In The Maldives
5 Days at the LUX* South Ari Atoll
Waking up in the Maldives is like living in a dream that you want to stay in forever.
This is a trip that so many people have messaged me about. I think it’s a place that so many people want to visit but find the booking of it complicated and so they back out. Here, I hope to share some insight on our planning process and experience in the Maldives that can help get you excited about booking your next trip.
We flew in on an Emirates flight after a stopover in the UAE for 4 days. Upon arrival to the Maldives, you land on a small island airport (connects to Melé, the capital, through a bridge). From here, you will have to take a seaplane or a ferry in order to transfer into any of the resort islands.
Trans Maldivian Air (TMA) is the seaplane company that almost all hotels work with. This “airplane” ride is an experience in and of itself (beware if you’re claustrophobic, it is tiny)! The seaplane transfer price varies depending on which island you’ll be traveling to and the length of the flight. For our island resort, in the South Ari Atoll it was $235 per person each way. This is definitely something to keep in mind when budgeting for the Maldives. We sent the hotel all our flight information and they booked all the seaplane transfers for us and had a resort representative waiting for us on arrival to the airport. Some of the resorts have small lounges at the seaplane terminal where you’ll wait for them to load your luggage into the seaplane etc.
The LUX* waiting lounge at TMA terminal:
All of the snacks are included while waiting in the lounge.
There’s also free wifi and a private bathroom in the lounge equipped with some toiletries and vanity kits.
Another thing to note is that they use USD for everything in Maldives, so don’t worry about any currency exchange.
Review of LUX* South Ari Atoll Resort:
The decision on where to stay in the Maldives is the hardest part of planning the trip. You can easily get overwhelmed because there are soooooo many hotels to choose from.
All-Inclusive Option: Pretty early on in our research of hotels we decided we wanted to do an all-inclusive option. The reality is that when you go to ANY remote island, the food and drinks are usually pricey since most things have to be imported. So, while you pay more upfront for the all-inclusive option, it pays off in the long run. The other great thing about it is that while you’re there you won’t have to worry about paying a bill at every restaurant or bar you go to.
Room: We decided to stay in the over the water pool villa and we were obsessed. The initial appeal is the private pool and steps that take you into your own little piece of private ocean, but when you arrive you quickly realize you can’t pick a favorite part of this room. Something that drew me to this hotel vs. others was the fact that there is a reef about 20 yards away from the overwater villas back terrace. This is a big perk because it means that the water around the villas is nice and calm and only about 2-5 feet deep between low and high tides. It also means you have the opportunity to snorkel right outside your room. Walking down the steps of your private terrace and right into the ocean is magical. We saw beautiful, colorful, fishes and many different corals in our own little backyard. You can get snorkel gear from the dive center and keep it in your room until checkout. The room has a decent sized TV but to our surprise, it also had a giant projector right above the bed. The projector has tons of movies and shows preloaded on to it, which is a nice perk.
Food: LUX* has six restaurants and five bars to choose from and they all vary on opening times for breakfast/lunch/dinner. Two of the six restaurants are buffet style, one of which provides Asian cuisine, and one is international cuisine. We tried both and the food was delicious. There is another Asian restaurant and one Italian restaurant, that are an up charge even if you do the all-inclusive option (although you get 30% off). The buffets are open for breakfast and dinner and no reservation is required. The Senses (Indian cuisine) and the Beach Rogue (seafood) restaurants are by reservation (but usually even without one, they seat you as a walk in) and are open for lunch and dinner. Additionally, there’s food available for lunch at any of the pool bars and at the lagoon bar (on the beach). Honestly, the lagoon bar was one of our favorites throughout our stay. Their tuna tartar, burgers, wraps, fries/wedges are some of the bests we’ve ever had.
East Market Buffet and MIXE Buffet Breakfast:
Unlimited ice cream from “ici” ice cream parlor (they have 32 flavors):
The Lagoon Bar:
East Market Dinner Buffet Stations:
Beach Rogue Lunch Restaurant:
MIXE Dinner Buffet Stations:
Drinks: The bars serve drinks from 9am onward (we never made it past midnight so I don’t know closing time). The drinks we tried were all good, but the “time machine” was our favorite of their signature cocktails. It’s a gin-based drink with cucumber water and I’ve missed it every day since we’ve been back! The bartenders were also super nice and willing to make you any drink you wanted off menu (all bars in the resort are fully stocked bars). There is an upcharge, even for all-inclusive members for “premium” alcohol.
