Velassaru is the old Laguna Beach reincarnated as a fine five star resort for honeymooners, young couples and families during the school holidays. It has been beautifully redesigned and now stands alongside all but the very top few resorts.
Quality Staff, Quality Management
What is immediately noticeable is the level of staff training. Suddenly this is a resort with excellent service, a place that seems perfectly calm and perfectly organised. I guess you need to be to get into the Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
The reception is grand but simple, the main bar is modern, minimal and smart, with a low volume groove going on all day. This is the social hub of the resort, with the activity spilling on to the beach in front, lined with very comfortable loungers, thatch umbrellas and low tables. It never gets too busy though as each villa has its own sun loungers, umbrella and hammock on the beach.
Here too you find the infinity pool with its pizza oven that is particularly popular with the half-board clients. And just nearby once a week there is a great cultural evening of bodu beru around a big bonfire and barbecue buffet to fit.
Fine Cuisine, Fine Venues
There are four fine restaurants with very different settings and menus, from European fine dining to Japanese Tepanyaki and Asian influences. The main restaurant for full-board guests is Vela, which serves refined buffets. For these guests the other restaurants are discounted by 30%. Each venue looks most romantic in one way or another and the cuisine receives great comments.
The first category of rooms is called Deluxe (53) and these are the upgraded original rooms. It has to be said that they now appear small for a modern five star resort, with the bed on a raised mezzanine floor and just enough room below for a sofa and table in front of the window. Of course they have been made attractive with careful interior design but they are still a bit ‘well, how long do you spend in a room anyway?’
The other rooms are all very good. The Beach Villas (30) have iPod docking, free coffee and tea, a nespresso machine and a wine chiller. Here, as everywhere on the island, the wifi is open and free. There are two (small) bottles of water free per day. And I heard a model say the hairdryer is the best she had come across in years. The inside/outside bathroom is lovely and large, with impressive, healthy greenery. Its size does seem to diminish the size of the bedroom itself, however, just a little.
The Water Bungalows (17) are nicely refitted, very much ‘of a piece’ with their browns and tans and oatmeal and white. Half of the rooms face west and half face east. Of course, it is the west-facing rooms that you would look to secure.
The brand new Water Villas (29) are the top category and have an older, more sophisticated look to them. They have good, non-slip wooden decks with steps down to the clear lagoon. It is ideal for swimming and there are a few coral blocks for snorkeling. The reef is accessible too but it is a soft, sandy slope rather than a drop-off. A key factor in the choice would be to get one of the rooms in the line that faces south to the all-day sun, rather than on the other line that faces north from the deck.
Great Folder of Information
Inside each room is very good folder that is beautifully clear and informative on all that a guest would wish to know about the resort. It comes under the headings of General, Living, Wine and Dine (a huge section) and Activities (including a map of the island and a snorkeling map with currents information). At the end are a couple of short stories on Maldivian themes to ease you to sleep. This is nice touch and typical of the classy management.
It is recommended to stay behind the lagoon wall for snorkeling, well away from the drop-off, which is a disappointment. Velassaru is on the edge of the Vadoo Channel and South Male Atoll, so there is some concern about currents.
The beach is superb all around. And it is matter of pride that turtles have started to come back to lay eggs once again. Vela means turtle in Dhivehi and hence the name of the resort (and the main restaurant). Velassaru has the luxury of a resident marine biologist, who is always ready and happy to talk, inform and show what the Maldives has that is so special.
Top Facilities, Top Resort
Of the main facilities, it would be remiss not to mention the Per Aquum Spa. These guys always produce a top class product. Out over the water with endless views, it is all beautifully relaxing and subtle, serviced by friendly Balinese and Sri Lankan therapists.
The other top class facility worth a special mention is the Silver Sands watersport centre. These guys are also famous in the country for the quality and variety of the equipment on show, both sail and motored.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville