One of only a few adult-only resorts in the Maldives, Anantara Veli has been coined as ‘honeymoon island’, and with good reason; namely its private over-water villas, romantic dining experiences and couple-based excursions. It’s frequently hired out for weddings too.
As part of a recent multi-million pound refurbishment, there’s a new wellness string to the resort’s impressive bow, one that offers a multitude of ways to elevate your romantic escape. You’ll leave feeling more grounded and energised, and the feeling will remain long after you have (reluctantly) returned home.
THE PACKING EDIT
Anantara Veli is situated in the South Malé Atoll, on one of three naturally-formed islands gathered around an expansive central blue lagoon; the two neighbouring resorts, Dhigu and Naladhu are also operated by Anantara Group. Compared to Dhigu (a family-friendly island freely accessible to Veli vacationers) and Naladhu (a private island with just 20 secluded villas), Veli offers an oasis of couple-focused calm, living up to its reputation as one of the leading places to honeymoon in the Maldives.
Just a thirty-minute speedboat ride from the main airport at Malé (so you don’t have to wait around for a seaplane), expect to find wrap-around white sand beaches, lush green foliage among a wealth of coconut groves, and an incredible expanse of crystal clear waters where reef sharks, turtles and stingrays invite you to play among the site’s growing coral nursery.
The sea-facing villas, expansive range of restaurants and lively pool bar all make the very best of the oceanic views (the sight of one slightly industrial-looking island aside), while other activities – including the spa – are designed to cocoon you from the outside world, offering an extra dose of tranquility. Or, take the quick, two minute, boat trip across to Dhigu and your options expand. Here, there’s another (overwater) spa, more sea-front dining and further activities to take part in, including snorkelling and surfing.
At Veli, with an extremely friendly and experienced staff on hand to cater to your every need, you can do as little or as much as you like but one thing is guaranteed: you’ll come away feeling utterly rejuvenated.
The benefit of Anantara’s Veli and Dhigu resorts being a mere two-minute boat trip away from each other is that a stay at Veli means access to not one but two spas. It’s worth experiencing both if you can.
Start at Balance Wellness on Veli. Not because it’s the closest to your villa but because here, a newly-launched wellness programme is a standout of the resort. It’s set to transform how you can permanently boost your wellbeing in the Maldives. Reiki, sound healing, IV therapy and acupuncture – the latter of which is our recommendation for warning off jet-lag – are all on offer, delivered by expert practitioners. Experience them alongside your favourite facial and massage therapy to really unwind.
To help unfurl tense shoulders further, each treatment room is its own private ‘wellness villa’ with views of the island foliage and, fittingly for a honeymoon paradise, enough room for couple treatments should you wish. The secluded beachy location now benefits from an abundance of specialised treatment areas, too, including a Moroccan hammam that will leave your skin baby-soft, a Shirodhara treatment bed for Ayureveda oil therapy, plus hot and cold plunge pools and steam rooms in the outdoor relaxation area.
If a massage just isn’t enough to really reboot and destress mind and body, opt for a multi-day wellness retreat. As well as spa treatments, these offer consultations with the resident naturopath and nutritionist, as well as private sessions with a personal trainer, cooking classes and time with a yoga guru. It’s the next step up in wellbeing therapies for the discerning spa goer.
Make your way to Dhigu to experience the classic Maldivian overwater spa, an experience not to be missed. Located on wooden platforms surrounded by the peaceful lagoon, the six treatment rooms have panoramic views of the ocean – even from the massage beds. Face down on the padded headrest, keep your eyes open for a while to take in the lively seabed below. A perfectly-placed glass panel reveals all the tropical fish beneath you and, if you’re lucky a turtle, ray or reef shark, too.
It’s worth spending some time, both before and after your massage or facial, in the spa’s relaxation room. Bring a book, podcast or a meditative mind and, with spectacular views once again, recline in the cosy loungers or dart between the hot and cold infinity plunge pools.
With just 67 private villas, a stay at Veli offers a level of exclusivity that emphasises all the Maldives’ most romantic qualities. The majority of the rooms are the classic over water villas so indicative of this island paradise, including six brand new Deluxe Over Water Pool Villas. These come with even larger private pools, decks and an over-water hammock. The very best views are from the villas furthest out along the walkway into the lagoon – although the compromise is a longer, sometimes hot walk to get to the main island.
There’s no coral reef directly below the over water villas (which is increasingly common in the Maldives due to rising sea temperatures), but the small island and nearby coral nursery are metres away. Slip down into the crystal clear ocean and swim with shoals of tropical fish, or try to find the resort’s resident sea turtle and reef sharks.
For those that prefer a more beachy feel, the resort also offers Beach Pool Villas that lead out directly onto soft white sand. The beach villas are the largest of Veli’s offering, promising the most privacy and the illusion of having your own private beach paradise to play with.
Wherever you stay, expect light and airy rooms with large, enveloping beds and feathery pillows facing out towards the water, some with bathtubs – a magical place to watch the sun set over the seemingly infinite ocean. Spa services can be brought in-room, too: villas can be converted into a personal ‘wellness retreat’ for a truly transformative stay. Opt for this package and you’ll benefit from sound, aroma and light therapy from the comfort of your room, alongside mindfulness kits, a healthy minibar, sessions with a wellness guru, yoga and healthy cooking classes.
Speaking of food, the restaurants here are a testament to New York-based designer Yuji Yamazaki’s commitment to classic no-walls tropical living and allow every opportunity to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. That starts at breakfast where you’re greeted at Cumin with a tower of pastries and fruit, alongside a menu packed with traditional Maldivian hot foods, egg-based dishes and particularly delicious smoothie bowls.
For lunch and dinner, the food takes you on a journey through the most popular of world cuisines. There’s the relaxed poolside atmosphere of Dhoni Bar, for example, where burgers or lobster salads with chips are the most popular orders. Sea.Fire.Salt‘s incredibly fresh seafood includes mouth-watering white snapper and Origami delights with its modern twist on Japanese favourites – from uramaki to teppanyaki.
Your dining experience wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Baan Huraa, the resort’s signature Thai restaurant. It employs only Thai chefs for a taste of truly authentic cuisine, perched on a platform in the middle of the lagoon. And for something extra special there’s the ever-romantic Dining by Design. This five-course meal is served on the beach, under the Maldivian stars, courtesy of a private chef and sommelier.
THE LITTLE EXTRAS
At Veli, the ocean is truly your playground. Whether you stay near the lagoon, kayak over to ‘Picnic Island’, or go further afield on an excursion, the resort is a snorkeller’s paradise. Highly recommended is the opportunity to snorkel with nurse sharks (some up to three metres long) as well as large rays and shoals of fish in locations only 45 minutes away by speedboat. There are chances to learn to scuba dive or surf too, and the area is particularly suited to beginners due to soft waves, warm waters and coral reefs in close proximity.
For those less confident in the water the lagoon allows you to paddle, often up to waist height at most, for large expanses. The water is also shallow enough to walk across to the social media-worthy swings and hammocks that appear right in the middle of the ocean: arms (and therefore phones) completely clear of the sea.
There’s plenty to keep you occupied on dry land, too. Take a cooking class in the Chef’s Garden to discover the best island-grown vegetables and herbs; feel the transformative benefits of sound therapy and yoga in a pavilion gently lapped by the waves; or simply relax playing pool in the ocean-facing bar. At Anantara Veli, there’s plenty to fall in love with over and over again.
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