Set just 40 minutes south of Male, the capital of the Maldives, is a dreamy Maldivian retreat like no other. Niyama Private Islands Maldives is a place for discerning honeymooners to be swept away by beauty, tranquility and unique, indulgent culinary experiences. At Niyama, you’ll find restaurants submerged underwater and in tree tops. The resort is sprawled across two islands—named Play and Chill—and each is filled with endless ways to relax and explore. Niyama also has one of the only surf schools in the Maldives because it’s situated right off of some great breaks.
The Play and Chill islands were what piqued my interest initially (in addition to the stunning beauty of Dhaalu Atoll, of which they are a part). How cool is it to have an island for when you want to chill and a separate one for when you want to let loose? Niyama has both, combined with fine luxuries, ample things to do (whether you want to relax or explore), and top-notch cuisine served in amazing settings.
Here are the highlights from our honeymoon stay at Niyama:
1. Flying in: Maldivian beauty from high up in the sky
As the Maldives comprises over 1,000 islands, driving from place to place clearly isn’t an option. And since many resorts in the Maldives rest on their own private islands, many make use of seaplanes as their primary mode of transportation. A 40-minute seaplane ride is just one option to get you to the resort—but the best option in my eyes!
Guests that choose the seaplane option (like Spencer and I did) arrive at the airport in Male (MLE), where they are then met by a representative from Niyama. The representative helps them check in and direct their luggage. From there, a five-minute van ride takes them to the seaplane base, where they wait in a luxurious lounge with food and drinks before being led to the dock to board the plane for the 40-minute flight.
If the weather is not agreeable or you don’t fancy a seaplane, the resort will arrange a domestic flight from Male to the airport on nearby island of Kudahuvadhoo. From there, it’s a quick speedboat ride to Niyama.
2. Overwater villas (and more) with stunning views
Whether you’re looking to gaze over the beach to the ocean or sit directly on it, Niyama has an accommodation for you. Each of its 134 beach and overwater villas are well-appointed and spacious. There’s nothing like waking up with your new husband or wife in an overwater villa with your own private plunge pool and starring into the crystal-clear blue waters all around you. By evening, it’s time to sip Taittinger on your own private deck while the sun sets. Luxury at its finest.
Even the bathroom has its own stunning water views! The walk (or golf cart ride) to your overwater villa, too, is amazing, as you can gaze down at the marine life just below your feet. We saw unicorn fish, parrotfish and black-tipped reef sharks all at different times during our stay.
Honeymooners can also opt for the beach pool villa, which to me is just as beautiful in its own way. Spencer and I stayed a few nights on the beach in the beach pool villa with a sunset view. We wanted to try out both accommodations because they both looked wonderful online. And we also wanted easier access to the beach, which is a benefit of the beach pool visit. It was perfect.
In the end, I think the overwater villa won, mainly due to the luxurious and sleek design of a villa sitting on stilts. Who doesn’t love sleeping over the water? Plus, the water access of the villa can’t be beat for snorkeling. Another plus: I liked being able to dip my feet in the water and sit under the shade of my villa.
3. Your very own butler on call 24/7
We just loved getting to know our Thakuru (butler) Juney—a Maldivian—over the course of our week at Niyama. She shared genuine insight into our best activity options as well as Maldivian culture, and she was never more than a phone call away. (I don’t know how she managed to always pick up the phone. She wasn’t on “island time” nor anything close to it. We appreciated her punctuality in taking us to our dinner reservations via golf cart—and the new friend we made in her.)
From unpacking our clothes to carting us between stops on the two islands, to making our dinner reservations to serving us cold beverages on the beach, Juney was everywhere. Her butler experience was one of the best I’ve encountered in any tropical island paradise.
4. Culinary wonders
While the scenic beauty of the Maldives and the Niyama property were expected, the dining experience blew us away. And not at just one restaurant. Every single culinary experience we had at Niyama was unique and, in one way or another, breathtaking. I can’t imagine there’s a better culinary experience anywhere else in the Maldives.
