My husband and I spent 11 nights in the Maldives to celebrate our honeymoon, 6 nights at the Six Senses Laamu and 5 at the W Retreat & Spa. Coming all the way from NY, we really wanted to choose the right resort(s), and we absolutely did not go wrong with these two. When I did research for this trip, I hoped for more resort comparison, so I'll include some comparisons here. I also wrote a full review of the Six Senses. We were here the first week of March.
Overall: The great thing about W properties is that you know to expect a certain standard (especially if you are frequent Starwood travellers like us), which is why we chose this resort, and this property did not disappoint. The resort is beautiful, the island is gorgeous, and the staff were all smiles and ready to help at a moment's notice. If we're going to be nitpicky (and we're entitled to at these prices!), there shouldn't be a trash boat hanging out in near the welcome jetty, the dive center facilities on the island seemed dated (compared to the Six Senses, which we understand is a newer resort), and my husband absolutely HATED the neon-orange buoys in the water. They spoilt the view and he insisted they should be blue or white instead, since they are mainly for the purpose of boats and snorkellers specifically looking for them. But overall, it was comfortable, luxurious, and we did not want to leave.
Food: No complaints here, minor comment is that the in-room dining menu could be more varied. My husband's celiac disease was addressed proactively, and gluten free bread was available at all meals throughout our stay (at the Six Senses, too). We didn't go to the Maldives for the food, but we really didn't have a bad meal during our trip. People balk at how expensive it is, but you need to realize what you're getting yourself into when you go to resorts like these and eating in a remote country where nearly everything is imported. We loved the Sweet Spot refreshment stations with ice cream, soda, and water, but we didn't really feel great about all the imported plastic bottled water. We would have preferred a recyclable desalinated option like at the Six Senses.
Room: We were in an Ocean Oasis, Lagoon View, room 219 near the end of the jetty. This room was simply amazing, and while we loved our villa at the Six Senses, this retreat (as they call all the rooms here) just took it to the next level. From the massive patio with a plunge pool, to the impractically large bathroom, to the plush king-size bed, this room had us in the lap of luxury. I got the best sleep in this room (the bed at the Six Senses for some reason was less comfortable), and I could easily spend days on end in it without leaving. We did notice here that we could hear our neighbors at times, just some talking and music, whereas at the Six Senses we didn't hear anyone at all. The villas were closer together here than at the SS.
Crowd: Mostly middle-aged, seriously moneyed Asians and Europeans, I think largely Chinese and Russians. Lots of smokers, whereas for some reason at the SS I didn't see a single cigarette. Note that both resorts told us that the types of guests that they see vary throughout the year depending on holiday seasons (i.e. more Chinese in the summer, more Europeans in the winter).
Snorkelling/Diving: This is where the W beat the SS hands down. Except for the fact that the dive center itself was nothing to write home about, the diving was spectacular. On our orientation dive (mandatory first dive) on the house reef we saw turtles, lionfish, frogfish, puffers, shrimp, moray eels, and more! We did five dives total here, and the experience was amazing. Special shout out to Evgeny and Christina who were excellent rare fish-spotters. And their dive boat is extremely nice and comfortable. I really enjoyed drying off on the sundeck between dives. Luxurious diving at its best. By contrast, we were disappointed with the Six Senses dive boats, though the actual diving and instructors were great there, too. As for snorkelling, we could not get enough of the house reef. The reef corner just in front of the spa is a great place to see millions of small fish, sharks, turtles, and other large jackfish and trevally swimming by. Best times are early morning (5-6am) and sunset (530-630pm), when you can see the daytime/nocturnal fish transition. The coral here is also vibrant and beautiful. You need to see it to believe it - if you are avid snorkellers/divers - this certainly must be one of the best places in the Maldives - a strong statement!
Fishing/Boats: The boats here are all top-notch. We had so much fun on the local night fishing trip that we booked to do it again. The best part is that they will cook your catch to your liking (even as sashimi!) at one of their restaurants...yum! We caught snappers, emperor, and barracuda. We also did the sunset cocktail sail on their luxury liveaboard yacht. That was probably the nicest boat we've ever set foot on. Gorgeous, we highly recommend both excursions.
Yoga: We didn't do the regular yoga classes here as they were on the garden in front of the breakfast area, not a particularly appealing location. But, when we went to the spa, we found out they offered reasonably-priced private classes on a stunning over-water location, so we opted for one at 8am. The instructor (forget his name) was great, tailoring the experience as we went along to our ability. We wished we had known about it earlier in our stay, we would have done it more than once!
Spa: The spa is beautifully located, and the staff could not be friendlier or more accommodating. However, the treatments themselves were just ok. I got an express mani-pedi, which was wonderfully efficient and relaxing, but the quality was subpar. They actually fixed it for me and even did my manicure completely over without charge, but my suspicion is that the polish itself was going bad and too thick and goopy. Even after the do-over it didn't look great. My husband and I also got massages, which were nice, but felt more like a good Asian massage parlor rubdown than a high-end spa treatment. This is one area where a resort like the W can certainly improve - at these prices, we want massage therapists who are experts in their field. With that said, the overall spa experience was much better at the W. The treatments started off with a foot soak, and then ended with a hot tub soak and shower, where they gave us some pineapple, chocolate covered strawberries, and tamarind juice. We felt like we could hang out there as long as we wanted and were never rushed. If the therapists could just have better training, this experience would be hard to beat! Special shout out to Nenita, who was super helpful and friendly!
What makes the W really special is underwater - the snorkelling and diving were simply stunning. The staff is also really great and everyone is willing to help at all times. Also, thank you to Ku, one of the American staff members that made us feel special! We felt like she was specifically looking out for us!
A note on transfers - the Six Senses and W coordinated our intra-resort transfer seamlessly - no complaints there and we didn't have to lift a finger! On the way home, our flight wasn't until 11pm, and the seaplanes don't fly at night, so the W arranged a dinner package at their sister resort, the Sheraton, which is just a 20 minute speedboat ride from the airport. That was also really well done and sure beat spending 8 hours at the Male airport! While we had a lovely evening, seeing the Sheraton made us really glad how discerning we were with choosing resorts and even happier with our selections. The Sheraton was way too close to the airport and it just felt like staying there would not give you the isolated, idyllic Maldives experience we envisioned.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Bi-level beachfront and over-water retreats let indoor and outdoor mingle; roofs with peek-a-boo views of the sky and glass-paneled floors that reveal lagoon fauna below. Privacy is paramount - enjoy your own plunge pool, sundeck, and beach. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- w Retreat & Spa Maldives Hotel North Ari Atoll
- w Retreat And Spa Maldives
- w Retreat Hotel Maldives
- w Retreat Resort Maldives
- w Hotel Maldives