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From Sea to Shore
Beth Weitzman | Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Resorts Maldives | April 18, 2014
With two private islands and a floating resort, the Four Seasons Resorts Maldives take exotic to extremes.
With an alarming possibility of disappearing within the next 50 years due to global warming and a rising sea level, now is the time to experience the Maldives, the world’s lowest-lying nation, with its more than 1,100 white-sanded coral islands situated off the western coast of India along the Indian Ocean. This tropical paradise offers five-star accommodations on individual islands, plus surreal turquoise water, pristine beaches and abundant coral reefs teeming with marine life that awes even the savviest divers.
Arriving in “paradise” does, however, take time. Facing a lengthy layover after an already long haul to Dubai, I opt to stay overnight before continuing on to Malé International Airport (a four-hour flight). This is my first visit to the impressive city; its supersize buildings dotting the city skyline waken my tired eyes. It’s not long before I arrive at Dar Al Masyaf, an ultraluxe offering from multifaceted megaresort Madinat Jumeirah, and my butler shows me straight to my room. On the way, I can’t help but notice how pretty the property is—with guest accommodations situated in traditional Arabian courtyard-style homes alongside the meandering canals. Impeccably designed, my room is gorgeous, with a huge marble bathroom and decadently plush bed. Here for just around eight hours, I have time only to sleep, then to indulge in a savory room-service breakfast (the tastiest Belgian waffles I’ve ever had). The resort also offers restaurant dining, of course, as well as access to restos at sister properties Al Qasr and Mina A’Salam. As tantalizing as these prospects are, so, too, is boarding the flight to Malé en route to the Maldives.
Straight off the plane, I’m whisked into the Four Seasons lounge by a Four Seasons representative, where a cold towel refreshes my warm skin and I happily accept a glass of chilled water. Since the airport is right on the water, boat transport to the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa is quick and easy; a mere 25 minutes, and we arrive to a celebratory gathering on the dock, complete with lomilomi drinks for a quixotic transition into an island state of mind. The warm hospitality extends for my group’s entire stay, as friendly hotel staff go to great lengths to provide the utmost in personal service—by day two, most know me by name. The small private island is modeled after an authentic Maldivian village, set amid 12 acres of exotic gardens bursting with fragrant bougainvillea, frangipani and hibiscus flowers. It takes a mere 10 minutes to walk its length (although, a golf cart is a call away). Culinary variety is a priority here, with four restaurants—which, many nights, offer themed fare—and two bars.
Meanwhile, 96 traditional beach and overwater accommodations pair modern amenities with traditional Maldivian charm. Along with two types of beach villas—the Beach Pavilion with Pool and spacious garden, and the Beach Bungalow with Pool, which is set in lush tropical gardens and features a gazebo—there are five different categories of overwater bungalows (with plunge pool and without, from studio-style to one- and two-bedrooms) and the Royal Beach Villa, a grand two-bedroom beauty. While beachside accommodations are closer to the action, including restos, a lounge, a gym, a spa and a kids center, their overwater counterparts offer sweeping views of—and direct access to—the sea, with sensational snorkeling literally at your toes.
There’s just enough time to settle in my Beach Bungalow before being lured out for drinks at dusk at Sunset Lounge, followed by dinner at the waterside Reef Club, where Italian cuisine is served alfresco on an oceanside deck or inside in a thatched-roof pavilion. Appetizers such as pan-seared calamari and prawn salad, and seafood cioppino tease the palate for pastas like homemade scallop ravioli, and four-cheese pappardelle; and main courses consisting of pan-seared reef fish, snapper, and yellow fin tuna, with wine pairings at each course, naturally.
No detail, it seems, has been left unattended, as turndown back in my bungalow proves. A well-dressed bed complements the scene in this spacious sanctuary, and with drapes left intentionally open, I’ll wake to sunrise above sparkling blue water.