The Maldives is quite simply one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. From the moment you depart Malé Airport by speedboat or sea plane, to landing on your paradise island, everything is just picture postcard perfect. Truly powder white sands, the brightest turquoise seas and quite incredible underwater marine life.
A few months ago, I finally made it to this island paradise that has adorned my social media feeds for years. And it didn’t disappoint. It can indeed be pricey staying at one the island resorts, but it’s absolutely worth it if this is the kind of holiday that appeals.
This Maldives hotel review blog post covers two hotels within the Banyan Tree Group – Angsana Velavaru and Dhawa Ihuru. Each distinctively different, but both offering an unforgettable stay. There are so many resorts vying for the title of the best hotel in the Maldives, and it’s pretty hard to pick from the endless number of resorts you’ll spot online.
If you’ve stumbled across my blog, it may be that you’ve booked or are planning to book one of these hotels. Or perhaps you’re overwhelmed with choice and need some help and information on deciding which Maldives resort to book.
Either way, I can wholeheartedly recommend both of these hotels, each of which offers a different kind of Maldives resort experience so read on to find out more!
Getting to the Maldives
First things first, getting to the Maldives! From the UK, there are direct flights on Virgin and British Airways from London. But for most travellers coming from the US, Australia or other locations in Europe and Asia, you will likely need to connect in Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi or Singapore. Flights aren’t always too cheap but you can occasionally score a good deal, especially if you plan and book ahead.
We opted for Qatar as the flight times suited us well and we could accrue a ton of Avios through the OneWorld alliance.
As we flew in our flight from Doha, I couldn’t quite stop my nose from being right up against the window. I just stared down with disbelief at the islands sprawling out under the plane’s wing. Some islands had strings of overwater bungalows stretching out from their sandy shores, and some were simply uninhabited specks of dazzling white.
It was as I had hoped, if not better. Completely mesmerising. Upon touch down at Malé’s Velana International airport, we headed straight into a small immigration line before heading through to find our hotel stand. I must say that Velana airport is a surprisingly small and ill-equipped for a destination so popular.
Transferring to the resorts in the Maldives
All hotels and resorts located on private islands in the Maldives require a seaplane or speedboat transfer. The resorts all have a small stand located in a bustling arrivals area, and you simply head here to meet one of the transfer staff.
They tag your luggage and take you to either the pier outside for a speedboat, or to the TransMaldivian seaplane check in. Here, you have your bags weighed and checked in, whilst you hop into a minibus over to the seaplane terminal. It’s fairly seamless. The seaplane terminal is brand new. It is a snazzy, air-conditioned building full of dozens of hotel lounges and small gates where you wait for the seaplane. Within less than 20 minutes we were back outside and being whisked towards our seaplane.
Well, wow what an experience and a total first for me. Not only are they far smaller and more cramped than I expected, but also extremely hot! It’s still a magical way to arrive. We taxied out of the seaplane parking area, out towards open water and within minutes, we were taking off, the capital Malé quickly dropping away below.
Flying by seaplane is certainly a magnificent way to see the islands, and really a must-do experience, if you can. But I’ve got to be honest and say it was a pretty bumpy experience and you definitely do feel like you’re just bouncing along the clouds. After around 45 minutes, we started our descent towards the twinkling island of Velavaru (meaning Turtle island). The seaplane landed right in the middle of the sea, and steered towards a small jetty floating in the water. Staff from the hotel came to greet us. They offloaded our bags into the speedboat and again, within minutes, we were speeding over to the resort.
Halfway through our week in the Maldives, we switched over to Dhawa Ihuru. For this, we flew back to Velana airport again by seaplane and transferred to the airport marina area. Here, we hopped into a speedboat to Ihuru, which was only 25 minutes or so away. In fact from Dhawa Ihuru, you can see the main island of Malé in the distance.
If flying by seaplane doesn’t appeal then make sure to find a resort, such as Dhawa Ihuru or its adjacent neighbour Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, where you can arrive by speedboat.
