Tried & Tested: Alila Kothaifaru

A new Maldives resort seems like a no-brainer at the moment because after all, the island nation has always been happy to welcome new guests – even throughout the pandemic. With the Alila Kothaifaru, another Hyatt brand is coming to the Indian Ocean. Let's check out what the Alila hype is all about!

As experienced by LuxusInsider Senior Editor Cathrin Lührs

The Location

In the northern stretches of the Maldivian archipelago lies the Raa atoll, which belongs to Kothaifaru. One can easily galavant across the whole island, and a solo stroll is well worth it. The sand at Alila Kothaifaru's beaches is fine, almost silky. One may occasionally find a piece of coral or a small pebble, but shells and the like are few and far between. Despite being only 11 acres, a short stroll inland puts you in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by coconut palms and lots of fruit-bearing trees. The vibe along the sandy jungle paths is as chill as it is on the beach. One cool and surprising sight? In the late afternoon the Maldivian Flying Foxes, a species of bat, become more active and put on quite a show as they fly overhead and even cruise over the water!

The Arrival

Of course, there is no way around Malé if you want to visit a Maldives resort. If you can't score a direct flight, your clients can easily change planes in Dubai, Qatar, or Abu Dhabi. The last leg to Alila Kothaifaru is on another (considerably smaller) plane. Despite my concerns, the arrival by seaplane is not scary at all but instead an absolute highlight. Just keep on clicking for some Insta-fame! The flight with Trans Maldivian Airways takes about 40 minutes. If guests have to be dropped off at other resorts along the way it will take a bit longer. Good to know: the seaplanes fly during daylight hours only. So if you have an early departure back home or a late arrival, you'll have to plan on spending the night in Malé.

The Resort

Immediately noticeable is that the Beach Villas are virtually invisible from the beach. That's deliberate. It's for privacy for one, and second it's part of the philosophy of the Hyatt luxury brand Alila: to preserve as much of the natural vegetation as possible. What's more obvious than creating a sandy corridor and hiding the villas in it? Not hidden at all of course are the Water Villas, which are perched along the edges of the lagoon.

The brand new resort features an infinity pool, three restaurants, and two bars. The Shack, a small restaurant on a nearby sandbar, is a 10-minute boat ride away and is scheduled to be ready in time for peak season. Four-hour day tours or evening tours with a picnic or barbecue can be booked from around November. There is also a water sports center, a library, a recreation room, a spa (of course), and the kids club Play Alila.

The Villas

Accordingly to the meaning of the Sanskrit word "Alila," the villas are exactly that: surprising. This is not the place for "Bling-Bling." Instead, the Alila brand's goal is to guide its guests' attention back to nature. In my opinion: mission accomplished! The villas, especially those in the "Beach" category, blend seamlessly into their natural surroundings. And there is no lack of space. Even the smallest category, the Lagoon Water Villas, sports 125 square meters/1300 sq. ft. All accommodations are designed for a maximum of two adults and one child, but exceptions are possible. When I entered my Sunrise Beach Villa (202 square meters/2100 sq. ft), I immediately felt at home and well taken care of. I was greeted by warm earth tones: browns, grays, and beiges, combined with wooden textures and stone floors. Chic, but not obtrusive.

From the living room my gaze immediately fell upon an intimate garden complete with a private pool, lounge area, and two sun loungers. As soon as you open the doors, you can hear the waves crashing on the beach. My advice: be thoughtful of the heat, humidity, and mosquitos, which are guaranteed to find their way in if the doors stay open a just little too long.

The bedroom with a huge beach-facing bed shoots off from the living room and has a door to the (drum roll, please)... outdoor bathroom! Overall there is enough storage space, but the double vanity has some drawbacks. As I unpack and organize my toiletries, I accidentally knock one of the bottles over into a patch of greeney. Now what? I don't want to ruin anything, but I do want my face cream back. So there's no way around carefully tiptoeing between the plants to retrieve my bottle and use my cream. In general I don't need a magnifying mirror, but handling my contact lenses without on is a whole other story. It's a pity that these details are overlooked. For shorter people like myself, a higher-set sink means that I had to uncomfortably bend over it.

As for privacy, the Sunrise Beach Villas definitely win first place. If you have guests who place a lot of value on this, you should book numbers 107 to 110, 114 to 117, or 120. The beach is significantly wider towards the higher numbers. The Sunset Water Villas are much less private, as they can be seen from the beach, albeit at a distance. Right now the sands at the Sunset Beach Villas are partly eroded, and are currently being restored.

The Cuisine

Visually, the individual F&B outlets are hardly distinguishable due to the Alila design, which, as you know, is supposed to be as unobtrusive as possible. But I quickly notice that they all have a USP. Well, almost all of them. The Pibati, a kind of all-day snack café that also hosts the daily free (and highly recommended) High Tea Experience in the afternoon (pictured), initially comes across as rather plain. There are just three tables and only a small lounge corner, and it's almost always empty. Nevertheless, the fragrances of a spice explosion greet whoever comes to the High Tea Experience, and you can choose the spices that go with your tea. Ginger, star anise, cinnamon, or red pepper... ? Honey and Magic Syrup are served with it. Gourmet snacks vary widely and are different every day. In my case they were a Spicy Tuna Roll, Coconut Pudding, and Yam-Chips. What a nice afternoon break!

