Not just for honeymooners: A review of the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort
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To The Point
The InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort is a blissful, tropical place to spend your time. Pros: Gorgeous villas, helpful staff, delicious (and not ridiculously overpriced) cuisine. Cons: The decor could be perceived by some as being too simple and relaxed for a resort that charges such high room rates.
At the end of last year, the TPG team decided it was time to re-visit the Maldives, one of the world’s most aspirational destinations, especially for those with hotel points. The island nation has a dizzying number of high-end points properties to choose from, with many having opened in the last couple of years.
One of these new properties is the 3-month-old InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort, which I was lucky enough to review during our team trip to the island nation late last year. Three months seemed like an adequate amount of time for a resort to work out all the kinks that are typical to new hotels but still maintain that brand-new feeling.
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I was also interested to see if the special room rate I had booked, which was half-inclusive, would feel weird, or actually the perfect way to avoid some of the high-priced dining that the Maldives is (in)famous for. Read on to find out.
Ready to plan that bucket-list trip to the Maldives? Visit TPG’s Maldives destination hub for more stories about travelling to the region on points and miles, where to stay and what to do while you’re there.
I booked a Sunrise Overwater Pool Villa for $850 (about £665) per night on hotels.com. Reward rates for the base room category, the Beach Pool Villa, are higher than any other property in the IHG portfolio right now at 100,000 points per night, and there is a two-night minimum on reward bookings. Once IHG fully integrates the Six Senses and Mr & Mrs Smith brands into its portfolio, that could change, though.
My room rate came with Club InterContinental benefits, which included:
- Daily breakfast from either of two restaurants, Cafe Umi or The Retreat
- Daily afternoon tea from 3-5 p.m. daily
- Evening digestif, which was wine and cheese at the Retreat or a non-alcoholic selection at the Pool Bar
- Complimentary water and soft drinks at the Retreat, the Collection and the Pool Bar
My rate also included dinner at Cafe Umi, with choice of starter, main course and dessert, but no drinks. I was disappointed that drinks were not included with dinner, but I was still pleased to see my room rate would include breakfast, dinner, some snacking options and refreshments, as I knew how expensive dining at Maldivian resorts is.
The InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort is located within the Raa Atoll on a secluded private island. The resort is just a short speedboat ride away from the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Hanifaru Bay, which is famous for its sharks and stingrays, and is one of the few places in the world where whale sharks congregate for mating.
Guests who arrive in Male (MLE) after 3:30 p.m. must take a 20-minute domestic flight to the Dharavandhoo Domestic Airport and then take a 35-minute speedboat ride to the resort.
I arrived before 3:30 p.m., meaning I was able to arrive via seaplane transfer, which took about 35 minutes and cost $600 (about £469) round-trip. A representative from the resort met me at the International Arrivals area at Male Airport (MLE) and escorted me to a check-in desk for the seaplane.
I waved goodbye to my luggage, which later appeared in my room, and I was taken to a lounge by private shuttle where I waited for other passengers who would also be going to my hotel. About an hour later, the seaplane took off and the views were incredible. Upon landing, I had to take a short boat ride to the hotel, where I was greeted by smiling staff members.
I was able to get all the check-in paperwork done at the lounge in Male while waiting for the seaplane. It was so nice to be able to head straight to my room when I got to the island.
Upon arrival at the resort, I learned that I’d been upgraded from an Overwater Villa to a Lagoon Villa because of overbooking. At first I was disappointed because I was looking forward to my first overwater villa experience. But I later realized that the Lagoon Villa is actually more desirable, as you get the best of both worlds: It’s still set over stunningly clear seawater filled with fish, stingrays and even baby sharks, but it also has direct access to a private secluded lagoon and beach.
Once I got to the resort, I was given a welcome drink of cold water and a cold towel. The resort lobby is airy and beautiful, set in the middle of a lagoon with sofas, chairs and even swings. The only thing that distracted me from total tropical bliss was the somewhat cheesy Christmas decor haphazardly decorating the lobby and resort, a blot on the natural beauty of the place. I headed straight to my room, where my luggage was waiting for me.
Sunset One-Bedroom Lagoon Pool Villa
Put simply, the Sunset Lagoon Pool Villa was a dream.
It was a two-floor villa flanked on one side by a private infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean, and on the other side by a sandy beach overlooking a lagoon full of marine life. My neighbours were a family of stingrays that I watched come and go.
The first floor of the villa had a large sectional sofa adorned in one corner and large, inviting lounge pillows in the other.
There was a half bath and a minibar with all the essentials: espresso machine, cocktail shaker, cocktail glasses, Champagne glasses, normal glasses, ice and four complimentary bottles of water.
Outside, a large wooden bench and a modern sofa overlooked the private pool. It was perfect for sunbathing.
The pool was large — it could easily have fit 10 people. And, at the touch of a button, it turned into a whirlpool. An outdoor shower was next to the pool. A second outdoor area on the opposite side of the house featured a veranda with four beach chairs and a table, surrounded by lush greenery and white sands. I felt like I could just hop off the balcony directly onto the beach.
Upstairs, the bedroom had a huge, comfortable bed covered with pillows of varying softness.
A small workspace alcove was the only spot that didn’t have a window. When I needed to work, I could get down to business without those beautiful views as a distraction.
The bathroom featured a very tall shower (it definitely passed the TPG shower test) and a separate area for the toilet.
The highlight was the gorgeous standalone bathtub that overlooked the sea.
I love bathrooms in which everything has its own space.
