I recently enjoyed an AMAZING holiday in the Maldives. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (new) Business Class Brussels to Dubai
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (old) Business Class Dubai to Male
- Review: Soneva Jani Chapter One
- Review: Soneva Jani Chapter Two
- Review: Seaplane transfer to Velaa Private Island
- Review: Velaa Private Island (today)
- Review: Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas
- Review: Soneva Fushi
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (old) First Class Male to Dubai
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (new) First Class Dubai to Brussels
Today: Review of Velaa Private Island (Maldives)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Velaa Private Island
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Born from a love for the Maldives, Velaa Private Island is the passion project of a couple, Radka and Jiří Šmejc, to create one of the world’s most luxurious private island resorts and a private home. Embedded in the breathtaking scenery of the Maldives’ northern Noonu Atoll, Velaa Private Island meets the highest standards of comfort, exclusivity and privacy, creating an unparalleled and extravagant island experience. The private island, designed by the Czech architect Petr Kolar, has 43 villas and four private houses and resembles a sea turtle seen from the air. Guests are served by a private butler. The property has three restaurants under the culinary direction of Gaushan de Silva, a high-end spa, and a golf course designed by golf legend José Maria Olazábal.
Velaa Private Island features in my top 10 list of the best luxury resorts in the Maldives.
Have you ever stayed at Velaa Private Island? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
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
- Velaa Private Island can be reached by seaplane from the Maldives’ capital Malé. Standard transfers are booked (via the resort) on a 15 seater public seaplane, operated by Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA). Alternatively, a private charter can be arranged on a Velaa-branded 9 seater luxury seaplane. All guests (whether flying via TMA or Velaa’s private plane) have access to the resort’s small but comfortable private lounge at Male airport, while waiting for the seaplane transfer. Note that guests traveling to Maldives via private jet can opt to land at Maafaru International Airport (instead of Male), from where it’s a convenient 35 minute over-water transfer with one of the resort’s speed boats. Read my review of the seaplane transfer to Velaa Private Island here.
- Totally exclusive and ensuring complete privacy for all its guests, Velaa Private Island is tucked away in the remote Noonu Atoll towards the northwestern edge of the Maldives archipelago. The Noonu Atoll is a playground for the rich and famous since the site is home to three of the most luxurious resorts in the Maldives: Soneva Jani, Cheval Blanc, and Velaa Private Island. The seaplane flight from Male to Velaa – which takes about 45 minutes – takes guests across the North Male Atoll and the southern part of the Noonu Atoll, one of the most beautiful stretches of scenery in the Maldives. The journey offers jaw-dropping views of a deep blue ocean interspersed by tiny palm islands surrounded by ridiculously clear lagoons and sugar white beaches.
- Less than 20 hectares in size, Velaa Private Island is one of the smaller islands in the Maldives (you can walk around the island in less than 30 minutes), but is also ranks among the most stunningly beautiful islands in the archipelago. The island has an almost perfect circular shape; it features lush tropical foliage at its center and is completely encircled by a blinding white, powdered-sugary soft sand beach and a turquoise lagoon. Velaa Private Island shares its name and its home with generations of sea turtles which have inhabited the island for countless years (Velaa means “turtle” in Dhivehi, the local Maldivian language). From a broader aerial view, the island’s shape even resembles a turtle: the circular overwater villa boardwalk resembles a turtle’s head with the island and jetties representing the turtle’s body and flippers.
- There are many private islands in Maldives, but only very few of them are truly privately owned by one person. Velaa Private Island is such a case. The owner, Jiri Smejc, has spent countless weeks in Maldives both on holidays and while taking his business trips from Europe to Asia. The islands became his true passion: many of them being beautiful, but each of them coming short on some part of the visitor experience he valued. That’s why he decided to build Velaa Private Island: an island meeting his ideas what a luxurious private resort should be, and an island keeping a real privacy for its guests but at the same time versatile enough to provide number of first-class enjoyment opportunities. After all, the owner is the one who spends most time on the island and wants to enjoy it for years, not only for a week or two.
