Welcome to Checking In, a new review series in which our editors and contributors rate the best new (and revamped) luxury hotels based on a rigorous—and occasionally tongue-in-cheek—10-point system: Each question answered “yes” gets one point. Will room service bring you caviar? Does your suite have its own butler? Does the bathroom have a bidet? Find out below.
Describe the hotel in 3 words: Remote. Restful. Refined.
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What’s the deal?
The Maldives are a schlep, and nobody can deny that. This one takes even more effort. To get here you’ll need to transfer to a domestic flight that adds hours to your already egregious travel time, followed up by a 45-minute speed boat chaser. It’s no surprise that the staff at this 51-villa resort is used to guests exhibiting bleary eyes and a slack-jawed, dumbfounded droopiness upon arrival.
There are many dozen excessively nice resorts just outside the Malé airport, so why bother heading here? It’s simple—literally. The island’s pure, natural simplicity is without compare. Most of the Maldives’ islands are manufactured paradises; fantasies that never existed. They brought in that sand and they planted that palm. Not here. The Park Hyatt occupies an island where the trees pre-existed the resort; where the sand shifts with the tides as they always have. It’s authentic. More and more, that counts for something. It’s something their roster of repeat guests get. They’ve kept the resort afloat since it first opened in 2011—that’s like a century in Maldives years.
The Best Room
The Park Hyatt’s Overwater Reef Residence, opened May 2022, is one of the greatest overwater villas available on the Maldives market. Call it the house at the end of the pier, it dwarfs its neighbors at nearly 10,000 square feet and unfolds like the most lovely piece of modernism in Montauk. If you measure your homes like boats, this is a 52-footer, with an infinity pool that hugs the entire length of the back terrace. It sleeps six with three massive, en suite bedrooms.
Because it is the house at the end of the pier, it floats over the reef. Watch the little reef sharks twirl from the net hammocking on the wrap-around terrace. On both sides, steps descend into the transparent water for private snorkeling. Inside a number of glass peep holes allow you to spy on fish. There’s a huge private gym and even an outdoor hot tub, seemingly just because. It’s that kind of place.
Rates from $9,500.
Does the resort have a standout perk?
The ocean. The perk of arriving on this green spec in the middle of the Indian Ocean is that the reefs and sea life are remarkably rich, even by Maldives standards. Pray you get good weather and you’ll see huge numbers of tropical fish, turtles, and sharks (both the gentle reef variety that circle the dock, and massive schools of tigers a boat excursion out). No wonder it caters to experienced Maldives travelers, and particularly divers. The dive center is excellent here.
Did they greet you by name at check-in?
Again and again. I was greeted at the airport, at the airport lounge, at the boat, and most spectacularly upon my arrival at the resort, where the whole staff was there to welcome me. But it doesn’t stop there. The staff here is observant and especially deft at making you feel special all day, every day.
Welcome drink ready and waiting when you arrived? (Bonus point if it wasn’t just fruit juice.)
But of course. A virgin fruit cocktail was in my hand the second I stepped ashore. Thereafter, I was whisked to my room where Champagne awaited on ice. Check-ins (and check-outs) are simple and happen in the privacy of your villa.
Private butler for every room?
Yes, and they are just a text message away, all-day everyday for room service, laundry, itinerary adjustments, and the sundry ministrations your ripest and most hasty dreams require. Channel the poet Coledrige. This is Xanadu.
Is the sheet thread count higher than 300?
Bedding is important in a place guaranteed to induce jet lag. That’s why the linens are Park Hyatt branded but created by the British commercial bed and bath company Liddell. The bedding is nice, fluffy. The rooms (both over-water and nestled into the sandy shore) are generous, with a style that weaves colonial with contemporary.
Is there a heated floor in the bathroom? What about a bidet?
The bathroom floors are indeed heated, but we aren’t sure that man is the responsible party. No bidet. Still, the bathrooms here are probably the average villa’s showpiece. The bathroom-area (as it should probably be called) extends into a sort of indoor-outdoor zen garden nearly the size of the room itself. Not only is there the de rigueur outdoor shower, but an outdoor bath to boot, laid within a spacious walled oasis. Fill it with cool water on a hot day and finish the Times crossword. We suppose it has more romantic functions as well.
Are the toiletries full sized?
Yes. This (mostly) plastic free isle is all about eco-luxury and your full-size soaps, shampoos, and apres-shampooing are scented by Le Labo.
Is there a private pool for the room’s exclusive use?
No matter where you stay, there’s a plunge pool just outside your door. They are however a tad on the shallow side. Still, on a hot day you’ll want to be in and out, over and over.
For even more healing head to the resort’s Vidhun Spa. It’s focused on Ayurvedic wellness. Get in touch before arrival to create a holistic battle plan for what ails you.
Is the restaurant worth its salt?
For such a small island, the Park Hyatt goes large on dining options. The poolside dining room is open all-day, but it’s also where you’ll breakfast (when you aren’t having a floating brunch in your plunge pool). The breakfast buffet is massive and spares no details, but the boozy morning cocktail station is a highlight. The Grill is where you’ll go for indoor-outdoor, feet-in-the-sand opulence. Meanwhile, Koi is a newer offering: an elegant Japanese sushi shack floating over the water. Because you are truly in the middle of nowhere, almost everything is grown fresh here or on a neighboring island farm. To really get a sense of just how fresh, dine at the Treehouse—an elevated dining platform above the garden. You’ll pick your own ingredients straight from the garden from which your chef will create a custom meal.
Is there caviar on the room service menu?
Not here—although if you really need a fat tin of Beluga, we are sure they could rustle that up given notice. Just relax. Order the club sandwich.
Do you want to spend Friday night in the lobby bar?
The main bar area faces the pool and it is just fine (although it uses faux-leather, rather than cloth coasters: a cardinal sin in a hot country where drinks sweat). In fact, it would be semi-forgettable if it weren’t for Shubhankar, the capable and enthusiastic mixologist. With a passion for cocktails both classic and craft, chatting him up brings rewards. Ask for a milk punch.
Would you buy the hotel if you could?
Hadahaa is a lovely little gem; a true paradise. But until science gives us the gift of teleportation, or until my address is say Dubai, rather than N.Y.C., I fear I would make little use of it.
This is one of the most understated and sophisticated islands in the Maldives. Nothing gaudy about it. There are no waterslides and no gimmicks. It’s for grown-up people with great taste, and if you dive you’ll be in heaven. Hell, it’s heaven even if you don’t. But the domestic transfer in Malé leaves much to be desired. The security is third-world excessive (beware if you fly with such normal medications as insulin), and the flight is uncomfortable even in the best seats. The speedboat doesn’t make a wonderful first impression either. I’ve been to remote African camps where the long arrival was easier and more humane. Luckily, it’s a well-known curiosity of the human mind that we soon forget unpleasantness once happier times are here. The Park Hyatt makes it very hard indeed to be unhappy.
Rates from $750
Score: 8.5 out of 10
What Our Score Means:
1-3: Fire your travel agent if they suggest you stay here.
4-6: Solid if you’re in a pinch—but only if you’re in a pinch.
7-8: Very good. We’d stay here again and recommend it without qualms.
9-10: Forget booking a week. When can we move in permanently?
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