Surrounded by the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean — warm, clear and replete with life-sustaining coral reefs — the Maldives islands have, since the 1980s, attracted travelers in search of isolation and relaxation on unspoiled, sugar-soft beaches. In the last few years, as many as 20 new properties, ranging from three-star and family resorts to five-star-plus and adults-only options, have opened in the country’s atolls. More than 30 are reportedly under construction. In the face of such stiff competition, each new opening strives to bring with it unique style, services, amenities and features. One of the newest such arrivals is Kudadoo Maldives, which officially opened in November 2018 in the Lhaviyani Atoll. An intimate and serene resort with just 15 overwater villas, the adults-only Kudadoo packs a big punch in terms of allure. The private-island resort is all-inclusive, and the dozens of solar panels that blanket the roof of its two-story, main shared space known as The Retreat make it among the first Maldivian resorts that are capable of operating on 100 percent solar power during sunny periods.
Designed by New York-based architect Yuji Yamazaki, Kudadoo’s 15 Japanese-style overwater villas are situated along a horseshoe-shaped boardwalk that originates on the resort’s small, main island. Each features an open floor plan; a zen-like al fresco bathroom area with a shower and bathtub; and a large, outdoor living area with a private swimming pool and slip-right-in access to the turquoise water below. Thoughtful, in-room touches include fresh herbs and citrus for DIY cocktails; yoga mats; and sketch kits, in case the Maldives’ sherbet-colored sunsets inspire guests to preserve the setting on paper.
The residences have modern amenities, like fully automated lights, and come with fresh herbs and citrus for DIY cocktails, yoga mats and sketch kits.
Booking options include 13 one-bedroom villas (3,283 square feet of combined indoor and outdoor living space) and two two-bedroom villas (Nos. 1 and 15; the two are closest to shore, and measure 4,144 square feet apiece). Two additional villas are available to house guests’ personal staff members. Because of the resort’s small size and personalized nature, staff say it’s best to initiate bookings via Kudadoo’s general reservations channels ([email protected]; 011- 960-662-2000). Peak season includes late fall through early spring, and staff anticipate increased demand for holidays, such as Christmas and the New Year; plan to book as far in advance as is possible for a stay during these periods. Note that guests must be at least 15 years old to stay, though the rule is lifted for buyout groups.
In keeping with Kudadoo’s “Anything. Anytime. Anywhere.” ethos, each villa is staffed with a personal butler, who will contact guests via e-mail and phone two weeks prior to their arrival to suss out special occasions, preferred minibar items, dietary requests, and preferred spa treatments and activities. Once on site, guests can rely on their butler for just about everything, using a designated mobile phone to call for requests, both big and small. Want more fluffy beach towels or a later start time at the spa? Simply ask. Butlers can make bigger requests happen, too. Just ring yours to arrange a private wine-and-cheese tasting with Kudadoo’s jovial sommelier, Ilyas; a floating breakfast in your own private pool; or a romantic dinner on the beach or elsewhere around the resort. (Butlers at Kudadoo also excel at creating special, surprising moments unprompted. We returned to our villa after dinner one evening to find that our butler, Adhikko, had drawn a warm bubble bath and adorned the mountain of suds with a pretty, flower petal motif).
The Retreat is the two-story, main shared space at Kudadoo Maldives that houses the restaurant, spa and the gym.
Although destination and in-villa dining are can’t-miss experiences, we enjoyed sitting down for dinner in Kudadoo’s breezy, main restaurant, too. There, attentive staff guided us through the peak seasonal ingredients executive chef Antoine Lievaux had on hand each day and, considering our mood and cravings, helped us create bespoke meals of succulent seafood, creamy risotto and vibrant, veggie mains. More than 80 world-class wines and Champagnes (Taittinger, R. Dumont & Fils, Veuve Clicquot, Louis Roederer) are poured on an all-inclusive basis, while premium options are available for an extra charge. Note that for dinner, smart-casual style is appreciated, but so is bare feet.
