Even at the swishest of beach resorts, it’s not often you have the run of your own tropical island – but at Milaidhoo Island, it’s as if it’s all yours from shore to shore. Set in the Unesco-protected, reef-fringed Baa Atoll, this cleverly designed hotel will make you feel like you really are miles from anywhere (including other guests). Each private villa – either by the beach or perched on stilts above the water – comes with its own infinity pool and sun-dappled terrace; some are so secluded they even have an outdoor shower. If you can bear to drag yourself away (we know, it’s difficult) the rest of Milaidhoo’s considerable offering is on your doorstep: three restaurants, a glittering main pool, a sandy-floored bar and dolphin-spotting tours await.
Get this when you book through us:
A 90-minute Maldivian cooking class for two at the Shoreline Grill, followed by lunch
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £1145.38 ($1,497), 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 (a buffet of home-made bread and pastries, fruit salad, yoghurt and porridge) at Ocean.
The hotel has a coral ‘adoption’ programme (part of its conservation scheme), where guests can choose a reef, plant it, and then watch it grow over the years. Aim even higher (literally) with the Milaidhoo’s honeymoon package, which includes a real star named after the newlyweds.
At the hotel
Dive centre; yoga pavilion; watersports (kayaking, windsurfing, catamarans, paddle boards, snorkelling); free WiFi; laundry service. In rooms: flatscreen TV; DVD player; iPod dock; air-conditioning; private pool; minibar (with a free bottle of champagne on arrival); tea- and Nespresso coffee-making facilities; Acqua di Parma bath products; Jacuzzi (in Beach Residences only).
Our favourite rooms
Milaidhoo's rooms are classically decorated with every conceivable luxury, including a private infinity pool. If we had to choose, the Beach Residence just clinches it: set right on the powder-soft sand, these huge, thatched-roof villas open up all along one side, so you can make the most of the sunshine. After dark, slip into the Jacuzzi for late-night soaking with a cocktail in hand.
The unheated infinity pool has sunloungers on one side and panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. There’s the Compass Pool Bar too, which serves fresh juices and cocktails throughout the day. If you get peckish, there’s also a menu of wood-fired pizzas, bento boxes, sandwiches and salads.
Choose from an extensive menu of treatments in the traditional, thatched-roof spa, with its open-air yoga pavilion and four overwater treatment rooms. Treatments use TheraNaka products enriched with African plants and minerals, said to have natural healing properties. Try the couples’ spa retreat, which combines a creamy coconut scrub with a bubble bath, hour-long massage and 30-minute facial.
Milaidhoo’s so romantic, you may never leave your room – pack some sexy silk pyjamas for suite-lounging. Boys, bring your best swimming trunks: the competition round the pool is fierce for the brightest, boldest prints and patterns.
Children under nine aren’t allowed at Milaidhoo. While you can bring tweens and teens, this is more suited to Smiths on a romantic getaway.
The hotel has plenty of eco-friendly measures in place, including a water plant and a coral-regeneration programme. The team also works with local charities such as MantaMatcher and the Manta Trust, who protect the native manta rays.
Go for the table at the prow in Ba'theli; at the Captain’s Table at the Shoreline Grill; on the sun-soaked deck at Ocean.
Floaty kaftans, silky dresses and minimal jewellery will work well at the low-key restaurants (remember to leave out the heels, as it’s a barefoot resort). Mr Smith will look the part in a pastel linen shirt – preferably with a golden tan…
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to dining options at Milaidhoo, which has three restaurants: Ba'theli by the Reef, the Shoreline Grill and Ocean. The real scene-stealer is Ba'theli – set on three interlinked traditional fishing boats in the sparkling lagoon, where chef Ahmed Siwath serves up modern Maldivian fare, from smoked tuna with crispy banana blossom to coconut sambal. At the Shoreline Grill, situated on the sand beneath the shade of thatched pavilions, the chefs (led by the superb Suresh Kumara) will simply ask what meat or seafood you like, before whipping up a simple-yet-perfect dish. Ocean has seating both inside and on the sea-facing deck, which has an enormous banyan tree growing in its centre. The à la carte menu – created by chef Jayadi – is a mixture of local and international dishes.
Ba'theli Lounge is open every evening, and is the ideal spot for sunset views and wickedly good champagne cocktails – try the one muddled with lychee and mango. The sandy Compass Pool Bar is open all day, but it really comes into its own after dark: kick back in one of the hanging egg-chairs with a cocktail (the bartenders – all of whom have extensive mixology training – make a mean Negroni) and challenge your other half to traditional wooden board games. As you’d expect, there are wonderful vistas of the candlelit pool, but it’s the views for miles across the Indian Ocean that take centre stage.
Ba'theli by the Reef and the Shoreline Grill are open from 7pm–10.30pm. Ocean is open from 7am–10.30pm (breakfast is served until 10.30am). Compass Pool Bar serves drinks from 9am–11pm and food from noon–6pm. Ba'theli Lounge is open from 5pm–10.30pm.
