IT IS FITTING
that the names of so many of the Maldives’ 1,190 islands end in the sounds of “ee,” “oo,” or “ah.” These are often the only sounds one can muster when a sunrise reflects a rainbow of pastels onto the surface of a glass-calm lagoon, or a school of bioluminescent plankton floats by the beach at night, mirroring the Milky Way up above. For all the fragility of this low-lying Indian Ocean archipelago of coral atolls, it is undeniably one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Paradise isn’t without its troubles, of course. The Maldives is famously at risk from climate change, with some scientists predicting the nation—whose average elevation above sea level is only 1.5 meters—will be inundated by rising ocean levels by the end of the century. Coral bleaching is another pressing issue. Nevertheless, new resorts are still popping up seemingly by the dozen each year, pushing a number of environmental groups and hotel brands to harness the thriving tourism industry, the country’s largest source of income, to counter the environmental effects. These four, picked from the latest crop of private-island resorts, are all reason enough to hop on board a seaplane and add another voice to the chorus of “oohs” and “aahs”—whispered not to enjoy this place while it lasts, but in the hope that it lasts forever.
01 / ST. REGIS MALDIVES VOMMULI RESORT
On the ceiling of the Whale Bar at the St. Regis, a mural by Parisbased artist Maya Burman depicts the property’s own creation myth. The story goes that a grandfather, father, and son swam across the ocean until they came to a beautiful island, whereupon they decided to build a place resembling all the ocean creatures they had passed along the way. This mural was, of course, painted after Singaporean firm WOW Architects spent four years creating the resort, which is much more a study in retro-futuristic architecture than the charming allegory suggests.
Among the collection of otherworldly structures—a seashellshaped library, a spa laid out like a lobster—only the palatial Alba restaurant, its heavy-draped four-meter-high windows standing guard over the pool and main beach, feels overtly regal and Astoresque. Elsewhere, interiors flit between Mad Men handsome in the manta ray–shaped overwater villas; treehouse-luxe in the A-frame beach and garden villas, which are decorated with geodes and handmade seashell light fixtures; and serenely calm amid the polished Venetian plaster of the whale shark–inspired Whale Bar and multipurpose Vommuli House.
Unexpected surprises become apparent the longer one stays.