It’s also worth noting the difference in cost. A seaplane transfer can be anything from around USD400 return per person, which is quite a hefty sum to add on to overall trip cost. Speedboat transfers are around USD150-200 return, which is a bit better – but still expensive for a very short journey!
And of course, there is a plethora of local ferry routes to choose from to the small, local islands across the Maldives, many of which are home to small guesthouses. Most people think that Maldives on a budget is completely impossible, but it is definitely do-able!
Maldives Hotel Review: Angsana Velavaru
Once we arrived at the resort jetty, following our seaplane transfer, I was blown away by the dazzling colours of the sand and the water. There’s a wedding chapel directly to the left of the jetty, and I couldn’t imagine anywhere more beautiful to tie the knot!
The resort is nestled in the South Nilandhe Atoll, with its own house reef and a sparkling turquoise lagoon that stretches into infinity.
Reception is a bare-foot, sandy set up. After welcome drinks and a very relaxed check-in, one of the staff walked me to my villa and showed me around. I felt instantly more relaxed, despite the long journey. The staff were so welcoming and friendly, and the atmosphere is so laid back.
Shortly after arrival, the hotel team also set up a Whatsapp group. This ended up being super helpful for providing key information and making bookings.
I had a Beachfront villa on the sunrise side of the island. I didn’t have one of the private pool villas, but instead had a private back garden area, leading straight to the most stunning beach. Here, there are two sun loungers and an umbrella for your villa, so you never need to worry about getting sunbeds!
The villa had the sinks and vanity areas inside, and then the option of both inside and outside showers. The outdoor shower is in another private garden area, where you can wash directly under swaying palms. Incredible!
Angsana Velavaru provide their excellent branded shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, so you don’t need to bring any of these with you. The resort also provides all other key items such as a shaving kit, toothbrush and toothpaste.
In each villa, you will find a minibar that is replenished daily, as well as an umbrella, dressing gowns, slippers and several towels for beach or for shower use.
I found the villa room to be super comfortable and cosy, and just being able to wake up and walk straight down to the ocean and swim was perfect.
In theory, I had the lowest category of villa (which I still thought was amazing!) But there is also the Beachfront Infinity Pool Villa category, ranging from one to three bedrooms. And then, just a short boat ride away is Velavaru’s own island dedicated to InOcean Pool villas. These are absolutely magnificent, offering expansive living space across two storeys, as well as private infinity pool and plenty of space to relax in.
Amenities and Activities
Angsana Velavaru is leading the way in the Maldives with its 101 activities offering. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere with as many things to do ever – and it completely squashes the idea that ‘there’s nothing to do in the Maldives!’
There are activities that tap into local culture, such as Maldivian Palm weaving, or a guided tour around one of the nearby local islands, such as Meedhoo, Bandidhoo and Rinbudhoo.
For those seeking adventure, there’s no shortage of activities on offer. From land-based fun, to water-based activities, you can enjoy pretty much every kind of activity! Darts, futsal, volleyball, night fishing, kayaking, jetskiing, kneeboarding, snorkelling and even traditional Maldivian fishing – called Vadhaa Dhiun.
For kids, there’s also an endless number of things to do at this Maldives resort. The Kids Club, called the Ranger’s Club, offerings a variety of enriching activities, including sand painting, treasure hunts, island tour, plant discovery and marine based fun.
Alongside the extensive menu of activities are also the regular facilities, that you can use at any time. The main infinity pool at the heart of the resort is stunning, and somehow always had spare sun loungers.
There is also a bird sanctuary in the middle of the island. There is daily feeding here, and a flurry of brightly coloured birds descend for food. It was surprisingly magical!
Lastly, the resort is really proud of its Stay for Good initiatives. Guests can get stuck into coral planting or even assist with the data collection on the reefs by participating in Citizen Science Snorkelling.
Food and Drink
One of the best things about Angsana Velavaru, is that you can only stay here on an all-inclusive basis. Meaning that all your food and drink all day long is included as part of the stay.
Kaani restaurant is the international buffet spot, offering an extensive breakfast and themed evenings every night of the week. There is Pasta Sunday, Barbecue Monday, Taste of Asia Tuesday, and so on. You certainly won’t go hungry.
