Best of the Maldives: Largest Underwater Restaurant – Ailafushi/Lobigili

While I’ve already highlighted Aiafushi/Lobigili’s underwater treasure hunt at their underwater restaurant, Only Blu, our recent visit allowed us to see all of its spaciousness which also makes it the largest underwater restaurant in the Maldives. And with lots of restaurant real estate come lots of windows to see the vibrant aquatic life. Especially with every panoramic portal packed with fish frolicking corals. The most vibrant fish life of any underwater restaurant we have been to. Probably because (a) there is limited coral elsewhere in the area, and (b) they were drawn by the light of the diners.

Best of the Maldives: Easy Underwater Restaurant – OZEN Maadhoo

OZEN MAadhoo - underwater restaurant

Even though underwater rooms are becoming more and more prevalent in the aquarium-like lagoons of the Maldives, they can still be budget-bustingly expensive. And if you are part of the growing contingent of guest brings children, then what to do with them during your special meal is an added complication. But not at OZEN Maadhoo’s sub-aquatic eatery Minus Six Metres (aka “M6M”). OZEN offers a complimentary dinner as a part of their comprehensive all-inclusive package with every 4-day stay. And also, don’t worry about the children:

  • So that adults can fully enjoy the romantic dining experience at the underwater restaurant near Malé, children are only allowed on special days. In the meantime, while parents enjoy their M6m visit, an exciting programme with delicious snacks is offered for children at the kids’ club.”

Worry-free under-the-sea gastronomy!

Maldives: Largest Underwater Restaurant – OBLU Lobigili

Underwater restaurants are perhaps the quintessence of the Maldivian dining experience. And now OBLU Lobigili s “Only Blu” is the biggest yet so all the more people can enjoy this memorable experience. The Maldives is all about the intimacy with the ocean. The diminutive islands keep guests close to the water’s edge at all time. The intra-atoll peaceful waters keep the aquatic wonderland so accessible whether peering into the crystal waters from a jetty above or swimming among the marine life on a snorkel excursion. But even scuba divers have a one-hour limit to their dives (not to mention all the hassle of donning and managing the scuba gear). But the underwater eateries allow you to sit under the sea for hours on end in the comfort of your resort wear while enjoying fine wining and dining.

Best of the Maldives: Plankton Condiment – You & Me

You & Me - H20 plankton 2

No matter how many toppings or how exotic the flavours, I have not come across any item on the menu as exotic as You & Me’s underwater restaurant H2O – plankton! More for a whale shark’s palette than appetite as it was presented in an eye-dropper bottle as part of the seafood platter. You sprinkle the “plankton” on the delicacies for that extra bit of taste of the sea. It didn’t really taste of anything other than just some seawater, but I guess that for mantas and other filter feeders, to them its all just sea water to them too.  Something small (actually microscopic) before the big feast of Thanksgiving tomorrow.

You & Me - plankton 2

Best of the Maldives: Accessible Underwater Restaurant – You & Me

You & Me - H20

All underwater restaurants are stunning experiences, but they often come at an equally eye-watering expense. For starters, most are found at super-premium resorts that start at $1000/night. Then, enjoying the restaurant is an equally premium supplement to your already hefty holiday bill. When we visited You & Me, we were struck by how many luxury details the resort featured while its price was a relatively manageable by mere mortals. No part of the property more exemplified this reasonably priced luxury than their H20 underwater restaurant.

  • Six-metres underwater, almost half a kilometre away from the pearly shores of our island is our greatest gift – H2O, the world’s best underwater restaurant, conceived by world-renowned designer Daniele Lago. With room for twenty-six guests, H2O’s seventy-four feet acrylic glass exterior is made to mesmerise. Nestled in a lush coral garden six metres below the sea this enchanting restaurant draws all manner of marine life to delight viewers.”

The first feature makes the restaurant truly accessible in the literal sense – a lift.  For anyone who might have difficulty with the circular stairway descending into the depths of the resort’s lagoon, they have the option of taking the restaurant’s lift.  Rare enough in Maldives resorts in general (I only recall seeing one at Velaa),

But the “accessibility” that benefits most of us is H2O’s relatively affordable price.  I sort of hesitate to call out H20s “affordability” as its defining characteristic. The description might come across as a low-end version when it is absolutely anything but that.  The dinner was sumptuously gourmet quality with a full menu of choice delicacies (see photo below).   As our tour report made clear, we were utterly enchanted by our evening there (with the mesmerizing dinner show by the resident octopus). 

The facility itself stands shoulder-to-shoulder with all of the other Maldives underwater restaurants at the super deluxe properties. In fact, its semi-circle fully glass arch is the state-of-the in these underwater rooms with only Hurawalhi and Rangalhi sharing this totally immersive submersion. The restaurant also includes some special aspects which make it distinctive in its own right – a reef restoration collaboration, a meteorological station, maybe the most unusual ingredient I have ever had in a meal anywhere not just the Maldives (stay tuned). 

