jw marriott maldives

JW Marriott Maldives: A remote paradise delivering world-class hospitality

16 Apr 2024 | Updated on: 17 Apr 2024 |By Zoe Gunn

Yes, the Maldives is far away – so make sure you book a hotel that’s worth the trip

It isn’t hyperbole to say that the Maldives is paradise. For a hotelier, however, it also presents something of a nightmare. This may seem like a strange statement; the Maldives is, after all, one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, welcoming nearly two million visitors per year to its 172 resorts. You need only look at a picture of its pristine white beaches, crystal clear seas and stunning desert island-style atolls to know that a good time is guaranteed. The place sells itself.

And herein lies the problem. Aside from the logistical issues of running a five-star resort where guests expect all the amenities and home comforts of a European grand dame on a speck of land in the middle of the Indian Ocean, there’s also the competition. It is estimated that there are more than 1,000 accommodation options, including hotels, guesthouses and yachts, in the Maldives. So, when gorgeous beaches, incredible sea life and overwater villas are a given, how to make yourself stand out from the crowd? You’ve got to get yourself a USP.

j w marriott maldives

From the minute we step off the seaplane, it’s clear this is something the hospitality whizzes behind the JW Marriott Maldives have thought long and hard about. This is my third stay in the Maldives but the first time I’ve been greeted at the jetty by staff dressed in traditional Maldivian garb dancing and clapping to live drums. They take time out of their usual duties to gather for this performance every time a new guest arrives – which can be up to four times a day. I don’t think I need to tell you that the service here is exceptional.

What really lets me know there’s something special about this place, however, are the guests. We arrive on a Wednesday afternoon in peak season and I expect to find it brimming with long weekenders from the Middle East (the Dubai to Male flight time is a blissful 4.5 hours) and, while I’m later told the JW Marriott Maldives does welcome many such visitors, I’m surprised when the first two couples I meet are from LA (average flight time: 23.5 hours) and Hawaii (37 hours). Astonishingly, both couples are at the hotel for just three nights before returning to the States.

What on earth could convince someone to travel such a long way for such a short space of time? Allow me to introduce you to USP number one: Yohann Caron.

The right-hand man to Cedric Grolet – the world-class Parisian pastry powerhouse whose name you’ll likely recognise from his eponymous outpost at The Berkeley (or his 10.2 million Instagram followers) – Caron is on the island as part of Marriott’s Bonvoy Moments programme. This unique offering allows Marriott customers to redeem points earned through its loyalty scheme on once-in-a-lifetime experiences at its hotels and partner locations across the world. Current options include tickets to watch Billy Joel from the Marriott Bonvoy Luxury Suite at Madison Square Gardens (75k points), a scuba diving session with Jean-Michel Cousteau at The Ritz Carlton Maldives (787k points), and an overnight stay on the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team yacht at the Monaco Grand Prix (3.05 million points).

For patisserie enthusiasts, the opportunity to take a private masterclass with Caron is akin to being given a singing lesson by Beyoncé – or, in other words, worth flying halfway around the world for. We’re invited to join the group and, as well as learning the secrets to a perfect tarte au citron and how to ice exquisite flowers, are given time to grill Caron over a six-course surf and turf tasting menu and try a trio of his delectable desserts as the finale to a spectacular beach dinner. A Paul Hollywood handshake could hardly compete.

j w marriott maldives kids club

Of course, most travellers don’t need anything quite so extravagant to lure them to the Maldives and there is plenty to recommend the JW Marriott to everyday guests. Take, for example, USP number two: the kids’ club.

If you’ve always thought of the Maldives as a place for honeymooners and retired couples spending their children’s inheritance, the JW Marriott would like to change that. As well as an array of two-bedroom villas perfect for families, the resort’s Little Griffins kids’ club is one of the largest in the Maldives and, open from 8am to 9pm, operates the longest hours to boot. A resort-within-a-resort for tiny travellers, it boasts its own pool, enormous pirate ship climbing frame, craft facilities, dining room and a programme of more than 100 activities every week. All of which leaves parents free to enjoy USPs three, four and five: the spa, the space and the speciality restaurants.

If you’ve been to one of London’s opulent but (usually) subterranean spas and think you know what all the fuss is about, the Spa at JW is here to dispel you of that notion. The jewel in the crown is its vast couple’s treatment room which, far from merely squeezing an extra bed in, offers loved-up holidaymakers a private sanctuary replete with a plunge pool, sauna, experience shower and steam room. The treatment list is equally indulgent, with each facial, massage or exfoliation personalised to target your unique needs, be that jet lag relief or easing aching muscles, and administered to a backdrop of sweeping ocean views.

j w marriott maldives spa

USP number four: The JW Marriott Maldives is home to 60 serene beach and overwater villas and, on my visit, was operating at near full capacity – not that you would ever know it. Every villa boasts a private pool big enough to actually swim in which meant that, on a glorious, cloud-free afternoon, my husband and I found ourselves the only ones on a magnificent stretch of powdery beach. Just offshore a couple bobbed around on paddleboards borrowed from the on-site dive centre before jumping in for a one-on-one encounter with the turtles, nursing sharks and eagle rays that populate the house reef.

Stay on the beach until sunset, or better yet, grab a sundowner from the al fresco Horizon bar, and it won’t take long for the conspicuous absence of light to become obvious. Even somewhere as remote as a Maldivian atoll you can still usually spot lights from neighbouring resorts on the horizon but here there’s no such thing as light pollution. A stargazer’s paradise, there is perhaps nowhere better to marvel at the enormity of the universe.

j w marriott maldives aailaa restaurant

If that sounds a little overwhelming, avoid an existential crisis by heading to dinner. The JW Marriott Maldives is home to five restaurants and four bars so, even if you’re staying for a fortnight, you’re unlikely to get bored. The excellent treehouse Thai restaurant, Kaashi, and poolside Italian, Fiamma, are open for lunch only, while all-day dining destination Aailaa serves international delicacies ranging from ceviche and dim sum to yellowfin tuna curry and, for a taste of home, fish and chips.

Come evening, dinner and a show can be enjoyed at Japanese teppanyaki restaurant Hashi, which shares a space with classic grill Shio, meaning dishes from the menu can be mixed and matched for the ultimate steak and sushi feast. Think Sumosan Twiga but with more sea breeze and less Premier League footballers.

Why would you travel halfway around the world to stay at the J W Marriott Maldives? I can think of a handful of reasons…

Villas at JW Marriott Maldives start from $588 (approx. £470) per night in low season, visit marriott.com.

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