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Like many of you, I have a boatload of hotel certificates that have been piling up since March of 2020. So, as soon as my husband and I got vaccinated, I was very excited to finally put my two free Hilton nights to good use. They were due to expire in August of this year, so there was no time to waste. But where should we go?
My husband didn’t really want to fly anywhere, so I looked at local options. In the end, I chose Baker’s Cay Hilton Resort in Key Largo It’s located 4 hours from our home, but may as well be on another planet. We live in Central Florida where there are more cows than people. So, Florida Keys provide a nice change of scenery for us hillbillies.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have super high expectations. I figured I would like this resort, but didn’t think it would blow me away. But that’s exactly what happened. My husband and I had a fantastic time, and I can’t wait to bring my kids here. In fact, I’ve already booked another stay in the fall.
I believe this resort is an excellent redemption value whether you are looking for a couple’s getaway or a family vacation. But you will have to be flexible on dates, since it’s quite popular.
Let me share what I loved about this place as well as some minor gripes, so you can decide whether it’s a good option for you. TripAdvisor reviews have been all over the place lately. As always, it comes down to your expectations.
I think for 60k Hilton points per night (current rate), it’s very hard to be disappointed. Update: it now costs 80k points per night.
If you have a Gold or Diamond status, you should also get some extra perks which will surely enhance your stay. Is the resort fancy? Not really. But it’s a solid option in Florida Keys, and a place I would consider booking with cash. So that should tell you something.
Since my husband still has Diamond status (from cancelled Amex Hilton Aspire card), we were upgraded to an ocean view. The resort was sold out, so we didn’t get a suite, but it didn’t really matter since the kids weren’t with us. Plus, how can you complain when you wake up to this each morning:
Keep in mind that few rooms have an unobstructed ocean view since there are a lot of trees around the property. We stayed in the Coconut wing, closest to the reception and the main restaurant. That’s where all the action happens if that’s important to you.
The Hammock wing is generally quiter and would probably be my preference. It’s closer to the pool, so that’s something to consider if you have kids.That said, unless you stay on the 4th floor, you will mostly have a view of mangroves. But you really can’t go wrong. The balcony doors seem to block out the noise very well.
I forgot to take photos of the room itself, but here is a screenshot from Hilton website:
The room was clean, which is very important to me.
The sofa turns into a sleeper, but it won’t fit both of my kids comfortably. Instead I booked a mini-suite for our next visit. My daughter will sleep on top of the sofa (without tuning it into a bed) and we plan bring an air mattress for my son.
I didn’t get a chance to look at the mini-suites, but have a pretty good idea on what to expect based on this screenshot taken from Hilton website:
For me and my husband it’s crucial to have some separation from kids. At 350 square feet, this “suite” will be very tight. Still, it’s much better than sharing one room for 5 nights. I’m sure most of you with kids will understand.
If you plan on a couple’s getaway, I would book a regular room unless your spouse has to work late at night. The biggest complaint about mini-suites is the fact that the bathroom is super small, which is not the case with basic rooms. Also, none of the mini-suites have ocean views. So, if a regular suite upgrade isn’t available, you will be stuck with a view of the parking lot.
Speaking of, I used some of my husband’s Hilton points to book a room for his cousin, who also happens to be my good friend. She actually ended up with a suite upgrade, but I wouldn’t count on it during high season or holidays.
The beach is why most people come here in the first place. And it’s a good one, a rarity in Florida Keys. In fact, here you have two beaches, one near each wing. In general, the Coconut wing beach is a bit nicer. That’s where you will also find all of the water activities.
I ended up trying out a paddle board. Non-motorized water sports are included in a resort fee (waived when you stay on points or via certificates).
Even though the resort was sold out, there were plenty of chairs by the main beach. In fact, the place never really seemed crowded. One day me and my husband got settled in a hut, a super private spot at the far end of the resort.
Not too shabby of a view, if I say so myself:
That said, my husband actually preferred the Hammock beach which was even more private:
It only had a few chairs scattered about and tons of shade. However, there is a lot of seaweed in the water, so the beach isn’t as good for swimming. But it’s a perfect spot if you just want to relax and listen to waves. My husband got so comfortable, he ended up taking a nap.
Activities for kids
Even though we didn’t have our two kids with us this time, I wanted to find out if the resort is a good fit for families. My verdict: I can’t imagine any kid not liking this place. There is, of course, the beach itself. On top of it, there is a decent pool with a waterfall and a hot tub.
Btw, there is also an adults-only pool, which is a great idea.
We didn’t get a chance to use it, but the area looked inviting.
On top of it, the resort has a ton of complimentary activities for kids, including foam pool parties, movies on the lawn, painting, s’mores, you name it. There is something scheduled each and every day. You can access this online brochure to see for yourself.
