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6 nights at St. Regis Bali’s Gardenia Villa – for free.

Yes, you read that right.

I used 594,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to stay at one of the most gorgeous resorts on the planet, rated almost a perfect 5 by actual guests on TripAdvisor, without costing me a single penny out-of-pocket.

How did I do it? First, let me tell you a bit about where I was staying.

St. Regis Bali resort

For 7 days, room 703 in the Gardenia Villa at the St. Regis, Bali was home.

The inside

Walking into the villa was the foyer that opened up into the main dining room and lounge area. Both areas had a gorgeous chandelier, dark wood furniture with warm green and orange accent colours. The ceilings were quite high, and the decor was stylish and very clean.

St Regis Gardenia Villa lounge area

Our butler had already been there before we arrived to deliver a fresh bowl of delicious tropical fruit, along with 3 different welcome and thank you notes, a copy of an English newspaper, and a small gift wrapped box of chocolate truffles.

St Regis Gardenia Villa welcome gifts

We soon found out that fruit we thought was a welcome gift was actually re-stocked daily. I had also arranged for complimentary morning tea to be automatically brought to our room every morning at 7am along with a wake up call and the daily newspaper. Afternoon tea was also brought every day at 2pm.

Our butler would serve the tea in bed or in the backyard gazebo at our request while we were lounging and reading our books.

Speaking of lounging, the lounge area of our room was 180 degrees of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the pool and Cabana area outside with a hideaway flat-screen TV and ample seating for a large family, even though it was a room meant for 2.

St Regis Gardenia Villa lounge area

Off the main entry-way was an extra bathroom (that was basically wallpapered with mirrors), a bar area, kitchenette (which could rival most apartment kitchens) and even a butler’s quarters if you wanted to bring your own butler.

Too bad I decided to leave mine at home… (kidding, of course).

St. Regis Bali resort bedroom

On the other side of the entry was the master bedroom with another gorgeous chandelier, a king size bed, a writing desk, a 55 inch LG TV, automatic curtains (all you had to do was press a button to open or close), and sliding doors where you could walk out onto the back deck.

St Regis Gardenia Villa master bedroom

Off our master bedroom was the master bathroom with a gorgeous bathtub, a spacious 2-sink vanity that even had yet another TV, an over-head rain-style shower, and a back doorway that led directly to the pool area. There was also a walk-in closet with plenty of luggage and clothes storage space.

St Regis Gardenia Villa master bathroom

The outside

Walking onto the outside deck the first thing I noticed were the high walls, making the entire backyard completely secluded and private. The second outdoor shower could be enjoyed without worry. And enjoy it I did – shortly after first arriving in a hot sweaty mess from our 2 full days of travel.

St Regis Gardenia Villa deck

There were also loads of tropical plants all throughout, a nice seating area, 2 super-comfortable lounge chairs shaded by a huge parasol, a pathway leading to the private cabana, and my own private, tiled, in-ground swimming pool shaded by a giant tree with white flowers.

St Regis Gardenia Villa cabana and pool area

The pool was cleaner than any outdoor hotel pool I’ve ever seen and was always the perfect temperature. The beautiful white flowers would gently descend from the trees and float majestically throughout the pool making it feel almost magical.

I had seen photos of the villa before, but it exceeded all my expectations. That doesn’t happen often.

The resort, pools, and the beach

We had everything we needed in our room, so there wasn’t much incentive to leave, but I’m sure glad we did.

Exploring the resort opened endless opportunities to bask in the beauty of our surroundings complete with a massive lagoon-style pool that intertwined throughout the whole resort.

One night I decided to swim it from end to end and it must have taken me a good 30 minutes just to go from one end to the other. Let that sink in…

St Regis Bali resort

When we first arrived we were greeted by an expansive open-air lobby with breathtaking chandeliers, gleaming floors, and hand-crafted antique-style furniture throughout. Not to mention the always friendly and enormously helpful staff that were always greeting us, smiling, and offering their assistance in any way they could.

St Regis Bali resort lobby

Then past the lobby was a grand staircase leading you down to multiple pathways that wound throughout the rest of the resort separated by large structures that would spew fire every night at 6pm to announce the start of the fire show put on by the resort’s own performers.

