It doesn’t take long after touching down in Malé to realize just how uptight we big city types are. I’m completely taken aback by our pilot casually flying the seaplane barefoot until I think with a laugh: “Because why not?” My final destination is the recently opened Vakkaru Maldives, where guests end up indulging in a level of luxury they’d be embarrassed to admit to back in the real world. Sure, there are countless upscale resorts in this South Asian archipelago, but this one’s special. Here are 13 reasons why – no pun intended.
If there’s one thing confirmed by the surreal aerial views encountered on the way to the property, it’s that first impressions don’t lie – everything about the landscape looks photoshopped. You’ll rack up just about the most stunning collection of photos to have ever taken up residence in your phone. Promise.
Gentle drumming, scented cold towels, fruity drinks, and smiling faces welcome guests, setting the tone for what’s to follow. The staff at Vakkaru hail from virtually every corner of the globe, bringing with them insights into the local culture and anecdotes about island life. Curious about what it’s like to live in a literal paradise on earth, we bombarded them with questions and learned about everything from ocean life to the merits of ASOS shipping to the Maldives.
Claim to Fame
Practically every five-star property in the archipelago boasts powder-soft white sand beaches and bluer-than-blue ocean views, but Vakkaru stands out because of its location within Baa Atoll, the only UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Maldives. This particular atoll is renowned for both its exceptional beauty and unique biodiversity – but more on that later.
Bonus: the hotel is located close to Thulhaadhoo, famed for being the only island where Maldivians still practice traditional ways to create lacquer artefacts that once catered exclusively to the country’s nobility. Today, guests can take either a dhoni or a speedboat to sail south to the island, explore local culture, and pick some up as souvenirs.
Get a Room
With 125 beach and overwater villas and suites on offer, there really is no such thing as a wrong choice. The former are nestled between lush foliage and towering coconut trees, which means both privacy and direct beach access is a given. The latter are set over the lagoon, designed to appease even the most discerning aquaphile.
Admittedly, we’re biased towards the overwater villas – complete with floating hammocks and an outdoor shower – after experiencing both. Few things in life compare to staring out into a seemingly endless abyss of turquoise blue while a mild breeze and the sound of waves results in a state of abject serenity.
Details, Details, Details
What both types of accommodation have in common is a soothing, understated color palette and upscale extras, but what first caught our eye were all the natural elements that add an earthy feel – think: wooden décor accents, cork wall art, rattan lamp shades, rope-wrapped pillars, and more. As for those extras? The expression “embarrassment of riches” comes to mind.
Butler service, his and her vanity kits, Appelles Apothecary & Lab amenities, a Bang & Olufsen ‘Beolit 17’ bluetooth speaker, and gourmet minibar snacks by the likes of Mother Meg’s, Torres and Pariya. Your in-villa iPad will handle everything from closing the curtains and adjusting the temperature to weather reports, mood lighting, and even opening the front door – because why leave your bed for such things when you’re on holiday?
The island of Vakkaru was once a coconut plantation – in fact, the word vakkaru in the Dhivehi language translates to ‘coconut’. Today, the presence of nearly 1,500 swaying coconut trees makes for a lush pocket of land, inspiring everything from spa treatments to unmissable mocktails (the ‘Coconut Kiss’ is a must-try).
Over at Merana Spa, the ‘Vakkaru Signature Journey’ comes highly recommended, and for good reason. You’ll start by helping to create your own scrub before losing all sense of time during a 180-minute ritual that entails an exfoliating coconut-sugar body polish, a relaxing full-body massage using coconut shells, and a nourishing coconut milk bath. Did we mention the glass floor on which all this is going on? A word to the wise: the combination of expertly trained human hands and gently heated coconut shells simultaneously tending to your stiff muscles is a sensation everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.
Yes, floating breakfasts are a thing at Vakkaru – we just had to get that out of the way first. Between the overwhelming breakfast spread at Amaany, Italian favorites at Isoletta, absurdly fresh and flawlessly prepared seafood at Vakku, Asian fare done right at Onu, and afternoon tea at Lagoon Bar, chances are that you’ll be stuffed and satiated at any given hour of your stay.
