Maldives

Maafushivaru, a Standout Among Small Hotels in the Maldives

If you’ve ever began to plan a trip to the Maldives, you’ll know that selecting which tiny tropical isle you will visit can be a dizzying task. Many islands tout the iconic fine white sands and bright azure waters that make the Maldives so sought-after. Maafushivaru stood out to me, though. With a small island feel, and big resort amenities, this private island strikes a rare balance in these sandy atolls.

Property Highlight: Maafushivaru owns a second island just across the channel, Lonubo — a bright and lush haven. A complimentary shuttle takes guests across and back three times per day. Pro tip: Go during sunset and enjoy cocktails on a traditional Maldivian dhoni boat-turned-bar on the beach! The island is also available to rent overnight privately for an additional charge.

After a quite choppy speedboat transfer from across the lagoon at Drift Retreat, docking at Maafushivaru was a relief. Walking down the dock, my initial impression was of the size of the crystalline lagoon, which extends generously past the end of the dock of the water villas. This vast expanse of water tended to have more waves splashing onto the shore, the size perfect for playing in.

When we were shown to our water villa, I had to promptly retrieve my jaw from the floor when I saw the gorgeous floor-to ceiling window in our room, which gave a panoramic view of the lagoon, and silhouettes of other distant islands. Styled in mod, monochrome fashion, the water villas boast high wooden ceilings, which, paired with the massive window lend to the feeling that you are aboard a boat, right over the water. Truly a beautiful way to wake up!

The deck was modestly sized, but had space for two loungers and a outdoor couch. Notably, our deck at Maafushivaru was completely private and could not be seen from the path or from other bungalows (other than by other guests who happen to snorkel by). A set of metal stairs led down into the lagoon, which was a fair amount deeper than at Drift Retreat; up to my chest at low tide, and deep enough for a cannonball off the deck at high tide! At Maafushivaru, the more private side of the bungalows faces sunset, away from the island, for those seeking solitude.

As alluded to before, Maafushivaru has a small island feel, with only 48 rooms in total. Over half of these can be found adjacent to the beach that rings the entire island. The sands are perfectly powdery, and waters are incredibly pure, with many deeper lagoons that remain wonderful swimming holes even at low tide! Of note, all of the beach loungers are first come first serve, to allow for water villa guests to nab a beach nap as well. The island never felt crowded, as many guests enjoy the privacy of their water villas during the day, so there was never issue finding a place to relax. Additionally, Maafushivaru has a rectangular turquoise infinity pool, overlooking the sand and water villas.

The highlight of our stay at Maafushivaru, however, and the reason I would not hesitate to say that it exceeded my expectations was Lonubo, a private sister island. Lonubo is a petite dense oval of palms across the channel from Maafushivaru. They limit the number of guests who head over with each boat shuttle to about two dozen, but signing up was simple on an iPad system they have set up in the lobby. You can head over in the morning, at mid-day, or for sunset. Naturally, my husband and I did all 3 time slots to experience this gem as much as possible!

Sunset is a time that cannot be missed on Lonubo, as they open up a sunset bar aboard a dhoni moored on the beach. It was our most magical night at Maafushivaru, and even more incredibly, there was only one other couple who were on our excursion! That couple chose to snorkel during their time on the island, so I was in the enviable position of enjoying a sunset deck on a private island with a mojito with just my husband at my side. Truly, one of the most remarkably romantic travel experiences we have had thus far.

Dining at Maafushivaru is mainly a buffet setup, with a la carte options available upon request. The healthy and vegetarian options available are less abundant than I would have preferred, especially at dinnertime, however, the food was far from short on flavor! I especially loved their eggplant curry, and have since tried (and failed) to emulate it at home. The other dining option that we tried was 135 East, a contemporary Japanese restaurant offering both sushi and dishes prepared on the teppan. Accomodating only 3 couples for teppanyaki, 135 East is an intimate experience I will not soon forget. We finished our meal with the fluffiest green tea pancake I have ever tasted, complete with mango and coconut syrups to adorn it! Truly decadent.

Service at Maafushivaru is par for what you would expect from a luxury hotel. Though a slightly larger size for my personal preference (48 rooms), staff were keen to create a personalized experience for their guests. I’m not sure of his name, but the bartender manning the sunset bar on Lonubo was fantastic to talk to, and had wonderful service as well!

Maafushivaru has the distinct advance of being a hotel that is two islands in one, a feature that makes it stand out among its competitors. As almost any Maldivian island, Maafushivaru remains a splurge for most, but is a location worthy of a resplendent honeymoon or special celebration. As for me, I’m currently working on deciding what to celebrate so I can return!

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