On our first trip to the Seychelles, we had the opportunity to stay at JA Enchanted Island Resort which is a unique private island resort just off the coast of Mahé. Their concept of “Robinson Crusoe” holds true, while being incredibly accessible to travelers. We had an incredible time at this resort so read on to find out what to expect when you stay at JA Enchanted Island.
JA Enchanted Island is located approximately 15 minutes off the coast of the mainland of Mahé. After landing at the airport, it’s a quick 5 minute drive to the dock and a 10-15 minute boat ride to the resort. Offering a private island experience so close to Mahé is amazing because you are off the flight and on island time within an hour. The property is also located within a nature reserve, Ste. Anne Marine National Park. Moyenne Island is famously located right next to JA Enchanted Island and is known for its pirate graves and tortoise habitat. The proximity to both Moyenne and the surrounding islands makes JA a great jumping-off point to explore the surroundings via kayak or paddle board.
Of course with the proximity to Mahé, there are some things to be aware of. Very few islands are truly private in the Seychelles so tour groups coming to this famous marine park do anchor up on the beaches surrounding JA Enchanted Island during the day. The tours typically arrive around 10:15am and depart around 3pm. All the villas are located on the hill and access to the property is prohibited so you will not necessarily see the tour boats or people unless you access the beach down the hill from the villa. We typically went to the beach around 8am-10am to enjoy the privacy and quiet and spent the afternoons relaxing in our private pool.
Lobby & Check in experience: 4.5/5
The check in experience at JA Enchanted Island begins before you step foot on the island itself. We were picked up at the airport and taken straight to the dock at the sister property, JA Waterfront Lodge to board the quick 10-15 minute boat ride to the property. The staff were friendly, helpful and told us about the area on our way to the hotel. Once you arrive at the island, you are taken on a buggy to the lobby/restaurant just a few seconds, literally, away. We received a lovely welcome beverage during check in at a beautifully decorated table in the restaurant. The whole check in process was easy and efficient and we were whisked away to our villa by buggy within a few minutes.
The entire island takes only a few minutes to walk around and there are only 13 rooms on property so it feels very familial and intimate. There is no true lobby on property so everything takes place at the restaurant and the experience is extremely laid back. While I wish they had provided water and cold towels on the boat ride over to the hotel, the check in experience overall was very simple, efficient and quick.
There are 13 rooms on property today including private pool villas, residences and 2 new categories: Hilltop Rooms and the Hilltop Villa. We were checked into a Private Pool Villa called Villa Lagati and it was my favorite of that room type on the entire island. Most of these villas are fairly private from the walkway, but definitely request this villa if you are looking for the most private experience as you cannot see into any part of the villa from the path. Some of the villas are closer to the walkway so you can see into the pool area or outdoor dining area from the path. Sitting at 1,400 square feet, the villa comprises a studio-style bedroom with a king bed, sitting area and desk. There are floor to ceiling windows looking out over the lagoon and outdoor lounge area as well as vaulted ceilings.
There is a lot of natural light thanks to the added windows behind the bed as well as the large floor to ceiling window facing the view. The bathroom is the most unique feature of the room. His and hers vanities are located inside as well as the walk-in closet, however, the toilet, shower and tub are located outside in your private covered terrace. The toilet faces the lush trees and view as well as the shower complete with Elemis products. While this type of bathroom is not for everyone, it is very reminiscent of the Maldives and we loved it. It’s worth mentioning that there were virtually no bugs, so they must do an excellent job of spraying the property.
The outdoor space is beautiful in the villas. We had a large pool deck with chaise loungers, umbrella, a beautiful infinity edge pool and a covered dinette overlooking the lagoon and Mahé in the distance. Our villa also had a fantastic sunset view.
The rooms are dated, with poor lighting in the closets making it difficult to see clothing particularly in the evening as well as a lack of master switches that turn off the ancillary lamps around the room. We hope in a future update to the resort that they add in some upgrades in technology as well as decor. In its current state, it feels very much like a cozy cabin retreat, but not quite like a 5 star luxury villa. We kept talking about this being the perfect writer’s retreat and joking that Hemingway must have come here to think and write.
The villas and residences are all fairly similar in look and decor. The new hilltop rooms and villa are slightly different. In February, the property opened up two standard hotel-style rooms that start at a lower price point. These are a great choice if you are looking to experience a private island retreat without the bells and whistles of a private pool and outdoor bathroom. The hilltop villa does come with an outdoor bathroom, but no pool. It’s a larger room than the standard hilltop lodge room and is a nice choice. Of the two new categories, I preferred the hilltop lodge rooms due to their price point and beautiful balcony. For the value, you still get to experience the beautiful island and have access to the beach and shared pool on property.
Here is the Hilltop Lodge Room:
Here is the Hilltop Villa:
Service was one of the areas we felt the resort had the most opportunity if they wanted to really compete with the big dogs in the Seychelles. While many of the staff members were wonderful, it felt like they had no guidance or flexibility to really make a guest’s experience the best it could be. At a resort with only 13 rooms, we felt they were missing the chance to create a really bespoke and luxurious experience for every guest. It’s not every day that you have the chance to stay at a hotel with that few people and at this price point, we were expecting personalized service and unique experiences that we have seen other larger hotels at this price point excel at.
