A little piece of paradise with outstanding service
We had the pleasure of spending 4 nights at the brand-spanking new Raffles Meradhoo Maldives in the beginning of May. We stayed during the resort’s pre-opening so we basically had the whole island all to ourselves the first few days. The resort is situated 400 kilometres south of the capital Malé and is a fairly small resort with about 20 beach villas and another 20 overwater villas. Raffles Meradhoo actually consists of 2 parts: the main island with the beach villas and then the overwater island with the overwater villas, which at the time of our visit wasn’t opened to public yet but looks very promising!
We arrived to Male early in the morning after 2 international flights with Qatar Airways and after having picking up our luggage we were immediately greeted by a hotel representative who took our suitcases and walked with us to the domestic airport for our last flight. He escorted us to a shared lounge with some snacks and drinks and took both our passports to arrange the check-in of our domestic flight. After 45 minutes he came to pick us up at the lounge again as our flight was ready to board. We were given seat 1A & 1B, which sounds better than it is, as the Dash-200 from national airline ‘Maldivian’ only features Economy Class. We did get some extra legroom though! After 50 minutes we eventually arrived at Kaadedhdhoo Airport where we were immediately greeted by Olga, our butler, and her always present smile.
We waited approximately 10 minutes in the golf cart for our luggage to arrive before being driven to the Raffles speedboat, which was waiting for us 500 meter away from the airport. The speedboat ride to the resort takes about 15 minutes and during this short trip we were offered a delicious welcome drink of coconut water and pomegranate (which we ordered many times again during our stay) and a bowl of delicious fresh coconut flakes.
Getting closer to the resort, we noticed about 10 staff members, General Manager included, waiving at us from the jetty to welcome us, as well as 4 or 5 local musicians, playing Maldivian beats on their drums and tambourines. What a warm welcome!
We walked off the speedboat, were handed 2 glasses of champagne and were asked to take place on the backseat of a very fancy golf cart which our butler Olga drove straight to our beach villa for check-in. We received a room tour and were pleased to see that the document we filled-in prior to our stay, in which the resorts asked for our preferences in terms of pillows, scent of toiletries, music, room temperature, mini-bar stocking, etc. was carried out to the last detail. Olga also showed us how the in-room iPad worked and how we could contact her for making restaurant and spa reservations. She also showed us where we could find our life jackets and snorkel gear in our dressing, but didn’t propose to unpack our suitcases, which is a service all guests normally receive at Raffles and when we enquired about it after our stay we were assured that this is something all guests will receive in the future. All-in-all check-in was very pleasant, fast and painless, just the way we like it.
Probably the most subjective part of this review, but we thought we’d add it in here because we believe design matters! It’s probably one of the things we liked most about Raffles Meradhoo. It’s a very beautiful mix of modern and colonial with lots of blue and white, which feels very chic but at the same time very warm and cosy as well. There’s probably only one place in the whole resort where we didn’t like the design and that is the indoor private dining space. It felt very cold (which isn’t easy when it’s always over 30°C outside) and from talking to other people we know we’re not the only ones thinking about it that way. The rest of the island however is totally our style and looks way better in real life than it looks in pictures.
We stayed in a regular beach villa, which is the lowest category at the resort, but still measures 220 square meters and has a private pool! The outdoor area is a lovely place to relax and offers a great amount of privacy. The privacy however, comes at a cost… The reason you get that much privacy is because you are completely surrounded by trees and plants, which unfortunately also hides the beautiful view to the ocean, as well as block out quite a lot of sunlight. To be honest, we had the same feeling at one of the 2 beach villas we visited at the St. Regis Vommuli, while the other one was much more open. This might also be the case here at Raffles, but unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to check out all other beach villas. If you, like us, prefer more light and are willing to give up some privacy, we’re sure you can just ask housekeeping to cut some branches and the ‘problem’ will be resolved in no time!
The living room and bedroom is beautifully decorated and very spacious. The bed is very big and comfortable, as you can expect from Raffles and because the whole space is surrounded by windows, you get the feeling of being outside the whole time, without the heat and humidity.
The bathroom of our villa was absolutely huge. It featured a big indoor shower, an even bigger outdoor shower, his & hers vanity and a walk-in closet that’s big enough for fashionistas who want to stay for a month or longer. The best part about the bathroom was definitely the bathtub, which you can also mistake for an indoor private swimming pool. The only negative about a bathtub this big is that you have to plan taking a bath, as it needs a while to fill up.
