Where we’re at: I’m recapping my trip to The Maldives in March 2022.
Move over, honeymoons — bestiemoons are the hottest new thing in travel! (Okay, I will disclose that I did, in fact, just make that up. And honeymoons are in fact, still pretty fire, evidenced by the fact that Traveling Spud just got back from hers!)
Still, there’s no need to relegate ‘moons to a post-marital splurge. Why not take one with your bestie, whenever you dang well please? Happy Galentine’s Day, ladies!
As many of you know, I have a longstanding tradition of taking myself on a little post-retreat retreat. And after running a milestone trip — our first liveaboard, our biggest retreat ever, our most luxurious retreat ever, our first retreat in this country, our first diver-non diver hybrid retreat, the list goes on! — it only felt appropriate to celebrate with the quintessential Maldives experience: an overwater bungalow.
Katie, never one to say no to an adventure, was up for it. So we set out to find the perfect fit. Did you know that almost every Maldives resort lives on its own little island, and there’s reportedly over a hundred and thirty of them? That means you have to really think about where you want to stay, because this is a case where the accommodation is pretty much the destination, in most cases!
So, to find ours, we looked at price as well as vibe — we wanted somewhere that felt fun for a girlfriend getaway and not overwhelmingly romantic. And while we were up for a splurge, we weren’t looking for a grand-a-night go-all-out. Location was also a factor. Originally, I wanted somewhere we could go by boat transfer from Malé rather than by seaplane, since they are so expensive and I’m not a huge fan of small flights. Though eventually of our three criteria, that was the one to give as I couldn’t find anywhere I was excited about within boating distance of the international airport.
And so we ended up at the new The Standard Maldives!
Unfortunately, this trip got off to a rough start. Due to some major incompetence and poor communication, we essentially missed our entire first day at the resort and were offered no compensation upon arrival to this beautiful paradise — which I’ll outline the drama of in my upcoming roundup post (y’all asked, I heard — they’re coming back!) But, it basically summed up the trip. Gorgeous setting, almost comically bad service.
Still, after a frustrating day, we finally landed on Huruvalhi Island via a fun seaplane ride, and felt our worries melt away as we toured our fun and funky overwater bungalow. You know I had to have that disco ball in the bathroom.
And then we were off to explore a bit of our home for the next five days! Like I said, more or less each resort in the Maldives takes up a full island. I don’t think I fully realized that before I started planning this trip: there’s no popping out to check out a local restaurant or wandering into town.
Welcome to your hotel: you live here now.
Luckily, we liked where we lived!
We’d opted for the breakfast only meal plan — more about that in the budget post — so we were free to dine as we wished at night. In addition to the main buffet restaurant where we had brekkie every morning, there were two speciality restaurants that alternated opening nights, as well as a juice cafe, two bars, and of course, room service.
That night, we opted to toast to our arrival at BBQ Shak, a barefoot beachfront spot with fresh seafood and meats grilled over coconut shell charcoal in an open kitchen. Tiny beach crabs scuttled across the sandy walkway as we followed the rattan torches out towards our table. We loved this dinner; the perfect place to celebrate the start of a great trip.
The next morning, we started the day filling up on a big breakfast at Kula, the buffet restaurant. The design of all the restaurants were beautiful and we loved that without the meal plan we had the flexibility to try each and every one during our stay.
Kula’s options were extensive and what a treat to start our day in front of the beautiful infinity pool, with the ocean beyond. You don’t realize how many conversations you can have about various shades and hues of blue until you visit the Maldives.
After breakfast, we went on a little walk to cover any areas of the resort we hadn’t gotten to before sunset the day before, and to try to confirm our schedule for the week, as it had been tough communicating with the concierge remotely. The island is small, so it was quick and easy to get oriented!
As the environment is so sensitive in the Maldives, as we learned in our time in Malé with Save The Beach, I was thrilled that our walk brought us by several stations separating out recyclable materials.
After a stop by the dive shop to discuss tours, we quickly opted to use our limited time in paradise to enjoy the spa and the resort’s onsite amenities rather than venture further afield. The Standard offers the usual array of water-based Maldives excursions, from snorkeling with turtles to dolphin sunset cruises to scuba diving the reefs to castaway island visit and a tour to an inhabited local island. As we’d covered all that and more in the previous nine days in the Maldives, we felt like we’d scratched those itches. We were tempted to try to spot the manta rays in the famed nearby Hanifaru Bay, but it was out of season and frankly, the dive shop could not have been worse at making any of their offerings seem appealing.
Honestly, it was a relief! One of my top Maldives tips? Don’t overbook yourself!
We had so much fun snorkeling off the deck, drinking in the pool, and watching the sunrise from the loungers (okay that was mainly just me — I was going through some sleep stuff.) After our week onboard the ScubaSpa packed with adventure, we were thrilled to just relax. I know that might not be the case for everyone, but when you pay a lot for a unique room experience, remember to leave time to enjoy it!
