Synonymous with idyllic beaches, barefoot luxury and romance, the Indian Ocean’s top hotels are broadening their appeal, says Sam Lewis
Island Hideaway, Dhonakulhi
This luxury resort re-opened in September following a huge refurbishment including deluxe over-water villas with Jacuzzi swimming pools. Guests can dive the Dhonakulhi reef daily — it’s only 30-90ft from the shore — for a chance to see manta rays, dolphins, turtles and whale sharks, or take a boat to see over 20 more dive sites within 60 minutes of the resort. A popular resort for couples and newlyweds, facilities include a nightclub, two tennis courts, a gym and spa with 12 treatment rooms.
Restless types should look no further than Ayada Resort. The Southern Atoll region, has world-class surf breaks, including Love Charms, 5 Islands and Tiger Stripes. And for those who prefer activities on land, there’s badminton, tennis, football, volleyball, yoga and Pilates. With all that exercise, guests will need to refuel
— an easy task with seven restaurants to choose from. Aches and pains? The resort’s 37,674sq-ft spa and health club by ESPA should do the trick.
Opened late last year, this five-star all-inclusive resort has the first Olympic-sized pool in the Maldives, but most go to laze on the island’s long sandy beach. Each one of the 150 beachfront villas and suites features a minibar, restocked twice a day, plus free sun screen and insect repellent. Just a 30-minute seaplane ride from the airport, it’s suitable for couples and families, with interconnecting villas and a kids’ club.
Four Seasons Resort, Kuda Huraa
Surfers are flocking to this resort to attend its surf school and take its seaplane ‘surfari’ to catch some of the best waves in the region. Others join the resort’s snorkel shark safari or help resident marine biologists with sea turtle and coral reefscaping projects. There’s a serene spa on a separate island reached by dhoni with a range of Sodashi treatments by day, and at night rituals are tailored to guests’ star signs. The Indian restaurant Baraabaru is rated one of the best in the region.
Few resorts can claim to have their own outdoor cinema where you can lie back on a king-size bed under the stars and watch the latest blockbuster while sipping Champagne and eating chocolate strawberries. Bikes are provided to help guests get around and make the most of the many facilities. Dive, windsurf, play tennis or volleyball, try a yoga class, attend a cookery course, or take a wine-tasting session in the world’s only underwater aquarium cellar with 300 bottles from 20 difference countries, including a $14,000 Petrus. Gen up on fish — name 10 species correctly and a free bottle of Champagne will arrive in your pool villa.
The Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa
Opened in August facing the idyllic Turtle Bay, a marine park on the northwest coast, this Starwood hotel offers all the signature Westin amenities, seven restaurants and bars, a spa, gym and a kids’ club. Weddings are likely to be a focus, with a Westin wedding specialist overseeing special occasions, which can take place in the hotel, on the beach or in a chapel.
Four Seasons Resort, Mauritius at Anahita
Testing teens? Let them run wild at the resort’s Young Adults Centre with computers, video game consoles, a pool table, and a disco and DJ booth. There’s a kids’ club for younger children and all ages can enjoy golf and tennis. Adult golfers will also be in their element, thanks to the Ernie Els-designed 7,500 yard, 18-hole, par-72 championship course, which guests can enjoy for free. Six striking oceanfront holes culminate in a final shot that’s surely among the most spectacular in the world. The resort also has Wimbledon-inspired AstroTurf tennis courts and a spa with 12 over-water treatment rooms.
Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts took over management of this resort in August and will relaunch as Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, Mauritius in September 2015 following a complete renovation. Improving this legendary resort will be difficult. It’s already considered the island’s most glamorous, with a Givenchy spa, fleet of butlers and two private islands — one with a Bernhard Langer-designed golf course.
Hilton Mauritius Resort & Spa
Situated on the west coast on the white sandy beaches of Flic en Flac, this resort is in a superb location and reopens in October after extensive refurbishment. Offering affordable luxury, there’s a range of restaurants including a themed buffet and a rejuvenating spa — one of the largest on the island. For party-goers, the Arena Night Club is a short walk away.
Outrigger Mauritius Resort & Spa
Located on the island’s southern tip in the Bel Ombre nature reserve, adjacent to the Heritage Golf Club, this resort reopened early this year after a refurbishment. All 181 guestrooms have ocean views, while the pool has a swim-up bar where parents often gather when their children are at the kids’ club.
Fregate Island Private
A 20-minute helicopter ride from Mahe brings guests to this private island resort in true James Bond style. With only 16 villas, there’s a secluded atmosphere and absolute privacy is guaranteed as each residence has steps down to a secluded stretch of beach. There’s a spa, but bespoke treatments can be arranged anywhere, along with picnics and romantic dinners. Guests get around the resort in solar-powered golf buggies and can attend eco lectures or tour with onsite ecologists. Discover Fregate beetles, found nowhere else in the world, plus giant Aldabra tortoises that can live to the age of 200, and over 100 species of birds.
Constance Lemuria Resort, Praslin
This 105-room luxury resort features the only 18-hole golf course in the Seychelles, and has spectacular views from the 15th of Anse Georgette — just one of the several stunning beaches nearby. With a spa, tennis courts and kids’ club, it’s ideal for active travellers, groups and families who want a range of facilities to choose from, as well as barefoot luxury by the beach.
Enchanted Island Resort, Round Island
JA Resorts & Hotels’ first property outside of the UAE has a superb location in the centre of a designated National Marine Park and is only four miles — or a 20-minute water transfer — from the main island of Mahe and the nearby international airport. The five-acre island offers just 10 villas, each with an infinity pool, plus a bar, restaurant, pool, spa, gym, yoga pavilion and watersports centre. And for guests with island fever, there’s the buzz of Mahe and a host of other nearby islands to explore.
Avani Barbarons Resort & Spa, Mahe
Due to open by the end of this year and formerly operated as Le Meridien, this resort is undergoing an $8m refurbishment. Located on the west coast of Mahe Island with direct access to a beach, this affordable upscale resort will be ideal for families with its children’s club, cooking stations and nightly live music at the pool bar.
Dhevatara Beach Hotel, Praslin
With only 10 individually styled suites, this beachfront boutique hotel is ideal for honeymooners looking for an intimate haven with top-notch food and personal service. Situated on picturesque Grande Anse Beach, one hour by ferry from Mahe, it’s well suited for those who simply want to chill out. Bikes, canoes and snorkelling equipment are free and there are two restaurants — one offering informal beachfront dining for guests who want to feast on fresh fish and meat platters with their toes in the sand.