In our honeymoon planning, the sheer number of things to do at Anantara Veli called to me and my now-husband right away. The resort creates an atmosphere where couples seeking alone time, families with small children and everyone in between can be happy. Since most of the accommodations found at Anantara Veli are overwater villas, for example, we had tons of options to choose from. That’s truly a good problem to have.
We were also intrigued by the layout of the resort: three resort islands plus two separate uninhabited islands that Anantara Veli guests can access. Finally, the proximity of the resort to the airport in Male (MLE) meant that transfers would be quick and easy. With the expert help of the staff, we were booked! A speedboat transfer was arranged for us, and we were off…
Following our arrival in Male, we were whisked to a speedboat waiting literally across the street from the terminal. The 35-to-45-minute boat ride gives resort guests an excellent view of Male, the capital of the Maldives, before setting course south through the royal blue waters of the open Indian Ocean.
Beware: The speedboat guys drive fast, making it an extremely sporty ride. It got so bad that I had to beg one of the guys to slow it down a bit. I wasn’t in the mood for that sporty of a ride (and the couple next to us looked like they were getting sick).
In the end, the boat ride was worth it because upon our arrival at Anantara we were greeted by members of the staff and traditional Maldivian drums. We felt incredibly welcome. It was by luck that we arrived just as the sun was setting, giving us a preview of the awesome tranquility and adventure we were about to experience.
Here are the highlights from our honeymoon stay at Anantara Veli:
1. Many overwater villa options
A romantic honeymoon wouldn’t be complete without staying in an overwater villa! For us, that meant staying in a couple different villas and experiencing their various advantages was essential. Anantara Veli has only seven villas located on land, as the island is pretty small. What this means, however, is that the resort’s other sixty villas are located overwater. Just feet above the turquoise lagoon.
Our first accommodation was simply spectacular (especially for sunset enthusiasts like myself). Located on the very west end of the wooden walkway, our Deluxe Over Water Pool Bungalow featured a king bed, a huge deck with steps to the lagoon, and our own private plunge pool! Facing west meant spectacular sunset views while we sipped champagne from our own pool in complete privacy. Steps to the water below made for easy snorkeling access (just ask my husband). The terrazzo bathtub, positioned in front of a large picture window, was the perfect spot to soak and take in the pretty blue water.
After our stay in the Deluxe Over Water Pool Bungalow, we thought, “How can anything compare to that?” Well, lucky for us, the next villa was just lovely, as well. Positioned with views of Moyo Island a mere 20 yards across the lagoon, our second overwater villa featured a king bed, an outdoor sunbed and a two-tiered deck, allowing easy access to the lagoon below our feet.
We also enjoyed the chaise lounges close to the water. From one of these, I could take in the lagoon while keeping an eye on my snorkeling husband.
2. A chain of islands to explore
Anantara Veli was designed with couples in mind, and as such it’s an adults-only island. However, that doesn’t mean families can’t enjoy this exotic paradise. On an adjacent island, just two minutes away by pontoon boat, sits Anantara Dhigu, its sister resort. Anantara Dhigu caters to families and has tons of stuff for youngsters to do and experience, either with their parents or with the resort’s professional babysitting service. Guests of either resort (Dhigu or Veli) can enjoy the restaurant options and beaches of the other as part of any stay.
For the ultimate in privacy, visitors can alternatively choose to stay at Naladhu Private Island. With 20 colonial style villas, Naladhu exudes luxurious seclusion while remaining connected to Veli and Dhigu. Naladhu guests enjoy exclusive access to their island—thus ensuring total privacy—in addition to access to the other two.
We loved having the resort islands to explore, but what made this place truly unique was its uninhabited islands! A mere 20 yards from our Deluxe Over Water Bungalow was Moyo Island, a tiny islet that was easy to walk to when the tide was low (from some villas, you didn’t even have to get wet!). Once on shore, we walked Moyo’s soft white sand and hunted for shells. A swing and just a couple lounge chairs occupy the island. Is there a better way to start the day than by lounging on your own uninhabited island? (The tide was low in the morning, which made for easy access from our villa! I even brought a coffee for one of our walks.)
Gulfushi—or the Snorkel Island—was a little further than 20 yards from the resort, and so Anantara runs a pontoon boat shuttle there from the jetty in Dhigu (eight minutes). Here, you’ll discover the Maldives you’ve seen in the photos. The crystal-clear water changes color from white to deep blue and back again, painting surreal visuals everywhere you look. Lounge chairs dot the powdery white beach and swings set in the lagoon make for amazing photo-ops for intrepid guests. The underwater scenery is equally amazing. The island is surrounded by a reef that descends into a deep channel. On this edge you’ll find colorful corals, reef fish and maybe even a passing manta ray.
3. Diverse cuisine, including Maldivian
We were lucky enough to arrive just in time for “Maldivian Night” at 73 Degrees, the main buffet restaurant. We discovered our new favorite fish and potato curries and learned a lot about what makes Maldivian food special. All this while being serenaded by authentic live Maldivian songs and drums. 73 Degrees also has a breakfast buffet spread that’s equally impressive. The only thing that could have made breakfast better was bottomless mimosas included in our breakfast! (We had a half-board meal plan that included breakfast and dinners without alcohol.)
