The majority of these types of lists are randomly put together by people that have not stayed in half of them. Instead, I have stayed in all of those below, which is probably half as many as needed to complete this list.
There’s probably some properties out there that aren’t on the list just because I haven’t been yet and mumma didn’t raise no psychic. I’ve added the year of my last stay, as things inevitably change and it could have got a lot better or a helluva lot worse since then. Basically, this entire article might be a waste of your time.
Name me one other private island that’s subsidised by a billionaire, has a golf course, unlimited activities and no desire to make money? You were gonna say Laucala, weren’t you? Well you’re wrong! Laucala joined COMO and now hope is gone and is just the name of rich parents’ children in California.
Velaa might not have the best villas (unless you take a Residence, their top villa category), but it has pretty much the best of everything else. If ever a property had a Jewish space laser (Google it) it would be here. The facilities and activities are practically endless; there is an extensive list of culinary options provided by a large team of specialist chefs, the spa is incredible and the island is gorgeous. It feels Maldivian, whilst including every modern luxury you could ask for. It’s perfect for those wanting to be active, or those actively looking to laze around. Perhaps best of all, the service exceeds everything you might come to expect on a private island. Or anything I expect, as they mostly suck.
With only 47 villas they have found the perfect balance between
They are currently closed for a major refurb and will reopen later this year, whereby they will return better than before, crushing everyone that stands in their way with a phenomenal product – like Arnie from Terminator 2 crossed with an Apple store employee.
My writing skills are in need of a polish – I loved our recent stay, yet somehow I turned it into a review that made everyone think it’s as appealing as the drain in It.
Cheval Blanc offers the best entry-level rooms on this list and potentially anywhere in the world. It does not matter what room you’re in, it will be stunning – the difference will be how private it is. The 45 villas have identical interiors but differ in their location and the amount of garden you do or don’t receive. I would recommend an Island Villa, as they benefit from a private garden and direct beach access, but most importantly, they’re so close to the main resort that even those suffering crippling motivational sanctions (i.e. the lazy), can walk there.
Then there’s the Owners Villa, a 4 bedroom that sits on its own island and can only be accessed by boat – one of the most impressive properties I’ve ever seen. Whilst other properties would cram more rooms in, at Cheval they turned one of the islands into a spa. It’s the kinda place where you feel the entire emphasis is on the guest experience, not on the bottom line. It is a brilliant resort.
The food variety is exceptional, as is the quality, particularly their Japanese offering. The kids club is amazing, the beaches are beautiful and private and the activities list is vast. There is a lot of generosity on offer, meaning you’re not feeling nickel and dimed at every opportunity. At full occupancy, it can still feel like you’re the only people on the island. Just a shame the service doesn’t match.
They too are currently closed, but for just a few more weeks, as they rebuild their already impressive kids club. With it being only a short boat ride to Velaa, consider combining the two, but based on reader feedback you’ll probably end up loving one and hating the other. At least you’ll know which one it is.
Like your second or third child, Nautilus doesn’t get the attention it deserves. No one seems to talk about it. Allow me a moment to tell you it’s worth many of your moments. With only 26 villas it’s one of the Maldive’s most exclusive resorts and it shows in the heavily focused service and high-quality food, which you might expect as it’s part of Relais & Châteaux . There’s also a boat load of boats for activities and whilst it’s a small island and isn’t going to beat the competition when it comes to facilities, it offers everything you might need.
Every room has its own dedicated butler, which I have only seen in North Island. Everyone knew who we were, they all knew our preferences, chefs knew our allergies, meals were bespoke for us without asking, service was incredibly friendly and I can give no better compliment than saying it surprised me, but in a good way, not in the way the proctologist does.
Their basic room categories are not going to wow, so at least go a Residence. However, their biggest seller is the heated pools. I always ask for the pool to be the highest temperature, simply because most properties consider that 30C. Here they had it set to 40C and I couldn’t tell if it was they or I who was mad.
Joali took a little look at Cheval Blanc, then took a much longer stare, the kind that starts to make you feel uncomfortable. Then went full-blown stalker on them before likely kidnapping Jean-Michel Gathy and forcing him into replicating it. But Cheval Blanc is great, so who am I to judge? Tesla reinvented the car, but it’s still got 4 wheels and some doors. That’s probably what Joali’s lawyers said, anyway.
Joali did everything it could, but it suffered from a keenness I’ve not seen anywhere, one where you would be approached so often for feedback that it fell on the wrong side of irritating. “How was your second chew, sir? On a scale of 1 to 5, would you say it’s better or worse than chew 1?”. We would experience staff standing around waiting for us to take a bite, just to then ask how it was, for a follow-up of 4 other staff come over and ask the same question. It was annoying, but you could tell they cared and they really did put a lot of effort into personalising the experience. Just chill out, guys.
They have a beautiful stretch of beach leading to the overwater villas, plus has a beach area around the main pool, but it’s rather exposed so doesn’t feel private. Their spa is still not quite Velaa standard, but it’s an excellent offering, especially the overwater private treatment rooms, with their own sauna and steam room and they also have separate sexes facilities on land with a hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam, and experience showers.
The two best words in the English language: all-inclusive. That’s what Kudadoo offers, making it the only luxury property in the Maldives to be that crazy. The last time we had all-inclusive spa treatments was Ani Villas, where the therapist was practising new-age torture on us. Kudadoo tried the alternative technique, of not sucking. They also avoid nasty words like opening hours, so if you’re the kinda person that wants to wake someone up to get a 2 am treatment, then you’re getting one. Burning in hell then awaits you.
