The Hilton Iru Fushi Resort is located in the Noonu Atoll, a 45 minute seaplane journey away from Malé. It is a fairly large resort in relation to other Maldivian hotels. We gave it top marks for hospitality, children's activities, and water sports. It is also based on a beautiful island full of tropical vegetation with beautiful powdery beaches. However, it is not the best of hotels to stay at if what you're after is gourmet food, and breathtaking diving and snorkelling sites. Design-wise, it is simple and neutral; nothing too flashy or contemporary. The highlight of Iru Fushi is the successful 'split' of the hotel to create two distinct atmospheres - one for families at the exotic Jungle Pool and something completely different at the infinity-edged adults-only pool, which is a stunning location to watch the sunset. The resort is ideal for couples, groups of friends, and families alike, seeking something not too fancy yet affordable with good beaches and those inescapable mesmerising transparent turquoise waters. In terms of accommodation, although all categories have something to offer, we would opt for a beach bungalow which is good value for money and offers more intimacy than the water villas.
Images: Stéphanie Poli.
The Maldives consist of over a thousand islands arranged into what is commonly-known as atolls, or groups of islands, although the word 'atoll' actually denotes an island made of coral surrounded by a lagoon. The Hilton Iru Fushi is located in the Noonu atoll north-west of Malé and is a 45 minute seaplane journey away from the airport.
Around 200 islands of the archipelago are inhabited (recorded at the time of our visit in April 2010). Each hotel has its own island (unless you stay in the capital or Hulhule, the airport island). Among the 200 inhabited islands, some are inhabited by locals only - hotels and locals rarely mix unless in a work environment within a hotel structure. By this, we mean that there are no local villages which share a hotel's island and vice versa. Tourism and local life are kept separate. This means that there are no cultural activities on hotel islands, although most hotels tend to organise excursions to neighbouring local islands for the day.
Upon arrival at the airport, everything may seem very confusing, with people milling around all over the place looking lost - you will notice a row of hotel kiosks, and a row of Maldivian Air Taxi or Trans Maldivian Airline kiosks behind that. When you come out of the arrival doors, just look out for your host who should be waving a Hilton Iru Fushi placard. Go with him/her. Make sure you have bags of patience with you, as the wait may last a little longer before you board the seaplane (up to two hours). Your host has to collect all the passengers heading the same way as you before asking you to check in at the Maldivian Air Taxi desk. You will then be whisked off into a van and to the opposite end of the island to the seaplane terminal. A 5 minute drive later (make the most of it to gaze over at Malé, the capital, on the neighbouring island with its quirky colourful urban skyline), you will arrive at the Hilton lounge, where you will be served complimentary refreshments while you wait to board the plane. The process may seem long, especially after a ten hour flight, but it is definitely worth it! Rest-assured that you will reap the benefits sooner rather than later!
Maldivian islands come in all shapes and sizes and all have their own character, despite being blessed with beautiful sunshine, sea and sand. Iru Fushi Island is 52 acres big and is more or less split into two with an adults-only pool and bar, and a jungle pool for the family. Since its rebranding in July 2009, this 'split' works very well in creating two very distinctive atmospheres which make the hotel feel a lot bigger than it is actually is.
Upon arrival at the hotel, guests are ushered into the dhoni-shaped welcome pavilion (a dhoni being a Maldivian traditional fishing boat) or the reception bar on the island, and given a welcome drink which is the tradition in the archipelago.
The resort has all the facilities one could expect at a luxury resort in the Maldives. The Jungle pool, which is extremely beautiful, is surrounded by thick mangrove, palm trees and colourful flowers, lined by a neat wooden deck. Guests can settle here under the trees for lunch or a refreshing drink. The second pool is the adults-only (over 16s) infinity-edged pool that looks out onto the open sea, with a stylish bar that makes smashing champagne mojitos. Surrounded by tall swaying palms trees and thick vegetation, it is the perfect exotic spot to watch the sunset.
In terms of facilities, there is a kids' club, a billiard room, water sports centre (non-motorised water sports are complimentary), and a beautiful spa where just getting in lost along its maze of passages is a great source of relaxation. With its 21 treatment bungalows nestled within the tropical gardens, the spa makes for a delightful refuge in which to unwind completely with its traditional Ayurvedic (originating from India) at its core. For more active guests, there are also tennis courts and a large well-equipped gym.
