Playful luxury. It’s not a phrase you’ll hear often, but it’s the philosophy LUX* Resorts are built on, and the brand’s five-star Maldives resort, LUX* South Ari Atoll captures the vibe perfectly.
Set on the lush and secluded 4 kilometre island of Dhidhoofinolhu, LUX* South Ari Atoll is a picturesque 25 minute seaplane ride from Male International Airport.
We spent some time at the resort to experience light-hearted luxury first hand.
As our Trans Maldivian Airways seaplane descended on LUX* South Ari Atoll I spotted more than a dozen LUX* staff in their fresh white uniforms, standing in a line waving in unison to welcome to us to the island.
We instantly felt like VIPs. It was a breathtaking arrival, shaking hands with our smiling welcome party while looking around in disbelief at picture-perfect turquoise water lazily lapping at the powder white sands.
I didn’t realise water could be so clear and blue without the help of an Instagram filter.
Staff escorted us over to the white, spacious boho-chic reception area where we sat down to enjoy a refreshing tropical, sugar-free iced tea welcome drink while checking in, before being escorted to our villa.
Our Romantic Overwater Pool Villa was in a prime position, suspended over a sparkling turquoise lagoon.
The villa was light, bright and spacious (110 square metres) with stylish white decor set off by eye-catching pops of blue.
A blissful night’s sleep was easy on the uber-comfy LUX* signature ‘Sleep Tight’ bed and the double-headed rain-showers were a sweet, romantic touch.
We also appreciated the walk-in robe and dressing room where we could leave our luggage and keep our villa fresh and tidy.
Entertainment lovers will be pleased with the 48-inch curved television or if that’s not enough there’s even a 110-inch drop-down Home Theatre system.
In my opinion, though, the real star of the show was outside on the luxurious deck complete with our own private infinity pool overlooking the crystal clear Indian ocean.
There was also a hanging “love-nest” day bed to relax on, and direct access down a few steps to some of the clearest waters in the world.
We borrowed snorkelling gear from the resort dive shop, giving us the added bonus of being able to explore the magnificent underwater world straight off our deck.
FOOD & DRINKS
True foodies will be in heaven at this resort thanks to a choice of eight quality restaurants and four bars.
The best gourmet experience of our stay was teppanyaki with the ever-charismatic Chef Allan at LUX*s Japanese restaurant, UMAMI.
Not only did Allan have all the entertaining moves (think flying spatulas and hat tricks) but the food was sublime. The most impressive dish was the moist, buttery Toothfish with bok choy, lotus root and baby corn. It was by far the best piece of fish I have eaten in my life.
All of the restaurants and bars had a unique vibe and cuisine with a consistent level of high-quality food.
Delicious casual eats like seafood pasta or gourmet burgers could be enjoyed at the laid-back beachy Lagoon Bar and Veli Bar. While a night out seated right on the beach at a la carte Italian restaurant Allegria was really something special.
We enjoyed happy hour (2 for 1) sundowners on a net suspended over the lagoon at East Bar while other nights enjoyed our sunset cocktails to the beats of a DJ playing at the funky west-facing Beach Rouge bar with the best views of sunset on the island.
When it comes to coffee, the hotel roasts its own coffee beans on-site and it was great to know we could get our hands on flavoursome, barista-made coffee each morning.
Another exceptional way to start the day at the resort is with a private FLOATING breakfast in your own pool! I can confirm that downing pancakes, eggs and a glass of champers while floating in an infinity pool overlooking the clearest water you’ve seen in your life is every bit as fantastic as it sounds.
Oh and here’s one for the kids (and kids at heart) LUX* has its own ice cream brand ICI. When wandering around the island under the tropical sun, the house-made gelato is the perfect treat to cool off with.
THINGS TO DO
You could stay here for weeks, or even months and not run out of things to do!
One of the best choices we made was to rent a bike for the length of our stay. This made it easy to navigate the entire island ourselves, while also making us feel like we were kids on a beach holiday. It’s just good fun cruising the island on the bikes.
The resort has pretty much every watersport you could think of on offer. We experienced the weightlessness of parasailing before cruising around the island on stand up paddleboards.
Water babies will love the fact that the resort has its own dive centre with an in-house marine biologist.
We also got the chance to take a boat tour to look for the resident whale sharks that swim close by the resort. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any this stay. Apparently, there is usually about a 70% chance of seeing them on the tour.
If you want somewhere to just chill (aside from the amazing villas themselves) there is the dreamy Wanderlust Library – a stylish, book-lovers sanctuary filled with books, magazines and a reading nook overlooking the water.
Also excellent for chilling is the LUX* Me spa overwater treatment villas where we enjoyed a peaceful and healing couples massage.
When ready to get active again we tried our hand at a Masterchef Cooking class with a professional chef. It was a fascinating opportunity to learn how to cook some delicious Maldivian dishes including a fish curry, chapatti and sago pudding that I definitely plan to recreate at home.
LUX* has heaps of cool and playful initiatives happening around the island at all times…like the opportunity to phone home (anywhere in the world for free) from a UK-style red phone box. Another fun game is each day staff members hide bottles around the resort to be found by guests, each bottle holds a message (read prize) from a bottle of wine to a facial at the spa.
This is one of those places that grows to feel like home, even after a short visit.
You’re surrounded by five-star luxury in the truest sense without any of snobbery that could potentially come with it.
Staff smile and wave, it’s easy to make your way around the island on foot or by bike. There are so many cute and interactive things to discover around the island from oversized swings hanging off palm trees to the hammocks suspended over the water.
LUX* South Ari Atoll has everything you could ever need on your Maldives adventure: a breathtaking natural environment, delicious places to dine, a collection of the best places in the world to sip a cocktail, a world of water sports and friendly staff.
The only hard part about the trip is saying goodbye to the island.
The 5-star resort offers 187 villas, all of them located along the water, whether that be on the beach or perched on stilts above a crystal lagoon. These include Beach Villas, Beach Pool Villas, Water Villas, Romantic Pool Water Villas, the even larger Temptation Pool Water Villas and the top of the range LUX Villa.
The resort is also home to two infinity pools, tennis courts, fitness centre and PADI dive centre.
For more details visit https://www.luxresorts.com/en/maldives/hotel/luxsouthariatoll
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