Last month, I enjoyed a FABULOUS holiday in the incredibly beautiful Maldives. You can read my trip reports here:
- Trip report: Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner Business Class Brussels to Doha
- Trip report: Qatar Airways A330 Business Class Doha to Male
- Review: Jumeirah Dhevanafushi (today)
- Review: St Regis Vommuli (to be published later)
- Review: Park Hyatt Hadahaa (to be published later)
- Review: Soneva Jani (to be published later)
Today (March 15, 2017): Review ofJumeirah Dhevanafushi (Maldives).
- Location: Google Maps
- Hotel website: Jumeirah Dhevanafushi
- Tip: receive free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso
Nestled at the south end of the Maldives in the heart of the Indian Ocean, Jumeirah Dhevanafushi was created for life’s tranquil pleasures. Stretched across two islands, this ultraluxe and enchanting hideaway offers everything you need to get away from it all. Lush foliage, crystal blue waters and stretches of white sandy beach create a sanctuary. It is no exaggeration to call this paradise. Jumeirah Dhevanafushi houses 21 island villas, each with its own private beach and pool. Over the water, you’ll find another 16 ocean villas with steps directly down to the deep and outdoor marble baths looking out the horizon. Here, guests can delight their senses with the sumptuous menus of the resort’s three restaurants.
Jumeirah Dhevanafushi features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury resorts in the Maldives.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip and slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- My review of other luxury resorts in the Maldives
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Jumeirah Dhevanafushi enjoys one of the world’s most remote locations, on the heart-shaped Meradhoo island which is set in the extraordinary beauty of the Gaafu Alifu Atoll, 400 km (250 mi) south from the capital Male and just 70 km (43 mi) north of the Equator. Getting there requires a 55-minute domestic flight to Kaadedhdhoo Airport followed by a 20-minute speedboat ride, but once you arrive, you will be overwhelmed by a secluded world of breathtaking luxury. The resort takes care of the booking of your domestic plane tickets, so there’s nothing you have nothing to worry about regarding the transfer.
- The journey to Kaadedhdhoo itself is an phenomenal sightseeing adventure, offering a bird’s-eye view of the Maldavian archipelago. The flights are operated by Maldivian, the national airlines of the Maldives, and depart from the domestic terminal at Male airport, which is located adjacent to the international terminal. Maldivian mostly uses smaller Bombardier Dash turboprop aircraft on the Kaadedhdhoo flight, which seat around 30 to 50 people (depending on the plane type) and fly higher than the more famous Maldivian waterplanes. Although I am scared of flying, it was nothing too bad and an easy hop.
- Because getting to Jumeirah Dhevanafushi requires a domestic flight, your Jumeirah experience will always start from the moment you arrive at Male International Airport. Jumeirah’s meet & assist representatives will welcome you in person after the luggage collection at the exit of arrivals terminal, assist you with the check-in process for the domestic flight, and escort you to a comfortable waiting lounge at Male International Airport. The waiting time at the airport for the connecting domestic flight to Kaadedhdhoo is never longer than 3 hours (in my case, it was less than 30 minutes).
- Jumeirah Dhevanafushi offers an unrivaled castaway experience and some of the most remote luxury that can be found on planet earth – perfect for anyone who really wants to ‘get away from it all’. The resort is just about as close to the Equator as you can get, and there isn’t another island in sight (except for one, recently opened resort at a comfortable distance from Jumeirah Dhevanafushi’s shores). The only things you hear on the beach are the palm trees swaying in the wind and the warm Indian Ocean waters lapping the white sands, which is a huge advantage compared to the hotels located closer to Male, where you are occasionally disturbed by passing boats and overflying planes.
- The welcome ritual at the resort is one of the most impressive I ever experienced at a hotel. A large number of Jumeirah staff members – stylishly dressed in white uniforms – is waiting at the welcome pavilion on the arrival jetty and once your speedboat approaches the resort, they welcome you with the sounds of Bodu Beru – traditional Maldivian drums and singing. After introducing themselves and shaking your hands, the staff will offer you a refreshingly cold towel, a coconut drink and a fruit skewer. They do that for every arrival, day and night.
