Island Hideaway is an apt name for this resort, which is not only in a quiet corner of a distant northern atoll, it is also a large island with just 43 rooms concealed amidst the thick foliage.
To achieve a physical and mental separation from the mundane stresses of the West, you couldn't define a better spot.
To ensure there are absolutely no stresses during your holiday, each of the villas is assigned a butler to deal with anything and everything, from unpacking the bags to changing the flights home. The personal service is taken to the extent that the butler is the person who serves at your table and delivers room service.
They get to know your wishes, habits and quirks in order to serve you better, but it's a tough job to get it just right and it depends to some extent on every other aspect of the resort functioning perfectly. At this point the butler service of Kanuhura and Soneva Fushi have the edge, partly due to the training and partly due to their years of experience as resorts, resolving the details. Island Hideaway only opened in late 2005. It has the rates to compare with the top resorts so it should reach their heights of service in time.
Island Hideaway has taken its cue in looks and decor from Soneva Fushi, which to my mind is an excellent way to go. And like an earlier Soneva Fushi it has fewer rooms and the island is less developed. It is appealing for being in a more complete, unaltered state of nature.
The beach is untouched, the sand being wonderfully fine and soft continuously around the crescent-shaped island, with bonus bulges at each end. It is an island thick in screwpine rather than coconut palms but the rooms are set so far apart that total privacy is assured. 2 bicycles are given with each room, though there are also club carts for speedier transport.
There are 6 categories of rooms all built in that luxurious rustic style that is so right for Maldives. Every roof is thatched, every wall and column deliberately uneven; the floors are wooden, the textiles are cotton in plain earthy colours.
The differences between the rooms are essentially size - of the rooms, the surrounding enclosure and the pool. The 176 sqm Funa Pavilions (7) and the 385 sqm Raamba Retreats (7) don't have pools and have less of a beach in front. The 550 sqm Donakulhi Residences (20) are in the majority and are perhaps the ideal compromise between price, size and position. The Jasmine Garden Villas (5) are an enormous 705 sqm with a 10-metre infinity pool and floating dining pavilion connected. With the butler bringing all your meals if you wish, there is no need to leave its confines. The ultimate rooms are the two Hideaway Palaces at 1,420 sqm that sit by the beach bulge and enjoy several infinity pools and eight separate thatched pavilions.
Just off the spa are the final 2 rooms, called Spa Water Villas. These are 235 sqm and fit in a two-table treatment room, a sauna and a steam room, a bedroom and a separate lounge that opens on two sides to the turquoise lagoon and deeper blues near the horizon.
The spa itself also has two treatment rooms over the water. These are considerably more popular than the land rooms, which are so large as to have redundant space incompatible with the desired intimacy of a top spa setting. It is run by Mandara Spas from Bali, with their wonderful therapists and delightful menu of therapies. The most popular is the Bali full body massage and their signature treatment is the Mandara Massage, which involves 2 therapists and 5 different techniques from different traditions.
The whole resort is well set up for families. Most of the rooms are more than large enough, there is a play centre attended by young female staff who also babysit (and the butler, of course, is happy to help), there are kids' meals, a kids' pool, and a large shallow lagoon ideal for swimming and water sports. And as all unpowered water sports are free of charge, this is perfect for families for messing around together.
Snorkelling is reasonably good and is easily accessed on one side, just off the beach by the big swimming pool. This is actually a narrow channel much used as a short cut by dolphins and many other of the big pelagics, including occasional mantas. Manta season here is between September and January when, at a feeding station 15 minutes away, hundreds at a time have been experienced.
In this channel too is the marina for which Island Hideaway was originally conceived. It is just the spot to tie up your yacht when cruising down the Arabian Sea. Otherwise just fly in, boat across from the regional airport and fall in love with a beautiful resort that is going to get even better.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville