the westin maldives

The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo: A crowd-pleasing island paradise

11 Jul 2024 | |By Zoe Gunn

Refined luxury without the stuffiness is the order of the day at this classic Maldivian resort

They say you can’t be all things to all people, but, if you’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Maldives, you’ll know the country’s resorts try very hard to do just that. In fact, it’s practically a necessity. While the main draw of the Maldives is it archipelagic geography, there’s only so many times you can stare out in awe at the turquoise sea or marvel at the powdery white sand beneath your feet before it becomes very apparent that you’ve spent a lot of money to confine yourself to a spit of land in the middle of the Indian Ocean with 200 strangers.

The onus, of course, falls on the resort to make sure your fortnight in paradise is, well, just that. And, with no discernible cultural landmarks to ship guests off to on day trips, the best hoteliers know to make use of what lies at hand. In the case of The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, this means its location at the heart of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Baa Atoll.

If you’ve booked a suite here you’re very likely aware of this fact (it’s the first thing the hotel tells you on its website) but, in case you missed the memo, there’s a welcome lounge designed to resemble a whale shark, a kids’ club in the shape of a grouper, and decor throughout in the form of abstract seashells to hammer the point home. In fact, when viewed from above, the entire resort forms the silhouette of a sea turtle. Anywhere else this could be twee – we’ve all visited a B&B at the British seaside that’s leaned a little too heavily into the driftwood-and-harbour-landscapes aesthetic – but at The Westin Maldives, where there’s nothing but ocean around for miles, it’s actually rather charming.

the westin maldives aerial

It helps, of course, that the resort has the wildlife to back up its bold design. While the on-site dive centre offers dolphin watching cruises, PADI courses, a plethora of watersports, and deep sea fishing expeditions, all it took was a snorkel from the beach beyond my villa to get up-close-and-personal with turtles, rays and a particularly territorial triggerfish. Visit at the right time of year and you’re just a quick boat ride from Hanifaru Bay, one of the Maldives’ most populous manta ray feeding grounds.

So, that’s the adventurous travellers taken care of. What about the fly-and-flop crowd? As with all hotels in the The Westin group, the resort’s non-aquatic offering is arranged around the core principles of ‘Sleep Well. Eat Well. Play Well.’ On paper, it’s a pretty solid foundation on which to build a properly relaxing holiday – but what does it look like in practice?

Let’s start with sleep. Each of the hotel’s 69 villas (29 of which are overwater) are designed in calming Japanese-inspired tones with plenty of natural light, organic materials and vast ceiling heights to imbue a sense of calm from the get-go. Taking its commitment to a good night’s rest seriously, you’ll find an ocean-facing king-size Westin Heavenly bed, designed specially for The Westin with ultimate comfort in mind, alongside a pillow menu to help you create your perfect set up. Blackout curtains come as standard, while a lavender pillow mist and white tea and aloe amenities can be found in the bathroom to help lull you into deep relaxation before bed.

the westin maldives overwater villa

Travelling with children? While the aforementioned kids’ club will more than happily take them off your hands during the day, when it comes to bedtime, a series of two bedroom villas and convertible family villas are available. Book an overwater family villa and you’ll even find a glass-bottom panel in the children’s area so they can gaze at the fish in the waters below as they drop off. Plus, every villa comes with its own private pool and decking or garden area so little ones liable to be up at the crack of dawn can have a pre-breakfast splash.

Which brings us neatly on to the ‘eat well’ promise of The Westin Maldives. Catering to an international crowd (largely American during my visit, with the Lunar New Year revellers from Asia having recently departed), the hotel’s three restaurants, two bars and 24-hour room service are more than up to the challenge.

Day-to-day dining is centred around the poolside Island Kitchen, where a vast breakfast serves up everything from made-to-order eggs and pastries to congee, stir-fried noodles and Maldivian curries. At lunch and dinner, meanwhile, an extensive globetrotting menu promises enough variety to keep foodies interested without alienating those whose tastes run a little plainer.

If it’s something more authentic you’re after, head to Hawker: The Westin Maldives’ toes-in-the-sand Asian-fusion street food restaurant. Drawing on the backgrounds of its culinary staff, who hail from across the Asian continent, the relaxed open-kitchen concept turns out unpretentious and utterly delicious small plates of pad thai, satay skewers, summer rolls, and coal-grilled chilli crab. Don’t miss its take on Halo-Halo, a traditional Filipino dessert of shaved ice, fruit, pinipig rice, flan and ice cream, which proved to be the ultimate respite on a scorching afternoon and one of the best things we ate during our stay.

If you’re celebrating a special occasion (honeymooners I’m looking at you), begin your evening at the Sunset Bar – no prizes for guessing the USP here – for romantic rooftop sundowners and the perfect place to spot the island’s native fruit bats feasting in the treetops, before heading to fine dining Japanese restaurant, The Pearl. Set in an overwater dining room, this is the hotel’s most refined foodie offering, with sushi and sashimi designed to take advantage of the local catch of the day and served alongside a selection of teppanyaki and tempura. For the full experience, opt for the full, five-course tasting menu with sake pairings and indulge safe in the knowledge that Westin Heavenly bed is waiting for you to roll back to afterwards.

It is in the hotel’s wish to help you ‘play well’, however, that its fabulous staff really come into their own. The team organises dozens of weekly activities that are entertaining without straying into Club Med territory. Perhaps you’d like to learn the secret to a perfect spicy fish soup in the kitchen garden, try your hand at Maldivian liyelaa jehun (lacquer work), or tour the island with the on-site marine biologist? They’ve got you covered.

the westin maldives beach villa

If your idea of ‘play’ invariably involves some kind of pitch, you won’t be disappointed either. The Westin Maldives has somehow squeezed a full-size tennis court, state-of-the-art fitness centre, and a yoga pavilion onto its 1.6km-long speck of land, and guests are invited to join daily running clubs and sports classes or book one-to-one lessons with The Westin’s personal trainer. It goes without saying that this should be followed by a treatment at the Heavenly Spa. Occupying its own dedicated glass-walled pontoon, I’ve visited many spas in my time but this is the only one where I’ve been able to stare down through the massage bed at reef sharks swimming lazily below. I’ll take that over an aromatherapy candle any day of the week.

Can you be all things to all people? If your idea of the perfect holiday involves mountain climbing or endless museums and art galleries, The Westin (and probably the Maldives in general) isn’t going to be for you. But if you’re after the kind of holiday most of us dream of, one that involves relaxation, rejuvenation and horizon-broadening experiences, then I may just have found the place for you.

Villas from $956 (around £745) per night,

Read more: How to find the perfect Maldivian island for you