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Review: the W Maldives resort

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This is our review of the W Maldives resort.

This article is the third and final part of a series of three Maldives resort reviews from what was, frankly, not the toughest HfP assignment I’ve had to do. If it makes you feel better, I did need to change resort every three nights, requiring another two sea plane flights via Male each time.

We have spread out the reviews as it turns out that banging on too much about a paid-for trip to the Maldives doesn’t endear me to anyone! You can read:

The W Maldives website is here.

W Maldives resort review

Flights (for me), food, accommodation and activities were provided by Marriott. I paid for flights for my husband and daughter, as they would have got grumpy if left behind for 10 days ….

The new Male seaplane terminal

Following my visit to the impressive Westin Maldives, I returned to the Malé seaplane terminal for a quick jaunt back to W Maldives.

I spent quite a bit of time at the new seaplane terminal so it’s worth covering this now as it’s an interesting set-up for anyone thinking of visiting the Maldives. The new terminal opened at the end of 2022 so it really is very new and I understand is a great improvement.

It is essentially a lounge hub. All of the major Maldivian resorts offer either their own lounge or a decent shared lounge for any guests who have a wait for a seaplane.

Male seaplane terminal lounge review

As the terminal is so new, there are still lounges under development and I understand that the opening of the W’s own branded lounge will happen at some point in the near future. For now, W guests are taken to a lounge space shared by a couple of resorts.

It was a large lounge only used by my family and one other couple for the majority of the hour we were there, but could easily have accommodated 50 people.

There was a selection of snacks such as savoury and sweet pastries, some sandwiches and fruit. You could also help yourself to a large selection of cold soft drinks or coffee or tea. It wasn’t the highest quality lounge food I’ve ever had, but it was perfectly fine for a short wait. Seats were comfortable and plentiful and there were pleasant views over the seaplane waterways. Very clean toilets were situated a short walk away from the lounge.

One element I found efficient was that a W representative checked us in whilst we were in the lounge, meaning we could skip this step on arrival at the resort.

Arrival at W Maldives

W Maldives is just a short sea plane ride from Malé, at approximately half an hour.

All guests are warmly welcomed by a greeting line of senior resort staff on arrival to the sea plane jetty and handed a cocktail (or soft drink) and a cool towel. The welcome cocktail at the W very much represented the resort’s ethos: the W Maldives is going to show you a good time, cocktail in hand.

W Maldives resort review

If you hadn’t checked in or needed to visit reception, you pass it as soon as you touch land from the sea plane jetty and pass a large W sign. It’s a long, low, open-sided area, with two desks and lots of seating. I never saw it busy and was quickly assisted whenever I did visit as it seemed very well staffed.

We were loaded onto a golf buggy by our butler and given a quick tour of the island. Like most of the Maldivian resorts, the island was just a few square kms wide so a loop of the resort in a golf buggy can take just a few minutes, but it was helpful to see where everything was straight away.

The W Maldives buildings are inspired by traditional Maldivian architecture and have a rustic tropical style. Most of the resort’s villas and communal buildings have palm thatched roofs and dark wood structures. Beach villas are arranged along the edge of the island and overwater villas jut out along a single long jetty.

Dotted around the island are refuelling stations. Some older reviews I’ve read mentioned these being stocked with towels, fruit, granola bars and alcohol-free ‘gin’ and tonics. Perhaps it’s a covid hangover, but my experience was that they were always empty. Given this is an £1,000+ per night resort, I think some fruit and even water bottles would be a good improvement here.

Beach villas at W Maldives

W Maldives resort review
Beach Villa

We had a Wonderful Beach Oasis villa, which sleeps two adults and also had a sofa bed if required (or a crib in our case). It is effectively a semi-detached villa, sharing a wall with the next door villa. Don’t be concerned – we heard very little through the wall even though the room was occupied and at one point had some minor building updates done – soundproofing was excellent.

The room centres around a large king bed, and has a few steps down to a sofa, coffee table and additional chair, which then opens out to the private plunge pool and deck, and the beach beyond.

W Maldives resort review

The bed was a comfortable large king, relatively low to the ground for a hotel bed and had very simple, well-presented white linens (no unnecessary decorative cushions, what a relief). To one side of the bed hung a fun, and very W, hammock seat.

