There is a reason the Maldives has come to be known as the ultimate tropic getaway: pristine beaches with silky smooth sand, clear and turquoise waters inhabited by vibrant sea life, palm trees rustling with gentle ocean breezes that keep you cool under the ever-present sun.
It truly feels like a heavenly place but for many, the price of admission to paradise was too much – at least it used to be. The Maldives, like many other tropical destinations, was as often associated with high costs as it was associated with beautiful beaches.
It all began in 1972 when the Maldives saw its first resort open, before all the glitz and glamour. Kurumba, which means coconut in the Maldives’ official Divehi language, would become the first resort that would kickstart the country’s transformation into one of the top holiday destinations in the world.
And today, the country has more than 100 resorts scattered across more than 1,200 islands that cater to all sorts of tastes and budgets, making the country much more accessible as a vacation destination.
Whether you are a newlywed couple looking for that perfect honeymoon destination with a focus on privacy or a well-to-do businessperson looking to get away in style from the chaotic life of a metropolis, the Maldives has it all.
Apart from the sand and sea, the next thing that comes to mind when one thinks of the Maldives is luxury.
Spacious and luxuriously decorated villas, whether they are situated on top of crystal clear waters, a la “water villa,” or tucked away between palm trees with an inconspicuous opening to a private part of the beach, they all scream one thing: exclusivity.
One such resort that makes you appreciate the finer details of such luxury is Joali.
Located on Raa Atoll to the northwest of Male, Joali never fails to impress from the moment you step off the seaplane.
Oozing with tasteful character, Joali is as luxurious as they come while steering away from over-the-top decor. And the reason is its meticulous attention to detail blended with masterful use of art.
The resort has a total of 73 villas, ranging from a respectable 100 square meters (1,076 square feet) to a whopping 500 square meters. And that’s just the interior space. Since every villa has at least one pool – yes, some of them have two – the total space of some rooms can reach as high as 1,200 square meters.
While one might ask why someone would prefer pools to the pristine waters of the Maldives, there is an inexplicable charm to drifting off as you gaze into the Indian ocean from the infinity pool in your water villa.
The beach villas may lack such views but they more than make up for it with their extravagant amount of space that features your own outdoor spa and lounge area. They are also better suited for those seeking more privacy, and the sea is just a few steps away, hidden behind some bushes.
Upon a closer look at the villas, it is clear that the designers behind the resort, Istanbul-based Autoban and Atölye4n as well as Japan’s Studio Glitt, painstakingly went through every detail imaginable to make the whole resort come together.
But it’s not just architecture and design that shows how much thought went into little details. Every guest will find a little cell phone waiting for them when they first enter their room, which will have just one contact saved: your personal butler, called “Jadugars.”
Hospitality is the key to the Maldives experience for all resorts, not just Joali, and Joali doesn’t disappoint when it comes to it. Headed by General Manager Enver Arslan, the staff at the resort will go above and beyond to make your stay a memorable experience.
Art also plays a huge part in the resort’s character. Joali features more than a dozen artworks from artists from all around the world scattered across the island. Whether you are having lunch at one of the resort’s restaurants or taking a stroll on one of the beaches, you are never too far from a beautiful piece.
And if you should feel inspired by those specially curated pieces, you have the option to try your hand at some art making. Whether it is painting or ceramics, resident artist Nataliya Kuleshova is available to offer art classes.
Speaking of art, it’s not just conventional art that goes on in Joali. There are a lot of culinary arts to be enjoyed, as well. The resort has several restaurants that all specialize in different cuisine. Whether it’s an Italian pasta or some Southeast Asian dish you are craving, one of the restaurants ought to have it.
Apart from lunch and dinner, there is also an artisanal chocolate and ice cream store as well as a whiskey and cigar lounge for liquor and tobacco aficionados.
But the crown jewel of the culinary offerings of Joali is Saoke, a Japanese restaurant designed by world-renowned architect Noriyoshi Muramatsu offering the best of the best of what Japanese cuisine has to offer in a lounge with an incredible ocean view.
