There’s a place where the ocean is as clear and calm as a swimming pool. Where eagle rays glide near the surface of the water. A place where plentiful stars shine bright in the night sky above over-water villas. A place of lush tropical gardens, unrivaled serenity, natural beauty, health and wellness. A place for truly experiential family travel: swimming with whale sharks, night snorkeling to reveal an underwater world of bioluminescent coral and sea life, regenerating coral through planting coral frames on the sea floor, and castaway picnics on a private island. And if you haven’t been to this place, you must put it on your bucket list ASAP: the COMO Maalifushi, a 5-star luxury resort located in the Thaa Atoll of the Maldives.
I’ve never seen a brand get it so right in every single aspect of guest experience until my stay at the COMO Maalifushi. The brand’s very ethos is everything you would want in a family vacation: attention to detail, commitment to sustainability, a highly customized level of service, luxury, next-level cuisine, an emphasis on wellness and a menu of unique activities that you cannot find elsewhere. All of these traits are wound seamlessly together to create the ultimate experience.
Imagine, if you will: We wake in our spacious two-bedroom beach villa with a private pool, surrounded by an immersion of sunlight and tropical greenery. This island is completely natural. Nothing is planted here, except for the organic garden that supplies the kitchen. We lazily put on our bathing suits and bike to breakfast. Each of us has our own bike, fitted with baskets (for our fins and snorkels, of course) and lights for night biking; my husband’s bike even has a baby seat attached for our 2-year old. On the way, the kids delight in spotting island lizards darting across the path. We stop to watch as a large bunch of coconuts is hoisted down from a tall palm; as they reach the ground, one of the staff slices off the tops and offers a fresh coconut to each of us.
At breakfast, we take in the selection of amazing, wholesome food: green juices, freshly baked croissants and breads, homemade granola, an array of fresh fruit like watermelon, dragon fruit, papaya, and pineapple. And this is just the beginning, because the menu allows you to choose from avocado toast, French toast, blueberry pancakes, eggs Benedict, and so much more — everything with a healthy twist, and divine. While eating, we eye the ocean, calm as glass and so inviting.
After breakfast, my son and I walk along the dock to the house reef, jump in and discover an underwater world of eagle rays, black-tip reef sharks, sea turtles, clams and loads of colorful fish. We snorkel for an hour in complete serenity under a perfect blue sky, then make our way back to the zero-entry pool where the others are playing and join them. In the late afternoon, we head down to the kid’s club, a large outdoor and indoor oasis of play. We are greeted by the kids’ club staff members, who are magic, especially with younger children. My 2-year-old climbs the Swiss Family Robinson-style playground built into the sides of palms and chases after hermit crabs. My older ones play soccer, paint coconuts and set off for the open-air bar for a kids’ mocktail-making class when it’s time.
In the early evening, we take a dip in our private pool, shower and mosey to the over-water Japanese restaurant to watch the most perfect sunset and delight in sushi. As I walk back to the villa with my younger ones after a full, happy day, my husband and son return to the dock to meet the marine biologist. They head out to the house reef for night snorkeling with flashlights, during which they spot eels and squid. They turn off their lights and are treated to a world of bioluminescent coral and phytoplankton, surfacing with lights off to take in the amazing stars in the night sky.
And the next day, we wake up and do it all over again in paradise.
COMO Maalifushi is comprised of 65 over-water suites and villas. The layout of the villas is such that you feel complete privacy from your neighbors while remaining immersed in the natural beauty of this island and the ocean surrounding it.
Our family of six stayed in a spacious two-bedroom beach villa (1,560 square feet) with one king and one smaller twin room. Villas are bright, airy and elegant with simple interiors that include large windows and French doors to make the most of the island setting. Our villa had two full bathrooms, a third outdoor shower, a private pool and beach access, with lush gardens surrounding it. The hotel provides daily bottled water and fresh fruit, COMO Shambhala bathroom amenities (the bath salt is divine), yoga mats, a beach bag and flip flops, just in case you need a reminder that you are indeed on a beautiful island.
