Dive center, non-motorized water sports, and entertainment pavilion
Sleek and sophisticated airport lounge at Male's seaplane terminal
Free Wi-Fi throughout the property
Pristine ocean views obstructed by sandbags
Some visible maintenance and construction details
Some Water Villas may have a slight sewage smell in bathroom
No kids' club (pro for some)
Maafushivaru is an all-inclusive boutique luxury resort in the South Ari Atoll. The 48 villas have sophisticated decor, espresso machines, minibars, private decks, outdoor showers, iPod docks, and comfy king-size beds; some rooms have semi-private pools. Sandbags, crabs, reef sharks, and fish are common sights in the surrounding lagoon and the island's location is ideal for spotting whale sharks and dolphins year-round. Standout and unique features include a chic airport lounge, beachside infinity pool with large bar, laser light shows, large overwater spa and gym, and small wine bar. There's an all-inclusive option that includes alcohol -- not especially common for the Maldives -- but this former adult-only resort doesn't have much for kids to do. The comparable Lily Beach Resort & Spa is kid-friendlier.
A beautiful island with a few necessary eyesores and an upscale casual vibe
Maafushivaru guests are greeted with the resort experience as soon as they deplane their international flights. Representatives meet guests at their gates, then escort them via air-conditioned coaches to the annexed seaplane terminal where Maafushivaru is one of the few resorts to have an airport lounge -- and a very plush one at that.
Built in 2010, Maafushivaru works hard to maintain its luxury look and feel, which, in the harsh climate of the Maldives, can prove quite difficult and expensive. One necessary measure the resort has had to take is to place heaps of netted sandbags around much of the island in order to reduce the natural beach erosion caused by incessant waves. Unfortunately, it affects the panoramic views, though many reef sharks and fish are often spotted in the shallow sand banks. Almost all upkeep and maintenance are done by the hotel crew or local contractors -- in some cases, it shows a bit in the details -- but overall, this island has a great balance of upscale and casual vibes throughout, with particular sophistication in the villas. Grounds are picturesque, with white sands, an abundance of tall palm trees, tangled mangroves, and green sea cabbage -- and no shortness of crabs. Guests here tend to be couples, especially honeymooners, and typically come from Europe or Asia depending on the season -- though as of Nov. 2015 the resort does allow children. The large, open areas work well to give privacy and space, but also tend to encourage people to mingle and be social.
At the southern tip of the South Ari Atoll, great for whale sharks and island hopping
Maafushivaru is located in the South Ari Atoll, home to year-round whale sharks and many dolphins (guests have a great chance of spotting some). It's also within a day trip's distance to Dhangethi, a local Maldivian island and several other small, uninhabited islands used for snorkeling, fishing, and beach or barbecue visits. The resort is a scenic, 30-minute seaplane journey from Male airport.
Clean and sophisticated rooms with private decks, shared pools, and in many, sunset or sunrise views
All 48 of Maafushivaru's rooms have king-size beds, flat-screen TVs with DVD players, iPod docks, espresso machines, an assortment of VOYA bath products, bathrobes, and minibars. Across the board, you'll find sophisticated and contemporary decor consisting of white walls and fabrics, polished tile floors, lit cutouts, and natural wood furniture with white cushions. Bathrooms have a chic vibe with stonewashed walls, square bowl sinks, walk-in indoor showers and separate outdoor garden showers. Only Water Villas have soaking tubs -- surprising for this category.
Beach Villas are spacious, light, and breezy with personal, sea-facing outdoor decks with sun loungers and upscale wicker furniture. Upgrades to Pool Villas get you a separate dining space, a small outdoor palapa lounge area, and private infinity pool. These units are ideal for large groups or families as the pool is shared between two freestanding villas that have a shared main entrance.
While many guests argue there's not a bad room on the island, Maafushivaru's Water Villas are arguably the most popular. These freestanding, overwater units have either sunrise or sunset placement for gorgeous dawn and dusk views through a large picture window. Water Villas feature spacious bedroom areas, separate wardrobe and changing space, and private outdoor decks with direct sea access, though you'll also get indoor bathrooms (with a tub), a slight sewer smell from the toilets, and traces of DIY craftsmanship.
Maafushivaru's beach is like something off of a screensaver, with soft white sands that your feet sink into surrounded by the shallow crystal clear waters of the lagoon. Wide wooden loungers have cushions and rolled beach towels, though you can find a few rope hammocks stretched between the trees here and there. If your loungers are missing an umbrella and you want shade, just ask and a staff member will happily stick one in the sand. The house reef has lots of colorful fish and it's not uncommon to spot baby reef sharks in the shallow lagoon waters.
