Following arrival at the international airport in the capital of Male, a surprisingly relaxing (depending on your stomach for water travel) 30-minute trip by speedboat is the last leg of the journey to Four Seasons Resort at Kuda Huraa located in the North Male Atoll of the Maldives. Even in the very early hours of the morning, cheerful employees offer warm greetings, cold towels and refreshing Lomi-Lomi (a non-alcoholic drink with lime and ginger) as soon as visitors’ feet hit the dock. An unavoidable sense of calm permeates the property—from the open-air lobby and beyond—that’s fitting for this quiet island setting.
Once in one of the 96 villas here (over-water or beachside) it’s up to guests whether to sink into the crisp cotton sheets to rest for a day full of activities or stay awake—when there’s an infinity pool outside that appears to meet an ocean illuminated by a full moon, it’s hard to imagine sleeping, however. The disorienting effect of arriving in the dark, late at night may sound off putting to some, but it directly feeds into what this resort offers: a change to your state of being.
When the sun rises at Kuda Huraa, we suggest an ocean swim to wake yourself up. While it’s tempting to hang out on the deck of the recently remodeled over-water villas, that means missing out on activities like surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling and stand-up paddleboard yoga. For those looking to surf, April to September is the best time for waves and—because this is a Four Seasons resort—guests can book a plane to fly to the best breaks. Novices are offered lessons (starting with the very basics of balance) but if you just want to watch pros do their thing, the Four Seasons Surfing Champions Trophy occurs this year 5-12 August.
As for motorized adventures, guests can take a Sea-Bob cruise around the lagoon, examining the shallows and spotting mantas, or even strap into X-Jets Jetblade and try their hand at hydroflight. After this thrill, an extended paddle-board journey followed by a waterside massage is highly recommended.
That said, visiting one of the four excellent restaurants (or all four over the course of a day) and two bars, and sunbathing on the glorious white sand beaches is not a bad option either.
Kuda Huraa is a small island (the literal translation from Dhivehi) so there’s no stress of feeling like you’re missing out on something. In fact, they move clocks forward an hour so you can wake up later and still see the sunrise, then do activities longer and still see it set.
What’s more admirable is that it’s not just visitors that Four Seasons is concerned with, but the locals too. As such, Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru offer 17- to 20-year-old Maldivians the opportunity to train for a career in hospitality through the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Apprenticeship Programme. In addition to training in more traditional hospitality areas, apprentices can focus on disciplines like Marine Biology or becoming a PADI Dive Master. This is the social responsibility side of the coin and given where the Maldives are, there is (of course) an environmental side to it as well.
Comprised of about 1,200 islands spread out over 26 atolls in the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean, the Republic Of Maldives sits roughly 620 miles southwest of Sri Lanka. It’s world’s lowest country with an average ground elevation of just 4’11” inches above sea level. It’s understandable that climate change is a huge concern in the Maldives. The current government has changed course from their predecessors who had aimed to go carbon neutral by 2020, instead betting on money coming in from increased development to build new islands to relocate locals to and sea walls to protect them.
While the jury is still out on the government’s plan, resorts like the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru are still taking steps of their own to eventually go carbon neutral. This past March they turned on the first of their RoofSolar inverters—an ambitious setup consisting of 3,105 panels spread out over 58,000 square feet on the roofs of the staff village. An estimated 900,000 to 1.1 million kWh of energy will be generated and 55,000 to 66,000 tons of diesel fuel will be saved. That translates to a drop of 650 to 800 tons of CO2 going out into the atmosphere. For those looking to temporarily escape reality, but not ignore it, it’s worth considering Four Seasons properties in the Maldives as their efforts to shrink their environmental footprint are done in earnest—be it through waste-reduction or marine conservation and research.
The marine conservation efforts are impressive too, as we saw at Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru in the Baa Atoll. While both resorts are home to sea turtle rehabilitation facilities, the larger footprint of Laanda Giraavaru allows them to have a full-blown marine biology research center that regularly hosts researchers from around the world. Guests can also participate in helping to rebuild coral reefs, feeding turtles that are currently part of the rehab program and learning about human impact on the area, as well as the natural factors at play.
While Kudaa Huraa feels like a remote village, Landaa Giraavaru feels more like a community placed in a lush jungle setting. Make no mistake, it’s still every bit as serene as you would hope, but days here feel livelier. Maybe it’s the fact that guests can ride bicycles all over the island and feel like it’s a “commute” from the over-water bungalows to breakfast and a swim in the giant infinity pool that anchors the resort at the center of the island. (It could also be that more families and recurring guests end up here than at Kuda Huraa, so there are simply more people.)
The larger size of the island allows space for 103 thatched-roof bungalows, beach and water villas to house guests, as well as an airy three-bedroom home dubbed Laanda Estate that’s tucked down at the end of a path. It would be easy enough to walk through the front door here and go nowhere else but the pool and beach out front. If that’s not enough privacy for you, there’s also Voavoah, the property’s two-acre private island that comes complete with a private yacht.
Whether on a private island or a small bungalow, every detail is considered here. Whether reading on the beach or speeding around on a Sea-Bob, taking a surfing lesson or sipping cocktails by the pool, there is no wrong way to experience these properties in the Maldives—so long as you go.
Photos by Andrew Maness