Swap grey drizzly skies for pristine beaches and Listerine-blue water at this exclusive private island resort in the Maldives. Each suite comes ready and waiting for you – complete with a private pool, butler service and unobstructed views of the Indian Ocean. What more could you ask for from this ultimate winter sun destination?
Imagine you’re dropped on a desert island, among swaying coconut palms and a calm turquoise lagoon. However, rather than a Tom Hanks-style Castaway experience, you’re greeted with a five-star oceanfront villa. Add in gourmet dining, endless glasses of champagne and a guests-only beach and this is exactly what you’ll find at Naladhu: an intimate resort on its own private island in the South Malé Atoll, just a 30-minute boat ride from Velana International Airport.
While honeymooners have long coveted this Indian Ocean archipelago, a trip here isn’t just for newlyweds. It’s a place where you can retreat with your partner or family for a week of much-needed winter sun in paradise. Time for you to switch off your phone and actually read those books gathering dust on your bedside table.
As you step off the boat, the first thing you’ll notice is how quiet it is; the island is entirely car-free. We were greeted by Aslam, our personal butler or kuwaanu – translating as “storyteller” in Dhivehi, the Maldivian language. After handing us an ice-cold coconut still in its husk, he whisked us along through the palm trees to our Ocean House – one of 19 on the island.
Palatial is the only way to describe the rooms at Naladhu. Each house boasts an enormous super king-sized bed, a private infinity pool and a swing on the terrace overlooking the tumbling waves – ready to lull you to sleep at night. Slide open the bathroom doors and you’ll find a freestanding bath overlooking the pool and the Indian Ocean beyond – plus an outdoor shower, bedecked with hibiscus, of course. No need to worry about privacy here – each suite is entirely secluded, so you can comfortably swim naked in your private pool. Bringing kids along for the trip? Book the Two Bedroom Pool Residence with its own 20m (65ft) beach.
Despite its remote location, there’s everything you might expect from a five-star resort – think luxury speedboat transfers from the airport, private beach cabanas, 24/7 meals and a plethora of activities. It’s easy to see why this hotel was named one of the Top 10 Best Resorts in the World in the Condé Nast Traveler 2021 Readers’ Choice Awards. Yet, the thing that really sets Naladhu apart is the desert island feel. With only 20 residences on the island, you’ll hardly see a soul all week – expect to find the white sand beach and crystalline lagoon blissfully empty.
At the heart of the offerings here is the Living Room – the only restaurant on Naladhu. The no menu concept means executive chef Philippe Wagenfuhrer will whip up anything you desire – whether it’s Eggs Benedict for breakfast or a succulent Wagyu steak at dinner. Mind gone blank? They’ll slip you a menu if you need. Make sure you try the fresh-off-the-boat Maldivian lobster – followed by the decadent chocolate lava cake.
While it’s tempting to oscillate between the villa pool and sun lounger, it would be a crime to miss out on seeing the wildlife here.
“There are still things every day that make me realize how special this place is,” says Giles Selves, the general manager of Naladhu. “Like seeing six black-tip reef sharks swimming together or a turtle popping up in the lagoon.”
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, book the snorkelling with nurse sharks. Got the Jaws theme tune creeping into your head? Don’t fret – while they can reach up to 4.2m (14ft) in length, these sharks are harmless. Alternatively, ask the team to organise a picnic on Gulhifushi – a tiny spit of sand, just minutes away by boat. It’s the best place for snorkelling within the resort. Back on dry land, there’s plenty to keep fitness fanatics happy. Start your day with a personal training session in the coconut grove, followed by a massage in the intimate spa. More adventurous travellers can go jet skiing, flyboarding or learn to surf in the lagoon.
Don’t feel like you’re just confined to Naladu, though – there are two neighbouring islands to explore (Anantara Dhigu and Veli), boasting seven restaurants and bars, a yoga studio, plus the Dhoni kids’ club and a rainbow array of family-friendly activities. Unlike Dhigu and Veli, however, Naladhu offers personalised service that goes above and beyond – courtesy of the kuwaanus, whether that’s delivering a floating breakfast to your room or preparing a petal-filled bath on return from your surf trip.
Time is hard to grasp on Naladhu. Before you know it, you’ll be packing your bikini and flip flops away, ready to board your speedboat ride to reality. Yes, the Maldives is expensive. Yes, it requires you to endure a long flight halfway across the world. However, once you arrive on Naladhu, it’s easy to forget that anything else exists – even if it’s just for a week.
You can book a stay at Naladhu Private Island with Culture Trip right now. At the time of writing, prices start from $1,485 per night (£1,120) on a bed and breakfast basis for two persons sharing an Ocean House.