Hotel Review: Hard Rock Hotel Maldives
When you think about the Maldives, Hard Rock is likely not the first hotel name that roles off your tongue. However, Hard Rock, part of the Crossroads Marina complex, is bringing a new type of vacation to the Maldives and we loved it. While they position themselves as not the honeymooners destination or a luxury property, we would argue that it’s the perfect getaway for couples, friends and families looking for fun, adventure-filled vacation, particularly for American customers used to paying high prices for aging hotels with subpar service in destinations like Mexico, Hawaii and the Caribbean. With a longer journey to get there, what you’ll find is a stunning beachfront vacation for a comparable price point.
Hard Rock is located just 20-minutes by fast speed ferry from Malé‘s main international airport, Velana. This means that you won’t need to spend half a day traveling once you get to the Maldives. Its proximity to Malé has been slammed by many travel writers for being “too close” with “dirty water” etc, but we were actually astounded by the crystal blue water of the lagoon surrounding the property. From half of the property, you can see the skyline of Malé in the distance, which may be bothersome to some looking to get away from the city views, but it did provide a nice backdrop in the evenings from our pool villa.
The property is part of the larger Crossroads Marina complex, meaning guests have access to a large, disney-land like marina and the neighboring SAii Lagoon property. Crossroads is bringing a new concept to the Maldives, moving away from the one-island-one-hotel theme that has always prevailed in the Maldives. The marina is accessible by a long bridge and offers guests the chance to dine and shop “offsite”. We loved the Marina and found them to have some of the best restaurants across the properties. During COVID-19 and the ramp up of tourism, many of the shops weren’t open yet, however, we are really looking forward to coming back to explore all the shopping.
Lobby & Check in experience: 4/5
If you’ve read some of our reviews before, you may be familiar with lobby and check in being rated a little bit differently in the Maldives. Check in begins on arrival at the airport. There is a kiosk for Crossroads/Hard Rock/SAii and you are greeted by a friendly hotel representative. The only way to get to the hotel, despite being just a short boating distance away, is via a $148 per person ferry ride ($74 for kids). While this is fairly steep for a quick ride, that’s really just part of the deal when you go to the Maldives. And no, you are not allowed to utilize the inexpensive local ferry that goes to the Marina if you plan to check in at the hotels.
The property does not offer an arrivals lounge or area for guests to wait, but it was a very quick 10 minutes while we awaited another family arriving at the airport. Shortly, we were taken to the ferry and sped off to the Crossroads complex. In general, this process was SO easy. Some hotels, particularly if you need to take a domestic flight, take half a day or longer. Being able to hop on a quick ferry was remarkably easy.
Upon arriving at the Hard Rock pavilion, we were taken to the lobby and provided a welcome beverage as well as our check-in forms. The lobby is impressive, with sweeping views over the lagoon and overwater villas. Overall, the check in process was quick and we were taken by buggy to our overwater pool villa.
We were checked in the Platinum Overwater Pool Villa, a gorgeous 818-square foot room with a private pool and access to the lagoon. The villa has a large, “rockstar-vibed” bathroom with a double vanity, freestanding tub, shower and open closet. The bedroom features warm colors, beautiful textures and a gorgeous view from the bed. There is a small sitting area as well as a mini bar. One of the most impressive features of the room was the television, with dozens of playlists and hundreds of songs to jam out to in your room. The exterior features two somewhat tough to get into lounge cushions and a plunge pool. We personally really liked the view of Malé, especially at night with the city all lit up.
There are two areas of water villas at the Hard Rock. The other side of the island faces SAii Lagoon and features slightly nicer water to swim in, but you do see much more boating traffic.
There are also two types of over water villas as well as a number of beach villas. Here, we will break them down for you:
Silver Sky Studio
The Silver Sky Studio is the base level room on property and features a small bedroom, bathroom with an indoor shower as well as a beautiful view of the lagoon from any of the buildings. These rooms are on the second floor. Unlike entry level rooms in basically any other destination around the world, every single entry level room has a fabulous view. There is no such thing as “garden view” or worse here. We didn’t tour a sky studio, but they are essentially the same as the next room type on the list, minus the outdoor shower.
