How to stand out

IN A SET­TING AS pic­turesque AS THE MAL­DIVES, who NEEDS THE LAST word IN lux­ury? THE CIN­NA­MON DHON­VELI PRO­VIDES A level Of COM­FORT THAT, while high, DOESN’T DE­TRACT from THE beau­ti­ful SCENERY AROUND IT

Virtuozity - - Destination -

The prob­lem with re­view­ing a ho­tel in the mal­dives is that the old mantra of ‘lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion,’ doesn’t re­ally work there. Al­most any ho­tel worth vis­it­ing within the pic­turesque arpeg­gio of is­lands is an is­land on its own, and they all look and feel stun­ning. This means that, whether you’re on an is­land 30 min­utes from the air­port is­land of male, or two hours away from there, you’re still go­ing to find your­self liv­ing in a trop­i­cal pic­ture post­card. white sand beaches, crys­tal azure wa­ters, long-stemmed palm trees and bright blue skies—that’s what you’ll find at any of the mal­dives’ top-of-the-line ho­tels. Any ho­tel that comes off badly in this set­ting would have to be galac­ti­cally bad.

And herein lies the prob­lem—if any ho­tel in the mal­dives will do, what sets the best ones apart? The ul­tra-lux­ury ho­tels here will sell you on their stel­lar ser­vice and op­u­lent set­tings, ex­plain­ing that, while the beaches and the wa­ters re­main the same, the rooms that you re­tire to are lav­ish havens like noth­ing else in the world. miche­lin-starred chefs are flown in to cre­ate restau­rant menus of the ut­most deca­dence, while som­me­liers are on hand to pro­vide the per­fect pair­ings to these dishes.

And while all of that is jolly pleas­ant, it sort of misses the point of what a mal­dives break should be—a lazy few days on the beach, soak­ing up the sun with a good book in the day, and din­ing with good com- pany un­der the stars. There’s a sim­plic­ity to the mal­dives that means you don’t need the added frills—you just need the post­card set­ting and com­fort up to a point.

af­ter jetty al­lows boat pas­sen­gers to dis­em­bark; a clean but rus­tic path leads from the wa­ter to tree-packed area where the re­cep­tion re­sides; and the re­cep­tion is open-air, but with a floor made of tiles, and air con­di­tion­ing keep­ing wait­ing guests cool. Com­fort­able, beau­ti­ful fur­ni­ture and clean wooden pan­els abound in the re­cep­tion—as do pa­tient and po­lite staff.

Cer­tainly, the Cin­na­mon Dhon­veli doesn’t come across as the last word in lux­ury, but it owns that fact, with fea­tures in­stead di­vert­ing the eye to the enor­mous palm trees that shel­ter the is­land’s in­hab­i­tants. Roughly beaten tracks lead to per­fect, white sand beaches, against which the blue of the ocean glit­ters like the world’s largest sap­phire. The fact that the ho­tel doesn’t fea­ture the most lux­u­ri­ous re­cep­tion re­ally doesn’t mat­ter, be­cause look where you are.

That said, the Cin­na­mon Dhon­veli does al­low some lev­els of lux­ury when it comes to the rooms. There are five op­tions avail­able, from two-floor gar­den vil­las suited for fam­i­lies, to cheap-and-cheer­ful beach bun­ga­lows that sim­ply serve as a com­fort­able sleep­ing space to be en­joyed be­tween trips to the beach. The pick of the bunch, how­ever, are the over wa­ter suites.

There are 24 wood-pan­elled units sat right over the shal­low, turquoise wa­ters sur­round­ing the is­land. Spa­cious in­te­ri­ors greet guests as they walk in—a large liv­ing room with plush fur­ni­ture, a beau­ti­fully ap­pointed bed­room and there’s a sprawl- ing bath­room com­plete with a Jacuzzi. The suites fea­ture pri­vate sun decks with their own stair­cases that lead di­rectly to the per­fect wa­ters be­low. And these 24 rooms are se­cluded from the rest of the is­land. Ac­cord­ing to the ho­tel, these rooms are most of­ten booked by hon­ey­moon­ers, and it’s easy to see why—they’re com­pletely idyl­lic.

That doesn’t mean that you won’t want to ex­plore the rest of the small is­land. The main beach runs along a se­cluded bay, which shields guests from the some­times rough seas on the other side of the is­land. Be­cause the wa­ters are so calm here, it’s ex­tremely quiet, and freely avail­able, par­tially sub­merged sunbeds al­low guests to rel­ish in the ut­ter seren­ity of the sur­round­ings. What’s more, there’s plenty of in­ter­est­ing reef life around the area, mean­ing good snor­kel­ing spots are a quick swim away from any sec­tion of the beach.

For the more ad­ven­ture-seek­ing guests, the other side of the is­land is the place to be. Be­cause of its lo­ca­tion, the Cin­na­mon Dhon­veli is home to one of the best surf spots in the Mal­dives, with big waves guar­an­teed al­most ev­ery day. There are rules about how many surfers are al­lowed to be out, but with a fully func­tion­ing surf school on site, it’s easy to learn the ins and outs of the en­deav­our.

In the evenings, the ho­tel fur­ther il­lus­trates that lux­ury isn’t ev­ery­thing; out of the is­land’s three restau­rants, only one can claim to be a fine din­ing set­ting. How­ever, the food served at all three is ex­actly the same, and that food is top-of-the-line. Menus change daily, with promi­nence al­ways given to in­ter­est­ing, Mal­di­vian dishes that show off the coun­try’s culi­nary her­itage. Opt for the lo­cal dishes over the in­ter­na­tional ones and you won’t be dis­ap­pointed.

Fi­nally, at the end of the day, be sure to re­tire to the Sun­set Bar, perched atop the west­ern­most tip of the is­land. Func­tional but com­fort­able, it has all the ameni­ties you’d ex­pect of a de­cent wa­ter­ing hole, com­plete with an in­ven­tive cock­tail list and a fully stocked hu­mi­dor. It’s the per­fect place from which to watch the sun cast its dy­ing rays across this most won­der­ful of set­tings.

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