Beach, Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.