The Maldives: W Retreat & Spa
W Retreat & Spa
Wow. Whatever-whenever, wonderland and wonderful are just some of the words associated with the W, although the letter doesn't actually stand for anything.
Launched in 2006, the W Retreat and Spa in the Maldives is where the likes of Kate Moss, Kevin Spacey and the world's young royalty like to hang out.
Accessible by sea plane, the W is approximately half an hour's flight from Male International airport and caters for an upmarket, style-savvy clientele. It has an instant wow-factor excitement about it and you're infiltrated with the W buzz immediately on arrival. Of course it helps to have arrived in style: W guests start their journey from Male International airport at the W lounge, a cool airy studio-style space filled with fruits, pastries and refreshments, while Fashion Week catwalk shows play on flat screens. "We believe in the first 15 and the last 15," explains Mohamed Nuass, W's Senior Complex Sales Manager. He means the first 15 minute chance they have to impress and the last 15 minutes they have to leave you with a good impression. It works.
Built on a 300 square meter island, the W is actually one of the smallest resorts in the Maldives, yet thanks to rather clever design, you wouldn't know it. Four restaurants, a cocktail sunset bar, underground club, open air lounge, gym, library and spa are all built into the island, yet you can't see one feature from the other.
W Retreat & Spa
"The W is an adult playground," explains Nuass. "We don't allow kids under 13." Yet there are six sweet stops filled with free ice creams (Magnums, Häagen Dazs pots, Soleros) and fizzy drinks on the island where guests are just invited to help themselves. You feel like a naughty child, even if you haven't been one for a good 20 years.
The island itself also hosts 28 Beach Oasis Villas, each a plentiful 188 square metres with free wi-fi, Bose sound systems, huge flat-screen TVs, roof-top swings and bar areas, plus - of course - a private plunge pool, double day bed, BBQ and sun loungers on the terrace. The Beach Oases overlook the white sandy beaches of the island and, between the coconut palms, you can see the turquoise sea from your bed when you wake in the morning. Ridiculously idyllic.
Over on the jetty, which is 500m long and nearly twice the length of the island, are the 50 Ocean Oases. The lagoon-view Oases lead straight down into the sea's shallow waters and have access to the beach. They are slightly more expensive than the regular Oases for this perk, at $2,000-3,000 (£1,200-1,900) a night (Sea View Ocean Oases, which are in slightly deeper water, are usually $1,750-$1,100 a night - £1,100-£670).
Nice touch: all Oases have clear glass section in the floor so you can look down through your lounge and watch the fish swimming below. At night this is lit up to attract more sea life for you to spy.
Money no object?
W Retreat & Spa
The presidential suite is where it's happening. At $9-10,000 (£5-6,000) a night, it has two bedrooms (a master and a twin), each with their own lounges and wide flat-screen TVs, a wraparound sun deck with an infinity pool and plenty of day beds to chillax on.
"We pride ourselves on high-end service with a twist of humour," says Nuaas. "Our philosophy is Whatever Whenever, so whatever you want, whenever you want it, we will try our best to arrange it for you." Incidentally, this service has previously extended to staff dressing as pandas to play pranks on behalf of guests and treating their customers as Hollywood A-listers for the duration of their stay, complete with autograph and picture requests.
The W hotel chain first launched in New York in the early noughties and the latest addition to the family has just opened in Leicester Square here in the UK. Aimed at the fashionable crowd, the chain employs DJs to mix music which is simultaneously streamed to W guests around the world. Michael Angelo, who does Fashion Week shows for Gucci, was treating us to a sublime house set throughout our stay.
For eats: check out Fire, where you can choose a selection of raw foods, from vegetables to seafood and meats to be cooked up in any style by the house chef. At Fish, you can indulge in the finest lobster, shellfish and sushi from around the world and at Kitchen, the bistro serves soul-satisfying food.
W Retreat & Spa
Those who fancy staying up late should check out 15 Below, the resort's new underground club. It looks like anything you'd find on the New York scene - a cool boutique with neon lights and laid-back sofas.
The real beauty of the W though, lies in its in-house reef. It boasts one of the best in the Maldives and the snorkelling is absolutely breathtaking. Just a few minutes under water will give you access to hundreds of beautifully coloured, completely unique fish. From the Nemos or Clown Fish to the turtles that really do swim alongside you, it's a colourful treasure trove that shouldn't be missed.
Find out more about the W Retreat & Spa, Maldives