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There’s one place in the world that always springs to mind when you hear the phrase ‘barefoot luxury’. A picture of paradise, with white sandy beaches stretching into a kaleidoscope of sea and sky blues. Welcome to the Maldives
But while the beauty of the beaches is guaranteed and the luxuriousness of your surroundings a given, it can be difficult to decide which Maldives resort to choose from. We recently sent our beach holiday specialists to the Indian Ocean’s garland of islands, and gave them the arduous task of road-testing the resorts. They’ve dined in the restaurants, relaxed in the spas, snorkelled with the marine life and dozed in the hammocks. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
Incredible food experiences are easy to come by in the Maldives, but there’s a luxury resort that serves up world-class cuisine like no other. We present to you the One&Only Reethi Rah.
Let’s start with the breakfast. With views out to North Malé Atoll’s most perfect beach, the buffet choice is astonishing. Freshness is assured by a walk-in cold store, while a variety of cooking stations prepare hot dishes on demand. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a healthy superfoods section – on trend and totally delicious.
Within its Chinese temple-inspired design, Reethi also offers evening fare in the form of an innovative fusion of French, Asian and Italian cuisine, split across three dining areas – Earth, Fire and Aqua. Best described as ‘exquisite’.
The beautiful outdoor Botanica is laid out under a lantern-lit Banyan tree, offering an organic ‘food to fork’ experience. And at Tapasake, guests can sample trendy, modern Japanese cuisine while reef sharks swish through the water beneath your feet. And don’t forget the hotel’s list of bars and private dining options.
If you’re lucky enough to holiday at Reethi Rah, make sure you turn up hungry.
Understated, intimate and a picture of paradise, COMO Cocoa occupies its own tiny island surrounded by pristine reef and impossibly turquoise water. For newlyweds, it’s the ideal spot for a relaxing, romantic honeymoon.
Its 33 over-water villas, inspired by the traditional dhoni (Maldivian fishing boat), feature their own private decks facing the Indian Ocean. Eschewing the multitude of usual resort activities, COMO Cocoa’s deft design helps the island feel unoccupied, further enhancing the sense of personal privacy and quiet.
Begin the day with yoga practice in the open-air pavilion on the sunrise side of the island. Then, after a hard day’s snorkeling or scuba diving (which is world class), pamper yourself at the excellent spa.
Choose to dine in your private villa while you watch the sun set over the ocean, or put on your glad rags to experience excellent cuisine at the Ufaa restaurant. It’s simply a wonderful place for the ultimate romantic honeymoon.
The tiny island of Maadhoo lies within a pristine, turquoise lagoon in the South Malé Atoll. Built in 2016, Ozen by Atmosphere is the new luxury Maldives resort that calls the island home – and what a home. Swaying palm trees and pure white sand, surrounded by clear, warm ocean, are interspersed with elegant villas that combine modern luxury with traditional design.
If you’re happiest beneath the waves, or perhaps canoeing, skiing or sailing over them, you’ll be in good hands at OZEN. As a guest here, you’ll have access to an impressive range of water sports and activities. Choose from wind surfing, kite surfing, jet skiing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and even fly boarding. Hire a catamaran with a qualified captain and learn the ropes as you sail around the island. Or head out in the afternoon on a traditional dhoni (Maldivian fishing boat) and catch your supper as the sun sets over the horizon.
If scuba diving is your thing, drop in to the resort’s very own PADI-certified dive school, where beginners can learn the basics from the multilingual dive team. If you’re already experienced, dust off your log book and submerge into the crystal-clear waters with your buddy to explore the species-rich reefs and shipwrecks that surround the Malé Atoll.
Villingili Island, a 12-hectare paradise of coconut palms, Banyan trees and almost 3km of white-sand beach, is home to the Shangri-La Villingili. Its elegant rooms and villas are dotted throughout the lush foliage or along the water’s edge, offering a remarkable sense of space for a Maldivian resort.
Guests here have access to the Maldives’ largest 9-hole golf course. Tee off from the manicured green with the waves lapping at the beach just metres away. After a round or two, head back to the Club House for a cold drink while the sun sets over the Indian Ocean.
A little further afield, but still a favourite of ours, the Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa in Mauritius has a similarly impressive sports and activity menu. Along with a plethora of water sports, fishing excursions and scuba diving trips, guests here enjoy exclusive access to two idyllic private islands, just a short boat ride from the resort. On one of these you’ll find a spectacular 18-hole championship golf course, designed by pro-golfer Bernhard Langer. The perfect excuse to unpack the pitching wedge and work on your handicap.
The 16-hectare Soneva Fushi is one of the original Maldivian fantasy hideaways. Its multi-bedroom luxury villas and private residences are hidden beneath a dense canopy of tropical foliage on the stunning Baa Atoll archipelago, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Not content with pioneering eco-chic, the owners wanted to create an island of dreams for all ages. Managing to provide activities and experiences that foster an inclusive approach to families enjoying their time together, there’s even a slot in the schedule dedicated to ‘time with Mum & Dad’. Take your pick from a family picnic and guided snorkelling trip, an alfresco movie at the Cinema Paradiso, or a galaxy-gazing session at the observatory.
The star of the show at Soneva Fushi has to be ‘the Den’ – the largest all-age children’s zone in the Indian Ocean, accessed via a secret tunnel. It’s a kids’ wonderland featuring a pirate ship, LEGO room, jungle zip-line, water slide, trampolines and plenty more. Older children will love the mocktail bar, the music room complete with instruments, a hands-on kitchen for cooking classes and a treetop, Swiss Family Robinson-style restaurant reached by a wobbly rope bridge.
For many, Huvafen Fushi is the Maldives at its very best. From its crystal-clear water and pristine snorkelling reef to its stunning dining options, a holiday here is a ticket to paradise. But if all that paradise isn’t enough to make you feel utterly relaxed, you can book yourself in to LIME, the world’s first underwater spa. Even those very well-travelled will be forced to admit that it’s just a little bit special.
The ultimate pampering experience, you’ll be able to pick from a range of world-class treatments from renowned beauticians and consultants in a cocooned world of azure blue. Sink into your surroundings on a floating spa bed lined with water, while you listen to the ambient wave music surrounding you. If you manage to avoid falling into a blissful sleep, you can marvel at the marine activity taking place in the 360 degree, underwater ocean view from the secrecy of your relaxation pod. Pure serenity.
If you want the complete health and wellness package, the Shambhala Retreat at COMO Maalifushi offers it all. Their philosophy for healthy living has helped them win awards, and once you’ve stepped into the tranquil space they’ve created on the unspoilt Thaa Atoll, it doesn’t take long to realise why.
Much more than a resort spa, the Shambhala Retreat is run by holistic health experts who will design a treatment package around you and your body. Asian-inspired therapies, soothing massages, nutrition, outdoor exercises and yoga overlooking the Indian Ocean will help you find that elusive balance of mind, body and soul. Say hello to your inner Zen.