Diver's Paradise: Beach and Water Villas at the Baros Maldives
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For my fourth trip to the Maldives, I was ready for a different kind of adventure, so I stayed at the Baros Island Resort, which isn't part of any loyalty program. The other three times I visited this tropical paradise, I stayed the Conrad, the Park Hyatt and the St. Regis, but this time I wanted to test out something new — and Baros came very highly recommended.
You don't have to book a points hotel to score a great deal. Take Baros Resort in the Maldives. @briankelly got his fourth night free just by booking with Citi Prestige, while @zachhonig got 10x points and 10% back by booking through Hotels.com through Jan. 31, 2020 and paying with Capital One Venture Rewards. What travel tricks do you have up your sleeve? ?: @zachhonig
I've already stayed in an overwater villa at both the St. Regis and the Park Hyatt, so I thought trying a villa on the beach with my own private plunge pool would be a solid alternative. However, rooms at Baros weren't cheap — pool villas were going for $2,150 per night during my stay. Since it wasn't even possible to use points to offset this cost, I utilized the 4th Night Free perk available with the Citi Prestige card, which brought the total cost of the stay from $8,599 down to $6,949, meaning I paid an average rate of $1,737 per night. Unfortunately, the 4th Night Free no longer covers the cost of taxes and fees on your fourth night, but it still remains a highly lucrative perk.
TPG Editor-at-Large Zach Honig spent one night in an overwater villa which cost $2,400 per night. Although he obviously couldn't utilize the 4th Night Free perk, he used the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to book the room on Hotels.com, earning 10x miles and 10% back, for an essential return of 20% back in the form of rewards for his stay (ends Jan. 31, 2020).
This property initially caught my eye because of how highly rated it is on TripAdvisor (#3 in the Maldives currently with over 2,000 glowing reviews). However, the main reason I decided to stay here is location, location, location — it offers easy access from the capital city and also has world-class scuba diving. Since my flight landed in MLE at night and seaplanes to other resorts only operate during daylight, I needed a property that was accessible by boat — and at night. Baros fits the bill perfectly, as it was only a 25-minute boat ride from the airport in Male. Plus, this way I didn't have to waste time (and extra cash) by staying in a hotel in the capital for a night.
Tickets between the airport in Male and the Baros Resort cost $234 round-trip — a bargain compared to the almost-$700 you'll pay for round-trip seaplane tickets to some of the other resorts. Definitely a score in my book. Plus, at the end of my trip, I wanted to stay a little longer and asked if I could switch to a boat that departed later, and the resort was happy to accommodate me. Another score, as I wasn't stuck following the more restrictive seaplane schedules. The convenience of leaving the hotel two hours before my flight departure was simply fantastic.
I was immediately welcomed by friendly staff upon arrival and led to my room. Check-in was completed efficiently and quickly right in my villa, leaving me to start enjoying the my stay immediately. In fact, both check-in and check-out were completed in my villa, allowing for maximum comfort and relaxation.
My Pool Villa
Decked out in dark teak wood, I loved the high ceilings of pool villa number 212 — perfect for tall people!
The entrance way was beautiful, and featured a small seating alcove, complete with a sofa, pillows and a beach towel.
My villa came with a large and very comfortable four-poster day bed, a beach bag and flip flops, robe, slippers, safe, yoga mats and a menu of different pillows to choose from.
An iPod docking station with a programmed iPod, some books (mostly in German) and a DVD/CD library were both in the room, but who wants to be stuck inside when you're in the Maldives?! This would definitely have come in handy if it had rained, though, like my first trip to the Conrad.
I also appreciate extras like sunblock and rotating daily cookies at the minibar. A workspace with desk and chair was available in case you needed to work (hopefully you don't have to if you're in the Maldives), and the room had free Wi-Fi, though it was inconsistent speedwise. Some days it was painfully slow but others it was very fast.
My villa also came with an indoor and outdoor shower, both of which passed the TPG Shower test with flying colors (I'm 6'7", so they had to be big enough for me).
The bathroom was spacious and also came with a large soaking tub and two sinks, though be warned: It takes about 30 minutes to fill the tub completely!
The L'Occitane amenities were standard issue and I liked the extra touches like the small bottle of Evian facial mist, which came in handy on 88-degree Maldivian days.
The outdoor private plunge pool was decent sized and perfect for rinses after snorkeling with my reef shark friends!