We started our days with a breakfast buffet spread at Epicure on Chill island with endless mimosas and iced lattes. There were fresh juices to greet us as we walked in (my favorites were the green juice and beet juice). We tried everything from made-to-order eggs, curries, carved meats, fish, and pickled veggies to pastries, fresh fruit, granola, yogurt, nuts, and (more) fresh juices. There was even a yummy crepe station. We also loved that the restaurant rotated in a different specialty food station every morning. A favorite was the “Sri Lankan hopper”: an egg in a crepe with chilies, onion and whatever else you wanted to add.
Spencer and I agreed that Epicure’s was one of our all-time favorite buffets. The presentation was perfect, and everything was kept the right temperature. I didn’t find a bad item there. In addition, the views were just spectacular overlooking the infinity pool into the ocean. We also looked forward to seeing some of the hostesses and servers every morning. Everyone was so friendly!
Our lunches comprised mostly light bites by the pool (tuna tartare, fresh local fish sandwiches, and fruity-but-balanced vodka cocktails called “From Russia with Love”). Between our extravagant breakfasts and dinners, we needed something lighter along with our beverages. But there was one lunch at Niyama that I will never forget: the lunch we took at the underwater restaurant, Subsix! Located just off the island, the six-meter-submerged restaurant did not disappoint.
It was a quick, five-minute boat ride to Subsix. From the moment we arrived, we couldn’t stop thinking about how special the experience was, especially for our honeymoon. We could hear the gentle lapping of the Indian Ocean as we walked down the steps into the restaurant. The doors opened at the bottom of the steps, where we were greeted with floor-to-ceiling glass windows painting a full half of the restaurant. It was like we were in a fish tank, and we were the fish!
Tip: If you want to eat at Subsix during your stay, make a reservation before you get to your resort as it’s difficult to get into.
We stared in awe at the fish swimming by before we remembered we needed to be seated. From our table, we had front-row seats to an entire afternoon of fish watching. Chef Aviraj Pareeague, who hails from Mauritius, loves his French-style cooking. I had the prix fix menu of delectable raw and fresh fish and my husband ordered a lamb chop with cauliflower puree and rosemary sauce. While the meat was great, the barramundi with calamari, bouillabaisse reduction and tamarind sauce was the winner of the meal. At night, Subsix turns into an underwater nightclub with “glow parties” and creative libations. We enjoyed one of our last nights there, too—perhaps the latest we stayed out all honeymoon!
Our culinary journey at Niyama continued into the evening, when we dined at a restaurant perched in the trees. Nest serves Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and Indonesian cuisine. We loved dining high up in the trees in candlelight. It was so romantic. And again, another unique restaurant!
Tribal was yet another totally unexpected dining experience. This sub-Saharan African restaurant serves some of the best wagyu beef we’ve ever tasted. We got to meet African chef Naomi, who was slicing beef in the open kitchen as we walked in for dinner. The region is known for its game (the crocodile and springbok, a type of antelope, were fantastic) but I had to try the oysters, too (I’d never had an oyster from Mombasa, Kenya before). Our waiter helped match my champagne as well as our dinner wine with our orders. All the servers we encountered were from Africa.
On Play island, at the other infinity pool, Blu serves up meals all day. We really loved their “Italian Night” dinner buffet. It included every possible type of pasta and pizzas imaginable—in addition to salads, fish, meat, and more. Our dinner at Blue was an expertly curated casual meal.
It’s hard for us to choose a favorite meal at Niyama because they were all so delicious and unique, but our dinner at overwater restaurant Edge was truly unforgettable. Edge is located on the platform in the ocean next to Subsix, the underwater restaurant. The view was stunning, even at night as we were able to stargaze and listen to the calming waves lap against the side of the platform. We began our very last night with some champagne at the Edge bar. The manager, Nizzy, made us and our honeymoon feel special. I imagine that this beautiful open-air bar would be a gorgeous setting for a meal during the day, too (and at sunset!), when it gives way to picturesque islands. At dinner here, we asked ourselves how our honeymoon could be any more perfect. Then came our meals! It did get better.
We were served four courses of lobster plus dessert. Yes, that’s right: fresh lobster four times, each a work of art on our plates. This was one of Chef Apviraj’s finest. We began with lobster carpaccio amuse-bouche. Then came a starter of rock lobster in a cauliflower and lobster cream sauce. The middle course was a coconut-poached slipper lobster with papaya, tomato and ginger. The main was a whole lobster tail with potato gnocchi and crustacean foam. For dessert, as if that wasn’t enough, we had a Manjari chocolate mousse with mandarin calamansi sorbet. It even had “Congratulations!” written in dark chocolate. Just lovely.