When it comes to sports activities, Joali offers a wide array of water sports, as well as excursions to take a closer look at the local sea life. There are also tennis and archery courses with a resident instructor who’ll gladly show you the ropes.
If it’s the Maldives experience with a luxurious yet elegant touch you are looking for, you can’t go wrong with Joali. Winning the Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice “Best of the Best” award in 2020, it promises to be an unforgettable vacation.
But what if you are looking for luxury with a unique twist? Perhaps you are a city dweller looking to simply disconnect and get in touch with nature; someone who prefers a much more intimate setting that helps you discover local aspects of the Maldives more. After all, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, as the saying goes.
There are resorts that offer a more laid-back approach that focuses on blissful relaxation, and Mirihi is one of them.
Situated on South Ari Atoll, Mirihi is one of the smallest resorts in the Maldives. But what it lacks in size and grandeur, it more than makes up for with its unique approach.
You won’t see any televisions in Mirihi, for example, nor motorized watersports or discos blaring loud music.
The only time the serene silence is broken is with the arrival or departure of the seaplane every now and then.
That is because Mirihi focuses on offering an experience basked in tranquility.
With just 38 villas, it offers an intimate setting, one that is reinforced by a staff that strives to offer authentic Maldivian hospitality.
Speaking of rooms, most of the villas are quite quaint, with water villas measuring 55 square meters; yet, they never feel small because Mirihi’s main focus is for its guests to spend as little time as possible indoors.
They want the guests to explore the beauty the island offers, both above and below the water.
“Around 50% of the beauty of the Maldives is above water. And the other 50% is underwater,” says Mirihi’s General Manager Mohamed Shareef. Reflecting that approach is the fact that most water villas are built on stilts above the island’s turquoise lagoon with direct access to a bustling reef, which offers a great chance to snorkel.
And it’s not just the sea Mirihi wants you to connect with. From the moment they set foot on the island, guests are expected to leave their shoes or slippers in their suitcases as the resort offers a completely barefoot experience. With even the floor in reception and restaurants covered in sand, shoes are not welcome on this island.
In line with its “keeping in touch with nature” theme, Mirihi also helps guests enjoy the beauty of the Maldives even while dining.
The resort’s fine dining restaurant Muraka offers guests the chance to watch the mesmerizing colors of a tropic sunset and the occasional schools of vibrantly colored fish lazily swimming by as they enjoy a variety of world cuisines, from Wagyu beef to Maldivian lobster.
Muraka is also the namesake of Mirihi’s own rum brand, and rum seems to play an important role in the resort’s wide range of liquor offerings. The resort offers a unique experience for rum enthusiasts with its rum and chocolate tasting event.
Guests will lounge on beanbag chairs with an amazing ocean view as they sip the widest collection of rum in the country while also tasting chocolates especially paired with the rum they are tasting.
If rum is not your preferred liquor, Mirihi offers a well-stocked wine lounge named Ruhgandu that features more than 300 old and new world wines and champagnes.
Apart from culinary activities, the resort provides a chance to go on several different sea adventures.
Hop on a boat that will take you to open waters for a chance to snorkel with the gentle giants of the oceans, whale sharks. You can also watch manta rays gracefully glide in the water if you happen to visit during their seasonal gathering.
If that sounds too intimidating, you can also opt for a calmer snorkeling experience in the nearby reefs and swim with playful turtles while discovering fish with hypnotizing colors.
And after all is said and done, there is nothing better than ending a day full of activities with a relaxing massage at a spa. The Duniye Spa located in the resort will help you relax with a variety of massages from East to West on offer. You can opt for a gentle and calm experience with a Balinese massage or choose to invigorate your muscles with a deep tissue massage, the choice is yours.
The spa offers a dozen massage choices but fear not, just relax and surrender yourself to the gentle and oil-soaked hands of Swapna and Mari, who will help you find serenity on earth after an hour.
