If you're heading to the Maldives, your desert-island expectations are going to be pretty high. You'll be wanting white sand islets all to your self, and butlers bringing you punch while you paddle, thank you very much. Let us be clear: boutique hotel Huvafen Fushi will not let you down. Dip your toes in the warm, ridiculously clear lagoon, dine in incredible locations, snorkel one of the Maldives best house reefs and flop out on your own private stretch of powdery-sand perfection. And just when you think it can't possibly get any better, you'll stumble upon the world's first underwater spa.
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A bottle of Champagne and coral adoption for two, led by the resident marine biologist, during which guests each plant a piece of coral
Noon. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Late check-outs or early arrivals must book an extra night in advance to guarantee availability.
Double rooms from £702.99 ($883), 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 at Celcius. Minimum seven-night stays between 10 December and 20 January.
Check out those minibars – they're full of premium drinks, and groovy snacks from around the world.
At the hotel
Private beaches, infinity pool, boat fleet, watersports, diving centre, spa, gym, yoga pavilion, boutique, library, free WiFi. In rooms, plunge pool, LCD TV, DVD/CD player, bar, coffee maker, Frette linen, Bose sound system, preloaded iPod and dock.
Our favourite rooms
Every room has a private plunge pool. Deluxe Beach Bungalows back right onto white sands, and are justly popular for their spacious private outdoor areas (numbers 9, 10, 12–15 are close to the spa, if you need to do as little as possible, post-pampering). Actually the closer to the spa end of the island you are, the quieter it is. But we loved the novelty of being over water: set on a long ovate pier off the island, the Ocean and Lagoon Bungalows furthest from the island offer maximum privacy. Ocean Bungalows have a glass floor in the living area, giving you 24-hour 'reef TV', and because you’re on the sunset side, drinks on the terrace next to your plunge pool are extra-romantic. Plus, if you love snorkelling, you're right next to the outstanding house reef. Needless to say, the three Pavilions are incredible; the Beach Pavilion is everybody's favourite. Push the boat out – literally – with Huvafen Fushi’s traditional ‘Dhoni’, a 65 ft vessel that lets you sail the Maldives with plush lounge space on top-deck and below-deck living spaces that have everything you need: a king bed, a wine cellar and a gourmet minibar; it's available for romantic sunset cruises or for bespoke package experiences.
The large lagoon-like infinity-edged pool bleeds into the watery horizon of the Indian Ocean and is surrounded by day beds; by night, it's romantically lit with fibre-optic lights and reflects the inky sky.
Miraculously clear lagoons, pristine house reefs and overwater pavilions are a given in the Maldives, but Huvafen Fushi's spa manages to impress even the most jaded of jet-setters. The cocooning and dreamlike underwater spa offers massages by expert Beata Aleksandrowicz and expert facials curated by Teresa Tarmey. After a tension-busting, sigh-inducing massage, float away in the glass-walled relaxation pods to a ballet of clownfish and stingrays.
Every piece of swimwear you have; a dozen kaftans/beach cover-ups; flip-flops, thongs, sandals… but not stilettos. Diving and medical certificates and log book if you want some underwater action.
All ages are welcome. Extra beds can be added for under-12s for an additional cost; cots for babies under 2 are free. All menus have child-friendly sections. Kids under 12 will get a 50 discount for most charges and supplements; and under-2s go free.
Huvafen Fushi knows which side its bread is buttered on, and takes great care of its marine environment. It supports coral-reef rehabilitation projects and sustainable local businesses, and encourages guests to offset their carbon emissions.
At Feeling Koi, you might spot sharks if you sit outside. Otherwise, try destination dining: Huvafenfushi is renowned for its bespoke services and they'll set up dinner anywhere, from your private deck to the edge of a reef: ask to dine 'On The Rock'…
Heidi Klein, Melissa Odabash – pretty floaty kaftans and jewelled flip-flops. Panama chic and cool linens for him.
So many options: fine fishy dining around the open kitchen at Feeling Koi, a sumptuous Japanese restaurant set in an overwater pavilion; health-conscious dishes at Raw; all-day low-key dining at sandy-floored lagoon-view Celcius; wine-matched meals at Vinum; wood-fired pizza under the palm trees at Forno…
Super-cool UMbar shakes up deliciously dirty martinis with its extensive vodka list, as well as champagne cocktails, mocktails et al. Try an Asian-flavour-packed Crouching Tiger, with lemongrass, lychee, gin sake, ginger liqueur and jasmine tea.
Breakfast at Celsius, 7am–10.30am; Forno is open from noon until 4pm; Raw is open for lunch only and closes at 3.30-pm. Feeling Koi is open from 7pm to 11pm, reservations are recommended. UMbar stays open as long as you can stay up…
An extensive in-room menu is available 24 hours a day. You can also have a private chef come and set up a seafood or mixed-grill barbecue on your sundeck.
You need a transfer to reach this hotel. For approximate costs, see location information
You'll be greeted at Malé International Airport by a hotel representative who'll escort you to the Huvafen Fushi private airport lounge for free soft drinks and WiFi. You’ll then be whisked into a speedboat for the last 30 minutes of your journey; this speedy transfer costs US$369.60 per adult (aged 12 and above), US$184.80 per child (ages 2 to 11) and free for infants under one year old.