 St Regis Bali resort water fountains

It was quite a spectacle to behold … especially as the leading lady twirled a ring of fire deftly around her neck. And the drummer on the far right of this next shot breathed a massive column of fire into the air right out of his mouth.

 St Regis Bali resort water fountains

No description of The St. Regis Bali would be complete without a nod to the expansive private beach…

St Regis Bali resort beach

Complete with very comfortable loungers and bar service delivered right to your umbrella. There were always plenty of chairs available – no fighting to reserve one before 8am like I’ve experienced at other resorts.

St Regis Bali resort beach chairs

When we returned back to our room after a day of exploring, we’d find everything clean, manicured, and put back in its place – often with a special custom-made towel surprise on our bed, like this one:

St Regis Bali Gardenia Villa decorations

St. Regis Bali restaurants

Of course, no trip would be complete without great food.

There were 5 high class restaurants on the resort, but we spent the majority of our time eating at two of them.

Each one had spectacular views and beautiful surroundings like this massive fish pond we would see on every trip to Boneka for brunch:

Boneka fish pond

Bali brunch at the Boneka restaurant

Boneka was a bright, colourful, and lively restaurant complete with expansive outdoor balcony featuring a massive BBQ and outdoor food service for evening barbeques.

The entire restaurant was surrounded by shimmering pools of water and fountains wherever there wasn’t balcony.

Boneka restaurant

Boneka was most famous for its morning brunch and I must say that our brunches were ALWAYS superb.

Boneka restaurant waffles

My wife couldn’t get enough of the foie gras, and I simply loved the waffles and pancakes.

Boneka restaurant pancakes

Ok, the steak and eggs were also delicious!

Boneka restaurant steak & eggs

I wish I had taken better pictures of the buffet area and the menu as it was truly multiple times better than any buffet breakfast I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing – and I’ve been to some pretty fancy restaurant brunches.

There was a special local delicacy area as you entered the restaurant, followed by a large section of cold dishes, salads, and other cold appetizers. After that there were two large sections where warm food was served.

Then there was an entire wall of made-to-order food including a sushi bar, waffle and pancake bar, noodle bar, and omelette station.

On the opposite wall there was a fruit, yogurt, cereal, and parfait section next to a made-to-order ice cream station where they literally custom-mixed your own ice cream on a frozen slab and lovingly wrapped it in the finest frozen chocolate.

Boneka restaurant dessert

You’d think that would be enough, but no, apparently it wasn’t…

If you can believe it, there was a full à la carte menu to order from as well featuring dozens of high-class inspired dishes like lobster omelette (yes, with a whole lobster on top) or this unique take on french toast:

Boneka restaurant dessert

In fact, there was so much food that our strategy became to eat a massive brunch and have that carry us through the rest of the day often only having a light supper like a shared pizza delivered by room service while we settled in for the night with a movie.

This was a great way to save money, because unlike all-inclusive resorts, the food at the St. Regis Bali is not included and was very pricey. Brunch was $45 Canadian per person (because we booked with points) but given the quality, selection, and unlimited fancy drinks as well – we felt like it was still good value.

Sunday Brunch at Kayuputi – redefining fancy

We went to the St. Regis Bali’s signature restaurant, Kayuputi, twice during our stay.

Kayuputi, meaning “Eucalyptus,” is the #9 best restaurant in Nusa Dua.

Kayuputi restaurant

The first time, we went for supper and I have to admit it was disappointing…

The food cost nearly $100 per person just for an appetizer and main course. I was served a reasonably mediocre rack of lamb and anemic mound of mashed (or was it creamed?) potatoes.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of the story. I had reserved a table for two later in the week at their famous Astor Diamond Champagne Brunch and was NOT disappointed this time.

Kayuputi restaurant Astor Diamond Champagne brunch

I believe what followed was something along the line of 17 courses of elegantly prepared and delicious food like nothing I had ever sampled before.

Yes, the 9 course meal I enjoyed over the pacific ocean on my first class ANA flight was amazing, but this was an entirely different level all together.

