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Hotel review

Oblu Xperience Ailafushi, Maldives hotel review: An affordable resort in the archipelago

This buzzy resort is a great destination for group holidays, finds Eva Waite-Taylor

Friday 01 March 2024 14:53 GMT
(Oblu Xperience Ailafushi )

In a nutshell: Just 15 minutes from Malé, the vibrant resort is affordable and caters to groups of friends and families alike, with a showstopping underwater restaurant and fantastic service.

The location

The Maldives needs little introduction. Synonymous with crystal clear water and white sand, the archipelago is a luxe – and often expensive – holiday destination. If you’re searching for a more affordable choice, Oblu Xperience Ailafushi positions itself as a pocket-friendly way to visit. Staying at the all-inclusive resort costs from £160 per person per night. This price point attracts an international mix of couples, families and groups of friends.

A complimentary 15-minute speedboat ride from Malé (British Airways offers direct flights from London) transports you from the capital to a fun, lively destination that caters for groups of friends, families and couples looking for a good time. The zippy transfer time is impressive considering other resorts in the Maldives can take up to an hour to reach. But the proximity to the capital does come with its disadvantages, with views of the high-rise buildings in the distance in certain parts of the hotel.

Ailaufushi is connected to one of the chain’s other resorts, Oblu Select Lobigili – a luxury, adults-only resort best suited for honeymooners. While there are spots for swimming and snorkelling, there is no house reef.

Maldivian sunsets can be enjoyed from the main bar (Oblu Xperience Ailafushi )

The look

Having opened its doors in 2022, the resort has a modern look. Unlike the neutral colour palette adopted by many resorts in the area, Oblu Xperience Ailafushi takes a bold approach, injecting pops of colour in shades of orange, blue and red around the resort.

Wandering along the well-maintained sandy walkways makes home feel like a distant memory. But the major sell is the undeniable beauty of the surrounding landscape: white sand, turquoise lagoons, magnificent sunsets... this is the stuff dreams are made of.

The vibe

The group-friendly resort has a buzzy atmosphere, with lively noughties classics playing loudly in the main bar (X360), considered the hub of the hotel, and beach area from 10am. At sunset, a dance floor area is rolled out in the main bar with a live band or DJ playing until 12.45am. The party vibe did, at times, seem incongruous with the serenity of the surroundings but seemed to appeal to the other guests, who were by in large in their thirties.

From arrival to departure, the staff were friendly and could not have been more eager to help, with no request too big or small. The hotel team welcomed us at the jetty and waved us off, which is a lovely touch and reflects that family is at the heart of this resort.

Bed and bath

The water villas offer a sea view from bed (OBLU Xperience Ailafushi)

There are 268 rooms in total split between four categories – 48 ocean view rooms, 48 two-bedroom ocean view family rooms, 66 beach villas and 106 water villas – each one catering to different needs and budgets. The water villa, accessed by a jetty, felt wonderfully distant from the lively hotel bar, and light years away from the daily grind. The villas were positioned far enough along the jetty that we were treated to almost undisrupted views, making it a great spot for sundowners (beers, soft drinks and filtered can be found in the minibar, which is restocked daily). However, rooms on the other side would be less fortunate with views of the capital city in the not-so-far distance.

The private deck serves as the perfect place to watch the sunset (Eva Waite-Taylor)

Rooms are spacious and airy with a large window providing views of the ocean from bed. A door takes you straight out onto the private deck, which features a comfortable daybed and outdoor shower, as well as a staircase into the sea for snorkelling. As for the interior, it’s modern yet homely, decorated with white walls, wooden floors and beams, colourful cushions and curtains, and abstract artwork. Thankfully, for those who overpack, there’s ample storage in the shape of a large wardrobe and a luggage rack.

The semi-open-air bathroom is a lovely addition and the large rain shower serves as a great place for fish and reef shark spotting. But owing to the indoor/outdoor design, you do lose the effects of the air conditioning unit and have just a fan to keep you cool, but it’s a small price to pay for this unique experience. Refillable body wash, shampoo and conditioner are provided, as well as a handy pack of essentials that you might’ve forgotten, including a toothbrush, toothpaste and cotton buds.

Food and drink

Oblu Xperience Ailafushi has three restaurants: Element X, Copper Pot Food Truck and Only Blu. A buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in Element X and are included in the Fushi Plan (all-inclusive), along with unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. While there was a range of different dishes on offer – including curry, pan-fried tuna steaks, noodles and pasta – it was rare for there to be a live cooking station, so pre-cooked food was the order of play. The fresh vegetables and salad options were slightly limited and we’d have liked an omelette station at breakfast, as well as greater variety between the dishes served at lunch and dinner.

