Review: W Maldives – Does it Live up to the Hype?
The W Maldives claims to be a luxury playground in paradise and boasts of the best house reef in the Maldives. Does it live up to the hype? My review is based on a 5-night stay in July 2019, and I think it does. My review will cover our stay and also how we found availability to book the hotel at a great points break. Let’s review W Maldives.
W Maldives – The Hotel
W Maldives is located on Fesdu Island in the North Ari Atoll of the Maldives. To make it simple, the Maldives is a country made of tons of islands. You’ll arrive in the capital of Malé (MLE airport) and then need to transfer to your hotel somehow. Hotels closer to the capital offer boat transfers. The W Maldives and other hotels farther away offer a sea plane transfer, and you’ll have to pay for this separate from your hotel booking. There is a ‘private yacht transfer’ option at a cool $3,450, but we went with the sea plane at $505 per person round-trip. In the booking process, you’ll see this before confirming the booking:
Resort Fee – 30.00
Destination Amenity Fee – 424.11
Estimated government taxes and fees – 50.89
Total for stay in hotel’s currency – 505.00 USD per adult
The W Maldives claims to have the best house reef of any of the Marriott properties in the Maldives, and this drew us in. We wanted to do lots of diving and snorkeling, so we looked up some videos around the internet and decided this was the spot for us. Saying we could see turtles and sharks just outside our room sounded amazing. We also thought the layout of the basic rooms was really awesome. We were gunning for an upgrade to an overwater bungalow, but we wanted to be sure we’d be happy if we didn’t get it.
The Booking Process
After Marriott properties were revalued months ago, this property became a Category 8 hotel. Previously, it was a Category 5. That’s a big difference, and it really changed the amount of points needed. When we booked, it was 60,000 points per night (5th night free on awards), needing 240,000 total. Now, the property is 85,000 points per night. I was lucky in that the dates we wanted immediately showed availability online and on the mobile app. We booked and guaranteed with a credit card.
Back to booking: Other people have told me that the app and the website showed them different availability when trying to book, so check both. See if one offers you something you like. I was glad I didn’t have to call to book, since phone support post-Bonvoy has been quite hectic.
During booking, a message about the sea plane popped up, providing the hotel’s email address to contact them to arrange it and pay for it. They replied asking for our flight info coming in and going out, so they could put us on the schedule. It was quite smooth.
Side note: They’ll tell you that the last sea plane to the hotel every day leaves Male at 3:30pm, but they kept telling us we’d “probably” make it from our flight arriving at 3:15. No way. There was a rain delay on the sea planes, and that’s the only way we made it on time. From the main airport over to the sea plane area requires at last 20min, plus you need to clear passport control & get your suitcases first. Then, weigh your bags with the sea plane company. Finally, get the van over to the sea plane departure area. Allow more time.
W Maldives – The Property
The arrival pier feeds directly into the reception area, which is centrally located near the main beach, walkway out to the overwater bungalows, and several of the restaurants. Turning the other way and going down the path, you’ll arrive at the beach-side rooms, diving center, and on-site doctor.
The property has multiple restaurants spread around it, each specializing in something different. Something we found odd was that they all have different operating hours and even different days of the week when they’re open. You have to check the schedule and see what day it is to determine where you want to eat for dinner.
There’s a steakhouse, seafood restaurant, mixed-fare restaurant, sandwich & bar space, and a sushi bar. The mixed-fare space is where the breakfast buffet is, and you can sit with your feet in the water on hot days.
Forget your ice machine from regular hotels. Around the property, there are several huts hosting not just the ice machine but extra beach towels and a mini-fridge with apples & non-alcoholic drinks for free, including Mojitos and Piña Coladas.
W Maldives – The Rooms
Places like the Maldives and Bora Bora are famous for their overwater bungalows. It’s the room people think of and dream about. It’s the room people want. it’s the room we wanted! However, it’s not the only kind of room. W Maldives has that, luxury multi-room cabins, and the basic room, called the “Beach Oasis.” This is the room we stayed in.
The Beach Oasis is a 2-story free-standing cabin that shares no walls with any other rooms, so you have a lot of privacy. There’s no interior access to the 2nd floor, however. The first floor has the bedroom, giant bathroom, separate toilet closet, lots of closet space, mini bar, and TV. The bathroom is partially open to the sky above, and the shower is not enclosed. There is a sink in the toilet closet and dual sinks in the bathroom.
Outside, there’s a table & chairs, lounge chairs, miniature pool with lounge chair built in, circular sofa, and a private path out to the beach. At the beach, you have your own lounge chairs and a small table.
On the 2nd floor above the bedroom, there’s a sofa swing and lots of cabinet space.
Privacy from other rooms comes from bamboo. Lots of trees and bushes provide privacy from anyone walking along the beach in front of your room.