I’ll just step aside and let the drool-worthy pictures speak for themselves…

Kayuputi restaurant caesar saladCaesar salad with parmesan mousse, chicken crocket and black garlic croutons

Kayuputi restaurant meal 1Octopus carpaccio with cilantro citrus emulsion and sweet chili coulis

Kayuputi restaurant meal 2Yellow fin tuna tartar with fruits salsa and tamarind sorbet

Kayuputi restaurant meal 3Fresh catch of the day prepared maki roll with pickled ginger coulis, wasabi, and yuzu vinaigrette

Kayuputi restaurant meal 4Duck foie gras brullé with William pear puré

Kayuputi restaurant meal 5Slow braised Wagyu beef spare ribs with truffle oil potato pure

Kayuputi restaurant meal 6Cripsy pork belly with buttered seasonal vegetables and red white meat jus

Kayuputi restaurant meal 7Seasonal selection of soft and hard cheeses with fig chutney and walnut bread

Kayuputi restaurant meal 8Linguini seafood tossed in a white wine butter sauce

Kayuputi restaurant meal 9Penne with tomato and basil

Kayuputi restaurant meal 10Duck confit, mushroom risotto, truffle mushroom, and parmesan ice cream

Kayuputi restaurant meal 11Herbs bread crusted Australian lamb chop with ratatouille and eggplant caviar

Kayuputi restaurant meal 12Roasted Peking duck breast with Asian greens and sweet spiced duck sauce

Kayuputi restaurant meal 13Yellow fin tuna tataki with oxtail dumplings and five spices sweet soy reduction

Kayuputi restaurant meal 14Assortment of sweets from the dessert cart – the mousse was incredible!

St. Regis spa facilities

You wouldn’t expect the spa to be one of the highlights of a resort, but at the St. Regis Bali, the spa is above and beyond what you expect a spa to be.

The buildings are set in a lush private area nestled between beautiful trees and greenery giving you a feeling of pure relaxation and detachment from the daily pressures of life.

St Regis Bali spa buildings

The BEST part though is most of the spa facilities can be used at no additional cost. That means the gym, the fully-stocked changing rooms, the sauna, and the steam room.

St Regis Bali resort spa 1

There were even private lounging areas for you to rest comfortably in between activities or treatments.

St Regis Bali resort spa 2

The true pièce de résistance though, was the outdoor therapeutic massage pool facilities.

There were 11 individual stations to explore, each with high power jets and streams of water that would massage muscle groups in each area of your body.

St Regis Bali spa pools

594,000 Marriott rewards points

For my 6-night stay at the St. Regis in Bali, it cost me 594,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. The standard price for this is around $10,095, which gives me an impressive point value of 1.7 cents per point.

$10,095 / 594,000 points = 1.7 cents per point

That being said, this stay was entirely funded by Marriott Bonvoy rewards that I earned through smart credit card use with my by converting my Membership Rewards points to Bonvoy.

If I was starting again today though, I’d probably go with the for the big sign-up bonus, annual free night, and 2 points per $1 spent base earn rate.

How you can do it, too

Although this vacation may seem too good to be true, I want to encourage you that, with a bit of time, smart saving, and smart spending, you can do it too.

How much time, exactly?

Let me do the math for you.

On a regular $2,000 per month spend, without taking any sign-up bonuses, welcome offers, or special deals into account – and assuming you’re earning a little more than 2 points per $1 spent – you’d be able to earn the same amount of Bonvoy points I used for my vacation in about 11 and a half years.

594,000 points required / 51,650 points earned per year = 11.5 years

On a higher spend, say $5,000 per month, it would take you a little bit more than 4 and a half years.

594,000 points required / 128,969 points earned per year = 4.61 years

How to fast-track your rewards earnings

Thankfully, Marriott Bonvoy and American Express often team up to offer great opportunities for bonus points, like here and here.

Plus, when you sign-up for the , you’ll get a welcome bonus of 50,000 points. That’s over 8% of what you’ll need for your very own trip for 2 to St. Regis, Bali.

My first class flight experience

Did you miss last week’s article about my first-class Aeroplan flight redemption to Bali?

Read all about it here.

Onto the next destination

Where’s your dream destination?

What rewards program will you use to get you there?

Let us know in the comments below.