The Copper Pot Food Truck is situated opposite the main restaurant and offers a surf and turf menu ($55/£45 per head) for romantic dining under the stars. As you’d expect from the location, the seafood dishes were delicious – think lobster, grilled prawns and calamari – and the rib-eye steak was cooked to perfection. As this is an additional charge, it’s one of the quietest areas of the resort and at times lacks ambience.

The resort’s underwater restaurant is the perfect place for shark spotting (Oblu Select)

Only Blu is the star of the show. It is the largest underwater restaurant in the Maldives and is 6.8 metres below sea level. If you’re as lucky as we were, you’ll spot a shark or two circulating while you enjoy your welcome glass of sparkling wine and delicious three-course menu. We sampled the meat menu – but there’s also seafood, vegetarian, vegan, Indian and kids menus – and had a fresh quinoa salad to start, followed by guinea fowl served with spinach, potatoes and carrot purée, which was packed full of flavour, with a delicious trio of chocolate mousse to finish. It’s not cheap – prices start from $125 (£102) per person – but it is a wonderful experience that is certainly worth budgeting for.

For drinks, you’ll need to head to X360, the main bar. You can order almost anything you can think of, and unlike other resorts, there are no extra charges for different beverages which, considering the more affordable price point, is great.

Public areas

The reception – an airy, welcoming space with dark teak panelling and white tiles on the walls – leads to the main bar, X360, which is decorated with colourful furniture and gold and blue mosaic tiling. Such decor may seem a little kitsch, but adds to the fun vibe of the hotel.

The dive centre is further along the beach where you can book excursions and water sports – dolphin-spotting boat trips (an absolute standout excursion and a must if you’re visiting), diving, guided snorkelling, jet skis, and so much more. There is complimentary use of stand-up paddle boards and canoes, but this is only for 15 minutes and you do need to book early as slots get booked up fast. Fun and free activities include the water slide and inflatable trampoline in the sea.

Head to the spa for some peace and quiet (Oblu Xperience Ailafushi)

For those looking to relax and unwind, the spa is in a quiet area of the resort among palm trees that’s been thoughtfully decorated with earthy colours, lush greenery and water features. Complete with four couples treatment rooms and four single treatment rooms, as well as an outdoor hot tub, a sauna, a steam room and a relaxation lounge, it’s a large but serene space.

There is a range of reasonably-priced treatments, including facials ($40/£31 for 30 minutes) and massages (from $35/£28 for 30 minutes). We can vouch for the latter after having a Balinese massage ($55/£43 for an hour) – expect your aching muscles to be pummeled.

The resort’s overwater fitness centre boasts large windows (Eva Waite-Taylor)

A long jetty joins Ailifushi with its sister resort, which is where you’ll find the overwater gym (we’ve never been so tempted to work out). Masterfully designed, the wooden building features large windows, offering uninterrupted views of the ocean. It’s not all just good looks though, as there’s a great range of equipment available, including weights, treadmills and rowing machines.

The resort doesn’t just cater for adults, however. There’s a decent-sized kids’ club, open from 9am to 6pm, thoughtfully located next to the family accommodation. Daily activities are organised, such as clay-making, bracelet-making, cupcake-decorating and henna tattoos, and there’s also a pool and games arcade with a PlayStation and Xbox.

Nuts and bolts

Room count: 268 in total, 48 ocean rooms, 48 two-bedroom family rooms, 66 beach villas and 106 water villas.

Freebies: Use of non-motorised watersports for 15 minutes.

Wifi: Free.

Extra charges: Watersports and activities, dinner at the two other restaurants.

Minibar prices: Included within the all-inclusive plan and restocked daily.

Disability access: Not 100 per cent accessible (there are no wheelchair-accessible rooms), but the resort welcomes guests with disabilities and does assist with ramps, buggy rides, and anything else they might need.

Pet policy: No pets allowed.

Bottom line

Best thing: A quick 15-minute speedboat from the airport and an affordable price for the Maldives.

Worst thing: A lack of freshly cooked food in the main restaurant.

Perfect for: Groups and families.

Not right for: Food lovers, or those after complete calm and tranquillity.

Instagram from: The jetty and the underwater restaurant.

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