Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Travel: T&C Travel, The Maldives

The Maldives: Prepare for Paradise

These are four sumptuous spots in the Maldives that should not be missed

By Julie Earle-Levine

No matter how many paradises you've been to, nothing quite prepares you for the Maldives, a just-about flat archipelago of 1,190 islands that seem to float on the sapphire Indian Ocean 350 miles southwest of India. Since the tsunami in December 2004, construction has been in overdrive, with a handful of properties debuting and more on the way. Here's your guide to the best of what's new.

For the Scenester

When you see the giant white letter W on a jetty from the window of your seaplane, you know you've arrived at the W Retreat & Spa, on Fesdu Island, a seventy-eight- room resort geared to diving enthusiasts and the design-savvy set. Book one of the Ocean Oasis villas, which sit over the water and whose floors are partly glass. The water view also takes center stage at the Asian-inspired open-air restaurant, where you dine to the sound of the waves as manta rays and turtles swim by. At night, the mostly European crowd grooves to DJ-spun tunes at the underground bar. Villas from $895; 011-960-666-2222;

For the Sybarite

At the Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru, the company's second resort in the Maldives, health-conscious guests can indulge in sessions with the resident yogi and in Ayurvedic treatments in one of the top-notch spa's ten pavilions. (Ayurvedic doctors have been brought in from Sri Lanka and Kerala, India.) There are 102 rooms, including thirty thatched-roof Beach Villas, each with a forty-foot lap pool and a sand-bottomed patio on which you can pass idle afternoons atop a daybed or in a traditional Maldivian swing. Al Barakat, an Arabian restaurant, serves Lebanese mezes; at the adjacent Shisha Bar, guests can be found puffing away on water pipes. Rooms from $800; 011-960-660-0888;

For the Yactsman

If staying on land and sea appeals to you, book the Rania Experience, on the private Water Garden Island, which will host up to fifteen people. You'll have your own eighty-six-foot yacht with three bedrooms and a Jacuzzi on deck. Visitors can sleep on board or on shore in the three-bedroom villa with open-air bathrooms shaded by palm trees and an entertainment room equipped with board games and DVDs. Your staff will include a chef, a butler and spa therapists. By day, you can play tennis and the ship's captain and diving instructor can take you sailing among the coral reefs, with stops for fishing and snorkeling. After dark, the stargazing is otherworldly. From $10,000 a couple a night, all inclusive; 732-773-8230;

For the Romantic

Expect to see wealthy Europeans and a celebrity clientele when you stay at the One&Only at Reethi Rah, a castaway-style outpost of One&Only Resorts that opened just four months after the tsunami. Pampering begins on arrival, with lemongrass-scented towels and shots of custard-apple-and-lemongrass juice to revive you. The resort's 130 villas are scattered over 109 acres, enabling extreme privacy. Couples can soak in the large stone tubs designed for two or play in the tides at one of the twelve pristine beaches. There are three restaurants, but for a meal that will make you swoon, arrange a picnic at a secluded spot on the beach. Rooms from $1,050; 866-552-0001;