The Maldives Edition – Barefoot Luxury at Finolhu Resort, A Full Review
In this special Maldives Edition, The Sybarite whisks you away to paradise whilst offering you an insightful look into what you can expect during your stay at these hand-picked resorts in the various atoll’s of the Maldives. Depending on your travel preferences, these resorts that we’ve hand-picked offer you the best there is in comfort, hospitality and luxury appeal whilst being absolutely stringent on health and safety measures during these strange times.
If there’s one way to sum up Finolhu it has to be that it is the epitome of a truly family-friendly luxury resort where parents can finally take a breather and children can roam free all the while taking in the extraordinary blue waters that the Baa Atoll has to offer. For honeymooners, the absolute ideal destination to get lost in and fall in love with. With so many resorts to choose from, Finolhu has to be at the top of your list whether coming as a newlywed, couple or as a family. This is a resort that welcomes anyone wanting and needing that freedom to relax and enjoy as they please whilst being taken care of with such friendliness and sheer hospitality, it almost feels natural. A 100% care-free and worry-free holiday resort bundle exceeding one’s expectations, tied up with a big red bow is how we like to think of Finolhu, which in Dhivehi means sandbank.
To take you readers on our journey during the Finolhu experience we’d like to break down our time spent at the resort so that it hopefully gives you an informed decision should the Maldives be a place you are thinking of visiting, especially if it is your first time.
To give you a brief introduction, Finolhu is a relatively new resort that opened only a few years ago in June 2016 and actually consists of four islands located in the UNESCO-protected Baa Atoll offering a total of 125 beach and over-water villas, four beach side restaurants, a wonderful spa and salon as well as the first resort to have its own Beach Bubble. Despite it being new, the resort is fully-equipped with state of the art facilities (think indoor golf studio, tennis court, indoor and outdoor gym, yoga pavilion and of course plenty of non-motorized and motorized activities and excursions) , and the momentum strong in terms of the abundant activities one can do. The service is exceptional as is the gastronomic varieties. The highlight however has to be where Finolhu is located – in short, you’re in absolute paradise.
Here’s what to expect. When you finally land and go through security-check at Velana International Airport, you will find yourself making your way out of the baggage claim area to find a throng of hotel representatives holding hotel signs (at present, there are over 200 resorts in the Maldives) and it won’t be long before you spot a friendly face holding the Finolhu signboard. Once being greeted by, he/she will directly escort you to the TMA desk (the Trans Maldivian Airways which is the seaplane transfer you’ll need to take to get to Finolhu and the most common mode of transport to get to other resorts in the Maldives) where you can drop off your luggage’s before being taken to Finolhu’s shuttle, which in this instance was a Mercedes van. This was already the beginning of great hospitality because after a lengthy flight, the last thing one wants to do is wait around in the hot humidity waiting for their suitcases and seaplane tickets to get sorted. Instead, you’re escorted to the van and told to wait inside whilst Finolhu’s representative sorts out the seaplane transfers for you. Within five minutes, you’re given the tickets and taken away to the Finolhu seaplane lounge (about seven minutes drive from Male Airport) which is a designated area for guests to wait and relax until their seaplane is ready. Most of the resorts have their own lounge and Finolhu is located in what appeared to be an office building. Before you think, an office building? A step inside the lounge and you’re greeted by the hotel staff who welcome you with fresh towels and lovely smiles in an air-conditioned spacious wood-floored lounge with windows that overlook the seaplane landing and takeoff as well as comfortable sofas to either sit or take a nap in given you could be waiting up to an hour. There’s even a shower with amenities for those looking to freshen up after a long-haul flight. Light food and refreshments are offered as you could be waiting a while for your seaplane given these are scheduled flights that only operate during the day between 6AM to 3:30PM. A few things to note about the seaplane is that the baggage allowance is free for those carrying up to 25kg and extra baggage charge is $5 and up totaling 35kg. There is also no air-conditioning, so be prepared to sweat but otherwise enjoy the thrill of it.
Once we were called to prepare for our transfer, we were again taken away with the Mercedes van and driven a short distance to the seaplane terminal. It took about 30 minutes to get from Male to Finolhu with absolutely stunning island views from high above – something you don’t want to miss.
