This Maldives Resort Was Voted the Best in Asia — Here's What It's Like

It's the kind of place you go to leave life behind for a while.

Aerial view of the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria

By the time we touched down in the Maldivian capital of Malé, my excitement for the trip ahead had already been somewhat hampered by the 20-hour flight from New York. Delirium had set in, and all I wanted was to be horizontal. Thankfully, our hotel, Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, welcomes guests off of these lengthy flights every day, so the team had a plan.

We were whisked from the arrivals hall to a dock where one of the resort’s yachts was waiting. It was a 45-minute journey to the property, so we settled in with a glass of Veuve Clicquot and took in the expansive ocean views. The yacht had multiple bedrooms with crisp linens and cozy slippers, exactly what I was dreaming of just minutes prior. But naturally, seeing as this was the nicest boat I had ever been on, my jet lag was suddenly cured, and the last thing I wanted to do was go to sleep.

Exterior landscape view of overwater building

Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi was named the best resort in Asia by Travel + Leisure readers in the 2022 World’s Best Awards. Voters described the property as “unforgettable” and “the best luxury resort in the Indian Ocean.” After spending a few days there myself, I'd have to agree.

Checking into our beach villa, there was one thing that took me by surprise: the size. At more than 2,500 square feet, it actually happens to be one of the smaller accommodation options at the hotel. It features a private pool and beach, covered wooden deck with lounge chairs, and lush garden area. We were only two people, but we had enough outdoor space to entertain 200 (that might be an exaggeration, but barely).

I remembered a quote from another World’s Best Awards voter that read, “Hands down the best standard room I have ever seen.” It was all starting to make sense.

Woman in pool with floating basket of food and a hammock on the beach between two palm trees

Samantha Lauriello

Other room options include classic overwater villas, reef villas (a hybrid with the entrance on the beach and an overwater deck out back), bi-level Stella Maris villas (set in the middle of the ocean and only accessible by boat), and a private island, complete with nine bedrooms and five pools.

No matter which you choose, all have sliding glass doors that transform the suite into an indoor-outdoor living space, soaking tubs overlooking the beach or ocean, and stylish decor resembling an upscale beach house. You’ll also be assigned a personal concierge to help with anything you might need, including ordering from the hotel's pillow menu, which has options ranging in shape and firmness.

Another thing you may want your concierge to help with is making reservations at the resort’s 11 different restaurants. That’s right, there are 11 distinct dining options on property, meaning you could stay for more than a week and eat somewhere new every night.

Outdoor lounge and dining area with ocean view at sunset

Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria

You can get Shanghainese at Li Long, Australian-inspired barbecue at The Ledge by Dave Pynt, and Middle Eastern at Yasmeen. For me, the meal that stood out the most was contemporary Japanese at world-renowned Zuma, which opened its Maldivian outpost at the Waldorf this past summer.

The entrance to Zuma is a long and narrow wooden tunnel, reminiscent of a Japanese bamboo forest. However, unlike a bamboo forest, the vibe isn't quiet or tranquil; it's vibrant and electric. It has a city-like energy that’s almost impossible to find on a sleepy island vacation. The sushi counter is entertainment in itself, with expert chefs effortlessly crafting rolls.

The menu features items like thinly sliced sea bass with yuzu (my personal favorite), truffle oil and salmon roe, roasted lobster, and spicy beef tenderloin with sesame. It’s all as delicious as it sounds.

A dining table on the beach under palm trees and a hand holding a pink cocktail

Samantha Lauriello

If the luxurious villas and world-class dining don't already have you booking your flight, the variety of activities might seal the deal. There’s scuba diving, parasailing, jet skiing, glass-bottom boat tours, fishing expeditions, and paint-and-sip parties, to name a few. Plus, the spa offers just about every treatment you can think of, as well as services you may not have heard of before, like hydrotherapy, which is essentially a full-body massage using high-tech pool jets.

When looking at the list of best resorts in Asia, the top properties are characterized by breathtaking natural beauty that makes guests feel like they’ve escaped to another world. And that’s exactly the feeling I got at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi. As we boated from the resort back to Malé on our last day, it felt like we were reentering life after having left it behind for a while.

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