The resort has 221 rooms altogether, including 138 simply stylish Beach Villas, 5 of which have a private pool. The rest of the accommodation is on stilts set above the shimmering turquoise ocean and comprises of 40 Water Villas, 35 Horizon Water Villas, 5 Infinity Water Villas, and 3 VIP retreats away from the hubbub. For greater intimacy the beach Bungalows are perfect; especially those situated further down the beach away from the main centre of the resort. Here guests have their own deck surrounded by mangrove as well as a cabana on the beach which is a romantic spot to watch the sunset from. The rooms are all decorated in a similar style of neutral colours and paintings of poppies hanging on the walls which add a little colour to the rooms. The round shaped bungalows add to the charm of the resort. Very spacious and well-appointed, each room has its own private outdoor bathroom which, in the sweltering heat and humidity, can be a bit overbearing at first, but nothing is better than a refreshing rain shower under the open sky! We assure you that despite the temperatures, you will get used to the bathroom in no time at all! There are his and hers sinks and a large round i-bathtub in the middle of the space (the i-baths have i-pod docks and inbuilt speakers), with a rain shower on the left and a large day bed at the far end.
The water bungalows sit on stilts above the effervescent turquoise water and are accessed via a long (very long!) wooden jetty. We strongly recommend you order a (chauffeur-driven) buggy to drive you to and from the main resort! Not ideal accommodation for people with disabilities or who have difficulties walking long distances. Most villas have their own plunge pool sitting right above the water with direct access to the water. Although the water bungalows are attractive, we prefer the beach bungalows for the added intimacy and cosiness.
There are three restaurants and two bars on the resort with the added benefit of dining on the beach by candle light at the Islander's Grill (open daily for lunch and dinner). Dining whilst watching the sun dip behind the horizon, sand between your toes, pauses in the conversation filled with the sound of gentle lapping waves licking the fine white sand is an experience of a lifetime! Something worth noting, which is a huge plus for Iru Fushi, is the traditional Maldivian breakfast among the buffet every morning at the Iru Restaurant - it is called Mas huni, and consists of a tuna paste mixed with onion and chilli and eaten with chapatti. Absolutely delicious, there is no better way to start a long hard day of sun, sea, and sand! We found the 'homage' to Maldivian culture extremely touching, no matter how slight it may seem, as ironically enough, the Maldivian influence is rare within hotels; especially when it comes to food. One may find the occasional dhoni-shaped building (dhoni being the local's traditional wooden fishing boat) or Maldivian swing bed or sofa, and if you're lucky, you may even come across a Maldivian theme night, but that's as far as it goes, so make the most of the Mas huni at breakfast here!
The main restaurant, Iru Restaurant, is open daily for all three meals which tend to be presented as a buffet. The restaurant is spacious and has been designed to look like a traditional Maldivian, all wooden, open, building. The food selection is varied and generally of good quality. There are also special menus for kids (to be enquired about upon arrival). There are also themed evenings which vary the selection from the general ?international' menu.
The resort also has Flavours and The Trio, both open for dinner only. Flavours is built over water and serves a mix of Asian cuisine. The Trio is the resort's seafood restaurant. For a quick, simple bite, the Jungle pool bar, Fluid, is also open daily from 7:00am to 7:00pm. Reflections bar is the more sophisticated bar located by the adults-only pool. It serves an array of cocktails and simple gourmet grilled sandwiches and salads. Water's Edge, the resort coffee shop, is also a pleasant place to hang out as there is a lovely view of the sea. For guests looking to experience something a little more serious, the resort also has a cellar which does weekly a degustation menu allowing guests to develop their oenology skills.
As the island is fairly large, there is more than enough beach to go around. For a quiet spot, the beach bungalows are ideally situated away from the kafuffle of the main resort area. Like most islands in the archipelago, Iru Fushi is blessed with palm fringed white powdery sandy beaches lined by a turquoise lagoon - there is just no getting away from that paradisiacal scenery, 'sigh!'.
Hotel reviews based on comfort, location and price ratings of its categories
Hotel reviews based on its services and facilities.
Mark out of 10 for geographical location