Exquisite overwater bungalows, crystalline waters, glorious sunsets—the allure of the Maldives is not one that needs much explanation. All of these bucket-list-worthy elements are why the destination is brimming with private island resorts, each one more luxurious than the next. And though the archipelago does not need another standard five-star property, the extravagant new Joali is anything but ordinary.
Set on a lush 24-acre island in the Raa Atoll, the hideaway is a short 45-minute seaplane ride from Malé. When it opens next month, it will become the nation’s first immersive art hotel. Boasting dozens of pieces, Joali has works that range from an underwater coral garden that raises awareness about bleaching (the newly opened Fairmont also features an underwater sculpture garden) to a manta ray sculpture perched 16 feet above ground level—a piece that, astonishingly, doubles as an intimate treehouse restaurant for eight.
This transporting art, along with the resort’s design, is what really sets it apart from the rest. Hand-carved wooden panels, elaborate abacus dividers, 3D-printed bronze door handles, and intricate bamboo separators are found throughout the entire property. Elegantly appointed villas are a palatial 2,500 square feet at the smallest, and all have private infinity pools overlooking the Indian Ocean, both indoor and outdoor living spaces, and sumptuous bathrooms outfitted in green Norwegian marble. For large groups traveling together, Joali offers a two-story, four-bedroom beach villa and a three-bedroom overwater residence. Both come with plush upgrades like a spa room and sauna, while the latter has an additional pool and an on-call dhoni—a traditional Southeast Asian sailing vessel that can sweep guests out over the aquamarine waters.
While the sculpture-turned-private-dining-space sets the bar high as far as dining venues go, the rest of the property’s restaurants won’t disappoint. Though not a fully fledged dining venue, Her Kitchen provides guests with the opportunity to learn local recipes—a rarity in a region defined by big-box international resorts. Vandhoo Restaurant presents a mix of Southeast Asian, Chinese, Mediterranean, and Levantine cuisine; Saoke highlights Japanese fare complete with teppanyaki stations; and fine dining comes in the form of delectable Italian. To satiate sweet cravings, there’s even a dessert shop featuring artisanal chocolate, more than 60 flavors of ice cream, and a mix of homemade cupcakes and macarons. Last, but definitely not least, is Mura Bar: an idyllic spot for a sundowner that overlooks a glittering pool and white-sand beach complete with a whiskey and cigar lounge.
When not soaking up the beauty of the Maldives from their own private oasis, guests can relax at the Espa spa, snorkel with manta rays, or take a stroll through the flower garden. Other activities include tennis, fitness lessons, diving, water skiing, sunrise or sunset dhoni cruises, and interactive workshops with the resort’s artist-in-residence.