- Conceptualized by renowned Czech architect, Petr Kolář, the resort’s elegant design fuses contemporary luxury with intimate Maldivian nuances. An array of luxe materials were used to build the communal areas and villas, such as stone pavements from the desert in Jordan, flowerpots from Indonesia, luxury wood paneling from Borneo, and artisan patio furniture from Italy. When designing the buildings, main architect Petr Kolář was guided by two tenets that were agreed with the owner. The first was “polite luxury” and denotes a pleasant rather than imposing form of luxury. The second was “Maldivian touch”, indicating the preservation of a certain local character. The latter can be seen in the turtle outline that is the resort signature, in the design of the villas, and the use of palm leaves as a roof covering.
- Elegantly positioned to overlook enchanting vistas of a cerulean ocean, Velaa Private Island is comprised of 43 private villas, 18 of which are built over-water (sleeping from 1 to 10 guests). This includes a Romantic Pool Residence which can only be reached by boat, allowing even more exclusivity. During my holiday, my accommodation was upgraded to a beautiful Sunrise Water Pool Villa. Designed along an extended jetty with peaceful ocean views, this one-bedroom villa had a private pool and expansive sun deck with alfresco dining area, daybeds, and steps extending directly into the sea. The separate living room featured a viewing window set into the floor, whilst the ensuite bathroom offered his and her vanities along with a large, standalone circular bath. Clarins toiletries are provided.
- Besides the 43 beach and overwater villas, Velaa Private Island also boasts four private residences, which are ideal for guests who seek absolute privacy, extra care and utter discretion. One of the residences is called NIKA. Designed by award-winning interior designer, Patricia Urquiola, NIKA is a sophisticated space that recalls the surrounding nature. In her design, Urquiola played with the defining lines between interior and exterior areas. Lighting and textile elements contribute to forge a brighter and intimate ambiance, where guests are invited to retreat and enjoy a minimalist, yet refined environment. Custom made furniture pieces include the three Craaft lamps, which are entirely made out of white translucent beads.
- For the epicurean, Velaa Private Island boasts extraordinary culinary experiences with venues that rank among the best in the Maldives and an extensive wine cellar with an exclusive wine selection from around the globe. There are hree restaurants, offering a fusion of both international and Maldivian cuisine:
- Built overwater, Aragu is the resort’s signature restaurant, serving contemporary European cuisine with an Asian twist. The overwater venue is also home to the CRU Champagne Lounge, where guests can savor some of the world’s finest and rarest champagnes under the guidance of expert sommeliers.
- Athiri is the resort’s beachfront all-day dining restaurant, serving creative global cuisine from all over the world. Chefs from 14 nationalities use the finest imported and local ingredients to serve a menu of authentic, home style food. A wood-fired oven offers freshly made pizzas, a signature of Athiri, served throughout the day. Each morning, Athiri also hosts a lavish breakfast buffet. Next to Athiri is Avi, the poolside bar.
- Overlooking the entire island, an intimate Teppanyaki restaurant – called Tavaru – stands atop a three-story-tall, ivory-white structure, which houses an extensive wine cellar with more than eight hundred bins (from boutique wineries to grand marques). Tavaru offers exclusive Japanese tasting menus, and combines a grand theatric show with culinary delights such as the Teriyari Black Cod and Kagoshima A5 Tenderloin.
- Built over the clear waters of the lagoon, Velaa Private Island’s excellent wellness center offers a world of expertise and excellence where cutting-edge technology meets the ancestral art of touch. A comprehensive range of signature spa treatments is available, including customized facials with sophisticated European technology and traditional Asian massage and body treatments. Offering a synergy of therapies and products, the spa features six secluded double treatment rooms, the only ‘snow room’ in the Maldives, as well as an outdoor relaxation lounge with Jacuzzi. Sourced from the world’s leading wellness experts such as Dr Burgener Switzerland and KOTOSHINA from Japan, the latest anti-aging technologies are blended with rare and beneficial ingredients to promote new levels of skin vitality and cellular health.
- Velaa Private Island is the only ultra-luxury resort on the Maldives that features its own golf course. Velaa Golf Academy by Olazábal is a unique golfing experience that stretches over seven holes and nine tees but offers numerous combinations. The golf course is designed by José María Olazábal, renowned for his short game mastery, and managed by Troon, the leader in upscale golf course management. Velaa boasts a studio offering one-on-one tuition with PGA professionals. The academy also holds swing analysis software with the latest technology and is equipped with a state-of-the-art Trackman simulator to enhance the golfing experience. A putting green and tailor-made tuition programs make the Velaa Golf Academy an experience for the whole family to enjoy.
