The Maldives. It’s a destination that doesn’t need much introduction, an island paradise that holiday dreams are made of. Turquoise seas, white sand…the playground of the rich and famous and happy honeymooners. The St. Regis is the newest arrival in what may be the world’s most luxurious island playground.
When nature offers up such a splendid canvas, it’s no mean feat for a resort to create something that lives up to the beauty of such surroundings. It’s an even tougher task for a resort to take those surroundings and design something that goes that step further, enhancing the beauty and magic of the environment in which it sits. After four long years of development, St. Regis Maldives Vommuli has managed to do just that.
I’ve never met a soul that wasn’t a fan of the St. Regis brand – but really, what’s not to love? Myself, I’m particularly enamoured with it – so it would be an understatement to say that I wasn’t excited to see how St. Regis has put it’s regal stamp on their pristine island nestled amongst the Dhaalu atoll.In true St. Regis style, the feeling of luxury begins as soon as you set foot into airport arrivals. From this moment onwards, everything is utterly painless. I’m escorted to the check-in counter for Trans Maldivian Airways where my St. Regis escort takes care of all of the formalities for me, then whisks me away to ‘The Great Room’ in a luxurious, wifi-equipped black coach. I’m informed there is no need to buy a SIM card when I enquire, as from this moment forward there will be wifi everywhere. Save for the 45-minute seaplane journey, they were absolutely correct. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced connectivity as seamless as this, before we even take into account that we are on a tiny, tiny 8ha island in the middle of the Indian ocean.
‘The Great Room’ really sets the tone for the overwhelmingly indulgent experience that awaits us. No sooner have I sat down than I have a warm croissant and espresso in hand, viewing the personal video message from our fabulous butler, Shauzoon. It’s an amazing touch I haven’t experienced anywhere else, and the personalisation is taken a step further when I’m presented with a menu from which to select my welcome drink on arrival at the island. True luxury is rooted in personalisation, and this small gesture goes a long way to show just how much St. Regis has thought about the details when creating their Maldives experience. There are even gorgeous bathrooms equipped with showers awaiting you at the lounge if you’ve just arrived from a long flight.
Despite my yearning to be at the resort immediately, the 45-minute seaplane journey is an experience in itself. It’s not every day you get to enjoy a flight over some of the world’s most beautiful scenery. Grab a window seat if you can, and one by the fan doesn’t hurt either. Have your camera at the ready as you’ll definitely want to capture the dramatic views. As the plane dives in to land (and seaplanes really do dive in), the view of the resort from above is one you won’t want to miss – the futuristic-yet-nature-inspired design really shines from this perspective.
Pulling up to the pier, we are greeted by an extensive welcome party in typical island spirit – and our pre-selected drinks are waiting for us at the welcome pavilion. After taking a moment to pinch ourselves while taking in the stunning surroundings and sip on our beverages, we are whisked off in a buggy to discover our Sunset Overwater Pool Villa.
Our villa is situated at the end of the dramatic boardwalk, next to the enormous John Jacob Astor Estate (an expansive multi-storeyed villa perfect for large groups that even comes with it’s own Bentley buggy, no less). From the moment you enter your villa you won’t want to leave – it’s truly spectacular. At just six months old, it feels brand new, and very modern in fit out. If you enjoy a truly ‘connected’ room with all the mod cons, the St. Regis is the perfect choice – everything in the room is controlled via iPad. With one touch you can set the lights to ‘wake up’, another will open the blackout curtains and sheers. The perfect hassle free way to rise and shine in the Maldives.
The 55″ Bang & Olufsen TV is the centre of the entertainment hub, also controlled via the in-room iPad. You can swivel it via the iPad control for easy viewing – I just wish it swiveled 360 degrees so I could watch from the pool. The ‘guest media’ feature allows you to mirror your mobile devices and their content (being able to listen to my playlists on vacation is essential for me), connect your Netflix account (FYI you must already have an account to log in to here) or simply watch TV. If you really want to spend your time at the most beautiful place on earth watching TV, that is.
