The Nautilus Maldives has all the hallmarks of honeymoon heaven: a private island with softly swaying palms, palatial overwater villas with brilliantly blue views and teeming marine life under the sparkling sea. But, you’ll soon find that this is ‘laidback luxury’ to a horizontal degree and the unscripted attitude gives you total freedom to dream up your days. Your sidekick in sybaritic scheming is your House Captain (that’s your private butler, ahem), who’ll email ahead to personalise your minibar, fix up watery excursions to bucket-list dive spots and uncannily intuit your passing whims faster than you can say, ‘piña colada, please’.
Get this when you book through us:
A US$100 resort credit to use each day (one a house)
Check-in is from 2pm and check-out is at noon. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £2484.34 ($3,234), including tax at 23.2 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of $6.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include an excellent cooked-to-order breakfast served daily at Thyme restaurant. There’s no need to set your alarm, though – if you miss it, you can order breakfast whenever and wherever you’d like.
There are daily sunrise and sunset yoga classes on the outdoor yoga pavilion, as well as a schedule of fitness and meditation sessions – you shouldn’t have trouble clearing your mind with the endless sea and sky as your backdrop. For the jetlag-afflicted, the gym – stuffed with state-of-the-art equipment – is open 24 hours.
At the hotel
Beach, house reef, pool, a flotilla of boats, dive centre, yacht, spa, steam room, yoga pavilion with daily yoga, meditation and fitness classes, 24-hour gym, free watersports gear (snorkels and masks, paddleboards and transparent kayaks), kids' club, free WiFi throughout and your own House Captain (personal butler). In rooms: private saltwater pool, furnished sundecks, free bottle of champagne on arrival, fruit bowl refilled daily, free laundry service (up to four pieces a day), TV with free on-demand movies, desk, air-conditioning, minibar, free bottled water, tea and coffee, black-out curtains.
Our favourite rooms
Let’s be clear, each of the 26 houses on the island are pinch-yourself slices of paradise – they all come with a private saltwater pool, a furnished sundeck, out-of-this-world ocean views and a private butler, so there’s absolutely no chance of picking a dud. However, we did lose our cool a little over the glass-bottomed living rooms in the Ocean Houses – it’s a beautiful thing when little Smiths totally lose interest in screens because the real Finding Nemo is playing beneath their feet. For a once-in-a-lifetime stay, it has to be the scene-stealing Nautilus Mansion, a literal sandcastle which was personally designed by the resort’s Maldivian owner as his platonic ideal of a beach house.
As well as the individual saltwater pools at every house, there’s also a family-friendly pool on the beach at the island’s edge. It’s dotted with cosy cabanas and sleek sunloungers – plus, you’re perfectly placed to take advantage of the gourmet canapés which are served all day at Naiboli pool bar. At night, you can watch the ‘Nautilus rising’, when the shell decal lights up and the pool is filled with a phosphorescent glow.
The soul-soothing Solasta spa is made up of three overwater treatment huts with glass bottoms, so you can watch tropical fish buzzing about through your massage chair. The extensive menu boasts skin-plumping facials, Ayurvedic mud scrubs and stress-busting massages. You can also mix and match treatments according to your mood. Bliss out afterwards in one of the relaxation lounges or the steam bath. For a supplement of $100, you can have any spa treatment in the privacy of your room; after-hours treatments (normal spa hours are 8am to 8pm), will be charged an additional 50 per cent.
An underwater camera… so you make like Man Ray among the Manta Rays at legendary dive spot Hanifaru Bay.
As the Nautilus is spread out and sandy, it’s unsuitable for wheelchair users.
All ages are very welcome and the resort lays on lots for littl'uns (so you can sneak off for Smith time).
Spotted a sparkly sandbank in the distance? Why not motor out there for a picnic à deux. Like Castaway, but with more champagne…
The food may be posh but the atmosphere here is anything but – even at upscale Zaytoun, you can rock up barefoot.
There are three restaurants, so the island is your freshly shucked oyster. Thyme has a sandy, beach-house ambience and laid-back fare – salads, burgers and fresh fish are served up daily. Step it up a notch with dinner at Ocaso, an indoor-outdoor grill that mixes up smoke-laden Japanese, Peruvian and Latin flavours to great effect. At the end of a long jetty, Zaytoun looks like a pirate ship’s prow and has proposal-worthy pods positioned over the lagoon. With views this gob-smacking, the food might play second fiddle, but chef Memo Vindas’ incredible indigenous dishes and Middle Eastern flavours hold their own admirably.
If you’re feeling peckish, the Naiboli pool bar serves free all-day deli bites as well as knee-weakening cocktails. Hide from the midday sun under a cosy cabana or swing from the rafters (elegantly) in a hanging basket chair.
The timings here are all fitted around you, so don’t fret about checking your watch.
From midnight snacks to crack-of-dawn cravings – you barely have to peep to be fed and watered.
You need a transfer to reach this hotel. For approximate costs, see location information
You’ll find the Nautilus on a Lilliputian private island (it’s just 250m across) in the Unesco-protected and reef-fringed Baa Atoll in the Maldives – a 30-minute hop by sea plane from Malé airport.
As soon as you touch down at Velana International airport in Malé, a Nautilus staff member will whisk you into the VIP lounge, take care of customs, immigration and collecting your luggage, then escort you to the sea plane (transfers are US$1650 a person) for the 30-minute hop to private-island paradise.
Worth getting out of bed for
Though your island base is only 250m across, the Nautilus is packed to the gills with diversions for water babies and lounge lizards alike. Start your morning mindfully with sunrise yoga or guided meditation on the overwater yoga pavilion, or hit the gym for a cardio hit. Then, flipper up for a snorkel around the pristine house reef where you’ll spot fluoro-coloured fish buzzing around the coral and maybe even a turtle or a manta ray. If the urge to venture into the deep blue yonder suddenly strikes, you’re in the right place – deep sea diving, boat trips to deserted islands and dozens of dive sites are all on the menu. The most famous spot in the Baa Atoll biosphere is Hanifaru Bay, where whale sharks are known to wander. Back on solid land, the Solasta spa will restore the sun-dazed and salty to luscious and lustrous in their glass-bottomed treatment huts which hover over the lagoon. Then, bring what’s left of your appetite (the free feast at Naiboli pool bar may have dented it a bit) to one of the three restaurants on the island for fresh, Med-inspired fare with a side of spectacular sunset and nary a shoe required.
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 barefoot and bohemian hotel in the Baa Atoll and unpacked their sun-bleached bikini and unworn shoes, a full account of their Indian Ocean break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Nautilus in the Maldives…
Rules? Where you’re going, you won’t need rules. That’s because the policy on this off-piste private island is ‘anything, anywhere, anytime’ – so feel free to take the restaurant menus as light suggestions, make up your own spa treatment according to your mood and go diving after dark with the resident marine biologist. Pancakes for dinner and a massage at midnight? Go on, you crazy cat. The carefree atmosphere will soon make you feel right at home. Speaking of home, you’ll be bedding down in one of just 26 palatial houses scattered across the island. Half are over-water and half are on the beach, but all of them have a private sundeck, a saltwater plunge pool and their sights set on those life-changing ocean views, which makes them very difficult to leave indeed. Not that anyone’s forcing you – if you prefer to play the role of hyper-private billionaire (or you actually are one), it would be easy to imagine the whole island is yours from shore to shore. Just let your butler know you’d like breakfast served on your sundeck (and get used to saying sentences like that now). If you do emerge from your hermit’s shell, you’ll find three brilliant, barefoot restaurants, a soul-soothing spa and more aquatic activities than you can shake a snorkel at.
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