Get the best of CF straight to your inbox.

Subscribe, sit back, and let your mind travel.

Spa Guide

Why A Spa Retreat To The Maldives Shouldn't Just Be About Luxury

The Maldives may be known as a luxury honeymooners’ paradise but, as our Spa of the Month, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives demonstrates, the best spa retreats offer cultural relevance too.

Think of the Maldives and we’re willing to bet that images of newly-wed couples walking hand-in-hand on white sand beaches, or curling up in secluded, five-star villas overlooking crystal-blue waters come to mind. At Alila Kothaifaru Maldives there’s all that and more. But, what stands out here is the connection that the resort has to Maldivian culture and heritage, which is just as rich and rejuvenating to your soul as the jungle spa is to your mind and body.


Located in the Raa Atoll – one of the most northern and popular atolls in the Maldives, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives is an island escape easily accessed via a picturesque 45-minute seaplane ride from the capital Malé. The area is known for its particularly thriving and colourful fish populations, playful dolphin pods and, alongside the luxury resorts, a host of local islands, with which Alila is particularly aligned.

Situated on a lush, natural, soft-white sand private island, the resort is charming in its design; filled with touches of understated luxury, a palette of soothing colours and natural textures, and spacious hideaways from which you are waited on by wonderfully friendly staff. The restaurants, large infinity pool, dive school, and spa are all walkable from your villa, with butler-driven buggies available too should you wish.

But, most significantly, alongside delivering five-star luxury and romance, Alila also makes the broader culture and heritage of the Maldives come alive. That’s fairly unique in a country known almost entirely as a honeymoon destination, which means that plenty of guests have come and gone to the country without ever engaging with Maldivian history and traditions. Through excursions, talks, specialised menus, activities and the spa, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives is on a mission to change that, and you’ll emerge reinvigorated like never before.


One of the first signs that Alila likes to take a twist on traditions, is that its spa is not set over water. Instead, you’ll find it cocooned among the island’s foliage, high up among the leafy canopy, for a cossetting spa experience that offers something different from many other resorts. When you arrive, you’ll be welcomed up the winding staircase into an oasis of relaxation, with offers of cold towels and healing teas, as well as a choice between your preference for relaxation or energising oil blends, which the staff will effortlessly remember throughout your stay for use in all of your treatments.

The spa menu itself is incredibly expansive and provides a contemporary spin on ancient healing techniques from the region, drawing on the benefits of local, natural ingredients, including coconut, which is a celebrated commodity in the Maldives for eating, drinking and beauty therapies. The treatments on offer, which include facials, body scrubs, and a full array of therapeutic massages, are available in spacious couple-occupancy rooms with floor-to-ceiling views, and are designed to flow like multi-step rituals. That means you can easily spend hours being pampered from head-to-toe without feeling rushed, before returning to your villa for further relaxation.

You can also indulge in curated spa experience days, which are recommended as a way to connect more deeply with your surroundings and yourself, with a focus on detoxifying, replenishing and balance. By choosing this option – which is a romantic opportunity for newly-married couples too – your day begins with yoga, taking place on the spa’s deck or overlooking the sunrise, with your smile-inducing yoga instructor taking you through a gentle yet dynamic Hatha Yoga routine. Grounding breathwork sessions, known as pranayama, are also available to help soothe especially busy minds.

Afterwards, a nutritious breakfast is served in the privacy of your villa, before you return to the spa for your first treatment: the 120-minute long Beauty and Balance ritual. Including the most popular and celebrated relaxation and body nourishing techniques used in the region, the experience offers a radiance-boosting coffee and coconut scrub that banishes dry skin; a traditional Balinese massage tailored to alleviate stress and tension, delivered through long, soothing strokes; a body wrap to lock-in moisture (which will also extend your tan); and a flower-infused bath to help you sink a little further into tranquility.

You’ll continue to enjoy a 75-minute Herbal Compress Massage to draw out impurities and areas of tension, plus 60-minutes of pure pampering via a Foot Reflexology session. Finally, as sunset approaches, end your spa journey with a private meditation session, before sinking into a blissful sleep, feeling totally transformed by the experience. You’ll also somehow fit in a delicious lunch and dinner crafted by the executive chef, too.

For something a little different, there’s a package of rituals specifically available during the Full Moon, celebrating the Maldivian belief in the healing powers of nature, and you can even learn to give your loved ones massages during your stay, with the signature The Art of Touch experience.