Other amenities in the room include an Illycaffè coffee machine, an extensive mini bar stocked with a range of premium spirits, a temperature controlled wine fridge and premium glasses in which to drink all of the above. Mini-bar prices start at $60 USD++ for 375mL bottles of spirits and $85 USD++ per bottle for wine. You won’t be able to bring alcohol into the Maldives (it’s strictly prohibited in this Muslim country) so FYI the mini bar will be your only choice for in-room imbibing.
The bathroom is spacious and light filled, featuring double vanities, a full size stand-alone bath tub with a 20″ LCD TV (if you can resist the views of the emerald seas that is), and Remede toiletries. Don’t worry about packing your sunblock as they’ve thought of that, and there are even hats to shield you from the powerful sun should you have forgotten yours. A little more privacy in the toilet would be appreciated however, as both the toilet and shower have clear doors – if you leave the walk-in robe doors open, you can see right from the toilet to the front door!
There’s a lovely sitting area and even a desk if you just can’t shake that office feeling (I prefer to work al fresco) but the chair is really too low for laptop work – probably just as well though, you certainly shouldn’t be working in a place such as the St. Regis Maldives!
Enough of the interior. When you’re in the Maldives, in an overwater bungalow, you’re here for the ocean, the sun, the snorkelling, the private pool. It’s the instantly recognisable scene that the Maldives are famous for. The scene Instagram dreams are made of, pictures that will turn your Facebook friends green with envy. The St. Regis‘ Sunset Overwater Pool Villa doesn’t disappoint in this department.
A huge deck awaits, equipped with day bed, four overwater hammocks and large private infinity pool. It’s rather a stunning vista to wake up to each day. The pool is chilled and very refreshing on those days where the sun is beating down, though I’d have preferred it just a couple of degrees warmer so it’s more enjoyable on cloudy days and at night (truly #firstworldproblems).
After a hard day enjoying the sea, sun and sand, the St. Regis Signature Bed is the perfect respite. After experiencing too many super firm beds in luxury properties (sorry The Surrey and The Siam), this was a huge relief. Soft and squishy with silky sheets, it’s everything I love in a luxurious bed suite. I travel with my pillow as uncomfortable hotel pillows put my neck out just looking at them, but I needn’t have worried given the fantastic pillows on offer in the villa. A good night’s sleep is guaranteed.
Featuring six dining choices (and extensive menus at all), you surely won’t be bored with the dining options offered at the St. Regis, even if you are fortunate enough to stay an entire week in paradise. The pick of the bunch is Alba, the all-day-dining and breakfast restaurant. Rarely is this the case – usually I run far, far away from the all-day-dining venue. Styled in a modern-Hamptons-chic-meets-beach aesthetic, Alba features stylish marble tables set beneath jellyfish-inspired chandeliers. Their breakfast for the most part is very good, and the meal of the day that you really shouldn’t miss out on. Best rise early to make the most of the enormous spread, as it concludes at 10:30am. I’d like to see this deadline extended for those who are jet lagged, want to enjoy a sleep in or a gym visit before breakfast.
In typical St. Regis style, there are pastries galore (just avoid the donuts that bear more resemblance to a spare tyre than the usually excellent St. Regis offerings), fresh honeycomb, ice cream, waffles…but those who prefer a savoury start to the day certainly aren’t forgotten. Salmon, black forest ham and curries are among the many diverse options, however, my favourite was the Asian broth station. Noodles, chili, spring onion and sesame oil are just some of the condiments provided for you to create your own custom bowl – it was my perfect way to start the day.
This may already sound rather amazing, but I’ve only just touched on the buffet selection of the breakfast. The a la carte options span page after page, and there’s even a ‘breakfast desserts’ section. I took some of their ‘luxury selection’ dishes for a spin, my favourite of which was the foie gras, brioche, mandarin marmalade and morels dish. Lobster lovers, there’s even something for you there…topped with some gold leaf, naturally.
There are no shortage of drinks to accompany the delicious dishes on offer at breakfast. Alba is equipped with almost any fresh juice you can think of plus prosecco a plenty. If you’re fond of a Bellini or a Buck’s Fizz or two, you’ll be in heaven sipping on these by the seaside. On the other hand, if you’ve had one too many proseccos the night previous, there are trusty bloody mary shots on offer to cure all ails. Whatever your need, Alba has you covered.
