The Indian Ocean nation of Maldives, with its 26 atolls connecting 1,192 coral islands scattered over 35,000 square miles, has long been an idyllic getaway for travelers seeking rest and relaxation. Although with development in recent years impacted by the pandemic, inbound travel remains steady as demand for private beaches and overwater villas has never been higher. “The Maldives has become a very attractive luxury destination with no price caps,” says Bruce Ford, senior vice president and director of global business development at Lodging Econometrics.
This year, data benchmarking firm STR reports that the Maldives is set to see 11 new properties with 1,797 rooms. Among these are the Alila Kothaifaru in Raa Atoll, with 80 beach and waterfront villas by Singapore-based Studiogoto; Minor Hotel Group Avani+ on Fares Island in Baa Atoll, which is scheduled to open in August; and later that year, the Six Senses Kanuhura, comprising 80 overwater and beach villas, will join its sister property in Laamu. Further away, oriental mandarin is developing a resort on three private islands on Bolidhuffaru Reef in the South Malé Atoll slated for 2025, and Accor has plans for the SW/Maldives. Overlooking Emboodhoo Lagoon in Kaafu Atoll, the property will feature 80 luxury villas, courtesy of Signapore’s eco.id, when it opens in 2023
Hilton is also moving to the Maldives: the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi (led by Stickman Tribe) and the SAii Lagoon Maldivesa Curio Collection by Hilton hotel, opened in 2019. They were joined in February by the multi-million dollar relaunch of the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. From New York-based Yuki Yamazaki Architecture, the resort features 50 reimagined overwater villas, the Muraka Underwater Suite, and new culinary venues like the Ithaa Underwater Restaurant that channels elevated barefoot luxury.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, the development rush in the Maldives confirms people’s basic desire to travel and explore. Below, we highlight four that make the Maldives a must-see destination.
Opened in May 2021 and designed by São Paulo-based Studio MK27 with Kengo Kuma and Kerry Hill Architects, Patina Maldives is the lifestyle spin-off of Capella Hotel Group nestled in the Fari Islands in the North Malé Atoll. “In the Maldives, all architecture can do is humbly filter light and frame views, creating different narratives as one walks through the beautiful surroundings,” says Marcio Kogan, Founder from Studio MK27. “At Patina, arriving by plane, it’s as if the hotel didn’t exist. Everything disappears.
The 110 keys range from studios to three-bedroom villas, with the Flow wellness center, dining options including a plant-based restaurant, and the James Turrell Essence art pavilion. “There is no difference between indoors and outdoors,” says Diana Radomysler of Studio MK27. In the rooms, a sheer linen curtain removes the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, while works by Brazilian photographer Cassio Vasconcelos immerse guests in nature. Natural materials like wood and stone juxtapose soothing neutral hues and organic fabrics, all bathed in ambient light from a variety of straw pendant lights for a cheerful and unique experience.
The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands
The Ritz-Carlton opened in the Fari Islands, east of Maafalhu Lagoon, a month after Patina, and marks the brand’s first foray into the Maldives. Also designed by Singapore’s Kerry Hill Architects, the 100 Key Pool Villas are backed by a spa and wellness center perched above the lagoon, a kids’ club, and several restaurants. The company’s approach to tropical modernism has resulted in a masterplan that encourages guests to explore the three-island chain along a nearly two-mile-long circulation wire. Villas are clad in pre-weathered whitewashed silver vertical wood planks, with skyline views through fully retractable sliding glass doors. Green initiatives include pre-engineered wood for the walls, as well as roofs and columns that reduce waste and on-site pollution. Additionally, cross ventilation minimizes air conditioning while photovoltaic panels on the sloping roofs use the tropical sun for green energy. “Customers are looking for contextual, curated and tailored experiences,” says Kerry Hill Director Tanuj Goenka. “Design will continue to play a major role in shaping these experiences. Sustainability and how it is integrated into the design and management of the resort is also important to clients.
Naladhu Private Island Maldives
For the six-month renovation of Naladhu Private Island Maldives, New York-based firm Yuki Yamazaki Architecture “wanted to emphasize the environment by blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors,” says director Yuki Yamazaki. . Here, guests are enveloped in nature while “feeling a sense of adventure and solitude”, he adds.
Yamazaki has previously worked in the Maldives – on the sustainable private island of Kudadoo Maldives and the Conrad Maldives – and his understanding of the region’s vernacular design is evident in his choice of materials. For example, teak is used everywhere in response to humidity and heavy rain. “It has natural oil inside and ages to a silver gray tone when unvarnished,” he says. “This project will get better and better as the years go by.” It’s also a nod to European-inspired Southeast Asian hotels of the 18th and 19th centuries, creating an east-west vibe throughout the 20-villa complex.
“Our goal was to advocate being slow and a bit lazy when customers use the rooms,” he continues. “A one-bedroom villa offers six different locations for sitting and lounging to create a moment of pause: breakfast by the sea, reading on the outdoor swing, sunbathing on the deckchairs on the foredeck, standing catch up on the news by the couch and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail on the lounge chair by the pool.
Joining sister property Joali Maldives on Muravandhoo Island, Joali opens on Bodufushi Island in Raa Atoll in November 2021. In line with Joali’s brand commitment to sustainability, Autoban, based in Istanbul, left the island’s forests untouched, designing the resort around nature. In addition to 68 beach and overwater villas, the company has created three pavilions “under a dramatic, undulating roof,” says Autoban co-founder Seyhan Özdemir. Facing a three-tiered pool and the Indian Ocean, “it reflects the movement of the ocean and is inspired by beach textures like driftwood, coral, seashell and fishing net,” adds- she. “Layered outdoor seating platforms float right on the beach with gleaming marble steps.” Villas are designed with bespoke furnishings in a palette of ivory and gold with soft tones of green, pink, and blue. “Every detail has been selected to evoke the essence of the ocean and the island,” she notes, “with patterns of grains of sand on stucco-covered walls and mosaics representing the hypnotic traces of waves in the sand”.
This article originally appeared in the February/March 2022 issue of HD.
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