W Maldives resort review

Either side of the bed were small bedside tables, with easily accessible sockets for charging your phone. There was also a landline phone and music dock/speaker which meant there wasn’t much room for anything else, like a couple of books or glasses. I think the speaker would be more useful elsewhere and, given there was another phone about two feet away, having one by the bed seemed unnecessary.

Along one side of the room ran a long unit of cupboards housing cups, glasses, tea-making facilities, a mini fridge and additional wine fridge.

W Maldives resort review

There was an on-brand bright red Nespresso machine and milk frother sitting on one of the counters, along with a frequently replenished ice bucket and bottles of water.

W Maldives resort review

As is customary in Ws, a cocktail shaker and cocktail ingredients are included (priced as mini-bar items), alongside their, ahem, intimacy packs.

W Maldives resort review

At one end of the unit, the cupboards ended and became a desk area.

W Maldives resort review

Unusually for a HfP review, I’m going to give a special mention to the W Maldives’ villa lighting because there was an almost baffling array of lighting options.

It took me a little while to work out that the tangled ropes hanging either side of the bed were not the W taking their ‘sexy’ vibe to a whole new level, but in fact lights inspired by the local fishing nets. There was also a pleasant reading light over an armchair, a cool desk light, bedside reading lights, and hidden uplighters along the edge of the bedroom steps.

W Maldives resort review

There was a delicious welcome tray of wine, sweets and treats. Here’s one little bugbear of mine, however. I was very kindly invited to carry out the review by Marriott, I made all the arrangements directly with the hotel team and was the point of contact throughout, but the welcome note was directed to my husband ‘and family’. A better step would simply have been to address both of us, regardless of the main point of contact, and to default to the male family member is a little irksome.

Villa Bathroom

The bathroom in the W villa is unlike any other hotel bathroom I’ve seen, and gave me a great wow moment. It’s frankly a little bonkers, but I loved it nonetheless.

W Maldives resort review

Half of the ceiling is open to the sky and framed with plants hanging down into the bathroom, along with hanging sea urchin shells.

W Maldives resort review

A huge concrete-encased bath takes centre stage, and within the ceilinged section of the room there are sizeable double sinks and a large shower area.

Toiletries were by Momo (as found in all Ws) and all smelt very pleasant.

W Maldives resort review

The shower toiletries and handwash were all in refillable bottles.

The W Maldives resort is now 17 years old and hasn’t had a major renovation in that time. Given this fact, the resort is in astoundingly good nick although there were some elements that are starting to look a little tired.

This was probably most noticeable in the villa bathroom, where the paintwork wasn’t perfect and the mirrored wall on one side was a little tarnished and had a large crack. This is hardly surprising given the exposure to the elements in this part of the bathroom. A little bird did tell me that a renovation is coming very soon, so I expect visitors in 2024 will see a spruced up resort.

The villa had some really lovely outside areas including a small, deep, plunge pool with bubble jets in one end. There was a cabana day bed and two sun loungers next to the pool, but my favourite area was the roof terrace, complete with swinging two-seater chair and a mini fridge.

W Maldives resort review

The garden/pool area leads directly to the beach, which is as stunning as you could hope for in the Maldives.

The gentle tides and soft sand underfoot surrounding the island mean you can swim straight out from the beach to snorkel the W’s outstanding reef.

I didn’t get a chance to visit the overwater villas, but they looked impressive from the outside and I’ve included a few of the hotel’s images below.

W Maldives resort review
Spectacular Overwater Villa
W Maldives resort review
Fabulous Overwater Villa

Pool and gym

The W pool is the central gathering spot on the island, but despite that, it never felt crowded or busy.

W Maldives resort review

We always found a cabana bed unoccupied and there was a upbeat atmosphere, with music playing. As well as a large L-shaped pool of differing depths, a whirlpool jacuzzi is situated under shade at one end.

W Maldives resort review

There are weekly pool parties, although unfortunately none during my stay. However, I heard from other guests that the parties were a lot of fun and good way to meet other people. I think there’s also a good value drinks package associated with the pool party which, given a cocktail is $25, is worth looking out for.

