Considered one of the leading destination spots in the world, the Maldives is home to some of the most internationally renowned hotel brands. From the St. Regis to the Six Senses, the biggest names in luxury have long descended on the archipelago famous for its turquoise waters and golden sand.
Following a string of hotel openings in recent years, Hyatt Hotels has now arrived with the Alila Kothaifuru. Officially established in 2021 in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Alila (a brand with 18 hotels under its name) presents an alternative offering that deviates from the traditional Maldivian experience.
Grounded in the principle that tourism should benefit the environment and communities while reflecting local culture, the luxury resort looks to appeal to the ‘conscious traveller’. Where the idea of sustainable luxury has become ubiquitous in the travel industry, the Alila looks to deliver on the promise by bridging the chasm between tourists and local communities.
The Alila sits on Raa Atoll, one of 20 administrative ‘atolls’ (ring-shaped islands) in the Maldives. The Raa Atoll, known primarily for attracting divers, was up until the 1990s closed to tourists. Since a shift in governmental policy resulting in the island opening its doors, it has swiftly developed a reputation as a luxe getaway destination.
Given that development on the Raa Atoll is fairly new, much of the land on the island was canopied with dense vegetation and foliage. When construction on the Alila began, sustainability and preservation were the brand’s guiding tenets.
In line with this, the hotel committed to leaving much of the natural ecosystem intact and in instances where uprooting the trees and shrubbery was unavoidable in order to make way for the infrastructure, the foliage was replanted elsewhere on the island. The hotel claims to have preserved ‘up to 70 per cent of the existing vegetation’.
The same ethos extends to the surrounding marine ecosystem. With the reefs of Raa Atoll attracting nature enthusiasts and thrill-seeking divers around the world, preserving marine ecosystems was a significant priority for the Alila team. Consequently, the island is home to a coral nursery, a method that involves fostering the growth of healthy coral reefs.
This is an objective that aligns across all Alila hotels. The brand says that it is guided by ‘a gentle approach to living’ and a ‘respect for nature over consumption, strengthening guests’ connection to the land’.
Rooms & Suites
There are 80 villas available to guests at the Alila. Of these 80 villas, 44 are beachfront with beach access available directly from one’s own private garden. The remaining 36 water villas sit on stilts atop the ocean. Guests can select water villas that face towards the sunrise or sunset, depending on preference. Each villa is equipped with its own private pool, sun deck and mini bar. The beach villas also offer outdoor bathrooms and a separate living area.
Beach villas would make a sensible choice for families, particularly those with young children, given the additional space provided through the private garden and outdoor bathroom. The water villas feel especially appropriate for a honeymooning couple seeking privacy and seclusion.
Again, in the brand’s nod to the environment, the villas are neither garish nor bold and are intended to camouflage into its surroundings. This emanates through to the soft, muted interiors designed by Singapore-based firm, Studiogoto. At the Alila, nature takes centre stage and the accommodation thoughtfully gives way to everything the Maldives has to offer.
Seasalt, the star of the show at the Alila, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner overlooking the private beach. Given the hotel’s diverse demographic of clientele — ranging from Arabs to Americans — the menu features traditional Maldivian cuisine alongside dishes more familiar to foreign guests. The seafood, in particular, is not to be missed. During my stay, I was pointed to Seasalt’s signature seafood grill offering freshly-caught lobster, tiger prawns, sea bass fillets, octopus tentacles, squid and scallops.
When a change is in order, the Alila’s second on-site restaurant, Umami, offers a unique blend of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine. Consider opting for the Teppan set menu which includes dishes such as Wagyu striploin dressed with a truffle teriyaki sauce or the seared scallops served on a yuzu jalapeño salsa and shishito peppers.
While two restaurants might not seem sufficient, the menus across the Alila adapt daily depending on the seasons and produce available. There are also other cafés and bars on-site providing refreshments, cocktails, desserts and light meals. One particular favourite for dessert lovers to keep an eye out for is Boakibaa, a Maldivian coconut cake.
For those surrendering to the comfort of their villas, the hotel offers in-room dining through an app which keeps guests in contact with their villa hostess. The app also allows guests to make appointments, order buggy cars to move around the island (although the island is entirely walkable), and make general enquiries.
When guests touch down at the Maldives, they expect nothing less than relaxation and the Alila doesn’t disappoint. Aside from the private pools behind each villa, the hotel has an expansive infinity pool, state-of-the-art fitness centre and a dedicated play area for children.
The treetop spa is the icing on the cake and has a menu that intertwines Asian and Western therapies. For those searching for a traditional experience, the Maldives Indulgence treatment presents 150 minutes of relaxation and comprises a therapeutic massage, fresh coconut bath and a coconut honey scrub. The spa also offers yoga and meditation classes.
A highlight of the Alila spa is the quality of the products used during treatments. Made in Indonesia by small local communities, Alila Living products have been curated with ‘nature’ and ‘wellbeing’ at the forefront. Abundant in ingredients such as coconut oil, ginger and lemon, it is difficult to resist taking some home.
The Maldives might appear to be the type of getaway that involves few things other than enjoying the pristine waters but at the Alila, travellers can venture beyond their luxurious retreat.
One such experience involves heading to a private island, a five-minute boat ride from the Alila. The island, known as ‘The Shack’, offers an experience far beyond what its name would suggest. Decked with plush lounges and hammocks with a private chef on-site, The Shack is a haven of solitude. Indulge in a massage or tuck into a freshly barbequed lobster, the joys of the island are reserved for only the most discerning. One might even catch sight of a dolphin frolicking nearby.
For those seeking something more down-to-earth, the Alila presents travellers with the opportunity to experience ‘A Day in the Life of a Maldivian’. The resort has partnered with the locals of a nearby island to welcome travellers into their lives. For four hours, one can visit the schools, mosques and stores. The tour culminates with a traditional lunch at a local’s home. Generous Maldivians welcome tourists with open arms, eager to showcase their culture while curious about others.
The Alila’s support of local communities extends to these nearby islands where the hotel’s general manager, Thomas Weber, is known by name after the hotel donated hospital beds and care packages during the month of Ramadan.
The Alila, like every luxury resort in the Maldives, caters to every whim and provides luxury accommodation and five-star services. But as far as the Maldives goes, luxury properties are a dime a dozen. What truly differentiates the Alila is its commitment to benefiting local communities, honouring Maldivian culture and respecting the wider environment.
Now the Alila hopes to set a new standard in the travel industry through their ‘conscious’ approach. It’s a powerful example of doing a good job while simply doing good.
Price: Current starting rate is £890 per night.
Address: Alila Kothaifaru Maldives, Kothaifaru, Raa Atoll, Republic of Maldives
Email for reservations: email@example.com
Website: Alila Kothaifuru, Maldives