There is also a unique attraction at Mirihi that is rather secret and to find it, you will have to know where to look: The stars. If you are a fan of stargazing, make sure your interest in the interstellar affairs of our universe is noticed by Mr. Shareef. Why? Because the general manager himself is a huge space aficionado, and he will gladly set up his quite impressive and expensive telescope on the beach just for you. With low light pollution and such a powerful telescope, you will see the moon as you have never seen before or observe the rings of Saturn. Mr. Shareef’s enthusiasm when talking about anything space-related is memorable in itself.
Ranking as high as the seventh-best resort in the world at TripAdvisor in 2017, Mirihi and its staff excel at turning first-time visitors into repeat customers. According to Shareef, the resort has some guests who have visited the island more than 20 times.
With its motto being “as unique as you,” Mirihi is sure to offer you a truly unique Maldivian experience.
While most resorts use words like serenity or tranquility as they advertise their own version of the Maldives experience, there are some that also put emphasis on fun.
Located on the Baa Atoll to the northwest of Male, Finolhu resort specializes in putting a “playful twist” on luxury. Yes, you can still get the tranquil and laid-back vacation experience here as well, but it also offers unique and exciting opportunities to witness the true beauty of the Maldives.
Adopting turquoise like the waters it is surrounded by as its official color, the resort makes perfect use of vibrant hues. Each villa uses a different color scheme depending on its type and is furnished with stylish artwork or decorative pieces imported from all around the world
Regarding accommodation, the resort has a whopping 125 villas. Thirty-four of them are beach villas adorned with a green theme, a fitting color for the spacious living quarters tucked between palm trees, while 89 of the villas sit on water, and again, are fittingly decorated with a blue theme.
Every villa is quite generous with its spacing, with beach villas ranging from 205 square meters to 530 square meters. The water villas are slightly smaller, starting at 145 square meters and going up to 460 square meters. And in line with most resorts, half of them have a pool for those who prefer to lazily bask in the dying light of the setting sun on a calmer body of water.
For those who are more mathematically inclined, that only covers 123 of the 125 available rooms, so what about the remaining two? Well, the remaining two villas are for those who are willing to spare no expense.
Offering great privacy and seclusion due to its location at the very end of the walkway for water villas, the “Rockstar” villas are for those who are looking for the best of the best. Rocking a pink color theme in its 460 square meters of living space, the two-bedroom suite also features an 8-meter-long infinity pool. Oh, it also comes with its very own private buggy that looks like a classic car.
Stepping outside the rooms, the sea around the Finolhu is sublime, both above and below the water. As the resort stretches across four islands, it features a lagoon, which means swimming in smooth water.
And with only a few islands on Baa Atoll inhabited, the spot guarantees the purity of the local marine ecosystem and offers great biological diversity for those interested in the underwater world.
Similar to Mirihi’s whale shark seeker cruise, Finolhu has dolphin cruises five times a week where guests can watch the sea mammals playfully swim along the boat’s bow.
For swimmers, the local reef presents a great opportunity to marvel at the variety of fish and occasional turtles. And for adrenaline seekers, Finolhu presents what might be the most expansive catalog of motorized watersports. Jetski, wakeboard, water ski, underwater scooter and even a water-propelled jet blade, you name it, the resort has it.
If you prefer land-based sports, the resort has a well-equipped gym as well as a tennis court. It also hosts weekly golfing tournaments at the beach – with biodegradable golf balls to avoid polluting the sea in case of a bad shot. Those who fail at the tournament also have a chance to hone their skills at the golf simulator located in the resort.
When it comes to culinary delights, guests can choose from four different restaurants offering cuisines from the world. The Beach Kitchen is the culinary center of the resort and its where buffets stocked with food from all around the world are hosted.
If you are looking for something more Levantine, the Arabian Grill restaurant offers dishes from the Middle East as well as North Africa. Kanusan, meanwhile, is the resort’s award-winning fine dining restaurant with a focus on Japanese cuisine. The restaurant manages to enchant not just with its flavorful dishes but also with its atmosphere.
