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I have spent a lot of my life and a great many holidays at the beach. In the US I travelled to Hawaii, North Carolina, Florida, Martha’s Vineyard and California to see the most beautiful beaches in America. I have been to the white washed beaches of the Caribbean on several occasions. I spent every weekend for the better part of 6 months on Brazilian beaches. And now living in Singapore I am a frequent visitor of picturesque Thai and Malaysian beaches. But nothing prepared me for the splendour of the Maldives and the secluded Alila Villas Hadahaa Resort.

Even the transfer from the airport to the resort was magical. We arrived at a small local airport under the cover of night at about 1am, and transferred to the Alila speedboat for the final leg of the journey. As we made our way to the resort phosphorescent plankton streamed in wake of the boat, lighting our way. Upon arrival to the resort at 3am, we were efficiently greeted and led to our rooms to sleep. As we were nodding off to sleep, my partner Paul murmured something about scented pillows and that was the last thing I remember before nodding off myself.

So when we awoke in the morning we had a very loose grasp on our surroundings. We stumbled out of our room into the bright sunlight and realized we had found paradise! Alila Villas Hadahaa is literally the first and only island resort in the Southernmost Huvadhoo Atoll. Imagine an island paradise, completely unexplored….it’s like something out of “Gilligan’s Island”, except that you are in the embrace of 5-star luxury accommodations. It’s everything you have heard about the spectacular Maldives, except somehow still more than you really dared to expect.

The boutique resort is wrapped around the 200m x 300m island, each room a villa style that somehow feels completely integrated with the natural environment. Natural woods, grass mats, white cottons, and the outdoor shower and bath with the rain shower and a verdant canopy of palm tree leaves culminate in a truly elegant expression of island living. Every comfort is anticipated – cool water available before you can ask for it, fluffy white towels within reach no matter where you go. Hammocks are tied between palm trees and a peaceful quiet serves as a seamless backdrop for the call of the gecko and the gentle ocean tides. And what’s really amazing about all this luxury is that it was created and is maintained with the environment in mind. Alila Villas Hadahaa is Green Globe Certified, the highest rating for both building and operating with the highest standards of environmental sensitivity.

In fact the villa is so comfy, you’d be tempted to stay in, but the rest of the luxe property beckons. But the entire property seems to have been built with lounging and relaxation in mind, no matter where you go there are lots of wide sofas and plump cushions that entice. Meals are taken by the pool / beach area in one of the two site restaurants, Relish which offers an international menu and the other, Battuta’s offering a more local  Maldivian culinary experience. The new German-born chef, Bastian Mantey is putting his mark on the menu and can often be found ambling through the restaurant, speaking to diners and asking for feedback. In fact one of our most memorable meals was the chef’s special menu that we enjoyed during a Private Dining experience – we were placed on the roof of the restaurant, at a private table, with a private waiter and the most magnificent view of the ocean and the property under the dazzling night sky and a full moon. Paul pointed out to me the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt – things we never see at home in our city life.

I must admit that I have a low tolerance for just lying around on the beach and working on my tan (maybe this is because I always burn!). Paul feels similarly, and after a day on the beach with a book, we have pretty much had our fill of prone relaxation. But we were pleased to learn that there were more than just pristine beaches on offer at Alila Villas Hadahaa. They have quite a robust offering of journeys and experiences. I did sundown yoga on the jetty in the evenings. We had an amazing couples massage in the award winning Spa by Mandara (2009, Eco Spa of the Year by AsiaSpa Awards). We took an afternoon Journey to the local Artisans via speedboat to a local island where we got a feeling for local Maldivian life and saw indigenous straw mat weavers working out of their homes. We enjoyed the complimentary Maldivian afternoon high tea at Battutas. We snorkelled the house reef one afternoon and were so inspired by what we saw we decided to scuba dive the next two days.

And about the snorkelling and diving….Alila Villas Hadahaa is built in an area of the Maldives that has remained largely unexplored, until now. Imagine reefs never seen before and marine life completely undisturbed. On the house reef we were shocked how much one could see so close to the resort – these were the kinds of fish and coral one would have to go 15m deep in Thailand to see. And then when travelling on the boat a bit further out, we saw endless coral terraces that made the movie “Avatar” look unimaginative. The marine life was more varied and abundant than and I have personally ever seen before. We spotted sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, reef sharks, giant groupers and school after school of the most colourful tropical fish.  Beyond that, the dive staff from the on-site Blue Journey’s dive center was highly professional and made every outing a pleasure, working with everyone from beginner to expert. My only regret was that we didn’t start diving from day one with these guys.

A view straight off the docs

In the end it was quite difficult to leave. We had found our own little slice of island paradise and unlike other holidays where I am ready to get back home to my bed and my life, somehow I just didn’t want this to end. Everything about our experience set a new benchmark for luxury for us to the point that I actually feel sorry for the staff at our next 5-star hotel experience. They will have quite big shoes to fill after our time at Alila Villas Hadahaa.

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