Among the 1,200 or so islands that make up the Maldives, a new resort seems to pop up every week, so popular is this cluster of white sands, turquoise waters, reefs and fish-filled atolls in the Indian Ocean. (Even more so after March 5 dropped the requirement for a negative PCR test for vaccinated travelers to enter the country or travel between resort islands.) Seaplanes are the common mode of transport to get to the most remote locations , but there are also viable speedboat options 45 minutes or less from the airport for quicker transfers and more flexible schedules. And there are several recently opened on the scene that are worth checking out.
From the crowds and decor at Patina Maldives on the Fari Islands in North Malé Atoll, you’d think you’d be in a chic, urban spot were it not for the signature electric blue water beneath the striped-lined overwater pods, the the rooms or the facade contain the villas on the beach. Contrasting with that vibrant outdoor color, the Brazilian modernist rooms are monochromatically cool: charcoal bedding and modern sofas with muted olive accents and all natural materials – stone, linen, rattan, wood. (It’s reassuring, but a little debatable: some guests love it, some don’t.) Depending on the villa’s location, guests can watch the sun rise or set while sitting in the water off the lagoon: either in the villa’s pool or in the outdoor bathtub deck. For more water-based relaxation, guests can enjoy a Watsu treatment at the resort’s Spa Flow. For inner relaxation, emotional blockage release or pain relief you can book an appointment with Holistic Healer/Life Coach Steve Harvey who is here as a Guest Practitioner until May 15th; he is remarkable. Hope he extends.
Art takes center stage here: rotating exhibitions are held at the Fari Art Atelier, which features the work of artist Daniel Arsham following his stay at the resort from March to June. It is located in the area of the island known as Fari Marina Village, where boats leave the dive center for snorkeling and diving trips, visit yacht docks and launch guests from The Ritz Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, another resort in the Fari Islands , brings development. (The A Capella Resort is slated to open on a third island in 2024.)
A number of restaurants, another focal point of the resort, are also in this area, including the lively Fari Beach Club, with creations by two-Michelin-starred chef Nick Bril, such as Tiger Prawn BBQ, Tapioca and Kaffir Salad, Puffed Black Grains and Bumbu Butte, along with a DJ, the Ritz Carlton’s Lebanese-Indian restaurant Arabesque, and trucks serving gourmet burgers and ice cream (free for guests). Back in the central part of the resort, there are restaurants that focus on Greek dishes, Pan-Asian, plant-based dishes, and a general international all-day menu. But the one I kept coming back to was Veli Bar near the pool and beach for chef Sourav Kumar’s poke bowl, bursting with flavor and the islands’ utterly delicious tuna, an everyday dish set on a new level and the perfect dish to eat in place.
Kuda Villingili Resort Maldives has a lower profile than other nearby resorts in North Malé Atoll, partly due to a troubled launch partnership with Chedi Hotel Group, which has now been split. At first glance, the overall design isn’t as flashy as others in the Maldives (neutral, woody interiors livened up by gold- and green-patterned carpets), but that’s overpowered by the sense of serenity you get here — even if that Resort is full When I was there, you rarely felt the presence of other guests. (And apparently more design changes are coming, as well as more pools in the overwater villas.)
Overall, it has the necessary elements you’d expect here — the beaches, the lagoon, boat trips to snorkeling spots, an excellent spa with experienced therapists, and treatment rooms in overwater bungalows. But what really sets it apart is the authentic friendliness and warmth of every member of staff, as well as the managerial skills of personal butlers like our handler Siyadh, its unique water features – a 492-foot pool and its proximity to Chicken’s Break, one of the best surfing spots in the world – and its restaurants . Many resorts offer a variety of choices, but the restaurants here truly span the globe, from Italian to American Steakhouse, Middle Eastern/Indian, European Seafood, Korean. And the chefs, particularly those at the Helming East, the Thai restaurant, and the Mar-Umi, the Peruvian-Japanese fusion, would be stars in their own freestanding restaurants.
Naladhu Private Island Maldives in South Malé Atoll isn’t technically a new property, but after a six-month closure and a complete makeover, this version of the intimate island, unveiled late last year, is one. Fresh, light decor with Indonesian stone and teak furniture from this country in a style described as modern colonial was installed in the 13 ocean houses, six beach houses and the two-bedroom beach residence. Each of the 3,229 square foot homes and 6458 square foot residence is self-contained with an expansive outdoor deck, dining area and pool. The residence also has its own 66-foot private beach.
Given the expansive space, some guests choose to have meals in their homes, prepared by the chefs and overseen by personal butlers like the kind and thorough Majda, our caretaker. But even when guests venture into the restaurant called The Living Room, flexibility is the keynote, from serving breakfast 24 hours a day to ignoring the ambitious, extensive menu and asking the chef to cook anything they fancy , including Italian, Singaporean, Indian, French and Maldivian cuisines. (I found it best to stay as local as possible, however, with grilled Maldivian lobster an exceptional choice.)
Another novelty of the renovation is the creation of a dedicated spa treatment room for an extensive menu of body treatments and facials. For a more comprehensive treatment regimen, there’s also a new program centered around Nutritional Therapist/Naturopath, Kelly Manning, who can consult with guests or develop a five or seven day health program called RESET to help overcome issues like stress, sleep disorders, unhealthy eating habits, and digestion. Immunity, weight control, hormones, skin and blood sugar balance. In this way, guests can return from this quiet place not only more relaxed, but also in much better shape.
How to get there: The lineup of Qatar Airways jets lined up on the tarmac at Malé’s Velana International Airport shows that this airline is the best way to get there. And it really is. It’s a long journey from the US to Malé – 17.5 hours in the air from New York plus connection time – but transferring in Doha is a smooth, easy process, and the airline’s spacious, comfortable, private, gated Qsuites make it the experience a great experience more enjoyable. The culinary offerings, the fully flexible schedule that allows passengers to have their meals in any order and at any time, and the service are also top-notch.