The landscapes and picturesque views that the Maldives archipelago offers have made the tourism industry booming and every major hotel giant is trying to carve their own brand of luxury into this tropical paradise. With 26 atolls, the opportunities are endless, and the demand is only projected to increase. While there are already plenty of options in the main, prime tourism zones in Maldives, you’d be surprised to find out that the further you stay from the main tourism areas and head towards the northern atolls the better it gets. Best of all, there’s no drop in the quality of service you’d get either! So, head on to the Raa Atoll of the Maldives, another world within the Maldives, with plenty of resorts, activities and sights!
The atoll used to be off-limits for tourists until the late 1990s. Although, there are a few big resorts that considered the main private island resorts within the location, we will be exploring alternate options for the more adventurous and sophisticated travelers. The atoll is also home to an island called Vaadhoo Island, a small inhabited island that has gained global fame for its famous “Sea of stars” phenomenon where glowing phytoplankton transformed the beach into the mirror of the starry sky. Moreover, much like each atoll, this atoll has a set of dive sites with distinct features that any marine life enthusiast, interested in unique fish and coral structures, would absolutely love to discover.
Raa’s diving is popular due to the high density of thilas (submerged islands) located inside its lagoon. The marine life amongst the caves, overhangs and drop-offs is diverse. For instance, there’s the Fenfushi Thila in the south where the pinnacle features an impressive overhang as you go deeper where many species of fish and even turtles can be found. There’s also a dive site named The Wall where below the reef you’ll find caves large sea fans and yellow and pink soft corals. The Labyrinth would be the most famous dive site with a very interesting topography and distinct marine life with canyons, tunnels and a range of corals and fish.
Reethi Faru Resort
Let’s start off with the private island retreat in the atoll that’s the most conscious about your budget as well the environment. Reethi Faru Resort is probably the resort in the area with the lowest price that lets you enjoy tropical paradise and a perfect option for the eco-conscious tourist. It is a private boutique resort with an enviable pedigree for conserving the natural beauty of the islands and sustaining the ecosystems upon which the fragile coral reef relies. Nestled on the small island of Filaidhoo, the resort embellishes the natural properties of the island and acts as its guardian in the process, blending the tranquility of the surroundings with intimacy and privacy.
This resort is one of the more recently opened ones and has a determination on sustainability, with a ban on plastic straws, bottles and bags, great care during construction not to damage the trees, nature as well as the underwater life. Moreover, they many locally sourced and created materials such as bricks made from recycled soil, bio consciously treated sustainable teak from Indonesia and lacquer work and ceramics from the region. If you’re not already bought, the resort is one of highest rated and most booked on trip advisor and second place on list for best value resorts in Raa Atoll. So, take a 45-minute seaplane journey from the airport or a domestic flight and then a speedboat to this stunning eco-friendly resort.
The villas that dot the inside of the island, beach and lagoon are all built in the classic traditional Maldivian style with every comfort and luxury with a contemporary, modern interior. Each one is beautifully decorated, with plush beds, seating areas and an outside porch, with the overwater villas having on with steps leading into the sea. The resort offers accommodation for everyone, from romantic castaway cocoons standing on stilts overlooking the lagoon, to family friendly beach suites with two bedrooms.
Most of the 120 rooms are 20 Garden Villas an the more spacious 43 Deluxe Garden Villas for the couples looking for seclusion within greenery. Moreover, there are 25 Deluxe Jacuzzi Garden Villas prefect for honeymooners. There are 5 two bedroomed Beach Villas for traveling groups or families. The best option would be one of the 44 Water Villas as they are more spacious and the ocean views are just incredible, with the intimacy and privacy ripe for the ultimate romantic experience. Of course, the ultimate indulgence would definitely be the two luxurious Water Villa Suites looking to spend more and live the suite life.
Though the resort is on a smaller island, it is one of the resorts that goes a little extra for the culinary experience of its guests, with six restaurants and bars while most resorts feature only four or five. The main restaurant is a buffet style restaurant called Vakaru with a global selection. Dhiyavaru Café is open 24/7 and provides an a la carte menu. Huvandhu Garden is the perfect option for the couples looking an intimate evening dinner with a romantic setting and exquisite cuisine. The Reethi Grill is an open-air restaurant that serves grilled dishes, tandoori and wood-fired oven pizza specialties. Enjoy a few snacks by the poolside at Raalhu Café and a drink at the Veyo Boar. Haruge is the main bar and the the Sunset Bar is on the south-west to provide unbelievable views of the sunset. There’s also the Nala Bar, a lovely excluded bar on the east end of the island.
The Sea Explorer
This lovely resort in the Raa Atoll features a PADI & SSI accredited five-star rated Dive Centre opens an undersea world of submerged islands, dramatic overhangs, underwater walls and sea caves in this far-flung region of the Indian Ocean. Whether diving or snorkeling, you can ‘relax under pressure’ with an excellent multinational team that pays attention to detail and explains the interesting marine life. Their programs range from dive courses, day and night dives, snorkel excursions to boat trips.
