Perched around an idyllic secluded island in a crystal-clear coral lagoon, Baros boutique hotel in the Maldives will exceed your highest fantasy-island expectations. Encircled by clear, warm waters and sugar-white sands, and dotted with swaying palms and fragrant flowers, this intimate resort’s scenery is swoon-worthy. Team this with serene contemporary rooms (including overwater villas), tantalising fine-dining options, a blissful spa, expansive pool and aquatic activities from yachting to yoga, and you have the ultimate atoll escape.
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A couple's sunset cruise with champagne and canapés
75 villas (30 over-water; 45 beachside), including one larger Residence.
Noon, but flexible subject to availability at a cost of 50 per cent of the room tariff. Check-in, 2pm, or earlier if available.
Double rooms from £723.33 ($992), including tax at 23.2 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of $6.00 per person per night on check-out.
Room rates include buffet breakfast.
For the definitive Maldivian experience the Nooma, the Baros’ 19.4 metre traditional wooden sailing dhoni, can be chartered for diving expeditions during the day or private sunset dining at night.
At the hotel
Spa, library with books, board games, CDs and DVDs, free WiFi throughout, boutique, palm garden, pool table and table tennis, gym, watersports, dive and snorkel centres, private yacht and traditional wooden sailing <i>dhoni</i>. In rooms: flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, preloaded iPod, minibar, L’Occitane en Provence and Italian Acca Kappa toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
It’s hard to go past the romance and seclusion of the Water Villas, each of which are perched above the water and boast spacious indoor areas, large private sundecks, outdoor daybeds swathed in flowing white canopies and timber steps that lead down to the lagoon. The eight Pool Villas each have their own infinite plunge pool, while the two Premium Pool Villas also sport lagoon-side Jacuzzis, their own exclusive section of the beach and the luxury of a dedicated villa host to cater to your every whim. The exclusive Baros Residence is the ultimate romantic hidey-hole sheathed by bird of paradise and palms, with its own private pool and garden. Here you can lounge on the four-poster day bed, treat yourself to an in-room massage or ask your personal on-call butler to bring you a mojito to enjoy on your sundeck just a step from the beach.
Baros Pool Villas and Premium Pool Villas have private infinity-edged plunge pools, and the Residence has a larger swimming pool. Guests in other rooms can take a dip in the enormous main pool (85sq m) by Lime restaurant (open 11am–6pm) – the largest overwater pool in the Maldives, no less – which is lined with hundreds of fibre-optic lights for a night-sky effect. There's a pool bar to the side which serves drinks and canapés and staff will clean your sunglasses if you ask nicely. The lagoon is safe for a refreshing swim too.
The Spa offers a plethora of pampering wrap and massage treatments guaranteed to de-stress and delight.
Leave your heels at home; they’ll just sink in the sand-lined pathways strewn across the island. Fashionable types should pack several swimwear options, some cover-ups and a maxi or two for island chic. Budding Jacques Cousteaus can hire dive gear here, so just bring your documentation.
Junior Smiths aged eight or older are welcome, although this is more of a romantic adult retreat and there are no dedicated children’s facilities. An extra bed for a child sharing with two adults costs an extra 50 per cent of the villa tariff.
Baros is active in coral planting to improve the local underwater habitat, and educates guests about the marine environment. Food is also seasonal and locally sourced.
Outdoor patio-front tables at any of the restaurants (we love the wave-side lower deck at the Lighthouse). You can also dine in private at your villa, alfresco anywhere on the island or out on a romantic sandbank.
Upscale beach chic.
Set over the water, circular fine-diner The Lighthouse Restaurant is shaded by a soaring sail-like white-tented roof that is dramatic by day and luminous by night. The lounge is the perfect setting for sipping champagne as the sun sets, and the restaurant offers fusion food with Asian and Mediterranean leanings. Sitting on a large wooden deck under the cover of palm thatch gazebos, Cayenne Grill is a more casual affair, where food offerings alternate between Maldivian, Indian and Japanese. The open kitchen means you can watch the chefs as they prepare your meal. The Lime Restaurant is perched on stilts above the water and dishes up an all-day menu of global à la carte dishes.
With sugar-white sand underfoot and palms overhead, Sails Bar and Palm Garden is a seductive spot to sip a pomegranate margarita or a sommelier-selected wine as the day winds up. Live music acts play every Tuesday and Saturday night. The Lounge at The Lighthouse offers a more intimate drinking experience. Guests lounging by the pool can order cocktails from the roving waiters; pick from classic piña coladas, margaritas and daquiris, or order a more modern concocotion. We like the Baros Island iced Tea with vodka, shochu, peach and orange liqueurs, lemon juice, honey and green tea. A snack menu has dim sum, mini burgers, gourmet pizzas and sushi.
10:30pm for dinner at the Lighthouse and Cayenne Grill and Lime Restaurant. Sails Bar keeps the drinks coming until 11pm.
Available on demand 24 hours. The room service menu offers breakfast (including champagne breakfast for two), snacks, lunch and dinner options. The Light House and Cayenne Grill can whip up in-room dining between 7pm and 10pm.
You need a transfer to reach this hotel. For approximate costs, see location information
Maldives resort Baros is located on its own private island in the lower central part of North Malé Atoll, a cluster of islands just north of capital Malé.
There are direct flights to Malé International Airport (www.airports.com.mv) from London, Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, as well as one-stop flights from many other countries. Carriers routing here include Emirates (www.emirates.com), Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeair.com), Malaysia Airlines (www.malaysiaairlines.com), Sri Lankan Airlines (www.srilankan.lk), Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com) and British Airways (www.britishairways.com; please note, they do not operate during low season form May to September). From Malé, it’s a handy 25-minute speedboat ride to the resort.