It’s not everyday that you’re in a locale as idyllic as the Maldives, so we suggest taking one night for the Table Under the Stars dining experience. Few resorts in the Maldives highlight local cuisine with as much consideration as Vakkaru, so our vote goes to the ‘Journey to the Maldives’ menu. Everything about this luxurious experience is customizable, so you can dine in your garden, on your deck, on the beach, or even on a remote sandbank – true story.
Here and Now
Vakkaru’s (many) offerings are complemented by specially curated pop-ups, and the resort has already welcomed MasterChef Marcel Thiele to host a series of dining experiences and cooking classes centered around what he calls the “Mother Earth Principle”, celebrity trainer Yasmin Karachiwala for a Hack Your 21st Century Digitised Body retreat, and Head Pastry Chef of Harrods London Alistair Birt for a journey into all things chocolate. Next up? Leading fashion illustrator and author Megan Hess will launch Claris: Bonjour Riviera, her third book in the ‘Claris’ collection, at Vakkaru next month.
Mint, sweet basil, curry leaves, and lemongrass are amongst the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that we spotted in Vakkaru’s organic farm, explaining why just about everything we dined on was so fresh. The moral of this story? The Farm to Table Experience is a must-do for those who enjoy cooking.
Not only will the resort’s Head Gardener guide you through the produce grown in the garden – potent local chilis included – but you’ll also learn how to create a handful of popular dishes from a curated menu of your choice. We’ll have to insist that you opt for the Onu menu – learning how to make that decadent ‘Pandan Crème Brûlée’ alone is worth it.
The many green initiatives at Vakkaru are worthy of a closer look, so we’re taking a moment to pause and praise them. It serves locally caught fish, relies on onsite water-treatment technology and reusable glass bottles, grows organic produce to reduce food miles, maintains a reef cleaning and plantation program, and offers complimentary presentations on marine life.
What touched us most, however, was the note that discreetly accompanied our booking confirmation letter. Vakkaru is actively sourcing educational material for the local school, and invites guests to donate children’s books for the cause.
Wellness is a big part of the resort’s DNA, with everything from yoga, mat pilates, and Muay Thai boxing to sound therapy and painting sessions tending to body, mind, and soul. But if dolce far niente is more your motto, we suggest downloading the SkyView Lite app to do a little stargazing, taking a stroll on the beach, or photographing those legendary sunsets until your phone runs out of storage. It’s wonders what a jaunt to the Maldives can do for your mental health – this, we can vouch for.
“There’s nothing to do in the Maldives,” are words we hear constantly, which – in our opinion – is the whole point of heading there for a time out. But if you absolutely had to wake up to a daily itinerary during your trip, consider it done. Coconut Club houses table tennis, foosball, billiards, boardgames, and some of most gorgeous Assouline coffee table books in existence under one roof.
Step outside and you can choose from offerings like shisha, a pool, live music, belly dancing, and beach volleyball. There are also two floodlit, all-weather tennis courts on the property, and your butler will even arrange a playing partner if you need one – solo travel has never been this luxe.
But considering much of Vakkaru’s appeal lies in its location, the water is where it’s at. Kayaking, wakeboarding, windsurfing, parasailing, snorkeling – the usual suspects and so much more are on offer at Splash. Not only do the PADI courses cater to all skill levels, but nitrox (or enriched air) tanks are also up for grabs.
Both the sunset cruises and traditional Maldivian fishing trips have the added appeal of hopping aboard a dhoni, so start there. The hermits amongst us, meanwhile, can book in for the ‘Castaway’ excursion, which helps guests experience “the solitude of a castaway trip only the Maldives can offer”.
Big Fish, Big Pond
If you’re, really, really, really lucky, manta rays will swim up to your villa, giving you the kind of photo op that would make an influencer envious. But nothing tops jumping into the water and snorkeling alongside these “gentle giants of the ocean”. If you’re at Vakkaru from May to November, you’ll do so at the world-famous Hanifaru Bay, while December to April entails private manta snorkeling sessions at Vakkaru Manta Point. Either way, it’s just about the most magical thing you can do in the Maldives.
For more details or to book a stay at Vakkaru Maldives, click here.