Review: Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

I recently enjoyed an AMAZING holiday in the Maldives. You can read my trip reports here:


Today: Review of Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas

Set on Kihavah Huravalhi, one of the most pristine and beautiful islands in the Maldives, Anantara Kihavah Villas is a 30-minute seaplane flight from Male. The resort’s 80 spacious ultra-luxurious villas are either poised over the water with sweeping ocean views or nestled along a pristine stretch of private beach. All overwater villas are built out of groove-lined timber, with high ceilings and hardwood floors, and feature expansive terraces with private pools, from where to take in the horizon and catching sightings of turtles in the lagoon and dolphins in the Indian Ocean. At Anantara Kihavah Villas guests are treated to a wide range of excellent facilities, including an incredible underwater restaurant as well as a gorgeous overwater spa.

Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury resorts in the Maldives and the best hotels in the Maldives for families.

Have you ever stayed at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.

In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube video):


PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Every dream holiday at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas begins with a 35 minute seaplane flight over hypnotic shades of blue, which takes guests from Velana International Airport near the Maldives’ capital Male towards the resort in the Baa Atoll Atoll. The transfer is an unforgettable experience in itself as the plane flies over a string of glowing coral islands and Maldivian resorts amidst turquoise waters. Guests can also choose to take a domestic flight on a wheeled plane to Dharavandhoo Airport, followed by a short speed boat if the arrival or departure time occurs outside daylight hours. The resort takes care of the booking of the domestic plane tickets, so there’s nothing you have to worry about regarding the transfer.
  • The warm welcome at Anantara Kihavah Maldives is one of the most playful and impressive rituals in the archipelago’s hotel scenery. For every arrival, a large number of staff members – stylishly dressed in their white uniforms – lines up at the small welcome pavilion on the arrival jetty. When a speedboat with new guests approaches the resort, they welcome the guests with the sounds of Bodu Beru – traditional Maldivian drums and singing. After introducing themselves, the staff offers guests a refreshingly cold towel and a cold drink, escorting them down the jetty towards the island with the hypnotic beat of the Bodu Beru drum in the background already working to soothe edges. They do that for every arrival, day and night.
  • Together with Soneva Fushi and Park Hyatt Maldives, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas ranks among the most beautiful and pristine natural islands in the Maldives, rising up out of the ocean’s sapphire blue like a mirage. The picture perfect island – a former coconut plantation – is known as Kihavah Huravalhi  in local language (Kihavah means ‘young coconut’ in Maldivian). Truly a tropical paradise, the idyllic island is completely surrounded by the whitest of powdery sands, lapped by crystal-clear turquoise waters, and framed by coconut palms swaying in the breeze. The island is quite small: it takes less than 30 minutes to walk around it. Bicycles are provided to explore the canopied paths, which wind across the island between the hundreds of palm trees. Complimentary buggy service (24/7) is provided as well.
  • Male-based architect Mohamed Shafeeq (aka ‘Sappe’) from Group X Design Associates has ensured the resort’s stylish design draws on native building methods traditional to the Maldives. Using age old techniques such as thatched palm roofs, each building of Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas is a simple, natural sanctuary, belying the more intricate and significant design within. The core visual theme running through the entire resort is an Indian-Moroccan fusion with colonial touches, originating from Bangkok-based August Design who was responsible for the interior design. The decor features local accents in every hotel pavilion, the color schemes take inspiration from the surrounding coral reefs, and the use of timber and traditional thatched rooves establishes a low-key barefoot luxury vibe.
  • Eighty spacious private pool sanctuaries, ranging from one-bedroom villas to a four-bedroom residence, are either poised over the water with sweeping ocean views or nestled along a pristine stretch of private beach. During my visit, I stayed in one of the 40 overwater villas which are positioned in an ellipse on stilts over the turquoise lagoon. The villa featured a lovely entryway with minibar, his & hers walk-in wardrobes, and a spacious bedroom with kingsize bed, opening to a large outdoor patio. The latter boasted a large infinity-edge pool, dining sala, wooden sundeck and a lounging area with a swinging daybeds. One of the villa’s highlights was the stunning bathroom, which was equipped with an indoor rain showers, outdoor shower, his and her vanities, and over-sized bathtubs big enough for two. The sunken glass bottom in the offered a mesmerizing view of the sparkling ocean.
  • Larger travel parties or families that need more privacy may want to check into one of the resort’s massive multi-bedroom residences. These larger villas feature the same style, design and aesthetic as the one-bedroom villas, but they have more space – obviously – and also features private gyms, spa rooms and full kitchens.  Two of these residences are perched over a crystal-calm lagoon, both equipped with two bedrooms and offering commanding views of the Indian Ocean. The remaining five residences are located in the jungle along the beach, with the crown jewel in this collection being the four-bedroom beach pool residence. e. A capacious layout smartly optimised for creating shared memories or moments of solitude, this four-bedroom sanctuary comfortably accommodates up to eight adults and four children, or 12 adults.
  • Guests are spoilt for choice with six restaurants and bars, each offering a distinctive setting, menu and ambiance that divulges a different view of paradise, as well as a diverse culinary journey. The main dining venues are housed in an overwater complex, called Sea. Fire. Spice. Sky.
    • Sea Restaurant and its award-winning wine cellar (with over 6,500 bottles) offer an unreal underwater dining experience. The octagonal design and mirrored interior optimizes the aquatic view making diners feel as if they are part of the house reef. At Sea, guests watch sharks, turtles and tropical fish swim by as they savor gourmet dining at its finest. Watch my YouTube video of Sea here.
    • Fire is the resort’s Japanese restaurant. Visual and taste senses are stimulated with dramatic Teppanyaki cooking displays. Chefs put on a show for every guest each night, as the ocean breeze blows beneath the venue’s thatched roof.
    • Spice Restaurant serves Asian inspired fragrant dishes and authentic Indian delights. Guests can watch specialty chefs from across the region at work in the show kitchen, preparing spicy appetizers, authentic tandoori and curries, wok-fried delicacies and fresh seafood.
    • At Sky, guests gaze on the stars as they sip champagne and listen to the Sky Guru’s tales of the galaxy. Sky combines a luxury cocktail tapas bar with the most powerful telescope in the region (more on that below).
