Venice… Basel… Maldives? The honeymoon-heaven island nation isn’t a place you’d ordinarily associate with the art world, but Joali's immersive art collection and big-name curators might yet coax the critics into their string bikinis. The uber-romantic resort has a playful spirit and an endless array of activities: follow the Art Map through the palms, find the most colourful reefs with resident marine biologist Sam, or learn to cook Maldivian delicacies in the teaching kitchen. Or, just spend your days floating between your villa’s private pool, the pristine white beach, the colonial-chic beach bar and your bed… it's a spectacularly romance-inspiring spot, after all.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability; check-in starts at 2pm. To ensure an early check-in, guests must pay for the previous night, and for guaranteed late check-out guests must pay 50 per cent of the room rate.
Double rooms from £1399.05 ($1,759), including tax at 23.2 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $6.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include à la carte breakfast.
Neither rooms nor common areas are wheelchair accessible.
At the hotel
Private beach, tennis courts, gym, art studio, spa, Turkish hammam. In rooms: free WiFi throughout, television, air-conditioning, minibar, free bottled water, kettle and Nespresso machine, tea and coffee, black-out curtains, beach bag, bikes, hairdryer, hair straighteners, snorkelling gear, Joali toiletries including after sun, body lotion and insect repellent, custom Joali robes and flip flops
Our favourite rooms
The only thing that's difficult about Joali is choosing a room. They're all delightful… but if pressed, we'd opt for one of the luxury over-water villas, for a supremely sexy all-at-sea stay. All rooms benefit from a dedicated jadugar, which means butler (or magician when directly translated) who will happily cater to your every need (and, more often than not, know what you need before you know yourself).
For swimming seclusion, stay put in your villa – every room has a private pool. Or if you're feeling sociable, take a dip in the family-friendly outdoor swimming pool – it's a glittering infinity-edged jewel perched at the tip of the island, with a few artfully placed palm trees sprouting elegantly from the water. It's right next to the equally alluring turquoise sea… but closer to the bar, so handier for summoning cocktails. Make sure you visit at night, when it's lit up with myriad twinkling lights.
The vast Joali Spa by Espa redefines all island-sanctuary clichés. Check in to one of its eight treatment rooms for a Balinese massage, perhaps, or escape to the hammam. For a couples' treat, head to the private overwater treatment room.
Bring your most subtly chic 'this old thing?' kaftan to throw casually over your swimwear.
Expect peaceful skies: Joali is a no-drone zone.
All ages are welcome, and there's an outdoor playground and plenty of lawn space for young guests to run around (bagsy a spot in the treehouse). Babysitting and activities for little Smiths can be arranged, and there's baby-monitoring kit to borrow.
Joali has dreamed up every kind of island adventure for little Smiths. As well as snorkelling, water-skiing and dhoni rides, there are organised treasure hunts with maps and clues, cooking lessons, story-telling time and children’s spa treatments.
Babies and up.
For ultimate seclusion, the family beach villa has two pools, a private beach garden and a dining area.
All villas have private infinity pools.
No trees were harmed in the making of Joali: the hotel was just built around them (you’ll find palms poking out of unlikely spots, like the deep end of the infinity pool). All 13 pieces in Joali’s immersive art collection are carefully chosen as comments on the crucial issue of conservation in the Maldives. The villas are constructed from sustainable and eco-friendly materials like local timber and bamboo, the island is single-use plastic free, and there’s a water distilling plant and glass bottle crusher on-site. Joali also has a resident marine biologist, Sam, who works to protect the marine life and reef ecosystems. Joali regularly donates to NGOs including the Olive Ridley Project (to protect sea turtles and their habitats), Women in Tech Maldives (to celebrate women in STEM and support girls education) and Zero Waste Maldives (to reduce fabric waste by repurposing or upcycling clothes).
Artist Porky Hefer’s Manta Ray sculpture doubles as a treehouse restaurant for eight.