W Maldives resort review

The swim-up bar was an understandably popular spot.

W Maldives resort review

The W’s gym, FIT, was situated above the pool bar, overlooking the pool. It was very well stocked with lots of machines, a good selection of weights and additional equipment like a boxing bag. You can do personal training and there were several classes run every day.

W Maldives restaurants and bars

There are six dining and drinking options at W Maldives.

KITCHEN is the core dining space, where breakfast, lunch and dinner is served every day. We only ate breakfast here, but I loved the space.

W Maldives resort review

There was a pleasant indoor restaurant, which was refreshingly air conditioned if the day was a big muggy. It also has a pretty, shaded outdoor space that had shallow pools of water running alongside it, with a number of tables in the water itself, which was fun.

W Maldives resort review

The breakfast array was expansive, with a large fresh fruit section, where you could order your own selection of freshly cut fruits, or smoothies. There were eggs cooked to order, plus plenty of hot food options and international cuisines.

W Maldives resort review

The bakery section was dangerously good and we all ate far too much of the french toast, which offered different flavours each day.

W Maldives resort review

I particularly enjoyed the cold section that had multiple yoghurt and granola mixes – I’ve not seen a selection like this before. And that mango and lime compote was pretty special ….

W Maldives resort review
Like honey? You’ve come to the right place.

The entire space was kept incredibly tidy and organised and never felt crowded, even though we were there at peak time each morning.

FISH is the W’s seafood restaurant. Located on an overwater deck that extends out from the island, the setting is spectacular.

W Maldives resort review

Tables line the edge of the open-air deck, facing the water, with simple strings of lights overhead. After dark, some underwater lighting allows guests to watch sea life swim around the deck as you eat. We saw a reef shark and some rays as we ate.

W Maldives resort review

The seafood is incredibly fresh, with much of it caught locally.

W Maldives resort review

It was sushi night when we ate there, so we had a ‘Sushi Mania’ feast, which was excellent and beyond plentiful.

W Maldives resort review
Sashimi bowl

The presentation was really imaginative, with wooden boats and blue gel providing the backdrop to the sushi and sashimi.

Located on a parallel deck to FISH is SIP, a bar space which also offers sushi and sashimi, as more of a ‘light bite’ alongside cocktails.

W Maldives resort review

SIP was my favourite bar during my trip to the Maldives and as a space to watch the sunset, it really would be hard to beat. As well as standard tables and sofas along the deck (all positioned so everyone has an unobstructed view), there are also a couple of fun trampoline beds suspended over the water. These provide an excellent spot to watch the marine life, albeit a riskier spot to get sozzled.

FIRE is a grill restaurant, which is often a restaurant type that I struggle to get excited about.

W Maldives resort review

I like a garden barbeque just as much as the average Jolene, but as restaurant fare, I just don’t get it. Everything tastes a bit too much like charcoal. However, FIRE did a lot to dispel this notion.

W Maldives resort review
Tandoori Paneer

The food was so well prepared and full of flavour that we came back a second time during our short stay at the W.

WET is the W Maldives’ poolside bar and offers a lot of the standard poolside fare.

W Maldives resort review
Nachos and toddler-friendly cheesy pasta

We tried pizza and nachos here which were both tasty and they had a great kids menu, despite the W being more of an adult-focused resort.

Watersports at W Maldives

The W’s reef is very much its crowning glory. Easily accessible from anywhere on the island, the reef is teeming with marine life and is a dream to snorkel. The hotel offer a mask and flippers free of charge to all residents, and I personally I spent every child-free moment I could snorkelling and exploring around the island.

The reef was so impressive I also took an hour long guided snorkelling tour with one of the watersports team. I definitely recommend this as he helped me find some more elusive reef sharks and sea turtles and pointed out all the different fish. It was a definite trip highlight.

In addition to snorkelling, there’s scuba diving, jetskiing and parasailing, plus the option to take a boat tour on the resort’s private yacht.

The W Maldives Spa

It was a tough assignment, but I was able to test out the W’s Spa, AWAY (no, I don’t understand all this mandatory capitalisation either).

