When it comes to hotel launches, the best laid plans almost always go awry. Starchitects demand that their grand visions be executed, stretching budgets beyond what investors initially signed up for; disputes between co-owners see construction screeching to a halt; and, sometimes, it’s all systems go – save for government approvals mired in bureaucracy limbo.
But not with The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort.
“We opened six months ahead of schedule. Can you believe it?,” says Varun Bharadwaja, director of sales and marketing for the resort. It’s a rare coup, but an unsurprising one given the pedigree of owners behind the property.
Jointly developed by 50-year-old Japanese company Belluna Co, which has carried over its efficiency in the mail-order business, and Asia Capital, the Sri Lankan investment bank backed with the clout required to pave the way in this part of South Asia – opening fashionably late simply was not par for the course.
All the better for hospitality giant Marriott International, which has been appointed to run this slice of paradise. During our visit in December last year, the property had been open for only six weeks, but it managed to hide its teething issues well – save for the one day when it ran out of avocados at breakfast. Two years ago, the Starwood Hotels and Resorts group (which overseas The Westin and The Regis brands) planted its uber luxury flag with The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, and it was only a matter of time before it tapped on its expertise in wellness hideaways by debuting the first Westin in the Maldives.
INTO THE BLUE
The St Regis might offer luxury in spades, but The Westin’s location is, by many metrics, unrivalled. A 40-minute seaplane ride from Male’s international airport, the hotel has snared an enviable spot on the Baa Atoll, the only Unesco Biosphere Reserve in the South Asian country. Wreathed by over 1,200 species of marine life that call the atoll home, its unique location at the edge of the open ocean and a gaping channel sees hundreds of manta rays and whale sharks gathering between June and November as they trawl the waters for plankton.
The centre of the Baa Atoll, a 20-minute speedboat ride from The Westin, is where endangered hawksbill turtles reside and we encountered 16 of them during an hour-long snorkel in the water. But one barely has to leave the resort to view the marine life. Given its location on a quiet sea channel, dolphin sightings at breakfast are a common occurrence.
In an area teeming with marine life, it’s no wonder Peia Associati’s architects drew inspiration from the sea to create villas resembling turtles and an imposing arrival jetty that has the sinuous curves of a whale shark.
Of the resort’s 70 villas and suites, the 29 overwater suites – each generously sized at over 2,000 sq ft – offer the best views. Glass windows running the entire length of the suite frame views of the sea while a glass-bottomed panel in the living room turns the space into a private aquarium.
WELL TO DO
In keeping with The Westin’s wellness DNA, impossibly comfortable beds coupled with lavender-scented aromatherapy roll-ons aim to help harried executives sleep better.
Those who need a little more help will do well to check into the on-site Heavenly Spa, where Swedish massage techniques are expertly applied to improve blood circulation, help cleanse toxins, and reduce tension knots. A 24-hour gym – which provides full fitness kits, down to sports shoes – caters to guests whose idea of wellness extends beyond active relaxation.
Clean eating is no mere afterthought at the resort. An in-room orange juice press lets you start your day with a fresh dose of vitamin C, while breakfast at Island Kitchen, the all-day dining outlet, offers organic egg white omelettes alongside superfoods-laden smoothie bowls. Over at The Pearl, an elegant Japanese restaurant that opens only for dinner, a vegetarian option is offered for those who would rather skip the wagyu and seafood.
There’s fodder for the mind, too, courtesy of a library collection valued at £30,000 (S$51,000). Here, non-fiction bestsellers such as Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century sit alongside books on mindfulness and meditation. When it comes to crafting a wellness paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it appears The Westin has managed to tick all the boxes with its Maldivian debut.