Vibey island: A review of the W Maldives resort

Feb 16, 2020

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To The Point

The W Maldives still shines despite it being an older property. Pros: Fun and relaxed vibes, beautiful beaches and stellar service. Cons: Some furnishing show some wear and tear and the party vibes might not be for everybody.

At the end of last year, the TPG team decided it was time to re-visit the Maldives, one of the world’s most aspirational destinations, especially for those with hotel points. The island nation has a dizzying number of high-end points properties to choose from, with many having opened in the last couple of years.

My first assignment was to check out the JW Marriott Maldives Resort and Spa, one of the newest properties in the Maldives, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Next, it was time to see how one of Marriott’s older Maldivian resorts, the W Maldives, stacks up compared to newcomers on the scene.

Ready to plan that bucket-list trip to the Maldives? Visit TPG’s Maldives destination hub for more stories about traveling to the region on points and miles, where to stay and what to do while you’re there. 

In This Post

Booking

The W Maldives is a top-tier Category 8 property in the Marriott portfolio, meaning award nights cost 70,000 points for an off-peak night, 85,000 for a standard night and 100,000 for a peak night. Just like at the JW Marriott, my three-night stay at the W encompassed all three rates.

In total, we paid 255,000 Bonvoy points and $1,030, which includes the taxes and local charges that come with practically all Maldives resort bookings as well as the mandatory $505 for the round-trip seaplane transfer between the airport in Male and the resort. Cash rates during my stay were pricier than those at the JW Marriott, at around $1,100 per night for a beach villa. TPG currently values Marriott points at 0.8 cents apiece, so we were able to get a bit more value for our points here than at the JW.

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When we booked my stay at this property, beach villas were the base rooms, but while I was on property I was told that the property would soon be mirroring the JW Marriott in making overwater villas the base room for both cash and points rates. It appears that this change has already happened, according to searches for future stays at the property.

Thanks to Ambassador status, I was afforded the following benefits during my stay:

  • Welcome gift of 1,000 Bonvoy points, a local gift or complimentary breakfast for two (go for the breakfast for the maximum value)
  • 20% discount on all food and beverage charges except in-room dining and happy hour
  • Complimentary room upgrade (based on availability)
  • Guaranteed late checkout till 4 p.m. (but your departure depends upon the seaplane schedule)

If you’re low on Marriott points and are eyeing a redemption such as this, consider signing up for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, which is currently offering 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. .

Location

The W Maldives is on Fesdu Island, part of the North Ari atoll in the central part of the island nation of the Maldives.

To reach the island, you take a seaplane for a 20-minute flight from Male’s Velana International Airpot (MLE). As mentioned above, the mandatory transfer costs $505 round-trip per person (children under 12 pay $235 and children under 3 are free).

I was transferring from the JW Marriott, which meant I flew back to Male where I waited for another seaplane to take me to the W. Luckily, it was a seamless process. As soon as I hit the ground at the Male seaplane port, I was whisked to the dedicated W lounge where I had a three-hour wait.

The lounge was a little sad with no views and meager offerings of food and drink, but I was told the whole terminal is moving in the near future and there would be new lounges, so investment is on hold for the moment.

On the plus side, it was an air-conditioned spot with cold drinks and there was plenty of AvGeek fun to be had wandering around the terminal with all the seaplanes bobbing in the water on one side and Male’s runway on the other.

We boarded the flight shortly before takeoff for a bumpy, 20-minute ride. We landed at W Maldives and the plane pulled right up to the hotel’s dock.

Check-in

I stepped off the plane to a warm welcome and ice-cold towels handed out seconds after arriving.

Numerous staff introduced themselves, each one looking after a different department, and all guests were then taken on a short golf-cart tour around the island.

There was no formal check-in procedure. I was taken to my room at the end of the tour and my bags had already been delivered to the room. The whole experience was easy, relaxed and efficient.

Villa

There are 77 villas at the resort, split between beach villas and picture-perfect overwater villas. I was staying in a base-level room on the beach, but I was offered the chance to move to an overwater villa during my stay and jumped at the chance to experience both.

My villa, No. 127, had a playful W charm, with flashes of bright red, crazy textured throws and cushions, a red hanging rope seat in one corner and a chic comfortable white chair. It was also handy having a proper desk area for work. The bed was large and comfortable.

A welcome note was left on the coffee table with biscuits and other treats and a bottle of red wine. I asked for it to be changed to white and the request was honored immediately.

There was a red Nespresso machine with complimentary capsules, complimentary glass bottles of water set out around the room, a well-stocked minibar (which had free soft drinks) and a separate wine fridge.

There is a small corridor by the villa entrance with generous wardrobe space, a safe, robes, hairdryer, umbrellas and an iron and ironing board.

Off the corridor is a toilet and a separate bathroom with rain shower, bathtub, double sink and wraparound mirrors.

