When it comes to luxury resorts, there are not many places in the world able to match the standards set in the Maldives.
Honeymooners, couples and families can’t get enough of the island paradise, and the destination is one of tourism’s success stories in a post-pandemic world.
One of the country’s most established destinations is the Anantara Maldives Resort, which first opened 17 years ago. Located on Dhigufinolhu on the South Male Atoll, its convenient location just 21 kilometres from the capital of Male guarantees the tropical hideaway’s popularity.
With three resorts in one destination, the adults-only resort Anantara Veli closed in March last year for an extensive nine-month renovation.
In December, after enhancements from award-winning architect Yuji Yamazaki, Anantara Veli Maldives Resort reopened with new accommodation, upgraded restaurants, an extended spa and a dedicated villa host for every guest.
The National flew to the tropical archipelago to be one of the first guests to explore the newly opened hotel.
Landing at Velana International Airport in Male at 6am, we’re greeted by Anantara staff and shown directly into the resort’s private lounge where we enjoy a much-needed cup of coffee. Ten minutes later, we’re headed to our speedboat for the 30-minute trip to Dhigufinolhu.
Sailing towards Anatara Veli’s wooden boardwalk, a welcoming party has already broken into full song accompanied by the beat of a traditional Maldivian bodu beru. Having recently watched HBO’s White Lotus, it's impossible not to draw parallels.
We’re handed a refreshing welcome drink and guided to a golf buggy by Alam, who tells us he will be our dedicated villa host during our stay. After a quick island tour, we whizz across a timber boardwalk to our overwater deluxe villa — home for the next few days.
The Maldives is not a destination for sightseeing — each resort is on its own island so heading out exploring local landmarks isn’t really an option, unless you opt to spend some time in Male.
What Anantara Veli Maldives Resort does offer over many other luxury resorts in the archipelago is a multi-island concept. We’re staying at Anantara Veli, which is for adults only, but Anantara Dhighu, the brand's family-friendly resort is just five minutes away by boat and guests are welcome to hop aboard the pontoon shuttle to use the facilities, eat at the restaurants or try activities taking place on each island.
While honeymooners might prefer to stay in their adults-only cocoon, we found that being able to head over to the other island for an occasional meal or beach walk meant we did not get the "island fever" we’ve had on previous one-island holidays in the Maldives.
We’re staying in a spacious Over Water Pool Villa, which spans 125 square metres and has endless views of the Indian Ocean. Entirely renovated during the resort closure, it has tropical interiors and a natural palette with rattan pieces, wooden furniture and organic patterns, all inspired by nature.
A huge king-size bed commands centre stage and looks out over sliding floor-to-ceiling windows, perfect for waking up to sunrise views over the water. There's plenty of storage space and a well-appointed bathroom with his-and-her sinks, and a stand-alone bathtub commanding some of the most serene views we’ve ever seen — nothing but an azure ocean under a turquoise-blue sky.
Outside we have a private deck, sun loungers and a good-sized swimming pool, plus steps leading directly into the lagoon below, filled with marine life.
Fantastic throughout our stay — with a special nod to Alam who is contactable day and night via WhatsApp to answer any queries, recommend activities or make reservations for dinner or spa treatments. He even follows up with a farewell text after we've departed.
Housekeeping service is without fault, staff seem to have a second sense for when we’ll be out and cleverly use that time to fix up our villa, replenish water and turn down our room for bedtime. Handwritten notes, towel-shaped animals, and intricate flower patterns laid on the bed are a lovely personal touch.
Anantara Veli is an adults-only resort, and the vibe is largely couples plus a few families with older children. Until early evening, guests from Anantara Dhighu are welcome to dine at the resort's restaurants so there are a few smaller children around at dinner time, all very well behaved.
The entire island has a definite laid-back, barefoot ambience — the hotel reception even has sand in place of a carpet or flooring. Restaurants and bars are sophisticated with intimate table set-ups and attentive waiters, but retain an effortless, island chic vibe, with no strict dress codes or stuffiness.
Balance Wellness spa has a beautiful energy, offering Ayurveda and other treatments in a palm-lined, sand-filled space with open-air walkways and cocooned treatment rooms. We sample the Couple’s Sensory Awakening Massage and our therapists have what can only be described as magical hands. Post treatment, we unwind in the relaxation garden which has an outdoor rain shower and hot and cold plunge pools.
Daytimes are spent lounging by the resort pool, which has a funky beach club vibe thanks to tropical house music and a DJ set at sunset, and staff provide cold towels and cooling mist sprays. Otherwise, we're largely found enjoying our villa and its pool and ocean access.
As keen scuba-divers, we're thrilled with our dive excursion with Aquafanatics — the resort's diving specialists — where we encounter a shipwreck, sharks, turtles and vivid, colourful coral. Other activities available include private island picnics, watersports and snorkelling trips.
Each restaurant at Anantara Veli has something unique. Dhoni Bar serves tapas-style small plates for elevated poolside dining while Origami offers modern Japanese cuisine encompassing everything from live teppanyaki to black cod, roasted lobster and hand-rolled sushi.
Cumin is the newest addition, and a welcome one for anyone seeking a taste of traditional Maldivian cuisine, or Sri Lankan and Indian dishes. It’s also where a leisurely a la carte breakfast is served each morning — sit outside to dine and enjoy the sound of the thundering waves, the resort is also a prime surfing spot. Floating on stilts in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Baan Huraa is Anantara's Thai restaurant reachable via a wooden walkway. Chefs here serve up authentic Thai dishes, all accompanied with 360-degree ocean views.
The Dining by Design experience (from $250 per couple) is worth booking if you're celebrating a special occasion. Guests choose a menu — we opt for the four-course Maldivian — and staff create a private romantic set-up in a picturesque location. We’re lucky enough to be nestled at the end of the jetty, right by the ocean and surrounded by flame torches. A dedicated waiter serves up a sumptuous feast of fresh coconut wedges, yellowfin tuna, grouper fish cakes, Maldivian family-style curries and a seafood platter packed with meaty Wahoo skewers, lobster and snapper.
Highs and lows
The location is fantastic — the resort is within super easy reach of Male but still has the paradisiacal views and clear ocean waters that you crave when holidaying in the Maldives. The variety of experiences on offer are also fantastic — with everything from beachside boulles, a starlit cinema session or a sunset dolphin spotting cruise.
It’s hard to think of a low, but if we’re being picky then the light switches in our villa were a little confusing — even after a few nights we hadn’t quite got to grips with which ones operated which lights.
The insider tip
Make sure you book some of the activities on offer. The family-friendly ray snorkelling trip is a definite must-do, giving guests of all ages the chance to explore the azure waters and swim beside manta rays and friendly nurse sharks.
For a romantic getaway that goes beyond the traditional one-island, one-resort policy and offers service second to none, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Anantara Veli.
The bottom line
Stays from $500 per night, excluding taxes but including daily breakfast.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel. It reflects hotel standards during this time, services may change in the future.