Get away from the mundane and plan a trip to the beautiful and serene Maldives. Stay at the five-star LUX* South Ari Atoll – winner Condé Nast Traveller Readers Choice award 2020 – a 25-minute seaplane ride from Malé. With simplicity and elegance in place, LUX* South Ari Atoll, based on the island of Dhidhoofinolhu, which measures just over a mile from one tip to the other, it is one of the larger and premium resorts in the Maldives.
Think: thatched roof beach bungalows and villas perched over the warm Maldivian waters creating a stylish seaside haven, chaises-longues on the sandy shores, while staircases descend straight into the Indian Ocean. A narrow sand track, plied by bikes and electric buggies, winds its way through a forest of palms and frangipani trees, linking the various restaurants with the villas, the spa and the dive centre. And while the size of the island lets you find your own space, there is plenty of opportunities to socialise too – at sunset drinks, for example, or the open-air cinema.
The 67 two-level villas perched on stilts over the Indian Ocean or on the beach are huge even by Maldivian standards, with bright nautical décor accented by pops of pink. Spacious living rooms feature comfy sofas and day beds, a guest bathroom and floor-to-ceiling windows and doors leading out to a private sun terrace with infinity pool and lounge area. Bedrooms offer panoramic ocean views and a spacious dressing room, while bathrooms feature a freestanding tub, couple’s shower, twin vanities and an outdoor shower. The crowning glory, however, is the rooftop deck where guests can host an intimate dinner party with a private chef, enjoy cocktails concocted by a mixologist or watch a film under the stars.
Each villa is assigned an Island Host who can assist with everything from organising excursions to personal wake-up calls with a coffee, fresh juice or coconut water. Sports and fitness activities include tennis, beach volleyball, rooftop yoga, and water sports including water skiing, flyboarding, snorkelling and diving. For something more creative there’s an art studio and gallery, photography workshops and cooking masterclasses. Then wind down at the overwater spa – LUX* Me Spa – which houses a sauna, rooftop for yoga, beauty salon, relaxation area and six glass-enclosed treatment villas featuring panels below the beds to view the marine life.
The experience extends to the resort’s eight restaurants and five bars, which range from sushi and teppanyaki (with a side of saké or Japanese whisky) at Umami, cool street food at Asian-inspired East Market, and international cuisine at Allegria, MIXE and Senses. Start the day with the sprawling international breakfast buffet at Glow for avocado toast, pancakes and tropical fruit salads, or book the unique floating breakfast tray in the privacy of your villa pool. Those with a sweet tooth will love the retro ice cream parlour ICI, but save room for dinner at Peruvian-Japanese INTI where sashimi and ceviche are washed down with pisco sours. For something more intimate, try the private dining room at Barium with its underwater aquarium or book a romantic twilight dinner for two on a candlelit pier. You cannot miss the Beach Rouge, by far the best beach club in the Indian Ocean, with chilled-out tunes and light bites by day, followed by a floating dance floor with resident DJ and a front-row view of sunset at night.
The resort provides baby monitors, sterilisers, bottle warmers, and prams. Restaurants offer healthy purees and children’s meals, while the PLAY kids' club offers cake-making classes and films under the stars. Cots and extra beds are available as well as babysitting services and an on-site doctor.