Is W Maldives a little piece of paradise? Yes, it is.
Who has never dreamed of these crystal clear waters, these villas on stilts, this almost guaranteed sun, these white sand beaches and this intimacy that only the atolls can provide? It’s true, I confess, we went there first for my wife, this great mermaid lover of the sea. And yet, I was seduced, bewitched, intoxicated by this oasis.
The W Maldives is more than a hotel; it’s an experience. In this article, I will try to make you live by proxy the happiness we experienced during six days (5 nights).
Why did we choose the W among all the Marriott hotels in the Maldives?
First, W Hotel is a relatively new chain, launched in 1998 as part of the now-defunct Starwood Group (acquired in 2016 by Marriott). These are hotels that are more “trendy”, “fashionable”, “festive”, “colorful” and “current”.
Let’s say that we recognize ourselves in this positioning from the start.
Of course, some will say that they sometimes have a defect in their quality, namely that if they are very current when it is open or renovated, they “go out of fashion” more quickly than some more timeless chains.
That being said, there are currently close to 60 W Hotels worldwide (24 in North America, 7 in Europe, 5 in the Middle East and Africa, 16 in Asia-Pacific, 7 in the Caribbean and Latin America). These properties target the luxury segment of the hospital sector (Luxury category at Bonvoy).
And one of our main objectives of this exotic destination, besides resting, was to snorkel. W Maldives is recognized as offering one of the most beautiful reefs in the Maldives for diving, snorkelling and marine life observation. It is the only Marriott hotel to consistently rank in the TOP 10 best hotels (out of 900 hotels in the Maldives) for its reefs.
Moreover, the relatively small atoll makes it a more “intimate” place. And even though this hotel was built in 2005, the W Maldives has retained an air of “youth” charm and freshness. Its vibrant colours, open-plan facilities and picturesque decor seem to act as an anti-wrinkle balm on this property where only carpe diem matters.
If, by any chance, you would like to see our reviews of other Marriott Bonvoy properties in the Maldives, here are our links:
The W Maldives is a category eight hotel, so it will cost you between 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night in the low season and 100,000 points per night in the high season.
We booked the five nights for a total of 340,000 points by taking advantage of the Marriott Bonvoy benefit of booking five nights for the price of 4 when using points. When we made this reservation, the cost was around USD 1,500 per night.
However, even if you have booked with points, you will have to pay for the Trans Maldivian Airways seaplane (15 seats) to get to W Maldives.
It costs USD 505 per person (USD 235 per person for children 3 to 12 years old and free for children under three years old). The reservation of the seaplane is taken care of directly by the hotel, which will take care of it according to your arrival time at the airport of Male (MLE).
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Stay at W Maldives
W Maldives is located on Fesdu Island in the North Ari Atoll, about 25 minutes by seaplane (or 90 minutes by speed boat) from Malé.
Arrival in Malé, check-in and transfer to the resort
Having taken a night flight from Abu Dhabi (AUH), we arrived at around 8:00 am in Male. The vast majority of hotels have a representative on site to welcome guests. This is notably the case of W Maldives.
Travelling for several years in carry-on only, we do not have to wait for our luggage and are therefore brought directly to the car assigned to W Maldives. We were the only ones that morning to be welcomed.
After a short trip of about 5 minutes, we are dropped off at the Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA ) seaplane terminal, where we find the lounge dedicated to W Maldives. Other guests (1 other couple) will eventually join us in the lounge as we wait for our seaplane flight.
The dedicated lounge is very friendly, and it already displays the phosphorescent theme that characterizes the W Maldives.
The theme of phosphorescence is inspired by the glowing jellyfish and the luminous plankton that can be seen on the shores of the resort’s private island.
The lounge contains a lot of food and drinks. There are also earplugs for the seaplane. Some will find that the sound of the propellers is deafening in the small and cramped cabin of the seaplane.
All check-in formalities will be carried out here at the lounge. This is really nice touch, because later when we disembark from the seaplane at the resort, we won’t have to go through the reception.
This is when we will have to “confirm” our room for the stay.