6. Common areas
The island is small, and apart from the villas, the restaurants and the spa, there are only a couple places that come to mind where you can spend some time. The pool area is definitely the place where we would spend most of our time. A stunning infinity pool with beautiful views over the Indian Ocean and only a few meters away from the legendary Raffles Long Bar where you can get the best cocktails and snacks. Another one is the arrival lobby, which is on the main jetty and where you can just chill in the nets over the sea and look at both the island, as well as the beautiful sunset. We spent one evening here looking at one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve ever witnessed and it was magical.
And of course there’s the ocean! We went snorkelling with our butler Olga one day and during the first 15 minutes alone we saw a turtle, some black-tip sharks, a stingray (or was it an eagle ray?) and a crazy amount of other fish. We really loved the fact that all the butlers at Raffles Meradhoo are trained regularly by the marine biologist of the resort and can come snorkel with you if you desire. They also know the best spots of where you’ll have a bigger chance to find turtles and they also give you tips and tricks which came in super handy for novice snorkelers like us. We even used our marine butler as a lifeguard, when suddenly a storm came up and Laura was having difficulties getting back to the shore because of the current and the waves!
7. Spa / Wellness
The overwater spa is something else! Unfortunately we only had one treatment there, but it was absolutely amazing! Each treatment room has a separate changing room with a beautiful bathtub overlooking the ocean. The music, the scent, the softness of the bathrobes and slippers, the massage itself, … everything was just perfect. There’s even a glass window in the floor right under your head where you’ll see many rays and other fish swimming by during your treatment.
8. Food & Beverage
We should keep in mind that for half of our stay we were the only guests on the remote island. Therefore, we understand that certain ingredients were not available every day. There were days without avocados, and days without coconuts, but there was always more than enough to choose from.
We had some very memorable meals, like the dinner at the Firepit restaurant on the beach during our last evening, where we sat on a couch made of sand with lots of cushions and ate on a table made of sand surrounded by candles and a billion stars (we even saw some shooting stars!). But we also had some less memorable meals. During our 5 days at Raffles we have never been blown away by a single dish, but the food definitely isn’t bad either. Everything was fresh, everything was tasty, but it just wasn’t special, which, looking at the prices, shouldn’t be expected, as the food here is very cheap for a Maldivian resort. We had dinners where we ate 12$ starters and 20$ main courses. In similar resorts you’re lucky if you can get a bag of crisps for that price…
When you’re the only guests in the resort, you expect service to be flawless, and it was! The staff has worked very hard during 6 months with no real guests to be able to deliver perfect service when the first guests arrived and the hard work seems to have paid off. We have never experienced so many genuine smiles during a hotel stay. Everyone was very eager to help and make our stay as easy and perfect as possible. From our butler Olga who was available for us 24/7, to the bartender at the Long Bar who regularly brought us something refreshing at the pool without us even asking, to the chef who came to chat and asked if everything was fine every single meal, the service at Raffles Meradhoo is one of a kind. Even when more guests started to arrive, we never had to mention our room number to anyone and were always greeted by name, even by the housekeeping staff!
10. Value for money
Lets start by getting the obvious out of the way: the Maldives are expensive. Like really expensive. After comparing with many other resorts in the Maldives we came to the following conclusion: Raffles Meradhoo is great value for money if you’re into true luxury!
In peak season, a beach villa with pool like we had will cost a little under $1.500 per night, while an overwater villa with pool will cost about 500$ extra. Definitely not cheap, but where you’ll save money compared to other resorts, is on the food and on the activities. As mentioned above, food is very cheap here for Maldivian standards, and other activities such as spa treatments and excursions won’t exactly break the bank either.
Raffles Meradhoo Maldives is a small but beautiful secluded resort with outstanding service. It’s great value for money for Maldivian standards and we would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a relaxing stay with great privacy and who enjoys snorkeling and spa treatments. The food is quite good but nothing spectacular. We think there are better resorts in the Maldives if you are traveling with smaller kids, but for couples or families with older kids we have a hard time coming up with a better place to spend your holiday. We can’t wait to go back and explore the overwater villas after they open in September!