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From Sea to Shore
Beth Weitzman | Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Resorts Maldives | April 25, 2014
With two private islands and a floating resort, the Four Seasons Resorts Maldives take exotic to extremes.
Of course, just when I’ve convinced myself the absolute best is behind me, we land at the Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru—a 40-minute journey by seaplane if flying direct from the Malé International Airport. Not surprisingly, on the dock there’s yet another celebratory greeting and lomilomi drinks before we embark only too happily on another tour. “Wow” leaps immediately to the forefront of my mind, and remains there for the entirety of my four-day stay at a property that easily beckons for two weeks.
Much larger than Kuda Huraa, this island possesses 44 acres of natural wilderness bordering unsullied white-sand shores and one of the Maldives’ largest natural lagoons, so getting lost in discovery is all too easy. Designed by Sri Lankan architect Murad Ismail, the resort showcases an unpretentious, contemporary blend of traditional Maldivian and Sri Lankan design, exhibiting clean lines and no unnecessary embellishment. Airy guest-room structures reflect traditional regional style, including thatched roofs and coral walls deliberately designed to mirror the island’s raw beauty while complementing its exotically verdant surrounds.
A total of 103 guest accommodations include both beach and overwater bungalows, as well as discreetly tucked-away jungle bungalows. While nine possible accommodation options complicate the decision-making process, the good news is you can’t really go wrong. Both water and beach bungalows are mainly offered with pools or without, and in one- and two-bedroom configurations. For those looking for an uberluxe, over-the-top experience, it doesn’t get grander than the star booking: the three-bedroom, two-story Landaa Estate, boasting 262 feet of private beachfront, two pools, a bona fide stargazing lounge, loads of plush outdoor living space, a kitchen, dining room and a 24-hour dedicated staff—or, quite simply, the ultimate when money is no object.
While not the Landaa Estate, my luxurious beach villa is extraordinary. Outfitted with an epic outdoor living space, including a plunge pool (and connected elevated daybed), large private garden, sand-floor living room with lounge chairs and a sizable dining table—what’s not to love? And lest we not forget that loft, complete with a daybed for sea- and stargazing, accessible via a spiral staircase. Back inside, the whitewashed blue-and-white decor plays up isle style, while the ubiquitous modern spoils (wireless high-speed internet, 42-inch plasma TV, audiovisual system and espresso machine) come standard. Designed in gray slate, the enormous bathroom sports indoor and outdoor rain showers, a large bathtub and top-quality amenities. Beach access is straight out the back door, with another large daybed and, just steps away, more chaise lounges. Far from your typical beach accommodation, the space is so nice, it argues persuasively for never leaving the room. But with so much on offer, I do.
Bikes are the main mode of island transportation, and each villa has its own set. The air is so fresh, so fragrant, and leisurely cruising is lovely, but it’s lunchtime, so we head to Café Landaa, one of four restos on island, which specializes in Indian, Asian and international cuisine. Its position in the center of the property, within three thatched-roof pavilions separated by reflecting ponds overlooking the pool and beach, makes this a popular dining spot.
Then, after dropping anchor at this island’s Marine Discovery Centre to learn even more about the reef-building program, we anticipate with great excitement experiencing the water firsthand—that we do, courtesy of stunning snorkeling right offshore. Swimming along the coral garden and snorkel trail, we not only glimpse abounding marine life, such as tropical fish, turtles, dolphins and lemon sharks, but actual Reefscapers and the propagation projects at work. Landaa Giraavaru’s isolated location in the remote Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve places divers in close proximity to many virgin dive sites, including more than 30 unspoiled coral gardens. It is also just a short boat ride from renowned manta ray and whale shark hot spots from June to December, like Hanifaru Bay, Bathala Island and Veyofushi Reef.
As difficult as it is to leave behind this water wonderland, another awaits beachside, where, as if on cue, a server saunters by with mini frozen delights, then quickly returns with the Champagne we ordered. In no time, we’re toasting to the surreal surrounds, as the natural beauty is simply beyond words. More clanking of glasses aboard the resort’s yacht later that evening returns me to a speechless state. En route to a sandbar in the middle of the ocean, we’re expected for a private dinner and cocktails. At an impressively dressed table carved out of the sand (literally), we savor a five-course meal and wine pairings. The once-in-a-lifetime experience may be exclusive to us this night, but for guests who so desire, it can be arranged for groups or lovers dining à deux.
Back onshore, once more I find my room the beneficiary of a fabulous turndown presentation. All the standard niceties—bottled water, fresh flowers—are here, as well as my now clean sunglasses nesting neatly alongside Four Seasons-imprinted cleaning cloths. It’s a lovely touch to end the evening. In anticipation of the morning glory to come, I throw open the shades and am lulled to sleep.