Free use of kayaks, canoes, windsurfing, and snorkeling equipment
Ultra-hip branded vibe can feel a bit forced
High price tags for food and drinks
Nightclub openings can be limited
For an ultra-hip, exclusive, and millennial-at-heart Maldivian experience, the five-pearl W Maldives is the place. Its 75 large and trendy rooms -- many of which sit over the ocean -- come along with a picture-worthy lagoon and beach, small-but-lively pool, casual gourmet restaurants, chic bars, and the Maldives' only underground club (with a resident DJ, no less). But being this cool comes at a price, so be prepared to shell out for the resort's many, high-quality features from dining and drinks to private yacht hires and solo trips to the W's own exclusive island.
The exclusivity and hip branding of the W Maldives begins at the hotel's private seaplane airport terminal, where guests are escorted to the W's stylish lounge. Even out on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, The W Maldives markets itself as the place to be seen. Though heavily curated and branded (to a slightly pretentious level), if guests can get over that -- or are into it -- the resort is stylish, spacious, and packed with trendy amenities. It has a young and chic vibe that aims to make guests feel as important as the latest hashtag.
Travelers shouldn't expect a cookie-cutter tropical resort -- everything here has its own carefully crafted look, vibe, and name. For example, guest services is called "Whatever/Whenever," the gym is called "FIT," the lobby is "The Living Room," and the pool bar area, "WET." The feeling is less hotel and more like visiting a private club. Most guests are twentysomethings and thirtysomethings on holiday, though there are a few older couples and Chinese families that make an appearance. For the most part, guests keep to themselves unless the alcohol has lubricated their sociability. There are great features scattered throughout the island, but the rooms are designed to create a private and personal getaway.
On a private island in the North Ari Atoll, reachable by seaplane or speedboat
W Maldives is located on Fesdu Island in the North Ari Atoll. Guests have a choice between a boat or a plane to reach the resort, though boats are usually only used when guests arrive between the seaplane company's operating hours. Flights to the resort's small water dock are between 25- to 45-minutes from Male's airport, while boat trips take around two hours. There's no direct seaplane-to-jetty arrivals, instead, guests deplane at a nearby landing dock and hop on a quick boat ride to the island. Once on the private island, there's nothing much to see or do but relax and lounge about, though the W offers plenty of private excursions in the area.
Massive rooms with tons of style, spacious terraces, and modern comforts
It's hard to go wrong with any of the 82 rooms at W Maldives; the standard rooms are larger than most suites elsewhere and come with huge dual-level decks, two Bose sound systems, private jetted plunge pools, direct beach access, minibars overstocked with everything from drinks and food to intimacy kits, and stylish bathrooms featuring separate tubs and showers along with Bliss products.
In keeping with the W's hip and edgy branding, all rooms have a modern rustic design and are outfitted with boldly colorful decor, sharp lines, and flashes of contemporary art. In addition to the minibars, standard features across all room categories include large flat-screen TVs, personal barbecues, outdoor showers or bathrooms, feather beds and down comforters, CD and DVD players, ironing facilities, wine fridges, Nespresso machines, tons of free water bottles, and stuffed amenity packages that range from sewing kits to mosquito spray.
The standard Wonderful Beach Oasis "retreats" are the only rooms here that are not over the water. Upgrades to Spectacular Ocean Oasis and Fabulous Lagoon Oasis rooms take guests right on top of the sea and offer views of the lagoon from the glass-bottom showers. Wow Ocean Escape rooms have separate living rooms, bigger TVs, refreshment stations, powder rooms, and an additional junior suite room with its own bathroom and TV along with two twin beds. However, the mother of all rooms here is the Ocean Haven Suite, which is pure luxury over the ocean. This huge two-bedroom suite ups the game with a large wraparound deck, indoor/outdoor lounge area, kitchenette, two large panels of glass flooring, plus a big bathtub and extra bathroom.
Picture-perfect powder soft beach area with stylish set ups
Since most of the 82 rooms have either personal direct beach or sea access, the island’s public beach is a little small, though rarely crowded, aside from people snapping photos. On the soft white sand, there's a stylish handful of double-lounge chairs with white umbrellas and frontal views of the water villas jetting out into the lagoon, their backs to the dense bushes of shore plants. The wooden loungers are sturdy and topped with cobalt cushions and have brass wheels on the top end for easy repositioning. At the entrance off the pool, there's a convenient towel stand.
Four restaurants with casual vibes and fresh menus, plus six snack stations
The W's main restaurant is Kitchen, an all-day breakfast, lunch, and dinner bistro with an open kitchen serving familiar dishes with a twist. The breakfast buffet includes items ranging from fried rice and noodle dishes to pastries, fresh juices, and a made-to-order omelet station -- there's an a la carte menu for more specific plates. The open kitchen makes for one big, live cooking station, giving total transparency in the preparation of meals. Indoor seating is mostly in booths while the outdoor deck -- with some seating in ankle-deep pools -- has great views of the sunset. The pool bar also serves easy bites like wood-fired pizzas, burgers, lights mains, tapas, and standard Asian dishes for lunch.