In the past, I've stayed at overwater villas, but for this solo dive trip, I loved the privacy and beach access — especially since the house reef was great and teeming with marine life.
The beach access was even more amazing when I would wake up at 5:00am thanks to jet lag. I could simply walk out of my villa to watch the sunrise on the beach — I even had two private sun loungers to myself.
The outdoor deck and veranda had a small sitting area with chairs and tables where I could hang out after a swim. However, I was so busy snorkeling, diving and hanging out on the beach that I didn't really use my pool or deck much.
The air conditioning was strong and cooled down the villa well — necessary in a hot climate like the Maldives. Overall, I felt the that the villa was solid and comfortable, despite it being older than some of the villas at other Maldivian resorts.
Zach's Water Pool Villa
Zach's experience was somewhat different than mine — as I mentioned, he booked a Water Pool Villa, located down a pier at the other end of the resort.
The water villas are contained to a smaller area, and they're positioned directly above a section of the house reef. That means you can step down and snorkel directly from your back porch, which is pretty neat.
Zach's villa also had a king bed, but it was positioned in the center of a round room. The high ceiling made it seem spacious, though.
The bathroom layout was different as well, and there wasn't an outdoor shower — a highlight of my Beach Villa for sure.
The view out the bathroom window could easily make up for that lack of outdoor shower, though.
And of course, the "back porch" view was even more spectacular, and Zach's pool was far larger than mine.
I mean look at that — utter perfection.
Zach liked his villa overall, but he had an issue with a strong sewage smell in the afternoon. A technician came to take a look, but simply planned to cover up the smell with chemicals rather than getting to the bottom of the issue. Ultimately, the hotel ended up moving him to another identical villa down the pier, but didn't offer any compensation or even an apology at checkout.
During my stay, the staff and service were amazing even though the hotel was completely full with travelers from all over the world. The resort only has 75 rooms, so it felt really intimate.
But now, the pièce de résistance: the in-house diving reef and other major dive sites just 15 minutes from the resort. At many resorts you have to take an hour-long boat ride to get to dive sites, but the reefs at Baros and in the nearby vicinity were beautiful. It was some of the best diving and snorkeling I've ever experienced — in fact, I found the snorkeling to be even better than the diving. On my last day, I snorkeled off the side of the boat, and was rewarded with this incredible sight: a family of manta rays.
I could even see the reef sharks swimming around from my private slice of beach. If you're scared of sharks, this may not be the best place to snorkel or dive, but keep in mind that reef sharks won't harm you. The first day it might be a little jarring to be snorkeling and see a reef shark swim 10 feet away, but you shouldn't be scared and you get used to them quickly (at least I did).
I also admire that this resort is dedicated to being eco-friendly. It uses biodegradable chemicals for cleaning, uses recycled water and dedicates a lot of effort to the care of marine life and reef conservation. I always feel it's important to dive responsibly and be respectful of the ecosystem of the underwater species — I'm glad this resort feels that way, too.
The food at the resort was fantastic — a nice variety of Western and Asian food. There were a few restaurants, including an overwater one, but I mainly enjoyed ordering room service to my deck. The Maldivian curry was spicy and delicious, and breakfast was excellent as well.
Although the main infinity pool was stunning, I didn't get a chance to try it. Based on looks alone, though, I couldn't decide if I liked my private plunge pool or the main pool better!
The hotel has a gym and offered free yoga classes, but I was too busy diving to take advantage of these benefits.
The Serenity spa, though it wasn't overwater, was absolutely fantastic. My masseuse, Siti, was incredible — her deep tissue massages actually hurt me (in a good way). I also had an excellent facial, and the spa offers all kinds of unique packages (it calls them "ceremonies") that you can test out. The spa was extremely flexible in accommodating me last minute, too.
The Baros Resort is an excellent option if you love diving and snorkeling and don't want to add even more travel time onto your trip to the Maldives with a seaplane. With comfortable villas and impeccable service, I was really happy with my stay. Its ultra-convenient location also means that it's not quite as serene — I could see the city of Male from some areas of the resort. Although the St. Regis is the newest and nicest (in my opinion) option, it had the worst diving of any of my Maldives stays and everything is expensive once you're there — especially the seaplane transfers. Simply put, you can't beat the convenience and house reef at Baros.
Manta Ray Sighting While Snorkeling in the Maldives