After a 60-minute seaplane ride from Velana International Airport in Male, you are transported to a verdant island surrounded by blue and turquoise waters with very few distractions at COMO Maalifushi.
It’s an exclusive getaway where unwinding, recharging and reconnecting are on the itinerary. Offering isolation, peace, tranquillity and wellness in equal measure.
Traveller: C. James Dale
Room: Beach Villa
Address: Thaa Atoll, Maldives
Date: May 2022
Best for: Understated, rustic luxury in a five-star setting with a focus on healthy living in both the spa and the restaurants
The Signature factor
COMO Maalifushi is the first and only resort in Thaa Atoll, which is made up of more than 60 (mostly uninhabited) islands spread over nearly 1,300 square kilometres. Plane and boat traffic is minimal, and only COMO groups can be found zipping around for scuba and snorkelling trips, fishing excursions and dolphin-spotting journeys.
The COMO brand is renowned for its long and enduring focus on wellness and its low-key rendition of luxury. The Maalifushi property occupies a small island, with two arms of 33 overwater villas branching out into the sea, plus 31 beach suites, beach villas and garden rooms. There is also one COMO Residence that has its own butler service.
The beaches, the colours, and the overall remote and exotic nature of this iconic destination will win travellers over from the moment they touch down. The seaplane journey from Male only adds to the excitement and anticipation. It is almost impossible not to have an exceptional first impression arriving at COMO Maalifushi.
Crammed into a tiny DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft, we glide through the clouds gazing at the islands below. Circles or long strips of coral framed in white sand and aquamarine waters, seemingly adrift in the middle of the darker blue of the Indian Ocean.
A short time later, we were cruising down the pier in a buggy on the way to our beach villa. Passing the pristine beach, long pool, and two main restaurants as we headed onto the winding, tree-lined pathway.
The accommodations are all about comfort and access, with pools, beach or ocean either steps or a jump away. Wooden walkways and decking surround white or cream-coloured exteriors topped with thatched roofs.
Interiors have high rattan ceilings, hardwoods and other materials that play off the natural surroundings. The colour palette is focused on whites, light browns and dark browns, giving the property a calming and contemporary feel.
Our beach villa felt like a cosy cottage. The 116-square-metre villa has a generous dressing area and giant bathroom, with a soaring ceiling, stone-tiled shower and deep soaking tub.
There’s also a simple yet alluring outdoor shower a few strides away from the main outdoor area, which is connected to the beach via a tiny trail. Back inside, a charming living area and outdoor lounge with a gazebo sits by a small, private pool.
On my plate
The hotel offers three dining options with Asian, South Asian, and international cuisine. Madi and Thila restaurants are by the pool and a short walk from the beach, while the Japanese restaurant, Tai, sits by one group of water villas.
The day starts with breakfast at Madi, a just-right buffet that eschews overindulgence. For a couple of mornings, I enjoyed the best mangoes I’ve ever had in my life and then spent the rest of the trip hoping they’d be back on the menu.
Along with yogurt, fruit, pastries, and healthy juices (like Vital Veg, Green Clean, and Liven Up Your Liver), you can order tasty, egg-based meals and scrumptious pancakes and waffles. We had a running debate about which reigned supreme among the latter two.
For lunches and dinners, there is curries, pasta and pizzas, burgers and other easy eats. I wasn’t thrilled about the mushroom gnocchi I ordered one evening. Only five or six pieces of the Italian dumpling arranged on the plate, perhaps, representing the islands that dot the Maldivian archipelago. It left me wanting more.
While dinner at Tai features classic sashimi and maki sushi rolls with Maalifushi Roll (flame-seared reef fish, coconut mayo, spicy miso) and the Crunchy Roll (shrimp tempura, tobiko roe, asparagus, spicy mayo) two standouts.
COMO Maalifushi Shambala spa gets everything spot on. The cold ginger tea, with ice cubes made of the same liquid, was refreshing start as I sat in the breezy waiting area.
The therapist, a tall man from Bhutan named TP, was in great form during the signature treatment, undoing knots in my back and legs with determined patience. Despite my best efforts to stay awake, I dozed off at one point, so I felt an incredible sense of rejuvenation when it was over. I looked around the overwater room, bathed in noontime light, and just felt like I was floating.
Afterwards, I took another cold ginger tea into the sauna and watched the ice cubes melt, soaking in the blissful feeling of having to be nowhere but in this moment.
The island is your playground. We went snorkelling on the house reef and off the beach near our villa at high tide. Spotting a slew of colourful fish and the odd reef shark (a heartstopper, but they’re harmless). The coral reefs of the Maldives have started coming back to life after the near catastrophic bleaching of 2016. We braved the rough waters one windy day to go for short kayak and catamaran voyages.
We also lazed on beach sun loungers and played games in the pool. Our daughter tried the kids club and took part in a pizza-making class.
One evening activity not to be missed is the shark feedings at Tai, around 7pm. Blacktip reef sharks, grey reef sharks and nurse sharks, big and small, compete with larger fish to eat seafood scraps that children and adults can drop from the deck above using large metal tongs.
COMO Maalifushi arranges scuba and surfing trips, whale shark spotting excursions and visits to a nearby private island. We hopped on a boat one night to search for dolphins, a family tradition since we took our first trip to the Maldives nearly a decade ago.
Seeing dolphins race, spin and leap in the wild is something everyone should have a chance to witness at least once in their lifetime. We had the boat rooftop to ourselves and stared down in awe as the sleek, grey creatures cruised beside us. Sometimes solo and sometimes in twos, threes or fours.
When it was time to head back to the resort, we enjoyed bento boxes filled with fresh sushi rolls and sipped cold drinks. Fully content and unbothered by the light rain that had started to fall and the clouds that blocked the sunset.
Consider linking your trip with a stay at COMO’s sister property Cocoa Island. You can take the seaplane there instead of Male, which saves you a boat trip. If cocktail parties are your thing, mark your mid-week diary to participate in the drinks night with resort staff.
I wish I could take home…
The property’s vegetable garden, which is crammed with leafy greens and fresh herbs.
I could change the weather. The dreary overcast days didn’t set the usual Maldivian tone. However, they did suit the wellness vibe by allowing us time to prioritise sleep. It slowed us into the swing of an island vacation.
For an exclusive, isolated getaway in the Maldives with a strong emphasis on health and wellness, then the COMO Maalifushi is for you. I loved the setting, the style, the rooms, the food and the overall ambience. I’d go back in a heartbeat.