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Many travelers who squirrel away travel rewards are saving for an oceanfront vacation, paid for with points instead of cash. To make the most of your rewards, start by looking for the highest-value hotel redemptions, then check award flights. Here are four beach destinations where you could soak up the sun using points and miles.
Keep in mind that availability is limited, and award charts, redemptions, transfer options and deals can change. Remaining flexible is key to getting the most out of your points and miles. Remember, too, that if you’re not careful, interest charges, late fees and careless spending on a rewards credit card could cost you more than you can save with your points.
Top beach vacations to visit with points and miles
1. Kauai with Marriott Bonvoy Points
Sheraton Kauai Resort, right on the sand at Poipu Beach, may be one of the top rewards redemption deals out there. The Bonvoy rewards program ranks this relaxing piece of paradise as a Category 5 redemption, meaning rooms there start at 35,000 points per night. From your Kauai home, enjoy boat tours of the breathtaking Napali Coast, plan hikes through Waimea Canyon or golf at some of the nearby courses.
To put that in perspective, consider that the Courtyard by Marriott in crowded Waikiki (a 10-minute walk from the beach) is a Category 6 redemption, meaning rooms start at 50,000 points per night.
Get there with miles: Fly into Lihue Airport using American Airlines AAdvantage miles on nonstops from San Francisco starting at around 45,000 miles round trip.
2. Aruba with IHG points
Aruba offers a sun-drenched Caribbean escape outside the hurricane belt, making this island retreat an irresistible option for late-summer travelers. And unlike many destinations where reasonably priced accommodations are a block or three from the ocean, here you’ll find the affordable Holiday Inn Resort: Aruba-Beach Resort & Casino right on the beach, with rooms starting at 40,000 IHG points per night. From this sensibly priced base camp, you can go diving off Hadicurari Beach or enjoy Aruba’s famous nightlife.
Get there with miles: American Airlines passengers out of Dallas can find connecting flights to Aruba for as little as 25,000 miles round trip. Southwest passengers flying from Boston might find round trips as low as 23,000 Rapid Rewards points, though most dates start around 46,000 points.
3. Mauritius with Hilton Honors
Looking for something a little more exotic? Something far, far away? Hilton Honors members can find their slice of heaven in the Indian Ocean, about 1,200 miles off the southeast coast of Africa, at the Hilton Mauritius Resort & Spa.
The beaches and the too-green-to-believe mountain peaks are the very definition of island beauty. But even paying with points, this place is a splurge: Rooms start at around 70,000 Hilton Honors points per night at a place where a free hotel can offset the cost of ultra-long-distance flights (not to mention the psychological hurdle of committing to a vacation so far from home).
Get there with miles: Passengers departing New York’s Kennedy International Airport can find connecting flights on Air France for around 90,000 Flying Blue miles (which can be transferred to some other loyalty programs in a 1-to-1 points conversion through some issuer programs).
From Los Angeles, scant award seats for this journey are available on British Airways for upward of 100,000 Avios round-trip.
» Learn more: The best Hilton hotels in the Caribbean
4. San Juan, Puerto Rico with Bank of America points
For a truly unique experience, stay a few miles from the beach at the historic Hotel El Convento in Old San Juan, which was built as a Carmelite convent about 350 years ago. This historic, boutique-style hotel is your luxury home base for exploring Castillo San Felipe del Morro and cobblestone streets lined with colonial structures. Bank of America Rewards members will find rooms there starting at about 28,000 points per night.
Get there with miles: Arrive from Baltimore on Southwest Airlines starting at 31,000 Rapid Rewards points round trip.
If you want to book a cheap beach vacation
Soak up the sun and dig your toes in the sand with an even bigger smile on your place — use these rewards programs strategically to book your beach vacation with points and miles (and save big).
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card