Best of the Maldives: Map Theme Decor – Hurawalhi

Hurawalhi - map theme decor

Something about a map that has detailed artistry and exotic allure. It tells an aerial pictorial story of some part of the planet. Ocean maps are often the most enchanting with their sinuous coastlines and patterns of inlets and isles.

Naturally, maps of the Maldives are bursting with this adventurous charm. Huawalhi has a employed one of the more antiquarian depictions of the “Laquedives” as a design highlight in its villas. Blotter, cases, lampshades, etc. use segments of these ancient charts. Very reminiscent of one of our favourite designers, Alviero Martini’s “1ª Classe’ line of fashion and accessories.

Hurawalhi - map theme decor 2

Best of the Maldives: Sound Therapy – Hurawalhi

Hurawalhi’s Duniye Spa goes far beyond the ubiquitous sound track of ambient recording featuring soft acoustic instrumentals often mixed with a smattering of nature sounds like whale calls or water lapping. They offer a variety of “Sound Therapy” sessions and techniques including a collection of ringing bowls (see below) and a rain stick (see above). Our family really appreciated this distinctive offering as Chase (our son) has his degree in “Sound Art and Design” and Lori is a professional classical musician, so we are quite familiar with the salutary effects of soothing sounds.

 

Hurawalhi - sound therapy

Hurawalhi - sound therapy 2

Hurawalhi - sound therapy 3

Best of the Maldives: Champagne Themed Bar – Hurawalhi

Hurawalhi - champagne bar 1

While bottles are standard décor for a bar, traditionally arranged across long, mirrored shelved behind the bar, Hurawalhi’s Tattinger Champagne bar is the first time I’ve seen cork as the theme of the décor. The drinks table look like corks Stewart Little would have in his lounge. And, the bar stools were particular inspired with the stool legs made to look like muselets.

Hurawalhi - champagne bar 2

Best of the Maldives: Green Divides – Hurawalhi

 Hurawalhi - green divides

“Going green” is common practice for Maldives resorts who very existence if so dependent on and interwoven with the surrounding natural beauty. But I’ve never seen quite as much “green” as Hurawalhi’s staff compound wall. Nearly all resorts have segregated staff areas where a lot of the machinery of the resort is situated and the staff can conduct their lives freely (eg. walk around in their casual clothes instead of smart uniforms). A number of resorts make an effort to dress these walls or fences up a bit so they blend into the surrounding a bit more, but few have gone to the length of Hurawalhi with their greenery wrapped enclosure.

Best of the Maldives: Private Breakfast – Hurawalhi

Hurawalhi - private breakfast

Quite possibly the most luxurious breakfast in the world. One of the most extraordinary dining experiences in the world for starters. But to have the Hurawalhi 5.8 restaurant all to yourself as the sunshine starts to stir the underwater life must certainly be hard to be beat for breakfast. The cost is just as extravagant at $1,500, but some people pay that for a single bottle of wine.

  • “The breakfast itself is built around healthy staples that include fresh pressed juice, assorted pastries and exotic cut fruits, with Executive Chef Warren Moore stepping up the game with creative dishes such as quinoa breakfast salad with fluid gels, mango, beetroot and pea finished with edamame beans, carrot and wild berries, while the seafood trilogy platter boasts oysters, beluga caviar, smoked salmon and cream cheese, and the absolutely amazing truffle omelette with saffron and activated charcoal served with sautéed stuffed mushrooms in a mushroom sand saffron truffle jus. Fun fact: the omelette takes a whopping three hours to make!”

We always did our family snorkels first thing in the morning. The water was clearest (before the warming air started to stir it and the water a bit). But at Hurawalhi, you can have your underwater adventure WITH your breakfast.

Best of the Maldives: Drone Island – Hurawalhi

Hurawalhi - drone island

Hurawalhi has an adjacent island which is has kept quite discrete for the purposes of being discreet (see top right of photo above). Not only is it a very convenient get-away for a private picnic excursion, but also you can use it for your own private drone photoshoot. In fact, you HAVE to use it for an drone photography that you want to do during your stay as drones are prohibited from the resort island itself. This rule was established to protect the privacy and peace (buzzing) of the guests. But the sand bank accommodation is a considerate alternative being offering for people who want to craft their aerial montages (and the Maldives do look quite stunning from above).

Maldives Tour 2018–Hurawalhi

Hurawalhi - tour 2018

Hurawalhi is a “5+” star resort. I could almost make the case that it is a “6 star” resort, but the marketing director for the resort says “Wait till you see Kudadhoo” (Champa’s latest offering under development just across the water along their chain of properties at the top of Lhaviyani atoll).

One of our frustrations in past was that everyone in the Maldives was calling themselves a 5-star (over 60% of the resorts in the Maldives Complete database are listed as 5 star). And you will find some real divergences in the quality of what is being called 5-star. On one end are properties that are quite indistinctive but get away with over-rating with a “5-star” label because, essentially, the destination is 5-star. People come and no matter how tired the décor and limited the offerings, the place still seems like a 5-star experience because the guests are blown away by the stunning surroundings of the landscape and seascape. I have often said that you could have a 5-star experience in the Maldives staying in a cardboard box on the beach.

