Barefoot Paradise: Hurawalhi Island Resort, Maldives

‘No news, no shoes’ is the mantra of the Maldives and I realise it’s taken seriously when even the pilot waiting to whisk us off to Hurawalhi Island Resort is abiding by the barefoot rule.

The 40-minute seaplane flight from Male passes in a flash, our heads glued to the window throughout, taking in the islands below us. As we begin our descent, we catch our first glimpse of the atoll we are about to call home, for a few days at least. We clamber out of the plane and onto a waiting speedboat. Minutes later we are drinking champagne, adjusting our watches to island time and being shown to our villa.

The luxury adults-only resort in the Lhaviyani Atoll, which opened in December, is a mix of beachside and overwater villas that fan around the palm-fringed island and down a wooden jetty. Inside the villa, sliding doors open directly onto our sun-soaked terrace. Even the shower door slides open onto the private deck so you can marvel at white sands and cobalt ocean ahead.

Coco Bar Exterior

I prefer to think of myself as an intrepid traveller with a voracious appetite for local culture and custom, so I thought I might get a little bored and fidgety at an island resort.

How wrong I was. Our days at the Hurawalhi are packed; a few short steps from our villa and we’re snorkelling the most spectacular house reef mesmerised by passing parrotfish, bright yellow angelfish and spiky zebra-striped lionfish. We spot a pregnant manta ray and report our sighting back to the resort’s resident marine biologist who documents the activity of the 400-or-so mantas regularly spotted around the atoll.

When we’re not sailing, paddleboarding, practicing yoga on the jetty or zipping round the island on our bikes, we’re being spoiled in the Hurawalhi’s other-worldly spa. The glass-bottomed floor at the overwater Duniye Spa means even lying face down on the massage table is an opportunity to get to know the marine life a little better. We are so relaxed by the end of our hot stone massage we virtually float back to our villa to dress for dinner.

There are three restaurants on the island so we undertake the important task of sampling them all. Canneli is the main buffet-style restaurant; live cooking stations offer fresh dishes from every corner of the globe and the service is impeccable. We dine on the oceanfront in the exotic company of crabs scuttling across the sand, geckos sneaking along the deck and baby sharks swimming below our table.

A la carte restaurant Aquarium sits at the end of a jetty surrounded by staggering sea views on all sides and serving up fresh sushi, seafood and Teppanyaki. However, it’s precisely 5.8 metres beneath Aquarium that the showstopper lies; the world’s largest and deepest undersea restaurant. On our last night in paradise we take the 41 steps down a spiral staircase for the unequivocal highlight of the trip, an exquisite seven-course tasting menu surrounded by fish of every colour, size and shape imaginable. Aptly named, 5.8 Undersea Restaurant must be one of the word’s most romantic restaurants but we barely look at one another, entranced instead by Nemo and his pals on the other side of the glass.

On Hurawalhi the staff are attentive and always smiling. In fact, they seem as happy to be working at the resort as we are to be staying here. Back to the jetty we go, ushered onto a seaplane to farewell shouts of ‘see you next time.’ I hope so, I really do. There’s not much I wouldn’t give to go back to Hurawalhi – to no news and no shoes.

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