Unlimited coffee from Cafe Lux in the lobby:
General Information on the hotel:
- Concierge: When you arrive they will have a concierge waiting for you on the landing dock that will be your person of contact throughout your stay. They will walk you to the lobby, and guide you through check in (which was so quick and simple). Then they will escort you to your room and go over all the basics with you there. Our concierge was Inthri and he was the best! He pulled up a map of the island in the room TV and explained where everything was located on the island. Your concierge will also book dinner reservations, spa reservations, and any tour reservations you may want during your stay. Inthri gave us his whatsapp contact and we communicated through there constantly. Any questions I had I would message him and he would respond instantly. He sent us the daily activities sheet and we even booked dinners and tours through him so we never actually had to go into the lobby area for any of this.
- Getting Around: The entire island is 1.5km in length. They have golf carts running constantly to take guests anywhere you want to go on the island. The other option we loved was having Inthri send bikes to our room so we could bike around the island and explore at our leisure (bikes comes with locks/baskets). There are so many hidden swings and hammocks around the island that we would not have found if we only took the main golf cart path.
- Senses Pool/Bar: This is one of the large resort pools by the beach on the north west side of the island. There are many beds/loungers by the pool and beach here where the bartenders will serve you so there’s no need to get up to go to the bar. The bar is actually very nice and has chess tables and a pool table. At night, they play movies and serve snacks like popcorn, pastries, and ice cream here.
- Veli Pool/Beach Rogue: This one is about mid island and I would say it’s the more kid-friendly pool. Likely because the kids club is right by here. At night they have a “sunset DJ” here and it’s a gorgeous place to have some drinks with great music while watching the sunset. The ici ice cream parlor is steps from the sand here so this is an area I frequented.
- Wanderlust Library: The cutest library with a picture perfect view reading nook inside. It is on the far south west end of the island, but worth a visit. You can self checkout any book here to read during your stay on the island.
- Gym: The island has on outdoor jungle gym and also an indoor facility.
- Sandbar: Right off the north end of the island is a long stretch of pristine sandbar. This place is magic, just remember to apply a lot of sunscreen before you embark on this trek (I speak from experience).
- House Reef: Everyday at 2:30 and 4pm there is a free snorkeling tour to a “house” reef that’s about 15 minutes on boat ride from the hotel. The dive team is super knowledgeable and this is a free and fun excursion if you like to snorkel. We saw a ton of fish, lots of coral, stingrays, manta rays, small sharks, and turtles.
- Wildlife: South Ari Atoll is known for juvenile whale shark sightings. Unfortunately, we spent about 2 hours on a boat one morning looking for some whale sharks but we did not see any. We did see dolphins, sharks, mantas. One night right off the deck we got to see two giant manta rays playing and it was such an enchanting experience. I had a Moana moment.
- Sunrise/Sunset: Some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen.
- Nightlife: There are different events going on every night that you will get to see on the daily activities sheets. They have dance parties, movies on the beach, games, etc. We pretty much lounged by the different bars and just soaked it all in every night. The night sky is rid of any major light pollution which allowed us to see what felt like all of the stars in the sky. It was breathtaking.
In conclusion, this is where I want to be the rest of my life…
COVID-19 Pandemic notes:
- You need to have a negative PCR test done 96 hours before your flight to the Maldives (your PCR is to be taken at your first point of embarkation if you have connecting flights). Check current requirements before you go!
- While you wait for your seaplane transfer they will test you in the waiting lounge (nose and mouth) free of charge. This is an additional security measure the resorts take so you won’t have to wear a mask AT ALL in the resort.
- You need to fill out a health declaration form (link here: Immigration Form) that gives you a QR code. You will need this on arrival and departure from the Maldivian airport (to pass security checkpoints).
- Your hotel will provide an option for PCR/Antigen testing to return home for an extra fee.
Off to book my next trip…