Honeymoon Destination: Maldives

The bungalows on Veli at Anatara Maldives

The over-water bungalows at Anantara Veli Resort & Spa. All photos courtesy of Anantara Hotels.

The moment you arrive, it’s all instantly worth it—the overnight flights, the layover, the airport meals. Because as you step off the speedboat and the smiling staff whisks your bags away to your room, you’re surrounded by everything you dreamed of: white beaches, clear skies, and breathtakingly blue water that stretches beyond the horizon. Complete paradise.

Maldives, located south of India, is a country of islands. And as the hospitality industry explodes, many of these islands now boast world-class resorts. What sets the Anantara Maldives hotels apart is not just the impeccable accommodations or vistas, but also the location: Just a 30-minute speedboat ride from Malé International Airport, the hotels are situated on a small cluster of islands. There’s Dhigu, which is large and fits families well, with its children’s club. There’s the exclusive (and smallest) private island, Naladhu, where you can bask in secluded luxury. And there’s the romantic and, in our opinion, honeymoon-perfect Veli, where the focus is on the over-water bungalow accommodations.

Guests can experience the amenities on each of Anantara’s sister islands, as they’re all interconnected by walkways and boats. So the two of you can always feel gloriously alone—but never lonely.

Anatara Maldives Pool Villa

Ananara Maldives Pool Villa

BY DAY After breakfast at Veli, grab one of the many lounge chairs or hammocks around the resort and park yourself on the beach with a book. If you’re feeling more adventurous, grab the snorkel gear from your room and dive in, off your own private dock, or just wade out from the white- sand beaches to see the brightly colored sea life and plentiful coral close to shore. Around lunchtime, borrow complimentary kayaks from the watersport center and paddle out to Gulhifushi. This amazing little island just 15 minutes from the resort offers refreshing island cocktails, burgers and grilled dishes, including a delicious, healthy whole-fish preparation. Have a few drinks, then make your way back to the resort for treatment at one of the two world-class spas.

Veli’s Sundari spa, nestled in a densely wooded area of the island, employs a holistic approach to wellness. Before your treatment, meet with the island’s ayurvedic doctor, Dr. Avinash, who will help tailor your treatments for maximum relaxation and health benefits and make recommendations from the resort’s activity and restaurant menus. And for a completely different experience, the top-notch Anantara spa, situated in over-water bungalows on Dhigu, offers more traditional Thai massage and facial options. And because the views off its awesome deck—along with the hot and cold plunge pools—make for such an amazing spa experience, be sure to schedule your treatments later in the day, when you can enjoy a peaceful sunset before settling into a 90-minute deep massage.

The pool at Anantara Veli Resort & Spa

The pool at Anatara Veli Resort & Spa

If the weather isn’t cooperating, make sure you schedule a cooking class. Under the tutelage of a resort chef, and using the finest and freshest ingredients, you’ll learn how to make a classic four-course Maldivian meal, which you’ll then enjoy with your choice of wine.

BY NIGHT As night falls on Veli, most guests enjoy a casual meal, a few after- dinner cocktails, and a little stargazing from their private decks as the perfect, relaxing way to end a full day in the sun.

WHAT TO EAT For breakfast, Veli’s 73 Degrees offers a gorgeous breakfast buffet; don’t miss the made-to-order crepes. For lunch, keep it light with a trip to the Dhoni Bar for a quick sandwich and a day- time cocktail (because: honeymoon).

Ocean terrace at 73 Degrees restaurant on Anatara Veli.

Ocean terrace at 73 Degrees restaurant on Anantara Veli.

There are many dining options, but to hit the standouts, make two special reservations. The open-air Baan Huraa serves exquisite Thai food in an exquisite location: on the walkway connecting Veli and Naladhu, surrounded by water on all sides. At the Living Room, located at the private resort Naladhu, the layout is open but cozy, and chefs whip up dishes that are inventive both in preparation and presentation. This will be the meal you remember.

WHERE TO STAY If you want a classic over-water honeymoon experience, stay in one of the 10 “Deluxe Over-Water Pool Bungalows” on Veli. Not only do you get direct ocean access; these rooms come with your very own butler, who, with just a press of a button on the provided cell phone, will make reservations for any dining or resort activity you want. But if you’re looking for a more secluded, private experience, and one in closer proximity to the island’s main activities, book one of Veli’s seven “Ocean Pool Bungalows.” These rooms lack direct ocean access (they’re nestled above a rocky section of the island’s otherwise pristine coastline) but have a more spacious floor plan, an ultra-luxurious bathroom with an outdoor shower, and the chance to fall asleep listening to a sound not often heard in other Maldivian resorts: waves lightly crashing onto the shore.

Ocean House at Naladhu Maldives

Ocean House at Naladhu Maldives

WHAT TO PACK Your passport (a free visa will be provided upon entry), a sun hat, sun- screen, bikinis, flip-flops, cover-ups, and sundresses for dinners (pants suggested for men). Tipping isn’t required, but you may want to carry some cash to acknowledge truly outstanding service during your stay.

NEWLYWED NEWS The Veli Romance packages include speedboat transfers to and from the airport, chocolate and champagne upon arrival, daily breakfast in bed in your over-water bungalow, a discount on spa treatments, a Dining by Design journey including wine, and late checkout.

GETTING THERE From the United States, you’ve got to lay over in Europe or Asia. (Popular stops are Sri Lanka, Unit- ed Arab Emirates, Qatar, Istanbul and China.) When you land at Malé, you’ll be greeted by an Anantara staff member and be escorted to your 30-minute speedboat ride to heaven.

This article originally appeared in the fall/winter 2015 issue of Philadelphia Wedding

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