Perched pearl-like in an untouched corner of the Maldives is the magnificent Como Maalifushi, a have-it-all hotel built for sun-baking, spa pampering and scuba diving. Slip into the sea from your overwater villa, explore the world’s best coral reefs or indulge in some first-class food at this remote island retreat.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of wine and fruit platter (and a bottle of champagne and extra fruit platter for GoldSmiths). Sunset fishing for two with seven-night stays
Noon. Earliest check-in, 2pm (both flexible, subject to availability).
Double rooms from £999.22 ($1,254), 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.
Rates include breakfast, WiFi, use of snorkelling equipment, daily fresh fruit and access to different wellness activities.
Plump for a Maalifushi Beach Villa, Maalifushi Water Villa, Como Villa or Como Residence for 24-hour personal butler service.
At the hotel
Spa, swimming pool, beach, watersports centre, dive centre, resort boutique, multimedia library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, CD/DVD player, PlayStation 3, minibar, tea- and coffee-making facilities, Como Shambhala toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
It's hard to look past the Water Villas, located on their own jetty to the west of the island. Each has its own pool, sundeck and full-length windows, meaning you can wake up to the sights and sounds of the Indian Ocean. Bathrooms feature a sunken marble tub big enough for two, marble floors and stone walls. There's also an outdoor shower, surrounded by wooden panelling for privacy. The Beach Villas are just as impressive; with a private plunge pool, sundeck, open-air bathroom and floor-to-ceiling French doors, leaving could be difficult.
The 44m free-form pool sits between the bar and restaurant and has been designed to weave around ‘islands’ of palm trees. It’s surrounded by sun loungers with two-foot-thick memory foam mattresses and parasols. Eagle-eyed staff will tend to your every need, making it easy to stay refreshed (and on top of hunger pangs) poolside.
Don’t leave without visiting the rightly popular Como Shambhala spa, where you can enjoy a traditional treatment in one of eight overwater rooms with ocean views.
It’s more what not to bring: leave the phone charger at home and forget about packing shoes – you won’t be needing either. Divers: don’t forget your diving log book and licence.
Children of all ages are more than welcome; there’s a great kids club, child-minding services, a family-friendly pool and lots of activities to keep everyone occupied. Overwater villas are a little too open for younger guests; opt for land-based suites.
Maalifushi by Como welcomes tots of all ages; there are facilities for everyone from babes in arms to teenagers.
Avoid overwater rooms; there is minimal fencing, so there’s nothing to stop little legs going for an unintentional swim. Beach Suites have their own plunge pool, direct beach access and a sofa big enough to turn into a bed.
Right in front of the pool is a strip of white beach and a lagoon of turquoise water, shallow enough for even the shortest of legs. Play, the kids club, offers a number of activities that tie in with local traditions, including coconut bowling, palm-leaf folding and Maldivian baseball. Other options include football, volleyball, sack races, three-legged races, pizza-making and t-shirt tie-dying. The massive outdoor space contains a lawn for running around and sandy area perfect for younger ones but no place for the all-essential afternoon nap, so the club closes between noon and 2pm daily. Older children are well looked-after, with the teens room containing several massive flat-screen TVs showing movies, video games and sports. There’s also a pool table and board games for hours of entertainment.
The pool caters for kids, with graded access (like a beach) and depth signage. However, there aren’t any lifeguards, so parents should keep a watchful eye over their charges.
Madi is perfect for guests of all ages: the relaxed atmosphere and diverse menus will satisfy every member of the family. Highchairs are on offer and a kids menu is available. Obliging staff are also happy to cater to special requests.
Babysitters can take junior Smiths out for the day or look after them in your room. 24 hours’ notice is required.
No need to pack
Leave the stroller, crib and potty at home; the hotel can provide these items for you.
Active families should explore the local reef with a group snorkelling trip. A member of staff will take your room number, provide towels and indicate if the seas are suitable for snorkelling – yellow is safe, red is not.
Maalifushi’s eco-credentials are pretty squeaky clean: the hotel’s fruit and vegetables are locally sourced or grown in the onsite gardens and the hotel’s bottled water is recycled; power is generated through high-efficiency generators and guests are encouraged to change their linen and towels every other day. Transport around the island is mainly by bicycles, tricycles and electric golf carts, keeping carbon emissions to a minimum.
Every table at Madi has sweeping views of the ocean beyond, but a spot on the edge takes full advantage of the views. Ask the hotel to organise a private champagne breakfast, castaway picnic or romantic dinner in your villa for a memorable meal.
A kaftan over swimmers at Madi, something a little swankier at Tai.
Housed in a straw-roofed, open-sided building, all-day diner Madi offers a range of local, Mediterranean, Indonesian and Thai-influenced dishes, taking inspiration from the region's fresh produce and island setting. Overwater Japanese restaurant Tai (closed Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) showcases locally sourced seafood, with a range of sashimi and sushi on offer, plus a fantastic list of cocktails. Guests who want to maintain healthy holiday habits can sample Como Shambhala cuisine, a selection of raw, steamed and grilled dishes available at Madi and included in the room service menu.
