Nice outdoor lounge areas and evening entertainment
Guests can choose arrival by seaplane or boat
Nightlife is pretty tame, even for an island of this size
Toiletries do not include conditioner (ladies, take note!)
Free Wi-Fi is spotty and guests may need to log in frequently
Speedboat ride may be bumpy and uncomfortable
Accessed by speedboat or seaplane, this upper-range resort on a mile-long island in the remote Rasdhoo Atoll is one of the largest in the Maldives, with 290 units. Notable features include two separate dive centers, a spa, hidden beach areas, and standout snorkeling in the house reef (snorkel gear is free to use). The contemporary, if slightly plain, thatched-roof villas all have patios; some have hot tubs, outdoor rain showers, private pools, or an overwater setting. Renovations in 2015 added several new room types with modern-looking decor. Basic all-inclusive rates cover drinks and meals at one of the three main buffet restaurants, while Select rates also cover meals at the nine a la carte restaurants. It's worth comparing rates with Kuredu Island Resort & Spa, a large all-inclusive resort with lots of freebies.
One of the largest resorts in the Maldives, drawing many German and British guests
This is one of eight resorts owned by local brand Universal Enterprises, and due to its remote location, the average length of stay is 10 nights. Guests arrive via seaplane or a 90-minute speedboat ride. Newcomers are greeted by attentive staff, seated in a modern reception area, offered a welcome drink and cool towel, and then given an intro to the resort before being transported to their rooms in various parts of the island. The island is long and tapered, stretching a mile from the infinity pool in the east to a stunning sand bar in the west.
Kuramathi actually used to be three resorts, hence three separate buffet restaurants, three bars, and two dive centers. Today, the reception area is the center of action and adjacent to highlights such as the infinity pool, whale museum, and key restaurants. Many choose to walk around the island, but a golf-cart shuttle makes rounds every half hour to specific points for quicker access. Central pathways can feel a little busy with golf cart traffic (there are more than 300 staff members living on the island, as well), which slightly disrupts the peace. There's a lot to explore, though, including neat hidden beaches, especially on the northern side near the sand bar. There are also several nature walks through mature vegetation, such as banyan trees, coconut palms, and screw pines. (Don't miss the giant banyan tree in the island's center that’s been around for three hundred years.) The island's smart use of space and intentional lack of jet skis helps maintain a relaxed atmosphere, despite this being one of the biggest resorts in the country.
Most guests spend their day lounging in a beach chair and taking regular trips to the house reef, which is one of the resort's major draws, offering sightings of reef sharks and lots of other marine life. At sunset, many trek over to the sand bar with camera in hand. Since restaurants are spread out, the atmosphere at night is quiet -- many are on the basic all-inclusive plan (covering meals at a designated buffet restaurant) and pay separately for the a la carte restaurants, where reservations are required. Evening entertainment varies at three bars, and a DJ spins at the disco, though there often are only a few guests on the dance floor. As at many resorts in the Maldives, guests tend to hit the hay early and wake up for sunrise instead of partying the night away.
Guests have two options for arriving to this remote island: speedboat or seaplane (consider the latter)
After passing through customs at Malé's international airport, guests head to Universal's main kiosk in the airport for their transfer. Unlike other resorts which require either boat or seaplane transportation, Kuramathi's location is able to offer both options. Those looking to save some pennies will choose speedboat, which takes 90 minutes, though conditions can be bumpy and the layout of the boat may have guests awkwardly facing each other for a long ride (returning staff members sit in the lower deck). The seaplane option will cost more, but the experience is worth considering for the convenience, comfort, and views. Guests are taken to the private lounge with refreshments and bathrooms before departure. The plane ride takes about 20 minutes and provides beautiful views of the Indian Ocean dotted with white islands. Guests jump off at a platform and then are transported to the resort's jetty by dhoni boat.
The Maldives is a distinct nation in the Indian Ocean consisting of 26 atolls and over 1,190 islands. Each resort (there are over 100 of them) is situated on an individual private island, allowing for peace and quiet as well as easy access to the water and incredible marine life. Kuramathi is located in a more remote northern area called Rasdhoo Atoll. The island has a long, tapered shape with a sand bar on the western end. It's over a mile long, and though many choose to walk to get around, golf carts regularly shuttle guests between access key points around the island. The resort offers excellent snorkeling in the house reef (all-inclusive packages include free use of snorkel gear), and two quality dive centers.
Though the state religion of the Maldives is Sunni Islam, private islands like these are allowed to serve alcohol.
Contemporary but generally simple thatched-roof villas, many with hot tubs and outdoor showers
All 290 rooms are considered villas and the ones we visited have clean, but simple, contemporary decor: faux wood or white tile floors, white bedding with dark pink runners, a framed photo of a fish (but little or no other artwork), and in some, vaulted wood ceilings. They come with king-size canopy beds, flat-screen TVs, DVD players, iPod docks, speaker systems, stocked minibars, and free coffee, tea, and drinking water. Spacious bathrooms (most are open-air, but not all) have rain showerheads, bathrobes, and basic toiletries (no hair conditioner!). Private patios have two sun loungers (some also have daybeds) and varying views depending on the room type; all have reasonably easy access to the beach thanks to the island's long shape.
