FIND YOURSELF THROUGH TRAVEL
Lizard Island, Australia
Maldives Destination Report
Four Seasons Maldives - Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giravaaru
Overview. We spent a week at Four Seasons Maldives with their two-resort program. Guests spend three nights in Kuda Huraa, a 25 minute speedboat ride from Male, the international airport of the Maldives, and four at Landaa Giraavaru, a 25 minute seaplane ride from Kuda Huraa (or 45 minute seaplane from Male).
Overall, the resorts are spectacular and quite distinctive. Both have an extraordinary commitment to guest service, the facilities are extremely well kept and beautiful and the activities are fun, engaging and relaxing. We went in late June, the monsoon season, but had wonderful weather. It was sunny every day with only a few passing showers the entire time we were there.
Getting There. We flew Qatar Air Business Class from SFO to Doha (15.5 hours). The Q-Suites Business Class seats are fantastic, you have your own little pod with a door and significant privacy. Food is fantastic and the service is excellent.
We had a 6+ hour layover at Hamad International Airport, which was just voted the best airport in the world with good reason. The new lounge in the C gates overlooks the “Orchard” which is a full green space. As planes cannot fly in the heat of the day, most flights arrive and depart from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am and 5:00 am to 9:00 am. Every store and service in the airport is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Flight to Male left at 12:55 am and arrived at 7:50 am (Four-plus hour flight and two hour time difference).
Kuda Huraa. Four Seasons representatives meet you as you exit customs and take you straight to a small lounge. We only had to wait about 10 minutes before they were ready to take us onto the speedboat for the 25 minute ride to Kuda Huraa. One small criticism is that we had to pay $497 for the one-way speedboat transfer whereas the seaplane direct from Male to Landaa Giraavaru is included in the price. The resort is small and intimate.
Accommodations. We had a Garden Pavilion with Pool and as J. Loraine Travel has Four Seasons Preferred Partner privileges, were upgraded to a Deluxe Beach Pavilion with Pool on the Sunrise beach side. The room was spacious and elegant and the outside beautiful, with a pool that extended to hedges that provide privacy from the beach. The snorkeling outside our villa was amazing, we saw sting rays, eagle rays, moray eels, beautiful coral (that they’re trying to reconstitute after the El Nino of 2016 killed over 90% of Maldives’ coral), puffer fish, parrot fish and many other colorful fish and coral. They have a marine center with a turtle rehabilitation program. Snorkel trip was nice, relatively close in and a good dropoff. Water was a bit murky as it is plankton season in Maldives, which draws the Manta Rays.
Restaurants. There is an Italian Restaurant, the Reef Club, that has great pizzas. The steak and seafood restaurant, Kandu Grill, was ok, the steak was not great and fish was fine but nothing special. The Indian restaurant, Baraabaru, was excellent. Breakfasts were wonderful with buffet and ala carte options. The spa treatments were in a guest room as their spa pavilion was being renovated.
They also offer a free half hour photo shoot with five free digitals. You can buy the whole set of photos for $150. They use a professional photographer who takes you around the resort to get some very nice shots.
Seaplane Departure. The fourth day we transferred to Landaa Giraavaru by seaplane. The plane usually comes from Male with passengers going straight to LG and stopping for a pickup. The platform is a significant distance from the shore and basically a small wooden rectangle to which the seaplane ties up. The guests and luggage are driven to the platform by speedboat and offloaded from the boat onto the platform and then onto the plane. It’s a bit harrowing if you don’t like water or planes, so if someone is squeamish, it may be best to stay within speedboat range of Male.
Landaa Giraavaru. Built on a natural island that used to be a coconut plantation, LG is much bigger than Kuda Huraa with about 100 villas spaced out around the island. Each guest is given a bike with their initials on the front (but remember to keep left, a British holdover). There are beach pavilions and overwater bungalows, but I would recommend the beach pavilion. The overwaters are quite a ways out from the main area and don’t have as much privacy as the beach pavilions. They are in shallow water, so you can’t just jump in and you have to go to one of the beaches rather than just walking outside your room.
Accommodations. The beach pavilions are all remodeled as of December 2022 and are spectacular. Modern but with an island touch, they are spacious and even the entry level rooms have a large outdoor space with a long (30’-ish) pool and a loft with an outside table, couches and upstairs nook. They are private as there is a hedge that blocks direct access to the room but you just walk around it and are on the beach. You have your own chairs, umbrellas and little canopied bed on the beach and the snorkeling is great just off the beach behind your room.
Manta On Call. The Manta On Call Program is a great idea and unique offering. Running only in the monsoon season of June to October when the plankton is high and the mantas come to feed, you get a phone that rings when the manta rangers have spotted them in Hanifaru Bay, a UNESCO protected area about 30 minutes away. When you get the call, you tell them if you will join the outing and have about 30 minutes to get to the marina to catch the boat.
In Hanifaru Bay, only snorkelers are allowed, not divers. It was quite crowded when we went and the waves were very choppy. One woman immediately got seasick and went back to the boat, which wasn’t helpful because the waves were tossing the boat around too. We spent 45 minutes swimming around the manta areas, where they would come from all directions and swim right under us, totally unafraid. It was an incredible experience.
Spa and Wellness. The spa is unreal, with overwater bungalows with huge glass windows in the floor for treatment rooms. There is a great wellness program that offers a full Ayurvedic workup and recommendations including what to eat at the restaurants. There are two yoga studios and they often have workshops with notable yoga teachers.
Private Island. There is a private island that is rented out to one party at a time and can sleep 22 people. Also includes use of a boat, private seaplane transfers, private spa, butler and full staffing, including babysitting.
Restaurants. Restaurants are good, Al Barakat, their signature Arabian restaurant, is probably the best. Fuego Grill is on the beach and offers steak and seafood. Blu, the Italian restaurant, was excellent and had spectacular sunset views. Breakfasts are wonderful with a huge fresh food section and made to order options.
Undersea Restaurant. We also went to an undersea restaurant at a neighboring island resort, SEA at Anantara Kihavah. The speedboat transfer was $425 and the Prix Fixe menu was $395++ per person and food was pretty unremarkable, especially for the price. The restaurant was interesting, sitting underwater and right on a reef by a dropoff. At night, the lights attract fish and we saw sharks, giant trevallies, snapper and other predators, as well as the reef dwellers. There's also a bar with a beautiful ceiling patterned with the stars called "Sky." Interesting experience but should be considered in the context of the cost of getting there and the food itself.
Service. The service at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru was truly outstanding. There are 500 full time employees who all live on the island. They did not lay anyone off during COVID thus have full staffing where other resorts are struggling to attract workers.
Marine Discovery. The marine discovery center is wonderful with snorkel and diving excursions, a turtle hospital and coral recovery program. We bought a coral frame and attached coral seedlings to it in the hope that these frames will help reconstitute the reefs and coral decimated in 2016.
Going Home. Departure was smooth, with a non-FS flight back to Male and an escort through the airport all the way to the security screening. There is a business class lounge for all airlines which is a slight step up from the rest of the airport. Boarding Qatar was easy and we were on our way before we knew it.
Overall an incredible trip. I’m happy to discuss further and answer any questions you might have. And if you'd like to explore booking Maldives, would love to help! Best, Janet