The private island of Naladhu reopened in November, after a complete overhaul by award-winning Japanese architect Yuji Yamazaki. Home to just 20 villas, the Maldivian hotel prides itself on offering complete privacy and seclusion – the whole day could pass without you interacting with another soul, if you wish.
Operated by Anantara, the property offers intuitively designed accommodations, intimate spa experiences and a personalized approach to service and food. The National headed to South Malé Atoll to take a closer look at Naladhu’s new look.
When we arrive at Velana International Airport, we are immediately escorted to the Anantara Hospitality Lounge, which is packed with guests. We complete a few formalities before being taken to our private yacht, the aptly named Nirvana. Leather armchairs and sofas, plush rugs, and welcome drinks mean the half-hour journey to the private island of Naladhu passes quickly.
The property was named the Indian Ocean’s Best Resort of 2021 in the Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.
A welcome party waits on the pier as we dock. The island is small, so we walk straight to our villa.
Naladhu sits on a small point of land on a lagoon which is also home to two other Anantara properties, Anantara Dhigu and Anantara Veli. You can take advantage of services, including the spa, scuba diving center and restaurants, at the other resorts, which are accessible via a short boat ride or a walk across the connecting bridges.
All guests are required to present a PCR test upon arrival at Naladhu Private Island, performed no later than 96 hours prior to arrival, regardless of their vaccination status. The intimate size of this resort town means you rarely come into contact with other people, so masks aren’t necessary, even in public spaces.
There’s no shortage of luxury accommodation in the Maldives, but Naladhu’s villas are particularly noteworthy. There are 300 square meters of living space in our Ocean House, wrapped around a private eight meter infinity pool and expansive terrace that overlooks the open sea.
The entire space is glassed in, so you get water views from every vantage point, including the freestanding tub that takes pride of place in the bathroom. The pool can also be accessed directly from the bathroom and bedroom, so you can step straight into the water as soon as you jump out of bed.
Our villa, named Dughethi, also has a walk-in closet, office, lounge areas and a generously stocked bar, with all sorts of tasty snacks. Indonesian teak furniture and white stone add to the light and airy feel of the space.
There is no direct access to the sea from the villa, as it sits directly above a reef, but each villa comes with its own private cabana on a beach across the sea. island, one minute walk. Because our villa overlooks the sea rather than the lagoon, the soundtrack of our stay is that of the waves crashing on the reef, a novelty in the Maldives, so often associated with calm, turquoise waters. This also makes it an ideal option for surfers.
A huge day bed suspended on the terrace quickly becomes a privileged place to read, relax and enjoy the sounds of the sea.
Each villa comes with a dedicated butler, or “kuwaanu”, who is one WhatsApp message away from fulfilling your every wish, 24 hours a day. who is on hand to arrange spa treatments, PCR tests, drink orders and dinner reservations. In the restaurants, the service is fluid, discreet and of constant quality.
Naladhu is small, intimate and designed for those truly looking to get away from it all. We meet three or four other guests every day and everyone stays more or less alone.
It takes a few minutes to cross the island, via a white sand track flanked by lush tropical vegetation. There’s a hidden coconut grove if you’re looking for space for quiet outdoor reflection, a communal pool, massage room, and yoga and fitness classes – if you can bear to be away from your villa.
The Living Room is the all-day dining and breakfast spot and offers plenty of opportunities to dine right on the sand, taking in views of the lagoon, verdant palm trees, and birds fluttering happily on the sand. Breakfast becomes an extended affair and includes vegan options, a selection of eggs, sweet options, healthy juices and shots, and a particularly tasty coconut and chia pudding. There’s also the option of a floating breakfast, now ubiquitous in the Maldives, although there are unexpected rain breaks which we miss.
While the adjoining resorts also offer a choice of restaurants, including Thai Baan Huraa, the emphasis at Naladhu is on private dining, whether it’s lunch on your villa’s terrace or a intimate dinner on the beach. The resort promotes a menu-less concept, where fresh, seasonal ingredients can be tailored specifically to individual requests. The resort’s chef is on hand to discuss your personal preferences and specific meal requests.
Highs and lows
While the villas are packed with great design features, a highlight is the private outdoor rain shower, which is set against a wall of emerald-coloured mosaic tiles and accessed via flagstones placed in a shallow pool surrounded by a green garden. It’s like swimming in a swimming pool in the middle of an enchanted garden, with the added bonus of a view of the sea.
A weak point is that the villas are quite close to each other, and our neighbor has an annoying predilection for playing loud house music, starting in the morning.
The insider tip
A highlight of our trip was a shark snorkeling trip with Aquafanatics, which brought us up close to a resident thrill of nurse sharks in the waters 45 minutes from the resort. Although harmless, the sharks we see are up to two meters long and swim just inches away, so this is not an adventure for the faint-hearted.
Naladhu is the closest most of us get to feeling like we’re on our own private island. While the Maldives is well known for offering secluded stays, this resort takes things to a whole new level. It’s not the place to go if you’re hoping to socialize, but if you want to retreat, literally, it’s an ideal option.
The renovated villas are full of thoughtful and unexpected design touches, including small personal steam rooms in the bathrooms, those dreamy outdoor showers, and the daybed facing the sea.
At the end of the line
Rates at Naladhu Private Island during low season are from $1,900 per night on bed and breakfast for two people sharing an Ocean House.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards at that time; services may change in the future.
Updated: 04 March 2022, 18:02