On the other extreme are properties that really don’t seem right to call ‘just’ 5-stars. The ultra-deluxe properties that seem to defy any sort of rating scale. I tend to call these “super premiums”. They are really in a class by themselves and hence some people in the industry refer to them colloquially a “6 star” properties (the Burj Al Arab took a bit of stick when it opened, referring to itself as the world’s first “7-star hotel”).

The whole star rating system is a bit of a mess. It started as a hospitality industry standard tick-box exercise for certain amenities on the resort (eg. the number of power outlets and whether you had a bidet or not). People confused the hotel “rating” with the review ratings of guides like Michelin and Zagats. Then, crowd-sourced ratings came to the web on popular travel sites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com. These ratings tend to reflect another aspects altogether. They are really about ‘performance against expectations’. As a result, you can get real dives getting ‘5 star’ reviews because the experience is so much better than the guest expected for the pennies that they paid. Furthermore, all the reviewing is basically being done by amateurs.

Given the power of ratings from sites like TripAdvisor, many properties now seem to be going in the direction of under-rating. They call properties that could easily pass as 5, a 4-star. But they often append the now popular “+” designation to note a cut above the rest of class with a bit of style and distinction, but (sensibly) fear exaggerated expectations if they don the 5-star moniker. It is a way of saying “4 star with 5 star touches”. All of this diatribe about rating is to provide context for my description of Hurawalhi. Hurawalhi is the first resort I have found where this approach would be appropriate at the 5-star level, ie. 5+ star resort.

Hurawalhi is very much a 5-star star through and through. Every design feature, attention to detail, material choice, offering, etc. are all specified at the first class level. Natural wood everywhere (and the wood shingled roof, instead of thatch, which will save lots of total cost of ownership). Think Rocky Mountain Lodge or Chamonix Chalet, not native hut. Every single fixture and external appliance is tastefully and craftily covered. Their flawless attention to detail with this simple, natural material shows that you don’t need Italian marble and exotic materials to produce a stunning environment. Just elegant design with quality materials.

The biggest above-and-beyond the world of typical 5-star is the resort’s underwater restaurant, 5.8. I’ve posted about the 5.8 previously in its construction stage where its sheer ambition presented so much promise…and expectations. But now I can put a bit of first-hand perspective into the account. The food doesn’t get much better than this. “Smoked lobster and sea urchin mousse served on a garland crest with cognac emulsion, lobster salsa, squid ink brittle, poached langoustine tail and topped with beluga caviar served 5.8 metres underwater.” Yes, that. We’ve eaten at several 3-star Michelin’s in our foodie adventures and 5.8 stands shoulder to shoulder with them.

But the real experience is the room itself. I have visited several of the Maldives underwater facilities, but I had never actually taken the plunge (so to speak) of dining in one. More than any other one I have visited, Hurawali has done an exceptional job of placing the restaurant and enhancing its location. One side is right on the edge of the house reef drop off and the other opens to the expanse of the lagoon. Between the two, through the floor to ceiling glass wall is a sort of canyon that provides a view of coral and fish in sort of a raked fashion. Like many other underwater rooms, they have done a bit of reefscaping to provide greater visual appeal and to attract more fish. But a clever little twist is a sunken mini-dhoni ‘wreck’ in the lagoon which not only provides an added lure for reef fish (and a sequestered moray we spotted), but also adds a bit of eerie mystique to the whole vista.

While they do both a private breakfast and a lunch seating, the best time to go is for dinner. You are greeted with a sunset cocktail while the sky is still bright and underwater is still vibrant with sunshine piercing into the water. But as the 7-course affair progresses, the light subtly changes with every course and so does the marine life and activity. Until by dessert, it is completely dark and the nocturnal activity is in full swing. And it’s not just the sea creatures that are a buzz. The whole place has a unique camaraderie of a unique shared experience. Diners commenting to each other on curious spottings, asking questions, sharing reflections, helping with photo taking.

Objectively, 5.8 is the greatest (in size) underwater restaurant in the world. But subjectively, 5.8 might just be simply the greatest underwater restaurant, full stop. And Hurawalhi might not let you call it a 6-star, but it is so much more than just 5 stars.

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Best of the Maldives Online: Yoga Instagram – Jessica Olie

In addition to having the world’s first underwater yoga session, Hurawalhi also secured one of the world’s best yoga Instagrammer, Jessica Olie. Her collection of Maldives shots are some of the best yoga post shots I have come across (and that is quite a competitive category in the atoll photo anthology). Here are a collection of some of the most stunning…

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Anantara Dhigu - 5

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) Anantara Dhigu 1

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Anantara Dhigu - 7

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Anantara Dhigu - 10

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru - 3

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru - 5

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru - 6

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru - 9

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Jessica Olie (United Kingdom) – Four Seasons Landaa Givaavaru - 2

Best of the Maldives: Underwater Yoga – Hurawalhi

 

No joke this time (or this time), but Hurawalhi really did do underwater yoga in a world’s first:

  • “Jessica promises the 1-hour vinyasa flow to provide physical and mental rewards, with captivating views of fish around you as you move from one pose to the next bringing you even closer to a state of the zen-like state of mind.”

The one hour Vinyasa flow session was conducted by Jessica Olie (who frankly has one of the best yoga Instagram feeds…stay tuned for more on that).

Hurawalhi - Jessica Ollie underwater yoga