W Maldives Hotel Information
The hotel has 77 rooms divided into 6 types:
On stilts :
- Fabulous on stilts, 1 bedroom villa, 1 king bed, sofa bed, ocean view
- Spectacular on stilts, 1 bedroom villa, 1 king bed, hammock view, lagoon
- 3 Suites Ocean Escape WOW, 2 bedroom villa, ocean view
- 1 Extreme WOW Suite, 2 bedroom villa, Bedroom1:1 king bed, Bedroom2:1 king bed, Sofa bed, ocean view (equivalent to the Presidential Suite)
On the beach:
- Beach Oasis Wonderful, 1 bedroom villa, 1 king bed, sofa bed, beach view, balcony
- Beach Oasis Wonderful, 1 bedroom villa, 2 queen size beds, Sofa bed, beach view, Balcony
But, if we exclude the 3 WOW Suites and the Extreme WOW Suite, we are talking about three types of villas: 2 types on stilts (ocean or lagoon) and 1 type on the beach.
In almost all hotels, it is often possible to divide the stay between several rooms!
Over the years and with experience, I have learned that one of the most critical stay moments is probably at check-in. In fact, the employees have a significant influence because they will dictate the type of room we will have during our stay. I invite you to be particularly pleasant, smiling and attentive during this moment.
As mentioned, we had a five night reservation. And at the time of booking, we had chosen five nights in a Fabulous villa on stilts with an ocean view.
While talking with the employee at the check-in, we expressed with a bit of humour (and strategy) how we had been torn between choosing “on stilts” or “on the beach.” Sympathetic to our dilemma, she suggested that we split our stay.
Thus, we opted for two days on stilts and three days on the beach. It is a gamble because we do not know in advance which one we will prefer. It is also essential to understand the reality of hotel complexes that must, among other things, thoroughly clean the rooms between each guest in the context of a pandemic or a large number of guests. So we can’t ask for absolute flexibility, try everything and then confirm our final “selection” for the rest of the stay. You have to be willing to be a good sport.
We spent about 90 minutes in total in the lounge before being invited to our seaplane around 10:00 am. Seating in the seaplane is maximized and usually, there will be several stops depending on the travellers and the hotels.
We enjoyed the seaplane flight, which lasted about 35 minutes between the departure from Malé and the arrival at W Maldives (intermediate stops included). We take advantage of this flight to admire from the air the unique formation of the Maldives with its atolls, many of which remain uninhabited. It was thus around 11 am that we arrived at the resort.
Upon exiting the seaplane, the W Maldives welcomes its guests according to the Maldivian tradition with a guard of honour. We also find the symbolic white W of the brand and, like any good tourist, impossible to resist the desire to immortalize our radiant hoe next to this symbol.
Under a shaded pavilion, we will be briefly introduced to all the staff, and our butler will take charge of us. He is assigned to us for the duration of the stay, and we will be able to communicate with him 24 hours a day via WhatsApp.
And on board a golf cart, our butler will ride to the resort to deposit us at our room towards midday. As mentioned before, there is no need to go through the reception as the check-in is done at the W Maldives lounge in Malé.
It will be more than 4 hours between our landing at the international airport of Malé and our arrival at our room.
Our first room - Villa on stilts (Fabulous on stilts, 1 bedroom villa, 1 king bed, sofa bed, ocean view)
Let’s mention from the start that all the rooms/villas of the hotel are relatively similar and all beautiful. The notion of upgrading here is a bit excessive. So you shouldn’t be too disappointed if you don’t get any because the difference is really marginal.
Of course, the four suites on stilts (3 WOW and 1 Extreme WOW) mentioned above are more beautiful and significant. However, unless booked explicitly in advance, when upgrades are requested, they are allocated in priority to families rather than couples, which is legitimate.
So our room for the first two nights was one ocean-side stilt villa.
Although many will prefer the lagoon side for the following reasons:
- Less exposed to wind and waves than the one on the ocean side;
- Best view of both sunrise and sunset.
