My husband and I have had the pleasure and blessing to spend time in many luxury resorts/boutique hotels throughout the world and our recent stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa is right up there with our most magical and memorable trips, ever.
Prior to our trip, I read many of the TripAdvisor reviews of the previous Alila. For us, the new “Hyatt-izing” of the property was immediately apparent with many of the earlier criticisms addressed and corrected, although the management of the hotel we spoke to during our stay said there is a great deal more planned in the near future. Regardless, we pretty much enjoyed a perfect experience.
In order to arrive on a morning flight into Male (and thus avoid having to stay in a hotel near the airport overnight), we started our trip with three days playing tourist in Colombo. Thus, we had an 8am flight, arriving into Male about 9am. We were met at the int’l airport exit by a Hyatt hotel rep who whisked us to the domestic airport (and put us in the vip lounge for refreshments/cold towel). I recall we had a 9:40am flight to the atoll and then a pleasant one-hour boat ride to the resort, arriving about 1pm. I think those that complain about the location/trek misunderstand that this is in fact the allure of the Park Hyatt Maldives: the remoteness of this pristine atoll is what makes the resort and the eco-system surrounding it so precious. We felt privileged to be able to experience such a rare and important treasure on this planet, and to stay in a property where the management and staff appreciate and understand how crucial it is to protect the atoll and its environs.
As for the local staff and “smiles”, we received nothing but the most courteous, professional and cheerful service throughout our five-night stay (perhaps this was one of the first changes the Hyatt implemented after their management takeover 1 April). We were met at the resort dock by several of the hotel staff, given a tour of the resort by golf buggy and then taken directly to our room and introduced to our personal butler. One welcoming chocolate brownie and perfectly chilled lemon grass ice tea (no sugar: finally a hotel has their welcome drink right…no sugary, syrupy welcome drink!) later, we were molding ourselves into the outdoor lounge sofa on our # 51 water villa deck . Good-bye Blackberry (well, not quite, even our water villa, which was the most remote one—I had requested the water villa farthest away from humanity—had excellent wireless and GPS connections, but the lull of the waves had us winding down very fast…my husband managed to read a couple of books, but I mostly spent my time being mesmerized by the 360 degree view of the natural aquarium that surrounded our villa).
Again, the Park Hyatt must have improved the a/c units in the rooms since their management takeover as our room was icy cold. True, during the day with the sun glaring in it was a bit warmer, but we still had to turn the a/c down or off several times during the day. The water villas’ exteriors have weathered some but to us it was charming (very New England) and nothing that some staining won’t “fix”. There was a steady wind outside our room and it was so lovely that I slept outside two nights on the very comfy deck sofa (as my husband loves a freezing room and I prefer a warm wind outside apparently…). The sun would blast the room/deck by about noon, so I asked for an outdoor umbrella but the wind was so strong that this proved impossible, so by noontime each day, we’d either switch sides of the villa (to the front door deck area where it was also nice to put out a chair and read with lagoon view) or take a nap, or go Bell’s Bar which has a fabulous beach/ocean view.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meals at the resort and the staff was efficient, fast and again, cheerful/courteous. (And, we met several Asians who seemed to be enjoying their stay as much as we were so again, perhaps the Hyatt training has kicked in….). Breakfast was included in our room package and it was so plentiful (and tasty) that we didn’t need to eat lunch. When you consider this is a remote island with most everything shipped in, it is extraordinary that they can serve such sumptuous cuisine each day (one of the Hyatt managers told me that they will be growing more of their own produce on the island and buy as much local produce from nearby islands in the future as well. They have their own desalination facility on the island and they also crush/recycle glass/waste as much as possible, etc.).
Battuta was lovely and we had fresh Maldivian cuisine the first two nights but by night three we wanted something more Western/comfort food and dined near the pool at the main restaurant ordering off the lunch menu! The staff/chefs had no problem switching up the menus or serving food from one restaurant to another location (we enjoyed sitting in the main restaurant or Bell’s Bar to enjoy the ocean view). Our final night at the resort, we had a romantic beach dinner with the beach/ocean view all to ourselves (and even if the entire 50 rooms were full, the villas/beach is so well spaced that you rarely see any other guests…except at the restaurants; very easy to plan a romantic dinner or private party….). We were so full after our beach dinner that we had to take the dessert back to our room with us.
Complimentary afternoon tea is still available at Battuta but little nibbles are no longer being served as the Hyatt staff explained that not many people partake of the service (which is understandable as Battuta is lovely for dinner but it is self-contained and does not have an ocean view—rather strange to break up an afternoon to specifically go for tea in this venue….). Instead, your room butler now brings wonderful little desserts to your villa late afternoon which you can have for tea, or save for dessert later that night, or for tea in your own villa the next day; a much better idea!
As you can’t bring alcohol into the Maldives, we expected the alcohol prices in the resort to be exorbitant since we knew we’d be a captive audience. However, we were really happily surprised. First, the Park Hyatt Maldives has a generous happy hour. Indeed, the price for a cocktail is about US$ 16 but happy hour gets you two for the price of one, so this worked out to what we normally pay for a cocktail in most Asian capitols. After we drank the bar out of mint (delay of delivery due to high waves) the bartender improvised and made fab basil mojitos….! We had a lovely New Zealand bottle of wine each night with dinner (the wine cellar relatively diverse and quite reasonable compared to what we expected).
We didn’t engage in any activities other than snorkeling. We had planned to go out and do some dolphin spotting and the resident marine biologist Arrabelle (who is just wonderful and happy to sit and answer questions about the diverse marine life/environmental projection/projects they are working on in this atoll and throughout the Maldives) gave us a 30-minute intro to the area’s dolphins. Unfortunately that day the waves were too rough to go out, but over the next three days we daily saw a pod of dolphins swimming past our room (about noon, and then again just before sunset!). We also saw a Nurse shark and Blacktip reef shark swimming a few meters from our balcony. We were too lazy to go where the resort’s best snorkeling was (off the “sunset” dock....) but we snorkeled right off the ladder from our water villa and saw thousands of fish and an entirely healthy coral reef….beyond stunning!
Finally, to add to our absolute pleasure of our stay with the Park Hyatt Maldives, I am a Hyatt Gold Passport member and we were able to use my points to stay the fifth night for free (which is a great return on point value). And, as our flight out of Male on the 6th day was at 10pm, the Hyatt management kindly allowed us to stay in our room until 5pm, just in time to catch the boat and domestic plane ride, thus we had five nights and six full days of this ultimate paradise. We are fairly jaded tourists/travelers at this point, but due to the resort itself, the location/pristine reef, our fabulous room at the end of the pier where you see nothing but the ocean and sky, and the hospitality of this amazing Park Hyatt staff, we were both awed with a renewed sense of wonder and the magic of nature (and being utterly spoiled!).