Winter destinations: 4 exotic islands you can visit on points

Here's how to get to paradise using just your points

Stephanie Zito
Travel and cards writer
Travel expert who writes the "Have Cards, Will Travel" column for CreditCards.com

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It’s cold outside this week and I’ve been bundled up indoors daydreaming about warm and sunny places. There is something about the winter blues that drives me to dream about blue seas and beach bungalows – and sometimes even book a direct ticket to the sunshine.

Get ready to trade in your boots for a bikini. Here are four exotic islands that should be on your winter rewards daydream list:

See related: How to travel better using your credit card rewards in 2019

Destination #1: The Seychelles

You can’t get much further off the winter grid than to get lost in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa. The Seychelles are exotic because they’re both stunning and remote.

There are only a handful of ways to get on and off the main island of Mahé, and even fewer ways to get to the county’s 114 islands that are covered in mountains, rainforests and white sand beaches. You can do everything adventurous in the Seychelles, or you can do absolutely nothing. 

How to get there on points:

Destination #2: Maldives

I talk about the Maldives a lot because they are my favorite sunshine and hammock-hanging destination in the world.

Just off the tip of India, the islands are pretty accessible from anywhere on the globe. When you’re sitting on the deck of your bungalow watching the fish swim in the crystal water below you, you’ll feel like you’re a million miles away from everything on your to-do list.

The swimming is magical, and the water comes in more shades of blue than your Pantone tracks.

Plus, there are plenty of options for rewards accommodations since nearly every island is its own resort. I’d spend every cold winter there if I could teleport.

How to get there on points:

Destination #3: Zanzibar

Who doesn’t dream of a weekend on the spice island, wandering through the streets of Stone Town, and wading in deep blue African waters?

Zanzibar is high on exotic, and believe it or not, high on accessibility.

You can be remote or in the center of it all with lots of accommodation options from backpacker to boutique and everywhere in between.

Plus, if you’re up for a bit of more adventure that goes beyond the beach, ZNZ is just a stone’s throw from a Serengeti safari or a Kilimanjaro summit.

How to get there on points:

  • Use United miles to book a partner flight with Turkish Airlines directly into Zanzibar (ZNZ) via Istanbul.
  • You can fly there from nearly any U.S. gateway city for 40,000 Mileage Plus points each way.
  • You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United or earn United miles directly through the United Explorer Card.
  • To sleep, there are Hilton and Hyatt options in Stone Town that you can pay with points.
  • Alternatively, you can use cash back travel rewards from your Barclay’s Aviator card to stay beachside at Matemwe Lodge, my favorite boutique hotel on the island.

Destination #4 French Polynesia

Bora Bora receives a lot of screen time when we talk about amazing islands, but the reality is that this honeymooner’s hot spot is just one of the 118 islands of French Polynesia, and the archipelago has so much more to offer than overwater bungalows.

There are five different island groups that comprise Polynesia. The Leeward and Windward Islands of the Society Islands group are the most accessible from Tahiti for beginners.

If you want more exotic, head onward to the Marquesas. Try surfing, diving, or hike up some of the islands’ volcanic mountains, and stay awhile. There’s no chance of having to scrape the frost off your car windshield here.

How to get there on points:

  • Fly from the U.S. to Tahiti (PPT) on United’s nonstop flight from San Francisco for 54,000 miles economy one way – an easy redemption if you earn the 50,000 point sign up bonus from the United MileagePlus Club Card.
  • To sleep, spend a few nights in Tahiti proper at the Intercontinental or Le Meriden using IHG or Marriott points then catch the ferry over to the mountainous island of Moorea and check out the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa – another great place to put the Hilton American Express Aspire resort benefits to use.
  • If you want to head to islands further afield, use the Ultimate Rewards travel portal to book the $220 Air Tahiti interisland flight with points.

Escape winter to any of these exotic islands by taking advantage of your rewards and miles during the low season. Just don’t forget your sunscreen.


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Updated: 03-18-2019