Culture / Travel

Maldives’ True Wonder — Inside the World’s Best Island Resort

Real Traveler Tips for a True Dream Destination

BY // 12.20.19

Editor’s Note: Jane Howze  recently flew around the world in 11 days with stops in Singapore, the Maldives and Dubai. Today, she reports on her time in Maldives.

In 2013, we visited the Maldives Islands and were so impacted by its beauty that we started planning our return visit as soon as we  returned to Houston. Such a trip requires a bit of planning (and saving). The Maldives Islands, nearly 1,200 in number and extending more than 700 miles from North to South, are located halfway around the world in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

They are about four hours southeast of Dubai, one hour southwest of Sri Lanka and four hours northwest of Singapore. No American airline flies to the Maldives, and a trip there will require at least one change of planes. For Americans, the most convenient gateways are Frankfurt, Dubai, and Singapore.

There are 200 resorts in the Maldives, each on its own coral island. All of the popular and luxury chains have four- and five-star properties there. The Four Seasons offers three, and its own yacht to sail guests on a three-day journey from one to the others.

All of the resorts are expensive, partly because of their remote location, construction and maintenance costs, self-generating energy requirements, staff housing requirements, and the fact that all food and supplies must be imported. Resorts range in size from as few as 15 rooms to as many as 462. Some focus on diving while others emphasize family activities, night life or honeymoons.

It is important to realize that once you check in to your Maldives resort there is no “going into town” if you don’t like the food or entertainment. You are there for the duration. That is why resort choice is important.

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For our previous Maldives visit, we stayed at a luxury hotel chain over the Christmas holiday and loved our over-water bungalow, the attentive service, several dining choices and outstanding cuisine. But on Christmas Eve we were informed that only the main restaurant would be serving dinner, at a prixe fixe cost of $250 per person.

Although the dinner  included champagne and a chocolate bar, we felt trapped. Our daily room rate excluded food, beverages and most water sports, and we felt nickeled and dimed. We resolved to make a different choice for this trip.

Finding Your Perfect Maldives Resort

Social media is a powerful vacation planning tool. Four years ago I discovered the names of luxury travel photographers and writers covering the leading Maldives resorts. A popular Instagram photographer listed his top four resorts and one caught my eye: the 15 over-water room Kudadoo Private Island, whose motto is “anything, anytime, anywhere.”

Kudadoo opened late last year, and the Robb Report has already named it as the Best Island Resort. Guests pay one (admittedly expensive) daily rate and everything is included. And by that, I mean everything — room, food, excellent champagne, wines and liquor, water activities, spa treatments and laundry.

We figured it would be fun to test their philosophy and we wanted to enjoy our vacation without worrying about the price of a glass of wine or a massage.

Kudadoo offered daily surprises
Kudadoo offered daily surprises

The Kudadoo Way

Before we arrived, Kudadoo sent us a detailed lifestyle questionnaire, asking what water sports we enjoy, any dietary requirements, our pillow, mattress and fragrance preferences, and how we wanted our bar stocked. Our butler —yes, every residence has a personal butler who serves as concierge — wanted to know what activities interested us.

Did we want yoga in our room every morning? Meditations? Our choice of unlimited spa treatments — massages, facials, manicures? Were we interested in candlelight dinners, snorkeling, jet skiing, lunch or dinner on a sand bar?  We answered yes to all.

He let us know that there were no set dining hours. We could have breakfast, lunch and dinner any time we liked, 24/7 — in the restaurant, in our room, on the beach, or among the trees.

Kudadoo is located on a small island about 80 miles north of Male, and is the only solar powered resort in the Maldives. You can walk the circumference of the island in about six minutes. Our  private, Asian influenced residence was one of 15 built on a horseshoe shaped boardwalk over the water. It featured an outdoor seating area that included a hammock, a glass bottom floor to watch the exotic marine life, freestanding tub surrounded by orchids, our own infinity lap pool, and a ladder into the warm sea.

And of course we had views of the azure pristine water, and stunning white sand bars to enjoy in constant year round temperatures of 82 to 85 degrees.

Unparalleled Pampering

Our five days at Kudadoo consisted of morning yoga, breakfast and various activities including a picnic on a deserted island, jet skiing, swimming with manta rays, snorkeling and soaking in the serenity of the most extraordinary beaches in the world. Our butler Ishaq scheduled daily massages before sunset and little and big surprises.

As he explained it, “We realize a trip to the Maldives is a once in a lifetime experience. It is our mission to make sure it is special.”

One night we arrived at dinner to find a table set up in the sunbathing shelf of the pool surrounded by glittering lights. Another night the staff surprised us with dinner on the beach. The menu changed every night, and Eduardo, the French chef, encouraged us to order anything we wanted.

Eduardo learned that I loved red velvet cake and the next night he presented me with the most delicious red velvet cake I have ever tasted. We have never felt so nurtured.

Kudadoo’s sister resort offers the largest undersea restaurant

Another highlight was a five minute boat ride to Kudadoo’s sister resort, Hurawalhi, a larger property which is home to the world’s largest undersea restaurant, 5.8, named for its underwater depth (about 19 feet).  After descending 42 stairs down a narrow circular staircase, I entered an underwater wonderland for 20 lucky (and well pocketed) diners. The abundant schools of exotic marine life seemed as attracted by us as we were by them.  It was an extraordinary experience akin to dining in an aquarium.

All too soon our stay in the Maldives came to an end, and the seaplane waited offshore for our return to the real world. The kind and attentive staff, who worked so hard to ensure that our trip surpassed our expectations, gathered on the dock to bid us farewell. I was so  touched that I shed tears of gratitude while planning our next visit to this special place. And with any travel there was a lesson to be learned.

Next stop: Dubai and a lesson learned.

Jane Howze is a managing director and founder of The Alexander Group, a national executive search firm headquartered in Houston.

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