Hotel Review: Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa, All-Inclusive
AAll-inclusive resorts are popping up left and right in the Maldives, and for good reason. The stress of paying for every little thing after planning an incredible trip can be what makes or breaks your vacation. Emerald Maldives has taken on a true all-inclusive experience without nickel-and-diming you for every last cent. Read on to find out what you need to know, before you go!
Emerald Maldives is located in Raa atoll on a beautiful lagoon. Raa atoll is about 35-40 minutes from Malé and guests can access the hotel via seaplane. Raa atoll is beautiful and there are dozens of hotels in the area. Sea life is plentiful and Emerald has a gorgeous property without anything terribly obtrusive. The local island of Maduvvari is fairly close, however, the rooms have been cleverly designed to mostly face away from the island.
The island is natural and has been reinforced to maintain a calm swimming beach and beautiful, light blue water. The sunrise side of the island, closest to the buffet restaurant, has a quick dropoff close to shore, making it an excellent place for snorkeling because you do not need to swim very far out to see incredible sea life. The sunset side of the island features a longer, shallow beach and lagoon.
Lobby & Check in experience: 4.5/5
In the Maldives, we rate lobby and check in a bit differently, because the check in experience typically starts upon arrival at the international airport. Guests are greeted by Emerald Maldives staff upon exiting immigrations and checked into the seaplane at the kiosk. After a quick check in, you are taken by luxury bus to the seaplane terminal, just a few short minutes away. All your luggage is taken care of and you are taken by Emerald staff so you don’t need to stress about finding your way.
Emerald does not offer their own private airport lounge, but you do have access to the shared VIP lounge with snacks, soft drinks tea and coffee.
While we would typically cover this experience, we were arriving from Soneva Fushi, so the seaplane picked us up along the way. The seaplane ride is beautiful and such a wonderful experience. Do note, that Raa Atoll is farther away so it’s likely that you will stop at a couple of hotels along the way. We never really mind this because it’s really fun to see other hotels.
Upon arriving at the seaplane jetty, you are greeted by your butler with a welcome beverage and taken straight to the makeshift COVID-testing center in a villa for a quick rapid antigen test. This process took about 3 minutes and then we were off to do a tour of the property and taken to our villa.
We had the pleasure of staying in a water villa with a pool, which we really enjoyed. We did get to tour a number of room types, so we will share our thoughts here with you.
Overall, the villas were huge. The villas are about 2,000 square feet, with sizeable bedrooms complete with a desk area as well as the largest bathroom I’ve seen in a water villa in a while. The bathroom features tubs, standalone showers a walk-in closet and a separate washroom.
The outdoor space is spacious as well, with an outdoor shower, hammock, chaise and dining sets. Many of the villas have pools as well. They offer large bottles of single-use Loccitane products, which we love.
Across the different room types, the actual room configuration and setup is the exact same, with the exception of additional living space in some of the suites. However, even in the most “basic” marina beach villas, you have the exact same layout. Even the art is the exact same, from the marina beach villas to the presidential suite.
The Marina Beach Villas are the closest villas to the seaplane dock. If you’re an early riser and don’t mind a bit or noise throughout the day from seaplanes and boat traffic, then this may be a great option for you. This is particularly fine if you plan to spend your days out of the room or if you have kids and don’t want to splurge on their room ;).
The beach villas, beach villas with a jacuzzi and the beach villas with a pool are the exact same. I would say, avoid the southern side if you’re looking for the best views and most swimmable water. The beach erosion is particularly prevalent on this side of the island, making it slightly more difficult to access the lagoon. The northern and western sides of the island are going to offer the most picturesque and swimmable experience.
The family beach villas are all excellent locations and room types. With two large bedrooms and a shared patio with a large swimming pool, these villas are a great choice if you’re traveling as a family. While there is no shared living room, the patio is covered and a wonderful place to hang out. The villas are also very private, thanks to the grown in trees and jungle surrounding the villas.
The superior beach villas are the exact same as the superior water villas. They feature a floating lounge chair outside, large pool and a full bedroom and living room. This would have been my preferred room type if I’d had a choice. The addition of the living room is wonderful for a longer stay and provides a great relief from the heat. There are only two of these on the beach and two over water. Their locations are very private. The beach option is on the sunrise side and features excellent snorkeling right off the beach.
The water villas and water villas with jacuzzi are the exact same, with the exception of the outdoor jacuzzi. I personally don’t like jacuzzis in the heat, but if there’s ever a cloudy or rainy day, a jacuzzi could be a lovely option. The jacuzzi rooms and the water villas all face out away from the property, providing expansive views with no obstructions or sound coming over the water. The villas feature hammocks over the water as well as a ladder to access the lagoon.
