I recently returned from 9 days in planet Earth’s most rapturous dreamland – the Maldives. I’ve been fortunate to visit this heaven on prior occasions, and I am struck by how its luminous beauty never dulls; on this trip, I visited the wonderful Westin Maldives Mirandhoo, a jewel in the crown of the Westin Hotels and Resorts group. I’ve worked with Westin for many years as their Wellbeing Movement ambassador and I’ve experienced several of their properties around the world; as such, I know the wellness ethos that pervades every detail of this hotel group well, and it’s one that I feel passionately about infusing into every trip I take. Whilst I was hosted at the Westin Maldives Miriandhoo (henceforth WMM), I experienced the purest expression of their Wellbeing philosophy, free from the restrictions and confines imposed by a bustling cityscape, and instead, able to indulge in the secluded tranquillity of island life. Picture-perfect postcard-style, powdery-soft sandy beaches, mesmeric sunsets, the freshest seafood and perfect temperatures, all render it an unsurprising top honeymoon destination; for me, after only a few days, I recovered the hitherto lost sensation of feeling recharged, relaxed and renewed. Thereafter, the ensuing week of pure revival left me ready to take on 2020 with gusto! Click MORE to see and read about my experience of this nirvana…
For your ease of consumption, this review will be laid out in alignment with the 6 key pillars of the Westin Wellbeing Movement, so as follows; 1) Feel Well, 2) Move Well, 3) Eat Well, 4) Sleep Well 5) Play Well and 6) Work Well.
1) THE SPA COMPLEX – ‘FEEL WELL’
Part of any wellness escape necessarily includes the opportunity to check-in with one’s own physical and mental wellbeing, and to focus on nourishing self-recovery. I maintain that there is no better way to do this than to dedicate an hour or two to literally doing nothing. Switching off fully, detaching the consciousness from worldly concerns, and letting the body and mind relax is something I can only really achieve at a tranquil spa, and this heavenly facility excels at exactly that.
As you wander over the bridge you uncover ‘The Heavenly Spa’ elegantly perched on the apex of the island, surveying the vast turquoise expanse beyond. A dramatic yet soothing view awaits you inside, and the placid silence is only punctuated by the sounds of the waves meeting the coral reef outside.
There are countless treatments on offer. If you get a massage you could, of course, close your eyes and fall asleep or keep them open to watch the fish swim below through the glass floor. Personally, as a trained sports masseuse, my preference is always a deeper massage to really iron out any knots and muscular imbalances.
The Feel Well credentials extend beyond the spa, and pervade the entire island, and are fed by the ensuing 4 pillars.
2) THE FITNESS CENTER – ‘MOVE WELL’
Upon check-in, you’re offered a running session with the in-house trainer as part of Westin’s ‘Run Concierge’ concept. Bright and early on the first morning, we circumnavigated the c.2km island a number of times whilst the Maldivian sunrise bathed the island in crepuscular radiance. The run, at this early stage of the trip, is a great way to see the island, establish your grasp of the spatial geography and learn the layout, as well as burn some calories early to set up a full and fresh day ahead.
No training kit with you? Not a problem, as WMM will lend you a fresh set of workout clothes so nothing can stand in your way. One thing I especially like about Westin properties is that they engage in this ‘Gear Lending’ program so that every guest can hire fresh New Balance branded kit, including fresh sneakers, for no more than 5 USD, and in some properties (including this one), at no cost at all. This means you can pack light, and fitness activities are accessible to all guests, even if it wasn’t a core reason for which you booked the holiday.
The gym complex itself is absolutely gorgeous, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the beach and ocean outside, raised a level up. That’s rare in the Maldives, as most buildings are at sea level, but this glistening panopticon gives you a glorious perspective of the ocean and broader island. Kit-wise, you’ll find an ample array including TRX, kettlebells, treadmills, rowers, ellipticals, cable machines, dumbbells and much more as well as an in-house trainer to guide you should you need some help or motivation. This was a very easy gym in which to have a workout, meaning there was one fewer reason not to get involved.
I started the second morning with the glorious sunrise yoga session. It was just what my body needed. After ten long hours of sitting on a plane, my body was so tight, and even a gentle yoga session was a struggle, but I enjoyed so much relief afterwards. This is part of my compulsory routine (where possible) anytime I travel and is a given at this Westin too.
3) THE RESTAURANTS – ‘EAT WELL’
The Westin group has a nutritionist-led partnership with SuperFoodsRx and has created a nutritionally balanced, super healthy menu for all their hotels, complemented by a suite of revitalising juices curated by The Juicery. At WMM, the Executive Chef has overlaid this template with local Maldivian flavours, to reflect what can be locally sourced, and what makes up the mainstay of the local style; I had the pleasure of a cookery class to make a Maldivian Tuna Curry dish to sample this style and was enamoured with it (recipe to follow shortly!). This made it very easy to order from the regular menu throughout the whole stay without having to ask the chef to alter any dishes to make it healthier. There are 5 key ports of call to cover off when it comes to food;
This was my preferred restaurant on the island. It’s set within a vast, bright and airy space overlooking the hotel’s infinity pool and ocean beyond, with cavernous triple-height ceilings, and a satisfying aspect. It gives you the option to sit indoors or out, without feeling as though you’re having to make a choice between either. On the menu, you’ll find the ‘Eat well’ options which consist of fresh ‘catch of the day’ (often the likes of Maldivian yellowfin tuna/barramundi/reef fish), as well as superfood salads and filling soups to name but a few. There is a wide choice here, which helps to keep things interesting throughout the holiday, meaning you don’t suffer the ‘menu fatigue’ often experienced on captive island settings.