The Beach Villas are the lowest-priced and located along the lagoon side of the resort. The Beach Villa with Jacuzzi is a good option for couples with indoor and outdoor daybeds, and above-ground hot tubs (water will be changed as often as the guest likes). Superior Beach Villas with Jacuzzi have a round shape, a larger wooden deck, and spacious indoor-outdoor bathrooms with a hot tub. Deluxe Beach Villas with Jacuzzis are centrally located in the middle of the island, closest to the best beaches. These units also include sala beds and Nespresso machines.
The Water Villas with Jacuzzi are built on stilts, overwater, next to the house reef for easy access to snorkeling from the private decks. (Though neighbors aren't visible, units are close together so audible noise from nearby units may be heard.) The layouts are big and open, and each unit has a large bathroom and bi-level sundeck with a hot tub, two sun loungers, and an umbrella.
The Honeymoon Pool Villa is the largest and most luxurious category, with a separate bedroom, living room, and dining area. Outside is a walled-in private terrace that holds a large outdoor bathroom with LED shower and jetted bathtub. The highlight, however, is the private plunge pool that is romantically lit at night.
Renovations in 2015 added several new room types: Two-Bedroom Beach House, Deluxe Water Villa, Water Villa with Pool, Sunset Pool Villas, and Sunset Water Villa with Pool. These rooms have more modern decor elements like abstract wall sculptures and futuristic furniture.
Ample white sand, a stellar house reef, and two pools for those who want a beach break
Despite the number of rooms, guests will still find plenty of beach space, and most guests stick to the area closest to their villas. Couples seeking privacy can find some hidden, quieter stretches nestled among palm trees, especially on the western end. The two outdoor pools include one family-friendly freshwater pool by the spa and fitness center with a children’s area, and an infinity pool by the ocean near the Fung Bar. Though kids are welcome here, the infinity pool tends to attract mostly couples.
Aqua Sports & Fun is the water sports center for windsurfing, catamaran sailing, and kayaking, and lessons are available for all levels (ages eight and up). Speedboat activities include waterskiing, wakeboarding, and banana boat rides, though jet skis are not offered in order to keep noise pollution to a minimum. Two fully equipped PADI dive centers guarantee that everyone on the island can partake in small group trips with attentive instructors. There is a marine biologist on the island who teaches guests about proper water sports etiquette.
Renting snorkel gear is highly recommended (and free to use with all-inclusive rates) and the house reef is one of the best in the Maldives. Guided excursions and safaris are available -- a good idea for first-timers to the island; guests can then explore on their own with confidence. Marine life is in abundance here with consistent sightings of manta rays, parrotfish, butterflyfish, moray eels, Portuguese Man o' Wars, sea turtles, and harmless reef sharks, to name a few.
The spa has 13 treatment rooms for body and facial treatments, as well as nail services. The majority of rooms (indoor and outdoor) are designed for couples. European beauty products and natural essential oils are used. Other activities around the island include a large fitness center (though with no views), badminton, tennis, and an Eco Centre with an entire sperm whale specimen on display.
Bageecha Kids’ Club is available for ages three to 12 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. There are two playrooms, an entertainment room, a dining room and an outdoor playground. Activities include nature walks, treasure hunts, beach activities, and pool time.
A few shops near the reception sell sundries, underwater cameras, beach wear, jewelry and souvenirs. A medical center is available for any emergencies. Wi-Fi is offered, but this service may be unreliable. Guests may also have to log in frequently.
Two all-inclusive plans, 10 restaurants, and six bars
There are two all-inclusive options: the Basic package, which covers all meals at one of three buffet restaurants as well as premium alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and the Select package, which also allows guests to dine at the nine a la carte restaurants (bookings are required). This upgrade also includes certain bottled wines. Children under six are not allowed in many of the a la carte restaurants, so couples rather than families tend to choose the Select package.
The three main buffet restaurants, Haruge, Malaafaiy and Farivalhu, are located in different areas of the island and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner; guests are assigned to one based on their villa category and location. Breakfast includes cereals, fresh pastries and breads, fresh fruits, juices, and live cooking stations for eggs, waffles, and pancakes. At lunch there are a variety of hot and cold items, salads, and sandwiches, and dinners change nightly with themes from around the world.
For a change of pace, guests on the Basic plan can dine at any of the a la carte restaurants for an extra fee. The Island Coffee Shop does not require pre-booking and is an all-day restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating for espresso drinks and light meals. (The highlight here is the traditional Maldivian breakfast.)
The Reef, renovated in 2015, serves fresh seafood in a space above the water. Tandoor Mahal is the Indian restaurant for tandoori and curries. Siam Garden serves Thai food from four specific regions of the country. Island Barbeque is beachside near the infinity pool with barefoot dining and quality meats cooked to order. Palm serves Mediterranean food like pizzas, pastas and salads during the day, and turns romantic at night. Duniye has the best wine list on the island and serves continental starters and main courses. Two new restaurants, Kobe and Inguru, serving teppanyaki and Asian fusion, respectively, were added in the 2015 renovations.
Six bars (as well as a new champagne bar) scattered around the island offer cocktails, evening entertainment, and nightly happy hours. Fung Bar is the biggest and most popular bar, next to the infinity pool, with all-day drinks served either under shade or on the beach. Fung Bar turns into a disco at night, though not many partake in dancing. Havana Club Wine & Cigar Bar offers cigars and spirits from around the world, as well as a few snacks. Karoake is also available certain nights. Cocktail garnishes, fruits, and leafy greens are often home-grown from the island’s own hydroponic garden.
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