Dreamy beaches, silky warm water, lush scenery, and endless sunshine – these are some of the top ingredients of the ideal tropical vacation. Some dazzle with their natural beauty. Others add cultural attractions to the mix, with exotic customs, architecture, and mouth-watering cuisine. A few offer eco-adventures and wildlife-rich wilderness, and some sleepy islands seem to take you back in time. Typically, the Maldives vacation experience doesn’t start until you get to your resort, as the arrival and transfer process at the international airport in Male can be a bit hectic. When you’re booked at The Nautilus, though, you’re met on the tarmac in Male and whisked to a VIP lounge to go through customs and immigration in private—allowing you to relax a bit earlier than expected.
This tiny sliver of sand and coconut palms is 85 miles northwest of Velana International Airport. The seaplane ride that takes around 30 minutes to reach the resort is an adventure in its own right, buzzing over patches of dark deep ocean and shallow turquoise lagoons. You can also book a private seaplane, or take a 20-minute flight to a domestic airport, followed by a 20-minute speedboat ride.
That most elusive desire: total privacy, unimpeded. The terminology they choose to use here is 'houses'. There are just 26 in total; nine perched directly on the beach, and another eight hovering over their languid lagoon. Each is a private sanctum, your own personal space to share and enjoy in the turquoise cradle of Baa Atoll. The beach and ocean residences feature one or two bedrooms, a spacious living room, and a sparkling private pool. Custom furnishings, an expansive sundeck and bohemian design complete the aesthetic. All have private pools and direct access to the house reef, plus separate living rooms positioned beside vast bedrooms. There are large televisions in each, with hundreds of on-demand movies available free-of-charge. One particularly impressive feature of the overwater houses is the glass flooring in the living room – guests can look down to fish buzzing among the stilts. Bathrooms are equally huge with separate shower and toilet cubicles, plus a tub with views of the ocean.
There are four dining choices here, including a fine dining Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurant; an outdoor grill highlighting Japanese, Peruvian, and Mexican fare; a poolside bar; and an all-day dining spot with a beach-hut vibe. The food is curated and overseen by French executive chef Jeremy Metz. The island’s unscripted dining concept means guests are encouraged to request whatever they crave, at any time of day – from frosty beers with burgers and fries, to the finest of fine dining and the world’s very best wines. There are some menus, however, and Asian and Mediterranean dishes are the norm. Try the teppanyaki lobster cooked in lemon juice, sake, kalamansi gel, oyster ice cream and oscietra caviar. Breakfast includes fresh juices, pastries, fruit and eggs. The restaurants don’t have set opening or closing times, dress codes or menu restrictions.
The Nautilus is located in the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve known for its rich marine life (including manta rays and whale sharks) and excellent diving spots. Head to the on-site AquaNautica PADI dive center to connect with the house marine team. Some standout signature experiences include a boat trip out to Hanifaru Bay to join the resort’s biology team for a snorkel with manta rays, and an al fresco movie night on a private sandbank, complete with snacks. The resort also owns its own 15-seat seaplane, so guests can book that for day trips to remote islands or stellar snorkeling spots. Like the dining program, there are few restrictions on when you can do most activities—for instance the midnight snorkeling around the house reef. Solasta Spa, a natural haven of wellness surrounded by serene and sparkling seas, specialises in the bespoke, designing wellness programmes and daily rituals that refresh and relax, pamper and protect. Here treatments using natural products are performed in three overwater treatment villas—each with glass-panelled floors to showcase the water. There are also other facilities such as yoga, fitness, and meditation classes are included with the rates.
Up to two children under the age of 12 can stay in their parents’ house free of charge and eat for free from the children’s menu. There’s a 'Young Wonderers' kids’ club and a range of activities such as kayaking, coconut painting and yoga.
This island retreat has all the tropical hallmarks of the Maldives you’d expect: white sand pathways, lofty palms and stained wood boardwalks. There are thatched pavilions with sand under foot and a long living wall of fragrant clerodendrums surrounding the back-of-house and staff quarters at the centre of the island. From top-notch accommodation to fine gastronomy to leisure activities for both adults and children – The Nautilus ticks all the right boxes.