With only 13 one-bedroom villas and 2 two-bedroom villas, they put the boo into boutique. Excluding the water sports center, all of their facilities are in a single, overwater structure, whilst all the villas are over water and next to each other. There’s not much room to get lost here. It would be a terrible location for Shutter Island reboot.
The problem is the rooms are good, they’re just not great. It may have had the largest bathroom I’ve ever seen, but then it forced you into being in an outside sweat feast to use the shower, toilet and vanities; it was very private, but then was open planned so offered no separate living room. It somehow felt basic, even though it ticked most of the boxes. It’s designed by a Japanese chap, in the style of a Japanese room, with an emphasis on the air flowing through. You may get confused and think you’re in Hakone. It’s the kinda place where you like it, but don’t love it. Also, like your 2nd or 3rd child. I really need to go back to school to find better words.
I could never quite figure out if Kudadoo was good or lucky with the service, as the butler was rarely around, but we never needed them – perhaps the hallmark of great service? They were always a step ahead of us.
They only offer one menu, but it’s incredibly extensive and included one of the best breakfast dishes I’ve ever had. But I’m a creature of habit and upon taking one look at the Kudadoo menu and picking out some dishes that turned out to be gods gift, I decided to eat them the entire time. All-inclusive wagyu is tough to beat. You can also transfer to an underwater restaurant, 5.8, on their sister property, Hurawalhi. Is it worth it? Well, that depends on how much you like crummy food, but a great picture of you sat in a glass tube underwater.
Kudadoo suffers from being surrounded by other islands, some so close that you have to close your blinds as they could be looking in, others so developed that it looks like New York is nearby.
One of the new kids on the block – like all children it just isn’t ready yet to play with the big boys. There is a lot to like here, but not enough for it to be amongst the best properties in the Maldives. I would find something great, but then they would counter it with something worse, thus creating a resort that is the very definition of ok. Except the rooms, as they really should be bulldozed down.
It is one of the larger islands on this list, as well as the newest, and with that comes perhaps the best variety of F&B, as well as some decent facilities, such as their kids club and selection of yachts. Even so, new does not always mean better and it always feels a few levels below the best Maldivian resorts.
Patina sits on the newly built Fari Islands, sharing it with the Ritz-Carlton and soon-to-open Capella. The concept makes sense in theory, whereby guests can move in between each property and enjoy the benefits of everything on offer, but in reality it further erodes the privacy on offer. That and the 90+ rooms that already are on Patina, with all the guests seemingly hanging in a single spot, it definitely doesn’t feel exclusive. They clearly have a defined target audience in mind, it’s just not me.
Some people age gracefully. Others turn into Jocelyn Wildenstein. Properties rarely age well and the Four Seasons Landaa is proof of that. It has recently undergone a large refurbishment, but with over 100 rooms that span such a significant space, it is a Sisyphean task and still much more is needed. They possess one of the best beaches in the Maldives and have an extremely family-friendly offering, but at this point, it’s unlikely they can ever go back to being amongst the best, as the task is too large. As a Canadian company, Four Seasons have no need to apologise, there are just better options now, which was not the case when they first entered the market.
Should I even be including this on the list, as I’ve not been in so long that all your family pets born before my last stay are likely dead? Too sad?
The owner of Velaa used to be a regular here, then got the mad idea to build his own resort. So he took everything great about Huvafen Fushi and copied it. Unfortunately, he thought the rooms were great, proving no one is perfect. Alas, if you want Huvafen Fushi, what you really mean is you want Velaa. You don’t wanna be sniffing some cement dust, you wanna go get the real, juicy original from Colombia.
I have a regular battle with this idea of rustic. I tend to find it just translates as “cheap, but with an eco backstory”. That’s how Soneva Fushi felt. You can start to justify anything when the answer is that you’re saving the environment. “Well, I’m afraid Mr. Tom, you are going to need to grab a bucket and spade and go defecate on the beach, as if you flush the toilet it will destroy a dodo cave in Mongolia.
Their policy is no news, no shows, no mosquito control, no air conditioning, no sense of luxury. They manage to have the right idea, but the wrong way to implement it. I don’t see a luxurious offering here, I just see something that I’m happy to read about and admire their environmental credentials, but leave someone else to experience it. Very much like the NIMBY I am.
I know you’re here to learn more, but really this property is so awful that I’ve now taught you all you need to know about it.
Who’s not included?
One&Only Reethi Rah, Gili Lankanfushi, Ritz-Carlton. Do I really think any of these would legitimately make it into a “best of” list? No chance. Too many people I trust have said so. And I’m paranoid, so you can be sure I went through these people’s bins before I believed them.
However, Joali Being probably would, but they don’t allow children, so unless I leave our daughter at Joali and water taxi back and forth to to feed her and water her (I think that’s how you keep kids alive) then we won’t be going anytime soon. There’s also the Waldorf Astoria, which has the scale of a resort that doesn’t appeal, but I’ve heard some very positive feedback on it. Lastly, there’s Four Seasons Voavah, the exclusive use private island, which looks spectacular but is sliiightly out of my budget range at $40,000/n. If only it had free breakfast, I could have afforded it.
On a side note, has anyone noticed that the Baglioni has never been spoken of since launching?
There are some good resorts in the Maldives. Your money is safe. Just not if you invested it into the property here, cos that’s going underwater in the next few decades.
You will still not be able to find a better property than Velaa or Cheval Blanc in the Maldives, but Nautilus and Joali offer a good alternative, and, if I forget how basic it is, I might even be generous enough to include Kudadoo as well. After all, Christmas is only 178 days away.