The Maldives’ first luxury resort and its latest next-level opening combine the best of both worlds in this stunning location
Words Hannah Hopkins
With infinite stretches of stunning, white sandy beaches and glistening azure lagoons, the Maldives is the ultimate choice for a romantic island getaway. But with so many villa retreats and high-end hotels to choose from, it can be hard to decide where to stay.
Just a 25-minute boat ride from Male, Baros Maldives is a castaway atoll, famed for being the ‘original’ luxury resort in this stunning cluster of islands. Opened in 1973 (when tourism in the Maldives was just getting started), it’s not only one of the best places to dive in the Indian Ocean – their spectacular house reef is just 15 metres from the shore – but it has an old-school hospitality that cannot be matched.
We stay in elegant, secluded villas with palm thatched roofs over the water and steps leading down to the ocean. First-timers to the Maldives should opt for a water villa for a truly show-stopping experience, but if you love being steps from white sand – the beach villas, clad in sandstone and sheltered by palms, are your best bet.
The Maldives is a close to paradise as you can get.
A short walk along paths of flowering hibiscus and bougainvillea leads you to the hotel’s three restaurants. Lime is where you have breakfast and an all-day Asian-influenced menu is served, the Cayenne Grill offers al fresco dining over the lagoon and The Lighthouse – the hotel’s signature overwater restaurant – gets booked up weeks in advance.
One our first night we dine privately by the water’s edge. This is just one of the unique, personalised experiences you can have at Baros – including intimate trips to a private sandbank – and was one of the factors that contributed to them winning Indian Ocean’s Most Romantic Resort 2015 in the World Travel Awards.
Testament to this is their huge number of returning guests. The diving isn’t bad either – the house reef is easy to access for novices and is packed with colourful fish, turtles, rays and an abundance of healthy coral. You can even try ‘Fluo Night Diving’ – a night dive where you can see illuminated plankton.
The golden touch though is the Baros family, who greet you as one of their own and go out of their way to make your trip truly special. It feels like a home from home (albeit a very upgraded one) and when we leave, the whole team comes to wave you off until your boat is far into the distance. It’s so magical, don’t be surprised if you well up a little…
A visit to the Maldives is not complete without a ride on a seaplane. Most resorts can organise a transfer for you, either to another hotel or back to Male on your way home. The planes themselves are teeny tiny and pilots frequently fly barefoot – but despite their laissez-faire attitude they’re perfectly safe and offer extraordinary views. Do not forget your camera.
Milaidhoo Island Maldives
Our second stop is at the hottest new hotel opening in the UNESCO protected Baa Atoll, Milaidhoo Island Maldives. Sister to the Baros resort, it’s locally-owned and proudly rooted in authentic traditions. When you arrive, you’ll feel you’ve stepped into a dream. But when you pinch yourself, you’ll discover the reality is even better.
The exclusive villas – either set beside the beach or out over the water – have been designed by a local Maldivian architect. Think honeycomb tiles in the bathroom, colour-pop sunbathing areas and the most carefully curated drinks cabinet we’ve ever seen. Each villa opens up 180 degrees, seamlessly blending indoors with outdoors, while allowing you to sunbathe and swim in privacy.
You devote your days to total relaxation.
We loved the added extras that made the room stand out, from Acqua di Parma toiletries to a soporific outdoor swing seat. Each guest gets their own discreet ‘Island Host’ who can help with everything and anything.
There are incredible views from the bath with doors that open out straight onto the ocean. And even from the toilet, the chance to spot rays and fish makes things a whole lot more interesting. If you’re lucky you might even spot a friendly whale shark or two…
If you can bear to leave your villa, a wealth of natural beauty is waiting to be discovered. Go snorkelling to explore vibrant marine worlds. Or try stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) and glide across the surface. From catching tuna with local fishermen to crafting traditional Dhoni boats, there are plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in Maldivian life.
Food is also central to the resort, with no fewer than three incredible restaurants, including the beachfront Shoreline Grill and the more casual Ocean.
At Ba’theli – the only Maldivian restaurant in the Maldives – you dine on the ‘deck’ of three Dhoni sailing boats where, underneath starry night skies, the team of chefs deliver an island influenced menu of locally inspired and sourced dishes. You can even take part in a cookery class with said chefs, who divulge their time-honoured recipes.
Mostly, though, you devote your days to total relaxation. Drift in your private pool or take a meditation class. Watch a film under the stars and indulge in a spa treatment using fragrant lime and coconut oils. Sip delicious fresh fruit juices from the Pool Bar, which becomes a laid-back cocktail lounge by night.
With views every bit as sensational as the food, the three tempting restaurants round off each day with style. They say that the Maldives is a close to paradise as you can get. And after a trip to Milaidhoo and Baros we can confirm that they are above and beyond expectation.
Kuoni (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) offers three nights with breakfast at the five-star Baros Maldives in a deluxe villa and four nights on half board at the five-star Milaidhoo Island Maldives in a Water Pool Villa including flights with Qatar Airways from Heathrow and transfers in resort.
Lead-in prices for low season in 2017 (June) are from £3,650 per person, based on two sharing.