Relax poolside at Thila, the bar next door to Madi, complete with bucket-style seats, low tables and board games. Dine on family-friendly salads, pizzas and pide while listening to tunes chosen by the expert music concierge. Shoot some pool with a beer in hand or compete in a game of Monopoly over a drink or two.
Breakfast is served between 7am and 10:30am in Madi. Sunset cocktails are served between 5pm and 7pm, and dinner is served from 7pm to 10pm.
Almost everything on Madi’s menu can be delivered to your room, including salads, pastas and refreshing juices and lassis (available from 7am to 11pm daily).
You need a transfer to reach this hotel. For approximate costs, see location information
Como Maalifushi is located on the picturesque Thaa Atoll, a collection of 66 islands to the south of the capital Malé.
Most visitors to the Maldives arrive by air. From the UK and US fly vie Dubai, or if flying in from the Australia, catch a connection in Singapore. On arrival in Malé, a hotel representative will me in you arrivals at take you to the hotel's seaplane lounge where you can relax and enjoy refreshments before your flight to the island. Return sea-plane transfers cost US$655 an adult and $327.50 a child (under-2s fly free), plus a 12 per cent tax. Flight times are based on the daily arrival times, so let the hotel know your schedule and they'll work out theirs. Guests can also fly to Thimarafushi airport and arrive at Maalifushi by boat; the price is the same.
Worth getting out of bed for
If exploring locally is what you’re after, you’re about to book the wrong holiday. All adventures on the island are subaquatic and run by the hotel – it’s the only man-made structure for miles. Wannabe mermaids and mermen can go on private snorkelling and scuba diving tours (starting at US$110 a dive), check out the local surf breaks or try their hand at catamaran sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Boat buffs can sail to a nearby island for a gourmet picnic or keep an eye out for dolphins on a sunset cruise. Set up shop at the Como Shambhala spa, which offers a range of traditional and modern therapies in eight overwater, ocean-facing treatment rooms. Indulge in a hot stone massage or Guinot Hydradermie Plus facial before participating in a free yoga class in the open-air pavilion. Meditation, Pilates and circuit training are also on offer, all for free.
When I can't sleep, I try to imagine I'm on a remote island in total peace and harmony. But there's always a challenge in these dreams… how do I fish for food? Is anyone else there? Will the locals be friendly? Well, this time I wasn't dreaming – and everything was easy. I really was on that remote island, with everything I could possibly want. I'd found it: the paradise of a lifetime.
Travelling from Malé to Como Maalifushi was remarkably scenical. Riding in a seaplane had long been on my bucket list (and a few of the other items were checked off soon after arrival, too). The 40-minute flight – with an incredibly charismatic barefoot pilot – revealed the stunning atolls’ shades of blue and green, and even the occasional spot of red coral. If you’ve ever wanted to get up close and personal with the Indian Ocean, this is the place to do it.
A team of hosts awaited us with refreshing wet towels, fresh coconut water and big smiles, and then we were driven to our suite – we were immediately impressed by both the size and luxury of our temporary new home. Our first stop: the extra large bath tub. How better to start a trip than neck deep in bubble bath sipping the champagne we grabbed from the fully stocked minibar?
Once refreshed, we popped out to the beachfront restaurant for lunch. Now, I must admit I was apprehensive – we were on a small remote island and I am allergic to fish (oh gosh!) But as soon as we walked in I was greeted by a pleasant waiter ready to put my mind at ease: ‘Don't worry, Mr. Underwood: we are aware of your allergies, and we have lots of options for you. You'll eat well!’ (And, of course, I did.)
One bottle of Como Maalifushi Chardonnay later, we'd made friends with the bartender who told us the hotel’s best place to watch the sunset. Soon, we were lounging on a swing in a quiet corner, watching the sun go down, realising just how brilliant this place was. We’d only been here a few hours, and it was already entirely enchanting.
After a refreshing swim in our suite’s private pool, we napped on the outdoor day-bed… and then discovered that housekeeping had been by and dropped off fresh fruit and sugar cookies. But we skipped our snacks and saved our appetites for dinner, where the local cuisine was served with a side of traditional Maldivian dancing (I had the delicious chicken curry, but I heard the fish was exceptional).
In contrast with the evening’s regional delights, the next morning was thoroughly international, from my favourite Full English breakfast with all the works (even bacon: shh!) to the daily newspapers from our respective countries. We both felt incredibly at home, while physically being in paradise.
And because we were in paradise, we were eager to swim – but everyone knows you're not supposed to swim on a full stomach, so we lounged for an hour or so before heading directly to the dive centre to collect our snorkels. Suited up, we dove into the sea just yards from our suite, ready to explore. It was magical: big fish, small fish, and even the occasional Nemo lookalike.
Having completed our underwater exercise for the day, it was time to be pampered. Two masseurs were waiting in the spa, where our private room had an unparalleled view of the ocean. There’s nothing more relaxing than an excellent massage as you gaze at the water… followed by a dip in the cool Jacuzzi while sipping fresh lemongrass tea in the dressing room.
Leaving Maalifushi was, of course, difficult. We can’t wait to go back. If you and someone special need a trip to paradise, just jump on that seaplane…