With Christmas, New Years, and the most popular week to vacation about 11 months out, I know many readers are in the midst of choosing their destinations and booking their award tickets before they’re gone. I likewise know that many hope and dream to go somewhere as remote and exquisite as the Maldives but are hesitant for one reason or another. Here are my thoughts on and words of encouragement to go to the Maldives and the Park Hyatt, where we stayed for five nights this past December and January using points (25,000 Hyatt points per night).
A review of the resort, reviews of the park villas, pool villas, and water villas, and a methodical breakdown of the points and cash needed to take the trip have all been written about on the blog over the past year.
That leaves the question – is it really that special? What makes it different from other island vacations? Don’t Americans have Hawaii for that? Or perhaps the Turks and Caicos?
Island beach vacations are my favorite, and I’ve taken quite a few over the years in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Hawaii, Southeast Asia, and most recently the Maldives. I can say without a doubt my trip to the Maldives was the most spectacular and incredible of all. Other favorites include Anguilla, the Big Island of Hawaii, Mykonos and Spetses in Greece, and Bali, Indonesia, to give you a sense of my diverse and varied tastes and experiences as I compare the Maldives to them.
And yes, spending the New Year with Ben undoubtedly influenced my favorable opinion, but you are all hopefully taking these vacations with people you care for and want to create special memories with. I suppose that’s not a given, but I’m hopeful…!
So what is it exactly that made the experience worth the jet lag, the really, really long journey (West Palm Beach to New York to Abu Dhabi to Male and then two more flights and a boat transfer within the Maldives)? The natural beauty of the island, of course!
The Location and Size
I just complained about how long it took to get to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa, but the extremely remote location of the island, just ten miles north the Equator, is perhaps THE defining feature. It’s literally a bump of sand in the middle of the Indian Ocean. You can walk around the circular cay in fifteen minutes, the highest point can’t be more than seven or eight feet above sea level, and the only things visible on the horizon are other tiny islands off in the distance, which I had to point out to Ben since his eyesight isn’t great.
When I opened my phone to try and pin our location on a map, I appeared to be floating in the ocean because the island is so small it doesn’t render. The Big Island is so large you can drive around it for hours, and even smaller islands like Anguilla or the BVIs can never be known by a visitor in the way that Hadahaa can. Within a matter of a day, I had become acquainted not only with the resort but also with the entirety of the island.
This is an important feature of every island vacation that I often forget to consider. I actually don’t like sand much. For one, it’s itchy. It also manages to find its way into every crevice and crack of your phone, jewelry, watch… I usually rinse it out of my hair for days after going to the beach, especially if I take a tumble in the waves. That said, I always prefer soft sand to rocky beaches and stones. The Maldives are renowned for their sandy beaches, which make walking, sunbathing, and swimming in the shallow water of the perimeter all a joy. There were no boulders, rocks, stones, or even pebbles to speak of at the Park Hyatt. There were reefs, though…
The water was perfect for snorkeling and exploring aquatic life. The reefs in the Maldives are particularly healthy and vibrant, as they haven’t been damaged by pollution and human life the way so many reefs at resorts often have. They were teeming with fish and both shark and sea turtle sightings were the norm.
If you are terrified of sharks, fear not – they were on the small side, but still pretty incredible to see. I’m fascinated by sharks, as two guests at the Park Hyatt learned when they saw me running up and down the shore underneath a dock and asked if I had lost something. No, I hadn’t lost anything, I explained. I was running into the water looking for a shark I had seen circling, duh! They were kind and indulged my oddity, although I’m sure the sight was laughable.
As much as I love Anguilla, I can’t say the Caribbean has ever been warm or calm enough to swim for more than ten or fifteen minutes. The water clarity and temperature in the Maldives is ideal for enjoying the ocean. It’s cool enough that it provides a respite from the heat, which reached the upper 80s around lunch, but still warm enough that one could swim and snorkel all day. For those who are a bit weary of the water (I’ll include myself in this group ever since I watched a shark attack in a POOL in Jaws), the clear, shallow water is both beautiful and calming. Even Ben, who calls the ocean the “shark’s house” went swimming often!
And the Park Hyatt?
As I think back to the trip and what made it so unique, it comes down to the nature of the island. The Park Hyatt Maldives, in terms of the facilities, the rooms, the staff and service, and the food were all superb, yet these are not the aspects which are pronounced in my memory. When you travel to a fantastic resort and leave with memories of the island itself, of its sunsets and water and paradise, you know you have a winner.