Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa

  • Poppy Friedman

Ancient Banyan trees and 17,000 swaying palms shade the trails at Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa in the Maldives. The resident biologist at the private-island resort, which opened in July, leads tours along the trails, pointing out wildlife and plants such as the noni, the basis of Maldivian remedies for arthritis and hypertension.

If you are exploring Villingili sans guide, the resort’s detailed maps show the way to three secluded, picnic-perfect lagoons. You can also follow an underwater "eco-trail" along the reef just offshore from the main lodge, where submerged signage identifies sea anemones, moray eels, and a kaleidoscope of coral.

Off the northern tip of the atoll is the longest cycling road in the Maldives, an 11-mile route that links five small islands and offers a tour of World War II sites and a glimpse of village life. Back at Villingili, you can retire to the resort’s Chi spa or to one of 142 villas on land and sea. Jaded Maldivian regulars should skip the over-water accommodations and try something new instead: Villingili’s 16 Tree House Villas (the first of their kind in the Maldives), which are perched on 10-foot stilts amid the tropical foliage. Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, +960.689.7888, www.shangri-la.com ($1,200-$9,500)

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