Today (February 25, 2015): Review of Maalifushi by COMO (Maldives).
Maalifushi by COMO opened in the Maldives in 2014. It is the first luxury resort in the pristine Thaa Atoll in the archipelago’s southwest, deep in the vast Indian Ocean. With overwater villas and garden suites, Maalifushi is therefore the ultimate away-from-it-all destination for families, couples, surfers and divers. This is one of the most luxurious resorts in the Maldives, a paradise destination blessed with the world’s most beautiful beaches, crystal clear blue lagoons, and incredible underwater wildlife.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Maalifushi by COMO is the newest addition to the COMO hotel group, one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands, known for providing high-end havens with a steer towards wellbeing. I previously stayed at 2 other, highly recommended properties of the hotel group: COMO Shambhala Estate (Bali) and Parrot Cay by COMO (Turks & Caicos).
- Pre-arrival communication with the resort was excellent. All my emails were answered within 24 hours.
- Getting to Maalifushi is half the adventure and is an incredibly beautiful sightseeing trip in itself: a 50 minute seaplane transfer from Male International airport, followed by a 5 minute speedboat ride to the magnificent resort. Flying quite low across the Indian Ocean offers an amazing perspective on the atolls, islands, reefs and lagoons. And the fifty shades of oceanic blue will take your breath away!
- Besides the fact they offer spectacular views, the seaplane transfers are also very well-organized: the seaplane transfer arrangements are made so that they coordinate specifically with the arrivals of guests on international flights. From the moment of arrival you are met by and looked after by the COMO staff and you can wait in the airline’s lounge until the departure of the seaplane. My waiting time at the airport was around 1.30 hour after arrival of my international flight.
- The scenery at Maalifushi island comes close to how you would imagine a perfect tropical island. It is surrounded by an impossibly clear, sparkling turquoise lagoon with gentle waves lapping the blinding white beaches, while the lush vegetation composed of numerous palm trees forms a picture perfect backdrop. Pure paradise!
- While still tiny, the island is rather large according to Maldivian standards (around 800 by 200 meters). Guests can get around by bikes, or, alternatively, the staff can take you everywhere by buggy.
- Thanks to Maalifushi’s far-flung location in the southernmost Thaa atoll, there’s none of the visual pollution you get at resorts closer to the capital (e.g. barges, construction cranes, cruise ships etc).
- Upon arrival I was met by Mr. Andrew Drummond, the General Manager, and members of his team, which was highly appreciated. It always feels reassuring and welcoming when the hotel management team shows direct involvement with the hotel guests.
- Built from locally sourced materials, the resort’s overall design, with its thatched roofs and minimalistic, cool-white interiors, offers an atmosphere of rustic chic and understated elegance.
- The real stars of the resort are the 33 white-painted overwater suites and villas, that are built on 2 wooden jetties to the west of the island, above the shallow lagoon. Each has its own infinity plunge pool with thatched salas, a large sundeck and full-length windows, meaning you can wake up to the sights and sounds of the Indian Ocean. All villas feature high ceilings, oak floors, limed-light furniture, and decorative swathes of netting around the beds. Bathrooms feature a sunken marble tub big enough for two, marble floors and stone walls. There’s also an outdoor shower, surrounded by wooden panelling for privacy.
- Maalifushi by COMO has also 32 on-land rooms and villas that benefit from being set into the island’s tropical heart, most of them with direct access to the beach (except for the 6 garden rooms). The on-land accommodations are just as impressive as their overwater siblings: with a private plunge pool, sundeck, open-air bathroom and floor-to-ceiling French doors, leaving could be difficult.
- The fruit bowl in the room as well as the bottles of fresh water are daily resplenished.
- The bathroom toiletries are amongst the best in the hotel industry. COMO is famous for its holistic Shambhala Spas, and its own-brand potions are distributed in tiny bottles in the guest bathrooms.
- High-speed WiFi is complimentary and of excellent quality throughout the resort.
- The 44 m freeform, beachfront pool sits between the bar and Madi restaurant and has been designed to weave around ‘islands’ of palm trees. It’s surrounded by very comfortable sunloungers with two-feet-thick memory foam mattresses and parasols.
- The house reef is at the end of the boardwalk and offers exceptional diving and snorkelling, with an abundance of marine life (baby black-tip reef shark, sting-ray, sand perch, lion fish, puffer fish, etc …). Complimentary snorkeling equipment is provided to guests.
- Food at the resort is consistently top-notch, and served in 2 restaurants. All-day diner Madi is housed in a straw-roofed, open-sided building along the main pool, and offers a range of local, Mediterranean, Indonesian and Thai-influenced dishes, taking inspiration from the region’s fresh produce and island setting. Madi also holds themed nights each week, including a Maldivian night (Monday), a ’thali’ evening focusing on Indian specialties (Wednesday) and a seafood barbecue with an extravaganza of local lobster, kingfish, trout, squid, tuna, and sweet rock shrimp (Friday). The other restaurant, Tai, is built overwater, and aims to be among the finest Japanese restaurants in the Maldives: it showcases locally sourced seafood, with a range of sashimi and sushi on offer.
- Food can also be served in the privacy of your own villa (a tray charge applies). In addition, romantic beach dinners and secluded picnics can also be arranged on an uninhabited neighbouring island. So, while the resort has only 2 restaurants, the themed nights as well as alternate dining options make that you will not get gastronomically bored during a one week stay.
- Guests who want to maintain healthy holiday habits can sample COMO Shambhala cuisine, an array of organic deliciousness featuring seed breads, healthful juices and sublime local raw fish, available at Madi restaurant and included in the room service menu.
