INTRODUCTION TO W RETREAT AND SPA MALDIVES
The North Ari Atoll is home to some of Maldives’ most spectacular reefs, and the 78-room W Retreat and Spa Maldives features one of the Maldives’ most prominent overwater jetties, perfect for the young honeymooning couple.
Date of stay: October 2013
Room: Fabulous Overwater Oasis
Reviewed by: Chinmoy Lad
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PHOTOS AND VIDEOS by CHINMOYLAD
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WHAT I LOVED
- Location. Even for the Maldives, this is a stunning location. On small Fesdu Island in the North Ari Atoll, it’s pristine Maldives at its finest.
- Beach. While the island itself is quite small, the beaches that circumnavigate the island are stunning and true to the Maldives’ promise of soft, white sand. The area near the spa houses the best beach.
- Villas. The villas all have very funky names, in W style, but essentially they are split between beach and overwater, and then a choice of Lagoon and Ocean view. The beach villas offer good value for money, but because they are two floored, don’t necessarily make the best use of space. The overwater villas in particular are very spacious and very well laid out, with ample indoor and outdoor lounging space, including shaded areas. They all feature a sizeable outdoor deck, along with a private plunge pool. There is also the “Extreme Wow Ocean Haven”, a 2-bedroom Presidential Suite and a photo which many may be a familiar sight, as this photo pops ups everywhere.
- Design. We’ll lay it out – we’re not really W-style design fans, but this one surprised us. While it stays has elements of a W (playful, occasionally too much so in distracting from the environment rather than complementing it), on the whole the design is quite toned down for a W and the playful nature here generally works quite well in adding a bit of colour.
- Privacy. You’d be surprised at how many of even the most lux Maldives resorts lack privacy, on account of how the structures are built, specifically in the overwater structures. However, because of the orientation and the shape of the jetty at W Maldives, you very rarely have to worry about privacy. For best privacy, opt for a villa on the northern side of the jetty.
- House reef. I personally am not a big snorkeler/diver, but marine enthusiasts will very much appreciate perhaps one of the Maldives’ best house reefs. If choosing a resort based on how good the snorkeling is from your bed/the beach, then the W Maldives is the place for it.
- Private island and yacht. The resort’s Gaathafushi Island nearby (accessible by boat) offers the chance for COMPLETELY private picnic excursions, or even a night under the stars, but supplemented by the W. Their 80-foot sailing yacht, Escape, with two luxury cabins, offers similar experiences but also the chance to explore further with regards to snorkeling/diving.
- Spa. We didn’t get a chance to try the AWAY Spa here, but the location and design of the spa (with its private spa rooms) is fantastic: each with its own outdoor veranda that has a bathtub, rain shower and lounge bed
POINTS TO NOTE
- Plunge pool. We do forgive the W Maldives a bit because the resort dates back to 2006, when, even at luxury hotels, private pools in nearly every room category weren’t quite yet common place in the Maldives, and if a resort did have them, it was only plunge pools. But it is something to note that apart from the Presidential Suite, the private pools in the rooms at the W Maldives are small plunge pools.
- Ambiance. As this is a W, the ambiance is much more ‘chic and hip’ than ‘barefoot luxury’, including unusual amenities such as underground nightclub (reputedly the only one of its kind in the Maldives at the time of writing), as well as music playing over the jetty. Younger couples who enjoy a bit more of a lively scene might enjoy the vibes at W Maldives, but personally, we found it a harsh contrast to the beautiful surrounds.
- Small island, long jetty. This might be one of the smallest islands in the Maldives – circumnavigating the entire island takes barely 15 minutes (with a walking circumference of under 1 kilometer according to Google Maps) at the pace of a brisk walk. With a small island comes one other problem. Although relatively small for the Maldives, a 78-room resort is mid-sized for most luxury travellers. Since many of these rooms are overwater, they do not have their own beach access. As a result, the island/beaches (as well as dining facilities and other amenities) can at times appear crowded, especially when the resort is operating at a closer to full capacity.
However, the jetty is long (nearly 500m). If you’re staying at one of the villas at the far end of the jetty, a buggy may be preferred.
- Following immigration, luggage claim and customs clearance at Velana International Airport (MLE) , an assistant will escort you to the W Maldives Retreat and Spa lounge near the airport that features drinks, light refreshments and a pre-check-in procedure. Guests are then taken by shared seaplane (potentially with stops at other resorts along the waey) on schedule charter to the resort.
- As seaplanes only take off during daylight, late arrivals into Velana International Airport will require an overnight stopover. Guests can choose to stay at a hotel near the airport on Male, or stay in more luxurious accomodation overnight at the nearby Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, accessible from Male by speedboat.
HOTEL FACT SHEET
- LOCATION: Fesdu Island, North Ari Atoll, Maldives
- OPENED: 2006
- HOTEL ROOMS: 78
- RESIDENCE VILLAS: N/A
- RATES FROM: USD 900/night++
Rates are only an approximation and subject to change and availability
- PRIVATE ISLAND HIRE AVAILABLE
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