Worth getting out of bed for
Underwater's where it's at here: not only can you snorkel above bannerfish, fairy basslets and other colourfully named sea creatures on Huvafen Fushi's house reef, you can have premier pampering underwater at the spa: two of the eight treatment rooms have glass walls looking out across the ocean floor. The treatment menu ranges from therapeutic massages to wellness rituals and salt scrubs. Book a guided snorkelling trip with Huvafenfushi's resident marine biologist will guide you to the best spots on the coral garden and explain what you're going to see. There's a PADI-standard diving centre, too. Undo all that great fresh-air frolicking at UMbar, where cigar aficionados can try a totally smokin' selection of superior Cuban and Dominican cigars. If you're feeling the need for a little more stimulation, other activities on offer include excursions to the Maldivian capital Malé, sunset cruises, cooking classes, wine-tasting at Vinum, fishing trips, yoga, windsurfing, sailing and wakeboarding… let's just say you'd need to stay at Huvafen for a ridiculously long time to get bored.
‘So, how d’ya like our dinghy?’ calls out a welcoming voice, upon our arrival at Huvafen Fushi, a boutique resort in the Maldives. Considering we are just stepping out of a seriously sexy motor yacht, upon which a hunky crew have just privately transferred us over turquoise seas, you could definitely say the ‘dinghy’ meets with our approval.
We have a greeting party of three – the hotel's general manager; his right-hand man and Nashath, who will be our thakuru (butler). All three are beaming from ear to ear, and generally looking delighted to see us – surely a strong early indicator of a great stay. It later becomes evident that the entire team feel as lucky to be working on Huvafen as we feel to be staying there. This makes for a satisfyingly complicit connection, and does away with any ‘us and them’ feelings that are sometimes a feature of luxury resorts. We beam back, and they lead us down the jetty and onto the island itself for a quick tour.
The island itself is a tiny dot of desert-island gorgeousness, but they certainly manage to fit in a whole lot of wow factor. Our butler leads us across the island to the main pool – a breathtaking infinity-edged square stretching out into the ocean – around which the main focal points of the hotel are set. Here you’ll find restaurants Celsius and Forno, the UM bar and Vinum, which holds 6,000 bottles as well as the Maldives’ largest collection of champagne methuselahs. These people are evidently serious about indulgence.
Assured of a good night ahead, we are ushered onto the back of a buggy and driven roomwards. Nashath drives us up a walkway to our Lagoon Bungalow, which is set over water. Our accommodation is huge. It’s modern and minimalist in style, and is decorated in warm, earthy tones that contrast nicely with the Frette-covered expanse of the centrally positioned bed. A dressing area leads onto an enormous stone and glass bathroom, complete with freestanding tub from which you can enjoy 180-degree views of the lagoon. Outside, there’s a split-level deck that provides access to a freshwater plunge pool or into the clear waters of the lagoon itself. Decisions, decisions…
Nashath takes us through the various hi-tech gadgets and gizmos – there’s pre-programmed mood lighting, and Bang & Olufsen speakers. Mr Smith is particularly delighted he’ll be able to listen to Bowie while he’s in the monsoon shower. Nashath goes on to point out a phone by our bed, pre-programmed with his number, the direct line to the spa and one-touch access to whatever you might need, whether it’s more ice, extra pillows or a buggy to take you to the spa.
As soon as we’re left on our own, I test out the speed dial for the spa, and book myself a treatment called Essential Hands on the basis that if they say it’s essential, who am I to argue? Mr Smith, meanwhile, has uncovered the in-bungalow dining menus and is reading aloud from them in rapt tones – like an epicurean episode of Jackanory… There’s also an activity list for the week. We particularly love the idea of a guided snorkel, in which a marine biologist will take you to the best spots on the nearby reef and tell you about the sealife you’ll see. How he’s going to do that underwater is anyone’s guess. Flashcards?
That evening, tired from our long journey, we manage to stay awake just long enough to enjoy an amazing meal of freshly landed seafood at Feeling Koi, the resort’s fine-dining restaurant, before succumbing to that enormous bed. The next morning, though, we awake to a glorious day – something that Huvafen Fushi knows how to make a proper event of. The wall of windows opposite our bed has remote-control blinds, so that you can sit up and watch as your deck, your infinity pool, the bright-blue Indian Ocean and equally azure sky are dramatically revealed, one by one. We lazily wander to Celsius, the island’s main restaurant, for breakfast. The resident Head of Fruit (yes, really) gets us to try dragonfruit and mangosteen for the first time, and despite Mr Smith’s doubtful expression, we both decide they’re quite delicious.
The rest of the day is spent languishing lazily on our deck, although I do manage to squeeze in another treatment at the spa – this time for an Ocean Repair Facial, which, as Mr Smith points out, sounds as though it should take place in a shipyard. That evening, to celebrate our last night, we head to the island’s best-kept secret – a secret dining area call Cardamom. With room for a maximum of three couples only, this al fresco restaurant, lit with lanterns and hung with Indian silks, is tucked away in a little grove, and sunk a discreet five feet into the ground for good measure. The chef talks us through the food she’s going to prepare, and then rustles up a gourmet Indian tasting menu right in front of our eyes.
Huvafen Fushi’s tagline is ‘a waking dream’ and the resort certainly offers a bells-and-whistles version of a Maldivian paradise. Every aspect of the hotel has been thought through in minute detail, and has been made the best, the coolest and the most innovative it could possibly be. But while the resort is undeniably showy, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s the irrepressible hedonism and infectious personality of the island that is the true source of its wow factor.
When checking out, we discover that this tiny island can be hired in its entirety for a cool $2.5 million a week. ‘Great,’ says Mr Smith, as it dawns on him that next year will be his fortieth birthday. ‘We’ve got one year to save up.’ Now that really is a waking dream.