We preferred this ocean side exhibit for the following reasons:
- More privacy as the natural curve of the stilted walkway connecting all the villas follows the contour of the reef thus distributing the ocean villas on the convex (outer) portion of the curve (see image);
- There are no visual obstructions (you can’t see the resort or the island), only the ocean as far as the eye can see, giving a feeling of “the end of the world”;
- Closer to the reef. The fish are not so much in the lagoon (yes, there are some), and the majorityares in the corals where there is food. And the reef is just a few meters from the villa on the ocean side.
As soon as we open our room door, we are charmed by this “bubble” which will accommodate us. The oval-shaped room is very bright with its four large patio doors overlooking the ocean, its king bed leaning against a sizeable full-wall mirror, its living-dining area with glass in the floor reminding us that we are indeed on stilts, its cathedral roof made of woven palm leaves.
The colours throughout the villa are inspired by the tones of warm sand, bleached coral, wrecked wood and leaves burnished under the hot sun. The sober decoration takes up the theme of phosphorescence with shades of azure blue, notably via the coral and jellyfish motifs found on the large sofa cushions.
Placed on a small coffee table, a tray of delicacies, two coconuts ready to drink (one of the best natural hydrations available), a basket of fruits and a sparkling wine will highlight our arrival in “our” villa.
Each villa, on stilts or on the beach, also offers guests a beach bag with beach towels. This bag can also be kept for those who like to have a “branded” souvenir.
The bathroom adjoining the bedroom is primarily open-plan. The room is bright, with a large window and door to the outside balcony. The bathtub leaning against the window allows you to bask while admiring the ocean.
A large counter with two sinks allows everyone to go at their own pace for morning ablutions or to prepare for a festive evening. There is also a large rain shower whose ceramic mimics the heterogeneous pattern of grains of sand.
The large balcony is the “resistance room.” Placed on stilts, it offers all possible combinations to enjoy the ocean. The view is breathtaking, whether on the deckchairs, under the covered pavilion, or in the private pool.
A ladder provides direct access to the ocean, allowing you to come and go in the water. Moreover, an outdoor shower allows you to free yourself from the sea salt before returning to the villa.
Thanks to its particular layout (see photo) the ocean-side villas allow total privacy; no other villa or the main facilities of the resort are visible. The ocean stretches as far as the eye can see. In addition, most water sports and other human activities occur in the lagoon, where the atoll breaks the waves.
On the ocean side, is it windier? Are the waves stronger or noisier? Yes This being said, I keep an incredible memory of an etiolated evening spent curled up in the pavilion, inspired by the rhythm of the waves, caressed by this warm wind, cooing, hypnotized by this starry sky, because of any light pollution.
So peaceful that even a heron came to land on one of the fences separating the villas. He was the naughty witness of a couple’s lovemaking, consumed in all tranquillity, not with alcohol, but with the pure happiness of feeling alone in the world. I think he is still talking about it to his friends!
General impression of the villa on stilts
Yes, the W Maldives villa on stilts delivers the goods and fulfills the expectations that one has of this type of accommodation.
The villa is bright, airy, functional and pretty. The outdoor balcony, private infinity pool, and direct access to the ocean complete the package and make it an almost private oasis. Note, however, that the absence of beach and vegetation directly at the villa ends up marking after a few days.
The resort being relatively modest in size, the walking distance via the footbridge on stilts between the villa and the main island of the atoll, where all the services are found, is reasonable. It is beautiful as a gateway at night, with the LED lighting mixing the colours of moonlight and glowing mauve.
Here, there is only one mode, which is the relaxation and marine healing way.
Our second room - Villa on the beach (Beach Oasis Wonderful, 1 bedroom villa, 1 king bed, sofa bed, beach view, balcony)
As mentioned before, we split our five night stay between 2 villas (on stilts and the beach). And it is not necessary to have two reservations for this. Just discuss the options when you register. This is true for all extended stays in all hotels, regardless of status.
Of course, you must manage your expectations and understand that this is not automatic. Hotels must then thoroughly clean two rooms rather than one and manage the availability inventory based on reservations. This remains an additional complexity for them. It is, therefore, not a right but rather a privilege.