Right by the main infinity pool is Kuredhi Pool Bar, which was one my favourite places to eat and drink. I loved the delicious seafood dishes here in particular, and the extensive range of cocktails and coffees.
For a la carte meals, there is the stunning overwater restaurant Azzurro over at the InOcean Villas. Wow -this meal was stunning and the surroundings were breathtaking. Stepping outside after dinner, I also couldn’t believe the number of sharks swimming directly underneath us!
And for a more romantic meal, Funa is the place to dine. The cuisine is Pan-Asian, and the Korean fried chicken for me was truly memorable.
There are still more foodie options though – you can arrange a private beach BBQ, or even a floating breakfast or tea to your villa to enjoy.
Maldives Hotel Review: Dhawa Ihuru
We arrived here by speedboat, and I quickly realised this island is absolutely tiny. Standing on the shore and looking back, you can actually just about see the horizon of Malé and its tall buildings. But Dhawa Ihuru feels truly like a world away!
We were greeted by all the friendly staff, before taking a seat with a cold flannel and cold drink in the Velavaani Bar area. This common area actually serves as the hotel reception, as well as an all day bar, which sets the tone for this super informal and relaxed resort.
Dhawa Ihuru feels like a true ‘off the clock’ destination. This tiny island is so small, you can walk its perimeter in less than 10 minutes, and it quickly began to feel like our own private island home in the Maldives!
Aerial view of Dhawa Ihuru Credit @Dhawa Ihuru
Dhawa Ihuru doesn’t have any overwater villas, but instead a sprinkling of beachvillas. Some of these have jet pools or rainmist pools, but I had the lower category beachfront villa. I absolutely loved it. Like Angsana Velavaru, I had my own private garden area, leading straight to the beach, and to the back, I had an outdoor bathroom with al fresco shower.
There was something about the beachfront garden here at Dhawa Ihuru that I seriously loved. It was smaller, and the ocean was even closer to my villa’s door. It felt like a complete tropical paradise, with giant birds walking past on the sand, and black tipped reef sharks swimming by in groups.
The water here was like nothing I’ve seen before, and standing in the shallows, I couldn’t believe my eyes with the number of marine life darting about and gliding by.
Amenities and Activities
Dhawa Ihuru is all about the marine life. It’s one of the best resorts in the Maldives for diving.
What it lacks in a list of extensive activities, it makes up for in incredible underwater marine life. And although Dhawa Ihuru caters for scuba divers of all levels, for those who prefer just snorkelling (like me), it was easy to be amazed by the sheer variety and volume of marine life. Ihuru is home to one of the best house reefs in the Maldives, so you can either borrow a snorkel for an independent exploration, or follow a guided snorkelling safari to spot all the incredible corals and tropical fishes. I saw nurse sharks, stingrays, turtles, parrotfish and giant eels to name just a few.
Dhawa Ihuru is also home to the best wreck diving in the Maldives. The Rannamaari Wreck is just beside of the house reef, and mysteriously sunk in 1999. It now sits at a depth of 26m, and is teeming with sea creatures.
Other marine based activities at Dhawa Ihuru include dolphin cruises, kayaking, jet skiing, paddleboarding and night fishing using traditional Maldivian techniques. On land, make sure to join one of the Maldivian cooking classes.
Food and Drink
As Dhawa Ihuru is really one of the teeniest Maldivian resorts around, it only has one main restaurant serving international cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This delightful beachfront dining venue was actually excellent, and we had some great meals here. There is also the stunning Velavaani Bar where you can grab excellent cocktails and light bites.
There is also an excellent room service offering at Ihuru, where you can order Asian or Western flavours in a fun bento box to wherever you are on the island.
Like Angsana Velavaru, all guests stay on an all inclusive basis.
But fear not, Dhawa Ihuru is located just 5 minutes from its big sister resort, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru. There’s a frequent complimentary shuttle boat that darts between the two, meaning guests at either hotel can enjoy the other as part of the ‘Twin Island Experience‘.
So if you’re staying at Dhawa Ihuru, you can also head over to Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru to dine. And in fact, use any of their facilities too.
