so I thought I’d do a comparison post explaining their relative strengths and weaknesses.

While Mrs. Selfish and I like traveling in luxury, we’re actually tremendous cheapskates – so I’ll be rating each of the properties by what you get for your hard spent cash. Not necessarily who is the best, but who gives you the most bang for your buck.

Editor’s Note: If you’re deciding between the three properties it’s a decent read (or if you like pretty pictures of tropical locales), otherwise it is a loooong post.

Getting There

All three hotels are in remote locations – that’s part of what makes them desirable! For the sake of comparison, I’ll assume you’re coming from a major hub on the West Coast of the States, like Los Angeles.

The Conrad Koh Samui

Koh Samui

Los Angeles –> Bangkok –> Koh Samui –> Taxi to the Conrad

The Conrad Koh Samui is relatively easy to get to using miles and points, and your award ticket should be able to get you as far as Koh Samui (with an easy stopover in Bangkok, if you so desire). Unfortunately, the Conrad does not have a free car service, and taxis will try and charge you upwards of 3000 baht ($100) for the 40 minute drive to the Conrad.

A good alternative, is the car service run by Mr. Samui Samui, who charged us 2200 baht (~$66) for a roundtrip drive from the airport to the Conrad Koh Samui.

The Hilton Bora Bora

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Los Angeles –> Papeete –> Bora Bora –> Boat to town –> Boat to Hilton

Tahiti is near-impossible to get to using miles and points. Only a few airlines fly there (Air Tahiti Nui & Air France are the big ones), so award flights are in high demand. If you’re coming from Australia, you’ll have better luck finding seats if you route through Auckland, but even then it’s a challenge.

Even if you do manage to find seats to Tahiti, you’ll likely end up spending a night near Papeete itself, as Mrs. Selfish and I did last summer. From there, you’ll have to book a flight on Air Tahiti, which does not have award flights. Expect tickets to cost upwards of $450 roundtrip.

After hitting Bora Bora, you can take the complimentary shuttle boat into town, before catching the Hilton’s $7 boat to the property itself.

The Conrad Rangali

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Los Angeles –> Hong Kong –> Male –> Seaplane to the Conrad Rangali

Unlike the Hilton Bora Bora, there are TONS of airlines flying to the Maldives, making award seats much easier to come by. Mrs. Selfish and I ended up flying on the newly minted Cathay Pacific route from Hong Kong to Male. The flight was very nice, with the business class section at roughly 40% capacity.

Depending on the timing of your flight, you’ll probably have to spend a night in Male itself. Fortunately, getting to and fro is pretty easy, with most local hotels providing free round trip transportation and breakfast.

Once back at the airport, you’ll be directed to the Conrad Rangali’s private lounge. From there you’ll board the seaplane, and $510 (roundtrip) and 30 minutes later you’ll find yourself at the enchanting Conrad Rangali.

WINNER: CONRAD KOH SAMUI

The Conrad Koh Samui is by far the easiest & cheapest property to reach, hands down.

Accommodations

All three hotels are category 10 Hilton properties, but what do you get for your hard spent HHonors points?

The Conrad Koh Samui

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A free night at the Conrad Koh Samui gives you a modern, 1,100 sqft villa, with a outstanding view of some of Thailand’s loveliest islands. Rooms are tastefully decorated with new, modern furniture with a slight Asian flare. Unlike most hotels, the Conrad Koh Samui also comes pre-equipped with A/V TV connections, allowing you to connect your laptop to the TV – not something most luxury hotels have. The bathroom has a huge 2-person bathtub, his and hers sinks, and a nice modern shower.

The biggest draw, however, is 10 meter long infinity pool that comes standard with each villa. We made sure to hit the pool every night for the absolutely stunning sunset. For more information, check out our full review.

The Hilton Bora Bora

A free night at the Hilton Bora Bora gets you a garden villa, and a complementary upgrade will get you into a deluxe garden villa. While they looked nice, Mrs. Selfish and I were interested in getting an overwater bungalow. 22,000 XPF per night later (40,000 XPF in 2014), we found ourselves in a deluxe overwater bungalow, with spectacular views of the volcano and sunrise.

The room itself could have used some refurbishing. While the views of the lagoon were amazing, the furniture and bathroom were worn and slightly damaged. The bathroom did have a bath, his and hers sinks, and a shower, however.

