A Private ParadiSe

The newest luxury retreat to open in the Maldives, Hurawalhi offers a blissfully adults-only respite from the urban coalface, discovers Nick Walton

If you haven’t been to the Maldives yet, then it’s time you did yourself a favour and booked the next flight to paradise. The Indian Ocean playground has never been more sought after, and the arrival of its newest adults-
only retreat only adds to its glorious seduction.

We arrive at Hurawalhi, as all guests do, by seaplane, vibrant turquoise seas wreathing submerged coral gardens racing past below as we descend, 40 minutes after leaving the resort’s signature seaplane lounge in Male. You know you’ve arrived somewhere special even before pontoon touches lagoon; a string of overwater bungalows branches out from a tree-encrusted
island framed by white sand beaches. As the sun rises the colours leap to life; deep greens in the canopies that hide luxurious beachfront bungalows; aqua and turquoise blues in the lagoon’s waters; blazing white in the uniforms of traditional Maldivian drummers that greet new arrivals. It’s as if someone’s nudged the saturation levels – everything just pops.

A clutch of 90 villas set against breathtaking house reefs in the heart of the Lhavivyani Atoll, this beautiful new hideaway epitomizes the Maldivian escape to perfection, and with an adults-only policy that welcomes guests 15 years and up, you won’t have to share your romantic escape with everyone else’s ‘little darlings’.

What an escape it promises to be, thanks to brilliant, infinitely-cheerful staff, gourmet dining, sophisticated accommodation, and all-inclusive packages that implore you to order another cocktail, take up a poolside perch, and make the most of every moment.

Guests can choose from Hurawalhi’s four room categories
– essentially Ocean or Beach Villas, with or without the added pleasure of a private plunge pool. Our Ocean Villa is superbly spacious, with vaulted ceilings, a 48-inch flatscreen television, and a heavenly king-sized bed facing a deep-set sun deck and the expanses of the Indian Ocean. Can’t resist the lagoon any longer? There’s direct access from your sun deck, while Beach Villas, nested in deep tropical foliage, offer direct beach access and a touch more privacy.

All guest rooms boast expansive bathrooms with rain showers (though curiously no bathtub); a pair of comfy sun lounges, gleaming timber, vibrant art work, and feather-light linens. There’s complimentary internet, a minibar and wine fridge packed with all-inclusive goodies, and diligent villa attendants that ensure your villa is the

perfect tropical home-away-from-home.

For many guests the villa is where they spend much of their holiday, and I can appreciate such seclusion; with plenty of privacy, and azure seas and pristine beaches beckoning, each villa offers the perfect escape from hectic urban life. But don’t get too comfortable, there’s plenty more to see.

For the active, Hurawalhi has everything you’d expect from a luxury Maldivian resort, from a tennis court, games room, and a comprehensive water sports center with hobbie cats, wake boarding and jet skis; to a resident marine biologist; and an outpost of Prodive, which offers a raft of dive courses and experiences for those who like to explore below the waves.

Early one morning I head out with resident Dutch dive master Morton. Rather than having to take a boat out to a remote dive site, we simply gear up and step from one of the resort’s piers into thriving seas packed with coral gardens. We trace our way along the resort’s house reef, with its mezmerising coral walls, home to blennies, coral hawkfish, hawksbill turtles, black tip reef sharks and, if you’re lucky, manta rays. Later that afternoon my wife Maggie and I take to the house reef again, this time as part of an included guided snorkeling excursion, and encounter Moorish idols, Napoleon wrasse, and a fever of elegant eagle rays, which dart through the shallows and trail our group before eventually diving deep.

Despite being cast in the middle of the sprawling Maldivian archipelago, Hurawalhi really sets itself apart with its innovative dining. The crowning jewel of the resort has to be 5.8 Undersea Restaurant, which, as the name suggests, is submerged below the gently lapping waves of the lagoon. Underwater venues are not a new thing in the Maldives but 5.8 Undersea Restaurant has refined the concept; imaginative, slightly eclectic multi- course tasting menus are presented to just 12 guests each night, with tables set beneath a mezmerising canopy of aqua blue water packed with colourful and inquisitive reef fish. As we dine on the intriguing wine-paired menu of shy German chef de cuisine Bjoern van den Oever, a veteran of leading Michelin- starred kitchens, angel, butterfly and even puffer fish meander through the coral polyps beyond the glass, their aquatic home taking on an inky hue as the daylight fades six meters above our heads.

For diners who prefer a less submerged dining experience, Aquarium Restaurant is located above 5.8, on a pier that reaches out into the lagoon, and serves a contemporary menu of delectable Asian-inspired dishes laced with organic ingredients and complemented by an intimate Teppanyaki bar. At the other end of the resort, the Champagne Pavilion is the perfect spot for utterly romantic sunsets, enjoyed over a chilled bottle of bubbles, while Coco Bar, adjacent to the resort’s infinity pool, is the heart of the property and offers a comprehensive menu of sharing-style bar snacks and tiki-esque cocktails, most of which feature on the all-inclusive menu.

Beyond the bar, most meals are served in the stunning Canneli restaurant, a shrine to great cuisine complete with an international buffet, al fresco dining, crisp yet friendly service, and live cooking stations. The diversity of fresh, contemporary dishes prepared by New Zealand executive chef Shannon Batten and his multi-national team is remarkably, especially considering how remote his kitchens are from suppliers. If you’re really looking to kindle the fires of love, the culinary team can also set up a private candle lit dinner on a deserted beach or send you off to nearby Dream Island, a local sand bank, for the ultimate private picnic.

If fine dining and jaw-dropping vistas aren’t enough to sweep you from urban drudgery, then head to the Duniye Spa, a chic citadel to pampering perched over the waters of the lagoon. Here a host of Asian- inspired treatments, using Healing Earth organic products, are conducted by a team of experienced therapists in beautifully-appointed spa suites that feature portholes to the lagoon below. Be sure to leave time for a spot of serenity in the relaxation lounge, located above the spa reception and boasting views of the lagoon that will have you falling in love with the Maldives all over again. www.hurawalhi.com

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