This year, the Maldives celebrates 50 years since the opening of the first resort – a short period even for a single hotel, and even more so for the national tourism industry. In recent years, the pace of development of the paradise islands has been accelerating – and even the pandemic has not particularly slowed them down.
The atolls closest to the capital and the international airport are developing most actively. The concept of “one island – one hotel”, which has proved to be beneficial during the period of COVID restrictions, still dominates in the Maldives. There are whole groups of man-made islands, between which guests can move in search of new experiences. The first such project was Crossroads Maldives, built in 2019 on South Male Atoll, with two hotels, a marina for 30 yachts, 14 restaurants and a shopping avenue.
Two years later, the Fari Islands complex appeared on North Male Atoll, consisting of four islands and designed exclusively for the luxury segment. Two of its three resorts, Patina Maldives and The Ritz-Carlton, are open in 2021. The opening of the latter, Capella Maldives, was recently postponed once again: according to the latest information, 57 villas of Kengo Kuma architecture with Andre Fu interiors will begin to receive guests only in 2025.
Patina Maldives, Fari Islands is part of a new chain of design hotels from the same Singapore-based Capella Hotels group. The stilt houses with floor-to-ceiling windows were designed by the star of Brazilian modernism Marcio Kogan and are strikingly different from the usual ethnic-style villas. The gastronomic experience promises to be interesting too: Koen is experimenting with Japanese and Scandinavian cuisine, Brasa is preparing Argentinean street food and grilled meats, Wok is dim sum, rolls and wok dishes, and the beach club menu is designed by Michelin chef Nick Bril . As befits a design hotel, it has its own collection of contemporary art, led by the work of James Turrell, famous for his experiments with space and light, the Skyspace Amarta pavilion.
The neighboring The Ritz-Carlton, Fari Islands also looks spectacular: round villas with panoramic glazing and drop-shaped pools resemble traditional beru drums, and the man-made island itself looks like a giant stingray from a bird’s eye view. Personal butlers are as essential a part of the program as a partnership with a Michelin-starred restaurant, in this case Singapore’s Summer Pavilion.
Last fall, the Jumeirah brand returned to the Maldives (the Dubai company broke up with two former hotels in the archipelago – Jumeirah Vittaveli and Jumeirah Dhevanafushi a few years ago). Now she has acquired the former Lux* resort on North Male Atoll, which had only been operating for a year before the pandemic, giving it the new name Jumeirah Maldives Olhahali Island. The most modest of the snow-white villas with an area of 351 sq. m are designed for two adults and two children. The roofs of the houses are occupied by spacious terraces where you can sunbathe, have private dinners or watch a movie under the starry sky.
The island, formerly known as Jumeirah Vittaveli, with the only skating rink in the Maldives, has been occupied by Ozen Reserve Bolifushi, operating in the Über-premium segment, for the past year and a half. Before the opening, all spaces were updated, and some of the villas, according to the latest Maldivian fashion, acquired water slides. The resort is run by local group Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, which operates eight hotels in the archipelago, including the new adults-only Oblu Select Lobigili, with its own all-inclusive equivalent, underwater restaurant, spa and diving center.
For those who appreciate the atolls more distant from Male, there is also news. The pioneer of Maldivian luxury brand Soneva, which made the phrase No News, No Shoes its motto 27 years ago (both the concept and the motto have since been adopted by many), opened the second part of the Soneva Jani resort on Noonu Atoll, a 45-minute flight from Male. Soneva Jani Chapter Two features 27 two-story overwater villas with retractable roofs in the bedroom (for stargazing from the comfort of your bed) and waterslides, as well as a new, ultimate luxury take on the all-inclusive theme that includes, among other things diving, spa treatments and transfers to the international airport. At the same time, two new restaurants appeared on the island – Overseas by Mathias Dahlgren by the famous Stockholm chef Matthias Dahlgren and So Wild By Diana Von Cranach, raw food guru Diana von Cranach.
In the more affordable all inclusive segment, the new Siyam World Maldives operates. The resort occupies a natural island of 54 hectares, which is huge by Maldivian standards. The dimensions made it possible to accommodate more than a dozen restaurants and bars, a football field, four tennis courts, as well as badminton, beach volleyball and cricket grounds. Villas ranging from 89 to 3 thousand square meters. m is also an impressive amount, and they are quite tight. There is a floating water park near the shore (according to the owners, the largest in the Indian Ocean): slides, halfpipes, a climbing tower, a 3.2-meter diving board and a water catapult add up to the giant red and white letters SIYAM, contrasting with the turquoise water.
On the neighboring Raa atoll, Joali Being began hosting guests at the end of last year with a revolutionary concept for the Maldives. This is a complete wellness retreat hosted by naturopaths, nutritionists and Ayurveda specialists. There are 39 treatment rooms alone here (villas, for comparison, 68). There are separate pavilions for hydro and sound therapy, anti-gravity yoga classes, as well as its own phytotherapy center, where educational master classes are held. To make it easier to “reboot” both the body and the mind, Wi-Fi is not available in public places, and there is no alcohol on the menu (if you really want, you can order biodynamic wine as an exception). Children from 6 to 12 years old at Joali Being are accepted only until the end of August – for a special children’s retreat.
Almost at the same time, Cora Cora Maldives appeared on the map of Raa Atoll – an all inclusive resort with 100 one and two bedroom villas, 4 restaurants (including Japanese), as well as a fascinating collection of 400 historical artifacts from the pre-Islamic and colonial periods that have been found on the island during excavations.
This year’s list of discoveries includes Alila Kothaifaru Maldives, part of the Hyatt group. 80 villas with swimming pools, built in a modern minimalist style, are distinguished by the severity of the lines, and their interiors are an abundance of calm natural shades of wood and sand. The restaurants serve Mediterranean and Japanese cuisines, and the four-cabin spa for couples is located not on the water, as one might expect, but in the center of the island, among the trunks and crowns of trees.
In addition, Emeralds Faarufushi Resort & Spa with the all inclusive concept is planning to start operating on the same Raa atoll this autumn.