Paradise Within a Paradise: A Luxurious Retreat at LUX South Ari Atoll, Maldives


As the seaplane descended through fluffy white clouds, I could hardly contain my excitement. I was about to embark on my first ever journey to the stunning Maldives, known for its pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and unrivalled luxury. My destination? LUX* South Ari Atoll, a haven nestled in the heart of the Indian Ocean.

The trip to the Maldives from Singapore had been more arduous than it should been. What should have been a five-hour flight turned out to be a six-hour one with delays. Upon arriving at Velana International Airport in Malé, it was another hour-long seaplane flight to the resort.

With the promise of an idyllic getaway, I eagerly anticipated experiencing the renowned hospitality and breath-taking beauty that awaited me at this luxury resort as our seaplane pulled up to the dock of the resort.

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First Impressions: Unveiling a Tropical Oasis

Alighting from the seaplane onto the dock was akin to entering a dreamscape. Walking along the long dock leading to the resort reception evoked surreal feeling. The crystal-clear turquoise waters beneath beckoned me to dip in. Lush palm trees swayed in the sea breeze, with the promise of tranquillity and serenity.

Photo © Katherine Goh | Asia 361

Friendly hotel greeted us with smiles as we stepped foot into the reception area. But what caught my eye was Café LUX, the in-house café that offered coffee made with beans roasted on-site at the resort. The café lent a certain vibe – casual yet chic – not found in a typical luxury resort.

Accommodation and Design

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LUX* South Ari Atoll offers a variety of pavilions and villas, suited for different preferences, from beach villas to water villas to pool villas.

My Romantic Pool Water Villa, perched over the pristine Indian Ocean, was the epitome of understated luxury and comfort. With its contemporary design infused with local Maldivian touches, my abode for the next five days was a picture of serenity. The room boasted a private terrace with a pool that offered uninterrupted views of the azure ocean. I knew I was at a resort yet I felt immersed in nature itself.

Romantic Pool Water Villa at LUX* South Ari Atoll. Photo © LUX* South Ari Atoll

At the room itself, every detail was thoughtfully curated to enhance the stay of every guest. The plush bedding, tasteful furnishings and modern amenities ensured that I had everything I needed for a comfortable stay. The resort even provided a pair of comfy beach slippers and a beach bag – both of which I could take home with me, much to my delight.

Photo © LUX* South Ari Atoll

Another offering that I very much appreciated was the fact that I could help myself to all the non-alcoholic drinks in the mini bar and various snacks, without having to fork out extra. The fridge was well-stocked with a variety of drinks. The resort even provided Chinese tea leaves and a tea set for brewing Chinese tea.

Photo © Katherine Goh | Asia 361

The highlight of the villa was definitely the expansive private terrace that overlooked the ocean as far as the eye can see. Coupled with sun loungers, a hanging nest and a private infinity plunge pool, the terrace proved to be a sanctuary of relaxation after a day spent exploring the resort’s abundant offerings.

Photo © Katherine Goh | Asia 361

Gastronomic Delights

LUX* South Ari Atoll treated my taste buds to an unforgettable culinary journey. Most beach resorts I have stayed at only have two to three restaurants. But at LUX* South Ari Atoll with its dizzying array of eight restaurants and bars, I found myself utterly spoilt for choice. The resort’s Japanese restaurant, Umami, was the only restaurant that I didn’t get to visit during my stay.

MIXE serves an array of international cuisine. Photo © LUX* South Ari Atoll

Breakfast for guests is served at two restaurants – MIXE and East Market. MIXE, as the name suggests, serves an assortment of international cuisine. The spread was generous and there were different stations where I got to try a variety of cuisine. The resort even made its own kombucha and there was a juice station where I could create my own smoothie. I very much preferred the easy vibes at MIXE, compared to East Market, which I felt was overwhelmingly “Chinese” – from the excessive Chinese food stations down to the Oriental-sounding music being played at East Market.

For lunch, I embraced the sunny vibes at Lagoon Bar, which exuded a laidback beach bar feel. Think comfort food like burgers, wraps and salads. Another two restaurants – Beach Rouge and Veli Bar – also would find favour with beach lovers. Beach Rouge serves Mediterranean fare and grilled seafood while Veli Bar features an international menu.

Beach Rouge exudes a beach club vibe. Photo © LUX* South Ari Atoll

For food that tantalises the senses, Senses is the go-to restaurant. The aromatic spices and fresh seafood took my palate on a captivating journey through the local culinary traditions. Think Moroccan-inspired tagines, Indian curries and grilled seafood.

Senses features a colourful menu that tantalises. Photo © LUX* South Ari Atoll

Photo © LUX* South Ari Atoll

But my vote goes to Allegria, the one restaurant that whips up Italian cuisine cooked so perfectly that one would think that they are in Italy. We tucked into an intimate under the stars by the beach. Be warned – portions were generous. I had the lobster tagliatelle of fresh tagliatelle cooked in a lobster bisque sauce with cognac, alongside a big Maldivian half lobster. I couldn’t finish my main dish at all, as much as I would love to.

Allegria is the signature Italian restaurant at the resort. Photo © LUX* South Ari Atoll

Oh, an added note for vegan and health-conscious diners – LUX* also offers a variety of dishes they termed ‘Keen on Green’. These dishes are carefully planned, curated and cooked with nourishing greens.

Adventure Aplenty

LUX South Ari Atoll offered an abundance of activities to suit every traveller’s desires. I spent half a day out in the ocean on an “expedition” led by the resort’s in-house marine biologists. He also brought our group to explore coral reefs, diving into the kaleidoscope of marine life that called the Maldives home. On a lucky day, one may even catch sight of the elusive whale sharks and get to snorkel with them.

A swim with whale sharks is one of the experiences offered by the resort. Photo © LUX* South Ari Atoll

Back on land, my body and soul got a sweet pampering at the resort’s tranquil LUX* Me Spa. It’s a sacred place with verdant tropical gardens and blue lagoons. The skilled therapists transported me to a realm of relaxation with their treatments, leaving me refreshed and rejuvenated. As one who cares about the ingredients that go into products, I was also heartened to learn that LUX* develops its own line of no-nasties cruelty-free cosmetics, together with aromatherapy guru Shirley Page.

LUX* Me Spa is a wellness haven not to be missed. Photo © LUX* South Ari Atoll

The resort’s sprawling 1.8-km grounds means there is much to explore and do on the island. At every one of their resorts, LUX* specially curates special experiences that showcases the unique facets of each destination, called Extraordinary Travel Experiences.

Yoga and sound bath? LUX* brings it up a notch by arranging for a yoga and sound bath experience aboard a traditional Maldivian dhoni during the golden hour. Got an adventurous soul? Go on a jet ski safari in the turquoise ocean and explore the colourful aquatic life.

The resort caters to guests based on experiences themed around food, nature, culture, adventure, wellness and family. There is bound to be something for everyone.

Photo © Katherine Goh | Asia 361

Unforgettable Memories

The sheer beauty of the Maldivian archipelago was a sight to behold but LUX* South Ari Atoll is a destination in itself. If the Maldives is a paradise, then LUX* South Ari Atoll is a paradise within a paradise. This haven in the Indian Ocean was an unforgettable respite with its luxurious accommodation, exceptional culinary journeys and unique travel experiences. Every aspect of my stay was perfect, leaving me with cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

To book a stay at LUX* South Ari Atoll, visit their website here.


About Author

Katherine Goh is the managing editor and co-founder of Asia 361. On days when she is not writing, she spends her time dreaming of becoming a travel photographer. For editorial matters, she can be reached at email: [email protected].

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