W Maldives resort review

My therapist Dewa was great and she did a great job massaging away the huge amount of tension one feels after being in the Maldives for six days.

A side note on family activities

The W doesn’t market itself as a family resort, but children are welcome. As such, there’s no babysitting or kids club, but kids are catered for in the restaurants and there are kids toys in the resort shop.

There were actually a couple of children about, so it’s a done thing, but I personally would prefer to return without children so I could enjoy the W’s party vibe a little more.


W Maldives knows exactly what it’s doing, and does it well: relaxation in paradise with a sprinkle of hedonism. The staff are resoundingly excellent, with a friendly attitude and commitment to ensuring their guests have a good time, and food and drink is of a high standard.

The communal areas at the W, particularly the pool space, were my favourite of the three resorts I visited in the Maldives and had a stroppy two-year old not ruined all my fun, I probably would have spend a lot more time at the swim-up bar.

W Maldives resort review

The beach villa was very well designed and made for an incredibly comfortable (and well-lit) stay, doing everything 5* luxury should in terms of accommodation. There are some updates needed in the rooms, but nothing that impacted on the enjoyment of my visit.

Let’s not avoid the obvious however. Like many other Maldivian resorts, the W is expensive. Dates in January 2024 start from about £1,125 per night or 110,500 Marriott Bonvoy points (great value per point, of course, as this is double our 0.5p per point valuation). Remember that Marriott also offers ‘5 nights for the points of 4’ on redemptions, increasing your value further.

A poolside pizza will set you back $35 and a cocktail is $25, so once you arrive you’ll need to be prepared to part with some significant cash. If you are happy to go in low season, there is availability in October for a pretty reasonable £524 per night, with redemptions starting at 82,000 points.

The resort has a lot going for it, but it is the reef that sets it apart in my opinion. If snorkelling in the Maldives is on your bucket list, I think you’d be hard pushed to find a better option that W Maldives.

Thank you so much to everyone at W Maldives for a great stay, but particular thanks to Hanny, who oversaw my entire visit to the Maldives and was a wonderful host at the W.

You can find out more about the W Maldives resort on its website here.

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (September 2023)

There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.

You can apply here.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits each year Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.

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You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points indirectly:

and for small business owners:

The conversion rate from American Express to Marriott Bonvoy points is 2:3.

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Marriott Bonvoy points

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (18)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • His Holyness says:

    If the W is anything like the Conrad or WA you’ll be better booking via an agency.

    For example, at the WA, the packages that some agencies are able to offer on a half-board basis and including the Yacht transfer are highly discounted compared to the hotel direct rates and significantly skew the value of points redemptions.

    I recall seeing some Chinese agencies that were practically dumping WA inventory for a fraction of BAR with lots of stuff thrown in.

    • Paul says:

      Which Chinese agencies?

    • His Holyness says:

      Check on FT, I can’t remember, there’s a person to PM there who knows better than me.

      The most important take away is that booking direct and even using points might not be worth it. Unless you’re the sort to pack pretzels, snacks, and dried meats and make the breakfast last as long as possible then by all means use points. But if not, then using an agency, perhaps forgoing points, is better off because you’ll be stung by the boat transfer and the F&B prices.

      They have to dump those rooms somehow!

  • Oliver says:

    Thanks Sinead, great review. We checked out from a 4-night stay at the W Costa Navarino a couple of days ago, so thought I’d share our experience.

    It’s a brand new and very nice looking resort, but there were lots of issues with our stay. I know the W concept is polarising, but we wouldn’t have minded that if they had nailed the basics. Sadly, it fell well short of expectations.

    At check-in we were proudly told that, as a Marriott gold, I had been upgraded. Then they took us to… the room category we had booked. Eventually, after almost an hour of waiting around, and claiming my booking confirmation email was wrong, they told us there had been a “malfunction” and we weren’t getting an upgrade after all. Not a great first impression!

    Our swim-up room was great (if not massive), although the air conditioning was very underpowered and slow, so I’m not sure how it would cope in the height of summer when it gets much hotter outside.