With strong breezes blowing in off the Indian Ocean, outdoor tables affording wide-open water views, and a menu chock-full of indulgent and healthful dishes, breakfast and lunch here are also a treat (the breakfast menu’s many different butter, honey and Benedict options are impressive). Whatever you order, don’t miss out on the fresh juices and fruit, like soft-as-butter chunks of cantaloupe and honey mango. Chef Lievaux serves only tip-top seasonal fruits and veggies, so options will vary.
The Villas at Kudadoo Maldives have an open floor plan and offer unobstructed views of the ocean.
For guests, that Kudadoo is all-inclusive means unlimited services and treatments in its two-room Sulha Spa, located on the upper level of The Retreat. Spa manager Cerissa Pereira warmly greeted us each time we arrived in the open, airy space, and helped us choose a variety of services based on our physical and emotional needs; a Thai massage and the meditative Sound Shower, each of which our spa therapist, Wahyuni, began with a soothing foot ritual and left us feeling restored in both body and mind. Don’t leave the island without experiencing halotherapy, or salt therapy, in the spa’s Lonu Cave. It’s the first salt room in the Maldives. A guided, mindful-breathing session in the room, whose walls are lined with bricks of healing, pink Himalayan salt, will help naturally clear the sinuses and lungs and aid in muscle relaxation.
Tempting as it might be to while away your entire visit in your villa or the spa, making time to hit the water is a must. (Excursions here are offered on an unlimited, all-inclusive basis, too.) Grab a snorkel set to explore the coral reefs around the tiny island’s roughly 650-foot perimeter, or ask your butler to arrange a jet ski safari, swimming with manta rays, free diving with sea turtles and a dolphin-spotting excursion on the open sea.
Hurawalhi Maldives’ 1,420-square-foot Beach Sunset Pool Villa has a private infinity pool and a sundeck.
Kudadoo’s all-inclusive model doesn’t only apply to life on the island. Guests can also request a five-minute boat ride to its two-year-old sister property, Hurawalhi Maldives, for activities (we spotted a shark, a sea turtle and thousands of glittering fish during a guided snorkeling excursion with Excursions & Transfer Manager Amir), massages and facials in the resort’s five-room spa, and dining at three of its excellent restaurants — the Italian-style Canelli, the 24-hour Coco Bar, and Kashibo, whose menu is inspired by Asian street food. Although they’re not among the resorts’ all-inclusive offerings, two special experiences at Hurawalhi are worth the extra effort: Lunch or dinner at 5.8, the resort’s elegant, underwater restaurant, and cocktails at the Champagne Pavilion, where guests can enjoy 33 bubbly options as the sun sets each evening. Reservations aren’t required, but insiders say it’s best to book ahead when possible.
To experience the best of both worlds, consider staying at Kudadoo and Hurawalhi, as we did. With 90 overwater and beach villas, Hurawalhi is bigger and busier than Kudadoo, but a minimum 15-year-old age requirement for guests means that Hurawalhi is also pleasantly peaceful. Insiders at Hurawalhi told us that the property’s Beach Villas are among its most popular offerings, and once we saw their tucked-away settings and direct beach access, we understood why. Regardless of whether you choose a villa over the water or on the beach, when booking ([email protected]; 011- 960-662-2000), be sure to request one with a private pool — the perfect place to take in those picture-perfect sunsets.
Hurawalhi Maldives’ 5.8 Undersea Restaurant has a multi-course tasting menu.
International visitors to the Maldives arrive at the country’s main airport in Male before continuing via sea plane to their final destination. Because of strict scheduling and regulations pertaining to sea planes in the region, be sure to consult with Kudadoo’s and Hurawalhi’s reservations teams for help coordinating seamless arrival and departure transfers via Trans Maldivian Airways or, if available, the resorts’ own aircraft. Their airport teams, from drivers to on-site greeters and to lounge attendants, made our travel feel like a breeze.
During our visit, we heard that a new, domestic airport will open near Kudadoo and Hurawalhi in 2019. Once open, it will service fixed-wing aircraft, allowing for an extended schedule of flights to and from Male’s main terminal, as well as private charters that will cost around $8,000 roundtrip. Boat transfers from the new, domestic airport to Kudadoo and Hurawalhi will take 15 to 20 minutes.