5. Two islands, two vibes
It’s not an understatement to say my new husband and I appreciate different things in a tropical vacation. I prefer the tranquility of swaying palm trees on a secluded beach with a cold beverage, nice views and cultural experiences. My husband, on the other hand, loves diving to see the underwater marine life. This dichotomy is exactly what led us to Niyama. With two islands, the resort has been curated to appeal to our two tastes. Both Chill and Play islands are green and lush in their interiors with perfect white sandy beaches on their fringes. They looked like they were pulled right out of a movie.
On Chill, you’ll find some of the resort’s prettiest secluded beaches, Drift Spa (where we enjoyed a wonderful couples massage in an overwater treatment room), an outdoor cinema, and the luxury overwater villas with a grand overwater highway to be traveled on by foot, bike or golf cart.
Connected to Chill by a short bridge and narrow channel is Play island. Here, guests seeking a more active experience can find the dive center, tennis courts, and one of the few resort surfing opportunities in the Maldives. You can get here by walking, taking a golf cart or using the resort bikes. It took us probably 10 minutes to bike there. Just offshore Play’s Surf Shack is a spectacular surf break that attracts surfing enthusiasts from all over the world. The Surf Shack bar is also quite lively anytime of the day. Even if you can’t surf, you can enjoy a cold beverage and watch the surfers do their thing.
Play in the water or rest in the sand: At Niyama, honeymooners will find the best of both worlds.
6. A private island for an afternoon
In my mind, there’s no better way to experience the beauty of the sparkling Maldivian sea than to get out on it! To experience this beauty up close, we chose to take a jet ski. Our local guide led us from the beach at Niyama across the deep blue open sea to a snowy white sand bar about 15 minutes away. From there, we were free to play, collect shells and take in the awesome beauty of the Maldives—all from the shore of our very own island. Now this was a unique honeymoon moment: our own private island for an afternoon.
7. Maldivian adventure
The Maldives is renowned for its spectacular underwater landscape. My husband, being the certified SCUBA diver that he is, decided to explore all the enchanting underwater scenery Niyama and the surrounding waters had to offer. The resort’s resident dive center, Float, caters to underwater adventurers of all skill levels. Whether you’re an experienced diver or a first-timer looking to explore the Maldives marine beauty, Float has you covered.
As it had been some time since his last dive, Spencer took a morning course in the SCUBA pool (complete with a window so loved ones can watch!) with Ping, his instructor. In the afternoon, the two of them set out for the reef. The opportunities to explore the marine playground surrounding Niyama are seemingly endless.
Meanwhile, I decided to lay out on the beach on Chill island overlooking my overwater villa. Then, before he returned from his dive, I caught a boat to a local island near Niyama (about a 15-minute ride) to learn more about Maldivian culture. My butler, Juney, organized a one-hour tour on which a local guide showed me around. I got to see the marina and walk around the island by foot with my guide. I shopped for local fruits and veggies, joined a family meal, saw a school, and just wandered the streets. My guide introduced me to friends and other co-workers from the resort when he saw them. I very much felt welcome and at home, even though I couldn’t really communicate with anyone but my guide. Oh, and I loved that he was barefoot the whole time, walking everywhere from the street to the market.
In addition to the adventure we experienced, the resort also offers custom fishing excursions, sunset cruises, dolphin cruises, parasailing, glass-bottomed boat rides, and sailings on traditional Maldivian dhonis. There was so much to do that we didn’t have time for it all.
Niyama sets itself apart from other Maldives resorts by hosting one of the few surfable breaks in the area. This exclusive surf break—just off Play—averages about one rideable wave a minute. Here, the exclusivity and lack of crowds will make surfers (novice through advanced) very happy. Simply carry your board to the water and paddle out. Upon request, the resort can even make sure your beach villa is close to the break so that catching the best wave on the island is even easier. Niyama also offers an in-house “surf guru,” Zac Zocher, who can arrange tailormade surfing excursions for you when the waves aren’t breaking at the resort.
For part 1: Anantara Veli.
For more on Niyama Private Islands Maldives, visit niyama.com.