There’s no shortage of stunning resorts in the Maldives. Breathtaking views, luxurious villas, superior service and a sense of seclusion come as standard in the Indian Ocean archipelago — so how does a new resort set itself apart?
Hilton became one of the latest international brands to establish a presence in the Maldives this summer with the launch of the 109-villa Hilton Maldives Amingiri Resort & Spa.
The property cleverly epitomises how the Maldives itself has evolved as a destination in recent years. Where it used to be a secluded spot for honeymooners, the destination now also attracts families and groups of friends.
So while there is still demand for privacy and seclusion, guests do not necessarily want to spend their whole stay locked up in their private villas, as stunning as they may be.
There is also a need for more social spaces, a wealth of activities and opportunities to interact with others. From mixology classes to marine biology lessons, Hilton Maldives Amingiri Resort & Spa offers all this and more.
We are met directly off our flight by a Hilton representative, who ushers us straight across the road and on to the jetty. The resort’s private boat arrives a few minutes later and we are smoothly helped onboard.
It’s the tail end of the rainy season, so the weather is not great and the seas are rough. Hilton’s transfer boat is both sturdy and luxurious, so the 20-minute ride to the hotel passes quickly.
We pull into the hotel’s secondary, more sheltered dock, where a waving, smiling group of staff, including the hotel’s general manager, are on hand to greet us.
We are introduced to our personal “guest experience maker”, Abo, who bundles us into a buggy and gives us a quick tour of the island before taking us to our overwater villa.
Check-in procedures are over in a matter of minutes and we are introduced to the various features of our villa.
The new hotel is set on a man-made island in the North Male Atoll. It is small enough to feel intimate, but not so small that it feels claustrophobic.
It features a mix of beach and overwater villas, as well as two-bedroom residences and a six-bedroom villa that is not yet open to guests.
One of its strongest selling points is its proximity to Male International Airport. For those looking to spend only a few days or a long weekend in the Maldives, cutting out the need for a sea plane journey is a real plus.
Staff members wore face masks throughout our stay. Guests are not required to do so.
The design of the villas is another of the property’s unique selling points. Hilton has moved away from the traditional thatched roof, wood-heavy interiors that characterise so many of the area’s older resorts, and has instead created stunning contemporary spaces that are open, inviting and have you wishing you could redesign your own home.
Our overwater villa has double-height ceilings, light wood accents, a muted but warm colour palette, indoor plants, a sumptuous sofa and sculptural statement chairs. The overall feel is very modern, with a touch of rustic charm coming through in the rattan-fronted wardrobes and fans that swoop down from the ceilings.
The bathroom is particularly slick, with a free-standing tub, rain shower and smart mirrors that light up when you touch a certain spot. Lighting across the villa is masterfully done — everything can be centrally controlled, including the air conditioning, but there is none of the confusion of trying to work out what’s what as you turn in for the night.
The villa is spacious and well designed, so that the separate living, sleeping and bathing areas can exist as one open space, or can each be sectioned off by double-height sliding wooden doors, if privacy is required.
There are two glass panes embedded into the wooden floors, so you can stop to do some marine watching as you traverse your room.
Outdoor spaces are equally enticing. A large deck is home to a plunge pool, sunloungers, a table and chairs, and netted hammocks that make you feel like you are suspended directly over the sea.
There’s something for everyone at the Hilton Maldives Amingiri Resort & Spa. A spacious children's club is complemented by a cool teen's club, making sure younger guests are kept entertained. Treatment rooms at Amingiri Spa, which look out over the ocean, are perfect for adults looking for a hideout, while a fully equipped gym and daily yoga classes are on offer for those looking for more active endeavours.
With its large swimming pool, daily DJ, all-day-dining menu, board games, and pool and foosball tables, Aura Pool Bar & Cocktail Lab is the resort’s hub, particularly on rainy days. It is lively, sociable and the perfect place to ride out any tropical storms.
When the sun does come out, the resort’s expanded watersports offering summons. The glass-bottomed kayaks, which combine a touch of exercise with marine-spotting opportunities, are a highlight, as are the conservation-led experiences on offer at the dive centre.
We sign up for the Turtle Quest, led by in-house marine biologist Sam, who offers fascinating insight into turtle populations in the Maldives and the efforts being made to protect them.
We set out on a snorkelling trip hoping to spot some ourselves and although none materialise, remain thoroughly entertained by Sam’s in-depth knowledge of other marine species, from fish and corals to sea cucumbers and clams.
The conservation-focused, educational element of the resort’s activities, which go well beyond your standard dolphin cruise — although these are still available for purists — encourage guests to engage with their surroundings and the marine environment that makes the Maldives so special.
Breakfast consists of a truly impressive spread. There is a juice bar where customised concoctions can be ordered, along with live cooking stations and dedicated areas offering cuisines from all over the world. Unusually, there’s a good selection of gluten-free alternatives.
The food is consistently good, whether it's sushi, salads and other bar snacks at Aura or the fine-dining tasting menu at Origin, which has a focus on sustainable cooking and minimal waste.
Beach Shack offers laid-back dining and barbecues under the stars directly on the beach, and Habitat serves breakfast and then Asian and Italian flavours for the rest of the day.
The service is flawless, particularly given that the hotel hasn’t been up and running for long.
Maldivians seem to have a knack for warm service without subservience, and this really comes through at the Hilton. Everyone is quick to smile and joke while remaining utterly efficient.
Highs and lows
In a stay peppered with highs, the design of the villa emerges as the pinnacle of our stay. It eschews any tropical cliches, but still manages to be warm and inviting.
Even though we are stuck inside for extended periods while it rains, we never feel cooped up because of the amount of space, the expansive sea views, the distinct separate-able areas, and the light and airy vibe.
The island isn’t very big, but we still manage to lose our way a couple of times while trying to walk back to our villa. This is almost certainly more a comment on our own navigational skills, but clearer signage may have aided in our aimless wanderings.
Go soon before it gets too popular.
From its proximity to the airport to its modern villas, good mix of guests and exemplary service, this is a truly exceptional way to enjoy all the Maldives has to offer.
The bottom line
A stay in a one-bedroom overwater pool villa starts from $940, plus a 10 per cent service charge per stay and taxes. One-bedroom beach pool villas start from $1,281; www.hilton.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