And while we were thrilled with our overwater bungalow choice, we both agreed the beach villas we spied on our morning walk around the island would be perfect for families who didn’t want to worry about kids making a run for the balcony.
It’s no surprise food is pricey at Maldives resorts so we tried to fill up as much as possible at brekkie and then have light lunches, and early dinners — nights end early in the Maldives too, so this cadence worked well for us! Thus, after a little snack at Joos Cafe, where you can pick up cakes, juices, smoothies, and some salads and sandwiches, we were more than ready for our afternoon of bliss.
One of the reasons we were excited about The Standard was the spa. It’s enormous, with a private adults-only pool, a hammam, and of course, tons of treatment rooms. We signed up for the scheduled weekly ladies hammam, and lucky for us, we were the only two there! We were quite surprised as it was reasonably priced and a blast — a perfect extension from our spa treatments aboard the ScubaSpa.
While we were there, we poked around a bit and I found the aerial yoga studio — another huge draw to The Standard for me — and the sound bath room. Kinda feels like they’re trying to tempt us into an overwater bungalow extension for the next Wander Women Maldives… no?!
Much to our surprise, we often had the spa to ourselves throughout our stay. We weren’t mad about it!
Remember what I said about food being expensive in the Maldives? This being a Muslim country where alcohol is fully banned outside licensed resorts, imported booze also comes at a crazy premium. So while I’m not normally a happy hour chaser — much to my bank account’s chagrin, I’m kinda an “order blind” kinda gal when it comes to what I want to eat or drink, ha! — we did consult the resort’s schedule closely and plan our evenings around the sunset-time specials at Todis Bar and Beru Bar.
After a day spent in bikinis, it was fun to get all dressed up and be excessively girlie. Katie and I both agreed this was an upside to doing this trip with a bestie over a boyfriend — we had so much fun getting creative and silly and being tropical supermodels together.
We headed out for happy hour at Beru Bar, which rather than the beach was another over-water structure at the end of the overwater bungalow boardwalk. We loved that this was another adults-only space, and I was obsessed with the factoid that it was home to the largest disco ball in the Maldives. At the time it felt like it needed renovation and didn’t have the same amazing style as the rest of the resort — The Standard had only quite recently taking over the property from another brand — but it looks like they’ve leveled up and are now doing some nicer food and sporadic sushie nights, too! The cocktails were very fun here, and it did feel separate from the rest of the resort.
The next day we were fully adapted to island life. After our now ritual breakfast indulgence, we took our morning stroll around the island. We had seen something on the retreat calendar about a coconut demonstration that involved sipping from a freshly machete-ed coco, and stopped at reception to ask where it was when our messages from the online concierge hadn’t been returned. “Cancelled,” they’d replied after blank stare. We shrugged and carried on our lazy meander… where we promptly caught the tail end of the coconut demonstration, which was clearly not cancelled. And that was kinda The Standard, at The Standard, ha.
But, we couldn’t stay mad when we were surrounded by such a beautiful tropical playground. Having spent much of the previous day out and about, we headed back to our villa for a snorkel right off the deck. Our little snorkel adventure did make us think up one clever idea… underwater villa numbers on the steps leading back to the villas! We got a little turned around and had to do a little investigation to make sure we climbed back up to our own deck and didn’t inadvertently lead to a staring role in someone else’s weird vacation break-in story.
After a lazy afternoon, we had a busy night planned. That evening, we had gone wild booking ourselves in for experiences on the retreat activity schedule — which we hoped would go a bit more smoothly than our morning’s attempt.
It turns out, we were heading into a highlight of the week. At a free — but reservations required — event called “Wine Appreciation” we pretty much saw more other guests than we did at any point in our stay outside of breakfast. And we quickly discovered why. The island’s in-house sommelier led a fun, informative tasting with healthy pours of five wines each. It was fun to get to chat to some other guests, and hear a little bit about life on the tiny speck of sand.
He was still pouring and topping everyone up as they wished when we realized we had to go — we were late for our sound bath! Transportation around the resort was either by chauffeured golf carts (which we barely used as the wait was unpredictable and mostly too long), on foot, or by whatever unlocked bike you could find.
As we giggled ourselves silly trying to pedal straight down the rickety boardwalks, I realized it was going to be a very interesting sound bath. We once again were the only two partaking in the spa’s public offerings, and settled in for what is normally a peaceful experience I treasure.
When we popped up again an hour later, we both agreed — excessive wine consumption immediately followed by a meditative practice weirdly don’t mix. Giggling once again, we headed back to our bungalow for room service by moonlight.
The next morning, we settled on kayaking as our aquatic activity of the day. I’d attempted to sign up for aqua yoga at the spa but — not surprisingly at this point, it had been cancelled due to lack of interest.
No matter! The kayaks were free, and we we decided to paddle the full way around the island. It was the perfect way to get a whole new angle of turquoise hues to ooh and ahh over.