The water villas with a pool line the entire jetty, facing in towards the property. We preferred to be situated out towards the end of the jetty to minimize the noise that travels over the water. The pools are refreshing and delightful. You also have an overwater hammock and the ladder to access the lagoon.
We had the chance to check out the Presidential Water villa and that was gorgeous. It sits at the end of the jetty with a gorgeous sunset view in front. The pool is both indoor and outdoor, with a garage door style door that opens completely. There are two master bedrooms in the Presidential. This would be a great option for two couples traveling together looking for a splurge.
Overall the rooms are large, comfortable have everything you need. The minibar is complimentary and is refilled once a day, which is perfect for a sundowner on your patio.
I want to preface this by saying the staff at the restaurants and the sommeliers are outstanding. The F&B department is doing everything right. From attentive, personal service to anticipating guest needs and requests, they are on it. Restaurant reservations are recommended on property, but unlike some all-inclusive resorts we have been to in the Maldives, if you show up late they would never turn you away. The waiters are friendly, helpful and really want to please their guests. They go above and beyond to surprise you if they can. We loved eating at the Beach Club Grill and on the second day, our table had been decorated with flowers – it was so sweet of the staff. Even better, on our last night, they surprised us with a beach dinner complete with romantic lighting and roses. They really go out of their way to make you feel special and we loved it.
The sommeliers are an interesting and unique addition to the service staff. No one told us how this worked so we were shocked to find out that there was an entire wine list included in the all-inclusive and sommeliers are there at every restaurant to serve you wine. The first night, we were being served a fantastic rosé and spent the whole time wondering, “oh gosh, there’s no way this is included, is there?” But it was! With over 80 wine options included, this may have been one of the best parts of the experience. We had the pleasure of spending time with Erica, Joseph, Lee and Brian, who all did an exceptional job. They also had extensive cocktail menu at the restaurants and bars. While a number of them were a bit too sweet for my taste, they were also happy to make anything for you if you had a preference.
Housekeeping was good overall, coming for both turndown and daily cleaning. It is worth noting that you must leave a note to get extra water in the room because they seem to forget. So I left a note each day to request extra water. The minibar was stocked daily with complimentary beer, wine and snacks and the toiletries in the bathroom were plentiful.
Guests do get a shared butler and, from what we heard from other guests, it can be very hit or miss. In general, our butler was good. He had pre-booked dinner reservations for us to ensure we always had a booking, which we deeply appreciated. Nothing was quite as disappointing as our experience at Heritance Aarah, when we were told there were no reservations available for the 3 nights we were there…anywhere…until we complained enough. Having our butler take care of that was a godsend. The property gives guests access to an incredible mobile app that holds all your reservations, excursions and information about restaurants and activities. We were able to make changes in the mobile app with ease, but it was nice to know that we always had somewhere to go since the butler had prescheduled everything for us.
The butlers do seem a bit overwhelmed and some guests didn’t have quite the positive experience we did, one even forgetting to do a COVID test with his guests which is a bit concerning. My recommendation is to get the whatsapp number for your butler and feel it out. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, and if you aren’t getting it, ask for a new one.
Overall, the front of house staff are really what make the experience at Emerald so wonderful. We look forward to returning to see the staff that made our time so special.
First of all, if I could give 10 stars to the beverage and wine program, I would. The sommelier team, and Erica in particular, are exceptional. Their attention, care and professionalism were outstanding. They were so passionate and wanted us to try their favorite wines and they always knew just what to serve us. They were at every restaurant, at all times and we loved it. There is something about being served wines off a wine list with the whole bottle that makes you feel like you are not at an all-inclusive.
Overall, the food and offerings were good. There were some inconsistencies when it came to their dishes, but overall, we liked the choices available and the diversity in restaurants. We loved the setting at the Beach Club Grill and found it hard to go anywhere other than that to have our toes in the sand.
The lighting and experience at the Beach Club were relaxing and casual, making it perfect for us for lunch and dinner. They served a variety of seafoods, salads, sandwiches and pastas. We were somewhat disappointed by the lack of seasoning on much of the grilled fish across the property, so we tended to stick with ceviches, salads and some of the heartier dishes.
We also really enjoyed Le Asiatique Restaurant. They offer teppanyaki as well as standard seating with sushi and asian cuisine. We ended up enjoying endless amounts of sushi, our favorite food. The service was excellent, as was the setting and the wine.
We did enjoy Amazonico as well, which features an appetizer buffet as well as grilled meats. The setting is very jungle-vibe in the middle of the island with surprisingly few mosquitos. This restaurant is a number of guests’ favorite and we can see why. Delicious croquetas and grilled steak are hard to beat.
We dined at Aqua on our first night for dinner. Aqua is the main buffet restaurant and they offer everything: from Indian, Maldivian, a grill, and more. This is a great spot for families because they really do have an extensive selection. We typically don’t love buffets, but overall, it was good. We enjoyed the Indian cuisine most here.
