The Maldives have a lot of hype to live up to - its 26 atolls and their hotels in the Indian Ocean can be found at the top of most travel bucket lists and elicit the most envious glances on Instagram feeds.
Sitting on the edge of my water villa deck, toasting the dusky pink sunset with a glass of fizz, I could easily see why honeymooners flock to the tropical islands.
There have a been a slew of recent openings in the Maldives, but Six Senses Laamu, which originally opened in 2011, continues to epitomise barefoot luxury at its best.
The chic resort continues has kept ahead of the game with zeitgest-approved innovations, which most recently include a surf school and a wellness programme.
Here's everything you need to know about staying at Six Senses Laamu.
Where is it?
Deep in the Indian Ocean, in the remote Laamu Atoll on the island of Olhuveli, a domestic flight (35 minutes) and a speedboat ride (15 minutes) away from Male International Aiport. If you take a direct overnight flight (just under 11 hours) from London, you can be at the resort by lunchtime – all very civilised. It’s also the only resort in this particular atoll, so you have the delicious feeling of being a castaway.
The castaway vibe continues with the design of the resort – think Robinson Crusoe on a luxury budget. The first thing you notice about Six Senses Laamu is the feeling of the inside merging with the outside - you never really have a roof over your head, except to sleep. The rooms are a mix of over-water and beach villas (97 in total), both following a rustic-luxe blueprint that is catnip for anyone who leans towards the bohemian side of luxury. Sustainable yet stylish, the villas are carved from local wood and feature alfresco transparent bathtubs and rainforest showers, roof decks for stargazing, daybeds for sunbathing and umpteen little sitting areas, strewn with brightly coloured cushions.This isn’t a highly polished, air-con kind of place – natural beauty and the view are always the end point. This is why you can always see the sea wherever you are – even if it’s through the glass panel on the wooden floor of the loo.
You're given bikes for getting around the island - not least for speeding down the jetty to your villa - and allotted a 'gem' (your personal butler) for the duration of your stay. Your gem is always at the end of a phone to meet your every need - Afrah, made us stay all the more brighter with his kind smile and ability to make anything happen.
The ocean water villas are the most sought after – especially for honeymoon couples – with the ones at the end of the jetties being the most sought after with their own infinity pools.
Once you’ve parked your bike, the villa opens up to reveal a generously sized bedroom with a white linen-strewn bed taking centre stage, looking out through floor to ceiling glass windows over the Indian Ocean. His’n’hers sinks sit behind the bed, cleverly set into old fashioned brown leather trunks (one of my favourite details).
You have more little seating areas than you can shake a stick at – three on the main outdoor deck depending on whether you’re sunbathing, eating or taking some shade. Oh and there’s a roof deck for admiring the stars. When it comes to bathing, you can choose between the sunken, all-glass tub that looks out over the water or the rainforest-style shower – both of which are half exposed to the elements so the lapping of the ocean soundtracks your experience.Request a west-facing villa if you’re a sundowner kind of person.
Families are well catered for two, especially by the two bedroom beach villas.
Food & drink
The hotel seems to understand that even those living in paradise need a bit of variety. There are four main restaurants on the island: breakfast is a very serious affair held at the over-water Longitude restaurant. Pick up a spot with ocean on both sides and fill up at one of the most comprehensive buffets I’ve ever seen – pancakes (served American-style or like a French crepe), every kind of fresh fruit, pastries, juices, eggs – everything you could wish for.
For laid-back lunches, it’s all about Sip Sip, which sits back from the beach with a swim-up bar sunk into the main pool. Bag a cabana on the beach and order salads, pizzas, ceviche or catch of the day and a cool bottle of rose before swimming up to the bar for the ‘Rush Hour’ drinks. Two-for-one Laamu G&Ts are hard to resist.
In the evening you have a few choices, which you can test on rotation over your stay. For a relaxed dinner, we sat over the water at the Chill Bar after catching the sunset and mixed cocktails with a Vietnamese-heavy menu. Next we tried the Japanese restaurant Zen – one of the foodie highlights of our stay – where highly Instagrammable sushi boats were followed by soft shell crab tempura and perfect gyoza. For a special night when fine dining is on the cards, book into Leaf, the resort’s signature menu which sits prettily near the beach, over the organic garden.
Kids and big kids will probably pay a daily visit to the ice cream studio, which has nearly 50 tasty flavours on rotation.
Ask your gem about any special dinners that might be going on such as lobster barbecue dinners on the beach or to arrange private candlelit dining.
Of course, if you’re feeling lazy or unsociable, you can just order room service.
Six Senses Laamu strikes exactly the right balance when it comes to ‘facilities’ – there are plenty of things to do and ways for the soul to be nourished, without feeling like the beauty of the island has been overrun. All guests are given a bike (ours were carved with our initials) for their stay, so you can pedal happily from villa to restaurant to activity. There’s a gym studio with a serious view of the ocean to make sure your fitness levels don’t slip, and an open-air rooftop studio where meditation and yoga - even aerial - classes are held. As part of your stay, the resort offers you a wellness screening with its in-house experts.
Next door, you’ll find a juice bar with resting loungers, which looks out onto the pristine white sand and turquoise sea.
Is there a spa?
Of course, the Six Senses group is known for its fantastic spas. Set within the island’s lush vegetation, there are treatment room that are specially designed to look like giant bird nests. Inside, you can relax with massages and facials which take their inspiration from Asia, using Maldivian ingredients.
Are kids welcome?
Yes. Families happily co-existed alongside honeymoon couples when we visited – the kids happily splashing around in the Sip Sip pool, snoozing at the dedicated Kids Club and taking advantage of the alfresco cinema nights on the beach. It’s probably best to opt for one of the beach villas if you do come as a family, so you don’t have to worry constantly about the water factor.
It’s really about relaxing in the sun, being pampered in the spa and sampling the different grub and cocktails around the hotel, but there is plenty to keep itchier feet occupied.
You can paddleboard around the island – just watch out for the sting rays, learn to surf, have a private picnic on a deserted island, go scuba diving, spend the day island hopping, try your hand (or legs) at wakeboarding or water skiing. Some nights, there are cinema screenings of old classics on the beach under the stars.
Honeymooners and families. Although we found it easy to dip in and out of socialising as we wished – everyone was open to making friends.
When to go:
High (and dry season) is from December to April – although keen surfers will benefit from better swells from May onwards.
By the way:
Alcohol is banned in the Maldives, except in the hotels, so don’t try to take anything with you from duty-free.
Stay 7 nights at Six Senses Laamu from £2,920 per person. Includes accommodation in a Lagoon Water villa, return domestic flights, speedboat transfers and international flights with Qatar from LHR. Offer valid from April 16- Sept 30 with 10 per cent discount is applicable to bookings made more than 45 days before departure (01494 678 400, turquoiseholidays.co.uk).