AOL Travel reviews of a luxury all-inclusive hotel in the Maldives, Indian Ocean. For a Maldives holiday to remember, this hotel comes highly recommended.
Written by: Ruth Doherty
Lily Beach Resort and Spa
Date published: 06/13/2012
5 / 5 stars
The Aqua Bar at the Lily Beach Resort & Spa
After being scarred by a "three-star" (I use the term lightly) all-inclusive holiday experience in Egypt, I was somewhat wary of taking the everything-included plunge for a second time.
But am I glad I did. Lily Beach Resort & Spa is exactly what this kind of holiday should be: value for money combined with high quality down to the smallest of details.
Stepping off the sea plane - a once-in-a-lifetime-experience in itself - the island looked more photoshopped in real life than it did in the brochure. Rarely have I been to hotels that look better than they do in the promotional pictures. I breathe a sigh of relief.
And from the welcome (albeit non-alcoholic) cocktail in the reception, things just got better and better.
We were whizzed to our Deluxe Water Villa (heaven on stilts - not a sentence I would usually say), by a handy buggy (at your service whenever you needed one) and stepping inside to a scene that could only be described as pinch-yourself perfect.
After a 10-hour flight (screaming baby included, not mine) and a two-hour wait at Malé airport before the 40-minute seaplane adventure, the pristine villa, glass floor, plunge pool, turquoise see-through sea, and two bottles of wine ready and waiting were a sight for extremely sore eyes.
"It's like having your own personal aquarium!" Mum cried excitedly - and she wasn't far wrong. Lying face down on the floor checking for exotic fish became a daily ritual.
Even an hour after arriving, sitting on the terrace sipping a glass of wine from one of the aforementioned bottles, we saw a small black shark drift past. A shark! We both let out delighted shrieks, before it suddenly dawned on me that tomorrow I'd be going snorkelling in that very same water. Or maybe not.
A nervous swimmer at the best of times, sharkgate had set me on edge somewhat, but the next morning my steely resolve not to go snorkelling disappeared after waking up to dozens of glittering, multi-coloured fish swimming outside and underneath the villa. It felt almost surreal to descend the steps from your own villa and plunge into the bath-warm water full of incredible, jewel-coloured examples of nature.
But, down at the silk-smooth white beach, the house-reef was even more amazing. Swimming outside the reef from the safety of the lagoon was a challenge for me, but seeing the mind-boggling marine life and multitudes of fish I had no idea even existed was something I'll cherish forever, and if you don't do it you're really missing out. We even had a close encounter with a turtle and an enormous stingray - and I still went back three times a day.
Lazy lunches with a glass of bubbles (or two), were followed by one of the three blissful daily must-dos: snooze, snorkel, spa. Usually in that order.
The food and wine were top notch - no rubbery fare with side dish of insects here (will I ever get over the Egypt nightmare?). True, buffet food, even when the choice is endless, fresh and varied, can be slightly tedious, but every effort is made here to make sure it isn't. Chefs will cook you food to order in front of your eyes, and there's a fine-dining option for at least one evening in a week's stay.
As I mentioned earlier, I decided to take my mum on this trip - instead of my fiancé - a decision that, as you can imagine, earned me a lot of light-hearted ribbing from hubby-to-be.
And, while this place is certainly perfect for couples or young families, it was truly special spending a magical five days there with the most important woman in any girl's life.
It was when mum turned to me with tears in her eyes and said: "Thank you so much for bringing me here, it's been a dream of mine since I was a little girl and I will never, ever forget it", that any feelings of guilt immediately dissipated.
Hubby and I will just have to go back for our honeymoon...
Details: Kuoni (01306 747008 or kuoni.co.uk) offers 7 nights on all inclusive basis at Lily Beach Resort & Spa at Huvahendhoo, Maldives in a beach villa, including return economy flights with Sri Lankan Airlines from Heathrow (via Colombo) with transfers in resort and access to the VIP lounge in Male airport on departure. Prices for May/June 2012 are from £2396 per person, based on two sharing.
Discover the delights of Lily Beach Resort & Spa here:
All-inclusive heaven in the Maldives
Hotel review: Lily Beach Resort and Spa, Maldives
Spacious and contemporary with plunge pools, a glass floor area, and steps that take you directly into the lagoon, the Deluxe Water Villas are second only to the two ultra-luxurious Sunset Water Suites. The most economical option are the Beach Villas, but as they are located on the dazzling, flawless sand, you won't be disappointed.
The Lily Maa is the main restaurant, and offers a choice of buffet and a la carte food, as well as two open cooking stations where the on-site chef can whip you up a tasty treat. You can even enjoy a bit of fizz with your ocean-side brekkie here...
The cool and sleek Aqua Bar seemed to be where the couples (without kids) hung out. Relaxed and informal with a large infinity pool, it's the perfect spot for sipping and sunbathing.
If you get bored of snorkelling and sunbathing (impossible in our mind), you can head to the Water Sports Centre for a spot of canoeing, windsurfing, wake boarding banana boat rides and catamaran sailing. If that doesn't float your boat (no pun intended), there's a tennis court, and island-hopping as well as dive trips with the Dive Centre.
The beach at the resort is quite literally faultless: as silky and white as talcum powder. The sunbathing experience here is hard to beat - especially with the wonderful house reef beckoning when you feel like moving a muscle.
Sunsets here are a thing of wonder. And the resort makes the most of them with its Sunset Cruise on the island's boat. Whether you go with your partner or a friend, it's a soul-soothing sail.
When you fancy an after-dark tipple, head to the Vibes Bar. It's the place to be for evening entertainment, with a pool table and the odd live band or singer. It also makes a great option for lunch, and is situated at the opposite end of the island to the Aqua Bar.
This a la carte restaurant is an upmarket fusion of Chinese and Indian cuisine, set in an over-water villa for a blissful dining experience.
The over-water spa is found next to the Aqua Bar, and it's hard to resist! Massage beds sit on glass floors so you can see brightly-coloured fish, stingrays, and even baby sharks swim past while you enjoy a massage that borders on a work of art!
Getting so close to a turtle you can almost touch it is an experience you'll never forget. And, if you're not lucky enough to spot one, the hundreds of dazzlingly exotic fish will blow you away. It's reportedly the best place to snorkel in the world, and it is not hard to see why.
Snorkelling straight off your villa is such a privilege and so much fun - make sure you get some snaps of your partner and/or family swimming with the fishes underneath you private haven.
The Lily Beach Resort & Spa is situated on the stunning Huvahendhoo Island in the Ari Atoll. It is surrounded by spectacular beaches, an exotic house reef and amazing dive sites. It prides itself on its 'affordable luxury', and is a five-star all-inclusive destination.