The Maldives, a collection of over a thousand islands in the Indian Ocean,
offers an idyllic getaway with white sandy beaches, shimmering turquoise waters and coral reefs rich with colorful fish. Posh resorts with luxurious overwater bungalows are situated on their own private island where guests can snorkel, scuba dive, swim, spa and take in spectacular sunsets. The alluring islands are also a perfect addition to an itinerary for couples, honeymooners, families and friends visiting Dubai, India, Sri Lanka, Africa, and beyond. Resorts arrange transfers with seaplanes or speedboats. Here are some recently opened ones worth checking out:
Naladhu Private Island Maldives in the South Malé Atoll, with only 20 villas reopened late last year after a total redesign. Indonesian teak, light stone and a warm neutral color palette create a stylish Southeast Asian vibe. The intimate resort features ocean villas with views of the open sea plus private beach cabanas a few minutes walk away, beach villas perched on the pristine beach and a two-bedroom beach villa. All accommodations feature large outdoor living spaces with expansive decks, dining areas, infinity pools, outdoor showers as well as cushy interiors that offer double bathrooms with steam rooms.
The single restaurant, The Living Room, offers a no menu concept, meaning guests can eat anything any time of day. And the international chefs are happy to accommodate. Many prefer to dine in the comfort and privacy of their own villa, overseen by their personal butler. And my butler, the wonderful and personable Majda, who hails from Morocco, arranged everything flawlessly during my stay. Some highlights include: a dinner of scrumptious Maldivian lobster with a private chef on the beach; a floating breakfast in my pool, a private yoga session at my villa and a boat excursion snorkeling amid dolphins, turtles and the gorgeous coral gardens.
As part of the redo, the resort also unveiled: A new dedicated spa treatment room featuring an extensive menu of offerings and a resident nutritional therapist/naturopath, Kelly Manning – whose RESET program offers customized treatments for stress, immunity, digestion and other imbalances. www.naladhu.com
Patina Maldives, Fari Island in the north Malé atoll, the debut resort from Capella’s new offshoot, Patina Hotels & Resorts, which launched last May, is already attracting the fashionable set. This lush island lapped by a crystalline lagoon contains a montage of tree-lined paths leading to villas on the beach and also those suspended over an impossibly blue sea. Interiors are sleek and modern with grey bedding and subdued olive green accents in contrast to nature’s colorful outdoor mosaic. I loved the open-air deck of my overwater villa where I could luxuriate with a private pool, outdoor tub, lounger and hammock – the perfect spot to see the golden Maldivian sunset dip into
For Wellness: A session with master practitioner Steve Harvey in the resort spa Flow, was a highlight of my stay. This amazing holistic healer/mindset mentor and modern day shaman helps you free emotional blocks causing stress in the mind and body that affect our health and well being. For those seeking water -based relaxation, guests can have a watsu treatment at the spa.
Fari Marina Village houses the water sports center where boats depart for snorkeling and diving excursions with a dive butler – such as my reef hopping excursion where I beheld a dazzling rainbow of tropical fish in every size, shape and color. Visiting yachts dock at this social hub that also contains fashion boutiques, an art gallery, trendy Fari Beach Club with tastiest lobster ceviche, Lebanese/Indian restaurant Arabesque plus food trucks dispensing gourmet burgers and gelato. Back at the resort’s center, there are Greek, pan Asian and plant based restaurants. My favorite, Veli Bar near the pool and beach – offered chef Sourav Kumar’s to die for, tuna poke. I still dream about it. www.patinahotels.com
Kuda Villingili Resort Maldives in the North Malé Atoll, which opened last June, creates a delightful cocktail of serenity, culinary and adventure options. The resort markets itself as an experience driven concept offering top amenities for lower prices. Kuda Villingili features 95 stylish villas, 36 overwater and 59 spacious beachside including villas and deluxe havens, some with pools. Interiors are done in earth tones, using local art, wood and natural stone with floor-to-ceiling windows that bring the outside in.
There’s something for everyone here: from surfing at famed Chicken Break (one of the world’s top surf spots) just off the island’s southern tip, jet-skiing, paddle-boarding, kayaking, boat excursions for snorkeling among manta rays and reef sharks, swimming by your villa or in the stylish 492 foot long pool, to tennis and a yoga pavilion. Unwind at the excellent spa listening to sounds of the sea with pampering treatments in oceanfront spa villas. And the private, scenic sunset cruise is a must.
Everything is arranged and overseen by your private butler and my personal handler, Siyaadh, a local Maldivian, is simply the best! He’s warm, thorough, smart and precise and did everything and anything to make my stay even more pleasurable. He really went that extra mile above and beyond anything I expected, and I could tell he was happy to do it. The genuine warmth, authenticity and friendliness of the entire staff created a wonderful ambiance.
Dining options here span the globe with something from almost every continent. Facing the beachfront, The Restaurant offers 3 menus at dinner: Fire, Earth and Ocean featuring grilled meats, Asian specialties and seafood dishes, respectively. Other offerings include: Italian Mediterranean at Med, Indian Arabic at Spice, a private dining experience at The Beach Club and my favorites: Fabulous Peruvian and Japanese at Mar-Umi plus unrivaled Thai cuisine by master Thai Chef T. www.kudavillingili.com
How To Get There
With the long flight to Velana Airport in Malé from the US, I recommend Qatar Airways with a seamless connection in Doha. The carrier’s business class features spacious, private, extremely comfortable fully enclosed Qsuites – lauded as a brilliant product no other airline’s business class can match. Qatar calls it “First In Business.” The excellent culinary offerings allow passengers to have their meals whenever they want and the onboard service is superb.