If you like remote, tropical getaways; you will love The Maldives. This Indian Ocean archipelago with pearly white beaches, shimmering turquoise waters and exquisite coral reefs teeming with tropical fish, is widely regarded as having the most beautiful islands on the planet.
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Posh resorts with dreamy overwater bungalows are situated on their own private island, creating cushy cocoons to relax and rejuvenate. Guests can snorkel, scuba, swim, spa, savor spectacular sunsets or just loll about in nature’s splendor. The alluring islands attract honeymooners, couples, families and friends. They make a great girlfriend getaway as well as a perfect addition to an itinerary that includes India, Sri Lanka, Africa and Dubai. Here are some recently opened resorts worth checking out:
Naladhu Private Island Maldives in the South Malé Atoll, with only 20 villas reopened late last year after a total redesign. It’s small, intimate and feels like you’re on your own private island. Indonesian teak, light stone and a warm neutral color palette create a stylish Southeast Asian vibe. The charming resort features ocean villas with views of the open sea plus private beach cabanas a few minutes walk away and beach villas perched on the pristine beach. All accommodations are self contained and feature large outdoor living spaces with expansive decks, dining areas, infinity pools, outdoor showers as well as chic interiors that offer double bathrooms with steam rooms and dressing tables.
I loved having coffee on the deck of my beach villa. This peaceful space with lovely garden and pool was ideal for meditating, reading and tuning into nature. Just steps away, my lounger on the beach was the perfect spot to take in breathtaking panoramas, splendid sunsets and the starry evening sky.
The single restaurant, The Living Room, overlooking the lagoon, offers a no menu concept meaning guests can eat anything any time of day. And the international chefs are happy to accommodate. Many prefer to dine in the comfort and privacy of their own villa, overseen by their personal butler. And my butler, the wonderful and personable Majda who hails from Morocco, arranged everything flawlessly during my stay.
Some highlights include: a private dinner of grilled to perfection Maldivian lobster with private chef and sommelier on the beach at sunset; a floating champagne breakfast in my villa pool, a private yoga session at my villa with an Indian yogi who realigned my posture with one adjustment; relishing delectable local fish nightly at the scenic open air restaurant; and a boat excursion with Antoine – snorkeling amid dolphins, turtles and gorgeous coral gardens.
In keeping with the resort’s dedication to wellness: the redo also unveiled: A new dedicated spa treatment area featuring an extensive menu of offerings plus resident nutritional therapist/ naturopath, Kelly Manning – whose RESET program offers customized treatments for stress, sleep difficulties, weight management, immunity, digestion and other imbalances.
Patina Maldives, Fari Island in the north Malé atoll, launched last May and is already attracting the fashionable set. This lush island lapped by a crystalline lagoon contains a montage of tree-lined paths leading to villas on the beach and those suspended over an impossibly blue sea. Interiors are stylish, sleek and modern with grey bedding and subdued olive green accents in contrast to nature’s colorful outdoor mosaic.
I loved the spacious deck of my overwater villa where I could luxuriate in my private pool, enjoy a salt soak in the outdoor tub, sunbathe on the lounger, swing on the hammock and see the golden Maldivian sunset dip into the horizon.
For Wellness: A session with master practitioner Steve Harvey in the resort spa Flow, was a highlight of my stay. Mr. Harvey, a holistic healer, mindset mentor, advanced body-worker and modern day shaman has a huge international celebrity following including Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lopez, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. He works with you to identify and release emotional blocks that cause stress in the mind and body and keep you from attaining your goal: be it success in career, life style change, health issues, self acceptance, relationship or anything else affecting your well being and happiness. For those who enjoy aqua based relaxation, guests can have a watsu treatment at the spa.
The island also contains Fari Marina Village, with the water sports center where boats depart on snorkeling and dive trips. Accompanied by a dive butler, I went on a reef-hopping excursion and snorkeled amid a rainbow of tropical fish in every size, shape and color. Visiting yachts dock at the marina of this social hub that also contains curated fashion boutiques, an art gallery, trendy Fari Beach Club with DJ featuring Michelin two star chef Nick Bril’s creations such as Tiger Prawn BBQ and tastiest lobster ceviche, Lebanese/Indian restaurant Arabesque plus food trucks dispensing gourmet burgers and gelato.
Back at the resort’s center the culinary journey continues at Helios offering an Aegean kitchen, Wok Society’s Asian delectables, an international all day menu and plant based Roots using many ingredients sourced from the island’s herb and vegetable gardens. My favorite, Veli Bar near the pool and beach – offered chef Sourav Kumar’s to die for tuna poke elevated to new heights with flavors that danced on my palate.
Kuda Villingili Resort Maldives in the North Malé Atoll, which opened last June, creates a delightful cocktail of serenity, culinary and adventure options. The resort calls itself an experience driven concept and features 95 stylish villas, 36 overwater and 59 spacious beachside, some with pools. Interiors are done in earth tones, using local art, wood and natural stone with floor-to-ceiling windows that bring the outside in.
The resort has a lovely sense of tranquility – even though it was full, you rarely felt the presence of other guests. I enjoyed the solitude of relaxing in my cabana in front of my beach villa, looking at the sea and the sky in varying shades of blue, as far as the eye can see.
There’s something for everyone here: from surfing at famed Chicken Break (1 of the world’s top surf spots ) just off the island’s southern tip, jet-skiing, paddle-boarding, kayaking, fantastic boat excursions for snorkeling and diving with manta rays and reef sharks, swimming by your villa or in the grand 492 foot long pool, to tennis – as well as practicing asana poses and pranayama breathing at the yoga pavilion. Not to mention the impressive oceanfront spa where I relished pampering treatments by excellent therapists while hearing the sounds of the sea. And the private, scenic sunset cruise is a must.
Everything is arranged and overseen by your private butler and my personal handler, Siyaadh, a local Maldivian, is simply the best! He’s warm, thorough, smart and precise and did everything and anything to make my stay even more pleasurable. He really went that extra mile above and beyond anything I expected. And I could tell he was happy to do it. The genuine warmth, authenticity and friendliness of the entire staff created a wonderful ambiance.
Gastronomy is one of the key experiences at Kuda Villingili and dining options here span the globe. Facing the beachfront, The Restaurant offers 3 menus at dinner: Fire, Earth and Ocean featuring grilled meats, Asian specialties and seafood dishes, respectively. Other offerings include: Italian Mediterranean at Med, Indian/ Arabic at Spice where the Indian chef offers specialties inspired by his lineage of family restaurateurs plus a private dining experience at The Beach Club.
My favorites are beachside Mar-Umi with fabulous Peruvian and Japanese delights like yellowtail tiradito and melt in your mouth lobster; and East, where master Thai Chef T creates heavenly Thai dishes like Pad Thai prawns, tantalizing Thai crab cakes and addictive green curry chicken with coconut. kaffir lime and jasmine rice.
How to get there: I highly recommend Qatar Airways, offering flights in major US cities to Velana International Airport in Malé with a seamless connection in Doha. The carrier’s superb business class, which features Qsuites, really makes a difference on the long flight. These spacious, private, extremely comfortable fully enclosed Qsuites configured for single, double and 4 travelers, such as a family are lauded as a brilliant product no other airline’s business class can match. Qatar calls it “First In Business,” and it is truly impressive. The excellent culinary offerings allow passengers to have their meals whenever they want and the onboard service is fantastic. Resorts arrange transfers with seaplanes or speedboats from the airport.
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