COMO Maalifushi’s over-water suites are the thing of dreams you see in luxury travel magazines. They are built off wooden walkways that stand above a shallow lagoon. Each has its own private pool and terrace for slipping into the bluest blue sea.
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As a brand, COMO hotels embrace and promote next-level wellness through the COMO Shambhala program, and cuisine is one important pillar of that program. The brand incorporates organic ingredients rich in living enzymes, vitamins and sea minerals into their dishes. COMO Maalifushi also gets most of their fruit and vegetables from their own on-island organic garden — which you can tour, by the way.
The resort offers three dining options. Madi restaurant serves a selection of international, Maldivian and healthy COMO Shambhala cuisine. The Madi menu is light and flavorful with a range of local, Mediterranean, Indonesian and Thai-influenced dishes served from breakfast to late evening. The more laid-back Thila Pool and Lounge Bar specializes in salads, pizzas and wood-baked seafood, and is perfect for a casual lunch straight out of the pool or ocean. The over-water Tai restaurant serves Japanese-inspired sashimi and sushi. It’s an amazing dinner locale that offers up a beautiful sunset. Added bonus: several large nurse sharks call the below-dock area at Tai home. Kids will squeal with delight when seeing these beautiful creatures. The restaurant staff has a bucket of fishy treats perfect for creating a feeding frenzy below.
COMO Maalifushi simply blows the mind when it comes to the number of experiences it offers its guests. The Thaa Atoll has 25 chronicled dive sites, numerous unexplored channels and reefs, and an abundance of marine life due to its remote location. Don’t dive? What about snorkeling with turtles, night snorkeling with whale sharks (the season generally runs from December-March), UV night snorkeling or an aqua safari with the resident marine biologist? A splash net cruise and dolphin watching was a favorite for our family. We saw countless dolphins and the kids had a riot being pulled through the ocean aboard the splash net. The resort also offers fishing trips, surfing, sailing, private charters, windsurfing lessons and more.
For something truly special, opt for the family castaway picnic. You can swim, snorkel and enjoy the beach on the nearby deserted private island of Lavadhoo for the day. Hotel chefs will prepare you a gourmet picnic right on the sand.
Watersports equipment rental, including snorkeling gear, SUP, sailboats, etc., is free of charge. A professional from the marine sports center also leads a complimentary house reef snorkel twice per week.
The spa, or COMO Shambhala Retreat, at COMO Maalifushi offers complimentary over-water yoga every morning. There are eight ocean-facing treatment rooms, steam rooms, sauna and Jacuzzi, a pool and a fitness center. The spa menu features Asian-inspired holistic therapies, including massages, facials and reflexology.
Last but not least is Play by COMO. The dedicated play space for children ages 4 to 12 is elegantly built into the natural environment, with climbing nets, swings, slides and platforms attached to palms in the sand. There is a large lawn and soccer pitch, as well as a large indoor space for creative play with puzzles, arts and crafts, Legos, instruments and toy marine animals. COMO Play offers a daily schedule of activities such as sushi-making, leaf art, children’s yoga, treasure hunts and more that your kids can indulge in whenever they need a respite from the heat. Play by COMO’s activities are free of charge and the staff is exceptional. To assuage tweens and teens, there is a game room with pool tables, art easels, chess and Xboxes located separately at the Thila Pool Bar.
Another area in which the COMO Maalifushi gets it right? Sustainability. The resort uses solar energy, bottles fresh water in glass bottles (you won’t find plastic on this island) and is dedicated to conserving the Maldives’ rich marine life. The brand goes out of its way to encourage guests to learn more about the Indian Ocean through excursion opportunities with the resident marine biologist and the ability to take part in its ongoing reef conservation project to erect new coral frames on the seafloor.
The private island resort of COMO Maalifushi is located in the Maldives’ southerly Thaa Atoll, a 60-minute seaplane flight from Male International Airport. The Thaa Atoll is home to an abundance of marine life.
At COMO Maalifushi, my family found its rhythm again: joy, amazement, relaxation and delight rediscovered. Yours can do the same.
Editor’s Note: Loren was hosted by COMO Maalifushi in order to review the property. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by COMO Maalifushi and Loren Braunohler.
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