The newly opened dining venue, Madi Hiyaa, at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru is a must-try. This stunning overwater restaurant serves up authentic Japenese food, including Yakitori, Omakase and excellent sushi and dumplings. There is also the beautiful beachside Ilaafathi restaurant and the Naibolo bar.
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru
As well as the dining options I’ve outlined above at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, this super romantic resort is worth exploring and spending time at too. Its wellbeing offering is particularly standout, and you can join yoga classes or enjoy other treatments and activities, such as acupuncture, breath workshops, meditation, spinal stretch or sound bathing. Check out the full wellbeing booklet here. Some of these are subject to an additional fee.
Whilst I twinned a stay between Angsana Velavaru and Dhawa Ihuru, you could instead stay at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru for a few nights instead. Its villas are all beachfront, and some of the most exquisite you will find in the Maldives. And its also home to the world class Banyan Tree Spa, which offers some of the most incredible spa treatments to be found.
As with any resort stay in the Maldives, neither hotel is ‘cheap’. However both do offer distinctively better value and more affordable rates than other famous resorts.
There are a few main ways to book a stay at Angsana Velavaru or Dhawa Ihuru. The first is to book direct, the second to book through a tour operator (which will likely bundle in flights) or to book through a site such as booking.com.
I do tend to book most stays through booking.com, purely for the loyalty ‘Genius’s benefits I’ve built up. I often find that the discounts there often are greater than booking direct or through a tour operator. Even if I source flights myself.
For Angsana Velavaru
A one night stay in a Beachfront villa costs from £517 per night. And a one night stay an InOcean villa starts from £1,097 per night.
However, you can also book a week-long stay through booking.com for better rates. For example, I found a three night stay in a Beachfront villa, followed by a four night stay in an InOcean villa for £2,886 for two people sharing.
As mentioned, all are on an inclusive basis, meaning all your food and drinks are included!
A one night stay in a Beachfront villa costs from £882 per night. And a Beachfront Rainmist villa starts from around £998 per night.
As with Angsana Velavaru, you can also book a week-long all inclusive stay through booking.com for Dhawa Ihuru. A seven night stay starts from around £3,472 based on two sharing.
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru
Lastly, if you fancy including a few nights at this gorgeous resort as an add-on to one the above, you certainly won’t regret it.
A one night stay in an Oceanview Pool villa starts from around £815 per night. However note this is just on a bed and breakfast basis.
Both resorts are absolutely out of this world, and I had the most life-changing week in the Maldives. The stunning scenery and complete absence of real life stresses made this week one of the best ever. Everything was so easy and straight forward, and as someone who hadn’t ever thought a week confined to a resort would be ‘my thing’, it really was.
Whilst Angsana Velavaru and Dhawa Ihuru don’t have the ultra-fancy offerings such as an underwater restaurant, they make up for it with seriously stunning landscapes and a lovely island feel.
They’re both so small that you don’t even need bikes to get around, let alone buggies or cars (they’re both car-free of course!).
Dhawa Ihuru as the smaller of the two really felt like the tropical island paradise you might see in movies, it was really ‘castaway’ vibes.
However, I enjoyed the sheer number of things to do at Angsana Velavaru and loved the evening music they had.
Maldives Hotel Review: Angsana Velavaru and Dhawa Ihuru
I do hope my guide and hotel review for Angsana Velararu and Dhawa Ihuru has been useful. Feel free to ask any further questions below if there’s something I haven’t covered. I’d love if you shared this post on any of the below links!
If you are planning a longer trip around this region, or perhaps considering adding on Sri Lanka, then make sure to check out my guides to this stunning island.
I’ve pulled together guides to the best beaches on the South Coast of Sri Lanka as well as for beautiful Ella in the Hill Country. And if you’re keen to hear about two unmissable luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, check my reviews for Chena Huts in Yala National Park and Anantara Peace Haven Tangle Resort.
Disclaimer: My stays at Angsana Velavaru and Dhawa Ihuru were comped, but as always, my reviews are entirely honest and my own.
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