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FACT Review: Relaxed island living at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Maldives

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru soothes guests with ocean views and wellness comforts in the heart of the Indian Ocean.

The rolling ebb of the Indian Ocean, lapping inches away from the Oceanview Villa’s door, lulls you in and out of your lazy morning slumber. A breeze rustles between the trees. A bird chirps, making its presence known. Curtains twitch in the air conditioning, revealing the beauty just outside. This is the Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru in the Maldives where, as I write these words, small crabs go about their important crab business. Mario, the resident stork, scratches the sand for breakfast. Fishing boats cross the Indian Ocean’s vast azure while diving instructors run their checks. Such are the morning rituals of an island paradise.

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru’s private island is an exhilarating 25-minute speedboat ride from Velana International Airport ($200/$100 return adults/children). The intimate 45-villa property mingles the island’s lush foliage with its Balinese-style structure designed of palm, coconut, stone and bamboo. A leisurely island walk takes a mere 15 minutes.

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru

Oceanview Villas with Private Pools

Each Oceanview Villa ensures privacy inside the cone-shaped, vaulted villa perched between rich greenery and the tide’s edge. Each room features two separate outdoor areas. The villa’s entrance is a marriage of indoor-outdoor living, shielded inside walls designed in the same Balinese style. Ample space for couples or families awaits with a private plunge pool, a relaxing jet tub and a sunbed offering a secluded space to unwind. The novelty of outdoor showers and al fresco bathrooms feel special. Bathrooms are equipped with full-length mirrors, hairdryers and – hurray! – sockets near mirrors. 

The connected air-conditioned bedroom features a canopy, four-poster, king-sized bed, a side-sofa with a large flat-screen TV and ample charging points for devices. The sound of waves crashing just outside your private terrace sends you to sleep. Awake to lounge on your private chaise lounges or a shaded cabana. WiFi included. 

The hotel also offers Beach Villas and Grand Beach Villas catering more for families with additional living room space. 

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru

Relaxation and wellness

The Banyan Tree’s focus on wellness comes into its own. A Wellness Centre offers holistic treatments like Sunrise or Sunset yoga (free), posture alignment and our meditative breathing session ($25pp, honestly, try it). Pampering spa treatments include the invigorating Thai Classic or rhythmic Balinese massage (both US$195). The modest fitness centre features dumbbells, cardio and a cable machine (included). 

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru

Dining at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru 

Ilaafathi sprawls under a canopy of swaying coconut trees with front-row seats to the jetty and pristine beach. It is the international restaurant for all your meals. 

Breakfast offers a broad international fare from Chinese siu mai, continental cold cuts to an egg station whipping up omelettes, as well as Belgian waffles and American-style fluffy pancakes. Full English cooked dishes feature prominently, together with Maldivian dishes. Our favourite was the light mas huni, a traditional Maldivian breakfast of tuna, grated coconut and onions that begs for handfuls of fresh chapati.

Lunch and dinner dining alternates daily between a la carte and buffet. The grill station is the dining highlight: fresh-caught Mahi Mahi, charred prawns, steaks or vegetarian options, including smokey vegetable skewers or chilli-spiked pineapple. Light salads are constantly refreshed. Evening meals include crunchy mutton samosas dredged through chutney and the must-order surf n’ turf of veal tenderloin and Indian prawns. Local Maldivian dishes are best in show during buffets like the slick seafood curry. 

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru

Naiboli Bar, the beachfront cocktail bar with shisha and live Maldivian music on Friday nights, is open all day but you will be lured by sundowners and evening nightcaps looking at Mahe on the horizon. 

Private dining for two on the beach includes grilled scallops and whole lobsters (starts at $350 per couple) while watching boats cruise across the sea towards Dhawa Ihuru, the neighbouring island property only a stone’s throw away. Banyan Tree guests enjoy free boat shuttles to Dhawa Ihuru for sundowners and more included in your Banyan Tree package. 

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru

An outdoor paradise

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru’s Marine Centre takes advantage of the property’s surrounding reef with a selection of marine activities. A PADI diving centre offers multiple excursions for guests (at cost) including guided snorkelling (day or night, from $50pp), jet skis ($115pp) or reef cleaning (free). Catch and cook fishing trips start from $100 pp.

Banyan Tree’s Marine Lab is a first in the Maldives harvesting coral to regenerate nearby reefs and encourage marine life. Free Marine talks are hosted during the week.

Day expeditions offer dolphin cruises ($105pp), sunset cruises on a Maldivian dhoani ($190 per couple), day trips to Mahe ($65pp) or submarine diving ($235pp).

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru

The Maldives is the ideal destination for luxurious travel, whether you’re in search of an Eid escape or an extended weekend break. As one of the world’s most in-demand luxury destinations, the brilliant white shores and bright blue waters draws travellers from all over the world to these far-flung islands. For those searching for a slice of island life, look no further than Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru.

Oceanview Villas start around $700 per night in the low season. Choose from the option of half, full-board or all-inclusive on top. 

GO Visit www.banyantree.com for reservations and more information.

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Liam Collens
Liam Collens is a reviewer and drone photographer based in Dubai. He is passionate about good food, restaurants, travel and drone photography.

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