Modernity and serenity is effortlessly combined at the resort, meaning the collection of 44 beachfront and 36 overwater villas seamlessly integrate into the landscape; rooms are located away from the paths and offer low lighting to help you make the most of the stars, minus any light pollution. The biggest choice you’ll have to make is whether to stay in an overwater or beach villa, and both have their benefits. The beach villas are incredibly large and have direct access to your private pool and lounger-filled beach area. These are positioned for optimum privacy, but there are still peekaboo views of the rolling waves from the expansive, soft-pillowed bed, making them perfect for cosying up with a loved one out-of-view.

Perhaps their most unique feature is the outdoor bathroom, where you can shower, bathe and get ready for dinner surrounded by nature (hidden from view, of course). It’s a special experience – although it does mean facing the humidity outdoors every time you nip to the bathroom.

The overwater villas are everything you’d hope for in a Maldivian stay, with an expansive outdoor terrace to recline in both shade and sun, including a large hammock that overlooks the sea. If you love the water, you won’t be able to resist the direct access to the ocean, and the shower and bath are also positioned so you can watch the sun go down, perhaps with a bottle of champagne in hand. Wherever you choose to stay, your villa will take every opportunity to dazzle you with exceptional views, and you can expect every amenity to have been considered for you. That includes sunscreen, insect repellant and after sun, which are available and constantly restocked in your room.


As with the resort as a whole, the restaurants are built to give you as close to 360-degree views of the ocean as possible, so whether you are drinking one of the exceptional Matcha Iced Lattes during breakfast, or trying a seafood special at night, there’s always a beautiful, relaxing sight to accompany you. At the main restaurant Seasalt, you can enjoy relaxed, all-day dining, and with a full room buffet and à la carte options available at breakfast, as well as a selection of freshly-baked breads delivered straight to your table, you’ll never start your day hungry.

Save room for lunch and dinner though, where, unsurprisingly, local fish is the star of the show, having been delivered daily by neighbouring fisherman. You’ll struggle to choose, but don’t go home without trying the array of fresh salads and rice paper rolls, filled with flavour, spice and colour, and the signature salt-baked fish that has to be tried to complete any stay in the Maldives.

For a quick bite or to experience a Maldivian tea ceremony (complete with homemade cakes), head to Pibati, which also offers some shelter from the midday sun for snorkellers exploring the house reef. Then, for the very best view of the sunset, enjoy a spiced cocktail at Yakitori or Mirus Bar, before sitting down for a showstopping dinner at Unami. Meaning “essence of deliciousness” in Japanese, this restaurant with tables on the sand, delivers a mouth-watering selection of Japanese dishes, including Wagyu beef, tuna and salmon sushi, sashimi and grilled fish – all prepared in the teppanyaki theatre. It is such a treat that when the resort is busy, you may need to book in for your favourite table, but the service is guaranteed to be flawless and always with a smile.


If you see travel as an opportunity to not just relax but also gain a better understanding of the world around you, Alila perfectly balances the two. The resort offers frequent opportunities to learn more about Maldivian culture and heritage, including: trips in traditional fishing boats (where you can get some incredible photographs); presentations on traditional music, dancing and festivities while sampling local delicacies; and cooking classes, so you can finally work out the secret behind the moreishness of a Maldivian Pumpkin Curry.

The resort’s A Day In The Life Of A Maldivian programme though, takes things that little step further. Designed around a trip to a local island, the experience gives you the opportunity to absorb true Maldivian culture first-hand with the help of a guide, and even have the opportunity to have lunch with a family. If you choose to experience it early in your stay – as we would recommend – you’ll gain even greater insight into why and how the luxury facilities at Alila still have beautiful and authentic nods to the island-based nation, especially in the dining, spa, and décor throughout the resort.


Due to its exceptional location, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives delivers on the country’s reputation as a marine life paradise. In particular, you can spend your time trying to spot the Maldivian ‘Big Five’ – another nod to the significance of the country’s location in the Indian Ocean. Both spinner and bottle-nose dolphin pods frolic incredibly close to the island; eagle rays and turtles delight snorkellers by lurking in the shallows; and small reef sharks can be seen regularly too (plus their larger friends on boat trips and by scuba divers).

For the best chance to tick the majority off your list (and what is bound to be a highlight of your stay) book The Shack Private Sandbank Picnic experience. This dreamy breakfast takes place on an uninhabited island – complete with shady shelter – where you can settle down on the sand for fresh pastries and fruit, followed by a Go-Pro aided guided snorkelling session. In fact, The Shack bottles every highlight you may have heard about the Maldives – sun, sand, sea, snorkelling and seclusion. If you struggle to switch off even when on holiday, here and the spa are where you’ll find your zen…

We may earn a commission if you buy something from any affiliate links on our site.

You May Also Like

Any Questions or Tips to add?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *