Naladhu Private Island reopened in November, following a complete redesign by award-winning Japanese architect Yuji Yamazaki. Home to only 20 villas, the Maldivian hotel prides itself on offering total privacy and seclusion — the whole day could pass without you interacting with another soul, should you so desire.
Operated by Anantara, the property offers intuitively designed accommodation, intimate spa experiences and a personalised approach to service and food. The National headed to the South Male Atoll to take a closer look at Naladhu's new look.
When we arrive at Velana International Airport, we are immediately escorted to the Anantara welcome lounge, which is brimming with guests. We complete a few formalities before being shown to our private yacht, the aptly-named Nirvana. Leather armchairs and sofas, plush carpeting and welcome drinks mean the half-hour ride to Naladhu Private Island passes quickly.
The property was named the top resort in the Indian Ocean in 2021 in the Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.
There’s a welcome party waiting on the pier as we dock. The island is small, so we walk straight to our villa.
Naladhu sits on a tiny dot of land on a lagoon that is also home to two other Anantara properties, Anantara Dhigu and Anantara Veli. You can avail of services, including the spa, scuba diving centre and restaurants, at the other resorts, which are accessible via a short boat ride or a walk across connecting bridges.
The safety measures
All guests are required to show a PCR test on arrival at Naladhu Private Island, taken no more than 96 hours prior to arrival, regardless of their vaccination status. The intimate size of this island resort means you rarely come into contact with other people, so masks are not necessary, even in public spaces.
There’s no shortage of luxurious accommodation in the Maldives, but the villas at Naladhu are particularly noteworthy. There is 300 square metres of living space in our Ocean House, wrapped around a private eight-metre infinity pool and an expansive terrace that looks out over the open sea.
The entire space is glass-fronted, so you get water views from every vantage point, including the free-standing bathtub that takes pride of place in the bathroom. The pool can also be accessed directly from the bathroom and bedroom, so you can step straight into the water as soon as you jump out of bed.
Our villa, named Dughethi, also features a walk-in wardrobe, desk, seating areas and a generously stocked bar, complete with all manner of tasty snacks. Indonesian teak furniture and white stonework add to the light, airy feel of the space.
There’s no direct access to the sea from the villa, as it sits directly over a reef, but each villa comes with its own private cabana on a stretch of beach on the other side of the island, which is a one-minute walk away. Because our villa looks out over open sea, rather than the lagoon, the soundtrack to our stay is waves crashing over the reef, something of a novelty in the Maldives, which is so often associated with calm turquoise waters. This also makes it an ideal option for surfers.
An enormous suspended day bed on the terrace quickly becomes a favoured spot for reading, relaxing and enjoying the sounds of the sea.
Every villa comes with a dedicated butler, or “kuwaanu”, who is one WhatsApp message away from fulfilling your every wish, 24 hours a day. Our kuwaanu is the softly-spoken, always-on-top-of-it, Yemeni-born Ameen, who is on hand to organise spa treatments, PCR tests, drinks orders and dinner reservations. In restaurants, the service is smooth, discreet and of a consistently high standard.
Naladhu is small, intimate and designed for those looking to really get away from it all. We come across three or four other guests each day and everybody more or less keeps to themselves.
It takes a matter of minutes to traverse the island, via a white sandy track flanked by lush tropical greenery. There’s a hidden coconut grove if you are looking for a space for some quiet outdoor reflection, a communal swimming pool, massage room and yoga and fitness classes — if you can bear to drag yourself away from your villa.
The Living Room is the resort’s all-day dining and breakfast spot and offers plenty of opportunities to dine directly on the sand, enjoying views of the lagoon, verdant palms and birds that flit playfully across the sand. Breakfast becomes an extended affair and includes vegan options, a selection of eggs, sweet options, healthy juices and shots, and a particularly tasty coconut and chia pudding. There’s also the option of a floating breakfast, now ubiquitous in the Maldives, although a spot of unexpected rainfall cuts that experience short for us.
While the adjoining resorts also offer a choice of restaurants, including the Thai Baan Huraa, the emphasis at Naladhu is on private dining, whether it's lunch on your villa’s deck or an intimate dinner on the beach. The resort promotes a no-menu concept, where fresh, seasonal ingredients can be tailored specifically to individual demands. The resort's head chef is on hand to discuss personal preferences and specific meal requests.
Highs and lows
While the villas are full of stunning design features, a highlight is the private outdoor rain shower, which is set against a wall of emerald-hued mosaic tiles and accessed via slabs set in a shallow pool encircled by a verdant garden. It’s like bathing in a pool in the middle of an enchanted garden, with the added bonus of sea views.
One low is that the villas are quite close to each other, and our neighbour has an unfortunate predilection for playing loud house music, first thing in the morning.
The Insider tip
A highlight of our trip is a shark snorkelling trip with Aquafanatics, which brings us up close with a resident shiver of nurse sharks in the waters 45 minutes from the resort. While harmless, the sharks we see are up to two metres long and swim mere centimetres away, so this is not an adventure for the faint-hearted.
Naladhu is the closest most of us will come to feeling like we are on our own private island. While the Maldives is well known for offering secluded stays, this resort takes things to a whole new level. It’s not the place to go if you are hoping to socialise, but if you want to retreat, in the proper sense of the word, it’s an ideal option.
The renovated villas are full of thoughtful, unexpected design touches, including small, personal steam rooms in the bathrooms, those dreamy outdoor showers and the sea-facing day bed.
Rates at Naladhu Private Island during the low season are from $1,900 per night on a bed-and-breakfast basis for two persons sharing an Ocean House.
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.