The Standard Maldives Resort
Formerly known as Carpe Diem Beach Resort, on the island of Huruvalhi in the Raa Atoll, just 40 minutes away from the airport by seaplane, is a resort that differentiates itself from the rest of the cookie-cutter tropical island cliché by creating a more upbeat, mischievous and sociable atmosphere. Also being a resort that’s more about money value and budgets conscious, this resort takes a different approach to tropical island paradise and spices things up for the singletons, groups and families. So, the average honeymooners should go looking elsewhere if what they’re looking for is a basic, cliché island experience. Don’t be mistaken, this resort has everything that makes it an unbelievable tropical haven, with the silvery shores, overwater villas and palm trees.
Sure, some of the thrills might be PG, but the resort is still definitely playful. Snorkel and go on excursions during the day but get ready at night for some dancing at the overwater disco nightclub or swaying to tribal beats by a bonfire. With a kids’ club and teen zone, it is perfectly equipped for traveling families with children. The resort definitely strays away from the dreamy, sleepier honeymooner’s vibe that the other resorts have with lively public spaces to encourage mingling and socializing as well as DJs pumping up the volume at the beach-club-style poolside hub.
There is a total of 115 villas scattered throughout the island the lagoon, and split between overwater villas and beach villas. Each beach villa has a contemporary exterior and have a color scheme combining pale wood and off-white splashed and highlighted with hot pink accents to liven up the ambience. The activity wall which where snorkeling equipment, rubber ring and a ukulele is hung and the disco ball over the gigantic bathtub adds a very charming, playful touch to the atmosphere. Of course, every single villa comes with a huge outdoor deck an and a lovely plunge pool.
Those looking for more privacy and space should go for one of the beach villas. There are 7 Lagoon Beach Villas that face the lagoon side of the beach and 2 Double Bedroom Lagoon Beach Villas for families. Moreover, on the beach side that faces the ocean, there are 17 Ocean Bach Villas and a Double-Bedroom Ocean Beach Villa. The romantics should go opt for one of the overwater villas hoisted on stilts on the clear, sparkling blue lagoon for the classic castaway romance experience. There are 32 Lagoon Overwater Villas standing on stilts on the lagoon and 2 Double Bedroom Overwater Villas. For those who love snorkeling, there are 52 Ocean Overwater Villas which are just a few meters away from the house reef.
When it comes to dining, The Standard Maldives makes a huge commitment to deliver authenticity along with a high-quality fine dining experience. This is done by using their own special ingredients, growing some on the island itself and offering local and international cuisine. The all-day dining spot at the resort would be Kula, the buffet restaurant with an exceptionally wonderful spread. They resort also features an authentic Maldivian Restaurant called Guduguda. It is the first of its kind in the Maldives and the distinct, local food is served. Enjoy the amazing coconut-based curries while lounging in this unique restaurant in a unique setting. For the barbeque fanatics, there is the BBQ Shak where seafood and peats are grilled to perfection. You can have a light drink and snack at Joos Café or the Todis Bar by the poolside. After sunset you can go to the Beru Bar, an adults-only nightclub that’s perched on stilts overlooking the lagoon. It even has a glass floor! Finally, there’s Tonic, the wellness bar located at the over the pool bar located at The Standard Maldives spa.
Snorkeling and Diving
The resort of a multitude of snorkeling experiences where you can swim with the turtles or along side a gliding manta giant. Experience the nocturnal marine life under the stars or go on a snorkel safari. There’s a PADI endorsed dive center that offers an aquatic experience for everyone. It ranges from beginner courses for those new to diving to scouring shipwrecks for experts. The house reef of Huruvalhi island is home to 98 types of coral that are home to over 220 species of marine life.
Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa
Another resort that’s known for their priority on providing value for the expense, though still quite expensive compared to the previous resorts, the Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa is a 5-star deluxe all-inclusive resort located on the island of Fasmendhoo, in the northern Raa Atoll. The resort is one of the newer resorts than opened in 2019. The island is outlined by 1.5 km of white sandy beaches and 20 hectares of secluded island and a total of 120 villas, both on beach and water. There are two options available to reach Emerald Maldives. One would be an Instagram worthy seaplane journey that’s around 40 minutes that takes you to the island directly from the airport. There’s also the domestic flight of 30 minutes that goes to the domestic airport at Ifuru, where you can take a 15-minute speedboat ride to the resort.
Emerald Maldives is also a proud member of The Leading Hotels of the World and built in such a way to blend in perfect harmony with its surroundings using sustainable materials such bamboo, langhi langhi leaves and natural stones. There’s a focus on energy efficiency and environment preservation so any eco-conscious tourists can relax. Moreover, the resort creates its own distinct atmosphere that’s quite vibrant and calming with its combination of tropical landscapes and modern designs because of its elegant contrast.