Aqua serves breakfast each morning as well, with an extensive list of options. They have everything you could possibly imagine, from yogurts to breads to Indian cuisine and pancakes. We loved the fruit stand, where the fruit man made us the most beautiful designed plates of fruit. The omelette station was good as well – we did enjoy how many fresh options there were.
Overall, the food was good. We really enjoyed having so much choice in terms of restaurants and we loved that truly, everything was included (with the rare exception of lobster or a couple of asterisks on the menu). The add-ons were not obtrusive and certainly did not take away from any meal. That staff would also never recommend those items, so you never felt like you were being scammed. I hope that flavoring and consistency improve over time, but at the end of the day, it did not ruin our experience in the least.
Emerald has a wealth of activities, excursions and amenities on property. Guests who book a certain number of days get to choose a free excursion and we chose the fishing excursion. You can pick from a sunset cruise, a dolphin cruise or the fishing. We went with fishing because it was unique and we’d experienced other dolphin tours before. The fishing was a blast! Such a simple experience and just a few minutes from the hotel, we spent an hour casting lines and catching some small fish.
Emerald has two beaches: the sunset beach and the sunrise beach. The sunset beach was our absolute favorite because of the amazing lounge area, bar, beach club grill and white sand. They offer great beach service for cocktails and we loved spending our afternoons lounging by the lagoon. There is also a fabulous pool at the sunset beach. Sunrise beach is smaller, has a bar including beach service and is better for snorkeling.
Max and I did a dive trip and ended up being the only two divers and they still took us out. We explored some of the most incredible dive sites in Raa Atoll, including the Labyrinth, a very sea life-rich area with caverns and cool features. The equipment was brand new, very clean and the instructor was great.
They offer a number of snorkeling adventures. We got to take part in a special trip that was free for guests to clean up a local sandbar. We found so much treasure out on the sandbar and we recommended to the dive center to offer this more often. We were with another family on the trip and they had a great time as well. We also got to spend a while snorkeling a gorgeous reef, so it was really a win-win.
The spa is lovely – we had one of the best massages of our trip at the spa. They also offer a steam, sauna and relaxation area outside and it was a very nice experience. Their prices are quite reasonable, with a 90-minute signature coming in under $200. The spa is centrally located so you can get to it very easily and quickly.
The hotel also has bicycles assigned to each villas, making it fun and easy to get around if you don’t want to wait for a buggy. We loved the fat-tired bikes and had a blast exploring the island and the jetty. There is ample bike parking and every bike has the villa number on it so you don’t lose it. We would have loved to see the bikes returned to guest rooms at the end of the night for those that may have walked home from dinner.
There is an impressive fitness center as well as tennis courts and a convertible court. It’s also located in the center of island, making for a very easy walk or bike ride to get to the facilities. There are ample weights, cardio machines and everything you need to stay fit and keep off the vacation-15.
They also offer wine tastings with the head sommelier on certain days and we had the chance to enjoy a private wine tasting with Erica. It was so much fun to drink and learn about wines at the edge of the lagoon.
Overall, we had a blast at Emerald. There is simply so much to explore and enjoy. We saw groups of friends, families and couples enjoying the different activities and fun events on property.
Overall, we enjoyed the consistency in style across the property. Some of the art and decor were a little too carbon-copy at times, but we enjoyed the minimalist look overall. There were shining moments on property, like the main beach area, beach club grill and a la carte restaurants that truly shown in the style department. We’d love to see more Maldivian elements come into the style a bit to soften the look and give the property a true sense of place, but overall, we really enjoyed the modern, clean lines across the property.
Overall, we had a great time at Emerald. The F&B staff were true highlights in the service department, the wine was fantastic and we would absolutely not hesitate to return. The price point seems right in line with expectations and you cannot go wrong with any of the room choices on property when it comes to size, amenities and access to wonderful events and activities.
COVID-19 Safety Rating: 4.5/5
Finally, the COVID-19 safety rating, a hopefully temporary addition to our rating scale. This rating does not factor into the overall score, but we do assess the actions hotels are taking during this time to keep guests safe. First and foremost, we loved the rapid antigen testing on arrival. This was a surprise to us, and a welcome one. It was great to feel a bit more protected during this time and like we could truly enjoy the experience. While there were some inconsistencies, with one couple not getting tested by accident, we feel that overall it was well executed.
Staff wore masks regardless of the guest testing policies and we were constantly requested to use hand sanitizer at the restaurants. Entering the buffet, we had our temperature taken and it was extremely simple and easy.
We feel very comfortable with the precautions taken and really feel that even the most nervous guests would have a positive experience with the property when it comes to COVID-19.
Disclaimer: We were hosted by Emerald on a media stay. Please know the opinions expressed are all our own and may not reflect the hotel’s own views.