I am truly blown away at how great my Lily Beach vacation was. First part was completely luck, I waited until 25 August to go which is when they drop the price for seasonal reasons. I'm really glad I did this, as I had a full week of sun -- it only rained one night after we'd already retired to the room so no loss whatsoever. I know they can't control this, but it definitely had a huge impact on our vacation.
Ok, now what they can control. First lets talk about "all inclusive". I'd read previous reviews saying that you could only get certain drinks at certain times at certain places -- that is old information. This place is nearly fully all-inclusive. If they had the alcohol in stock, then it was "free" (in quotes since obviously we paid a lot for an all-inclusive resort). There are 3 bars on the island with very good operating hours, friendly bartenders and wait staff. I made sure I always tipped for my drinks, and in return I couldn't make it from the steps of the deck to my chair without an attentive waiter asking what my order was. I think even without tipping the service would've been excellent but I like to reward the individuals performing the good work. I'd also like to add they were great with my 10 and 11 year old children, and they always had a non-alcoholic version of the mixed drinks available, as well as chocolate and vanilla milk shakes. I think my kids had more virgin mixed drinks and shakes than the wife and I had on the alcoholic side!
Two of the bars and the main restaurant also had excellent hours for food. The bars had tasty ala carte menus, and the main eating area "Lily Maa" has a different theme for each day's dinner. Overall I found the food to be plentiful and tasty. I think if I'd stayed much past a week it would've started to get a little old, but for a 1 week vacation the quality and variety were great. A 1 week stay also get a free trip to Tamarand, their Thai/India/Chinese restaurant, a 12 day or longer stay gets 2 days. Tamarand has 4 outdoor tables on their own private mini-decks, I highly recommend reserving one of these, it was a truly unique dining experience. They had a good selection of wines, and any wine they stocked other than Dom was part of the Platinum Package. On the food side, the only thing that wasn't included was lobster which you could order ala carte. I figured after dropping $10k on a vacation I'd hold off on the lobsters at $75 a pop.
Next I'd like to talk about the villa and it's proximity to the beach and activities. We reserved a family villa. I don't know if they gave us a family villa or not, we had adjoining rooms (109 and 110), but it didn't matter -- the villa was perfect. We had a queen size bed on our side, and the kids had twin beds. The "front" of the villa borders the main walking path that runs between the bars, restaurants and pools. They have a cool outdoor bathroom setup that really works with the toilet, sink and shower under an extended roof, and a large whirlpool tub under the sky. The shower was the "rainshower" style which was nice, and the whirlpool tub was probably big enough for 4. The cleaning staff stops by 2x/day to keep the sand out of the room which is an absolute must, because right out the back and you've got a deck on the beach. From there, you are <1 minute away from a Jacques Cousteau worthy snorkeling trip which I'll talk about later. I also had the lucky benefit of having my villa a mere 100 meters from the Vibes bar, so it was a 1 minute walk to get a couple beers, and then bring them back to the lounge chairs behind my villa and watch the kids play in the ocean. Truly awesome. If there was one downside of the trip, it was in the villa and may not apply to all. I have a bad back and am addicted to my Tempurpedic mattress at home, I found the mattress in my villa too soft and woke up with a VERY sore back my first day there. Over time I got used to it and my back improved, but I'd have preferred a mattress with more support. So as to not end on a bad note, the villa had wireless internet "free" as well as a stocked minifridge that was also included as part of the platinum package.
The snorkeling was probably the best part of the vacation. I'm not an experienced snorkeler; however, I honestly don't know how it can get much better than this. First off is all your gear is provided as part of the Platinum Package. I don't know enough about snorkeling to comment on the quality, but I will say that I never felt like it hindered my enjoyment, so definitely good enough. The fins were a bit tight and took a bit of skin off my toes so I went barefoot for most of the trip. Not sure if it would've been possible to get a wide version of the fins but my guess is no, but certainly this wasn't a big deal. Anyway, when I snorkel I focus on 3 things: proximity to shore, variety of species, and quantity of fish, and the house reef excelled in all 3 areas. I'm not that great a swimmer and always feel a bit worried when I'm not at my rightful place at the top of the food chain, so I just feel more comfortable if I'm pretty close to shore, the Lily Beach reef is RIGHT THERE. If you wanted, you could stay within 10 meters of the shore and think you had a great snorkeling experience. As part of proximity, I'd like to throw in current. As not such a great swimmer and without the benefit of fins, it was very comforting to have such a mild current around the island. I never felt like there was a chance I'd be swept away by the current, in fact I usually used it to my advantage. I'd walk to the far end of the island, swim out to the reef where it vertically dropped off into the deep, and then let the current kind of push me to the other end of the island (which just happened to be where my villa was located).
The next part is variety, and there is no lack of different species on the Lily Beach house reef. Their gift shop has a 3 poster set of "fish of the Maldives" and I swear I probably saw >50% of those fish if not 75%. Go to your local salt water fish store and check out their entire selection -- yeah, it's all there within 10 meters of the shore at Lily Beach. Octopus? check. Small reef sharks and rays? Check. I couldn't believe how many different types of fish that I'd only seen on TV, I saw within 50 meters of the shore at Lily Beach. In addition to quality, there was quantity. There were LOTS of fish all over the place. It was easy to get distracted since there were so many fish to choose from.
We snorkeled once or twice every day for 1-2 hours per session and this had to be the highlight of the trip. This is a great activity for the entire family to participate in together, and I'm sure my dinner table at home will be filled with discussions about our snorkeling for the next few months and even years. You simply don't get that kind of family fun and bonding in many places, the time I got to spend with my kids on an activity we all liked was worth the price of admission alone.
Most of my friends would probably say I'm a glass half empty kind of guy, so believe me, to have such a great review of this place really is saying something. I have so little to complain about it's pretty damn impressive. Overall, best vacation I've ever had and I hope that someday I get to go back.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- ---UNDERGOING UPGRADES--- In the deep blue sea of the Indian Ocean, among the scattered small Islands known as the Garland of Flowers (Maldive Islands) of indescribable nature, Lily Beach Resort is the island - Huvahendhoo at the South East Ari-Atoll. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Lily Beach Hotel South Ari Atoll
- Lily Beach Resort And Spa
- Lily Beach Resort All Inclusive
- Lily Beach Maldives