A walk past Veli and down a long wooden walkway into the Indian Ocean leads to reef-top Baan Huraa Thai restaurant. Here we savored Thai curries and noodles while watching the waves break over the reef and dhoni boats drift lazily by. The poolside Dhoni Bar serves lunch and snacks throughout the day while whipping up delicious tropical cocktails. Be sure to unwind with one of its signature cocktails. You won’t regret it.
Taking the two-minute pontoon boat shuttle to Dhigu opens access to more dining options. While the Fushi Café whips up buffet breakfasts and dinners, much like 73 Degrees, the island also hosts Terrazzo and Sea.Fire.Salt. Occupying the second level of a shared oceanfront location, Terrazzo delights guests with homemade pastas and other Italian delicacies while providing enchanting views of the Indian Ocean. Down below, guests at Sea.Fire.Salt enjoy freshly caught Maldivian seafood or prime steaks grilled to perfection.
4. Dining by Design
Far and away our favorite way to dine at Anantara Veli was via the resort’s signature Dining by Design program. This completely customizable dining experience is a sure highlight for all honeymoons in the Maldives. It’s simple: You simply select what you’d like to eat and where. From there, dinner is curated to make your experience truly one-of-a-kind. We elected to have a seafood lunch in the lagoon, just off the beach!
It was an awesome way to have lunch. Our server Chau was attentive and courteous. He even took a bunch of photos while we dined! It was one of our favorite experiences in the Maldives. A honeymoon must!
5. Maldivian cooking classes
Of course, dining while seated in the lagoon isn’t the only way to spend an afternoon in Maldivian bliss. And it isn’t the only way to enjoy fresh Maldivian seafood, either. The resort’s Spice Spoons cooking classes are a great way to immerse yourself in the local food culture. Guests can select a lesson in Thai cooking, taught at the resort’s Baan Huraa Thai restaurant, or a lesson in Maldivian cooking taught at 73 Degrees. We selected the latter and were given expert instruction by Chef Shabaah of the resort’s staff. Together we created potato and crab cakes (Maldivian raih kakuni cakes), Maldivian tuna curry (kanneli mas riha) and vermicelli pudding (sevenaru kiru). We could think of no better way to experience local food than by making it ourselves!
6. A top-notch, jungle-viewed spa
Of course, not everyone yearns to be on their feet in a hot kitchen. For those who prefer relaxing in paradise, fear not: Balance Wellness by Anantara has got you covered. Located on Veli, this relaxing, thatched-roof oasis features men’s and women’s locker rooms, a sauna, a steam room, and multiple plunge pools. Massages and other treatments are handled in suites with jungle views. For our couple’s massage, our masseuses’ combined techniques from both Swedish and Thai disciplines that left us feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
7. Marine life
Beyond the serene atolls and abundant overwater bungalows, one thing the Maldives is known the world over for is its marine life. Indeed, with 1,000 islands, pristine water and plenty of reef, it’s no wonder the Maldives has earned a reputation as an epic dive spot. The on-site dive shop, Aquafanatics, can arrange everything from a group snorkel trip to private, full-day diving excursions. On our trip to a nearby reef we were able to see countless underwater creatures like squid, parrotfish and even a black-tip shark. No worries, though: It left us alone.
8. Coral adoption program
We were so enchanted by our honeymoon in the Maldives, and by the kindness of everyone we came across at the Anantara Veli, that we wanted to do something to give back. The Coral Adoption Programme, we decided, was the best way to commemorate our honeymoon at a place that meant so much to us. Fabio, the marine biologist from Aquafanatics, spoke with us about the effects of El Niño in 1998, notably how it raised the sea temperature 4°C and devastated local reefs. The Coral Adoption Programme began in 2010 to begin reconstruction of the damaged coral.
We met Fabio off the beach, where we set to attaching 20 staghorn coral fragments to a nylon rope. Once they were securely attached, we swam with mask and snorkel (taking in the amazing marine life just off our doorstep) to our overwater bungalow. Fabio attached the rope to the pilings on the villa, explaining how the location’s current and sun exposure made it a great spot for our coral to thrive. Fabio explained that after about a year, when the coral is roughly twelve inches across, it will be transplanted into deeper water to rebuild the reef.
Every morning after this, my husband threw on his mask and snorkel to check on our coral as I would watch from the deck of our villa. It was a wonderful way to end our trip at Anantara Veli! Of course, Aquafanatics will send you pictures and keep you abreast of the growth of your coral! In fact, we just heard from them—and our coral babies are almost three-months old! Here’s a photo of what they looked like when we first secured them under our villa:
Here’s the updated photo, from three months later. They’re growing!
Knowing that we were able to help build this reef was a beautiful way to start our marriage. It’s also nice thinking back to this special place knowing we both left a little part of ourselves there!
For part 2: Niyama Private Islands Maldives.
For more on Anantara Veli, visit anantara.com/en/veli-maldives.