“That afternoon we passed the most beautiful palm islands I have ever seen. With the sun low on our starboard side it threw a glowing sidelight on the tiny islets, which seemed to float by like flower baskets,” Author Thor Heyerdahl once said in his 1986 book The Maldive Mystery. “Under the spell of this picture of an earthy paradise I made an entry in my notebook that the Maldives are even more beautiful than any of the coral atolls in Polynesia.”
Indeed, one of the most idyllic places on earth, the Maldives boasts glistening turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, vibrant coral reefs renowned for their thriving biodiversity, and hospitable Maldivian people — the makings of a sophisticated holiday destination.
With 100 out of its 1,200 islands home to exclusive resorts, it is strange to think that the group of 26 coral atolls have only just recently opened up to tourism. The first resort, Kurumba Maldives Resort, opened in 1972. Since then, tourism in the Maldives has flourished, seeing a great rise in the standard of service, rooms and cuisine — with new luxury resorts opening up every year.
This year is no different. International hotel chains, from the prestigious St Regis to Italian-based Baglioni, are opening new resorts in the Maldives — making the destination more accessible than ever. If you’re planning a trip to the archipelago next year, here are six new resorts in the Maldives you should check out (and definitely check into) in 2018.
This lush adult-only resort is located in the Lhaviyani Atoll. Accommodation includes a collection of 90 sprawling beautifully-designed villas strung across the turquoise lagoon, each boasting jaw-dropping views of sunset panoramas.
The resort was designed by New York-based Japanese architect Yuji Yamazaki, and offers a modern, minimalist slant on conventional Maldivian design. Other features of the stylish resort include an undersea restaurant, a tropical Champagne pavilion, spa, gym, tennis court, as well as a comprehensive range of watersports equipment.
Opening date: December 2016
Located on the island of Medhufaru, which is part of an uninhabited five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll, Soneva Jani is within a 5.6-kilometre lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted 360-degree views of the Indian Ocean.
The resort features one standout island villa and 24 water villas. Each water villa comes with a private pool that opens up to its own stretch of lagoon, with some villas featuring slides going directly from the top deck into the lagoon below. There is also a retractable roof in the master bedroom which slides back at the touch of a button, so you can lie on the bed and stargaze.
Additionally, the resort is also home to the first ‘silent cinema’ in the Maldives. Guests are given Bluetooth earphones to watch movies so they don’t disturb the nesting wildlife in the area.
Opening date: November 2016
Known for its swanky palazzo properties in European cities such as Rome, Milan and Venice, Baglioni Hotels makes its first foray in the region with Baglioni Resort Maldives.
Located on the island of Maagau in Dhaalu atoll, the exclusive resort is home to 96 garden, beach and over water villas, as well as a Presidential Water Villa. Each accommodation boasts sleek and sophisticated design — featuring a white-on-white palette, bare-wood boards and natural, luxury textiles.
Amenities on the resort include water sports, an exclusive house reef, an Ayurvedic Garden Spa with Thai therapies, a dedicated meditation pavilion, and three Italian restaurants.
Opening date: March 2018
Recently opened late last year after a US$40 million (S$54 million) refurbishment, the awe-inspiring Kanuhura is a luxurious island resort located in a relatively undeveloped Lhaviyani Atoll. The resort, which aims to appeal to sophisticated luxury travellers, is spread across three islands. Accommodation comes in the form of 80 beautifully-designed villas featuring local materials used for furniture and exteriors.
Other amenities include the hotel’s Drift restaurant, the beach spot of Masleggihura, the Kokaa Spa, and the Maldives’ first martial arts academy led by two-time world Muay Thai champion Irshaad Sayed.
Opening date: December 2016
The new Grand Park Kohdhipparu is located just a 15-minute speedboat ride from Malé International Airport, yet boasts fantastic beaches, watersports and diving spots — perfect for those looking for accessibility.
Designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates, the villas boast a traditional Maldivian feel — with palm-fringed roofs, wood and rattan featured prominently. While some villas come with their own infinity pools, others have windows that look out into panoramic vistas.
Opening date: December 2017