Silver Beach Studio
This room type is the same as the sky studio in terms of layout. However, it features a gorgeous outdoor shower as well as direct beach access to the lagoon. This is a fantastic room type for two people traveling together, looking for impeccable beachfront access without breaking the bank.
Silver Family Suite Duplex
This is a great room type if you are traveling as a larger group or as a family. These rooms feature two stories. The lower floor is the same layout as the silver beach studio, but with an additional lofted area with bunk beds and a second full bathrooms. The hotel can supply any diapers or products families may need, making for a very hassle free vacation. This room can accommodate up to 6 guests.
Gold Beach Villa
This standalone villa is similar to the platinum overwater villas. It features a bathroom with double vanity, freestanding tub, indoor shower, king bed and the direct lagoon access via the beach. This villa is a great option for travelers looking for privacy and seclusion a step below the water villas.
Platinum Overwater Villa
The platinum overwater without a pool is the exact same layout as the overwater with a pool. The only difference is that they feature hammocks instead of the pool. In general, we like the location and views of these villas, however, the section of villas on the far end of the island does face in towards the Sessions restaurant that play music in the evenings.
Platinum Overwater Pool Villa
This was the room type Max and I were in during our stay. The private plunge pool was refreshing and a nice go-to during low tide when the water levels were a bit too low to swim in the lagoon. There are two sections of these villas, one on the far side of the property (where we were located) and one on the side facing SAii Lagoon. I think in general, I would prefer the SAii Lagoon facing side as it is facing away from Malé and appears to be a little bit quieter in the evening.
Rock Royalty Overwater 2-Bedroom Pool Villa
This room type features a king bedroom as the primary, as well as a double room with two double beds. It also has two bathrooms, a large living room with dining set for four as well as a terrace that spans the length of the villa. It is complete with an infinity pool, outdoor lounge area and a hammock. This is a fantastic option for a group of friends of family with older kids.
Rock Star Villa
Finally, the Rock Star Villa. This is the “ultimate” party villa, complete with just one bedroom with fabulous bathroom as well as a massive living room and terrace. The interior living space has a large dining set, circular sofa with a large circular glass floor, tons of memorabilia as well as the fantastic view. The outdoor space has a large infinity pool, Tuk-Tuk bar cart, lounge area, hammock and dining set. This is a great villa for events, get-togethers or bachelor parties. Since there is only one bedroom it’s not an ideal booking for groups or families. It does connect to another Platinum Overwater Pool Villa, so that is an option.
Upon arriving, even at the check in desk at the airport, we knew this was a different style of hotel. The employees are happy, casual and seem genuinely interested in having a great time with the guests. Management allows employees to take part in activities and the facilities of the hotel on the off time, which while that comes with its own interesting challenges, is actually quite amazing. Have you ever been to a hotel karaoke night and NO ONE gets up to sing? That doesn’t happen at the Hard Rock. Every activity is full of people, whether it’s karaoke or dancing, there are people having a great time. The best part? The employees start it and it makes people feel so much more comfortable getting up and joining it. It makes the atmosphere at the Hard Rock exactly what you want it to be: vibrant, engaging and really, really fun.
The service at restaurants is mostly good, a real standout is Carlton, one of the managers at the Hard Rock. Max remarked that he liked his turtle necklace, and then next day Carlton showed up to breakfast with one for him. The staff, in general, is really excited to serve you and get to know you. We saw staff members interacting with kids, giving them gifts and having fun with them and others engaging with adults they’d seen the night before at an activity. The service is definitely casual, but it’s part of the vibe, so I would not expect 5-star, white glove treatment. Expect to be served with a bit more of a casual, laissez-faire attitude.
Housekeeping was great- they do turndown as well, which was a nice touch to come home to fresh towels and water after dinner. Sometimes things took a while to get to you, but eventually they came.
One thing to note, the hotel offers a variety of dining packages, including all-inclusive, half board and full board (more information on what that all means here). Unlike the confusion we have experienced at some hotels, we had zero issues at Hard Rock on the all-inclusive plan. Menus are accurately labeled and explain in detail what is included and what is not. Staff is kind, helpful and understand what each meal plan is so it creates a much less stressful experience for guests. In general, if you are someone who eats three meals a day and enjoys a cocktail or two during the day and drinks at night, all-inclusive is a great deal for you. If you don’t drink or aren’t big eaters, consider the half board or full board packages.