So, after two nights in the villa on stilts, we were moved to one of the beach villas at our request.
The atmosphere is different on the beach than on the stilts. The first noticeable difference is in the wind and noise. On the one hand, vegetation provides a great deal of insulation from the wind. It’s a double-edged sword because, in the middle of the day, the absence of wind amplifies the impression of heat when we are on the terrace, for example. On the other hand, as the sea is further away from the villa, the sound of the waves is almost completely muffled. It is, therefore, less windy and less noisy.
Although the villa on stilts is a “fantasy” to live at least once in your life, and I loved the experience, I think I preferred the cachet of the beach villa with its sandy beach, quietness and its more natural feel with the presence of surrounding vegetation.
Here the room is of a more conventional format. Exit the cathedral roof, the floor with a glass bottom. The rounded room is bright with its four large patio doors overlooking the surrounding vegetation, its king bed leaning against a sizeable full-wall mirror and its lounge area.
The dimension remains very interesting, and furniture similar to the villa on stilts is found there: sofa, desk, etc.
Here too, we find the tones of warm sand, bleached corals, wrecked wood and leaves browned under a blazing sun. The decoration again takes up the theme of luminescence, but this time with shades of coral red.
However, a hammock in the room completes the furniture, offering an interesting alternative.
The bathroom of the beach villa is very different from the one on the stilts. On the one hand, it is located behind the room rather than next to it, but more importantly, it is an open-air atrium. The sun, as well as the rain, can penetrate it.
Although we don’t have a view of the ocean, the proximity of the vegetation that penetrates through the opening in the ceiling and is reflected in the large mirrors creates an atmosphere conducive to relaxation. How refreshing it is to take your morning shower under the rain shower while the water mingles its caress with that of the sun on us, while our feet tread the slates warmed by its rays…
The sink area is protected by a protrusion in the ceiling and can be used even if it rains. For obvious reasons of intimacy, let us mention that the toilet is in an annex room, totally closed.
The particularity of the villas on the beach, they have two terraces. The first one is located at the exit of the room. It is the natural extension of the room. The second is located on the villa’s roof and is accessed by an exterior side staircase that leads above the bedroom.
The first-floor terrace, much like the villa’s balcony on stilts, offers all possible combinations of relaxation. Whether on the deckchairs, under the covered pavilion or in the private pool.
The first-floor terrace is relatively intimate, thanks to the fences between the villas and the proximity of the reasonably dense and mature vegetation. The access to the beach is direct. Moreover, each villa on the beach has two chairs on the beach.
That being said, the beach surrounding the central atoll is public. The walkers pass through it as the day goes on. Their presence is not disturbing of course, but the beach area is less “private.” A fresh water tank at the end of the terrace allows releasing of the sand accumulated on the feet before re-entering the beach villa.
The roof terrace is accessed via an exterior side staircase. Covered by a cathedral roof made of woven palm leaves, similar to the interior ceiling of the villa on stilts, it offers an excellent alternative to relax.
The main furniture is a giant swinging sofa. The view from this terrace is excellent, and it allows you to see better the numerous bats that inhabit the atoll and bask in the palm trees during the day.
Although nice, we did not use this terrace much. Perhaps on rainy days, it offers a different cachet!
General impression of the beach villa
The beach villa at W Maldives is my preference over the one on stilts. Although we are not directly above the water, the abundance of vegetation, the calmness of the place because it is better protected from the wind, the atrium bathroom and especially the immediate proximity to the beach make it an ideal oasis. The beach villa is large and very comfortable, and its swinging options (hammock in the bedroom and swinging sofa on the roof terrace) add a unique touch.
Moreover, as the beach villas are located on the central atoll, all the facilities (especially restaurants) are close. Finally, as the paths are sheltered from the vegetation versus the walkway of the stilt villas, one is less affected by the impact of the radiant sun when travelling.
Here, there is only one mode; it is the beach mode at will.
