The magic of an over-water villa
Staying in an over-water villa is a rite-of-passage for those visiting the picture-perfect islands of the Maldives.
Surrounded by some of the earth’s most glorious scenery, it’s only natural that over-water villas have sprung up over the iridescent waters, giving you private access to an ocean panorama, myriad marine life and magical Maldivian sunsets.
Here are five of our favourite Maldives over-water villas.
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Soneva Jani is a strong contender for the most Instagrammable over-water villas in all of the Maldives, perhaps even the world. From afar, the wooden villas appear like small castles with turrets and tiered levels, with the icing on the cake a waterslide that bends around the villa to deposit you into the warm Indian Ocean.
And that’s not all. Inside the two-floored villa, the spacious bedroom has a retractable roof for stargazing at night. Clear glass flooring panels means marine life is never more than a glance away. Upstairs is a breezy seating area and outside sunken sofas lead to a large pool, big enough for laps although you’ll find sunset may stop you in your stride. Lounge on the over-water hammocks where there’s nothing but sky and sea.
Soneva Jani is part of archipelago of islands with more awe-inspiring over-water villas planned here, plus sister property Soneva Fushi has new two- and three-bedroom villas set to be a sensation for families and groups travelling together.
“Soneva Jani is a big island with one of the largest private lagoons in the Maldives - so cycle around the sandy tracks or kite-surf and sea bob on the waters.”
A SLEEK STEP UP
FOUR SEASONS RESORT MALDIVES AT LAANDA GIRAAVARU
With a recent refurbishment, Four Seasons’ Laanda Giraavaru’s over-water villas are a step-up from the rustic-luxe bungalows that became the décor du jour of the Maldives. With a nod to Maldivian heritage and traditional building techniques the villas are largely made from wood, with thatched roofs and walls studded with coral.
Inside however, the soaring ceilings make space for sleek and contemporary interiors, with deep sofas within living areas and spacious polished concrete bathrooms. Outside, white-washed decking gives a fresh look and the large lap pool that juts out into the ocean is as eye-catching as it is fabulous for splashing in. Whether you choose a sunrise or sunset vantage point, you’ll have uninterrupted views all the way to the horizon.
For a thrilling underwater adventure, descend unto the deep with the resort’s three-person submarine. Explore the Maldives’ UNESCO biosphere’s corals, crags and creatures, 37 metres below the surface.
“The Four Seasons over-water villas have been upgraded to an extremely high standard with vast swimming pools that jut out into the ocean.”
You could call the wide wooden structures ‘over-water villas’ or you could do as Milaidhoo do and refer to them as Ocean Residences. It’s a much more appropriate term for these vast living spaces that open out on to a curved infinity swimming pool which meets the dappled blue and green waters of the Indian Ocean head on. There’s plenty of spots to enjoy the vista including an oversized day bed with billowing chiffon curtains and a secluded upper deck.
Inside, the Ocean Residences are breezily decorated in neutral tones with splashes of nautical colour. Much more so than other Maldivian properties, you’ll notice contemporary detailing such as bespoke painted tiled floors and parquet flooring topped with rush matting. And with spoiling details such as complimentary Ruinart champagne in your room, rose-petal baths and a personal butler, a stay in an Ocean Residence is one of life’s sheer pleasures.
If you’d like to learn more about the creatures you see swimming under your Ocean Residence, take a trip with one of the on-site Marine Biologists. You can shadow the experts and help identify species and observe conservation practices.
“Made for relaxation, Milaidhoo’s Ocean Residences face a stunning panorama of sea and sky."
Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
The Waldorf Astoria’s overwater villas are all about clean lines and sophistication. Jutting out over the water in wooden cube-like structures, the pared-back décor matches the minimalist architecture, letting the surrounding Maldivian beauty shine bright.
For ultimate privacy, choose the standalone over-water villas which head up their own peninsula. Featuring a remarkable array of facilities, you’ll find palatial standards here including a large pool, hot tub, and over-water hammock seating plus a chef’s area and BBQ station. Inside, glass floor reveals fish flitting below and giant stone bathtubs offer even more places to soak up the view.
With over 7km of wooden jetty circumnavigating the island, strolling or cycling the jetty is a wonderful way to take in your exotic surroundings. Reserve one of the resort’s private cabanas for indulgence afternoon accompanied by champagne and oysters.
“If you’re looking for a less-castaway look and more smart-on-sea design vibe, then the Waldorf’s large, plush over-water villas are for you.”
If all the Maldivian islands were characterised by personalities, then Joali would be the extravagant, eccentric arty one. A thread of culture runs through the island with its interactive art trail, regular visiting artists and on-site studio where you can practice your craft. But it’s where art meets design in the overwater villas that the real magic occurs. These wooden wonders are created to an extremely high spec, where every corner has been considered with great care.
The high ceilings give a lofty, airy feel and inside Scandi-inspired furniture allows it a fresh modern look. Cultural touches come from huge carved doors and wooden stools, intricately made towel rails and eye-catching artwork. Coffee table books are scattered on tables, encouraging leafing at will. A mid-century style bar area offers everything from chilly bottles, martini glasses and a chic coffee machine with wine fridges below. Outside a long infinity pool runs the length of the villa and a stunning Maldivian vista greets you at every turn.
It will be difficult to leave your villa but venture out and you’ll find four fusion restaurants as well as lovely touches such as a whiskey lounge, chocolatier and ESPA Spa. Snorkelling trips often result in seeing mantas and whale sharks and given that the Raa Atoll has fewer resorts than others you won’t see many humans either.
“Joali has firmly settled into its gorgeous Maldivian seascapes by focusing on high-quality comfort, smart interiors and top-notch service.”
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