Comfort, service and action fit for a Bond girl.
Hotel Insider: Park Hyatt, Maldives
As welcomes go, it was rather dramatic. Minutes after we arrived, the resident biologist Arabella emerged - like a Bond girl - from the lagoon in full wetsuit, carrying fresh juice for us to sip on the beach. It's a party trick mostly practised on honeymooners but a clever one.
Hadahaa is at the southern most tip of the Maldives, close to the equator, in the Northern Huvadhu Atoll. It is one of the largest and deepest atolls in the world, which explains the coral, and only 10 of the 150 islands are inhabited. It is also a very long way (400 kilometres south) of Malé and, until recently, getting there was not the easiest. Seaplanes could not land without endangering the coral and so the journey involved a long boat trip after the internal flight. However, a new airport opened on a neighbouring island on September 11 and now it's a pleasant 15-minute hop on a speedboat. The advantage of scheduled flights is that planes can now take off and land after dark, which means guests don't have to stay overnight in Malé.
The hotel was built by Alila, which took five years in order to avoid disturbing the coral. It was recently taken over by Park Hyatt, which has given all 50 rooms a facelift.
It's a good combination. Alila's sensitivity to the environment was paramount, and Hyatt has brought their own high standards to the interiors. There are 14 water villas, 16 pool villas and 20 garden villas. I stayed in a good-sized pool villa that was attractively minimalistic. Made of local timber and glass, its decor featured warm, earthy colours. The lush vegetation by the pool and patio also offered both privacy and beach access.
Haute couture meets barefoot. As with everywhere in the Maldives, it is expensive. But the magnificence of the coral and the sea life also attract divers and snorkellers. Arabella gives snorkelling tours guiding guests expertly through the coral.
Good. Every guest has an iPad in the room, along with a 37-inch TV, a DVD and CD player, and an MP3 docking station.
With only 50 rooms the concept is that guests can be individually catered for. Staff can offer to take honeymooning couples to a sandbank in the middle of the Indian Ocean so they can feel alone.
Battuta's has the reputation of being the only truly Maldivian restaurant in the country, but it was only open in the evenings. The problem is that there isn't really any such thing as Maldivian food, except that it involves a lot of tuna. Park Hyatt has recently revamped Battuta's and expanded the menus under a new Irish chef. They did not want to lose the heritage, so now it is described as "regionally inspired" cuisine. Locally sourced ingredients are used on the traditional grill and wood-burning oven. The tables and chairs are set on the sand, reinforcing the need to be barefoot while wearing couture.
The snorkelling - the best I have ever seen - and the spa. I had itchy legs and the Ayurvedic doctor and therapist between them managed to get my skin back to normal within a few hours.
Learning my car back home had been broken into; the peace of the island brought the stresses of real life into even sharper focus. I could not work out how to open the doors to my room and felt rather foolish at having to phone reception.
This Park Hyatt cannot boast the underwater restaurants and nightclubs of other resorts, but its location is superb and the service is exemplary.
The bottom line
A double room costs from US$870 (Dh3,160) per night, including taxes. Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, North Huvadhoo (Gaafu Alifu) Atoll, Maldives (www.maldives.hadahaa.park.hyatt.com; 00 960 682 1234).