One large main buffet and a small Japanese a la carte
All three meals are served buffet style at the Cuisine Gallery. A wide selection of quality dishes ranges from fresh-baked breads and pastries, and an omelet, waffle, and pancake live cooking station in the mornings; to soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastas during lunch; and mostly Mediterranean-influenced items at dinner. On Tuesdays the restaurant hosts a Maldivian night where the majority of dishes reflect local cuisine. There's plenty of covered seating, but if you want a spot on the open deck, it's first come, first served.
Guests can also dine at the Japanese a la carte 135 Degrees East, at an additional cost. This spot is a smaller affair is an overwater pavilion located near the Water Villas, serving sushi and teppenyaki dishes alongside windowless panoramic views.
A large main bar, casual coffee bar, and a small wine bar
If you are looking for a cocktail, beer, or anything alcoholic, you'll need to head toward the resort's Water Bar. With a relaxing, casual atmosphere and views of the infinity pool and lagoon beyond, Water Bar is a popular place from early morning until it closes. This spot is an open-air palapa style setup with a big, circular bar in the back, sand floors, a collection of contemporary colonial-style tables and chairs, and white teardrop lights hanging from the high ceilings. There's also a small bit of corner with board games, a chess set, and popular Sri Lankan game Carrom. This is the only spot to grab an adult drink outside of the small, four-seat Wine Chiller Bar. This is less a bar and more of a walk-in wine fridge with a warm atmosphere and a few stools.
Across from the Wine Chiller, you'll find the Library Lounge, a quiet and rustic-chic coffee bar with Dilmah teas, espresso drinks, and a nice selection of magazines and books. Lounge space can be found on the natural hardwood floors in contemporary white wicker bucket seats and sofas or outside on the large, sunny deck.
All-inclusive options includes food, drink, and a few activities
Maafushivaru guests can chose between either full-board or all-inclusive meal plans. The all-inclusive package will get you breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the main restaurant (a la carte and private dining meals are not included); high tea with Dilmah tea and cookies, cakes, and sandwiches in the lobby lounge every afternoon; soft drinks, canned juices, house wine, Carlsberg drafts, well spirits and cocktails, and non-alcoholic minibar drinks; free snorkeling equipment rental and lessons; and one free sunset cruise per stay.
Some unique features from a private sister island to laser light shows
One of Maafushivaru's most special features is its private sister island, Lonubo. There are three free roundtrip dhoni trips a day to smaller, wilder, and idyllic island. There's not much here besides a few padded wooden loungers and a little hut with bathrooms and shower, lending a true deserted island vibe. Guests who shell out extra money can rent the island overnight or for private dinners or events, such as vow renewals or weddings. There are only two small villas on the island, so space is limited (and expensive). For an even more adventurous night, you can sleep on the beach where a simple bed is set up on a covered platform right on the sand -- just be sure to bring bug spray.
Another off-island feature is the resort's modern, stylish, and convenient airport lounge at Male's seaplane terminal. Here, guests can wait for their connecting seaplane flights in a luxe, relaxed, and well-catered environment. With white-cushioned seating, buffet-style snacks and drinks, and free Wi-Fi, this is one of the terminal's nicest lounges. There are even padded loungers on an outside deck if you want to watch planes take off and land, or smoke.
Back on the main island, Maafushivaru's infinity pool is set on the beach, out behind the Water Bar. Half surrounded by a wooden deck with upscale cabana beds, loungers, and a collection of white wicker bucket chairs, this is a classy but casual spot to spend the day catching rays, cooling off in the pool, reading, or sipping a cocktail with a view. To sweat it out or find a deeper relaxation, there's a large, overwater spa and sports pavilion where guests can find treatment rooms, a steam room, sauna, locker rooms with showers, and outdoor deck with bubbling hot tub overlooking panoramic views of the lagoon. There are a few basic rooms for beauty and massage treatments, a small gym with modern equipment and large windows, and an open-air yoga pavilion off the back. The steam room, sauna, and whirlpool are open to use without an appointment.
Island entertainment includes a small, beachside entertainment palapa where guests can sit in bean bags while watching movies, dance on the polished concrete dance floor, watch and listen to live music performances (twice a week), or play a game of foosball. There are also water laser light shows and traditional Maldivian drum performances, both once a week. Activities off the island include your usual excursion suspects, but due to the island's location, whale shark trips and dives are particularly popular. All excursion signups are done electronically through digital screens in the lobby. There's also a third-party dive center, out by the dhoni jetty where you can take PADI-certified courses, twice daily scheduled dives, nitrox dives, and organize additional dives to off-site reefs and other sites. If you're into water sports, there are only non-motorized options here. Guests can visit the water sports center to go canoeing, windsurfing, sailing, or on catamaran trips.
The resort has free Wi-Fi for guests on the island and in rooms.