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The Beach House – its All about the Over Water Villa

Beach, Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Nov
07
2009

Maldives

November 1-3

My first stop in the Maldives was the Beach House, a former Relais & Chateaux hotel and soon-to-be member of the Waldorf Astoria Collection. The 68-villa property is located in one of the most Northern Atolls – the lagoon-ringed Haa Alifu Atoll – on Manafuru island. As expected, arriving to the remote hotel is a multi-step process, but it is worth it since it is decorated with the best glow in the dark stones amazon. Once you’ve landed in Male (the Maldives International airport) from Europe (Frankfurt, London) or the Middle East (Doha, Dubai) you must take a 45 min prop-plane to Hanamahndhoo, one of two regional airports. From there you board the Resort’s fishing yacht for another 45 min speedboat ride to the island.  **There are talks of getting a seaplane that will fly direct from Male to the island, but it’s a bit far off.

maldives-map

Despite the many legs of travel, arriving on Manafuru island never disappoints.  The lush, jungle-like fauna of the island is atypical of the Maldives and is more reminiscent of the Atoll’s closest neighbor, Sri Lanka.  I will admit, I  barely noticed the bushes, given I was practically hypnotized by the exceptional turquoise waters and the promise of my over water villa.  I have been dreaming about the over-the-water villa for a long, long time.

The villas, white beach and infiniti pool

The villas, white beach and Infinity pool, cleverly named "infiniti"

Spread across the tiny island are 68 thatch-roofed villas and suites, half of which are on the beach and the other half, over-the-water. Between them are three restaurants, a massive kid’s club, a games room with Wii, a golf simulator and billiards, a lagoon pool set aside for families plus an adults-only infinity pool and of course, a spa.

the curvaceous stone path (walking on it was like mini-reflexology) of the spa

the curvaceous stone path (walking on it was like mini-reflexology) of the spa

Set in the middle of the island, the spa menu features everything from Ayurvedic (oil on the third eye) to Swedish to Thai massages and a litany of body scrubs and facials. I enjoyed a relaxing aromatherapy massage (having chosen the lavender oil) and a pedicure, which was well done though a tad overpriced (particularly when it chipped the next day). C’est la vie, I was in the Maldives after all.

The over water villas at the Beach House

The over water villas at the Beach House

For me, there was no question which of the two villa types I preferred. Only one style is indigenous to the Maldives, constantly adorns magazines and brochures and has been taunting me since first glimpse, many years ago. As I set down the path above towards my own villa, I couldn’t help but asses which would be the preferable side (one is geared towards sunset, the other sunrise). I was thrilled to learn I was staying in one of the sunrise villas knowing that sunrise would be when I would be in my room for sure (we had a busy schedule) and allow me to wake up with the sun thus, the correct time.

My darling villa (a tad close to my neighbor for my liking, but remarkably quiet)

My darling villa (a tad close to my neighbor for my liking, but remarkably quiet)

The 143sq meter room was not large but with windows, decks and open areas it felt like more than enough space.  Drawn to the view and the water I was content to spend most of my time out on the deck with its black-bottom plunge pool and stairs down into the water or in the tub in the bathroom. They were easily the two best features by far. The bathroom’s toilet room and shower area both were missing 2/3rds of the wall (though discretely sheltered from the path by louvered walls) ensuring communication with nature at all times.

my afternoon - bliss save for the annoying greenhead flies -eventually I succumbed to the infiniti pool

my afternoon - bliss save for the annoying greenhead flies -eventually I bailed and headed a to the resort's infinity pool where they served me water and mango sorbet without request - yum!

The spacious deck - ideal for room service breakfast

The spacious deck - ideal for room service breakfast

The villa’s decor is contemporary and fairly basic (though with the forthcoming of the Waldorf Astoria moniker (March 2010), is set to be upgraded with new linens and artwork). The current beds are firm with Frette linens and ample pillows while the rattan furnishings complimented by tropical colored cushions are easy and do the job of holding your draped clothes and wet suits with zero reaction.