Restaurants and bars
The W Maldives has six restaurants and bars:
- Kitchen (main restaurant where breakfast is offered)
- Fish (dinner only)
- Fire (dinner only)
- Sip (evening only)
The dress code requested by all restaurants for dinner is “smart casual,” while for all other meals, it is “casual.” So it is not really required to dress up, other than for personal pleasure.
For those who want a truly unique experience and have a budget, organizing a private dinner on the beach is possible. A custom menu will then be prepared, and a table will be set up in a beach setting outside the common areas.
This is the main restaurant of the jurisdiction. Its food is very international and the style is similar to a bistro. Its name is inspired by the fact that the main stations allow us to observe the preparation of meals, a bit like being invited into the kitchen! We are approaching a style similar to that found in major tropical destinations worldwide.
One of the distinguishing features of this restaurant is the dining options. In addition to the conventional tables inside or outside, there are a few tables where we have our feet in the water because they are in an aquatic basin located in front of the restaurant. I admit that it is fantastic to have breakfast there.
Breakfast is offered in a buffet formula (50$ USD / person). The food offering is very hearty and also includes hot food options such as omelets. Alcoholic drinks are also offered (spritz, mimosa, etc). As Bonvoy Titanium members, our breakfast was complimentary in our case (see benefits for Bonvoy Platinum members and more), with a daily saving of USD 100.
Sip was probably our favorite because of his set up. Indeed, it is more of a resto-bar suspended over the ocean. A DJ plays background music, and the view of the sunset is breathtaking.
In addition to the more conventional bar, the restaurant includes two large catamaran hammocks and five double futons. And these futons are probably the best “spot” in the house, both for their comfort and unobstructed ocean view.
Moreover, as there is no light pollution, it is straightforward to observe the stars. And in this regard, I strongly suggest that you download an application such as “Night Sky,” which allows you to look at the sky via your smartphone’s camera and thus quickly locate with animation the planets and constellations of our solar system. Honestly, it’s cool.
The Sip offers a small variety of sushi/sashimi and many cocktails. Everything is served on a tray with a small lantern. It is a total romanticism.
Who says the Maldives, says ocean and says seafood. The restaurant is on stilts above the ocean, with underwater lighting to admire the countless fish, from parrotfish to sharks to rays. It is beautiful. And what about the food. The options are very varied, and the choice will depend on your budget.
Our meal was excellent and we each chose different fish to share and taste together. The atmosphere is relatively relaxed, the music is subdued (for those who prefer a more chill atmosphere than Sip’s), and the sea breeze brings a delightful coolness.
The Fire restaurant is located on the central atoll; as its name suggests, it specializes in cooking (mainly meat). It is therefore, the counterpart of Fish in a way.
We had dinner there only one evening because, as you can imagine, the supply of meat in the Maldives is more complex than the supply of seafood, and the prices are consequently higher. That being said, our meal was excellent. The restaurant has a pleasant atmosphere with a fireplace. The view is more limited and conventional, as the restaurant is surrounded by vegetation and on land.
Wet and Kada
Wet is actually from the pool restaurant. We have not tested it.
We did not test Kada either.
Other services / experiences on site
The pool at W Maldives is of the infinity type and allows those who wish to do so to swim laps. Quieter in the morning, it tends to be more popular during the day as families tend to move in.
In my opinion, the advantage of this pool lies mainly in its proximity to the hotel’s facilities (restaurant, bar, gym, games room…). In our case, we preferred to take advantage of the ocean/private pool combination of each villa.
The resort has an air-conditioned fitness room. The room is very large and has free weights, some pulley machines and a cardio area (treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike). It is located on the floor above the Wet restaurant, thus close to the pool.
The floor also houses a business center section and a relaxation/reading area with a pool table.
The resort has a beautiful spa composed of a typical villa and four individual villas that can accommodate all the usual services of this type of place. Located at the end of the atoll, it is in a very quiet section of the resort. In our case, we did not use the spa, so I can’t share my appreciation of this service.
The snorkeling at W Maldives is FANTASTIC. It is beautiful at almost all hotels in the Maldives; however, the marine variety at W Maldives is impressive.
