For a location so prolifically photographed, the islands of the Maldives remain uniquely difficult to capture in a picture. It is easy to pull together an arresting image of a Maldivian beach in your mind’s eye. Teal waves glitter in the bright sun, skirted by wisps of cloud-like sea foam, sweeping gently onto white sand so pure your feet sink pleasantly with every step. And yet, no matter how vivid your imagination, you can almost be certainly sure that it pales in comparison to the real thing.
A 20-minute speedboat ride from Velana International Airport in the Maldivian capital of Male is the new, breathtakingly pristine Hilton Maldives Amingiri. The resort’s proximity to Male means guests can bypass seaplanes, which tend to suspend service after sunset, leaving travellers to camp out overnight in an airport hotel.
I arrived at the resort in the dead of night, which allowed me to wake up the next morning in my overwater villa to one of the greatest surprises imaginable—a stunning, crystal-clear view of the Maldivian ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows.
True to their name, the overwater villas hang over the ocean and have various vantage points (including strategically positioned glass screens built into the floors) that offer undisturbed views of the ocean. Luxuriantly spacious and elegantly appointed with modern furnishings, these enclaves come with a private pool and deck, alongside a ladder that leads down directly into—you guessed it—the ocean.
The beach pool villas are no less alluring, particularly if you are travelling with children. Each one extends into a sandy patch of private beach perfect for rolling around in, replete with a plush deck swing. No matter the configuration, each Hilton Maldives Amingiri villa comes fitted with an ocean-facing tub, positioned precisely for a languid soak with stunning vistas of the surrounding lagoon. It invites the sort of genuine serenity that strikes through your very core, manifesting from an appreciation for the splendour of nature.
On the boardwalk that connects the row of overwater villas with the main island, I spot two clay-coloured bicycles leaning against a railing, shortly before my neighbours—a young family of three—step out of their dwelling and ride off on their bikes, tyres cutting tracks through fine sand.
I choose to walk, wanting to take in the sights and sounds of the island on my first day. The weather is balmy and the wind is cool. The sound of waves hitting the shore forms a soothing backdrop for my trek. The resort is a sandy labyrinth of palm tree-lined pathways, each winding into a different destination. I discover Amingiri Spa, with treatment rooms sitting over the water. Inside, massage beds are cleverly positioned above viewing screens on the floor, allowing guests to observe tropical fish in their natural habitat as every ounce of tension is kneaded out of their bodies by experienced therapists.
Unlike new-age minimalism or wellness-oriented island getaways, exuberance and fun abound at Hilton Maldives Amingiri. From art classes—I walked away with a quaint resin model of the island’s lagoon—to snorkelling and dolphin cruises that leave daily, there is an abundance of activities to take part in. Snorkelling in the clear waters surrounding the resort, in particular, is transcendent and a must-try. Don’t worry if, like me, you’re not confident in the ocean. Under the watchful eye of the instructors from the dive centre, you’ll be safe and sound, floating peacefully in the deep blue as turtles, eel and fish swim by.
“The paradisiacal resort is a sandy labyrinth of palm tree-lined pathways”
All this before the first meal of the day. Breakfast is served in the form of an elaborate buffet at the open-air restaurant, Habitat. Aside from the usual continental offerings, the varied spread highlights Maldivian and Indian cuisines through traditional menus. A Maldivian chef conducts cooking classes for guests who want to gain a better understanding of local dishes—like Kandu Kukulhu Riha, a complex spiced tuna curry that pairs wonderfully with rice, and a dish I now know how to prepare.
The main dining crown jewel lies in Origin—a stylish, ocean-facing seafood restaurant that has its forward-looking eye on sustainable sourcing and inventive ageing techniques. From a textural cured local grouper to a delicate piece of steamed reef fish enveloped in a Maldivian spice-infused coconut broth, the establishment presents the best of the ocean’s culinary offerings within its sophisticated walls.
If there was just one thing I could recommend you try before leaving the island, it would be the fresh-caught lobsters brought by fishermen into the resort every day. The lobsters found in the Maldivian waters are a special breed—marvellously large, with meat so hearty and substantial you might mistake it for venison or beef if not for its delicate flavour.
Served in three delicious ways at Origin, it is a protein best enjoyed with tranquil sights of the ocean as accompaniment, and perhaps a herbaceous gin cocktail or two from Origin’s twin establishment, speciality cocktail bar Eden. Walk in for happy hour and settle onto the net hammocks hanging directly over the ocean. As you watch the sun melting over the horizon into a puddle of coral and gold, it is difficult to want for anything else—or remember the worldly concerns you left behind in the city. That is, after all, the magic of the Maldives.