Alba’s menu is available at lunch also, and you can either enjoy it at Alba itself, or at Crust, the barefoot beach bar situated nearby. Plenty of salads, bruschetta and dips are on offer to sate your post-snorkel hunger, but with a name like ‘Crust’, you’ve just gotta go for the pizza. The pizza topping choices are more on the unusual side, so for me, the create-your-own pizza was the way to go. My choice was an absolute knockout (St.Regis, you need to put my pizza on the menu..ok ;)?). The crust is absolutely superb, cooked to perfection in their wood fired oven.
Alba’s Thai options are also worth trying for lunch. The Tom Kha Gai (listed as coconut soup on the menu) was very authentic, the green curry also hitting the spot.
If you’ve had enough eating, why not burn some of those calories off enjoying the magnificent Maldivian wildlife? The afternoon is the perfect time to explore the crystal clear turquoise waters that surround the resort. On your arrival to your villa, your butler will have enquired as to your shoe size so the correct snorkelling gear could be promptly delivered to your room. Don your flippers, snorkel and the in-room life vests (don’t underestimate the joy of simply bobbing around the ocean in a life vest) and you’ll find stunning sea life thriving amongst the house reef, just metres from the deck of your villa. I encountered many octopus and all kinds of luminescent, brightly coloured tropical fish up to metre long nearby, including a school of over a thousand foot-long electric blue fish. If you’re brave enough to swim to the edge of the reef where it drops off dramatically into the inky blue depths, you might spot reef sharks as I did…I hope you’re braver than me, as by sighting number two I was booting it back to shore! I’m told, however, they are nothing to worry about at all, and there has never been an incident. So, nothing to worry about…I’m just a scaredy cat evidently.
For those who like to stay fit, even while on holiday, there are plenty of healthy options when it comes to both dining and lifestyle. An impressive gym will help you work off all the delicious food on offer, and those who prefer classes are very well taken care of. From TRX to aerial yoga, there’s something for everyone who wishes to keep that beach body somewhat in check.
Vegetarians are well catered for on every menu if you’re looking for healthy options, and for protein fans, I think the rib eye steak with eggs and avocado on Alba’s breakfast menu comes pretty close to the perfect post-workout fuel.
There’s also a salon in the complex so all beauty emergencies can be taken care of – glamour needn’t suffer just because you are on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean.
Speaking of glamour, if being pampered is more your thing then you’re in good hands at the St. Regis. An impressive structure built to resemble a lobster, the spa is one of the most iconic parts of the property and one you may have spotted in a magazine or two. Each leg of the ‘lobster’ is a treatment room, with the body of said structure providing chill out spaces and extensive sauna and showering facilities.
We indulged in the ‘Blue Hole Experience’ – a ginormous spa pool of sorts at the head of the lobster. It’s like a spa on steroids. This spa, however, contains ambient temperature salt water as opposed to the boiling hot chlorinated kind you’ll be used to, and the jets are turbo-charged. The view alone is pretty soothing as you soak, but the idea behind the treatment is that the salt water pared with the massage jets will work out all those knots, aches and pains from the potentially long journey to the island. Each is positioned to massage a different muscle group – exactly what we needed after the gruelling TRX class we undertook the day previous that left us sore to say the least. Be prepared to be blown away by this water massage!
As the sun starts to set, get glammed up and head to the stunning Whale Bar for a sundowner or two. Give yourself a couple of hours to enjoy the scenery as the setting sun casts a rainbow of colours across the clouds and ocean. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the St. Regis sabering ritual and toast to an amazing trip with a flute of Louis Roederer – or if you like it spicy, try the St. Regis Maldives’ version of the Bloody Mary, the Island Mary. Each St. Regis property has it’s own signature version of the cocktail, and Vommuli’s Island Mary will certainly add some heat to your night, served up in a picture perfect shell. I also recommend you check out the Vommuli Martini – it’s a tropical island in a cocktail! There are snacks on offer at Whale Bar too if you just can’t wait, but personally I would recommend saving your appetite for the main event at Orientale, Cargo, Alba or Decanter.
