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
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.