The last one is the Crab Shack, which sits on another island that takes either a 20-minute stroll along the sandbank or a 5-minute boat ride to get to. In this rustic restaurant, guests can enjoy a wide variety of food and drinks, but it’s the night when this little shack shines. Come nightfall, it hosts events like “White Party” that resemble scenes from Ibiza or Mykonos.
And if you ever find yourself craving the rich coffee offerings of the city life you have escaped from, the resort has its own brewery called Milk Lab for your caffeine needs.
Perhaps the most special dining experience the resort offers is the beach bubble. An inflatable and transparent tent that lies on the most secluded part of the resort, the beach bubble resembles a giant balloon that couples can spend the night in. What makes it unique is the unparalleled stargazing opportunity it offers due to its transparent structure and the private breakfast and dinner offered to couples who are willing to spend the extra money required to book the bubble.
In line with the reoccurring theme in the Maldives’ resorts, Finolhu’s General Manager Marc Reader is no exception when it comes to hospitality. From the crack of dawn, Reader can usually be sighted across the resort at any time and will gladly be up for a chat, whether it is small talk or to listen to your complaints or recommendations.
When it comes to relaxation at the end of the day, Finolhu has a wide range of massages on offer like most of the resorts. And it’s not just massages. If you are a believer in the healing properties of crystals, the spa offers special treatments such as “crystal chakra balancing.”
If you are looking for a place in the Maldives that offers a wide range of activities with an energetic attitude, Finolhu will present you with both relaxing and exciting opportunities.
If you have decided to finally pay a visit to the Maldives, here are some tips and suggestions from the locals or people who have been in the country for a long time.
Starting with the weather, the Maldives is generally sunny year-round, with temperatures ranging from 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit) to 32 degrees Celsius. The best months are considered from November to April, as between May to October, it’s the monsoon season.
But just because you booked your stay in December doesn’t guarantee you constant sunny weather.
“The Maldives’ weather is consistently inconsistent,” Philipp Albiro says, the dive center manager at Mirihi. The reason for the Maldives’ unpredictable weather is due to the island nation’s location. Being so close to the equator, you run the risk of being ambushed by heavy tropical rains that appear out of nowhere and disappear as quickly as they arrived.
In line with Albiro’s suggestion, Mirihi General Manager Mohamed Shareef suggests potential visitors plan for at least a week’s stay to avoid having their short stay ruined by a string of bad weather.
If your budget allows, a weeklong stay will ensure you will have plenty of sunny days to enjoy the beauties of the islands.
Make sure to familiarize yourself with the surrounding waters of the resort you are visiting. Even if you are taking a quick dip at the sea in front of your water villa, strong currents may pull you further away from the shore.
According to Joali General Manager Enver Arslan, guests should be mindful of currents, especially at dawn and dusk, doubly so if your villa faces the ocean.
Sunburns are no joke, and they could even be worse when it comes to tropical places. So bring a lot of sunscreen with a high protection factor to avoid your dream trip ruined by badly burned shoulders and face.
Two other things that might be wise to bring are insect repellants and water shoes, especially the latter. With so many corals across the country, one misstep could leave you with a badly cut foot.
Whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, turtles, colorful fish and vivid corals. The Maldives are really rich in underwater beauty and it would be a shame to be unable to take a photo of such majestic sights. So it is highly recommended you bring a waterproof camera such as a GoPro, or buy a waterproof case for your phone to capture the incredible sights below the waters.
Yes, a trip to the Maldives could be too expensive for many people, no matter how dreamy it sounds. But in an age where people spend big bucks for the slightest of conveniences – thousand-dollar robot vacuums for example – a trip to paradise could be considered an investment for your spiritual wellbeing, especially during a pandemic.
All visitors coming in to the country are required to provide a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Anyone who arrives in the country will be flying directly to their resort island and with such a low volume of people coming in and out of the resorts, they all unintentionally turn into bio-secure bubbles against COVID-19.
With the high season just around the corner, a trip to the Maldives could make you forget all about the coronavirus and offers a chance to experience real paradise, even if for a fleeting moment.
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