Kuramathi, Velassaru and Kandolhu in the Maldives are ideal for a family, group or couple, as Deni Kirkova found out.
The only problem with staying on a resort in the Maldives is you can never quite believe it’s real.
Particularly when the ‘hotel’ you’re staying in is in fact an entire island with fine white sand, lush green foliage and colourful birds and blooms.
The Indian Ocean in deepening shades of azure stretches out ahead in all directions with a stunning reef nearby.
That’s Kandolhu for you; the newest venture from Universal Resorts. On the small end of your average Maldivian island, the privacy it offers attracts famous faces such as recent guest Denise Van Outen.
Having just reopened in February 2014 it boasts slick, modern European architecture throughout, a gorgeous library and telescope for light pollution-free stargazing – they’ve even got a special app to explain the constellations.
I spent one heavenly night in a duplex pool villa here – a two storey home from home with an outdoor bathroom at the back stretching to the sea, a kitchenette, bar and large double bedroom with balcony.
At the grand Varu spa here, I had the best facial of my life. The products used are all organic and come from a boutique Irish beauty brand called Voya.
Steam, extraction and massage were used to make my skin smooth, plump and glow all evening and throughout the trip.
After an afternoon of stand up paddleboarding, we settled down for dinner at the Sea Grill restaurant. The resort boasts four outstanding restaurants including Italian (Olive), Asian (Banzai) and general (Market) – giving guests plenty of choice.
The next island, Velassaru, has 129 villas, several bars and restaurants, plus an abundance of daily activities, making it perfect for a group trip or girlie getaway as well as families and couples.
If you’re feeling extra hedonistic, go when one of the famous monthly full moon parties take place. They’re hosted on the resort’s exceptionally wide stretches of beach and celebrity DJs spin music into the night.
Velassaru’s water villas are of incredible standard, even in the Maldives, and my room was an exceptional water bungalow with a pool looking out onto the ocean through a glass wall
After a dip in my private infinity pool and a cool shower (with L’Occitane toiletries, of course), I headed to the nearby watering hole Chill Bar, an ideal setting for watching the sunset while eating top-notch tapas.
Later, on a champagne sunset cruise aboard a traditional Maldivian vessel called a Dhoni boat, I laid back on a giant bean bag while sipping cool Tattinger as the sun sank into the horizon.
The next day was spent on a private paradise in the shape of a deserted sandbank out in the ocean – an excursion called Island Escape, complete with champagne, sushi and other culinary delights.
Children are of course welcome at Velassaru but there’s no kids club, which is worth bearing in mind.
The third and final stop on my trip was the family-friendly island of Kuramathi. With 300 villas it’s the biggest of the three and offers a buggy service to get you from A to B.
I marvelled at a 300-year-old twisted stunning banyan tree, one of the oldest in the Maldives, which sported sky-high twisted branches of story-book beanstalk beauty.
This, paired with the island’s hydroponic garden and eco centre housing a giant sperm whale skeleton makes Kuranathi a uniquely educational offering in the Maldives.
The water sports and activities on offer are extensive.
On a snorkeling tour, majestic reef sharks roamed and giant turtles swam up to greet us while tropical and colourful clownfish and butterflyfish went about their business
The marine biologist on duty, Angie, was fun as well as knowledgeable.
After a day of activities and an indulgent dinner at world cuisine eaterie Duniye, we sank into bean bag chairs for after-dinner cocktails at Sand bar, where live acoustic music created a relaxed atmosphere.
All three resorts are perfect for honeymooners – the Maldives are known as one of the most romantic places in the world.
But you can just as well bring a family with babies or teenagers – or take your friends here to party.
Kandolhu Island, Maldives www.kandolhu.com
Kuoni and Universal Resorts (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) who offer seven nights at Kandolhu Island, Maldives in a jacuzzi villa with breakfast, including return economy flights from London Heathrow and transfers in resort. Prices for 2015 from £2269 per person, based on two sharing.
Velassaru, Maldives www.velassaru.com
Kuoni and Universal Resorts (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) who offer seven nights at Velassaru Maldives in a deluxe bungalow with breakfast, including return economy flights from London Heathrow and transfers in resort. Prices for 2015 from £1275 per person, based on two sharing.
Kuramathi Island Resort, Maldives www.kuramathi.com
Kuoni and Universal Resorts (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) who offer seven nights at Kuramathi Island resort, Maldives in a garden villa on full board meal basis, including return economy flights from London Heathrow and transfers in resort. Prices for 2015 from £1235 per person, based on two sharing.