- From shore to shore and sunset to sunrise, Velaa Private Island offers a wide range of facilities, activities, and excursions:
- In front of Athiri Restaurant is an enormous beachfront swimming pool. It’s always quiet here since most guests prefer to lounge next to their private pool villa.
- The property features an excellent water sports center, which offers some of the newest hi-tech water sport toys and equipment, from flyboarding and hoverboarding, to electric foil surf boards and the latest tandem jetovator, as well as a complete range of exciting towables for children and families to enjoy.
- Excursions include big game fishing, snorkeling trips around an untouched reef, an authentic Maldivian Batheli boat cruise, enjoying a lavish lunch on a deserted island, or dolphin watching at sunset.
- Sports and fitness facilities include the Maldives only covered tennis court, as well as an outdoor padel court, squash court, climbing wall, a state of the art ‘Technogym’ and even a football pitch. Personal yoga and meditation sessions are held in the elevated yoga pavilion, a private garden or on the beach.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- Over the past decade, Velaa Private Island deservedly built a reputation as one of the most exclusive and luxurious hotels in the Maldives, making its way to the top segment of an already very high-end travel market. As such, it should not come as a surprise that a stay at the resort is astronomically expensive, although that doesn’t seem to deter most guests as the resort is always fully occupied during high season. One area where Velaa Private Island is especially expensive are its activities and excursions, since the resort focuses on private activities instead of cheaper, shared activities (although that will be to the liking of most of the resort’s wealthy clientele). While some travelers may question the resort’s value for money, keep in mind that this is the Maldives, where travel budgets come to die.
- The seaplanes at Velaa Private Island take off and land close to the island. They also dock at the arrival jetty just in front of Athiri Restaurant and the main pool. As a consequence, every time that a seaplane arrives or departs, there is some noise disturbance, especially for those guests staying in the island’s southwest corner. However, some guests might enjoy the excitement of watching the seaplane movements. Also, it’s not a big deal since there are only a few seaplane arrivals and departures per day (I would say no more than 6) and seaplane activities are limited to daylight hours only (but early departures might be loud enough to wake up some guests).
- The overwater villas at Velaa Private Island are excellent and luxurious but they are quite dark on the inside (with extensive use of dark woods) and they lack the wow factor of the overwater villas offered by some of the resort’s newer competitors in the archipelago. Velaa Private Island opened almost a decade ago (in 2013) so many luxury resorts that opened since then have looked at the Maldives’ top resorts (including Velaa), trying to create a room product that’s better than the one offered by the competition. This is not to say that the overwater villas at Velaa Private Island are a disappointment (far from), but there’s some room for improvement when it comes to natural lighting, decor and layout. I am confident that the resort – which constantly reinvents itself – will upgrade its villas over time so they rank again among the best in the Maldives.
- Unfortunately, Velaa Private Island’s house reef is not the best in the Maldives. In 1998, there was a global bleaching event in which the Maldives was one of the countries most negatively affected. The reefs in this region experienced mass mortalities and some reefs lost over 90% of their coral cover, including the reef at Velaa Private Island. The reef started to slowly recover but was unfortunately hit by another bleaching event in 2016. This is when the resort decided they wanted to restore their house reef and a coral restoration project was started, which has resulted in the return of more coral and more fish on the house reef (so there’s a good chance the reef might return to its original state in the coming years). Meanwhile, guests who like to explore the Maldives’ famous underwater world should not worry as Velaa Private Island offers snorkeling trips to an untouched reef nearby (in addition to excellent diving excursions).
- Velaa Private Island is surrounded by breakwaters (to prevent beach erosion). Most guests won’t even notice them since they are pretty well hidden under the water surface at the outer edge of the lagoon. During low tide though, some breakwaters become visible and might slightly spoil the view towards the horizon (but frankly, this problem is common in the Maldives).
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 9/10
- Pool: 10/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional 9/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $150 USD food & beverage credit).
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Velaa Private Island (and/or receive many free perks).
- 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 (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 the Velaa Private Island requires a 45-minute seaplane transfer from Male International Airport (MLE). Check the Wikipedia page of Male International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer flights to Male International Airport.
Below is a selection of 50 photos of Velaa Private Island. To view more hotel photos (including breakfast and dinners), click here.