The bathroom was one of my favorite features of the room as it is about 30% exposed to the elements with a section of roof open to the sky. Hanging plants cascade in, giving it a wild jungle feel. But because only a portion of the roof was absent, the bathroom still felt private.

There were generous amenities in the bathroom, including larger-than-usual bottles of Bliss shampoo, conditioner, foaming face wash, shower gel and moisturizer. (This year, W hotels throughout the world will be ditching the iconic Bliss products that they’ve used for the last decade or so.)

There were also toothbrush and toothpaste sets, a mending set, makeup wipes, cotton buds, loofah pad, comb and shower caps.

There are USB and universal plug sockets around the room and by the bed, and a Sonoro radio alarm clock. A Bluetooth Bose sound system allows you to hook up your phone and play music though the speakers in the room and up on  the mezzanine terrace, a lovely feature.

You reach the terrace by climbing a set of stairs wrapped around the outside of the bedroom. It is set beneath a thatched roof, with a huge swinging bed-style lounger and a large table facing out across the pool below and to the ocean.

Downstairs and beyond the French doors of the bedroom is a gorgeous terrace with a jacuzzi plunge pool, large round daybed, two sun loungers and a smaller table and chairs.

It feels like a private spot surrounded by lush shrubbery. But beware, don’t go sneaking around the outside of the pool to take a picture. I did, the floor gave way and I fell into the drain at the side of the pool, bashed my hand and dropped my camera into the water.

Just beyond the pool and plants is a gorgeous stretch of beach. White sands and turquoise seas. There were another two sun loungers there for use of the villa, although this spot felt much less private as guests strolled along the beach.

After the first night, I moved to an overwater villa.

The decor was similar — the same bed along with a glossier rocking chair and a bathroom positioned to the side of the bedroom with no open roof, which barely mattered thanks to the stunning views.

There was a door that led from the bathroom straight onto the terrace (there were also French doors leading outside from the bedroom).

The room also featured a glass viewing hole in the middle of the floor so you could sit and watch the fish swim by, although it was small and more of a gimmick. The unrestricted views of the sea on the terrace were much more interesting.

This terrace itself was stunning. It included the same round daybed, table and sun loungers and jacuzzi pool as the beach villa, but it also had a rope bed jutting out over the sea and magnificent views onto the ocean.

There was also a ladder for direct access to the sea for swimming and snorkeling.

It was also the perfect place to experience the ever-changing Maldivian weather. One night, a storm blew in, so wild that I ended up — half-fascinated, half-terrified — sitting in the bath and watching the lighting strike across the sea.

The entire villa felt incredibly private, and the privacy was only broken when you lay on the rope bed which jutted out far enough to see onto other villas’ terraces. The feeling of privacy is impressive, given the proximity of other villas.

Amenities

Each villa had a jacuzzi pool, and there is a large public pool with various seating options around it from sun loungers to daybeds. It was always quiet around the pool — most guests opted for the beaches only a few feet away.

Not only is the main beach in front of the pool beautiful, but there are also a number of quieter, private stretches of sand spread around the island.

It was easy to find one as they were never more than a five-to-10-minute walk away.

But, if you were feeling lazy, there were buggies, blasting out tunes, to whisk you around.

They were particularly handy in bad weather, when the plastic sides could be zipped up. There were some torrential downpours during my stay, but the staff arrived with the golf carts to keep everyone as dry as possible — until the guests embraced the rain and ran into the sea.

A gym is situated near the pool and is a cold escape from the humidity outside. It is fitted out with varied and modern equipment. There are daily complimentary classes from trampoline HIIT to yoga. I did a sunset yoga session which was moved inside because of the rain, which was a shame as the indoor spot had funky W music in the background and the instructor was inaudible.

The spa is on the opposite side of the island, on a jetty fanning out from the perfect shoreline. I enjoyed the whole experience of the signature Ku Nye treatment which is a Tibetan massage with warm poultices and rose-quartz crystals. It began with a private steam-room session and the whole thing was so great I will ignore the moldy bowl of ginger and orange slices I found in the steam room.

I am an avid scuba diver and the dive center was top-notch.

I did two dives in a morning, both at fantastic sites around a 20-minute boat ride from the Island. The first dive at Kandholhudhoo Thila featured an incredible hanging forest of soft purple coral and fish. Cute puffers, huge groupers moray eels and sharks — we saw them all. The dive instructor, Peruvian Enric, was professional, knowledgable and good fun.

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Snorkeling off the island was also excellent. The resort claims to have the best house reef of any resort in the Maldives and it was wonderful. While staying in the beach villa, I ran into the water in front of my room and within minutes I was enjoying the company of sharks and turtles. Fins and masks are available for guests for free.