The resort has a total of 120 villas, 60 of which are on land and the other are perched on stilts overlooking water where the most numerous villas are the Water Villas with Pool. Each villa has a tropical chic vibe that’s embellished by the unique approach that the resort has taken for its appearance. The 60 beach villas consist of 24 Beach Villas, 4 Jacuzzi Beach Villas, 19 Beach Villas with Pool, 10 Family Beach with Pool, Superior Beach Villas with Pool and a Royal Beach Villa. The water villas aren’t quite as diverse as the beach villas and they consist of 25 Water Villas, 4 Jacuzzi Water Villas, 28 Water Villas with Pool, 2 Superior Water Villas with Pool, and a Presidential Water Villa. So, whether you’re looking for a super romantic tropical getaway, a honeymooner with big dreams, familiar with opulence as well as tropical islands or just a traveling group or family, Emerald Maldives has got it all!
With all the competition between resorts in Maldives, there are over a hundred after all, what makes Emerald Maldives so alluring is the all-inclusive aspect. Except drinks at bars and jet skis, you don’t have to worry about any extra costs. To enhance the Maldivian experience, there are 4 restaurants and 2 cafés. The main restaurant is the Aqua restaurant, located on the beach which offers both indoor and outdoor dining facilities and featuring an indoor buffet for all 3 meals with cooking stations dedicated to international cuisines. Probably the first, and only South American restaurant, Amazonico features dishes based on original recipes from Central and South America prepared in the live open kitchen.
Located in the central are of the Resort, inside an authentic tropical forest, Le Asiatique is the perfect choice for guests willing to discover the tasty and delicious dishes of the far east and south-east Asia. If your craving some BBQ or pizza, head to the Beach Club Grill Restaurant located on the main beach. There’s also the sunset pool café and the sunrise café.
TGI Diving Center
When it comes to scuba diving , Raa Atoll’s popular because of the unspoiled world class dive sites and is suitable for beginners and advanced divers. Expect to spot vibrant pink soft corals, turtles, napoleon wrasses, reef sharks and even mantas. The 5-star TGI Diving Center offers daily fun dive trips and diving courses all guided by certified professional instructors. TGI Maldives at Fasmendhoo offers a wide array of dive sites, 12 months diving, easy access/proximity to dive sites and abundant marine life! The diving school also will offer snorkeling excursions including the resort’s house reef.
The list wouldn’t be complete without the mention of an ultra-luxury resort, Joali Maldives is not just worth mentioning but a definite enrichment to the tourism of Raa Atoll. Not only is it a newer addition to the collection of big private resort islands in the semi-remote Raa Atoll, but it is a very high-end resort and promises experiences that’ll rival its competitors in an economy filled with superlative accommodation options. If that isn’t enough, they introduced a new brand of luxury by combining immersive art and a stunning location.
Nestled on the island of Muravandhoo, a deserted island in the middle of the atoll and just a 45-minute seaplane journey from the airport, this first-rate resort that flourishes and shows off its cool, classy and sophisticated architecture and interior design. The internationally renowned design studio Autoban and Tokyo-based architects Studio Glitt have gone above and beyond in crafting an unbelievably unique look. Traditional Maldivian architecture has been melded with super sleek contemporary art and high- tech wizard to give off a truly exquisite expression.
There are 73 villas divided into six categories dotting the beach and the lagoon. The classic allures and attractions such as the thatched roofs, sea views, infinity pools, and juicy artworks are all there, and then some. The interior design is literally on another level compared to other first-rate resorts. A truly distinctive color scheme, textures authentic artwork to give a vibrant atmosphere. There’s a wine fridge, mini bar, extensive deck, infinity pools and separate dressing rooms in each villa. There’s also a very easy-to-use tablet where you can arrange everything you need.
There are 6 entry level villas, Beach Villas and its upgraded variant, 15 Luxury Beach Villas. There are two double-room Family Beach Villas and one huge Four-Bedroom Beach Residence. For the romantics, there are nine Water Villas and 19 Luxury Water Villas. There’s a Three-Bedroom Ocean Residence which has two pools and just perfect for the large group or family who wants to indulge in luxury. There are five Sunset Water Villas and 19 Sunset Luxury Water Villas. So regardless of what kind of traveler you are, there’s a place in Joali Maldives for you!
It is quite remarkable that resorts at even very remote locations provide unparalleled services that are top notch culinary experiences. In addition to the special destination dining, there’s a multitude of diverse options for each kind of guest. Saoke is the must-visit, for the architecture and design as well as the unique and amazing cuisine. Enjoy perfect views in a wonderful setting dining on traditional Japanese Cuisine. Vandhoo features a specially designed dining experience spanning tastes from the whole orient to even the Mediterranean and the Levant. There’s also Her Kitchen, for those looking to learn the local recipes. The Mura Bar is the place to head for sparkling sunset cocktails and light bites. Finally, there’s Bellinis, a piece of Italy in the midst of the Maldives and La Joie, a chocolate and ice cream store.
Since the atoll that the resort calls home is one of the largest and deepest atolls in Maldives, there is a lot to see, in both quantity and variety. Joali Maldives features a great dive center with a wonderful dive team like all resorts of its like. So, snorkeling and diving are an obvious must-do for anyone who visits Maldives. Borrow snorkeling gear which is delivered by ab butler and see the house reef or go on a snorkeling trip, where you can spot whale sharks and mantas in the right season. Also given the smaller amount resorts in the area you are less likely to run into other tourists.