Baros guests will be met at the airport by a hotel representative who will escort them to the jetty, only five minutes' walk away, for the transfer by speedboat to the resort. With a cold towel to freshen up and a complimentary chilled mineral water, the 25-minute journey should be a breeze. Group transfers cost US$180 a guest return; US$210 each for private return transfers, both excluding 12 per cent GST (goods and services tax) & 10 per cent service charge.
Worth getting out of bed for
While a lot of hotels offer a dawn yoga session, few rival the one at Baros. Book a private session and you'll be whisked across the lagoon by boat to a sandbank where the resort’s resident yoga instructor leads you in contortions as the sun rises out of the Indian Ocean. Otherwise, free group classes are held at 6am in the Palm Garden (every day except Sunday). For those who prefer diving to downward-facing dog poses, Baros has its own diving centre which can get you geared up and underwater faster than you can say ‘salutation to the sea’. Snorkellers can explore the house reef just off-shore, or if you'd rather stay above the waves, the water sports centre can arrange everything from wakeboarding to glass-bottom kayaking. Baros also boasts a range of day trips giving you the chance to explore nearby atoll islands, try a spot of fishing or hit the streets of the capital Malé for some sightseeing and shopping. The resorts two vessels, the Serenity yacht and the Nooma (a traditional wooden dhoni), are used for group sailing tours or can be privately chartered for romantic excursions.
You're on your own island at Baros, so you won't be popping down the road for a kebab. Not to worry though, as the resort's three restaurants and tempting bars should mean you can dine somewhere different every day.
All airport transfers should be like this. Having negotiated a queue of three people at passport control, we stroll a few yards from the terminal to a speedboat stocked with a lifetime’s supply of cold flannels. Just 20 minutes later, having cruised past the president’s ‘picnic island’ (they know how to do things properly in the Maldives), we arrive at our palm-fringed atoll.
A Water Villa on the sunset side is our home for the next few days, a conical, thatched overwater pavilion raised on stilts with full-height windows and a deck overlooking the sea. Mrs Smith’s sun-worshipping proclivities kick in immediately, and she disrobes and parks herself on a lounger for the afternoon. Meanwhile, I quickly establish what is to become my favourite activity: marine twitching. I take a particular liking to the Needlefish, which float around in the shallows like miniature javelins. Occasionally, one propels itself out of the water, perhaps to secure a better view of Mrs Smith in her birthday suit.
Mrs Smith has passed into an open-mouthed slumber when I suddenly shake her awake. ‘What’s the matter? Are we sinking?’ she yelps. Swimming magisterially beneath our feet is a manta ray. It pauses for dramatic effect, eyes us lazily, then flaps off to the next-door villa. We speculate whether the creature is in fact a highly trained employee whose schedule is orchestrated by hotel management: ‘Ray, go and do another round of the overwater villas would you?’
After watching the sun go down, we retire to the Lounge at the Lighthouse bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. Nearly everything at Baros is geared towards couples, so the kidney-shaped sofas invite reclining and canoodling. Unfortunately, they also cause Mrs Smith to throw her Cosmopolitan over her Jil Sander dress. Twice. I plump for a Lighthouse Blazer, a potent potion that is ignited by Lucky the barman and arrives smoking hot. As it turns out, the majority of our evening is dedicated to pyrotechnics – in the fine-dining restaurant beneath the bar, we order the lobster soup and the truffle-infused beef fillet, both of which are cooked in front of us with lashings of brandy that cause theatrical balls of fire.
Flip-flopping over to breakfast the following morning, we wander around in a daze trying to decide what to eat (having arrived with every pair of shoes from her wardrobe, Mrs Smith spends the entire stay in the complimentary footwear). In the end I take the pain out of the process by having one of everything – fruit followed by cereal followed by French pastries chased up by Belgian chocolate waffles, fried eggs and tuna sashimi.
Seeking sunloungers for a chill-out session, we enquire at reception about using a pair from one of the unoccupied beachfront rooms. When we arrive at the shoreside villa, it becomes clear that we have been beaten to it. Reclining on one of the loungers is a heron, who shields himself from the midday rays beneath a straw parasol (perhaps he too has enquired at reception). Mrs Smith shoots him an old-fashioned glare, and he stalks off like a bandy-legged David Hasselhoff to resume his fishing duties. We watch him for a while, and conclude that being a heron at Baros is as easy as being a guest. The shallows teem with thousands of fish, which offer themselves up to him like shimmering sacrifices.
Some snorkelling is in order, so we borrow some equipment from the dive centre. You can scuba dive here without any qualifications, but we find that floating on the surface is awe-inspiring enough, like peering into a tank of tropical fish at a pet shop. The joy of Baros is that it has its own house reef, so you need only paddle out a few metres from the beach to see piscatorial specimens of every size in kaleidoscopic colours, as well as little sharks and the occasional turtle.
A sandbank dinner is in the offing for our final evening in the Maldives, which sounds schmaltzy but turns out to be just about the most romantic thing we’ve ever done. We are gently ushered on to a speedboat by no less than four linen-clad members of staff (the ratio of employees to guests at Baros is two to one) and whisked off to a tiny sand bar in the middle of the ocean. Awaiting our arrival are our own personal maître d and chef, who ply us with champagne and barbecued seafood as the sun melts into the horizon. Our only company is a fleet of scuttling sand crabs, their eyes lighting up like little torches in the darkness.