- It took three years to go from the initial drawing boards to the opening of the resort in spring 2011. The design of the resort was done by Bangkok-based Blink Design Group and inspired by Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, one of the most important and influential Asian architects of the twentieth century. The minimalist decor, with its subtile black and white color theme, is omnipresent in both rooms and the communal areas, and is a stylish alternative for the usual opulent decor that Jumeirah resorts around the world are known for. It reflects a sense of tranquility, boutique escape luxury, private island spirit, haute couture, and a glamorous but discrete ambience.
- The vision of the designers was to create an exclusive ‘two-resort island’. As such, one part of the resort is located on the tropical island itself, while another part is laid out for the most discerning luxury traveler on a overwater village, a mere 800 meters (0,5 mi) from the main island, suspended on platforms above the most iridescent sea in the world. A traditional Dhoni boat connects the main island with the overwater village every 20 minutes (the ride itself takes around 5 minutes). Both resorts feature somewhat similar communal areas (e.g. restaurant, library and infinity pool) that are accessible to all guests. Chances are you won’t spend much time here anyway since it will be very hard to drag you away from the luxury of your villa. While the main island only offers beach villas (21 in total, all having their own stretch of sand), it are the 16 overwater sanctuaries at the overwater village that are the resort’s most luxurious accommodations.
- During my holiday, I stayed in so-called Beach Revive Villa (villa number 9) on the main island. Although this villa type is the lowest room category at the resort, it’s still a stunning accommodation. The spacious master bedroom featured honey coloured timber flooring, a soaring ceiling and a cozy lounge area in the corner, where some snacks and a fruit bowl were on display when I arrived in the room. Adjacent to the master bedroom was a separate study room, which can be transformed into a second bedroom in case you are traveling with children. The study room connected to the palatial bathroom which ranks among the largest hotel bathrooms I have ever seen in my life: it featured a walk-in shower, a walk-in wardrobe, an outdoor rain shower, and an enormous deep soaking bath tub (more of an indoor marble plunge pool), and came with luxurious Aromatherpay Assiociates bathroom amenities. The villa was surrounded by a delightfully private and shaded garden with a generously sized infinity pool and offered direct access to a private stretch of beach on the island’s north-west side.
- Jumeirah’s Dhevanafushi’s small and triangularly shaped island is entirely surrounded by beautiful white sand beaches and a luminous cyan-blue lagoon. However, the quality of the beach differs a bit from side to side. The east side and west side of the island feature a magnificent beach, with whiter-than-white, talcum powder sand granules, with the west side being my favorite because it comes with stunning views of the dazzling Maldivian sunset. The beach on the island’s north side is more rocky and features some groynes made of sandbags to somewhat reduce the force of the waves and prevent erosion of the idyllic beaches that surround the island.
- The Maldives stand head and shoulders above any other destination on earth when it comes to diving and snorkeling. And with one of the best house reefs in the Maldives, Jumeirah Dhevanafushi should be on the bucket list of everyone with an interest in marine life. The richness and variety of the underwater world that surround the resorts is astonishing: schools of vibrantly coloured reef fish await you the moment you enter warm crystal clear waters of the lagoon around Meradhoo island. Past the drop-off into the deep blue ocean, you may encounter manta rays, turtles, sharks and even the world’s largest fish, the whale shark.
- The overwater Talise spa is located near the arrival jetty and includes 3 private overwater treatment rooms and one VIP room, with steam and sauna facilities incorporated in the treatment rooms. The range of individual treatments makes use of traditional and alternative therapies, with skilled masseurs creating absolute harmony. The spa specialises in treatment rooms for couples and also include a yoga platform over water and a viewing jetty to sit and enjoy the breathtaking sunsets.
- Jumeirah Dhevanafushi has a large range of leisure facilities to keep you entertained for the duration of your stay. In addition to the private pools accompanying each villa, Jumeirah Dhevanafushi also offers two shared infinity pools, one on the main island and one at the overwater village. The main island also features an amazing fully equipped overwater gym, a Yoga Pavilion and an extensive selection of land and water sports activities, such as fishing, diving, snorkelling, sailing, waterskiing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking and a PADI 5-star dive centre.