We did, on average, 3 hours of snorkelling per day during our stay. We are talking about 15 hours spent in the water of the atoll. Although it is a bit easier to swim in the lagoon within the atoll, and you can see a lot of fish species, turtles, rays and even vegetarian sharks, the most incredible variety and diversity is found outside the atoll.
It is indeed possible to swim around the atoll, where the water is deeper, the currents a little stronger and the biodiversity tenfold. The schools of fish are more numerous there, and the biggest fish are found there.
In addition to the species in the lagoon, we also saw lobsters and morays. The flora is also more beautiful, numerous, and colourful outside the atoll because it is better protected from human presence and served by marine currents. It is true that in the lagoon, the vast majority of corals are unfortunately dead.
My wife and I are good swimmers. However, for those new to diving, the resort has a dive center where everything is available, including life jackets. We can also hire a master diver to accompany you on your dive trips.
My tips and tricks for snorkeling
For our part, we had brought our mask, snorkel and fins to the Maldives. And yes, we travel in carry-on, and we were able to carry all this gear with us in the cabin, even on economy flights between Abu Dhabi and Male.
The mask is the most important piece of equipment for snorkeling and since every face is different, having a mask that fits our face and does not let water in is a must.
As for the snorkel, since it goes directly into the mouth, we prefer to have our own. Fins are not compulsory, but they give better control and increase the energy of the legs, thus limiting fatigue and facilitating progress in the presence of currents.
Also, to swim, we wore a “rash guard” shirt. These are clothes made for water sports and provide a little protection against, for example, a surfboard or coral. In our case, it was mostly to keep us warm in the water and protect our backs from the sun. Because when snorkeling, the back is often exposed to the sun for a long time.
Finally, we are used to putting silicone plugs in our ears. These plugs greatly limit water entry into the ears and help prevent ear infections.
As we were leaving W Maldives to continue our stay in the Maldives at the Hard Rock Hotel Maldives, we left the atoll around 10:00 am with the seaplane. The W Maldives took care of booking and confirming the transfer arrangements in Male to the Hard Rock Hotel Maldives.
I checked out via the app as usual. Our assigned butler picked us up in a golf cart at our beach villa, and then we kindly waited for our seaplane at the pier villa.
Excursions and activities offered by W Maldives
The W Maldives offers a host of a la carte activities for a fee through its ” Down Under and Wave” package. The offer includes options for diving, snorkelling outside the atoll, jet skiing, sea bobbing, kite surfing, wake boarding, jet boarding, parasailing, catamaran, glass bottom kayaking, windsurfing, whale shark and dolphin watching, sailing, deep sea fishing… In short, there is something for everyone and every budget!
Curious, we offered ourselves a snorkel hopping trip for US$100 per person. The outing was pleasant. However, we did not see anything more than what we could see directly at the W Maldives atoll.
So, if you can swim around the atoll, I do not recommend this activity. The atoll has everything you need if you are the least adventurous to satisfy your snorkelling desires.
My general impression of the hotel
Our stay at the W Maldives resort was AMAZING.
We enjoyed the villa on stilts and the villa on the beach, with a slight preference for the villa on the beach. The reef surrounding the atoll allowed us to admire an extraordinarily diversified and easily accessible marine flora and fauna. The ocean is warm, and we could easily spend three continuous hours a day in the water without getting cold.
By intelligently managing our meals, as explained earlier in the article, we could make the most of the gastronomic diversity offered without affecting our wallet too much.
The sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking, intoxicating, and dazzling. Each new day brings its colours and shadows as the clouds reflect the sun’s rays like mirrors in this giant kaleidoscope.
Finally, the staff is impeccably attentive. Throughout our stay, we were greeted by our nicknames, JF and Vee.
I even befriended the hotel’s chef (since he moved to W Bali, I’ll try to meet him there on a future trip). One morning, we ran together on the atoll (he’s a runner) and quenched our thirst with some sweet coconuts. He even sent gingerbread cookies in the shape of shorts, t-shirts and running shoes to our villa.
At W Maldives, their famous WOW takes all its meaning…
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