A full menu of sushi, salads, burgers, sandwiches and local seafood is available round the clock. Well, you never know when you may fancy home-made ice-cream at 4am…
You need a transfer to reach this hotel. For approximate costs, see location information
Located in the Unesco-protected Baa Atoll, Milaidhoo is a tiny private island (it measures just 180 metres by 300 metres) close to Hanifaru Bay, 126 kilometres north-west of Malé.
Most international carriers fly to Malé International (Sri Lankan Airlines operates regular, direct flights from the UK). From here, you’ll need to get a seaplane to the island – the flight takes 35 minutes and is organised by the hotel; just let them know your arrival time two days before departure. Return flights cost $700 for adults, $500 for children aged 9–11, including taxes. Private seaplanes can also be arranged on request; just call our Smith24 team and they'll happily arrange flights and transfers.
The resort is completely car- and bike-free, so you’ll need to pad about barefoot to get to the restaurants, pool and bar.
If you’re arriving at Malé International after 3.30pm, you’ll need to get a 15-minute domestic flight to Dharavandhoo Airport followed by a 15-minute speedboat ride to Milaidhoo. Again, the hotel will organise everything for you, so let them know when your flight arrives. Return flights plus speedboat transfers cost $700 (adults), $500 (children aged 9–11), including taxes.
Worth getting out of bed for
Visit the hotel’s five-star PADI dive centre, where dips will introduce you to the coral reef that fringes the island, its resident manta rays and countless shoals of tropical fish. If there just aren’t enough hours in the day for all your underwater exploits, fluoro night dives can be arranged for the adventurous. The really curious can take part in the ‘be a marine biologist’ programme, where you can shadow the local biologists and the work they do to maintain the reef and wildlife. For those who’d rather keep their heads above water, there are windsurfing boards, catamarans, paddle boards and kayaks with which to explore the deep blue briny. There’s plenty to occupy you on Milaidhoo, but if the urge to discover new lands overtakes you, the hotel can organise excursions: head to nearby islands to visit traditional Maldivian villages; sail to a deserted sandbank for a romantic picnic à deux; or try one of the dolphin-spotting, champagne- and caviar-fuelled sunset cruises.
The year Mr Smith and I got married was explosive. It was one of those years that changes you forever – a truly humbling experience of a year. So, we decided that when we’d tied the knot we’d say goodbye to it all with a week-long honeymoon at the opposite end of the world: the Maldives fit the bill. Quite literally – it takes you 23 hours, with two plane transfers and one island hop to reach its magical isles from our concrete NYC jungle. But, to find a place that gives you the opportunity to reflect, refocus without distraction, and let it all go, you have to endure an epic journey. We had no idea just how deeply transformative our experience at Milaidhoo – a small, understatedly luxurious Maldivian island, with the biggest heart – would be. Picking a hotel in the Maldives is a daunting task. There are seemingly hundreds of choices, and they all try to woo you with the same beautiful overwater villas with infinity pools, endless buffets, clear waters, and overflowing rum cocktails. It’s important to understand that where you stay will be your whole world for the length of your trip, as each hotel is an entire island. Hopping from island to island to try the ‘hot new restaurant’ of the moment is not an option. You are committed, for better or worse, in sickness, and in health, to your hotel. So, choose wisely.
Milaidhoo first caught our eyes as we were casually swiping through hotels in a process not dissimilar to ‘online dating’. As we continued our quest, it started to become as clear as the Maldivian waters that Milaidhoo was special. Starting with our Internet-enabled long-distance relationship, we fell in love with the hotel’s humanity. Our email inquiries were responded to not just speedily, but with humour and compassion; hotel coordinator Shaibaan, who couldn’t wait to greet us, replied in a warm enthusiastic style. He answered our countless questions, and made us feel like we had already checked in. And so, at confirmation of how inclusive their gourmet meal plan actually was, along with a heart emoji and ‘can’t wait to see you’ from Shaibaan, we fell hook, line and sinker. We booked. While planning our arrival on the island Shaibaan continued to be incredibly helpful. He suggested how we could balance our restaurant reservations – after all, they have three to choose from, and two bars – so you don’t have the same dinner experience twice over a 10-day stay, and he booked all our activities in advance. By the time we actually set foot on the island after 26 hours of travel there was nothing left for us to do except remove our shoes and leave them in the villa for the remainder of the trip.