- The resort has three restaurants and one bar, offering a variety of culinary options. Azara – the opensided, main island restaurant – is located beachfront and offers a combination of lavish buffets and a la carte dining with international, mainly Mediterranean inspired dishes. It’s also the scene of breakfast each morning. Mumayaz is a casual beach grill, which opens a few nights each weeks and offers a choice of the freshest appetizers, seafood and grill specialties. Johara is the fine dining venue of the overwater village and specializes in contemporary pan asian specialities. Khibar is located adjacent to the Azar restaurant on the main island and offers an extensive cocktail menu, including home-infused vodkas and signature martinis; it’s also the scene of the weekly general manager’s reception, a complimentary cocktail reception for all guests.
- An experience not to be missed is the ‘dine by design’ sand table dinner. The hotel staff literally digs you a table out of the white sand and serves you a tantalizing barbeque feast.
- Pre-arrival communication with the resort is excellent: all my emails were answered within 24 hours (which is a blessing when you want to create your own itinerary).
- The resort is managed by Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, which is regarded as one of the most luxurious and innovative hotel brands in the world. The company was founded in 1997 with the aim to become a hospitality industry leader through establishing a world-class portfolio of luxury hotels and resorts. The most famous hotel in the brand’s portfolio is the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is hands down one of the best and most exclusive resorts in the Maldives. I tremendously enjoyed my stay here and highly recommend this ultraluxe hideaway. Nevertheless, it’s not 100% perfect, and you should know the following when you consider a holiday here:
- As mentioned above, the island is completely surrounded by a white sand beach, but the quality of the beach differs from side to side. The east side features a lovely stretch of beach, although a few villas here – those located close to the arrival jetty – look out on the overwater spa (nothing too bad though). The beach on the north side of the island is rocky, and features several groynes made with sandbags to prevent beach erosion as well as a service jetty (this side is thus best avoided). The good news is that the west side of the island has a stunning stretch of beach with uninterrupted views of the ocean, so make sure that you book or request a villa here in case you prefer a beach accommodation over a watervilla. Also keep in mind that the resort does not have a beach club (except for a few loungers on the sunrise side of the island), so the time you will spend on the beach will be on the private beach chairs in front of your villa (except for the occasional strolls around the island).
- Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is set in a remote location in the Gaafu Alifu Atoll, and getting there includes a 55-minute domestic flight and 20 minute speedboat transfer from Male Airport. This actually adds to the character of the resort as it is truly a peaceful island escape, away from city light and noise pollution. However, it also implies that you may have to wait a few hours in the lounge at Male airport for your connecting flight, although the waiting time never exceeds 3 hours. So you have to take into consideration that the transfer to Jumeirah Dhevanafushi (including waiting time) may take a large chunk of your holiday time on the day of your arrival and departure. While this is ok if you will spend a holiday of five days or more in the Gaafu Alifu Atoll (which is also home to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa Hotel), it makes the resort not so ideal for a shorter trip. And although the transfer is not always convenient, I promise you that it is worth the journey since Jumeirah Dhevanafushi offers some of the most remote luxury to be found on earth.
- While food was excellent and of very high quality, I was not completely blown away by the taste nor the presentation of some of the dishes I was served. IMHO, the a la carte dining falls just short of a 5 star gastromic experience and does not completely match the idyllic restaurant settings, the lavish and excellent theme buffets, and the resort’s sky-high reputation as being one of the most exclusive hotels in the Maldives. Part of that may be explained by the fact that Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is very popular with Chinese guests, and as such the cuisine is very much focused on Asian clients and their tastes. However, ‘de gustibus non est disputandum’ since tastes and culinary preferences differ from person to person.
- The one (and only) thing that truly disappointed me on the food and beverage level was the mediocre breakfast buffet. While still excellent to international standards, it was a rather limited spread when compared to the lavish breakfast buffets to be found at the Maldives’ other five- and six star top resorts. Although the buffet was complemented with an a la carte menu, I did miss some salmon, a variety of fruits, freshly squeezed juices and high quality cheeses on the buffet (to name a few). Perhaps the resort should consider a cold room to offer a more substantial breakfast buffet. I also noticed that some days the buffet featured hot Asian dishes while they were not offered on other days (not sure why).