JA Enchanted Island offers the standard features of twice-daily housekeeping. While there was nothing extraordinary about the service, they did come between 8-2pm and then 6-8pm. We hope in the future they are able to cater more to when guests are out of the room to create a seamless experience. We feel they can benefit from providing small nightly gifts to surprise and delight guests, as we have seen at many other resorts at this price.
Finally, there are a few private experiences that guests can book such as floating breakfast or a romantic dinner, but there is no real emphasis on those private experiences and they come with a huge price tag. With only one restaurant, we feel they could lean in more to private experiences such as offering additional room service meals included in meal plans or offering picnic lunches on the nearby sandbar, for example. We feel they could also offer additional activities such as simple things like cooking classes with the chef or an island tour with the GM or even an excursion to see Moyenne Island just across the lagoon. Again, there is endless opportunity here but management didn’t seem to want to take advantage of their prime location and small resort.
With missed opportunities aside, the service was generally good, with meal times being the highlight. The restaurant staff were lovely, almost too attentive and always available. We did love that meal times seemed a bit more flexible as we were often enjoying our mornings on the quiet beach before meandering over to breakfast well after the set breakfast times. We were always welcomed with open arms and treated to whatever we wanted to eat, which was a great experience overall.
There is one restaurant and bar on the property and it serves as the central point of the property. The restaurant is called The Bounty and the bar is called Castaway. They are essentially the same space and very cozy and informal. Overall, the food is very good and feels very fresh. Their specialty and our personal favorite dish is the Smoked Marlin, which is a delicacy in the Seychelles and the neighboring islands.
While there is only one restaurant, they do have a fairly extensive menu for each meal. Breakfast includes dishes like eggs, pancakes, middle eastern specialities and a smoked marlin benedict (delicious). Lunch and dinner offers a variety of fish, pastas, meats and vegetable based dishes. On a few evenings per week, they do also offer a special menu in addition to the standard menu with a special tasting option that is included in the meal plans. We loved doing the tasting menus to try something new and unique.
The wine, beer and cocktail selection is very good and pretty extensive. The service was also good and we made a real connection with the staff at the restaurant who seemed to always be there. One service issue we felt was apparent in the restaurant was that there was a lack of training around timing of food. If a guest ordered an appetizer and then an entree, they would often bring the entree just minutes after bringing the appetizer so you end up sitting at the table with your warm entree cooling down while you try to desperately finish your appetizer.
The resort does offer in-room dining as well, that is not included in the meal plans. Due to the small and intimate nature of the resort, the restaurant never felt full and always felt romantic and sweet.
We had the chance to experience an incredible romantic dinner on the beach facing Moyenne Island. While you do have the option of having a romantic dinner at the sunset point, we much preferred the beach facing Moyenne because it’s completely dark, absolutely gorgeous and very protected from the wind. There were dozens of candles around the beach and we had exceptional service, delicious lobster and champagne and it was a genuinely romantic dinner. I would go as far to say that it was the most romantic, and private dinner we have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Most of our previous romantic dinners have been served within eye sight of the restaurant or near other romantic dinner setups.
Overall, the dining experiences were a highlight of the resort and we can’t wait to come back to eat more smoked marlin and dine under the stars.
Enchanted Island is a tiny island that takes all of 13 minutes to walk around. The intention on the island is truly to relax and enjoy time in your private villa. There are not a lot of facilities available to guests when it comes to private or public excursions or amenities.
The resort does have a small spa area at the top of the island. The spa itself does not have any facilities like a steam or sauna, but the massages are excellent and take place in an outdoor pagoda (remember to wear bug spray).
There is a small fitness center located near the spa with a few cardio machines, free weights and a few machines. It is indoors with air conditioning and a nice place to work out. Guests are asked to request a time to work out since it is quite small.
They do offer some non-motorized water sports such as kayaks and paddleboards. When Max borrowed a paddle board one day it was partially deflated so it is not clear how often they take care of the equipment or even how popular it is. The staff member who gave him the paddle board didn’t notice or inflate the paddleboard until Max asked.
Since the resort is located inside the marine park, we were hoping they would offer snorkeling tours or tours of Moyenne Island. We were disappointed to find out that the hotel does not offer any complimentary or paid excursions to explore this incredible marine park. We do hope the management takes this into consideration in the future as the only way to explore it today is by taking a kayak or paddle board on your own, which can be a bit rough. Frankly, the resort doesn’t seem to emphasize its surrounding areas at all. It feels like there is a really big missed opportunity for the hotel to create bespoke experiences for its guests to really explore and fall in love with the area.
The hotel has a really cozy cabin vibe and is full of beautiful antiques and unique furnishings throughout. While modern or up to date are not the words I would use to describe the property, it does have its own vibe. We hope that in future updates to the hotel they lean into the antique-Robinson Crusoe vibe and build on that while upgrading some of the lighting, electrical in the rooms and adding more comfortable lounge furniture in the restaurant.
Overall, we fell in love with the energy and uniqueness of the island itself. There is so much potential for this resort and it’s an excellent place to spend a few days in the Seychelles, particularly given its location so close to Mahé and the convenience of it. While we feel management is really lacking in its understanding of who its guests are and how to create bespoke, romantic experiences that truly show off the power of the surrounding area, the villas are incredibly unique and relaxing. This resort is a great option for guests looking to relax for a few days at a perfect jumping off point to dive deeper into the beautiful islands in the Seychelles.
Disclaimer: We were hosted by JA Resorts on a media stay. Please know the opinions expressed are all our own and may not reflect the hotel’s own views.