After four flights, and close to 40 consecutive hours of traveling, it’s inevitable that your mind will start to play tricks on you. Par for the course when traveling to the Maldives, that dreamy archipelago of sun-soaked islands in the Indian Ocean where overwater bungalows, celebrities, and influencers all seem to converge in one of the beautiful and beguiling places on earth.
You’re so jetlagged by the time you get there, you start to ask yourself: was all that schlepping really worth it?
As my fourth and final seaplane started its descent into St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, seeing sea creatures in the form of physical structures—a bar in the shape of a whale shark, villas floating in crystalline water like a squadron of manta rays, a spiral rooftop in shape of a seashell—was the moment I started questioning my own sanity.
Synonymous with honeymooners and the luxury jet-set, I was joined on my inaugural visit to the Maldives by an intimate group of jetlagged journalists. All women, who like me, running on pure adrenaline and red bull eager to set out and explore, we’re all here to seek out the truth behind the question—does the St. Regis Maldives, the self-proclaimed “finest address in the Maldives” really live up to the hype?
Here’s what I found out.
Embrace the Journey
Any way you slice it, traveling to The Maldives is a downright slog. With more than 1,200 islands in total across the archipelago, seaplanes only operate during daylight hours and run as regularly as a New York City taxi.
Once you arrive in the capital city of Malé, a new terminal and club level waiting room is a great place to wait as connecting passengers make the final journey to one of the 150 island resorts. It takes some of the sting out of the last leg of your journey. It’s not uncommon for the pilots to fly barefoot, a charming discovery that had our newfound Maldives girl-gang positively giddy upon takeoff. There’s something about those final 45 minutes it takes to get from the airport in Malé to the Dhaalu Atoll where The St. Regis is located that reminds you why you embarked in this crazy journey in the first place.
My time in paradise started before I arrived, when I received a personalized greeting via WhatsApp from my butler, Ali, welcoming me to the property. Part of the St. Regis signature experience, butlers are assigned to every guest, which I was reticent about at first, but after spending a few days getting to know Ali, I couldn’t imagine life without him.
Lean into Luxury
With all the trappings of a luxury island getaway—even the name, The Maldives, sounds titillating and rich—nothing can prepare you for the sheer magnificence that comes with landing in a place so visually intense.
From the jump, The St. Regis, whose tagline, again, is “the finest address in the Maldives,” sets the bar pretty high, and upon arrival, you can expect nothing short of a White Lotus-esque experience. Members of the hotel team dressed in matching white lapels are waving and patiently waiting to greet us with a freshly sliced welcome coconut on the floating dock. We’ve earned it after all.
At first blush, everything feels a bit over the top and exaggerated. But this is the Maldives, not Missouri, so lean into it. Once we settled in, the formality that initially greeted us seemed to melt away. Barefoot luxury is the name of the game here, and while I don’t think I ever saw anyone actually barefoot, it’s as casual or formal as you want it to be. Since the property is spread out across the island, having your own breach cruiser to get to and from your room to the restaurants, bar, and gym was a nice touch. Although Ali was always available to scoop me up in his electric golf cart as needed. Bless him.
A Place for Foodies and Wine Lovers
There are six restaurant options on property, ranging from a casual lunch spot on the beach to a massive underground wine cellar called Decanter that can be booked for private tastings and wine pairing dinners. This is a place for gourmands and oenophiles to go and eat and drink to their hearts’ content.
Seafood plays a major part of the culinary offerings in the Maldives, so naturally my first stop upon arrival was to my villa where I promptly ordered a Maldivian lobster, papaya salad, and a Chang. I dream of that meal daily.
At sunset, it doesn’t get much better than The Whale Bar. An overwater bar in the shape of a whale, it’s by and large the centerpiece of the property, and every day at sunset, as they do at St. Regis hotels around the world, the sabering ceremony that commences here is truly a sight to behold.
For breakfast, Alba is the “casual” breakfast and brunch buffet that is nothing short of miraculous. Spanning across three separate rooms overlooking the beach, from a cold press juice bar to the assortment of Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, and American style food options, you’re not leaving this place hungry.
Set inside a tropical garden that’s lit entirely by candlelight, one of my favorite meals was spent at Cargo, the Middle Eastern meets Mediterranean restaurant serving up some killer baba ghanoush and mezzes. While it wasn’t open while we were there, the property just unveiled a new restaurant called T-Pan. An adults-only Teppanyaki concept buttressed between the garden and the beach, if it’s anything like the rest of the food and beverage offerings we had while we were there, I’m sure it’s out of this world.
The best and most surprising dish I had happened on a total whim when I was chatting with Chief Sommelier and the F&B Director for The St. Regis Maldives, Sunny Chuang. I don’t know why we started talking about paella, but he told me under no circumstances was I allowed to leave without trying their special homemade recipe, which is not only “the best” but comes topped with six massive Maldivian lobster tails. True to his word, it was the best paella I’ve ever had, including Spain.
I said what I said.
For a remote island in the middle of the ocean, there’s a surprising number of activities you can do here. Other than eating and drinking all the things, one of my favorite activities was the catamaran ride to a secluded private island where a rosé picnic and underwater seabobs for exploring the nearby coral reef were waiting.
Back on property, the Iridium Spa offers six-overwater treatment rooms, including two that are dedicated to Ayurveda treatments. The on-site Physician and Spa Manager, Dr. Sudhi Suresh, is a third-generation Ayurveda practitioner, and our group relished in the opportunity have individual consultations that included an intense 25-minute pulse diagnosis, followed by a series of life-analyzing questions, all culminating in a four-handed massage specifically tailored to the results of your body’s needs.
Unfortunately, after a jellyfish attack left the better part of my upper body completely enflamed, my massage will have to wait until next time, but the reports from my colleagues were nothing short of glowing and went something along the lines of “best massage I’ve ever had.”
The Final Verdict
Circling back to the question at hand—does the schlep to the Maldives self-proclaimed “finest address” really live up to the hype? The short answer to that is absolutely, and unequivocally, yes.
Jetlag, jellyfish stings, and all, this is a magnificent place, with excellent food, drinks, views, and experiences to match. But, in my experience, it’s the people that make the party, and this ethereal place is home to what is, in my experience, one of the friendliest and overall lovely hotel teams on earth.
As for my newfound girl-gang, we continue to keep in touch and text in our group chat regularly. While there’s no doubt that the Maldives are a special place, I’d schlep around the world with this group of women any day.