For a wildly exotic island adventure painted in contemporary European design strokes, and some of the best diving in the Maldives. Stripped naked, to its splendid simplicity, this island doesn’t have to work hard to woo you with staggering views stretching for miles across the Indian Ocean, creamy white beaches and lagoons luring honeymooners out of bed and into the warm water with snorkels. Go from September to March or April – anywhere outside this bracket and you’re playing Russian roulette with the weather.
This is far-flung island reverie, just with a terrazzo café, fully-fledged gym overlooking the Indian Ocean and interiors reminiscent of new-groove Paris or Milan. The expansive views are mesmerising, humbling even and offer up a dose of isolation most honeymooners crave after a cortisol-laced wedding build up. A flight to Male’ plus an hour’s seaplane journey later and you’ve fallen off the edge of the earth, lost in long afternoons of kayaking, cocktails and reeling in snappers (even tuna) on sunset deep sea fishing trips.
Set the scene
The seaplane from Male’ is high altitude tropical theatre – soaring high above slithers of ivory-white sand surrounded by turquoise lagoons. This thrilling seclusion strikes as you step off the plane to hot, salty air, panoramic sea views and a flat and flawless expanse of sand backed by a wall of jungle-green. A pool and two outside-in restaurant areas, which somehow manage to weave into the island aesthetic while echoing chic South of France design, twist chairs and sun loungers towards the vast ocean views. A fresh, energetic team teed up for this newly-opened hotel goes out of its way to ensure the service lives up to the unearthly surroundings. If glorious weather prompts a spontaneous couples’ jet ski trip zooming alongside a school of dolphins, or a balmy evening suggests a private fresh-off-the-grill supper along an empty beach, no problem.
Honeymooners can move from overwater villas to beach villas to mix things up – but unlike many Maldives hotels, no room grade leaves anyone feeling shortchanged. Bookings are easily decided on preference of sunrise or sunset views, or those with private pools, but a retro-meets-Crusoe aesthetic is prevalent throughout. Expect picture walls, cult 60s-style mustard chairs and outdoor showers with high-tech mirrors, all in one breath. Plush wallpaper dressing rooms feel more Manhattan than Maldives, as do the wide screen television and macaron-studded cake stand on arrival. But the greatest luxury of all (particularly for honeymooners) has to be the direct access to the beach or lagoon from immensely private digs. There is a sense that the Indian Ocean is your back garden for a week, or two.
Food and drink
Some Maldivian hotels master the marketing but the food struggles to match the views. Honeymooners are spared this fate at Le Meridian, where the menus have been carefully crafted and the ingredients, cleverly procured. Four restaurants scattered across the island keep newly-weds on their toes. Turquoise sits at the centre of it all – a convivial all-day space that drifts onto the sand and frames the ocean views with enormous striped pillars. A truly exquisite and varied breakfast buffet covers all culinary ground – from viennoiserie baked by an in-house Parisian pastry chef to curries and turmeric tonics. Velaa is the smoother, steakhouse-style neighbour where wood-fired pizzas, house ribeye and negronis confer over a good looking pool.
Waves café, tucked symbolically under the gym, serves LA-ready activated charcoal coffees and avocado-on-toast throughout the day (a boon for honeymoon lie-ins). But the standout, worth teeing up with a cocktail at adult-only Riviera Bar and pulling out the finest linens for, is Tabemasu – a stilted modernist marvel of haute Japanese (think exquisite wagyu beef and foie gras rolls, seared tuna loin washed down with saké cocktails). If privacy is high on the honeymoon agenda, couples should book a harvest table experience, where herbs and vegetables are plucked from le Méridien’s impressive hydroponic garden to garnish Bok Choy cocktails or dress plates of Vietnamese spring rolls and sauce-laden Korean beef wraps. Everything is skillfully cooked on a large barbecue tucked beside the candle-lit beach scene and this same spec of dining can even roll out on Bodu Finolhu, where honeymooners will have an entire island to themselves.
There was no hotel on this wild island prior to Marriott snapping up the land. As such, there was more onus on them to ensure the design and construction was gentle on both the ecosystem and the eye. As the latest addition to the Maldives’ Marriott Bonvoy portfolio, Le Méridien was one of last year’s most anticipated openings and has pricked the ears of those with points, or simply those with an appetite for haute hotels.
Honeymooners fear not, Le Méridien has shrewdly set boundaries with an adult-only bar and tapas area and a phenomenal kids club that puts any Holland Park nursery to shame (and swallows up wide-eyed sprogs for hours on end). An enormous ball pit, indoor castle and climbing wall and outdoor shipwreck allow children to burn off energy under the watchful eye of friendly supervisors, while parents enjoy the honeymoon they so deserve.
On a separate, connected island, dressing gown-clad guests are greeted with a drink made from coconut milk, island spices and honey. Suspended above the water, treatment rooms inhale the salty breeze, blending gentle piano music with the sound of the waves as therapists work calmly over weary muscles and tense necks. The body wrap is a nourishing finalé to an afternoon sunbathing, but the couple’s massage is a sensual go-to for newly weds (and the best way to knead out the long haul flight).
After landing at Male’ international airport, guests are whisked through the airport to an oasis of calm in the seaplane terminal lounge. Here, they can freshen up after the long flight and refuel with cool drinks and cakes, before being escorted to the pontoon where the Bond-style seaplanes bob in the current. If another flight following a long haul doesn’t appeal, honeymooners can book into the Sheraton Maldives, which may not share Le Méridien’s lofty level of design, food and belittling and uninterrupted ocean views, but it’s the perfect place to recharge and tune into the new time zone over fruity cocktails, before