As Diamond guests, we got a breakfast allowance of $38 per day. The best part? We could use it for room service, which is always my preference, even in non-Covid times. So, we ended up doing it all three mornings of our stay. I loved the fact that I could text my order to front desk. So easy!
The prices are what you would expect at a resort, so it wasn’t a shock. You will pay $16 for an omelet and $18 for a fancy avocado toast. At least I didn’t have to buy coffee, since there is a Keurig machine.
Room service charge is $5, which isn’t terrible. Overall, don’t expect your breakfast allowance to cover the whole bill, but it should cover most of it, depending on your appetite.
Everything was delicious
Hilton has recently announced that through the end of the year, guests with get a food and beverage credit rather than continental breakfast at most full-service hotels in US. While it’s a bummer for many, I’m actually very happy about this new policy. Since kids don’t get free breakfast, it’s more advantageous for me to utilize this credit towards room service. That way I can also save money on beverages by bringing my own. Plus, it’s just more relaxing with kids.
We also ended up ordering room service for lunch and dinner. Prices were again, what you would expect at a resort of this caliber. We did order sushi from a local restaurant via Uber Eats once, but it was honestly kind of a pain. We ended up waiting an extra hour past estimated delivery time because they were prioritizing dine-in customers. I did order on a Saturday night, so perhaps sticking to weekdays would avoid this issue. I’m not sure I will do it again.
It would be remiss for me not to include some problems I’ve encountered, and there were a few. That way you can get a balanced picture. Without further ado:
1) The Hilton app allowed me to pick a room, which I did. Unfortunately, the room was reassigned when we got there. We still got an ocean view, but it was somewhat obstructed by trees. Not a big deal, but still.
2) My final bill had some discrepancies. First, for some reason they didn’t apply two out three breakfast credits . Also, there was a mixed cocktail I didn’t order. The mistakes were corrected after I’ve pointed them out.
3) The king bed doesn’t have a fitted sheet, but a flat sheet that’s tucked around the corners. It doesn’t stay put very well, and is a bit annoying. Next time I’m bringing my own king-size sheet, no joke.
4) The resort has old “bones”, though it has been tastefully remodeled. But as a result, you will hear noises in the hallways and possibly your neighbors, depending on how loud they are. We were fortunate to have quiet neighbors, thank goodness. Make sure to bring a noise machine, just in case. I always do.
How to collect Hilton points in a hurry
The room rates during the time of our stay were absolutely insane. I’m talking $1200 per night for a regular room, and I’m not exaggerating. The reason: Covid pandemic, of course. Most folks don’t want to fly to Caribbean and mess with a test, plus all the border uncertainty.
That means that prices in Florida Keys (the closest thing we have to the Caribbean) are through the roof. Eventually the demand will soften, of course. But currently I’m seeing many summer weekends sold out, something that was unheard of even a year ago.
At $1200 per night this place ain’t worth it, for sure. But you can buy Hilton points at 0.5 penny each (pays me no commission) right now and pay $300. Better yet, if you even have a Silver Hilton status, you can get a 5th night free. Having stayed there, I would honestly pay $240 per night for a mini-suite, especially when you factor in $38 breakfast credit. Certainly beats paying retail rates during high season.
Fortunately, I had some Hilton points from my Amex Aspire card sign-up bonus, and if you have some flexibility on dates, I suggest you go that route as well. If you sign up for Hilton Honors Amex Aspire right now, you will get 150k points after spending $4k in 3 months, “free” weekend night, $250 resort credit valid at this property and much more.
You will also get an automatic upgrade to Diamond status which may score you a suite, like it did for my cousin-in-law. No guarantees, but going during slow season will improve your chances significantly. Yes, there is a $450 annual fee, but look at all you are getting in return.
You will get 4 award nights (may need to buy a few points) at this resort after meeting minimum spend, plus $250 credit. You might even get 5 nights if you find the right Hilton agent. In the past, some were able to add the free night certificate and count it as a 4th night, so you can get the 5th one free. YMMV
And I’m not even factoring in airline credit and lounge access. Not to shabby, right? And unlike the Maldives, you can drive your whole family to Florida Keys for the price of a few tanks of gas. My referral link, thanks if you use it.
Of course, there are many other more lucrative offers on the market, like 80k points bonus on Chase Sapphire Preferred. It just depends on your priorities.
As you’ve already guessed, my husband and I had a fantastic time. In fact, we both agreed that it was one of our best trips. And we didn’t even have to fly anywhere. But I would if I had to, because this place is worth it.
I can’t quite put my finger on what made it special. It certainly wasn’t fancy or exclusive. It probably had to do with a laid-back atmosphere where things were easy and enjoyable. No pretentiousness to speak of. Oh, and the views didn’t hurt either.