Now, not all the journey was tedious flight juggling, the last part was completed on Milaidhoo’s luxury yacht, a vessel straight from a Bond movie, that sails you to the island from their flight deck. We were greeted on board by the wonderful hotel manager, boat crew, and our island host Ihu (every villa has one). We quickly learned, he was our key to the island, and the only person we needed to speak to throughout our stay. A Maldivian resident from the island next to Milaidhoo, Ihu taught us more about the country and culture than anyone else, and made us feel like the Maldives was where we truly belonged. From the second we set foot onto land, Ihu made sure we were comfortable, and, tired and cranky as we were, we weren’t the easiest pair of newlyweds to handle. Mr Smith was suffering from a severe case of ‘hanger’ and if we didn’t feed him something immediately, I was scared we were going to have a Frankenstein situation on our hands. But, we didn’t have to worry, of course, because there’s never any reason to worry at Milaidhoo, ever. Within minutes, Ihu had loaded us onto a golf cart and was driving to our new go-to: the Compass Pool Bar. He introduced us to the staff, said his goodbyes and left to drop our belongings off in our villa, leaving Mr Smith and I to enjoy an array of beachy bar food, toes in the sand, wine in hand, gazing out over a seemingly endless infinity pool that blended seamlessly into the Indian Ocean. That was the moment we truly felt we had arrived. Now, the fun part – getting to know Milaidhoo’s nooks and crannies. After our late lunch Ihu gave us a tour of the resort, pointing out different flowers, resident fruit bats (yes, fruit bats, who the staff refer to as ‘friends’), and where to pick up snorkelling gear, and showed us where to find the best reefs. There’s no shortage of things to do if you choose to keep busy – but why would you when you can do absolutely nothing at all in the most beautiful place on earth?
The tour ended at our villa, which was breathtaking, and expansive. In the middle of our private paradise was a king-size bed facing a generously sized deck with multiple loungers, a swinging day-bed, outdoor shower and private infinity pool, lit up with its own starry night. And there was a private ladder leading straight into the ocean. The room interior is clean and modern, decorated in pale blue and white, and the bathroom boasts double sinks and a standalone bath tub littered with Acqua di Parma products. The shower had a glass floor, so you could watch manta rays as you wash. (Mr Smith and I both spotted rays, and about a dozen other colorful fish just while using the bathroom.) After unpacking, we opened the bottle of champagne that greeted us, and took glasses out to our deck to watch our first Maldivian sunset, a sight that never disappoints.
We had one concern: the food. We live to eat, and fell in love over amazing meals and special culinary experiences, so the idea of being on an island with seemingly limited dining options was daunting. We were so, so wrong. Milaidhoo offered the best of both fine and beachy dining. We had a different experience each night, and every meal was perfect, from the way the food was prepared to the wine selection to the service. Even breakfast provided countless options (luxe buffet? Table service? Fresh smoothies and juice? Fruits that look like stars and dragons?) – we didn’t eat the same thing twice. The best advice I can give anyone who lives to eat and drink like we do is to add on Milaidhoo’s gourmet meal plan – it covers almost everything you’ll want to experience while on the island and isn’t limiting in the slightest. We dined at the Ocean Restaurant on our first night; our table was two feet away from the water, lit by floating paper flowers, and we ate freshly caught shellfish, perfectly cooked bowls of pasta and creamy desserts, with lots of wine.
The days started to blend together in the best possible way. We woke up, threw the glass doors open, and greeted the day. Our daily uniform was swimwear, and perhaps a linen scarf as a cover up (Milaidhoo gives one to all guests) – shoes optional. After breakfast, Mr Smith snorkelled, as I lazed on our villa’s day-bed. Later, Mr Smith met me for a midday cocktail after spotting barracuda, angelfish, and parrotfish in the reefs, and this became our daily routine. I wish I could describe, in detail, each dinner, but you’ll just have to trust me when I say they were all spectacular. One night, Ihu and his team surprised us with in-villa dining despite us not buying the ‘honeymoon package’. Our deck was lit by candles, strewn with flowers, and a table with lobster, steak, and much more was set. On another night we sat on the sand at the Shoreline Grill, in a two-person cabana, and enjoyed kobe beef flown in from Japan that day. And at Ba’theli, a restaurant set on a boat in a lagoon, we tried spicy Maldivian dishes.
But nothing compares to dinner on our last night: a sunset cruise to a sandbank dinner. At 6pm, Ihu picked us up from our villa and took us back to the yacht where he sat us on top of the boat, as they drove slowly past a backdrop of brilliant sunset, towards our own private sandbank, where a chef, server and open fire awaited us. There, on this sliver of sand, we felt so connected to each other and to this place, to the beach and stars… Watching the sky light up with stars after sunset, we feel like we’re at the centre of the universe. The setting is one we’ll never forget. It’s one we talk about when we’re overwhelmed, stressed or a bit sad. Yes, the food was amazing – but it was the glow of the sky at sunset, the real-life planetarium above, the hermit crabs scuttling at your feet, the quiet… You can’t imagine it until you’ve lived it.
Milhaidoo showed us how to appreciate just being alive, and everything around us, from the fruit bats (Ihu was right, by the end they were our friends, too), the smell of the lilies, the deep blue water, spotting a manta ray during lunch, the kindness of the staff and the simple beauty of the island. And, with that lesson learnt, after 10 days in absolute paradise we said our goodbyes (mine quite teary), and jetted back to Malé. But the trip wasn’t really over just yet, after such a transformative stay, Mr Smith and keep Milaidhoo with us, every day.