After 4 years he went Joali Maldives to watch (from $2,040 a night) — which features boldly decorated overwater villas, six eateries including a floating Japanese restaurant and a coral restoration program — wrote Stanley Tucci for The Londoner Times: “As a sea-plane had descended upon the water of topaz, we were so affected by the utmost beauty and serenity of the place, that the weariness of the long journey seemed to pass away.”
In the Maldives — located in the Indian Ocean, 600 miles southwest of Sri Lanka — it is not uncommon to be greeted on arrival by seaplane or boat by a staff holding their right hands over their hearts. Even where most accommodations come with a personal butler or, in the case of Joali Maldives, a jadugar, otherwise known as a “magician.” Among the stars who patronize the resorts across 26 atolls of coral and luminous aquamarine sands, surreal marine megafauna and lush coconut palms are Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Orlando Bloom, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, to name a few.
Opened in 2021, sister property Joali Esse (from $2,142 a night) is a well-focused island retreat located 15 minutes by boat from Bodufushi Island. It is an idyllic haven for transformative resets through high-tech tools, but also in Watsu water massage in the serene pool, Turkish hammam treatment, immersive healing and alma cuisine. There is a temple for tea ceremonies and another destination for healing herbal infusions – more thoroughly biophilic architecture across the island.
For her 40th birthday last year, actress Katie Lowes (Finding Anna) visited Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort (from $750 a night) in South Malé Atoll with his whole family, taking cooking classes, going surfing and getting an underwater massage. “This is the feeling that it takes a village to raise a child,” he says THR. “All of the staff came to my kids at the breakfast table, they were totally taken care of.”
In an actual Christmas Lowes, all swimming with hundreds of nurse sharks, an experience he describes as “unbelievable”. They were twice the length of mine, but the rim and rim are really tiny so it couldn’t be safer. My five year old son was the first in! Back on the boat to shelter pods of colorful dolphins and four huge manta rays. “It was one of those magical days where you’re like, ‘It doesn’t get much better than this.’
Green and familiar Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas — fresh from an air-conditioned villa including a facelift to its $5,800-a-night, two-bedroom Sun over the Water pool residence — is where Leonardo DiCaprio, Cristiano Ronaldo and Roger Federer vacation and where John Legend and Chrissy Teigen have hung out. (From $1600 a night half board).
Its first location in Baa Atoll makes it a destination for another type of marine mammal: the giant manta ray. Forty-five minutes away by boat is the heavily fortified UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hanifaru Bay, where from May to November every year an incredible population of gentle animals with 15-foot wingspans gather to graze on plankton. More passive marine water experiences come with a marine culture, an underwater restaurant with panoramic views of coral reefs, 150-plus species of fish, and an extensive wine list. Kihavah is also the only meeting place in the Maldives with a 16″ Meade LX200 telescope for exploring other planets and nebula craft cocktail in hand.
Baa Atoll is home to that too Amilla Fushi Maldives where the Beckhams spent New Year’s in the country and Ashley Benson, Lindsay Lohan, Katy Perry, and Kate Winslet.
Salma Hayek rang in the New Year in 2011 on Kunfunadhoo Island Fushi sounded (from $1,440 a night), which Millie Bobby Brown called “the party of a lifetime” on Instagram, and Sophia Turner and Joe Jonas honeymooned in a beachfront villa. In recent times, the gathering has become the largest and two villages in the world of overwater rooms, with full water slides into the ocean and retractable roofs that extend from the bed. The earth-friendly resort has a glass-art studio where guests are gifted with recycled glass and boasts the world’s first fully sustainable surf program.
Surfers including Olympic medalist Kanoa Igarashi and Blue Crush Surfer Coco Ho love Niyama Secret of the Isle (from $900 a night, half board) for an exceptional private wave that breaks off the end of the island to play and is never crowded. The well-kept secret is a major selling point for vacationers who love a little action with its decade-long Maldivian lobster-themed immersive restaurant meals that range from the African pan and Southeast Asian wooded to the beautiful underwater Subsix, which requires a speedboat to reach and has James Bond-meets-little mermaid to feel Their new Luxury Experience offers a full-board experience in dolphin blood and free-flowing drinks is the whole package.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Falchuk honeymooned at It sounded to Jani (from $2,140 a night). The retired actress and entrepreneur wrote on Instagram, “Farewell to these beautiful atolls of peace.” Legend and Teigen celebrated their daughter’s fifth birthday, while Justin and Hailey Beiber and Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn were all guests.
Idris Elba headlined New Year’s Eve 2020 with a DJ performance at a very personal meeting The one & only Reethi Rah (from $2,050 a night; $41,700 a night for top-of-the-line Sol residences) with a holistic spa program, private dining options, a private whale shark safari, and a remote safari.
On Christmas 2021, Paris Hilton will marry her husband Carter Reum Conrad Maldives Rangali Island (from $874 a night) in Muraka’s $50,000-a-night undersea villa, which has a mermaid tail floating out of her bedroom and, according to her blog, includes a photo of her, “[learning] of the curals. They bought it to celebrate their first anniversary this November Ithaafushi – Secret IslandWho worshiped the party Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi (sponsored by Emily Ratajkowski and Serena Williams) in 2021 and goes for a cool $85,000 a night. At eight acres, it is the largest private Maldivian island and has a dedicated culinary team, private ocean pools for yoga or lunch, and an overwater spa.
Other nations’ latest developments include ultra-light Patina Maldives, Faroe Islands (from $1,900 a night), with perhaps the most unique and nature-inspired architecture in the Maldives plus a mesmerizing James Turrell hideaway, a lively social center, and enlightening offerings such as ceramics and a coral conservation workshop.
Alila Kothaifaru Maldives (from $900 a night), which debuts in 2022, offers experiences between the Starlight Cinema and Coconut Art, which includes a coconut tree-climbing demo, a Maldivian cooking and mixology class, and treetops massages and mini facials.
Looking back on his trip, Lowes says, “The Maldives is really a distinct, special thing, and the only people I know who have been there get it. Sunsets and sunrises I have never seen before. The Indian Ocean was absolutely stunning. What I saw once, the small white coral islands, which are barely above the ocean, and they have incredible resorts, it is difficult to compare. [to anywhere else]. It doesn’t feel so rare. “
A version of this story first appeared in the March 29 issue of Hollywood magazine. Click here to subscribe.