A short sea plane away from the international airport at the capital Male lies a perfect pleasure paradise, where turquoise seas kiss pearlescent white shores fringed by elegant palms and a lush, green jungle.
There’s something rather magical here, the ocean seems a brighter blue, the sand even softer and the frangipani air more richly scented. LUX* Maldives South Ari Atoll has this positive effect on all who visit – you arrive and instantly everything seems wonderful, blissful and nicer than before.
A long thin natural island, LUX* is located, as the name says, in the South Ari Atoll, south/southwest of Male. One of the larger Maldives resorts, it’s hugely popular with guests from all over the world – some lured as they know and love the LUX* brand, others because they want something more than the typical ‘fly and flop’ beach holiday many associate the Maldives to be.
The beaches here are gorgeous though – and it’s certainly tempting to sunbathe most days, but there’s also all sorts of other delightful ways to spend your time.
But first, the accommodation. There’s a great choice, from cosy beach villas nestled on the island’s pretty shores, to aptly named ‘temptation pool water villas’ which are perched over the sea, with a large 14-metre private infinity pool, Jacuzzi, and beautiful uninterrupted ocean views.
Thatched roof beach bungalows and villas perched over the warm Maldivian waters create a stylish seaside haven. On the sandy shores guests can unwind beneath the palms, while stairways from the overwater villas’ decks descend straight into the Indian Ocean. Whitewashed walls, light and airy spaces with bursts of colour and tropical foliage make for the ultimate laidback lifestyle.
There are eight different categories, so whether you’re visiting alone or with a tribe of little travellers in tow, or if you’re more the water villa type than the beach one, you will easily find your fit.
The LUX* Villa is the range-topping presidential villa, perfect for travellers seeking simple-yet-stylish luxury – temptation pool water villas as mentioned above; two-bedroom family beach pavilions – interconnected so perfect for families and friends; romantic pool water villas, a favourite for couples and honeymooners; Maldives water villas and beach villas for those who prefer enjoying the ocean rather than having their own private pool, and there’s a number of other super villa types too. All have gorgeous bathrooms, sun decks, AC, and all mod cons.
If you can tear yourself away from your lovely home from home, jump on one of the island shuttle buses that run every 15 minutes or so, or take a bike and explore. The island has a main sand road thankfully fringed with palms to provide some dappled shade. You’ll pass the arrival and departure lobby with its coffee bar, dive and water sport centre, various restaurants and bars, pools, kiddies club and a few extra special touches we really loved.
Right at the very far end of the island is an old-fashioned red telephone box where you can call home free (yes really), plus a tiny library with an ocean facing loft where you can relax and read enjoying a cooling sea breeze, and heading back towards the island’s centre, an amazing wishing tree. This is so pretty and such a lovely idea.
All guests are given a ribbon to write their dearest wishes on, and then hang them on the majestic tree’s branches. At the end of each year, all the ribbons are collected, and some picked to receive a special gift – including a free holiday back at the resort. We visited in July and the tree was already laden with its precious ribbon cargo, all very gently rustling in the breeze.
Another lovely touch and one popular with children, is very early each morning, team members head out and hide glass bottles around the island so families can enjoy a treasure hunt. Each bottle has a message in it with a prize, which can be things like a free pizza evening in their villa and other treats. This is so in keeping with the whole ethos of this resort – warm, friendly, welcoming – and fun!
Other activity-wise, the whole island is fringed with gorgeous beaches of the softest white sand and, as it’s so large, you can always find a little corner to yourself. In some areas swings have been placed over the sea so you can pretend to be a child again, all carefree with the wind in your hair.
Walking along the shores you’ll see plenty of the island’s wild inhabitants too – from leggy grey herons sneaking up on shoals of fry, to dainty white terns, ghost crabs, comical squabbling coots, and just offshore, baby reef, lemon, and blacktip sharks prowl by. Walk out on to the jetties and you’ll spot a rainbow of fish – everything from colourful parrot fish to strange needlefish, eagle and sting rays, and larger sharks hoping for an easy meal.
The resort is in a Marine Protected Area, where the incredibly beautiful natural surroundings, including 50 dive sites, are brimming with wildlife – rays, sea turtles, thousands of species of reef fish, dolphins, and the mysterious whale shark.
You can head off on a cruise to see these majestic, plankton-eating spotted creatures. The resort’s marine biologist takes groups out on a traditional wooden Dhoni to scuba-dive or snorkel alongside whale sharks and manta rays (keeping a safe and considerate distance, naturally).
LUX* Maldives South Ari Atoll really prides itself in engaging in a host of efforts to help fight climate change, from planting corals, banning single-use plastic, having their own water plant (they have saved about 810,000 plastic water bottles so far), tending to their own herb garden and vegetable patch, launching the world’s largest floating solar platform at sea, and providing guests with bicycles, island cruisers and solar-powered shuttles to get around. It’s so commendable and hugely encouraging to see resorts like this take sustainability and the environment so seriously.
Sustainability applies to LUX* Maldives South Ari Atoll host of excellent dining experiences too. It’s the first resort in the Maldives recognised as a ‘vegan friendly hotel’ by Vegan Welcome. Plant-based food lovers can pick from the vegetarian and vegan menu ‘keen on green’ across all the restaurants. They will be spoilt for choice at Umami with yaki udon noodles, yasai maki rolls and Japanese coffee jelly. And they can enjoy treats like the black truffle and porcini pizza and Vietnamese bean curd at Veli Bar. Guilt-free meals with a selection of sustainable delicacies brimming with organic goodness.
Most guests enjoy the resort’s excellent all-inclusive package, so they don’t have the worry of ending up with a hefty bill. There are six restaurants and five bars this applies too, and you receive 30% off the chic Japanese restaurant, Umami, as well as at the Italian restaurant, Allegria. There’s a wide selection of drinks: 80 wines and 50 cocktails, a serve-yourself minibar, and, as-much-as-you-can-eat ice cream during afternoon tea. We thoroughly enjoyed free ice cream treats each day.
Here at LUX* Maldives South Ari Atoll you really can go on a culinary journey – from Japan at Umami, the Mediterranean at Beach Rouge, Italy at Allegria, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean at Senses, Asia at East Market, and on a trip around the globe at MIXE. We enjoyed wonderful meals each day, and a fabulous wine tasting too.
Water sports and spa
Activities, we’ve mentioned some already, but there’s a host of water sports to enjoy. They have jet skis, paddleboards, hoverboards, flyboards, wakeboards, water-skis, knee-boards, windsurfs, kite surfs, sailboats, banana boats and other tubes, but also fishing, parasailing and catamaran outings! You can learn to dive at the dive centre and gain full training and PADI certification too.
There’s also a fantastic spa, set on a gorgeous private beach area. It’s incredibly peaceful and even if you’re not planning on having one of the super treatments they offer, you can still use the spa facilities and relax on comfy day beds in the shade and dip in a private plunge pool. One of the resort’s real hidden treasures.
In a nutshell
There are so many things to rave about at LUX* Maldives South Ari Atoll but I will end by simply saying it’s a wonderful resort you’ll be incredibly sad to leave. If you visit, I’m sure you, like me, will want to make plans to return as soon as you get home!