- Jumeirah Dhevanafushi offers some of the most grandiose overwater villas in the Maldives, all of them coming with their own infinity pool, and I highly recommend to stay in one. In fact, the resort’s overwater village – built at some distance from the main island’s shore – is a unique concept in the Indian Ocean archipelago as it also features its own restaurant, lobby and infinity pool. Although getting to the main island (and its beaches) is not much of a deal with the 5 minute, complimentary Dhoni boat ride, you have to take into consideration that it may include some waiting time (max 20 minutes) since only one boat is running a more or less scheduled shuttle service between the island and the overwater complex. As such, an impulsive beach stroll may require some advanced planning, unless you don’t mind swimming from your overwater villa to the island (which can be done) while observing the spectacular underwater underneath.
- It’s only a minor detail, but from time to time I noticed a smell of gasoline on the island’s interior along the walking path to the island’s beach villas (although you won’t spend much time here anyway).
- High-speed WiFi is complimentary throughout the resort. But unfortunately, there’s no internet connection on the beach that surrounds the Island Revive villas. As such, I did miss it to surf the internet on my tablet while lounge on my beach chair (although won’t be much of a problem for most guests).
- During my stay, the resort was full of (often very loud) Chinese families, which was partly explained by the fact that it was Chinese new year. Apparently, the resort is year-round very popular with guests from mainland China (and for a good reason, since it’s a stunning hotel). The good news is that the resort caters very well for their Chinese guests with Chinese speaking staff as well as information and menus being written in Chinese. The not so good news is that the “omnipresence of China” on the island seemed to be a little out of balance for the non-Chinese guests (like myself). I heard though that the resort is looking to increase its market share in countries like the UK, Germany and USA.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 9/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Resort grounds (beach): 8/10
- Rooms (villas): 10/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: 10/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Jumeirah Dhevanafushi (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: receive free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. villa upgrade, daily breakfast for two, early check-in , late check-out, $100 USD resort credit, $100 USD spa credit, and complimentary WiFi).
- Save money: Elite members of Jumeirah’s loyalty program (Jumeirah Sirius) are well treated, with – amongst other benefits – free WiFi, complementary room upgrade (when available), early check-in or late check-out (when available), and savings on dining and spa facilities. Click here to read my review of the Jumeirah Sirius program (with pros & cons).
- Save money: Pre-book your spa treatments before your arrival and you will receive a 20% discount on all treatments.
- Make sure you book at least a five-day stay at the hotel, since you will lose a few hours on the day of arrival and departure with the transfers. When the prospect of staying for one week (or more) on the same, small island is not to your liking, you should consider combining your Jumeirah Dhevanafushi holiday with a stay at the Park Hyat Hadahaa resort (located within the same atoll, a 45-minute boat ride away) and/or a stay at Jumeirah’s sister hotel, Jumeirah Vittaveli, which is located in the South Male Atoll, a 20 minute speedboat ride away from the airport.
- If you opt for a beach villa, I would recommend to book or request a beach villa on the west side (sunset side) of the island, which has the most beautiful stretch of beach. Try to avoid the north side of the island, where the beach isn’t very good.
- If you opt for a overwater villa, I would recommend to book or request a villa on the west side (sunset side), since the villas on the sunrise side – especially the villas close to the jetty – may suffer from the noise of the shuttle boat and also lack some privacy (guests in the shuttle boat can look straight into the terraces of those villas).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
MY REVIEWS OF OTHER LUXURY HOTELS IN THE MALDIVES
- Hotel review: Jumeirah Dhevanafushi (Maldives)
- Review: Soneva In Aqua, the Maldives’ first floating villa
- Review: Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’ most exclusive resort
- Hotel review: Maalifushi by COMO (Maldives)
- Hotel review: Naladhu, South Male Atoll (Maldives)
- Hotel review: One&Only Reethi Rah (Maldives)
- Hotel review: Gili Lankanfushi (Maldives)
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best weather in the Maldives is between January and April, which also means high season (with low availability and very expensive room rates). 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
Getting to Jumeirah Dhevanafushi requires a 55-minute domestic flight from Male International Airport (MLE) to Kaadedhdhoo Airport followed by a 20-minute speedboat ride. Check the Wikipedia page of Male International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer 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), Lufthansa (via Frankfurt), Air France (via Paris).