I found the Beach Oasis setup amazing. We really enjoyed the amenities included, found the room really spacious, layout was great, and we never felt like we were bumping into each other to access the bathroom like you normally do in a hotel room.
W Maldives – The Reef
The reef definitely exceeded the hype. The hotel provides free snorkels, masks & fins, and you can just walk out of your room to find something amazing. We saw tons of fish on the reef, lots of “baby sharks” (miniature reef sharks), a spotted eagle ray, and even a 4ft reef shark. That was all during free snorkeling just walking into the water from our room!
Trying but Failing for an Upgrade
The W Maldives is considered a luxury property and does not participate in Marriott’s Suite Night Upgrades program. Even though I had suite upgrades available, we could not apply them at this property. They say all of their rooms are suites. I also have Platinum Elite status with Marriott, and the trip was to celebrate my wife’s birthday. I was certain that combining my status, expressing dismay at not being able to use my suite upgrades, and telling them we had a special occasion would result in an upgrade. It didn’t.
We were definitely happy with our room, though. That was a factor in our booking: make sure the room we get will be sufficient if we don’t get an upgrade. We loved the Beach Oasis and don’t feel like we ‘settled’.
Service at the W Maldives
What we didn’t get in a room upgrade was definitely offset by the amazing service at the property. We arrived to find streamers and “happy birthday” balloons spread around the room. They made a vegan birthday cake for my wife, left a bunch of fresh fruit for us, and included a bottle of champagne. The welcome we received in the room made us quickly forget not getting an upgrade.
The service didn’t end there, though. Actually, it didn’t even start there. A few days before our arrival, the food & beverage manager emailed me to ask if we have any allergies or special diets, so I mentioned being vegan and reiterated my wife’s birthday. He created a special menu for us at all of the restaurants, so we could easily choose great options when dining without needing to constantly alter dishes to remove cheese, etc.
When arriving at the property, you receive a tour via golf cart. Our driver knew we were vegan and mentioned which restaurants would have more or less options for us during the tour. He knew we had signed up for diving trips and highlighted the location of the dive center during the tour.
Every afternoon, housekeeping brings snacks to leave in your room. One day, the employee noticed we hadn’t eaten the previous day’s snack and asked why. Mentioning that we were vegan, he immediately left and returned with something different: fresh coconuts to drink and sliced fruits. The attention to details in the service from everyone we encountered was incredible.
Be Ready to Spend Money
This is something you need to keep in mind whenever at a luxury property–especially one on an island, where you can’t go find other options for dining. With my Marriott Platinum Elite status, we got free breakfast every day. We also received 20% off all food & beverage purchases. In order to save money, we ate breakfast late and ate a lot. Then, we had a late lunch/early dinner. We then ate the daily fruits in our room or free apples from the snack cabins to round it out at night. This meant we only had to buy one meal per day and got 20% off on that bill.
I also had an Amex offer for $40 off the final bill–not much, but every bit helps. We still spent almost $100 per day on food with that 1 meal, and we don’t drink alcohol. Expect your bill to be even higher if you’re buying booze. There’s a 10% service fee and 12% tax, plus nothing is cheap when you’re on an island with limited options. It adds up quickly, so we were happy to keep our food bill down to $500.
So was it worth the hype?
Maldives is a destination often hyped by Instagram influencers. It gets a ton of attention in this hobby, especially since many of us couldn’t afford trips here without using our points and miles. With all of the drool-inducing posts and hype coming from Maldives luxury travel ads and posts, can it live up to expectations? Is it a destination people go to just to brag they’ve been there, or is it somewhere people should actually go?
For us, it was incredible. We loved it. We not only enjoyed the amazing waters and the sea life we saw just outside our room with the free snorkeling equipment provided by the hotel, but we really liked the property. The layout is great, the service was fantastic, and we definitely didn’t want to leave on the last day.
There’s other stuff we didn’t check out, like free stand-up paddleboards to borrow, all sorts of water sports equipment you can rent, private boat charters or fishing trips you can organize, plus the diving and snorkeling we did. There’s also the spa, cooking classes (for a fee), and social events (at $195 for a “glamping night” at the beach, we laughed these off). If you’re bored, that’s your own fault, given the quantity of stuff on offer. For us, it was a great hotel and great experience.
W Maldives – Final Thoughts
For us, the W Maldives was a great property. We really enjoyed the way they used natural barriers to create privacy, so everything felt like an island, not an extension of the city. The amenities and service were excellent. The arrival and departure process were incredibly smooth. The hospitality from all levels of staff made for a great stay, and we also enjoyed the food. If we were to return, or if someone we know were booking a trip to the Maldives, would we recommend this property? Absolutely. I haven’t been to other properties in the Maldives to judge them or compare to my review of W Maldives, but I can say that I doubt you’ll be disappointed here.