One of my favorite things was live music on a Saturday night. This normally isn’t my thing because you can expect “Aruba, Jamaica…” types of tunes at beachfront resorts in the Keys. Nothing wrong with that, just not my jam. Instead, the singer played guitar and sang songs by The Lumineers, one of my favorite bands. And he was really good!
Standing on the balcony, watching sunset and holding a glass of complimentary champagne in my hand, I felt like I was listening to my own private concert. I think that was my favorite moment of this whole trip, and the reason I look forward to coming back soon.
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Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.
Glad you had a wonderful time. Now I want to go back!
@Jennifer We might actually make a stay at this resort a yearly thing. Totally doable with us living only 4 hours away. It’s like a poor man’s Caribbean! Now I just need to figure out how to get approved for Aspire card. Keep getting the dreaded pop-up.
I love our Aspire cards. We have gotten a ton of value out of them! I hate paying that annual fee, but when I add up what we get from them, it’s been an amazing deal so far. I keep waiting for the day Amex realizes the same thing and the value starts to dissipate!
@Tammie I’m hoping to get a 150k points upgrade offer to Aspire on my regular Hilton card. My husband got it a few years ago, but no dice for me so far. I agree, it’s a very lucrative card despite $450 annual fee. I would absolutely consider renewing for the purpose of staying again at this resort.
I had the same issue with the breakfast certs there in November 2020. No problem getting the credit when I asked at the front desk, but if I hadn’t checked my bill…. Hmmm. Seems to be a pattern.
@Babblespeak Yeah, I wasn’t super happy about it. I always check my final bill, but not everyone does, I’m sure. They didn’t put up any fuss, and I took care of it via text. So, it wasn’t a huge inconvenience. Still, I might bring it up to the manager next time we stay at this resort. At this price level this type of thing should not happen.
What a great find!!!
I just booked 5 nights at the new Conrad hotel in Punta de Mita in Mexico over New Years. I used 4 free night certificates and one night of points. Average retail price was $1600 per night for a basic room. That is insane!!! I don’t know who pays those prices. But my point is I used Hilton certificates expiring August 31. When I called in to book, the diamond desk agent told me Hilton had JUST said certificates could be extended to January (this was last Friday) so if anyone hasn’t used there’s yet, ask about an extension, if you need one!
In other news, I booked five nights with points at the Hampton Inn in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the end of July. I did this in February. Anyway if you can find a room now, cash prices are $600 a night for a “regular” hotel. It’s an expensive place (even in the summer), but I think the pricing is mostly driven by the “COVID demand” you mentioned in your post.
If we didn’t have points and certificates, we wouldn’t be traveling for awhile because we couldn’t afford these prices nor would I feel justified in paying that even if I could!
@Tammie Congrats on your amazing redemptions! Yeah, Covid is absolutely the reason for these insane price hikes. Jackson Hole is already expensive in the summer, and I imagine there is extra demand right now due to outdoor nature of this particular destination. Btw, I loved Jackson Hole and Grand Teton park. If you haven’t been, you are in for a treat! It’s on my “repeat” list.
I’m totally with you that if I didn’t have points and certificates, we simply would not travel to the Keys until the demand subsides. I love the area, but not that much. Still, this resort was sold out, so clearly someone paid $1200 per night. Absolute insanity.
We have Baker’s Cay booked for August. We’ve been before and can’t wait to go back!
@Ramzi Enjoy! August should be less crowded in the Keys, though this year has been unusual, to say the least. It’s a very nice place.
So glad you were able to get away. I may have to get an Aspire card.
@Stephanie Thanks! We originally planned to take the kids, but since they aren’t yet vaccinated, I decided to make it a couple’s getaway. No regrets. As far as Aspire goes, that’s definitely the most lucrative card for Hilton stays. However, Surpass offer is also worth considering, especially for those who consider a $450 fee a deal breaker. That said, in the long run I plan for both me and my husband to each have an Aspire card. That way we can have two weekend nights+$500 in resort credits. Not to mention lounge access and other benefits, of course. This resort will probably become our go-to spot every year.
@Leana thanks for the info. I’ll have to compare them and see what would work….it’s such a bummer that I let some of our Free Certs (Hyatt & IHG) expire but that’s the way it goes.
@Stephanie You are probably aware, but IHG has recently announced that they have extended the certs expiration to the end of this year. They also extended them at the end of 2020. Same for Hyatt. You may still have some valid certificates in your respective accounts. I’ve been slowly burning through mine since the Covid situation finally started to improve. In fact, this was our first hotel stay in over a year ( we did rent cabins a few times where we had zero contact with people).