The nicest feature of the room, was the private deck, from which you could jump directly into the lagoon. For more information on the room at the Hilton Bora Bora, check out our full review.

The Conrad Rangali

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A free night at the Conrad Rangali gets you a beach side villa, with access to the Conrad Rangali’s spectacular house reef. Mrs. Selfish and I chose to upgrade to an overwater bungalow, once again. Unlike the Hilton Bora Bora, the Conrad Rangali has roughly 9 categories of overwater bungalow, with the lowest category running a cool $300 a night to upgrade. Phew!

That being said, the room is modern, sleek, and recently updated! The bathroom again comes with his and hers sinks, a shower, and a bathtub.

The back porch area seems to be a mix of the Conrad Koh Samui, and the Hilton Bora Bora: giving guests straight access to the lagoon, as well as a small pool (think 8 sqft). Unfortunately, the lagoon itself is quite shallow and ultimately unsuitable for snorkeling on the sunset side of the property. For more information on the room at the Conrad Rangali, check out our full review.

WINNER: CONRAD KOH SAMUI

The clear winner for dollar value. Each guest gets a 10 meter infinity pool. The furniture is modern without being generic, and has seen the least wear and tear. Additionally, the bathroom is the best of the three properties.

Hotel Grounds

While all three properties are located in idyllic, luxurious destinations, some grounds definitely rose above the others.

Conrad Koh Samui

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While the villa itself is quite nice, the Conrad Koh Samui is built on a steep hill, with lush, tropical grounds. The pool and restaurants are quite nice, but the grounds themselves are a little hard to navigate without the help of a golf cart.

Hilton Bora Bora

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Though slightly dated, the Hilton Bora Bora has lush gardens, well manicured pathways, and killer views. I found myself reflecting on just how beautiful everything was multiple times a day.

Conrad Rangali

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Ultra-modernity meets tropical splendor, the Conrad Rangali is a sight to behold – especially on the smaller island. While the remodel is looking great, you can still catch a whiff of the behind-the-scenes work (and sometimes garbage) as you walk toward the beach villas.

WINNER: HILTON BORA BORA

While slightly dated compared to the other two properties, Hilton Bora Bora is breathtakingly beautiful at every turn. Plus they have a volcano.

The Beach

Presumably if you’re going to any of these properties, the quality of the beach comes into play. Surprisingly, they are all over the board.

Conrad Koh Samui

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The beaches in Koh Samui leave much to be desired. While the water looks nice, the clarity and coarseness of the sand leave something to be desired for a beach destination. When snorkeling there is very little animal life, as well.

Hilton Bora Bora

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Beautiful aqua-marine waters, and powdery white beaches. It doesn’t get much better than this. The Hilton Bora Bora’s house reef may be manmade, but it is packed with fish. We spotted puffer fish, moray eels, and even a shark while snorkeling by our overwater bungalow.

For divers, Bora Bora has a good variety of dive sites. Not only does the water have great visibility, but there seem to be only a few dive operators, so the water wasn’t too crowded when we went. On our dive we spotted a few large lemon sharks, had a close encounter with a moray eel, and saw a flock of eagle rays.

Conrad Rangali

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White sandy beaches and beautiful emerald waters. While the Conrad Rangali doesn’t have a volcano like the Hilton Bora Bora, it is breathtaking in its own right. The sand is a bit more granular than the Hilton Bora Bora, and is a bit rougher, but there seem to be less shells.

The Conrad Rangali has an awesome house reef off of the main island that is teeming with wild life. We spotted a shark and a manta ray, while others have mentioned seeing larger animals still. The pictures we took with our new go pro do not do it justice.

For divers, the largest draw is the option to dive with whale sharks, which can only be found in a few places on earth! The Conrad Rangali has a partnership with the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme, which has spotted over 200 whale sharks in the area.

WINNER: CONRAD RANGALI

Powdery white sand, crystal clear waters, a killer house reef, and whale sharks – what’s not to like?

The Food

Other than relaxing and swimming we spent a lot of timing eating. Mrs. Selfish and I tend to skew toward cheap ethnic, rather than fancy fusion. I’ve had a few decent “fancy” meals, but the most memorable meals I’ve had were usually at hole-in-the-wall places.

