Deep blue seas, sparkling turquoise lagoons and sunny days spent on the beach surrounded by luxury — the Maldives has all the makings of a magical getaway. The island country in the Indian Ocean is renowned for its ultra-luxury properties, each offering a little slice of paradise.
The National checked in to Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, to see what sets it apart from the rest.
Landing at Velana International Airport in Male, we meet Imadh, the hotel's representative who books us a spot on our seaplane transfer to Thilamaafushi Island. Before long, we're whisked away to Male's recently opened seaplane terminal, where we wait at one of the lounges (Le Meridien's lounge is expected to be completed in December) for a couple of hours, before we can board the plane to the island. Once in the air, the journey takes about 35 minutes, and when we land, a welcome party awaits.
Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa is the only property located on Thilamaafushi Island in the Lhaviyani Atoll. The nine-hectare isle has golf buggies, which are available on request to make getting around easy.
We stay in an overwater sunrise villa, which at 100 square metres is incredibly spacious. The pink walls are complemented by pops of turquoise — mirroring the lagoon outside — by way of a window and the door to the walk-in wardrobe. There's a well-stocked mini bar and tea and coffee-making facilities. To minimise plastic waste, all rooms have glass bottles filled with purified and sparkling water, and these are refilled every day.
The toilet and bathroom face each other, with a dressing table separating the two. The bathroom features his and her's sinks, while a glass door divides it from the shower space, where there's a large free-standing bathtub that offers unobstructed sea views, with blinds for when you prefer privacy. Toiletries from Malin and Goetz are stocked in refillable bottles to minimise plastic waste.
The main living area houses a large television that can be swivelled around to watch from the bed, the chaise longue or the seating area in the corner of the room. The incredibly comfortable king-size bed faces the floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors, which bring in lots of natural light and overlook the decking area and the sea beyond.
Outside, there's a sitting area, two sun loungers, an overwater hammock and steps that lead to the lagoon. Housekeeping service is provided twice a day — and comes with little personal touches such as a turtle fashioned out of towels and handwritten notes left by the staff.
There are a total of 141 villas across 11 categories on offer at the resort, including the base-level beach bungalows, lagoon villas (ideal for families with small children), beach villas with pools, sunrise and sunset overwater villas and the Thilamaafushi villa, which with its three bedrooms and private pool, is perfect large families and groups.
The multicultural staff at the hotel are warm and friendly, swiftly taking care of all requests and checking up on guests intermittently, without ever feeling like they’re hovering.
There are six dining outlets at the property offering varied culinary experiences. Tabemasu is the on-site Japanese restaurant; Velaa Bar and Grill is a beachside spot that offers meat and seafood options; the poolside Riviera offers a menu of refreshing drinks and light bites;Turquoise serves an international menu; Waves Cafe offers a selection of healthy meals and shisha; and Latitude’s menu features deli-style bites and speciality coffee.
There are also two private dining experiences: an exclusive experience at Bodu Finolhu — a private isle 10 minutes from the resort — and Harvest Table, located next to the on-site greenhouse where up to eight guests can have an intimate dinner.
Breakfast is served at Turquoise and is a truly international spread, with options including porridge, sausages, fish in black bean sauce, local options such as Maldivian masala and coconut lady finger curry, Indian options and a live egg station. There is also the option to make your own salad from fresh produce harvested from the hotel’s on-site greenhouse— one of the largest hydroponic farms in the Maldives.
Other than that, guests can also enjoy fresh fruits, juices, chia puddings, muesli, cold cuts, cheeses, breads, croissants, plus cereals and nuts, with non-dairy milk options available. Children have their own breakfast spread, which includes sweet treats such as cupcakes and sprinkles.
The food and ingredients at every restaurant are fresh and, as a picky eater, all my dietary requests are taken care of. My favourite dining spot is Tabemasu, where each dish in the five-course Omakase set menu ($120) is outstanding. Another highlight is our experience at Harvest Table, where the set menu ($80) ensures the locally grown ingredients from the resort's greenhouse shine.
The property has plenty of activities for all ages — for the little ones there is the children's club, where they can enjoy a number of activity sessions and free play. A babysitting service, which is chargeable, is also available if parents want a date night.
There are a number of activities for adults, too, such as film screenings on the beach, yoga and Pilates. Guests looking to do something a little less active can try their hand at art classes, learn how to make pizza or level-up their coffee game with a barista lesson, with sessions from $30 per person. We have the chance to try both the art and barista classes, and despite our negligible skills, the friendly, patient and talented instructors ensure it is enjoyable and informative.
Elsewhere, the Explore Spa offers a number of relaxing and rejuvenating massages. Treatment rooms offer sea views, while various blends of spiced oils are used for the services — I try the abhyanga massage, and was ready for a nap after a very relaxing experience.
To really enjoy the sparkling Maldivian waters and explore the marine life surrounding the resort, there's guided diving or snorkelling tours, and guests can also borrow snorkelling gear to swim in the lagoons and the reef beyond. If a dip in the ocean seems too daunting, there are two large swimming pools on the property.
Highs and lows
The hotel stands out for its incredibly friendly staff who always stop for a chat, its varied culinary offerings and having the option to step down directly into the lagoon from our private villa.
The overwater hammock, where I spend hours reading and spotting the occasional stingray is another definite high.
While it is beyond the property's control, if I have to nitpick, the only low is not being able to do any of the guided water activities due to unsettled weather while we're there.
The insider tip
Book your flight so that you arrive in Male early in the day — this will help cut down your waiting time for the seaplane, giving you more on-island time which can only be a good thing.
Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa is an ideal destination for those looking for a luxurious getaway. There are enough options on the island to enjoy the holiday at your own pace — whether that means trying out several of the activities on offer, relaxing on the white sandy beaches, indulging in the various culinary experiences or exploring the sparkling turquoise waters.
The bottom line
Rooms start at $450, excluding taxes, for a beach villa, during the low season. Seaplane transfers are $495 for a round trip; www.marriott.com.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during this time, services may change in the future.