Even though I was travelling alone, I always appreciate a bathroom with plenty of privacy. I also had plenty of extra amenities like a razor, toothbrush, Q-tips, etc.
I was thrilled to sit and enjoy the views (which were dreamy from both floors), overlooking the endless sea on one side or a calming beach and lagoon on the other. With windows in almost every area of the villa, including the shower and both of the bathrooms, I was never lacking for a gorgeous view. Except, of course, at the desk. But when you come to the Maldives, you shouldn’t be wasting your precious relaxation time at a desk anyway!
My first order of business, though, was to enjoy the welcome gift of a bottle of Moët Champagne on ice.
It’s worth noting that the decor of the suite was simple. Muted colours, shabby-chic rugs, woven pillow covers, wood and brass styling/fixures with nothing too wild to interrupt the calm. I liked it, but for anyone looking for opulence or glamour, this villa would could be too “simple.”
Each villa includes access to a dedicated butler to help you with anything you need, like electric golf cart transfers, restaurant reservations or bookings for activities. My butler Shijin was fantastic and professional — I was always greeted with a smile and a can-do attitude.
The resort grounds were tropical and lush, with two large infinity pools at opposite ends of the island, each with a bar and restaurant.
The gym was well-outfitted with equipment and there were also personal trainers for guidance and assistance during a workout.
The gym is a gorgeous and open space with glass walls facing the ocean. There were daily yoga classes at both sunrise and sunset in a beautiful half open-air yoga space above the gym. I would consider working out more if I could do so with those ocean views.
Bicycles were provided for guests to use free of charge. I loved using them to explore the resort.
I was given a 15-minute complimentary spa treatment at the AVI spa, a dreamy, rejuvenating space. It had six overwater treatment rooms with glass-bottomed windows in the floor so guests could admire marine life during treatments. There wasn’t a hair salon (I was told this would open soon), but the spa offered facials, massages and manicures and pedicures as well as traditional Chinese therapy treatments like acupuncture. My massage was excellent.
Wi-Fi was complimentary but rather slow, even though in theory I should have been relaxing, not working.
Food and beverage
The resort features six different restaurants, and I was able to sample three, plus room service. Cafe UMI is the main restaurant. “Umi” means “ocean” in Japanese, and — not surprisingly — this restaurant was Japanese-themed. I had breakfast there three times, a combination of buffet and a la carte. The buffet was amazing, with over 20 different types of freshly cut fruit, baked goods, salads, cheese, fresh juices and more.
The a la carte menu was restricted to a single page, but had all the essentials — about four styles of eggs, including “eggs any style,” Asian dishes like curries, British porridge and more. On my last day, I asked for eggs Florentine with avocado, which wasn’t on the menu, but they made it for me anyway.
There was also an espresso machine and freshly ground coffee available each morning. I love it when a hotel takes coffee seriously — it’s important to start the day off right! It really felt like the hotel was there to cater to whatever I asked for at any time, with no problem, a sign of a true luxury property.
Café UMI was also excellent for dinner, with an a la carte menu only. The cuisine was delicious: a combination of Japanese (sushi, sashimi, etc), Italian (pastas and pizza), international (burgers), Asian (curries) and freshly grilled seafood.
When I ordered beyond what was included in my rate, prices weren’t cheap, but not as insanely expensive as some of the other Maldivian hotels that TPG reviewers have experienced. Breakfast would have cost between $30-$50 (£23-£39) and dinner $50-$75 (£39-£59) here if it wasn’t included. But I certainly wouldn’t have been charged $45 (£35) for still water, as TPG director of video Tom Grahsler encountered at Ithaa, the underwater restaurant at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.
One night, I did visit the Lighthouse restaurant (open for dinner only), which is considered a fine dining restaurant. It is actually a lighthouse where I could see the entire island from the top floor. My meal was delicious and the service was formal — beautiful plates, a pre-starter, the whole do.
My tomato soup and octopus dish were perfectly prepared but it was a terrible place to dine alone — I wanted to FaceTime my partner and set the phone across from me for company. I was given 25% off this dinner since I wasn’t dining at UMI, the restaurant that came with my half-inclusive rate at the resort. My dinner ended up only costing $56 (£44), which was actually cheap for fine dining, especially in the Maldives. Wine started at around £12 per glass.
I didn’t eat at The Collective, another resort restaurant which is a more casual lunch spot with a wood-fired pizza oven. I preferred to enjoy a meal in my beautiful villa instead of dining alone at a restaurant.
I did take the complimentary afternoon tea at Retreat, the lounge-style restaurant in the middle of the lagoon which had a beautiful swimming pool. It was lovely to enjoy snacks and refreshments in this relaxed, comfortable space. This spot got busy after 8 p.m., when it became the island’s main party spot.
I was happy with just about everything I ate at the resort — and grateful for the half-board rate that kept the total cost of all my extras relatively low. There were really no surprises when I got my final bill.
The InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort took the risk of being different by looking a little less formal than many other of the chain hotels in the Maldives. It wasn’t what I would consider opulent or overly luxurious (no chandeliers here!), but I appreciated the barefoot beach, the sleek and comfortable design and its approach to dining and service. The resort was more than just a honeymoon spot. I felt comfortable being alone here (except perhaps at the romantic Lighthouse restaurant) and could see why families or friends travelling together would enjoy it too.
Even though the room rate was high, I got a lot for my money. Service was incredible and the resort was beautiful. I had a spacious, private villa and the included breakfast, dinner and other extras made the splurge bearable.
It was the perfect spot for a solo traveller to recharge his batteries. I would happily return.
All photos by Jean Arnas/The Points Guy.