There are also two dinner-only spots: Fire, a casual beachside barbecue with a blazing coal pit offering spit roasts, a pricey buffet with verdant views out toward the beach, and a tandoori oven baking up naan and other Indian specialities; and Fish, the hotel's signature over-water seafood spot invented with the hopes of redefining guests' idea of fresh seafood, all with Asian flair. The latter has uber-contemporary maritime decor, with a few open-air roped booth seats, most of which are outside on the massive wooden deck with panoramic views that are particularly great at sunset. Guests can also opt for private dinners on the beach or in their rooms.
For a sugar fix between meals, there are six 24-hour self-serve stations called Sweet Spots; three on the island and three on the boardwalk. These stations are stocked with sodas, ice cream snacks, ice machines, and cool coffee drinks.
Wet's swim-up pool bar has four in-water stools and a large rectangular bar area with hanging clear bulb lights, a stylish lounge area with magazines, chess, cigar case, and upbeat indie music pumping through the speakers. Cocktails, mocktails, beer, and wine are served into the late evening when the sun goes down and the poolside fiber-optic lights come on.
Over-water cocktail lounge Sip adds a bit of pretense to its still-casual sunset viewing space. Located next to Fish, with stylish contemporary wicker chairs, narrow hardwood floors, and mood lighting, this spot serves up champagne, cigars, fresh-shucked oysters and caviar with a true lounge-like vibe. The large deck is perfectly positioned to watch the sun go down from one of the double-wide padded lounge beds, beanbag seats, or cushioned chairs.
15Below is the island's underground nightclub -- in fact, it's the only underground club in the Maldives. There's a resident DJ and 95 different types of vodka, but guests should check with staff to find out when 15Below is open, because the nights that it's open can be limited.
Private and exclusive -- from the airport lounge to the spa and yacht excursions
One of the W's best perks for the weary traveler is the resort's exclusive airport lounge at the seaplane terminal. Here, guests can wait in style and comfort, slug down some quality snacks and drinks, and even do preliminary room check-ins while they wait out the sometimes long layover from arriving in Male to arriving on the hotel's island. When we visited, the lounge had a large waiting area with a refreshment buffet; sleek lounge area with TVs, couches, and a few goodies; and outdoor smoking deck facing the docked seaplanes.
Located near the reception area at the resort, the Away Spa is a super stylish, over-water full-service spa. With its ultra-contemporary decor and design comprised of several white tented rooms built over the edge of the house reef, the spa area is truly relaxing and luxe space to spend an hour or a full day receiving anything from a manicure to a full-blown multi-treatment package.
WAVE and DOWN UNDER are the resort's water-activity centers. WAVE has both motorized and non-motorized activities from paddleboarding to kite surfing and big-game fishing. Guests have free use of snorkeling gear, canoes, windsurfing apparatus, and kayaks, though guided snorkeling trips, catamaran sailing, and parasailing will cost extra. DOWN UNDER is the island's dive center which can provide PADI certification. They can help guests explore popular nearby sites like Maaya Thila, provide eco- or Nitrox dives, or even arrange a dive boat for tailored trip. There's a shipwreck site just off the island.
The W's house reef is full of tropical fish and there's a resident marine biologist that can answer any questions guests may have about the underwater life. The hotel has a small infinity pool on a raised deck outfitted with stretched loungers, frilly umbrellas that shake in the wind, and a covered whirlpool. The lower deck has a few cabanas facing the pool. This spot is known for throwing sun-filled parties that can get a bit rowdy. For even more privacy, the W can shuttle guests off to its own private island, Gaathafushi, for the day or an overnight stay. The resort's 80-foot ESCAPE yacht is also available for private cruises and overnight journeys on the sea. The yacht can also be rented as a personal airport transfer.
Above the pool bar is the ENERGY area where guests can work out, relax, check email, play games, or just read. The W's FIT fitness room won't disappoint even the most hardcore gym rats; this second-floor gym has state-of-the-art Technogym equipment and machines, views down to the pool and out to sea, hardwood floors, flat-screen TVs, cold water, exercise balls, yoga mats, and training gear. The WORDS library area has a nice selection of paperbacks and is also home to a few computers. The spacious lounge area between FIT and WORDS has a pool table and two foosball tables.
Of course, there are also plenty of the usual five-pearl features like shops selling crafts, souvenirs, toiletries, and conveniences, on-site doctor, international newspapers, and free Wi-Fi.