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The resort runs other trips. The whale shark trip unfortunately didn’t run in the time that I was there, but with a two-hour boat ride and no guarantee of seeing sharks, I was happy to have missed it. I did join the manta ray snorkeling trip and this is one not to miss. For $150 you get two hours at sea looking for, and usually finding, giant manta rays. We saw five or six. The last ones were a pair that we swam with for 10 minutes as they performed for us and each other near the surface.

There are also various water sports on offer like jet skiing and windsurfing at the beach club.

One standout feature of the property is the private island. You can spend time there for a fee, making it the perfect spot for a proposal. For better or worse, it is also the only place in the resort where drones are allowed.

Image courtesty of W Maldives
(Image courtesy of W Maldives)
Image courtesy of W Maldives
(Image courtesy of W Maldives)

I was also impressed by the laundry service which allowed you to fill a large bag of clothes and have the entire thing laundered for $79. It may seem steep, but I stuffed that bag well. At customary hotel laundry prices I would have paid hundreds of dollars, and for this price I received my clothes back perfectly pressed, wrapped on hangers (maybe a bit of an excess of plastic). My pants came back wrapped in tissue paper in a basket.

Dotting the island were welcome refueling stations, supplied with ice, towels, apples and non-alcoholic gin and tonics.

Wi-Fi was free and could be accessed throughout the resort without a password. Download speeds ran at 8.1mbps and upload speeds at 8.2mbps.

Food and beverage

There are numerous dining and drinking options around the resort and in-room dining is available 24 hours a day.

Breakfast is served in a dining room called KITCHEN, with a comprehensive buffet, as well as an a la carte menu, on offer.

The buffet includes all the usual suspects and some higher-end additions like fresh juices and a naughty chocolate fountain. Eggs are made fresh to order, as are pancakes.

The a la carte menu is limited but solid, and dishes were brought quickly after being ordered.

My banana pancake with coconut sorbet was great, as was the healthy bowl made up of yogurt, almonds, chia seeds, granola and kiwi. I also spotted some off-menu dosas being served. If you’re a fan of this Indian breakfast pancake, go for it. It came with a delicious spicy vegetable gravy.

The breakfast also includes booze — an inventive take on Bloody Marys (the Maldivian Mary) and mimosas. You can have these alcohol-free, or take your cava straight up.

For $25 per person plus tax and service, and free for those with the Platinum level of status and higher, this is a steal in the eye-wateringly expensive world of the Maldives.

I also ordered breakfast in the room one morning. It was delivered on time and as requested, but the in-room breakfast menu is a la carte and the cost adds up significantly with far less for your money. I would recommend hitting KITCHEN in the mornings.

I also tried lunch in KITCHEN. The pad kaprao was simply, spicy and tasty. The tom yum soup was also a standout.

On the first evening, I enjoyed a sunset cocktail at the overwater bar, SIP. A DJ usually spins the decks around sunset and I ate some fantastic sushi with the cocktails.

KADA serves traditional Maldivian fare by the beach on benches and swing seats. The Masroshi, a mix of tuna, coconut and chili with roti was the perfect light beach lunch, washed down with coconut water from a freshly opened coconut.

WET serves food by the pool as a second lunch option.

I didn’t have time to sample the food, but I did grab their daily complimentary snack. The fruit ice lollies were a highlight.

For finer dining at dinner, the restaurants FISH and FIRE open on alternating nights. I ate at FIRE and aside from at first being banished to a lonely table behind the front desk (but later moved into the thick of the action), I had a good meal. The mozzarella starter was interesting and well-presented and the reef fish wrapped in banana leaf was a perfect light main dish. They also had some exciting and inventive cocktails but watch out for the intense besito piquante, laced with coffee-infused Campari and pepper.

Finally, I tried in-room dining. The butter chicken was great as were the side dishes, and my dinner arrived in the rain, quickly and hot, in fun Indian-style stacked pots.

Service

I was at the W alone, but I never felt alone. I was surrounded by staff and other guests were open and ready to make friends. This might be the wrong tone for a honeymoon, but for the right couple it would still be perfect.

Service was professional and quick but done with a cheeky smile. Anything I could have wanted was always just a WhatsApp message away. I didn’t wait more than a minute to get a reply to a question or request (and I had plenty) and action would come soon after.

Overall impression

This is a fantastic property. It is definitely older than some properties that have opened recently, which means some of the furniture has taken a bit of a beating. But it also means the flora and fauna and surrounding reefs have all filled out and found their full bloom.

It is a resort ready to party, but in a good way. Funky music plays from the walkways, the public areas and the golf carts that zip you around the resort.

The resort is fun, with solitude always just a few steps away, not to mention the private paradise island within a coconut’s throwing distance.

The food and accommodation were good, the vibe great, and the service and setting, epic. I can definitely see myself returning.

All photos by the author unless where otherwise noted.

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