    Breakfast was an interesting idea: a buffet with 4 different “shops” around a “village square” – however the selection was fairly small, the hot food was cold, and there were no eggs cooked to order. Orange juice had to be ordered, and our order was often forgotten about on a couple of occasions.

    Other issues included no pool/beach service – you had to go up to the bar to order drinks (although at check-out they told me that shouldn’t have been the case). Even worse, there was no free water anywhere, so if you wanted water by the pool you were expected to pay €5.70 plus tip for a 750ml carton of water by the pool that you had to queue up and get for yourself!

    Luckily, there are two other Marriott resorts (a Westin and a Luxury Collection) 20 minutes up the road. W guests have full access to facilities there, so we ended up spending our last two days there. The service (and free water) were great.

    We had some other minor issues that I’d hope were one-offs, so won’t list them here. Everything above can be fixed fairly easily, but right now I couldn’t recommend the place – especially when standard rooms start around €400 in June. We stayed at Conrad Bali a month ago, which was in a different league.

    • Nick G says:

      What’s your views on the Conrad Bali? Been looking at that this week for next April….any thoughts appreciated

      • Oliver says:

        We really liked it. All the resorts along that road are on a fairly thin, steep stretch of beach – so it’s more of a pool place. If beach is important to you, you may want to look elsewhere.

        We took a stroll along the beach (it’s a public path) through the other resorts, and would say it looked nicer than others there (e.g. the Melia). We chose it because reviews were good and, at the time of booking, it was a fair bit cheaper than anything else of a similar standard (e.g. the Grand Hyatt).

        Staff were incredibly friendly, but I guess you would get that in most places. Breakfast was good and there was a choice of two restaurants. Good status recognition – as Hilton gold we were upgraded from pool view to sea view. Golds and above also get a 25% discount on the (already very reasonable) F&B prices. We booked the “honeymoon” rate, which cost barely any more than the standard rate and included one dinner, a massage for two, an airport pick-up, etc.

        Happy to tell you more on the 27th if you will be there?

  • pauldb says:

    A Maldivian island of “a few square kms” would be a giant. According to the government, this one’s 0.048km2.

    • Chas says:

      I am also intrigued by a unit of area being used to describe a linear distance: “the island was just a few square kms wide“ 😉

  • Harry T says:

    I enjoyed this review, thank you!

  • Bagoly says:

    Sinead, Congratulations on objectivity and incorporating that little bit of scepticism which marks out HfP reviews from so many gushing articles in other publications.

    Now, could you follow Rhys’s progress from sinks to basins. 🙂

  • meta says:

    “A better step would simply have been to address both of us, regardless of the main point of contact, and to default to the male family member is a little irksome.”

    It’s a predominantly a muslim country, so I am not sure what everyone expects. The culture is to address the male member plus family. You have to accept cultural differences or just don’t travel.

    • Rob says:

      But it’s not, is it? It’s a previously uninhabited atoll which has (at a guess) zero Maldivian nationals working there.

      We have nearly, but not quite, got rid of the habit in London restaurants where the bill is automatically given to the man irrespective of who booked or who placed the orders. Just takes a bit of training.

      • meta says:

        Let’s not pretend it’s another country. It’s still governed by Maldivian laws. You also can’t claim with 100% certainty who works there unless you asked to check passports or identity cards of every single staff member there.

        And again you are comparing this with London, which again proves my point. Not every is like London and not everyone has to train the same way as in London or have customs like in London.

      • pigeon says:

        It is an annoying habit. But UK tourists are probably <10% total – aligning with middle class London isn’t going to be a priority.

  • John says:

    Any one got advice for a gay couple (MM) looking at 14 days in the Maldives? I’ve read that Sharia is not applied on private atolls, but I’d rather not get whipped and stoned on my honeymoon!

  • J Paul Johnston says:

    Hi Sinead
    Whilst I appreciate you were reviewing the 3 resorts, having been to SAii Lagoon (Hilton Curio) in April, which incidentally was fabulous, I think you should warn travellers about the chaotic situation at Male Airport. I can see that major expansion is underway, but the customs/border process whilst leaving was shocking. Not mush better arriving, but leaving was a disaster. Huge queues and poor a/c led to a very unpleasant experience. We will await improved facilities before we return.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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