x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Stay on the sea at Ayada Maldives for a superlative experience

Hotel Insider This new-five star resort in the Maldives combines glamour and style.

Ocean Villas at Ayada come with glass-bottomed floors, a large terrace and a plunge pool. Courtesy of Ayada Maldives
Ocean Villas at Ayada come with glass-bottomed floors, a large terrace and a plunge pool. Courtesy of Ayada Maldives

The welcome

As soon as we step off our plane at Kaadedhdhoo airport, we are greeted by a man who tells us to wait while he collects our luggage. Soon we are taken to a waiting speedboat and handed cold towels and bottles of water before setting off for Maguhdhuvaa Island. I imagine there are days when this journey could be somewhat rough, but today the only ripples come from our boat as we roar past small sandbanks. For the next hour we drink in the magnificent scenery, and arrive at the resort to find the manager and his team of staff waiting for us on the jetty with a berry juice.

The neighbourhood

Like so many of the resorts, Ayada has no visible neighbours, just water as far as the eye can see. The island is 430km south of the capital, Malé, within the southern rim of the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll and only 30km from the equator. Covering 150,000 sq m (15 hectares); it's quite possible to get lost amid the indigenous vegetation. The extraordinary thing about resorts in the Maldives is that a sort of uniform Disneyland desert island perfection reigns. But here at Ayada, the Turkish owners have made their mark: sitting in the Ottoman lounge after dinner, guests smoke shisha, and the decor has Arabic motifs and furnishings. There is also a hammam in the spa and an Asian restaurant.

The room

There are seven categories of rooms, from beach villas to sunset ocean suites. The more extravagant have glass-bottomed floors, large terraces with over-ocean pools and direct access to the lagoon, but even the more modest rooms are gorgeous. Mine had its own little pool, into which a coconut had fallen, and direct access to the deserted white sand beach. The interior was beautiful but simple - all very House & Garden - with lots of teak, marble and sandstone finishes.

The service

Impeccable. I was there for less than 24 hours but I still managed to get my laundry done, enjoy a superb massage, eat well and have my hair blow dried, all with minimum fuss. The staff even managed to track down my glasses case, which I had left at the airport.

The scene

Tourism in the Maldives is all about superlatives. The new government would like to encourage the idea of accessibility, but the truth is all the major hotel groups are vying to outdo each other with ever more inventive and glamorous resorts. Ayada is the most recent opening and we were one of the first to arrive so there were only a handful of other guests. And it is not just aimed at honeymooners; the children's supervised play area is large and attractive with a kid's pool surrounded by mini deck chairs (sweet to look at but I have never met a five-year-old who sunbathes). There also are lots of sporting activities, including a mini football pitch, volleyball and badminton. Ayada also claims to have the biggest spa in the country, with a serious menu of treatments and a hammam.

The food

Guests have no choice but to eat on the island. There are seven options, the best being Far East restaurant, one of the few Asian eateries in the country. After four or five days of eating fish at other hotels, the curries and Thai dishes were a welcome change. We retired after dinner to the Ottoman lounge, a Turkish cafe that offers 65 different types of tea and shisha, as well as their authentic Turkish coffee. The biggest restaurant is close to the reception and has the usual array of European buffet food with live cooking stations for pasta. The prettiest is the lagoon restaurant, which is built over the water.

Loved

The infinity pool, with a choice of deck chairs submerged in the water. Ditto the cafe tables. I'm not sure why I would want to eat in the water, but the pool is certainly fun (I have a series of pictures in which I appear to be walking on water).

Hated

Wasting eight hours of my 20-hour trip sleeping. Also, one night is definitely not enough.

The verdict

Nearly all hotels in the Maldives are five-star. This one combines style with glamour and enough activity to stop you from going crazy. Nor do you feel out of it if you are not on honeymoon.

The bottom line

A beach villa costs from US$950 (Dh3,490) per night, half board, based on two sharing, including taxes. Ayada Maldives, Maguhdhuvaa Island, Maldives (www.ayadamaldives.com; 00 90 216 688 08 25).