We finally made it and were instantly blown away by crystal clear waters below us. We were greeted by such joyous staff who not only welcomed us with open arms but also provided fresh towels and bottled iced tea before whisking us away on the resort carts to give us the grand tour. One thing to note is that all staff were wearing protective gear, and temperature checks were also in place to ensure each guests safety (one aspect which we’d really like to commend Finolhu on is their rapid antigen testing which was done while we were seated inside the cart. Again, most resorts will have their own on-site clinic given each island is independent of its own). In terms of what this was like, a nurse came out, taking swabs from our mouths before continuing on the resort tour and finally being shown to our villa.
Upon first impression of our villa was this incredible sense of feeling as the first thing noticed was how direct the villa overlooked the crystal blue waters – one is so enthralled by such natural beauty that you only appreciate the room that much more. We took up the Lagoon Villa which in itself was absolutely spacious and appeared to be very new in terms of upkeep. Beautiful accents of decor from different parts of the world dominated the room, for example weaved baskets and woven lampshades from parts of South Africa. It was almost as if the rooms captured the essence of the Baa Atoll – accents of blue and turquoise tones, wooden ceilings and white-washed ceiling fans perfectly complimenting the overall Maldivian vibe. The room managed to encapsulate the mood at Finolhu which is beauty and simplicity with that added touch of modern luxury to bring you the deepest comfort that you can revel in. If we had to give a few good reasons as to why these villas are perfectly fitting for a week’s stay or more it has to be down to the size, comfort, privacy and modern luxury, particularly perfect for families.
Within our Lagoon Villa we had a generously sized bathroom which consisted of a bath overlooking the ocean views, double sinks as well as two separate showers (one for indoor use and one for outdoor use) and a separate toilet. The bathroom is connected by a sliding door to the main bedroom where you have a plush king sized bed laid with larger than normal sized pillows and again direct panoramic views towards the ocean. Behind the bed sits a fully stocked minibar with an Illy Francis Francis coffee machine, complimentary Dilmah teas, a fresh bowl of exotic fruits such as mangoes and mangostenes and bottled glass water (sparkling and non sparkling and yes they’re an advocate for no plastics when it comes to their glass bottled waters) that gets replenished daily. Outside is where the magic happens as you open up the glass sliding doors out onto your own private deck with sun loungers beckoning you to relax. The best part? Direct access to the water so that whenever you feel like it, you can go for a dip to explore the shallow waters – you might spot some fish and on rare occasions manta rays.
At Finolhu there are a total of 125 villas with about 76 containing their own pools – depending on your preferences you can opt for villas on stilts which sit above the water giving you direct access to the lagoon. Otherwise, beach villas are also available for those who prefer direct access to the beach which in itself is like having your own tiny private island with uninterrupted views. Each room design is similar but each either comes with or without a pool. If this is your first time and you’re coming here with family, we highly recommend the 2-bedroom villas and if you’re coming as a couple, certainly the ocean pool villa. For those looking for the ultimate VIP experience, Finolhu offers the 2-bedroom Rockstar Villa (this is also where Cara Deleveigne and Leonardo Dicaprio stayed) which is located at the end of the jetty and is absolutely spacious and private. Containing a wonderful wine bar (if there is a certain type of alcohol preferred feel free to ask), two large master ensuite bedrooms, a separate kitchen as well as an 8-meter long pool. More than the size, it’s truly the thought that counts – a villa adequate for spending valuable downtime with family, friends and loved ones in a magical setting with again, the ocean at your fingertips. The rooms of course are impeccable in terms of cleanliness and the decor befitting the Finolhu spirit. You really have to come here to experience it.