But if there is one aspect which will have the most impact on the most people it will be its quite reasonable price. I have simply met too many people who passed up the chance to experience this bucket list activity at other resorts because the price was too dear. To save money, they go in and have a glance and take a few selfies, but that is not even a fraction of the joy and adventure of spending a few hours under the ocean enjoying the toings and froings of the sea creatures like you were some sort of fellow resident. The big advantage of diving over snorkelling is that you get to linger underwater and see the creatures at their level (rather than just looking down on them). But even with diving you are limited to 60 minutes (not to mention all the faff and expense). At H20 you get to savour hours of undersea loitering. And all the while, lingering over delectable dishes and sipping fine wines or decadent cocktails as bonus treats to the experience.

The prices are $280 per person for dinner and $180 per person for lunch (we definitely recommend the dinner as you get to experience the transition from day to night of the aquatic world). It’s not cheap, but it’s considerably less expensive than the other alternatives in the Maldives. And remember, it’s not just a meal. It is a unique experience of a lifetime that includes and is accented by a meal.

H20 is the underwater restaurant by You & Me and the rest of us.

You & Me - plankton

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.

Above Ground Under Water Restaurant

Huravalhi - underwater restaurant

I’ve always wondered how they made those underwater restaurants (and spa and night clubs, etc) in the Maldives. Did they drop in components and then pump water out? As it happens, these subaquatic wonders are completely refabbed, shipped to the resort and lowered whole into their new lagoon home.

The new resort of Hurawalhi is the latest in the underwater pantheon. And some recent reports on their underwater restaurant is providing a behind the scenes look at this remarkable engineering. The supplier M.J, Murphy in New Zealand posted some “how do they do that” details on their site recently…

“Following the usual 10km route from Fitzroy’s factory to the port, the 410 tonne Underwater Restaurant was manoeuvred alongside the giant crane ship “The Fairlane”, using 3 trucks. Then on 11 Feb, the two giant 400 tonne cranes lifted the UWR onto the ship and readied for its 3 week trip to the Maldives…The acrylic is optically perfect, so diners will feel ‘immersed’ and surrounded by the ocean and the fish life. There will also be a large spectacular panoramic underwater acrylic window (190mm thick) in the end of the UWR which is expected to wow the lucky diners, with amazing long views along the sloping coral reef.”

Here’s hoping that everything goes down well at Huravalhi.

Huravalhi - underwater restaurant 2

Best of the Maldives: Underwater Club – Niyama

Niyama Deep Six club

Of all the ‘wow’ factors in the Maldives, their most famous are their underwater features – restaurant (and bedroom), function room, spa. And now lounge. I might have to make a separate ‘Best of the Maldives’ category for them all.

The recently opened NIYAMA resort introduces its ‘Deep Six’ nightclub. Not just the first in the Maldives, but the first in the world…

“The world’s first underwater club. International DJs. Global music. Splashes of colour – indigo, blue. Glass walls overlook a spot lit sea. Modern moods with a flair for the marine. Take the party below the sea for all-night dancing beneath the waves.”

I think I would have to nickname the club ‘Sebastian’s Hideaway’…

We got a hot crustacean band
Each little clam here
know how to jam here
Under the sea.

Best of the Maldives: Underwater Function Room – Anantara Kihavah Villas

Anantara Kihavah underwater room

Such wonderful things surround you
What more is you lookin’ for?
Under the sea, Under the sea
Darling it’s better
Down where it’s wetter
Take it from me
The Little Mermaid

If you want your social functions immersed in water, then Anantara Kihavah are the latest to add an underwater spectacle to their resort.

The biggest of the underwater rooms in the Maldives extends it to more than a meal or treatment. It is being used for dining, dancing, functions like weddings (see picture below) and special events like wine tastings…

“View and savour the Indian Ocean’s abundance of marine life by descending into a connoisseur journey at the underwater restaurant and wine cellar, ‘Sea’, where guests are indulged with exquisite degustation menus or classic creations and tempted by the resident Wine Sommelier’s perfect accompaniments from a vast array of new and old world selections. Oenophiles will delight in the impressive underwater wine cellar, featuring one of the most balanced and diverse wine collections in the Maldives with over 6,500 bottles and 320 labels from 14 countries. 22 labels are available by the glass and regular tasting sessions offer guests a tantalising journey through the vineyards of the world.”

Sort of a new dimension to going ‘down below’ to see the wine cellar and literally taking special occasions to the next ‘level’.

Anantara Kihavah underwater wedding

Best of the Maldives: Restaurant – Ithaa at Conrad Maldives Rangali

Conrad Hilton Rangali Maldives Restaurant

While just about any part of the Maldives are dazzling and remarkable, a few place within the magical atolls stand out even for paradise.  Conrad Maldives Rangali’s Ithaa underwater restaurant.

  • “Dine 16 feet below sea level at Ithaa, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island’s unique undersea restaurant. Marvel at 180° views of reef and marine life, sip champagne cocktails and sample Maldivian-Western fusion cuisine at this spectacular Maldives venue – the world’s first all-glass, undersea restaurant.”