Mar 17, 2019
1. Cheval Blanc Randheli
A Vintage Vacation
When on a family vacation to the Maldives, would you expect anything else from a resort named after a favorite wine? By Rasina Uberoi-Bajaj.
This is exactly how I envisioned it. Lounging on my deck, chilled glass of wine in hand, I’m doing little more than absorbing the pristine Noonu Atoll that surrounds me. When news hit that Cheval Blanc, one of the only four wines to receive a Premiere Grand Cru Classe in the St Emillion, Bordeaux region, not to mention a personal favorite, was opening a hotel in the Maldives I began to dream. The best image? A resort in the middle of clear Indian Ocean waters with bottles of Cheval Blanc locked away in Louis Vuitton trunks (Cheval Blanc is owned by LVMH). There was no way we were going to miss out on this.
A 55-minute seaplane flight from Malé to the Noonu Atoll takes you to the midst of sparkling blue oceans, white beaches and alluring coral reefs. Upon landing at Cheval Blanc Randheli, prepare to be blown away by the hotel’s three islands: the first for the 45 one- and two-bedroom villas; another houses the spa; and the third is set aside for the tennis courts. Enjoy the welcome drinks as you are whisked to your private villa on the water.
Now that you are engulfed in Louis Vuitton perfection, expectations of Cheval Blanc Randheli will never fall short. Expect nothing less than sublimity. Step into your secluded Maison and be astonished by the incredible architecture with high ceilings and a view of the shimmering, turquoise water. Sit on one of the several plush couches and nibble on the crispy meringues that melt in your mouth, dip your spoon in the bowl of gazpacho, or dive into the generous bowl of fruits. We needed time to explore the bathroom, thoughtfully divided into sides for Madame and Monsieur, complete with Cheval Blanc amenities, and a giant bathtub against the window overlooking the ocean. The enormous walk-in closet had several comfortable seating areas. Now, step out to your deck with your very own, private infinity pool, complemented by two in-pool cushions and sunken dining table. Tired of the pool? Jump off your deck in to the beryl waters and climb back up on the steps. Don’t forget to stop and take a photo. We perfected the art of jumping off the deck and having our very patient private butler take mid-air family pix. We knew this picture would serve as our holiday greeting card so this was our main physical exertion for the trip.
Hungry yet? Hop on to your bicycles and head on over to the White Restaurant for lunch, where they serve just about every cuisine you can think of. Crave pizza, sushi, Indian food, pasta, soup, sandwiches, Thai food, spring rolls, burgers, noodles, hot dogs or rice? They’ve got it.
In the charming white room with large, open windows and doors, with views of the main pool and sea, have a seat wherever you like. Staff is there to please you, and only you. Expect to be treated like royalty. Every food allergy or preference will be noted and e-mailed to the kitchen directly. No more cherry tomatoes in my gazpacho—which I had eight times during four days.
The array and choices of food at the property are endless from a Japanese restaurant that houses an outdoor teppanyaki table to a 9-course exquisite culinary journey at Le 1947, named after Château Cheval Blanc‘s with the three items that the French take most pride in— baguettes, butter and cheese. Fueling with a heavy dose of carbs every morning gave us the energy to lounge around in our villa for a bit before we began our daily ritual of perfecting our deck jumps.
I was astonished at how everything was in arm’s reach. Delicious snacks, which had been personalized for us from attentive staff at the restaurants, were stocked in our rooms. Outside, we were welcomed by a number of super friendly reef sharks. Jumping off our private deck to greet them gave us treasured memories. The Instagram photos and Boomerangs we left with are about as aesthetic as one can imagine.
chevalblanc.com/randheli/en; villas from US$2,250 plus local taxes.
2. Grand Park Kodhipparu
If proxmity to Malé is key, this 120-villa resort is a great fit. Only 20 minutes by speedboat from the airport, the Grand Park checks all the boxes, dotted as it is with 65 private pool villas, a large infinity pool, three restaurants, a spa and a kids’ club. The menu here spotlights Asian and Mediterranean flavors, with Firedoor the showcase dining outlet, specializing in smoking, slow-roasting and grilling thanks to its custom-built oven. The spa offers seven treatment rooms that emphasize rejuvenation and renewal.
parkhotelgroup.com; villas from US$520 plus local taxes.
3. Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort
The resorts in this atoll like to cheekily use the hashtag #itsbetterinbaa, with good reason. Some of the most loved international five-stars call Baa Atoll their home, and now joining them is a new Westin, designed by PEIA Associati, whose founder has been called the godfather of modern Italian architecture. The one- and two-bedroom suites and villas are all about clean lines and direct ocean access. After a day of snorkeling and tennis, bliss out in the overwater Heavenly Westin Spa, where the glass floor keeps you connected to the beauty of the great blue below.
marriott.com; villas from US$1,798 including taxes.