After another afternoon of napping, lazily working and making a tough call between luxuriating by the public pool or our private pool, we were once again reinvigorated for the Maldivian version of a big night out. In this case, movie night at Todis Bar, where we ordered bar snacks and cocktails and settled into big butterfly chairs for a cinema under the stars.
I loved it!
Our days blended blissfully together and developed a familiar routine, and we weren’t about to break it for our last full day as island queens. We headed back to the watersports center for stand up paddleboards, this time setting our sights on the bungalows — so we could spy into some of the bigger suites, of course — and a man-made off-shore island used for romantic dinners and such by the resort.
Craving a bigger workout after, I headed for the first time to the resort gym, which was surprisingly well-stocked, and 100% empty.
We hadn’t been big drinkers — just our sunset cocktail here or there — as Maldives resorts don’t seem to really have that vibe. If you’re used to all-inclusive resorts in Mexico where you perch at the swim-up bar and make a million friends there during the day… that just ain’t what this particular destination is all about.
Still, I told Katie how much I loved the memories of opening a bottle of wine on our private balcony in French Polynesia and though she was decidedly neutral on the idea, I was psyched enough for both of us and called room service to request a bottle of white, a fruit plate, and an off-menu cheese board.
To my shock, they agreed — and nailed it!
Unsurprisingly (to me, anyway!) it ended up being one of our favorite afternoons of the trip. Light pours and deep talks and soaking in this incredible experience we felt so blessed to be having, in this true oceanic paradise.
We loved it here. They had really fun cocktails not found elsewhere on the resort, and while the menu was naturally very seafood heavy I still found plenty to eat. There’s a tasting menu if you’re adventurous and just want to try it all, or you can order a la carte and take your waiter’s advice like we did.
Like BBQ Shack from our first night, Guduguda is only open certain nights of the week. I’m so glad it aligned with our final evening, as I can’t imagine a more perfect send-off!
And then it was back to our bungalow for a real Maldivian nightlife experience… face masks, robes, and brief but hilarious attempt to watch Netflix from our disco ball bathtub before admitting it was terribly uncomfortable and retreating back to bed.
Due to a pesky bought of insomnia I was experiencing at the time, I did have the pleasure of watching the sun rise on every single morning of our trip. I’d wake in the darkness, tip toe out of bed as not to wake Katie, grab a pillow and my laptop, and set up for a few hours of work in the world’s dreamiest office.
We actually had a pretty full final day ahead, before our afternoon seaplane departure — we got massages, finally splurged on the ridiculously overpriced lunch buffet at Kula, and I squeezed in an aerial yoga class in that gorgeous seafront studio; running from the hammock to the dock to catch the flight still in my leggings set.
On the ride back over the beautiful islands of the Maldives, Katie and I discussed our thoughts on the stay. A five day stay was also perfect, we agreed. More and I’d get antsy, I think, though I’m sure we could have suffered through another night or two — sarcasm alert — if we’d signed up for more of the activities like mixology events and cooking classes, etc. and maybe some of the tours. Still, if I were doing a longer land-based Maldives trip, I’d switch up resorts to keep it fresh!
No question, we’d picked the perfect place for a bestie-moon. It was fun and funky and not too romantic. The only thing we didn’t love was that shockingly for the brand, it wasn’t adults only, but kids were few and far between and mostly stuck to the kid’s club.
We also adored the wellness program and lush spa, and the activities like movie night under the stars and free wine tasting. We didn’t love the truly underwhelming service. From the big issues like our flight and no one knowing what was going on to the small ones like calling and asking for a pair of scissors and being told we had to come to reception to get them (really? at a five star hotel?) or being called at 9PM the night before check-out when we were sleeping to ask when we were returning our fins to the dive shop (really? at a five star hotel? what if we wanted to snorkel the next morning!)… it was just weird. But we laughed it off and reminded ourselves that compared to many Maldives resorts, we were in fact getting a deal.
I actually had been feeling so overbooked when we were first confirming plans for this retreat, I almost tried to get out of this trip with Katie. Thankfully, she did not let me wriggle out of it and I am so incredibly grateful! I cherish these memories with one of my best friends, on an island paradise, reseting after an invigorating week of making a huge career dream come true.
Thank you, universe. And shukuriyyaa, Maldives!
Have you stayed in an overwater bungalow before? Add your tips! And if not, ask any questions!
Bloody good read
Thanks Jo <3
Wonderful write up of your amazing trip to this far off land. Just curious how much effort it takes to get there from the U.S. How many connections besides the small plane to make it to the island?
Usually just one connection (depending if you’re coming from a major city, of course) through Dubai, Qatar or another Middle Eastern hub down to Male, then onto a seaplane. So long but comfortable flights!
Such a great story and beautiful photos.
Thanks Dee! A memory we will cherish!
Having drinks and taking a dip in that swimming pool with a fantastic watery view must’ve been an amazing experience. Also, that red sunset..just wow