Conrad Koh Samui

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Pretty good actually. The Conrad Koh Samui serves up a lot of fusion food, like Thai pizza, and have themed events like the “Mojito Drunch.” For $45 we had bottomless (and damn good) mojitos for 2 hours plus an array of appetizers. They have a number of high scale restaurants on property, including their own wine room.

If you want to eat off property, you’re within driving distance of more than a few restaurants, though the Conrad and many restaurants will charge you to use their car if you didn’t rent your own.

For more details on eating at the Conrad Koh Samui, check out our food post.

Hilton Bora Bora

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The Hilton Bora Bora has the absolute worst food of the three properties, and the most mediocre service.

You can get to the main city in Bora Bora by short boat ride for roughly $14 roundtrip per person, however. Once there you have a ton of decent food options. For the cheapos like us out there, Bora Bora has a strong food truck culture, where you can get amazing steak frites or poison crue for as little as $10. So tasty, so amazing.

For more details on eating at the Hilton Bora Bora, check out our food post.

Conrad Rangali

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You can’t really eat cheaply at the Conrad Rangali, but you can eat well. The Conrad Rangali has a whopping 10 restaurants with tons of options – which you’ll need, since it’s impossible to leave the property!

Food is good however, and as a Hilton gold or diamond member you’ll have access to the Vilu bar’s free sunset happy hour, which serves unlimited drinks from 5pm – 6pm.

For more details on eating at the Conrad Rangali, check out our food post.

WINNER: HILTON BORA BORA

If you’re cheap and prefer ethnic food, I’d go with the Hilton Bora Bora. While the food on property is mediocre, you’re only a short 10 minute boat ride away from some fantastic (and cheap) options!

Activities

A lot of people come to these properties to unplug and do nothing, but occasionally you want to do something, you know?

Conrad Koh Samui

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The Conrad Koh Samui has a few themed activities you can pay for (like the above mentioned “Mojito Drunch”), but there are very few free activities – other than the boat ride to their semi-private island that leaves 3-4 times a day.

Hilton Bora Bora

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By contrast, the Hilton Bora Bora has 3-4 free “classes” per day, meant to inform guests of local customs and traditions. In practice, we ended up scoring a free drink and a free meal, but they were all in good fun.

The Hilton Bora Bora also has a huge variety of water sports equipment you can use free of charge including kayaks, paddle boats, paddle boards, and snorkeling equipment.

Conrad Rangali

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The Conrad Rangali has very few free activities, but what they lack in number, they make up for in quality. Like the Hilton Bora Bora, the Conrad Rangali has a large variety of free water equipment you can use free of charge. If you’re willing to pay more, you can rent jet skis and other high-octane equipment for around $75 – $125 an hour.

The Conrad Rangali also offers free afternoon tea at the Mandahoo Restaurant from 4-5pm, and a free happy hour for Hilton gold/diamond members at the Vilu restaurant from 5-6pm.

WINNER: CONRAD RANGALI

While the classes at the Hilton Bora Bora were nice, it’s hard to beat a good free happy hour. The tea & snacks weren’t that bad either!

Best Sunset

Kind of a fluff category, but who doesn’t like to see the sun set and rise on vacation?

Conrad Koh Samui

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Hilton Bora Bora

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Conrad Rangali

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WINNER: HILTON BORA BORA

Maybe it was burning hot that day, but the sun seemed to set more dramatically in Bora Bora. As a bonus, it also rises right next to the volcano.

Final Tally And Conclusion

For anyone keeping track, here’s the final tally.

Category Conrad
Koh Samui
Hilton
Bora Bora
Conrad
Rangali
Getting there Winner! 0 0
Accommodations Winner! 0 0
Grounds 0 Winner! 0
Beach 0 0 Winner!
Food 0 Winner! 0
Activities 0 0 Winner!
Sunset 0 Winner! 0

Winner: Hilton Bora Bora

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While each location was great in their own right, Hilton Bora Bora was my favorite property of the three (though Mrs. Selfish disagrees, because in her opinion the whale sharks count as +2). The weather, the beach, the water, the volcano, the overwater bungalow, and the local food all combined to make a magical experience, and I’m dying to go back.

That being said, our stays at the Conrad Koh Samui and the Conrad Rangali were excellent as well – and I think fondly back on our time there. I didn’t like beaches prior to our selfish year abroad, but now I can’t get enough of them!

Has anyone else stayed at any of these properties? If so, what did you think?

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