Lagoon Life

Published 30 May 2017   

Hurawalhi, the newest adults-only resort to open in the Indian Ocean playground of the Maldives, combines tropical elegance with world-class service and an enviable locale, discovers Nick Walton.

Text: NICK WALTON Photos: Hurawalhi Maldives Resort

The aerial view of Hurawalhi

No matter how many times I travel to the Maldives, I’m always mesmerized, by the colour of the coral seas, the intricate pattern of the submerged atolls viewed from a seaplane, the sense of wonder as you skim across warm waters towards an island paradise. It’s what draws travellers back to the Indian Ocean archipelago time and time again. All that magic can be found at the nation’s newest hideaway, Hurawalhi, a clutch of 90 beach and overwater bungalows set against breathtaking house reefs in the heart of the Lhavivyani Atoll.

In a growing trend in the region, Hurawalhi only welcomes guests from 15 years and up, meaning you won’t have to share your romantic escape with everyone else’s ‘little darlings’; and what an escape it promises to be, thanks to brilliant, infinitely-cheerful staff, gourmet dining, and lavish accommodation.

The first touch of Hurawalhi, that guests enjoy is a dedicated lounge located at the seaplane terminal in Male. The resort is a 40-minute flight from the international airport, and guests prepare for their escape with fresh coffee and views across the bustling seaplane port. Upon arrival at Hurawalhi, the newest hideaway by Maldivian hotel group Crown & Champa Resorts, guests are met by traditional Maldivian drummers and guest services staff who guide them to their accommodation, which ranges from spacious Ocean Villas, some with private plunge pools, to sumptuous Beach Villas, while briefing them on all the amenities on offer. Hurawalhi offers an all-inclusive option, which approximately 50 percent of guests opt for, covering all meals, beverages, minibars, and selected activities. It’s a hassle-free way to make the most of your stay in paradise.

The stunning Canneli restaurant

My Ocean Villa features a vaulted ceiling, an expansive sun deck with direct lagoon access, a 48-inch flatscreen television, a minibar and wine fridge packed with all sorts of included goodies, and a heavenly king-sized bed dressed in refined linens that I melt into each evening. For many guests the villa is where they spend much of their holiday, and I can completely understand such seclusion; with azure seas beckoning, plenty of privacy, and villa attendants on call 24 hours a day, each space is the perfect escape from hectic urban life. But don’t get too comfortable, there’s plenty more to see.

Hurawalhi has everything you’d expect from a luxury Maldivian resort, from a tennis court, games room, and a comprehensive water sports center with hobbie cats, wake boarding and jet skis; to a resident marine biologist; and an outpost of Prodive for those who like to explore below the waves – and you should, as the resort is ringed by a fascinating and vibrant house reef allowing divers to access the sea directly from one of the resort piers. But as a haven cast in the middle of the sprawling archipelago, Hurawalhi really sets itself apart with its innovative dining.

The 5.8 Undersea Restaurant

The crowning venue of Hurawalhi has to be 5.8 Undersea Restaurant, which, as the name suggests, is submerged below the gently lapping waves of the lagoon. Underwater venues are not a new thing in the Maldives but 5.8 Undersea Restaurant has refined the concept; imaginative, insightful multi-course tasting menus are presented to just 12 guests each night, with tables set beneath a mezmerising canopy of aqua blue water packed with colourful and inquisitive reef fish. As we dine on the intriguing wine-paired menu of shy German chef de cuisine Bjoern van den Oever, a veteran of leading Michelin-starred kitchens, angel, butterfly and even puffer fish meander through the coral gardens beyond the glass, their aquatic home taking on an inky hue as the daylight fades six meters above our heads.

For diners who prefer a less aquatic dining experience, Aquarium Restaurant is located above 5.8, on a pier that reaches out into the lagoon, and serves a contemporary menu of delectable Asian-inspired dishes laced with organic ingredients and complemented by an intimate Teppanyaki bar. At the other end of the resort, the Champagne Pavilion is the perfect spot for utterly romantic sunsets, enjoyed over a chilled bottle of bubbles, while Coco Bar, adjacent to the resort’s infinity pool, is the heart of the property and offers a comprehensive menu of sharing-style bar snacks and tiki-esque cocktails, most which are included in the all-inclusive menu.

Snorkeling in the Indian Ocean

Beyond, most meals are served in the stunning Canneli restaurant, a shrine to great dining complete with an international buffet, al fresco dining, crisp yet friendly service, and live cooking stations. The diversity of fresh, contemporary dishes prepared by New Zealand executive chef Shannon Batten is remarkable, especially considering how remote his kitchens are from suppliers. If you’re really looking to kindle the fires of love, the culinary team can also set up a private candle lit dinner on the beach or send you off to nearby Dream Island for a private picnic.

If fine dining and jaw-dropping vistas aren’t enough to sweep you from urban drudgery, then head to the Duniye Spa, a chic citadel to pampering located over the waters of the lagoon. Here a host of Asian-inspired treatments, using Healing Earth organic products, are conducted by a team of experienced therapists in beautifully-appointed spa suites – be sure to leave time for a spot of serenity in the relaxation lounge, located above the spa reception and boasting views of the lagoon that will have you falling in love with the Maldives all over again.

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