A version of this travel piece appeared in Harper’s Bazaar Interiors 2017
Rub your eyes and open them wide. Sand made of sugar, swaying palm trees and a hundred shades of blue? Welcome to the Maldives. True, the colors are so vibrant that it looks like an Instagram filter has been applied directly to real life (Juno, to be specific). But with so many beautiful hotels and beaches around the world, what exactly is it that lures people to the islands? And how do you decide where to stay when every hotel looks postcard-perfect?
You could spend hours researching… Or, you could save yourself time and choose the name that seems to come out on top everywhere you look: COMO resorts. With two hotels in the Maldives with vastly different offerings, do yourself a favor and experience both. The intimacy of COMO Cocoa Island will usher you into the relaxed pace of island life, which you can follow up with an action-packed holiday at COMO Maalifushi. It’s your turn to brag at the next dinner party.
COMO Cocoa Island: The Welcome
After a short 4 hour flight from Dubai, you can reach COMO Cocoa Island by taking a half hour speedboat ride from the main airport – a treat compared to other hotels that require a long seaplane ride. The sea breeze plays with your hair as you sail past uninhabited islands and sprawling resorts. Suddenly, you will see a wooden jetty and a handful of people waving and greeting you like long lost friends.
From the minute you set foot onto COMO Cocoa Island, you’ll feel like you’re at the home of a dear friend – a very wealthy friend who has a fantastic eye for design, that is. Even check-in is an affair worthy of taking photos. You’ll laugh as you try to balance a fresh coconut in one hand while signing a paper with the other, all while you’re sitting on a wooden swing near the reception desk. Or a hammock. Any stress from daily life will fall off your shoulders as quickly as your bags are whisked away.
COMO Cocoa Island has only 33 overwater suites, each with a private ladder leading you to the underwater world. The suites are inspired by the shape of traditional Dhoni boats: gently curving wooden boats used by local fisherman.
Complete with round windows and interiors dominated by wood, whites and blues, you will feel like you are staying in a docked boat with the sound of ocean waves to lull you to sleep. Inside, beds face the sea and a private terrace. The biggest decision you will have to make is whether to while away the hours on your private sundeck or on the main beach.
As a working mom, the luxury of sitting on this couch and reading a book was worth the entire trip for me:
Head to the spa and let a trained therapist use the signature balm made on the island to melt away any knots after a flight. It’s an ideal way to assimilate into the slower pace of island life. The award-winning COMO Shambhala Spa has a holistic approach to wellness, combining massage offerings with yoga and nutritious menu suggestions. There’s nothing quite like a gentle afternoon yoga session in an outdoor cabana area surrounded by lush greenery to stretch your muscles and awaken your senses. And your appetite!
Lying on a sunny beach beneath the shade of palm trees is certain to make you feel good, but COMO Cocoa Island takes it to the next step by making you feel good from the inside out, too. The menu at the main restaurant is healthy and indulgent all at once, with a nod towards South Indian flavors. Start your morning with a green juice made from the garden on the island to accompany your omelette. For lunch and dinner, don’t miss the chance to try fresh reef fish, often caught that morning by local fishermen.
And yes, a sneaky burger or wood oven pizza tastes even better when you’re lazily stretched out by the infinity pool.
Linger for hours at dinner, sampling a delicious menu while looking out over the calm sea at sunset with your toes making shapes in the sand. It’s a treat for all your senses.
You may be tempted to spend all day horizontally, stretched out on a sunbed or enjoying a deep sleep at night to the sound of ocean waves. However, it would be a shame to miss a chance to go snorkeling. As one friendly porter will tell you: “The beauty of the Maldives is underwater.”
Walking along the wooden jetty to your room, you’ll pass an array of colorful fish, manta rays and turtles visible in water clear as glass below. Adventurous travellers will love the fact that baby sharks swim around near the rooms in water that is knee-high.
If the prospect of snorkeling in the open sea is too intimidating for you, hanging on to the ladder from your room and dipping your head under the water will reward you with the sight of bright blue parrot fish and purple clams.
Maldives calls for beachside chic!