The island of Dhidhoofinolhu in South Ari was one of the first to open as a resort. It has come a long way from the basic fun of Ari Beach through the smart, informal White Sands to the present five star deluxe Diva. Alongside the luxury, however, it still has space for hideaway honeymooning and family activity.
Note: Diva Maldives has been rebranded as 'Lux* Maldives' since the publication of this review, and has undergone several conceptual changes. Dhonisaurus will update this review after we visit.
There are now two jetties of water villas - almost half the rooms - that give the resort plenty of options for honeymooners and those that like to get away from the activity of the island. Off the southern tip of the island are the new Prestige Water Villas, which are larger than the other water villas and even quieter (being fewer in number and further from the centre) but only half of them get the afternoon sun, whilst half face the sunrise. At the tip lies the Presidential Villa with a deck facing the sun all day long.
The established water villas are in a single line all facing out to the sunset. Three of them have interconnecting rooms and so larger and perfect for families. All the water villas have steps down to the lagoon, which can be surprisingly shallow at low tide but is generally very good for swimming and OK for snorkeling. You cannot, however, swim out over the reef for snorkeling, as it faces out to the sea waves.
A lot of options for families as well as honeymooners
A little more economical for families, and far more numerous, are the Deluxe rooms. These are A-frame rooms divided down the middle, with a double bed in one room and twin beds in the other. Going up the price scale are the Junior Suites, Beach Villas and Beach Pool Villas. There doesn't seem to be any location advantage to the room types, so you may strike lucky with lush green privacy and a good beach in front of you, or you may be making a request for a room in another spot.
The beach is good for almost all the rooms almost all the time but as with most long, thin islands it is naturally rather narrow with large bulbs of beautiful beach at each end.
Just by one end of the island is the watersports centre that continues to be one of the best and best equipped in the country. Beside this is the Dive Centre, which is also a top centre. The base leader, Denis, is friendly, serious and very knowledgeable, particularly about the whale sharks that are resident in the neighbourhood. Whether advanced or beginner, the diver here can expect individual attention and great diving.
From Watersports to Diving to Tennis
Two floodlit tennis courts and a well-equipped gym are also available for the active (or for working the fine dining off). As mentioned, children are very well catered for. Apart from all of the above, teenagers have their own space, called The Place, which boasts a Wii station, PlayStation, table football, table tennis and free WiFi. Diva staff organise plenty of other activities too.
For 3-12 year olds, there is The Nest, which apart from the game stations also has a tv lounge, library, and play facilities inside and out. Again, Diva staff are primed to give the children lots of fun and activities throughout the day, and babysitting at night.
Service in five star resorts is expected to be excellent but I feel it is worth mentioning now as I found everyone here to be particularly helpful, smiling and happy doing their job. That goes from the hostess at Diva's airport lounge, to the orchid gardener, the long-serving Maldivian 'go-to' man, the public relations staff and on up to the general manager. We all know this makes a huge difference to the enjoyment of a holiday.
Cuisine is always so important
Whether the idea of a water villa honeymoon is attractive to you (with or without a tailored wedding ceremony) or the thought of an active beach holiday is what gets you going, everyone can come together around fine food and pleasant bars. On Diva there are six restaurants to tempt and delight you. One is the main restaurant serving buffets and the others range in cuisine across the continents, from lobster on the beach to Italian, Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian and Japanese (the specialist restaurant).
I found the main buffet restaurant, Noo, not really up there with the best, particularly for breakfast, but this isn't at all the problem it might be in other resorts. Diva has a great scheme whereby guests can go to any of the other four main restaurants and select items on the menu that has a tick beside it, and incur no costs. For Pure, the specialist Japanese restaurant, guests are given a $60 voucher to offset the bill. This is an excellent innovation that should catch on elsewhere.
A night out
The Veli Bar is an open bar with cool music, for lazing around the pool. The Iru bar is the perfect spot for a sundowner - champagnes a specialty here. Then it might be on to the nightclub, and back to the Iru to wind down in the early hours.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville