Diamonds thrown across sculpted folds of azure velvet, the Maldives, off India’s southwest coast, have enchanted visitors since the days of Sinbad. A delicate chain of 1,190 coral atolls fringed with dazzlingly white sand, time passes by tide and swell here. It is a fool’s game to choose the best or the brightest of them all, but Kuda Huraa – site of one of the most exclusive Four Seasons resorts on the planet – is a safe bet.
At Kuda Huraa, the Four Seasons, already synonymous with rarified luxury, created the very image of a private tropical island paradise. A short speedboat ride from the capital of Malé, guests find themselves a world away from “busy” among the palms and fronds of the isle. Thatched beach pavilions and bungalows, made in the traditional Maldivian style by local artisans, sprout peacefully amid island foliage, and languidly rise from stilts overlooking the crystalline waters of the shallow lagoon.
Of these, the 2,756-square-foot Royal Beach Villa offers the most lavish of accommodations: Set within a secluded tropical garden, guests are treated to pure sumptuousness. The surrounding outdoors include a sundeck, infinity-edge pool and shaded “bale” (traditional thatched hut) and “undholi” (traditional wooden swing). Within, large windows in the living and sleeping spaces allow for the full glory of the Maldivian sunshine and views of the ocean and lagoon. Air-conditioned throughout its entirety, each bedroom has a dressing room with ample closet space, and a full bathroom with a double vanity, deep soaking tub with courtyard views and access to a private walled courtyard with an exotic garden shower. The master bathroom courtyard also has its own outdoor whirlpool. A plush sofa and luxurious armchairs, a separate dining area, a plasma-screen television, a full stereo system, a DVD/CD player and an espresso machine round out the experience.
Sharp-eyed guests will note a small islet off to the west of Kuda Huraa, and will soon find it one of the most desirous of the resort’s locales. Reachable by “dhoni” (a traditional Maldivian boat), this is the Island Spa, an even more removed retreat for the weary traveler. Under the skilled hands of Kuda Huraa’s therapists, guests are soothed with natural treatments, complemented by the restorative power of marine-based nutrients, in over-water pavilions open to the ocean breeze. Therapies are even synchronized with the phases of the moon: reflection during the moonless nights, nourishment with the waxing moon, harmony with the full moon, and, when on the wane, release.
And if one can pry themselves away from such a lap of luxury, one of the wonders of nature awaits in the turquoise waters beyond. Diving abounds at Kuda Huraa, and at Hanifaru Bay – mere minutes away – where one can dive into what becomes an aqueous ballet from May to October as swarms of manta rays and whale sharks come to feed. Resident marine biologists are on hand to explain these gentle giants in their seasonal ritual.
With Kuda Huraa having won the Conde Nast Traveler 14th annual Readers’ Travel Awards: The Best of the Best in the World’s Top 100 (after being named Best Overseas Leisure Hotel in the Middle East, Africa & Indian Ocean), the Four Seasons is firmly entrenched in the upper echelons of premier international luxury. But one could very well forego the accolades and press, and simply contemplate a little island in the middle of an aquamarine sea, with warm breezes and friendly smiles. Such is what makes a resort a paradise.