Escape Plan: Eat and rest well at Velaa Private Island

Eat and rest well—like how a Maldivian would—at Velaa Private Island

Editor’s note: See other Escape Plan stories here.

Behind the scenes of the most exclusive luxury resorts in the Maldives, armies of hoteliers labour to ensure every iota of advantage to stay ahead of the competition. Where every property professes to offer the most evocative golden hour views, intuitive butler services, luxurious spa treatments, and breathtaking house reefs, the margins for excellence are truly narrow and every word of praise, hard-earned.

If the glowing reviews of Velaa Private Island are anything to go by, the resort’s ability to lure its guests effortlessly into a state of bliss is testament to its mastery of six-star Maldivian hospitality. Conceived by Czech financier, Jiří Šmejc, and his wife, Radka, who felt compelled to build their own slice of Maldivian haven after frequent trips to resorts around the country, Velaa Private Island is pretty much the type of ultra-luxurious tropical island escapade tailor-made for the insouciantly wealthy such as the Šmejcs themselves.

Velaa Private Island sets itself apart from other luxury resorts in the Maldives with impeccable service and dining options. Photo by Velaa Private Island

Opened in 2013, the resort is located in the Noonu Atoll and comprises 47 villas, houses, and residences. From the one-room beach villa that envelopes the sojourner in absolute solitude to the sprawling 1,342 sq m NIKA Private Residence designed by award-winning interior designer, Patricia Urquiola, each abode is intimate, sophisticated, and sumptuous in equal measure. Velaa Private Island accommodates a maximum of 134 guests at any one time; the size and exclusivity make it perfect for visitors who expect personalised and undivided—yet discreet—service.

Yoga pavilion at Velaa Private Island. Photo by Velaa Private Island

The Šmejcs enlisted Czech architect, Petr Kolář, to construct the property, a project that lasted three years. Velaa Private Island’s architecture pays homage to its name (“velaa” means “turtle” in Dhivehi) with myriad and unabashed references to the creature throughout the property, including an aerial view that mimics its shape, formed from the over-water villas and strategically placed jetties. More pertinently, Kolář helped realise the Šmejcs’ vision with what has been coined “polite luxury”—a combination of relaxed beach getaway sensibilities and quietly lavish architecture and furnishing that’s best appreciated up-close.

Savouring Every Moment

Like any Maldivian escapade, guests at Velaa Private Island can expect to be enveloped in languid, self-contained luxury. When out and about, must-dos include heading out to its gorgeous house reefs for a spot of magnificent snorkelling and diving, or perhaps indulging in an hour or two of kayaking, wakeboarding, and kite surfing. On land, there is a yoga pavilion for guests to stretch out, beach volleyball and squash courts, and a nine-hole golf course designed by two-time Masters Champion José María Olazábal.

For those less inclined to physical exertion, a visit to the Velaa Spa is a must. There, guests can indulge in signature treatments, including customised facials with sophisticated European technology, and traditional Asian massage and body treatments. There is even a geographically incongruous ‘snow room’—the only one of its kind in the Maldives—containing mounds of compacted ice and snow for those who wish to indulge in contrast therapy after a hot sauna session.

Entrance to Aragu, the resort’s signature restaurant. Photo by Velaa Private Island

For an authentic taste of the tropical paradise, however, we recommend heading to Aragu, Velaa Private Island’s signature restaurant. Helmed by Sri Lankan native Chef Gaushan de Silva, the restaurant will take you on a gastronomic journey with elevated takes on local Maldivian cuisine.

“My primary focus is always to showcase the best that the Maldivian land and waters have to offer. I pair that with techniques and presentations resultant of my European training and, wherever possible, try to include influences from my Sri Lankan heritage,” he explains.

A great place to start is the Taste Of Maldives menu, an evolving tasting menu that primarily uses Maldivian ingredients such as yellowfin tuna and community-sourced produce like kanamadhu (sea almonds), coconut, and pumpkin.

Among Chef de Silva’s signature dishes are the Yellowfin Tuna, Confit Egg Yolk, which pairs the fish with locally sourced village eggs and an elegant garlic-soy sauce; and the Lobster, Curry, Kandukukulhu, where local lobsters are paired with a French beurre blanc infused with the flavours of a Maldivian coconut-based curry, and a tamarind-laced risotto made with sago and kanamadhu chutney.

“Our guests are among the world’s most discerning global travellers, and they expect no less than a luxurious, world-class dining experience,” says de Silva. “A meal at Aragu involves bespoke experiences. We modify the menus based on seasonal harvests, and our chefs accommodate a variety of wellness preferences and health choices. Couple that up with immersive views of the Indian Ocean, our 800-bin wine list, and the best of Maldivian and global produce served up with culinary finesse, that’s a truly luxurious dining experience.” And one that imbues Velaa Private Island with an extra edge over its competitors.

Velaa Private Island