MALDIVES There’s a resort for every couple amid the turquoise lagoons of this Indian Ocean nation
As one of the world’s most popular honeymoon destinations, this Indian Ocean escape has a resort to suit everyone’s notion of romance. Amelia Hungerford discovers 11 of the best, from one of the first to the newcomers reinventing island living.
Classic with a twist
Think of a Maldivian island resort, and chances are you’re imagining the palm-fringed beaches and overwater bungalows of Baros Maldives. It was just the third resort to open in the sundrenched nation, all the way back in 1973, and it has been enchanting starryeyed honeymooners and romanceseekers ever since. Personalised service with warm island hospitality has cemented its reputation, while the fact that no children under eight are allowed is a guarantee for couples’ serenity. Explore a world of private dining options, from the grand pianoshaped deck isolated in the middle of the sea to the deck of your water villa.
With 122 villas (starting at 135 square metres) and seven restaurants and bars, uber-luxe One&Only Reethi Rah is big enough to give you options and small enough to ensure impeccable service. Ruminate on the beauty of the Maldives from the breezy comfort of your thatched-roof villa, either resting along the beach or raised above the ocean. The Grand Sunset Residence comes with a private road for blissful seclusion, two golf carts and a pristine stretch of beach that is all yours.
Choice is also the raison d’être for The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi with 14 decadent dining venues to experience, including adults-only relaxation at Reflections, French fare beside the water at Flavours, and homemade ice-cream at La Cremeria. Indulge in a sunset dhoni cruise followed by a private beach barbecue for two, and settle into an Infinity Pool Villa with a glass-panel floor or spread out in the overwater Aqua Retreat with Jacuzzi and butler service.
When one pool isn’t enough, Huvafen Fushi’s Deluxe Beach Pool Villa offers the perfect solution, complementing a beachfront dip with a second pool in the walled garden of the outdoor bathroom. If you’d rather be closer to the water, why not set sail aboard the resort’s dhoni for a night? Savour private dining under the stars and succumb to relaxation with a massage on a deserted sandbar. When you return, head to the reef in the underwater Huvafen Spa, where fishes swim past as you feel your worries drift away with the tide.
High style, high touch
Elegant forms are the hallmarks of the Maldives’ most stunning resorts. The St. Regis brought its impeccable New York-style service to the island nation with the opening of The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Island Resort. Its villas’ roofs recall the smooth grace of manta ray wings and the mouth of the curved Whale Bar gapes open to offer spectacular sunset views. The closest concession the resort makes to rusticity is the sand floor of the Crust pizza and bruschetta restaurant; otherwise, the designers have created the glittering illusion that marble and gold are at home in the tropics.
Cheval Blanc Randheli lives up to its Louis Vuitton-Moët Hennessy pedigree in shades of dove grey, charcoal and citrus yellow, a treatment even given to the custom seaplane. Jean-Michel Gathy’s interiors are slick, each of the 45 villas able to be partitioned with oversized doors. Infinity pools and colossal freestanding bathtubs are de rigueur. The Owner’s Villa, set on its own one-hectare island, features a private spa with a yoga terrace, a separate guest villa and a chef to cater for your culinary desires. ‘Alchemists’ create excursions and experiences,
be it a wellness regimen, visits to neighbouring islands, a sunset sail or a night-time snorkelling trip.
At relaunched LUX* South Ari Atoll, it’s all about a casual beachhouse vibe. Think white interiors, with a touch of turquoise for the 187 villas, and the Beach Rouge concept, creating a pumping Mediterranean-style beach club with lashings of red. Romantic Pool Water Villas are hideaways built for two with double rain showers in the airy bathrooms and a love nest suspended beside the pool, an ideal setting for watching the world go by. The soonto-arrive LUX* North Male Atoll takes things a step further on the design front, creating penthouse-style residences with ‘reef-view’ rooftop decks.
‘No news, no shoes’ is the one rule you’ll find at Gili Lankanfushi. Your villa’s personal Mr or Ms Friday, named for Robinson Crusoe’s island companion, is so much more than a butler, curating your romantic getaway to include
lantern-lit dinners beside the sea, sunset cruises, a bamboo massage for two at Meera Spa, or an underwater discovery at the new Gili Veshi marine biology centre. The overwater villas feature rooftop terraces where you can talk about everything and nothing under the stars. Crusoe Residences stand apart in the ocean, accessible by boat, while the 1700-square-metre Private Reserve is said to be the largest overwater villa in the world with four bedrooms. A water slide swirls from the top floor down into the lagoon where your inner child can make a splash.
Playfulness is also at the heart of Soneva Jani, one of the newest resorts in the Maldives and sister to long-time favourite, Soneva Fushi. Many of its Water Retreats and Water Reserves are offset by slides, as well as retractable roofs for stargazing, private pools and open-air bathrooms. Soneva Jani’s island home is alive with edible gardens, which are at the heart of its myriad dining experiences, from the chocolate, ice-cream and sashimi of So Cool to the celestial dining experience at the Maldives’ first overwater observatory, So Starstruck. Catch a classic film at Cinema Paradiso while you recline on catamaran nets over the lagoon.
An island made for two (or 22)
When you seek absolute seclusion for your romantic getaway, opt for a private island. Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah opened at the end of 2016, a fully staffed enclave designed for up to 22 guests – or a sanctuary for just the two of you. Personalisation is the real luxury here; diving off motoryacht
Voavah Summer, sandbar picnics, marine biologist guides, spa therapies for two and a world of dining experiences are just a request away. If your own twohectare bolthole isn’t enough, you can also enjoy the facilities and services of Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, just a boat ride away.
Coco Privé, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ Legend Collection, features one main residence and five villas for friends and family (if they’re invited). The design is pared-back and neutral, letting the beauty of nature take centre stage; even the open-air bath contrasts cool grey with vibrant green foliage. Quaff fresh coconut water on your private beach, cocoon yourself in a love nest for the afternoon and feast on Maldivian cuisine whenever and wherever you choose.
01 One&Only Reethi Rah 02 The Grand Sunset Residence at One&Only Reethi Rah 03 Treatment at LUX* South Ari Atoll 04 One&Only’s Fanditha Sunset Bar 05 Villa at LUX* South Ari Atoll 06 The St. Regis Vommuli Maldives 07 Spa at LUX* South Ari Atoll 02
10 08 Hide away on Huvafen Fushi 09 Spa relaxation at Baros Maldives 10 Pool at One&Only Reethi Rah 11 Wellbeing Pavilion at Cheval Blanc Randheli