JOALI artfully blends raw, island life with a generous helping of luxury many honeymooners long for. Consider it an elevated spin on bohème – where bare-footed island escapades sit alongside tasting menus and Dom Perignon.
For blissful isolation, absorbing all the sensory wonders of the Maldivian landscape – from those blazing Indian Ocean sunsets to the tropical tangle shading the powder-soft beach – but also for inconceivable pampering in the spa and slick service with a smile from JOALI’s affable team.
Set the scene
Rather than the cosmopolitan aesthetic spreading across the Maldives, JOALI reverentially weaves into the otherworldly landscape, sprinkling every inch of its bamboo and hand-carved structures with good taste. The island layout often leaves honeymooners feeling as if they have this paradisiacal setting all to themselves (unlike many resorts in the Maldives), with little interaction or even ground crossed with other guests.
Four superb restaurants shake lunch and suppers up, offering the culinary variety a week or two week stay often need, while the team manage to balance step-ahead service. And it’s the villa breakfasts, savoured while gazing wistfully towards the Ocean horizon, that are particularly special – a moment of pause to absorb the sheer beauty of this setting.
The Luxury Water Villa is the design and architectural expression of barefoot luxury. With a private pool overlooking a balmy, transparent lagoon, sweeping wooden ceilings and a sundeck to enjoy a morning coffee or breakfast on, it leverages the surrounding beauty – pulling everything outside while keeping things exceedingly comfortable.
A standalone bath and spacious shower overlooks the twinkling water below – a welcome tropical upgrade on the standard morning shower – while a hammock (also suspended over the water) allows you to admire the marine life below as you sunbathe or surrender to a mid-morning snooze.
Beach Villas offer a similar grade of luxury, though the beach is your garden (as opposed to the lagoon).
Food and drink:
Never mind the exotic setting and romantic stilted villas, the food alone is good enough reason to jet to JOALI. The main consistent thread across four remarkably different restaurants is a calm bass note, set by both the surroundings but mainly the staff, whose warmth and passion for the food they are serving is infectious. Particularly like a recipe? They’ll print it out for you to take home.
Creatively built into the tree canopy, the Treehouse wins in the romance stakes, with its privacy and far-reaching views. A private waiter assists couples through various set menus, which is served with artistic panache and full of flavour.
We recommend a pre-dinner sake tasting at Japanese restaurant SAOKE, which doubles up as a condensed history of the liquor. Then opt for the table at the far end of the deck facing the water, where your only views are the Indian Ocean and one another. The fresh, melt-in-your-mouth sashimi is a must, as are the puddings – try the fried ice cream, you won’t be disappointed.
The Mura Bar is the perfect lunch spot, with tables either inside the restaurant or scattered along the beach for pretty ocean views. The mango garden salad is a particularly light and delicious choice for a hot day. Should you fancy something on the menu that is not listed (within reason), the team will whip it up for you with a smile. I am a big smoothie enthusiast, and while it wasn’t on the menu, I somehow tried a new scrumptious one each day.
Last but certainly not least, cocktails are best enjoyed on the Mura Bar’s terrace facing the pool and beach as the sun dips below the horizon. It is as though the sky is on fire and the cocktails themselves are mixed to perfection using fresh fruit and juices.
As one of the few independent luxury resorts in the region, JOALI was the brainchild of Esin Gural Argat, one of Turkey’s most prominent entrepreneurs. Designed with local craftsmanship and artistry in mind, it is the Maldives’ first and only classified ‘art resort’. Guests come here to explore the lagoons with a snorkel, or the surrounding islands on a chartered yacht, or to simply switch off amid the clipped Crusoe-style architecture or wallow in the warm shallows of the Indian Ocean.
Somehow, JOALI has managed to bring children into the exotic, understated luxury mix, ensuring children are fully engaged with a range of fun activities, from island treasure hunts to oceanography (all of which are complimentary for 4-12 year olds). The Muramas Kids Club puts on arts and crafts workshops and even teaches ‘little guests’ basic yoga at the Kids Spa. Facilities here are great for little ones, with a specified children’s outdoor pool area at the club, as well as a games platform and rainbow stairs room.
JOALI’s ESPA spa is an elemental haven of calm, with glass-walled relaxation rooms pulling in the surrounding natural beauty, and deft therapists who skilfully lather weary muscles in essential oils and lull their subjects to sleep. The couples massage is the one to go for, with an introductory offer of music style and oil scents before using nimble fingers across any knots from the flight or pre-wedding cortisol. It’s a rich, sensory experience that allows you to sink even deeper into those slow island rhythms.
JOALI cleverly combines marine wildlife experiences with educational aspects around conservation and sustainability. Thrilling snorkelling expeditions are combined with the knowledge of JOALI preservation efforts with an enlarged coral tree nursery ring-fencing the white beaches. Keeping their footprint light on the delicate ecosystem, all of the room amenities are 100% natural and safe for marine life, while the small amount of necessary plastic used is both recycled and recyclable.
You get around by cycling, requesting a buggy or simply by walking and taking in the birdsong in the tropical tree canopy. The resort covers the whole island, making for an immensely private experience. And there’s more to it than just sea and sand. During a walk around the island, you may stumble upon a cute art studio nestled in the trees, where you can create memento ceramics or paintings to take home with you.
The transfer from Malé International Airport to JOALI’s unusually long jetty for the Maldives is a seamless (and incredibly scenic) 40-minutes seaplane, which soars over the Maldives Atolls – perfect green dots ring fenced by white strips of sand and ethereal shades of blue.
To book, please visit www.joali.com
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