    • Located along the main swimming pool, Manzaru restaurant is the resort’s all day dining venue. Here, casual lunches or romantic dinners of Italian and Mediterranean classics are served poolside or at a communal table
    • Next to Manzaru is Plates Restaurant which features a main sand floored sala and an alfresco deck on the beach. Plates is only open for breakfast; the latter is comprised of an impressive international gormet buffet with live stations and à la carte signature dishes served with chilled sparkling wine.
  • Built overwater on stilts at the far tip of the island, the Anantara Spa offers a range of therapeutic treatments including traditional Asian therapies and ancient ayurvedic wellness. The spa comprises six treatment suites including an Ayurvedic room, a beauty salon, hair and nail salon and two single facial suites accompanied by a relaxation area with large sweeping decks and two oversized plunge pools that are suspended over the ocean. Each treatment room features a private soak tub or Thai massage area, shower and changing facilities. The spa also features the region’s only Cocoon Medical Spa, featuring restorative facials, detoxification therapies, modern medical aesthetic, and immunity-bolstering treatments. Those in need of mindful exercise can reconnect to their natural flow with Hatha Yoga, an Aerial Yoga class suspended over the ocean or SUP Yoga.
  • With its proximity to the equator, the Maldives is truly an astronomer’s paradise and Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas is the perfect place for spectacular views of both the southern and northern sky. Custom-built for such stargazing encounters, SKY is a unique cocktail bar and home to one of the most powerful telescope in the region, making it one of only two over water observatories in the Maldives (the other one is located at Soneva Jani). Perched over the aquamarine lagoon, the bar proffers front-row seats to ocean views from every vantage point during the day, and as night falls, the open roof deck comes alive. Guests sip champagne and nibble on Asian inspired tapas, whilst absorbing knowledge imparted by the Sky Guru as he leads with his laser pointer on this cosmic journey in the stars.
  • From shore to shore and sunset to sunrise, Anantara Kihavah Maldives offers a wide range of facilities and activities:
    • In front of Manzaru Restaurant is an enormous beachfront swimming pool. With a length of 49 m, it was the longest pool in the Maldives when the resort opened back in 2011. Jhoola swing bed hover over the water, offering a relaxing view towards the India Ocean.
    • Recreation and leisure facilities include a tennis court, bicycles, a fitness center with premium Technogym equipment, Muay Thai Boxing, trampoline park, table tennis, billiards, boutique, gift shop and art gallery.
    • Movie buffs are transported back in time to enjoy classic movies under the stars on a big outdoor screen in the island’s lush jungle center.
    • The property features an excellent water sports center, which offers cutting edge windsurfing rigs, catamarans, parasailing, kite surfing, jet bikes and water skiing.
  • Anantara Kihavah Maldives is one of the best resorts in the Maldives for families with young children and teenagers. The resort has a specially-designed ‘Thiththi Boli Kids Club’ for younger guests of 12 and under. It offers complimentary daily supervised programs, fun arts and crafts activities, indoor and outdoor sports and games and kids are even introduced to new activities inspired by local culture and the natural marine surroundings. The Club also offers cooking classes and spa treatments. Another great feature is the resort’s Kids Marine Biology Program, which introduces kids ranging from eight upwards to diving and snorkeling, and teaches them in a fun and interesting way about the reef ecosystem and the biodiversity of the reef. Older teenagers can chill out in the resort’s recreation area, where they can participate with their peers and resort staff in fun games such as life-sized chess, badminton, volleyball, and Jenga.
  • Beyond the beach is Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas’ stunning lagoon, which is home to marine life and an expansive coral reef. The reef – one of the best house reefs in the Maldives – protects the pristine beach and guards the crystal-clear lagoon. It also supports an astounding array of tropical fish, crustaceans and bizarre-looking molluscs. Here dolphins, hawksbill turtles, eagle rays and reef sharks can be seen thriving in their natural habitat. Guests can snorkel or dive the protected reef directly from the powdery sand beach. Three coral propagation nurseries have been established to assist in the regeneration of the house reef which is still recovering from a bleaching event that occurred across the Maldives in 2016. Guests can participate in reef propagation and contribute to the resorts on-going conservation efforts by adopting a coral rope.
  • Enjoying a prime location in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and on the doorstep of Hanifaru Bay, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas is the perfect place from which to explore the underwater world of the Indian Ocean. One of the underwater activities offered by the resort is snorkeling with manta rays, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. During the months of May to November, the South West monsoon causes massive built up of krill and plankton, drawing hundreds of manta rays and whale sharks in to Hanifaru Bay. Once in the water, guests are treated to an amazing underwater ballet, performed by these giant oceanic creatures, gliding and somersaulting in mesmerizing patterns. Curious and friendly, they often swim very close to snorkelers, always managing to avoid contact at the last second – making for an extraordinary memory.
  • Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas is one of the greenest resorts in the Maldives (efforts that have been rewarded with a Green Globe Certification) – not one tree was cut down during construction giving the whole palm-stuffed island an undiscovered feel with the actual resort hidden beneath. As part of an ongoing commitment to sustainable tourism and environmental conservation, the resort also features two green spaces providing natural sanctuaries of calmness and serenity for its guests. The local Maldivian word nala translates as “beautiful” and with approximately 1,200 orchids of 25 different varieties, the Nala Orchid Garden is certainly one of the most exotically beautiful locations in the property. Verdantly lush and environmentally friendly, the Organic Garden is a green space in every sense of the phrase. More than just a nice place to enjoy nature, however, it is also a vegetable and herb garden, with some of the produce being used as ingredients in drinks and food served at the resort’s food and beverage outlets.
  • Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villasis managed by Anantara, a luxury hospitality brand headquartered in Thailand. From cosmopolitan cities to desert sands to lush islands, Anantara connects travelers to the indigenous, grounds them in authentic luxury, and hosts them with passionate expertise. The portfolio currently boasts over 40 stunning hotels and resorts located in Thailand, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Seychelles, Mozambique, Zambia, Tunisia, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Portugal, Spain, Hungary and Italy, with a pipeline of future properties across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Anantara Kihavah Maldives is one of the brand’s top properties.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