- Perhaps no other resort smells as good as Maalifushi by COMO. Every encounter on the island comes with COMO’s signature scent of eucalyptus, camphor, peppermint and bergamot, leaving an olfactory impression of calm goodwill.
- The spa is a palatial affair, with 8 overwater, ocean-facing treatment rooms, and an open air yoga pavillion, all enveloped by blue horizons and gentle sea breezes. There are also steam rooms, sauna & jacuzzi (separate male/female). The quality of the treatments is excellent (as you would expect from a COMO resort).
- There are some excellent breaks nearby, especially in the wet season (May to November), which is good news for surfers, as international flights are usually cheaper during that time.
- To the west of Maalifushi, there is as a string of stunningly beautiful uninhabited private islands, where there are seasonal whale shark sightings. Don’t miss a visit to these islands to get a real cast away feeling (kayaks are available for free).
- While no doubt expensive, spa and food prices are reasonably priced and around 15% cheaper as compared to similar resorts in the Maldives. Spa treatments are around 170 USD and an upgrade to halfboard costs 110 USD per person (excluding taxes and service charges).
- Maalifushi by COMO has a sister resort in the Maldives, Cocoa Island, so you can split your holiday over 2 superb resorts, in case you do not want to spend one full week on the same island.
- What really makes this place, is the friendly and well-trained staff: the service in general is superb and very attentive, without being intrusive. Nothing is ever too much trouble for them.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
This is one of the best luxury resorts in one of the world’s most spectacular destinations. I absolutely loved it, and could not find real cons. Maalifushi has captured the essence of what a six star holiday should feel like. So, just book a holiday at this jewel in the Indian Ocean, and go now before everyone else does. I hereby just mention some minor issues that you should know or where there is room for improvement:
- The breakfast buffet is a little underwhelming for a resort of this caliber. It is basically an upscale continental buffet, and you order hot items from the menu. On a positive note, this is more healthy approach as compared to lavish breakfast buffets, and all breakfast items taste delicious. After a few days, I found out that you can order whatever you want, even things that are not listed on the menu, such as salmon bagels or a selection of cheeses.
- While the beaches are spectacular, the sand around the resort is a bit coarse in certain areas, as broken coral washing on the beach occurs naturally from the wave action on the nearby outer reef. However, the main beach on the northwestern side of the island does have large stretches of powdery soft sand.
- While the food at the Japanese restaurant is fabulous, I felt that the portions are rather small, especially when you are limited by the halfboard formula which entitles you to a certain selection of dishes. But kudos to the staff: on my second visit to the restaurant, I mentioned this issue, and I could choose an extra course, which was highly appreciated (and also felt like a more complete meal).
- While the transfers by waterplane are spectacular and well-organized by the resort in liase with the airline, some may find it troublesome, because of the waiting time at Male Airport (that may be excessive in a few occasions). For instance, on my departure day, the waterplane left Maalifushi quite early and I had to wait 4 hours at the airport for my international flight connection. And unfortunately, Maalifushi by COMO has not a private lounge (yet) at Male Airport. The good news however is that the resort is working on these transfer inconveniences. Flights to Maalifushi are now consolidated with another resort nearby: while this may extend the flight time by about 10 minutes, the increase in flight frequency means that there is less waiting time at Male Airport. In addition, the completion of the seaplane terminal and a dedicated COMO lounge in a couple of months will mean that any waiting will be in much more pleasant surroundings.
- Keep in mind that waterplanes only fly during daytime, so when you arrive in the Maldives in late afternoon or during darkness, you may have to spend a night at the capital.
- The steps from the water suites & villas into the ocean are quite slippery and there is a large drop from the bottom step into the water. A handrail here would be helpful.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 9/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 10/10
- Service: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9,4/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Maalifushi by COMO (and/or receive many free perks).
- All villas are excellent, regardless of location. But my personal favorites are the water villas that face the west, and thus enjoy the sunset (villa numbers 313 to 320).
- Book a package including transfers and a (breakfast minimum) meal plan to avoid extra costs. Half-board, with breakfast and dinner, should satisfy everyone.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best weather in the Maldives is between January and April, which also means high season (and high hotel prices). The monsoon runs from May to October, peaking in June. It is worth paying higher prices and sticking to the dry season as there is nothing to do on a rainy day except drink, eat, work out or scuba dive. Especially November and December, which are often labelled as dry season months, have been very unsettled in recent years.
HOW TO GET THERE
The resort is located a 50-minute waterplane trip from Male International Airport (UVF). Check the Wikipedia page of Male International Airport for an updated list of airlines that have regularly scheduled flights to Male International Airport:
- From/via Asia: Bangkok Airways (via Bangkok), Tigerair (via Singapore), Singapore Airlines (via Singapore), Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong), Air India (via Bangalore, Chennai, Thiruvanathapuram), China Eastern Airlines (via Colombo, Kunmnig), Cina Southern Airlines (via Guanghzou), Hainan Airlines (via Bejing), Korean Air (via Colombo and Seoul), Shanghai Airlines (via Shanghai), Srilankan Airlines (via Colombo), Maldivian (Chennai, Chongqing, Colombo, Dhaka, Thiruvanathapuram), Mega Maldives (via Bejing, Hong Kong, Shanghai).
- From/via Middle East: Emirates (via Dubai), Flybudai (via Dubai), Qatar Airways (via Doha), Etihad Airways (via Abu Dhabi), Oman Air (via Muscat), Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul).
- From/via Europe: Austrian Airlines (via Vienna), British Airways (via London), Thompson Airways (via London), Monarch Airlines (via London), Condor (via Frankfurt), Edelweiss Air (via Zurich), Meridiana (via Rome or Milan), Neos (via Rome or Milan), Transaero Airlines (via Moscow).