Easily one of the most beautiful islands and hotels in the Maldives, Cocoa Island has a spirit and a real history which adds to its charm. Discovered by a nature-loving photographer in the 70s, Cocoa Island was born out of hard graft and passion. Today, with perfect service, facilities, accommodation and beach, one couldn't ask for better! With its beautiful and original design, its peace and tranquility, Cocoa Island speeds ahead right into our top three hotels!
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. Located in the South Malé Atoll, Cocoa Island is a 45 minute speedboat ride away from the airport. The hotel is actually located on the island of Makunufushi, a private island in the centre of a lagoon. It measures 350 metres in length by 60 m at its widest point.
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 or so 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, look out for your host who should be waving a Cocoa Island placard. Your host will then take you to the jetty to board the speedboat to the island.
The island was originally 'discovered' in the 1970s by Eric 'Cocoa', a fashion photographer who stumbled upon the beautiful island and its twelve palm trees that to this day, stand tall and proud. He instantly fell in love with the island and decided to set up his home and a small hostel consisting of grass roof shacks. In all the rooms you will find a beautiful book describing the island's touching story.
It is rare for the islands here to have such a story. This adds to the charm of the island. Its atmopshere reflects the passion Eric had for this small beautiful island, which has been passed on through the staff and manifests itself in their pride to be a part of the island's legacy.
Built in 1998, this hotel was renovated in 2005. The hotel is truly stunning - no hotels rival its privacy and peace. There are 36 villas altogether. 33 of the villas are actually traditional Maldivian boats, 'dhonis', docked along the jetty. Elegant and original, the interiors are just as surprising as the exterior. Spacious, the interiors have been designed with a careful eye for detail and everything has been finished to a high standard. The whitewashed boards to the crisp white linen gives the room a fresh and peaceful atmosphere. The rooms are differentiated by their size. Most rooms are set out on a single floor. The Dhoni lofts have two floors with the bedroom area upstairs and the living area downstairs. There are also private retreats at both extremities of the island for added privacy - these come at a very roomy 300m˛. All rooms have all the facilities one could hope for, including a lovely deck over one of the most beautiful lagoons of the archipelago.
The hotel's facilities are few but are of an extremely high standard. The island is very small - it takes about 15 minutes to walk all around it - but as there is no land accommodation and as the facilities have been well designed, the island never feels crowded. The breathtaking infinity-edged pool sits in the golden sand surrounded by pristine waters. When swimming here you will feel like you have just plunged into a CondéNast Traveller photo shoot! Around the pool you will find the hotel bar and restaurant. Both extremely well-appointed and beautifully designed, guests spend hours lingering here admiring the exotic surroundings.
Further into the island you will find the small but very stylish open-air reception, the spa centre with an impressive heated indoor pool and COMO Shambhala branded massage centre.
There is also a small boutique and a well-equipped diving centre.
The island is just beautiful and is surrounded by a perfect lagoon with sand bars, which makes it more interesting that your usual flat waters.
There is free Wi-fi all over the island including in the rooms.
The 2 Bedroom villas (300 m˛) are furnished with one 200-cm bed in a room and one 160-cm bed in the other. Each room has its bathroom with double washbasins, bathtub, separate toilets, indoor and outdoor showers as well as a private deck with direct access to the water. The bay windows, on three walls, flood the main room with light. The veranda on the water is equipped with a table and large deckchairs. The Bedroom villas (125 m˛) have their private deck entrance. The Japanese style room is one step above the lounge. It is isolated from the main room by net curtains. The bathroom is similar to the one in the Bedroom villas. From the lounge, two sliding bay windows open onto a wooden terrace with direct access to the lagoon. The villa lofts (123 m˛) are identical to the Dhoni suite lofts. They all have an outside shower (accessible from the bathroom with a protective screen not to be seen by potential swimmers). The Dhoni suite lofts (110 m˛) have a large living room with a vaulted roof. Bay windows on 3 side, offer a panoramic view of the Indian Ocean. Upstairs, the loft is furnished with a large (200-cm) bed and a small additional toilet room. From the living room, the doors slide onto the terrace which gives a private access onto the lagoon. The Dhoni suites (75 m˛) have a 200-cm or 180-cm bed. Several steps down, the living room opens with two window doors onto a terrace where a little table, chairs and deckchairs are set up. All the rooms have a mini-bar (for a fee), as much free tea and coffee as you want, as well as satellite television and DVDs. A bottle of water and fresh fruits are dropped off every day.
The Ufaa, the island's only restaurant; it is extremely pleasant and the staff are very friendly. Open onto the swimming pool, it attempts to harmonise the materials and colours of the setting with the presentation and the flavours of the dishes. The chef offers a healthy and varied cuisine, inspired from the South of India. Its menu gives an important place to fish and seafood caught in the vicinity. Everything is of quality, the products are fresh. There is no buffet except in the morning where the house offers a choice of (home-made) viennese pastries, yogurts and a magnificent selection of exotic fruits. Faru, the bar, is next to the restaurant and the swimming pool. It extends onto the beach.
The shallow waters allow you to watch, from the beach or the docks, a whole variety of exotic fish. The fine white sand surrounds the island and at both ends, it forms long banks that go up less than a metre above sea level. The ocean is more or less at 30° in the lagoon, and 26° on the reefs. The hotel also offers a beach service and water sports. For diving one has to go a little further out. The lagoon here is one of the most beautiful you will find in the Maldives!
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