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I had no idea that the Maldives was a surfing destination. I’d seen and read about its white-sand beaches, its coral reef dive sites and its sumptuously deluxe resorts. Surfing, however, was not something I associated with the Maldive Islands.
Staring out at a burning pink sunset from the deck of my water villa, I thought that wave riding seemed an unlikely pursuit. The next day, however, I discovered that the breaks of Hudhuran Fushi Island make it one of South Asia’s most coveted surfing spots. An experienced wave rider told me it was one of his top three most adrenaline-pumping surf spots in the world.To first time visitors such as myself, the Maldives is full of such surprises. Located southwest of India in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives comprises 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls. Renowned for its creamy white sand, lush tropical vegetation and some of the most luxurious resort hotels in Asia, it is a popular retreat for vacationers from Europe, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. For American travelers, however, the Maldives are not as well known. Think of it as the Caribbean, only relocated to the Indian Ocean with less cruise ships, much smaller islands and greater privacy. In the coming years, tourism will only grow in popularity; several leading resort operators plan to open properties in the near future, joining upscale brands such as the Four Seasons, Conrad, Banyan Tree, Taj, One&Only and Alila.Accommodations vary from four-star beach bungalows to deluxe overwater villas. I stayed at Adaaran Prestige Vadoo, a luxury resort opened by Sri Lanka-based Aitken Spence Hotels. The resort itself was first developed more than 20 years ago by a Japanese operator and was the first to boast overwater villas.The original resort was demolished in late 2008 and completely rebuilt. Reopened last April, it features 37 luxury villas clustered around a small private island, each with a private sun deck, four-poster bed, glass-paneled bathroom flooring, rainforest shower, plasma television, Wi-Fi access, a private outdoor Jacuzzi and personal butler service. Lazing on my sun deck and staring at the colorful fish swimming below my villa was an intoxicating experience. As temperatures rose, I stepped off the terrace and swam to the private beach on the resort island. Sipping on fresh orange juice, watching the occasional heron land at the water’s edge and listening to the total silence — even the waves make no sound — I had truly discovered the appeal of the Maldives. It’s the perfect sanctuary for city dwellers seeking a few days in paradise.
Maldives Tourism Promotion Board www.visitmaldives.com
Destination ResourcesGetting ThereMale International Airport offers international flights from London; Paris; Frankfurt, Germany; Milan, Italy; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Singapore. Onward transportation to resorts is usually by seaplane or speedboat.
When to GoThe Maldives enjoys sunny days year-round with an average temperature of 75 to 91 degrees. The peak tourism season is from December to April.
Where to StayAdaaran Prestige Vadoo: A resort offering 37 deluxe overwater villas, each with private butler service; www.adaaran.comAlila Villas Hadahaa: This boutique resort is located near rarely visited coral reefs in the south; www.alilavillas.com/hadahaaConrad Maldives Rangali Island: A deluxe private resort popular with holidaying celebrities and movie stars; www.conradhotels.com
What to DoLeading resorts offer deluxe spas and wellness treatments. The exquisite coral reefs are ideal for diving and snorkeling. Sea fishing is also popular, especially at sunrise and sundown. Some islands, such as Hudhuran Fushi, boast excellent waves that attract globetrotting surfers. Many resorts offer dedicated children’s activities, such as banana boat rides, beach sports and dolphin-spotting trips.