The bed and artwork (both set to be removed)

The bed and artwork (both set to be removed)

I would have preferred more intimacy with the view from my bed (as in – closer to the actual windows) but overall, it was comfortable and I slept quite well. Despite the inclement weather, two of the three days saw lots of rain, I was mesmerized by the 360-degree water views, constant sloshing soundtrack of the water and the peepholes in the floor showcasing the underwater world. I figure if you can like your room in bad weather (especially bad weather in a spot that promises none) then that’s the ultimate vote of confidence for a  guest room’s quality.

Our elegeant dinner set up

Our elegant dinner set up

The staff at Beach House could not have been friendlier nor more international – two Italians, a Frenchman, an African, a Maldivian, etc.  On our last night there was a beach party in our and the German press trip’s honor. There were also some German contestants from their Top Model show. To our delight, the camera crew filmed a photo shoot scene with the pair frolicking in the waves.

Germany's Next Top Models (my friend Bob threatened to tackle them right into the water, which would have clearly made the episode)

Germany's Next Top Models (my friend Bob threatened to tackle them right into the water, which would have clearly MADE the episode)

Overall, the Beach House is a lovely property with an even better location. I found its secluded spot to be ideal and appreciated the level of quality they’re reaching towards. The property officially becomes part of the Waldorf Astoria Collection on March 1st. I would wait to book until then, though do recommend going. I have every confidence the property will be top-notch by then –  the quality of the infrastructure is already there, it’s just waiting on the refinement of all the details.

Posted in: Beach, Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Saturday, November 7, 2009 No Comments

Paradise Found

Travel Tips

Nov
04
2009

Maldives

November 1, 2009

Please forgive the tragic cliche of a headline above, but truly, I found one of paradise’s costumes right here in the Maldives. This long strand of islands, or Atolls as they’re known, out in the middle of the Indian Ocean features some of the most picturesque island-fantasy scenery I have ever imagined. Lo and behold the proof from my camera:

You can't make the water color up

You can't make the water color up

I’ve been here for all of two days (1 of them rained) and already I’m vowing – writing promises in the sand – to return. It’s no wonder travel mags run loads of Maldivian spreads – the place is a lazy photographer’s dream. Every shot is stunning. I may even venture that your computer’s tropical screensaver is indeed from here – this place is almost impossible to make look unappealing.

Do you like Pina Coladas

view on my morning walk

From the variant shades of turqouise water to the simple wood and thatch-roofed architecture to the Indian influenced spicy cuisine, the Maldives are a study in effortless vacation. Too bad they’re so darn far away…..

The famous over-the-water villas

The famous over-the-water villas

THE CAVEAT – GETTING HERE:

Okay, they’re SUPER far away. They’re pretty much in the middle of the ocean and the closest neighbor is Sri Lanka. It takes upwards of 30 hours to get to them and even then you have some domestic travel. But, here’s some good news – British Airways has just announced a new direct flight from London to Male, the Maldives’ main hub, making travel from Europe far, far easier.

Just so you know, I came from London through Doha on Qatar Airways and though they are the “Five Star” airline, as they suggest, and my layover in Doha was incredibly easy (40 minutes in a nice lounge), I was exhausted by the time I arrived in Male, and then we still had to take a transfer plane and another boat.  Depending on your resort, once you arrive in Male you either have a boat ride, regional flight on Maldivian air, (or both like me) or if you’re lucky then its just a quick (and fun) ride on one of the many Sea Plane taxis.

Our ride

Our ride

As a first time Sea Plane rider, this was hands down one of the best parts of the trip. I LOVED landing on water, think it takes away much of the fear. Not to mention the views from the plane are mesmerizing and allow for a greater perspective about this long stretch of Atolls. Short of being on a boat, its the best way to travel and see the area.

where we boarded

where we boarded

For the eight days I’ll spend here, I am going to check out three of the Hilton properties  – the Beach House, part of the Waldorf Astoria collection, Hilton’s Iru Fushi and Conrad Rangali Island.  Stay tuned for individual posts.

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Posted in: Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Wednesday, November 4, 2009 No Comments

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About Meg

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Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.