  • While spacious and absolutely delightful, the accommodations at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas feature dark wooden floors, ceilings and furniture, which evoke a rather classical and somewhat old-fashioned ambiance. I feel the villas could use a refurbishment to further elevate the style, similar to what was done at Anantara Kihavah’s sister property Naladhu (which features the same villa types, although the villas are styled in a more airy and lighter design, which is more to my liking). The same is true for the public areas: for example, I was not a fan of the green colored cushions on the sunbeds as well as the matching green colored towels, and believe a more understated, neutral color scheme would work better and feel more chic. But that’s just a matter of personal taste of course.
  • Seaplanes depart from and take off close to the resort’s overwater villas, and, unfortunately they are truly noisy. It means that if you are staying in an overwater villa at the end of the pontoon, left side, early seaplane departures after sunrise might wake you up. So, if you are sensitive to noises and don’t want to be waken up by a seaplane, I suggest that you either request an overwater villa on the jetty’s other side or that you stay at a beach villa. It’s worth mentioning though that for most guests, watching the seaplane movements (limited to 5 or 6 per day) is pure fun.
  • Since it offers many family-oriented facilities and programs, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas is very popular with families. During the time of my visit (coinciding with a European school holiday), the property was fully booked, and about a quarter of all guests were families, some of them traveling with younger children. The only palpable consequence for other guests was a lack of serenity at the main pool area, which was overrun by children during the morning hours. While this might sound a bit uninviting for couples and honeymooners, it’s not really a problem since the island is huge and there are many tranquil places and beaches to retreat to besides the privacy of your villa. Nonetheless, I would advise to avoid the school holidays if you are traveling as a couple and looking for a tranquil getaway.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 10/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Pool: 9/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 10/10
  • Breakfast: 10/10
  • Spa: 9/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 9/10
  • Overall experience: very good 8,8/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Anantara Kihavah Maldives (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 (and high hotel 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

Anantara Kihavah Maldives can be reached by a 35-minute seaplane trip from Velana International Airport (MLE). Check the Wikipedia page of Velana International Airport for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to the Maldives.


PHOTOS

Below is a selection of my photos of Anantara Kihavah Maldives. To view more photos of the resort (including breakfast and the dinning experiences), click here.

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JETTY WITH OVERWATER VILLAS
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OVERWATER VILLA: OUTDOOR DECK & POOL
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MANZARU RESTAURANT & BAR
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OVERWATER DINING COMPLEX: SKY BAR
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OVERWATER DINING COMPLEX: SPICE RESTAURANT
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OVERWATER DINING COMPLEX: OBSERVATORY
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