We weren’t sure what to expect coming to the Hard Rock in the Maldives. We’d heard of reviews detailing the “Caribbean of the Maldives” and we were genuinely surprised to discover that those reviews were not accurate, unless you spent your entire stay eating at the Hard Rock Café. Between the Marina, Hard Rock and SAii, there is something for everyone, including Maldivian Cuisine.
The weakest link at the Hard Rock was the breakfast offering at Sessions. The food was ok, but it certainly wasn’t great. They did offer a large selection of items and we tended to stick to the fresh-made omelettes (like the Maldivian omelette – yum) and the fruit. We did also enjoy the complimentary champagne – very nice touch.
Our favorite onsite restaurant was The Elephant and the Butterfly, a Latin-American style restaurant. We loved the beachfront setting, allowing guests to dine with their toes in the sand, and we loved the small plates. The wine selection (on all-inclusive) was excellent and the cocktails were pretty good. We can definitely recommend this option. Our recommendation is to pick a night where Sessions is not doing a show or open for dinner to maximize the romance. Since the two restaurants are located next to each other, the music can be a bit loud from Sessions.
We also had the chance to experience the dining at the Marina while we were on property and we loved our meals at the Marina. It’s almost a little weird, but when you walk into the restaurants you actually feel like you are in the place that each restaurant represents. For example, at Kinkao, we were greeted by the Thai waitstaff and the food really transported us back to Thailand- it was fabulous. and spicy. It was perfect.
Kebab & Kurry was much of the same: beautiful Indian cuisine, served by the most amazing waitstaff who we let just pick whatever they wanted for us to eat. We had an amazing time with them, tasting their favorite dishes and everything was absolutely amazing.
Lastly, the floating breakfast was a real treat and a perk of being in a villa with a pool. We had champagne, salmon toast, fruit, yogurt and granola. It was delicious and fun- and great for honeymooners ;).
Overall, the dining at Hard Rock that you have access to is so diverse and so interesting, you will never be bored. The access to the Marina means guests can really explore and enjoy so many different dining options and you never have to go back to the same place twice.
The facilities at Hard Rock are amazing: beautiful gym, the classic Rock spa and variety of beaches and activities make for a perfect resort vacation. While the hotel does not classify itself as a resort, we would argue it really checks all the boxes. The access to the Marina adds even more to the mix. On property, the activity list is extensive, fun and there is always something going on for all ages. The spa is excellent, we enjoyed a good treatment in the circular villas, and only wish they had a steam and sauna to finish it off. One note is that the famous signature musical journey massage is extremely popular – be sure to book in advance because they were completely full during our three days.
They do have bikes on property, but they are not allocated to each villa and there are not enough bicycles. Buggies can take quite some time, so you do end up doing a lot of walking. If you need a buggy, be sure to call in advance to ensure you have ample time to get to your dinner reservations and appointments.
There is a shared excursion facility at the Marina with endless activities: jet skis, sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, dolphin watching, marine biology classes and more. There are a number of free learning activities, where you can learn about the sea life, coral and more.
One fun pro tip: the hotel provides free flip flops to guests – all you have to do is pick them up in the Hard Rock shop.
Overall, the property offers so much to its guests. You can stay on the Hard Rock island and be just fine, or explore SAii Lagoon and the Marina, giving you endless opportunities to indulge and have an amazing vacation.
We had no expectations going into the property, but we were overwhelmed by the warmth, style and sense of place the Hard Rock offered. Not only did we find the colors of the interiors and textures to be wonderful, but we also loved the artwork. Hard Rock hired local artists to paint all the art around the island: from the exterior wall art to the interior art work in the rooms, and it’s incredible. We love their focus on local art and design. It means a lot as a traveler to experience local artists and local culture when on vacation, even if it’s subtle and not “in your face”.
The style is consistent across the property, with nice modern furnishings, comfortable lounge chairs at the pool and bars and in-theme restaurants. It’s not gaudy and it’s just enough rockstar. It’s clear to us that Hard Rock as a brand has really leaned into a higher end look with this property, and we love it.
