Escape to paradise: the glorious world of the Maldives
A tropical nation of islands hidden in the Indian Ocean, we discover why this enchanting enclave is the dream tropical escape
Ah, the Maldives. Home of pristine white sandy beaches, artfully angled palm trees and shimmering aqua water, is it any wonder one cops serious shade when announcing a sojourn under the Maldivian sun? Whether you want to believe it or not, every cliché you've heard is true - this place is as postcard-perfect as island paradises come. (And like Miranda Kerr, it's impossible to capture a bad angle). The region is made of 26 natural atolls comprised of over one thousand tiny picturesque islands and sand banks - and while it's home to more resorts than we care to count, W Retreat & Spa takes up one of these prime Indian Ocean locales. Nestled in the North Ari Atoll, this luxury stay comes packaged with every amenity required to fully bliss out and experience everything this stunning archipelago has to offer.
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Sleep & chill
The island's intimate atmosphere can be attributed to its 78 private suites, many taking the shape of an above-water, one-bedroom villa overlooking the great expanse of turquoise-hued ocean. The suites were recently restyled by Angela Chang under the theme 'Let It Glow', using the island's neon-hued marine life, iridescent plankton and starry night sky as inspiration. The rooms boast natural wood surfaces, straw blinds and nautical-themed touches - keeping carefully in check with the general I'm-living-in-an-oasis atmosphere of the resort.
With a personal plunge pool, covered daybed, outdoor shower, twin deck chairs, glass-bottom peep hole and personal Bose sound system, there is frankly, little reason to step outside your room. But then again, you'd be missing out on the rest...
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Drink & dine
It says a lot about the general vibe of W that when you arrive by speedboat, you're instantly greeted by cheerful house beats emanating from the speakers embedded in the jetty. Yep, this entire island is a paean to good times. The three main restaurants run the gamut from an à la carte/breakfast buffet that features an actual chocolate fountain (Kitchen) to a beachside grill that runs weekly night food markets on the sand (Fire) and a seafood specialty hub perched on a deck overlooking the ocean. If you can't be bothered getting up off your sun lounger? Order some chilli mud crab at Wet, the casually cool poolside bar. Insider tip: the weekly Shock Wave Pool Party at Wet also plays host to the most delicious mini beef burger you will ever taste. No exaggeration.
Be sure to try sunset margaritas (and other punchy cocktails) at Sip, too. If dancing the night away is also your bag - head down the short flight of stairs to nightclub 15 Below. Named after the number of stairs it takes to make your descent, this hidden den boasts a DJ booth spinning smooth dance tunes, 90 types of vodka and plenty of comfy corners to cosy up in.
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Swim & snorkel
If diving off your deck into the coral reef below doesn't quite do it for you (what's wrong with you?), book a snorkelling session and explore the crazy beautiful marine life that envelopes the island - it's also known as the house reef. If you're lucky, you'll spot some chill turtles and white-tipped reef sharks hiding out near the spa. A word to the wise: bring your underwater camera.
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Relax & rejuvenate
With three secluded villas overlooking the ocean, Away offers a spa experience that offers a new meaning to the word sanctuary. Typical spa treatments like manis, pedis, facials and massages abound, but for something extra luxurious (and if you've got a spare US$1,200 to burn) the Fabulous Diamond Indulgence is your go-to. Block five hours out of your packed (ha!) schedule and prepare to be steamed, scrubbed and massaged into a heavenly state. You also score Veuve bubbles and caviar, a foot scrub, facial and - the pièce de résistance - a post-rub down powdering of gold diamond dust that'll have you glowing for days.
Gym junkies need not freak out, either. The hotel caters for more than one (relaxed) speed. Above the pool, you'll find a 24-hour fitness centre with personal trainers and experts on hand for more specific workouts, such as sunset yoga - a must. But, if you're truly in the R&R mindset, curl up with a DVD from the resort's extensive film library.
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It wouldn't be a tropical getaway without a spot of jet skiing, parasailing and underwater sled (aka SeaBob) for the thrill-seeking water babies, but for something a little more sophisticate, secure a spot on W's private yacht Escape.
The 24-metre yacht can be booked for intimate dinners, overnight stays or day trips to the other jewel in W's crown - the private island Gaathafushi - the stuff Pinterest boards are literally made of. Reserve it for a romantic overnight stay (complete with your own private chef, natch), and nestle up under the stars for a secluded sleepover of epic proportions. No prizes for guessing why this exerperience is catnip for honeymooners and weddings...
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While not an especially long trip, be sure to factor in a day's travel, which includes an eight hour flight to Singapore, a five hour flight to Malé, plus airport transfers, seaplanes and a speedboat to the island. Phew. Thankfully, the view that awaits you is well worth the time in transit.
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