The number one spot to dine on the island is Decanter, an underground cellar restaurant that hosts special wine matched degustations on selected nights of the week. You’ll sit at a beautiful central table – a great chance to meet other guests of the island, and sample the resorts best cuisine and fine wine. Sadly I didn’t get to experience this unique offering, but all signs point to it being a must-do (just be prepared to allocate around $1000 USD per couple for the experience).
You’ll be blown away by the size (and quantity) of bottles of Cristal on display, and Decanter shares the same extensive wine list that is available across the island (true to form, it’s presented on an iPad). There’s even a comprehensive Coravin list for serious wine buffs. Should you feel a little lost when it comes to the enormous list (as we were at times), there are sommeliers on hand to recommend something that will suit your tastes.
The picturesque Orientale is all about fine Asian cuisine in a beachside setting – Chinese, Indian, Japanese…you name it, they’ll have it in their encyclopedic menu. Admittedly, our starters weren’t up to usual St. Regis standards, but the mains were an improvement. The menu is huge however, so there’s sure to be something for all tastes – and the al fresco setting is just what one wants when holidaying on a remote island.
If you’ve had enough beach-gazing for the day (is that even possible?) head into the jungle to Cargo. Cargo serves up Middle Eastern fare from a cargo container (hence the name) situated in the middle of the jungle, and I can say with some authority (due to living in Dubai) that the food is pretty darn authentic. Order the chicken shawarma and the lamb – you won’t regret it!
I’ll admit, however, the food is eye-wateringly expensive, and it would be amiss for me to omit that fact (for example, $28USD plus taxes for hummus). But in all honesty, if the St. Regis is in your shortlist of Maldivian options, I don’t think you’ll be too concerned about that.
My favourite meal of the trip was at Alba (though that pizza at Crust comes a close second). My beef carpaccio was delicious and intricately plated, and my suckling pig main course also impressed. Service is fantastic throughout the resort, and nothing is ever too much of a problem. Admittedly occasionally things run on ‘island time’ but nowhere near to the degree of which I’m used to in the Pacific Islands. And after all, we are on an island, so that really should come as no surprise!
If you’re looking for a Maldives experience that lives up to the bucket-list hype these islands conjure up, St. Regis is a perfect choice. It’s absolutely at the top of it’s game, with the villas, scenery and service all reaching stratospheric levels of luxury.
The St. Regis is a magical experience from arrival to departure – it seems they’ve thought of everything. It’s a level of attention to detail, personalisation and luxury that is setting the bar for other Maldivian properties to rise to. Even the fact that they have managed to create a technologically advanced property with seamless wi-fi, despite being in the oceanic wilderness, is refreshingly impressive.
I think it would be impossible to be anything less than blown away by this outstanding property that is setting the bar for modern luxury.
Style: Modern Hamptons Chic meets the Maldives
Would I return? In a heartbeat!
Suitable for: 99% of guests are couples – it might feel a little isolating for the solo traveller. Two story, two bedroom villas are perfect for families, and the larger estates (such as the John Jacob Astor Estate) are ideal for larger groups.
Room Type Reviewed: Sunset Overwater Pool Villa
Room Size: 182sqm, One King Bed
Room Amenities: Private pool, over water hammocks, day bed, full size stand alone bath with TV, 55″ Bang & Olufsen TV with device mirroring and Netflix integration, seamless WIFI coverage, desk, full iPad controlled room automation, electronic blinds, rinse-off outdoor shower, Remède toiletries, sunblock, Illycaffè machine, minibar (wine fridge, extensive spirits bar), life vests, snorkelling gear, robes, slippers, bottled water, air conditioning, fridge, safe.
Hotel Amenities: Personal butler, airport pick up and check in service, seaplane waiting lounge, garment pressing (two items pressed per day per person).
On request services: Watersports
Hotel Facilities: Spa, beach side pool, fitness centre, yoga studio, fitness classes, kids recreation pavilion, kids activity kitchen, library.
Price Guide: from around $1800 USD per night