Overall, we absolutely love the Hard Rock Maldives. The vibes, facilities and beautiful views really won us over – as did the Marina concept. We can highly recommend this property for families looking for an amazing, high-end vacation with tons of activities and excitement.
COVID-19 Safety Rating: 3.5/5
Finally, our hopefully temporary COVID-19 Safety Rating. This rating is not factored into our overall rating system, but will give you a good idea of what to expect on property.
In general, the property did a good job. It’s tough in this concept, because there is so much access to other hotels, people and staff that do not live on the island. While most food and beverage staff did wear masks, it was somewhat inconsistent. The good news is, pretty much everything is outside on the island and it’s a very large island complex, allowing plenty of space for guests. While most restaurants do have indoor dining, we always opted for outdoor seating and we felt plenty safe. The only place we didn’t love was the buffet. It was not required to wear masks, but we always wear one, regardless of where we go and what buffet it is. We were, however, in the minority in this regard.
Overall, while I think the property could slightly improve their COVID safety, we did what we felt the responsible thing was by wearing masks indoors and hand sanitizing regularly and we felt safe enough throughout our stay. If you feel nervous about it, I would recommend eating outdoors and selecting the activities and restaurants where that is an option. Naturally, the rooms allow for social distancing, particularly the villas as you have ample space and often a private pool.
Disclaimer: We were hosted by Hard Rock on a media stay. Please know the opinions expressed are all our own and may not reflect the hotel’s own views.
This may seem trivial but are there bugs in the Maldives like sand fleas or no see umms ? Do the islands vary between types of floral and fauna ?
Asking for a bug prone friend .
Good question! Like most tropical areas, there are bugs, however, because the hotel islands are so small and the landscaping so well managed, there tend to be much less bugs than we’ve experienced in other, more raw tropical destinations. Also, the islands all do a varying amount of either fumigation or other insect prevention methods, including Hard Rock and the Crossroads complex. As for sand fleas or sea lice, I’m sure they exist in some parts of the Maldives, but it’s not something we’ve previously experienced on any of our trips.
The flora doesn’t differ a huge amount, as topographically all the islands are low lying and largely look the exact same. The sea life does vary however, in terms of the abundance of a particular species in one area or another. While some areas are very popular for Whale Sharks for instance, like the outer edge of South Ari Atoll, others are more popular for Manta Rays, like Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll. At Crossroads, we saw Dolphins nearly every day, which is not something we had seen other places, and was surprising so close to Malé.
How do you think your “friend” would feel about the Maldives?
I think my friend would bring her bug spray with deet with her and have a great time. Thanks for the info.
Thanks for the thorough review!! I love your website and blogs! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us! 😃
I think you guys have the pre-eminent hotel reviewers and, for firs-timers in the Maldives, your Youtube channel and reviews are extremely helpful.
I have a question: I booked a 6 day all-inclusive in their overwater bungalow including transfers to and from Male at Oblu Ailafushi through Luxury Escapes but I am hearing some negative things about Ailafushi. Some of the reviews indicate that the location is not as beautiful as others in the Maldives, the rooms are not as nice, and the resort has other issues. I cannot find any reviews of this site in English and now I am wondering if I should cancel this trip and replace it with a trip to Sai or Hard Rock.
You guys have visited numerous hotels in the Maldives and I trust your reviews: is it worth it to cancel at Ailafushi and replace it with Sai, or is Ailafushi as beautiful as some of the other locations within boating distance of Male?
Hi Samora! Thanks for your comment :). We really appreciate the love!! I received your email, so hopefully that helps, but for everyone else who may be reading this – we have not stayed at Oblu, however, from just digging into some reviews, I would expect the quality of SAii and Hard Rock to be better from the all-inclusive package standpoint. At SAii and Hard Rock you have access to over 20 restaurants included in the plan and the alcohol choices are fantastic (my favorite bar is the pool bar at SAii). Oblu seems pretty limited to the buffet, which is NOT what you pay for when you book an “all inclusive” in my opinion. The lagoon on the SAii side and Hard Rock facing SAii is stunning! Personally, based on the reviews of Oblu, I would go with Crossroads (either saii or hard rock).
Hope this helps!