The Seasalt restaurant, where breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served, easily makes up for what the Pibati lacks – if only by the magnificent view of the turquoise water. The kitchen team serves fine Maldivian and Mediterranean dishes, and the drinks come from the adjacent Mirus Bar. Small drawbacks: my Eggs Benedict could've been a child's portion, and the slightly dry breakfast waffles had to be washed down with orange juice. Signature restaurant Umami is located next to the Yakitori Bar (pictured), and is a highlight for the palate. Not only was my very Japanese-inspired meal prepared by a female chef, it tasted great and the quality of the sashimi and Wagyu beef was fantastic. By the way, if you prefer to enjoy all these delicacies in your villa or somewhere else entirely, you can do that too.

The Service

Hat's off! If you are looking for true hospitality, you will find it at Kothaifaru. I am always personally addressed, the waiters and Restaurant Manager Justus are always smiling, and they are always chatty without ever seeming intrusive. I feel so well taken care of that I ask myself whether this is only because I am a known journalist and hotel tester, here to closely observe. But far from it: all the other guests, young and old, receive the same attention. Outside the restaurants, I am well-attended to by Mal, my villa host, who also provides excellent room service. She is always available to me via WhatsApp and responds promptly. Spontaneous pick up with the e-buggy? Certainly. Breakfast at the villa rather than at the restaurant? Arranged. My request for lunch with the GM is also implemented as quickly as possible.

I had my first contact with Mal even before my arrival via e-mail. Guests of Alila Kothaifaru can use a link to submit any preferences for their vacation before their stay – from how often they would like to interact with the villa host, to food preferences and intolerances. As always on this occasion, I indicated my preference for coconut syrup in my cappuccino and my aversion to hot spices. Let me tell you: I felt not just read, but seen, and she knew how to follow through. At every meal I was either recommended dishes with coconut, special drinks created with coconut ("I know you love Coconut, Miss Cathrin!"), and even served coconut from the shell, complete with a straw, chilled, and nicely decorated.

But here's the real wow factor. The airline rescheduled my seaplane transfer back to Malé and I was bumped to an earlier flight. Grrr! That meant I'd miss my Maldivian cooking course. I quickly sent a message to Mal, and eight minutes later I'm on a more convenient flight from another resort, and they're bringing me to it... by speedboat. Love it!

Can this really get any better? Oh yes: the Alila Living amenities (pictured) provided for the guests are amazing! You can leave sunscreen, aloe, lip care, and repellents at home – it's all complimentary in your villa.

The Spa

Coconut – here we go again! But first things first: The resort has planned a great spa experience for me. Beauty and Balance at Spa Alila is a full two hours. Upon arrival I receive a formal Asian greeting. Once the obligatory health questionnaire is filled out, I'm left to Mimi's magic hands. They first take care of my feet during the Signature Foot Ritual, then it's off to the massage table. Soon thereafter, Mimi starts scrubbing me down with what smells like my favorite drink. Because, you guessed it, my body scrub consists of coffee and – coconut! Okay, cocoa is in there too, but still.... When Mimi is done scrubbing, I realize that this is quite a mess and I'm glad I don't have to bother with the cleanup.

After a quick shower, the experience continues with a body wrap made of aloe vera and spirulina. Wrapped up like this, relaxing is easy. But the best is yet to come: The Signature Alila Kothaifaru Massage brings my stress level down with long strokes and motions. Definitely a recommendation! By the way: the path to the treatment rooms is a destination in itself – a long wooden canopy walkway that takes you through the trees.

The Activities

Let's cut to the chase: Kothaifaru is exclusively non-motorized for the sake of the environment, so apart from the birds and the flying foxes nothing makes noise here – not even the water sports equipment. Unfortunately, none of that equipment is free of charge except snorkels. However, there is a vast assortment of gear, especially for experienced or aspiring scuba divers alike, as well as many classes and offers.

Kothaifaru is not far from the UNESCO biosphere reserve Hanifaru Bay, home to numerous manta rays and whale sharks, or from Vaadhoo Island, where you can watch the bioluminescent plankton light up the sea in the summer months.

A wider range of activities is being finalized at Alila Kothaifaru and should be ready soon. Already offered is the four-hour tour "The Art of Coconut." Participants experience how coconuts are traditionally harvested from the tree, learn how to mix drinks from them in a mixology class, and prepare a typical Maldivian dish. Guests who just want to try out local recipes can simply book the cooking class. And the meals aren't too complicated – one can easily duplicate them at home, promise!

The Sustainability

Regarding sustainability, the Alila Kothaifaru is already doing a lot right. Small shampoo bottles? Plastic drinking straws? You'll find no such thing. Every villa has large and elegant dispensers for shower gel and the like. Plastic has been almost completely banned from the island, and trash is treated with equal scrutiny. General Manager Alexandre Glauser has opted for zero waste at his resort, installed a composter, and is planning an organic garden to grow herbs and vegetables. Electricity comes from a generator only in emergencies, and the water is filtered, treated, and bottled by the resort itself. Of course, the vast majority of things have to be brought to the island from outside, but then the rule is: buy local – as often as possible.


Even though design is the focus for the Alila brand, it takes a back seat on Kothaifaru. The starring role here is played by nature, of which there is plenty on this lush island. If your clients like elegant, unobtrusive design with sound practicality, this is the place for you. Despite the soft opening phase, operations are running remarkably smoothly. This may be due in part to the current off-season and the resort's fairly low occupancy rate, but the real credit goes to the employees, who take pride and show great enthusiasm for their jobs in every way. They make it easy to feel good. In my view, chances are pretty good for Kothaifaru to become a major player in the Maldives as soon as high season hits.

Trade Contact: Kiran Sonawane, Director of Sales & Marketing | Alila Kothaifaru, Maldives