In terms of experiences, Finolhu has plenty to offer for anyone coming here. Diving is perhaps one of the most popular and recommended things you can do, with its own Dive Butler team, many of whom are locals and so know the Baa Atoll very well. We tried the snorkeling experience where you’re accompanied by one of the Dive Butlers who will take you to the most suitable place on the island to spot fishes of all sorts and if you’re lucky, baby sharks or even manta rays which we were fortunate enough to spot. This is truly something you don’t want to miss as the Baa Atoll has been declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. We also tried out the Penguin which is something great to do with children — it is a compact semi-submarine boat containing a cabin that is equipped with large windows so that one can observe the stunning marine life below deck. This is also a great option for those afraid of getting into the water but want to discover what it looks like underwater. The only caution we’d like to provide is that the Penguin makes for a rather rocky ride and isn’t too ideal for those susceptible to motion sickness. Otherwise it really is an experience not to be missed. Two bucket-list worthy experiences we’d recommend has to be Finolhu’s Jet-Ski Excursion with Guide which will have you going on jet skis to find pods of Spinner and Bottlenose dolphins. These friendly animals, should you encounter them will come quite close and possibly play with you! On this occasion we didn’t get to try this out but according to Finolhu’s General Manager, Marc Reader, described it as a truly humbling experience from past guests that have done this activity. The other bucket-list worthy experience at Finolhu is their beach bubble tent located on the resort’s sandbank away from the villas for the ultimate privacy. This experience is an add-on to your stay, and is something experienced overnight to be able to witness the galaxy above. Included in this experience is a private beach barbecue as well as breakfast on the beach.
There’s also plenty to do for children at Finolhu which has its own Kids Club appropriately named the ‘Oceaneers Club’. We were thrilled to have been given an itinerary that included various children’s activities throughout our 4-night stay, each day something different and each day something creative. Some of the activities which you can expect include things like coconut painting, kite-making, and pirate themed adventures. What more could you ask for to keep your children entertained? The other highlights about the Oceaneers Club were certainly in its facilities, decked out with two playgrounds and a children’s swimming pool, a nap room, an arts and crafts area as well as a separate air-conditioned playroom. Again it’s the thought that counts – Finolhu took great care in creating a welcoming area for children as well as for parents who want to be able to drop their little one’s off at a safe and fun-filled place. Staff were absolutely heart-warming upon our first meeting which generated an immediate trust. The joyous and reliable spirit that embodies Finolhu can be felt throughout each individual working there ultimately making what you’re paying for, truly of value.
Each night we tried out Finolhu’s different restaurants each offering a different culinary adventure. Perhaps our most favorite was the Crab Shack – a must when you’re here. We also loved Kanusan, their Japanese restaurant as well as the Arabian Grill, offering grilled seafood and meats. The fact that you can have a different variety of cuisines means you’re spoilt for choice. At Crab Shack make sure to order the lobster sandwich with a side of truffle fries. When at Kanusan, definitely try out their lobster and at the Arabian Grill their soft shell crab rolls were a hit, tantalizing our taste buds. Our most favorite non-alcoholic drink had to be the Pandan Sling – absolutely refreshing and something we wish we could order back home. There’s also Finolhu’s version of a cafe called the Milk Lab which is adjacent to the gym and great for a quick pick-me-up. The cafe offers frozen yoghurt, coffees and frappes as well as light eats such as sandwiches and cakes. There’s also a mini retail area showcasing unique crafts for sale. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are also served buffet style at Finolhu’s main restaurant, its Beach Club, with each night offering a different culinary theme, never making one bored of options.
Ultimately what you want to do here is relax, eat and repeat. Finolhu – as Marc Reader, its General Manager likes to put it – its barefoot luxury. Indeed it is and really is one of those places you want to return to if only for its ability to give you that freedom that you desire, that lust for the crystal clear waters, the high expectation of thoughtfully designed rooms and the sheer want of the most value of your time and money spent. Finolhu considers every guest’s expectations going above and beyond to deliver luxury in the form of freedom, absolute friendliness and attentiveness. Despite it being a luxury resort, one doesn’t feel confined and is perhaps the reason why it is so popular amongst families. It isn’t your typical 5-star resort where certain areas seem to be mediocre than others. At Finolhu every aspect is thought-through, it is an inclusive feeling that is so genuine you really feel like you are part of the resort, a familiar feeling of belonging. The Sybarite cannot recommend Finolhu highly enough when coming to the Maldives. It is time and money spent well.