This is a smaller, more intimate beach restaurant where you can watch the chefs create each dish in the ‘live kitchen’. There’s something impossibly relaxing about sitting barefoot with your feet basking in the powdery sand whilst tucking into your locally-sourced fresh fish dish. Flavours are spicier than Island Kitchen, with more shellfish on offer here.
I was lucky enough to be at the WMM on the same day as a vast yellowfin tuna had been caught and was being prepared to be part-eaten, and part-frozen given the hulking size of the thing! Without doubt, it was the freshest, most delicious tuna I’ve ever had, with just a lick of soy sauce to render it a savoury masterpiece.
The Pearl itself is the centrepiece restaurant on the island and allows you to enjoy your meal either outside on the open-air deck, or inside. It’s a tribute to the great Japanese restaurants of London but with the characteristic fresh ingredients of the local fishermen.
This generous veranda projecting out over the reception, one level up, is part of the play space, where you can shoot some pool, enjoy board games or just hang out. It’s a lovely place to mingle with other guests should you prefer to socialise – or simply grab a drink and watch the explosions of colours over the Indian Ocean. It also doubles as a cosy night-time rain shelter for when an evening monsoonal interlude decides to unfold at full-pelt!
THE BREAKFAST BUFFET
This is the mainstay of an indulgent hotel experience; there’s a vast array of choices here catering for a suite of cuisines – Chinese, Japanese, French and many more. My preferred choice is a classic omelette and one of the freshly squeezed juices on offer, as well as some of the exotic local fruit, but that covers around 2% of the available offering! The breakfast venue is physically based in the wonderful space of the Island Kitchen, so there’s a fresh feel blowing through the whole breakfast experience.
4) THE ROOMS – ‘SLEEP WELL’
The beach villas (my chosen form of accommodation, as I quite like solid ground underfoot!) are spacious, minimally appointed in a fashion which promotes cognitive ease, and are all sea-facing. They each have their own little private slice of beach and of course, their own private pool. Depending on the orientation of your villa, you’ll either enjoy stunning sunrise to wake you in the morning or a sunset masterpiece to send you to sleep.
For any regular readers of FitnessOnToast, you might think I’m slightly obsessed with sleep… That would be accurate. And why not?! We spend a full 1/3 of our lives sleeping so it’s important to nail it. Sleep helps enhance muscle recovery, restores & maintains mental alertness, dissipates neurotoxin build-up which accumulates during wakefulness, releases Human Growth Hormone so you can recovery among many other things, so it’s worth investing in. After a few fairly stressful months in London, I hadn’t realised how stressed and tired I was until I arrived in the Maldives. After a few nights of tranquil sleep in the Westin Heavenly Bed (a global standard at these hotels, and essentially a vast chasm of mattress, perfectly supported and enrobed in blissful 250-thread-count sateen sheets), I felt human once more. The addition of a special sleep-well menu which promotes rest is a lovely touch.
5) THE ACTIVITIES – ‘PLAY WELL’
There is a popular misconception that an island escape is synonymous with ‘activity poverty’; quite the opposite. There are countless activities to be ticked off here, many of which hail from the well-equipped Dive Center on the island! I’ll list just a few of note…
Snorkelling – the Mirandhoo reefs offer some exceptional viewing – you’ll find clown triggerfish, powder-blue surgeonfish, I spotted manta rays and countless other species. You can snorkel just off your private beach any time, and there are island villa reef tours or excursions to reefs nearby organised through the hotel.
Dolphin watching – as you can imagine there’s no guarantee that you’ll spot a dolphin since this is after all their home ad they could be anywhere in the Indian Ocean. But the staff know their whereabouts surprisingly well, so sightings are common. The dolphins will swim very close to the boats whilst driving, such that you’re almost a bit scared they might hit the hull – but it’s perfectly safe!
Tennis – there’s a large tennis court which you can book at any time for a game. It also doubles as a football pitch in case you want to get involved in any of the staff matches!
Cookery classes – The island is staffed by locals, which means that there is a wealth of culinary knowledge indigenous to this part of the world. That is an exceptional opportunity to get under the skin of the Maldivian fare so that you return home not only with a sense of restfulness but also with an additional string to your gourmet bow!
6) WORK WELL
Amidst such isolation, one might not expect such a fully equipped business center with super-fast wifi, a comfy ergonomic chair and all the chargers you’ll need, but there are in fact several of these hidden around the island. They host corporate escapes and offsites and have a number of conference rooms with presentation facilities. Whilst this wasn’t relevant for my holiday, I appreciated the subtle presence of the facility. I did make regular use of the super-fast wifi though, for all manners of Instagramming, as well as Netflix streaming on a couple of slightly guilty occasions!
My 9 days here were transformative. I sampled almost everything there was to experience and drank deeply from the restorative elixir which flows from such beautiful island life. If you’re already familiar with the Westin proposition, this will be your nirvana. If you’ve never sampled it before, this is the ideal place to induct yourself. Their formula contains key threads which run through all of their properties, so I always have the sense of returning to something comfortingly familiar, yet different enough each time so as not to feel like a bereft carbon copy. Whether or not you’re new to this, there is the certainty that the exquisite weather (even the rainstorms blow over within 30 minutes), cuisine, facilities and vistas will leave a permanent impression on your holiday history. Whilst it was not my first visit to the Maldives, it was no less special and left me with a valued sense of calm and peace which has guided me through the start of 2020.