Review: Hurawalhi Island Resort in the Maldives
Luxury travel writer Tori Dance tests out the turquoise waters, non-stop sunshine and romantic villas of the newly opened Hurawalhi Island Resort.
‘No news, no shoes’ is the mantra of the Maldives and I realise it’s taken pretty seriously as soon I clock that even the pilot waiting to whisk us off to Hurawalhi Island Resort is abiding by the barefoot rule. 36 hours married, this is a pace of life my brand new husband and I can’t wait to slow down into.
Even transfers are fun in the Maldives. The 40-minute seaplane flight from Male passes in a flash, our heads glued to the window throughout, taking in the twinkling islands below us. As we begin our descent we catch our first glimpse of the atoll we are about to call home, for a few days at least. Giddy with excitement we clamber out of the plane and onto a waiting speedboat. Minutes later we are drinking champagne, adjusting our watches to the all-important island time and being shown to our villa.
The luxury adult-only resort in the Lhaviyani Atoll features a mixture of beachside and over-water villas that fan around the palm-fringed island and down a wooden jetty. Our villa is exceptionally well designed; no hunting for the light switch or fiddling with the speaker system here – everything is exactly where it should be. There’s a king sized bed, bleached wooden floors and sliding doors that open directly on to our sun-soaked terrace. Even the shower door slides open onto the private deck so you can marvel at the breathtaking view as you wash away your troubles. Looking out on the white sands and cobalt ocean ahead we fall head over heels into the holiday groove.
Now, if you’re anything like me, it’s likely the Maldives has never featured high on your To Do list. Preferring to think of myself as an intrepid traveller with a voracious appetite for local culture and custom I thought I might get a little bored and fidgety on an island resort. How wrong I was. Our days at the Hurawalhi are nothing short of busy; a few short steps from our villa and we’re snorkeling the most spectacular house reef mesmerised by passing parrotfish, bright yellow angelfish and spiky zebra-striped lionfish. With the help of a fellow snorkeler we spot a pregnant manta ray and report our sighting back to the resort’s resident marine biologist who documents the activity of the 400 odd mantas regularly spotted around the atoll.
When we’re not sailing, paddle-boarding, practicing yoga on the jetty or zipping round the island on our bikes, we’re being spoiled rotten in the Hurawalhi’s other-worldly spa. The glass-bottomed floor at the overwater Duniye Spa means that even lying face down on the massage table is an opportunity to get to know the marine life a little better. We are so blissed out by the end of our hot stone massage we virtually float back to our villa to dress for dinner.
There are three restaurants on the island so we diligently undertake the important task of sampling them all. Canneli is the main buffet-style restaurant, live cooking stations offer fresh dishes from every corner of the globe and the service is impeccable. The sweeping wooden structure is beautifully designed to compliment and enhance the natural surroundings. We dine at the oceanfront in the exotic company of crabs scuttling across the sand, geckos sneaking along the deck and baby sharks swimming below our table.
À la carte restaurant Aquarium sits at the end of a jetty surrounded by staggering sea views on all sides and serving up deliciously fresh sushi, seafood and Teppanyaki. However, it’s precisely 5.8 metres beneath Aquarium that the showstopper lies; the world’s largest and deepest undersea restaurant. On our last night in paradise we take the 41 steps down a spiral staircase for the unequivocal highlight of the trip, an exquisite seven-course tasting menu surrounded by fish of every colour, size and shape imaginable. 5.8 must be one of the world’s most romantic restaurants but we barely look at one another, entranced instead by Nemo and his pals on the other side of the glass.
Granted I had fantasy island expectations for my honeymoon but I hadn’t quite expected to be wowed at every turn. The resort only opened four months ago so still has a crisp and shiny newness to it. What’s more, the staff are attentive and always smiling, seeming as happy to be working on Hurawalhi as we are to be staying here. Though I feel sorry for the poor guy with the unenviable task of making sure we leave. Back to the jetty we go, ushered onto a seaplane to farewell shouts of ‘see you next time.’ I hope so, I really do. There’s not much I wouldn’t give to go back to Hurawalhi, to no news and no shoes.
Address: Huruvalhi, Maldives
Phone: +960 662-2000