4. Kudadoo Private Island
This private island, 15 stand-alone villas here officially opened on December 2018. Most are one-bedroom, but a pair of the villas include two and clock in at 390 square meters. Each of the earth-toned, natural-material villas comes with an ample 44-square-meter infinity pool set above the sea and massive outdoor decks to watch the world go by—above and below the waterline. Bang & Olufsen audio systems are wired into both Netflix and Spotify, while the 24-hour personal butler is a bell away.
At three hectares, this atoll is intimate to say the least, with a separate building or retreat housing a restaurant, bar, spa and communal infinity pool. Five minutes away at the sister resort of Hurawalhi is a restaurant located 5.8 meters under the waves, just because.
kudadoo.com; prices available upon request.
5. Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fusi
“SECRET WATER ISLAND” is the direct translation of the name of this all-villa resort. Among the mysteries you’re going to want to get to the heart of here are the Balinese artisan–crafted bamboo bar that includes no man-made materials, and the 200-meter pool that traverses the entire island and links up to the wondrous Coralarium, a semi-submerged hybrid of art and nature seamlessly connecting the skyline, tideline and seabed. Walk-swim-gawk your way through this refuge for both marine life and those intent on viewing them. It’s sure to inspire you to take a dolphin cruise, plant a tree, or create your own art—all of which are, naturally, options.
fairmont.com; villas from US$1,230 including taxes.
6. Mövenpick Kuredhivaru Maldives
In the lesser-touristed Noonu Atoll, pristine and untouched is the name of the game. Every villa in this precision Swiss getaway (prefer sunrise or sunset views from bed? The rooms are named accordingly) has its own pool, but with such magnificent nature at your front door, you are going to want to spend all your time in the sea. Mövenpick is near stellar dive sites, including Christmas Rock, a towering reef shaped like the holiday tree where white-tip reef sharks and stingrays come out to play. Game on.
movenpick.com; villas from US$850 including taxes.
7. Joali Maldives
This is one resort that comes with its own art map. Each of the 73 villas and residences—ranging in size from one to four bedrooms—has its own infinity pool and butler service, but the real innovative features include artisanal amenities, curated in-villa libraries and handpicked art. All of this is meant to take guests on a sensory journey, whether via local artists or celebrated international designers. That creative sense extends to the four restaurants at Joali, including at Saoke, where sake, sashimi and teppanyaki reign supreme.
joali.com; villas from US$3,102 including taxes.
IN THE PIPELINE
Be on the lookout for these other plush resorts debuting near and far in 2019.
8. Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
The luxe icon is sauntering back into the Maldives on three islands a mere 20-minute speedboat from Male. expect all the brand’s haute service and stylings in its beach and overwater villas, plus treehouse dining and an organic eatery. The star looks to be the spa, which will feature an outdoor bathing circuit and a hammam suite.
hilton.com; expected Q2, 2019.
9. Baglioni Resort
Everything at this Italian-owned resort has a hint of its brand’s native land—a big plus in the dining arena. presidential Water villa guests are eligible for the assoluto programme, a tailor-made en-suite journey of the best of Italy, including fashion, food and wine. From its April 1 opening date until the end of next June, rates resort-wide (including villas from US$1,068) represent a discount of 40 percent.
baglionihotels.com; expected April 1, 2019.
10. Raffles Maldives
For those whose definition of paradise means the maximal far-flung and a minimum of finger-lifting, this raffles is ready for your bucket list. Way down at the south end of the Maldives are two private islands, a natural one for the beach villas and a man-made one stocked with overwater villas; all of the just 38 total residences and bungalows come with 24-hour butler service. nearly alone in the remote Gaafu Alifu Atoll, the feeling of exclusivity is palpable. The coddling starts with Vip transfers from Malé International Airport to your seaplane and extends through to the overwater spa where treatments are inspired by ancient rituals and use native ingredients.
raffles.com; opened in Q1, 2019.
11. SAii Lagoon Maldives
Absurdly prolific starchitect Bill Bensley designed the playful, tropical rooms and villas at this curio collection by Hilton hotel that’s a quick boat ride from Male. create your own toiletries in the aroma lab, enjoy exclusive access to Café Del Mar Beach Club, and pop over to The Marina @ Crossroads Maldives—the country’s first integrated tourist destination, with restaurants, shops, and a marine protection center.
saiilagoonmaldives.com; expected June, 2019.