The Maldives has many insta-worthy, high-end resorts on cerulean-ringed tropical islands, all offering pampering escapism. But what makes JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa stand out is its ability to attract both families and couples while never feeling crowded. Stretched along a talcum-fine crescent of sand by a wide lagoon, the resort’s beach and overwater villas are spaciously dispersed and offer beautiful seclusion if so desired.
Read the C&TH Responsible Tourism Guide
Hotel Review: JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa
JW Marriott is situated on the secluded Vagaru Island, and features 60 sleek beach and overwater villas with thatched roofs shaped like the prow of a dhoni (a local fishing boat) along with sea and sand inspired interiors: lampstands with twining wooden bases, bold shell-shaped lampshades and ocean-inspired art. The floor-to-ceiling windows give stunning views and from the super comfy king size bed; from here, watch for passing dhoni floating across the ocean.
Besides the well-stocked mini-bar, there is complimentary tea and coffee, a bathroom the size of a double bedroom, and toiletries from Aromatherapy Associates. The large terrace has sunbeds and a vast plunge pool where we enjoyed an outrageously indulgent floating champagne breakfast while soaking up (literally) horizon-wide vistas. From the overwater villas you can step down the short metal ladder into the bath-like lagoon – the standout feature. From here, it is an easy snorkel to the breakwater where an aquatic wonderland awaits. Within moments, we spotted fluorescent blue Parrot fish, black and white striped Oriental Sweetlips (rather like giant mint humbugs), and darting Nemo-lookalikes, the Clown fish – the perfect introduction to our stay.
The beach villas (which families tend to prefer) have private terraces with direct access to dazzling white sand and the calm lagoon. The homes are tucked along pleasant sandy lanes shaded by tamed jungle. You will also find the well-equipped Little Griffins kids club (with a climbing pirate ship Captain Hook would envy), a boutique and the lush garden. The herbs, fruit and vegetables are used in welcome drinks, scents and, of course, in the restaurant kitchens.
For a small tropical island, in true Maldives style, there is plenty to keep you occupied. The dive centre offers scuba diving, jet skiing, dolphin-watching and snorkelling trips to the nearby reef, where you can spot turtles and swim so close to eagle-rays you could almost touch their sail-like wings – an unforgettable experience.
Non-motorised water sports, such as rowing in the transparent kayak, are complimentary, as are the yoga classes. There are two swimming pools: one family-friendly pool, and one for adults only. Besides six treatment rooms, the spa is home to a deluxe double room for couples; zone out with a massage, then flop into your own plunge pool, all while enjoying the watery vista (it is very popular, so book well in advance!).
Each guest has a helpful Thakuru (a butler), who will answer any queries and golf-buggy you around. In-between ferrying us to dinner, our wonderful Thakuru, Gasim, was always pointing out rare sightings such as a tuna or ray in the lagoon or the magical bioluminescent plankton washing up along the twinkling nighttime shore, or telling us about life on the island. The resort started a coral restoration project last year, so the coral is regularly checked, too.
If you want to get a little under the skin, try a cookery class with local chef Aminath Abdul Rasheed. Aminath crushed spices, mixed up coconut rice, seared tuna and showed us how to make a mouth-watering Maldivian fish curry. Two of the restaurant kitchens are, unusually for the Maldives, led by female chefs.
JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa’s three bars and five restaurants are all excellent and atmospheric. Breakfast at the all-day Aailaa (meaning ‘family’) restaurant is overwater and, from the shaded terrace, you can watch fish darting around as you tuck into your croissant or curry, cereal or sushi, or whatever else takes your fancy from the delicious global smorgasbord on offer.
Lunch can be at the Italian Fiamma restaurant, by the family pool or at the treetop Thai restaurant, Kaashi (meaning ‘coconut’). After crossing the Indiana Jones-style rope bridge to the latter, sit at a table in the trees, overlooking the ocean, and tuck into delicious satay and Thai salad. In the distance, you might spy shiny black fins breaking the waves as a pod of dolphins swim past.
Our evening meals were a toss-up between Hashi’s teppanyaki grill or the overwater Shio with its prime cut meats and crustaceans, which included everything from Wagyu beef to lobster. If money is no object, reserve a table in the cool wine room – with its 1,620 bottles – and have your favourite meal paired with vintage wines.
After, collapse in one of the funky swinging rope seats at the Horizon bar and, as there is no light pollution here, enjoy a rum cocktail while spotting constellations in the starry sky.
THE FINAL WORD
With its friendly and attentive staff, elegant villas and excellent facilities, JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa more than delivers – and for all ages, too. Best of all, however, is the serene, unspoilt beauty of the island, which the resort highlights gloriously.
Overwater sunrise villas start from USD $650 per night bed and breakfast, or $950 per night all inclusive. marriott.com
Featured image courtesy of Marriott International Hotel (cropped).