Occupying an idyllic spot in the North Malé Atoll, Huvafen Fushi is the desert island escape you’ve always dreamed of. An early Maldives pioneer, the resort opened in 2004 and regular upgrades have ensured it remains a perpetual favourite among the cognoscenti, helped no doubt by the fact that it houses the world’s first and only underwater spa.
Even getting there is the stuff of fantasy. On arrival at Malé, we hopped onto a traditional dhoni for the leisurely 90-minute transfer to the island (you can also take a faster 30-minute speedboat transfer). There’s something pretty special about relaxing on a cushioned deck as you are served chilled bubbly, sushi and delicious Vietnamese spring rolls while watching dolphins and flying fish leap through the brilliant aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean.
What’s on offer?
On arrival, it’s time to kick off your flip flops (“no shoes, no news” is the mantra here) and check out your deluxe overwater lagoon bungalow. A modern and super-comfortable four-poster bed with Frette linen dominates. There’s a B&O speaker and the cool, oversized bar has a Nespresso machine, kettle, herbal tea selection and refillable glass bottles of drinking water (the island distils its own) as well as an impressive selection of wine, beer, Champagne and spirits.
Bottega Veneta products abound in the bathroom and a freestanding bath overlooks the ocean. The expansive teak deck has a private infinity plunge pool, loungers, a daybed and bathing platform with a wooden ladder enabling you to swim straight off the terrace. Each residence is served by a thakaru or butler – mine was the friendly Shuzaan.
Huvafen Fushi does understated and unpretentious luxe very well. There’s an enormous infinity pool, where staff greet your arrival with iced water, nuts, chilled flannels and cool water sprays, as well as a plentiful supply of fruit shots, frozen smoothie pops and freshly cut pineapple and papaya. Watch the resident herons take a daily dip here to cool off while reading in one of the shaded macramé hammocks.
A smaller saltwater floatation pool overlooks the beach. There’s a water sports hut offering scuba diving expeditions as well as free use of snorkelling gear and kayaks for the duration of your stay. For those in search of even more seclusion, loungers are discreetly tucked away in private beach nooks and crannies -- although with just 44 residences, the island never feels crowded.
For those in search of more energetic activities, the overwater gym has possibly the world’s best view from a treadmill or stairmaster. An adjacent yoga shala is cooled by the breeze, making it the perfect place to practise your downward facing dog at sunrise or sunset.
Tell us about your treatment
We tried the Signature Body Pure Massage (60 minutes, £180)
I arrive at the swish overwater The Huvafen and Pearl Spa – a series of bungalows connected by teak jetties – to be greeted with a spa assistant with a chilled green tea and a cold towel infused with lavender oil. My treatment involves Pure Massage therapy – a unique combination of deep tissue and trigger point touch techniques to energise and stimulate muscles – pioneered by renowned massage guru Beata Aleksandrowicz.
My therapists, Jinky, leaves me to change into a robe and slippers before leading me down to the spa’s pièce de resistance – an underwater treatment zone nine metres below sea level. With panoramic windows looking straight out onto the island’s coral reef, it wouldn’t look out of place in a Bond movie.
Treatments are offered sitting upright – so as not to miss a moment of the glorious technicolour action unfolding in front of you – or lying down with a strategically placed mirror angled below the head of the bed so you can still enjoy the show. I choose the latter to ease my back pain.
The sweeping pressure of Jinky’s massage strokes are amazing at relieving my tension in a non-painful way. I can feel – and hear – the stubborn knots in my shoulders and upper back releasing as she kneads me from my scalp down to my toes. I gaze at the ocean scenes in the mirror with colourful schools of fish weaving in and out of the coral, and begin to drift off into a blissful snooze.
After my treatment, I relax in the Spaquarium on a cushion-strewn daybed drinking warm ginger tea served with dried mango, coconut, almonds and papaya. While spotting clown fish, jack fish, snappers, eagle and manta rays, I reflect that this is the most amazing way to come back to full consciousness – certainly, it will give any future spa experience a run for its money.
The gastro-minded are very well catered for at Huvafen Fushi. Breakfast in Celsius on the water is a spread indeed… mini beet and wild rice pots, muesli shooters, acai bowls, chia seed pots and daily smoothies are labelled so you know instantly what’s gluten-free, dairy-free and nut free. The bread and pastry baskets are filled with everything from French patisseries to sourdough, spelt, chocolate, sour, date and pecan breads, again labelled for allergies. There’s also an extensive a la carte breakfast selection along with delicious house pressed juices.
Feeling Koi offers contemporary Japanese cuisine from sushi to miso cod served tapas style at the open restaurant, sunset bar and overwater deck. Watch the chilled-out sharks circulate for scraps from the kitchen after service.
Forno has a casual Italian vibe, serving wood-fired pizzas and signature pasta dishes alongside Caesar, halloumi and marinated prawn salad platters.
Raw Café is perfect for light lunches or post-spa snacks; you’ll struggle to resist the miniature dehydrated fish pizzas, gazpacho, seabass ceviche and avocado carpaccio.
The Vinum underground wine cellar houses some of the worlds finest vintages eight metres below ground and can be hired for private sommelier dinners.
We loved/didn’t love
Resident marine biologists Alex and Haamid, who educate and involve guests in preserving the ocean and coral reef.
Feeding the sting rays in the shallows at teatime, and watching the fish by night at the Spaquarium… it’s just like an underwater dive except you don’t get wet!
The friendly and helpful staff: five star treatment all the way. You don’t even have to hang about checking in.
We didn’t love
Being waved goodbye by the staff from the jetty (a kind gesture, but we didn’t want to leave!).
Who do you think would like it?
Celebrities: George Clooney, Roger Federer, Linda Evangelista and Tom Cruise are fans. Dominic Cooper and Gemma Chan were there when we visited. Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell have stayed in the spectacularly discreet Ocean Pavilion.
Stressed out high fliers: there’s great wi-fi here, but you might just find you don’t need it. Rejuvenate with healthy food, spa treatments and water sports.
Couples: there are couples underwater treatment rooms, or you can book a beachside Dhimaalis – a traditional Maldivian treatment performed in a timber pavilion as the island breeze ripples through gossamer linen curtains.
Stays at Huvafen Fushi start from £1,312 per night in a Beach Bungalow with pool based on two adults sharing on a bed and breakfast basis, excluding service and tax. Book through: www.huvafenfushi.com
Return flights from Cardiff and other UK airports to the Maldives start from £619 with Qatarairways.com.