Go barefoot and sandy at Mura and Vandhoo; don something that makes you feel fruity at Bellinis. Rattle your jewellery at Saoke.
There are five restaurants at Joali and none require a reservation, so let your whims guide you. Belly up to the breezy Mura bar for all-day snacks like lobster rolls, pides and roasted pumpkin salads. Open-air beach restaurant Vandhoo serves Asian-fusion and Maldivian dishes. The slightly smarter Bellinis is all-out Italian (opt for the fatta in casa Mozzarella starter). Tuh’u dishes up Levant cuisine – try Turkish salads, Mediterranean platters, Syrian slow-cooked leg of lamb and an extensive list of Persian kebabs. And then, at the end of its own jetty, you’ll find Saoke, serving sushi and teppanyaki on low-lit kotatsu tables (the black cod melts in your mouth). La Joie will keep kids fuelled with artisanal chocolate and ice-cream, ready for their next Swiss Family Robinson adventure (hopefully no tigers).
The colonial interiors of the Whiskey and Cigar Lounge are the stuff of Wes Anderson’s dreams, and their expertly-made negronis will guarantee you don’t remember yours. Mura Bar sometimes hosts live bands for your evening entertaiment.
You'll breakfast 7am–10.30am, at Vandhoo. Lunch is served at Mura Beach from noon to 3.30pm, and dinner in each restaurant start at 7pm.
With Joali’s ‘destination dining’ concept, you’re invited to choose any alluring spot on the island for a moonlit dinner.
You need a transfer to reach this hotel. For approximate costs, see location information
Joali is on its own private island, Muravandhoo, in the Raa Atoll.
You’ll be greeted by Joali staff at Male International Airport and taken to the private lounge. The seaplane from Male to Joali takes 45 minutes; return transfers are from around USD$800 for guests aged 12 and over, around USD$400 for little Smiths aged 2–11 and free for younger kiddos.
Where you're going, you don't need roads.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s not much to do beyond Joali’s boundaries… but there’s no need to leave, either. The private beach is probably your first port of call – you'll cross it on arrival by seaplane, for a start, but you'll soon be drawn back by the soft white sands and enticing turquoise sea (the gentle waters are perfect for water babies, too). Between delectable dining at the five excellent restaurants, perhaps the spoiling spa and free Turkish hammam beckons? With its extensive menu of treatments, the outdoor spa pool, steam room and sauna, you can while away plenty of days within its heavenly confines… but if that all sounds like not enough work, hit the well-equipped gym with a personal trainer or sign up for a pilates class. (There are tennis courts at hand, too, if you're feeling competitive.)
There are treasure hunts, etc, laid on for adventurous children at Joali's kids' club, and equally enticing activities for grown ups, too: follow the Art Map, join a workshop in the Art Studio,explore the Nemo-filled house reef with the in-house marine biologist, or brave the heat in the teaching kitchen. But back to that beauty of a beach… Joali is a watersports wonderland. Grab some snorkelling kit, a jet ski, some paddle boards and off you go. To the sea!
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this design destination in the Maldives and unpacked their handmade beads from Joali’s boutique, a full account of their island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Joali in the Maldives...
A friendly butler in pink linen hands you a frozen red velvet cupcake. The arrival jetty looks like a giant wave. Is that a manta ray suspended in the palms? For a moment you suspect you’ve ingested hallucinogens, but actually you’ve just arrived at Joali, the resort bringing art-world credentials to the islands.
Though it has all the requisite Maldivian charms – pristine white sand, crystal waters, overwater villas with private infinity pools – Joali also delights in the unexpected (not many resorts here boast a roster of international artists and a big-name curator). By all means, remain entirely horizontal and indulge your castaway fantasies… but if you’re feeling inspired, tap into Joali’s creative spirit with art classes, flower-arranging, dhoni excursions and swimming after manta rays with Sam, the resident marine biologist. And while playful about most things, Joali is serious about food. There are four restaurants, but our favourite is the fresh-caught fare at Japanese joint, Saoke.