Hotels We Love: This Maldives Resort Offers A Dreamy Balance Of Affordability And Luxury

After lusting after the Maldives for over a decade — and feeling like I was seemingly the only travel journalist who hadn’t visited the ultra-luxe beach destination — I finally experienced what the hype was all about while staying at one of the newest properties in the region. I spent a few blissful days frolicking around on the serene heart-shaped Baa Atoll (a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) at Avani+ Fares Maldives, located on the western edge of the atoll and encircled by a reef that’s home to vibrant aquatic creatures. Avani+ is situated on one of only 61 islands in the marine-protected waters of the reserve and boasts white sand and turquoise waters. It’s the newest property of the Minor Hotels groups, opened in May 2023, and still feels brand-freaking-new.

The Island of Fares is the place to stay in the Maldives to unwind in a modern fun-centric atmosphere that attracts a young crowd of international travelers. Situated on what was once a coconut plantation, the island is full of shady groves that are fully protected by sustainable building regulations — meaning trees cannot be cut down when building new properties. It also boasts the largest collection of rum in the Maldives.

Read my full review below.


beach bar
Courtesy of Avani+ Fares Maldives

At the laid-back 5-star tropical island you’re quite literally encouraged to leave your shoes behind. Beyond enjoying the beauty of white beaches, there are daily DJ sets, moonlit dance parties on the beach, and otherworldly excursions around the aquamarine Indian Ocean. Throughout 2024 there will be coveted events including an upcoming music festival, a ballet retreat, and an adults-only month.

Speaking specifically on the hotel, Avani+ Fares Maldives is simply the very picture of paradise. Of course… that can probably be said for most Maldivian resorts with overwater bungalows. While many properties in the Maldives offer astronomical all-inclusive room and board packages, Avani+ can be booked on an a la carte basis, which helps reduce expenses and makes the luxurious property more accessible than other nearby resorts. While packages are available, by creating a bespoke itinerary you can ensure you’re only paying for what you want to experience while on the atoll from meals, cocktails, and experiences.


Rum bar
Courtesy of Avani+ Fares Maldives

Like most private island resorts guests are limited to drinking and dining on-site. Not to fret, Avani+ has many establishments offering a variety of cuisines. Each restaurant utilizes locally sourced, sustainable, organic produce. Breakfast is a buffet at the Ocean Terrace which is also open for dinner and has an abundance of dishes on offer including local and international items. Lunch is at Skipjack, the poolside bar that offers poke bowls ($28-$34) and cocktails such as the Miami Vice which is a pina colada with strawberries ($22).

Out of all of the restaurants, I enjoyed the offering at Charcoal the most — if you’re vegan like me, don’t skip the charcoal grilled leeks ($15) and coconut sorbet ($8). Both are special and both feel light for a day spent on the beach and in the water.

Drinks, such as spiked coconuts, can be enjoyed at all establishments. If you love rum, you’re in luck. Smuggler’s Shack has the largest collection of rum in The Maldives. If you gom, order my favorite drink, the Shark Tooth ($22) with cherry, lime, lemon, and white rum. Into bubbles? Don’t miss sipping on something fizzy with your toes in the sand at the Veuve Clicquot beach. The most innovative cocktails can be found at Tribe which is open a few nights a week and drinks are served in pits sunken into the sand as guest DJs set the mood.


Courtesy of Avani+ Fares Maldives

If you don’t splurge for a room with a private plunge pool don’t worry — the massive infinity pool is fantastic and drinks are encouraged (served in plastic glassware for safety). If you’re feeling sporty, there’s an on-site gym with Technogym equipment, tennis, football, and badminton courts, complimentary yoga classes, and sound bowl healing.

Unwind at the AvaniSpa with a vinotherapy treatment ($160) of hot wax from a red wine candle to soothe your muscles after traveling quite far to reach this slice of paradise. Aroma, Thai, and Swedish massages are also available. Carve out some time before or after your treatment to enjoy the complimentary sauna and steam room.

My favorite amenity was Island Bazaar, the resort’s boutique. Resort shops are usually full of junk that has nothing to do with the destination, but that’s not the case at Avani+. Island Bazaar is the second outpost of the boutique which is locally owned and offers a collection of handcrafted Maldivian fashion, beauty, and decor items.


Lola and overwater villas
Courtesy of Lola Méndez

Avani+ feels intimate with a collection of only 176 beach-front villas and overwater villas. The rooms are full of comfortable amenities including Bluetooth sound systems, Nespresso machine, and glass water bottles featuring seawater that’s treated onsite to become potable — an eco touch that really impressed me.

I stayed in the entry-level Over Water Villa (no private plunge pool) which starts at $870/night including breakfast. The spacious villa was complete with a sitting area, a day bed, an indoor and outdoor waterfall shower, and a private outdoor soaking tub. My patio was equipped with two lounge chairs and a sitting area. It looks directly out over the Indian Ocean with its endless hues of blue and nearly constant aquatic life sightings. Without even getting into the lagoon I saw sharks, sea turtles, various rays, and countless fish species from my villa.


sea turtle maldives
Courtesy of Lola Méndez

Fares means “the land on the reef” in the Maldivian language, Dhivehi. The heart-shaped Baa atoll has 105 coral reefs. While I saw an abundance of marine life from land — what drew me to the Maldives was the chance to get in the water and see the tropical residents up close and personal. I borrowed a complimentary snorkel set and jumped straight into the water from my overwater villa to peruse the house reef.

I encountered many incredible creatures on the house-reef every time I got in the water including a rare guitarfish and a massive eel. I’d regularly see some of my favorite marine life creatures including spotted eagle rays, parrot fish, and black-tip sharks. The water was consistently crystal clear making it superb for visibility while snorkeling. As Baa Atoll is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with many marine protected areas, it’s important to be conscientious and use reef-friendly SPF. (If you forgot to pack sun protection there are options from local brands in the Island Bazaar boutique.)


Lola dancing in the maldives
Lola Méndez

Many of the Avani+ excursions take some 45 minutes to reach such as the Dolphin Quest and Turtle Quest. I partook in both experiences and had the magical experience of swimming with over a dozen critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtles. It’s well worth the long journey to get there — the Avani+ boats are equipped with Bluetooth speakers and you can bring a few bottles of champagne to enhance the journey. Although we attempted unsuccessfully to find manta rays to snorkel with at Hanifaru Bay, we were greeted by a massive pod of spinner dolphins.

Wildlife activity can’t be predicted and regardless of your sightings, it’s fantastic to get out on the water and go by Maldives’ many blue holes.


avani maldives
Courtesy of Avani+ Fares Maldives

Jet lag was defeating me until I laid down on the decadent bed in my overwater villa. Maybe it was the set of four plush pillows, the sound of the ocean lapping underneath me, or the faint starlight, but I finally got in a solid eight hours after a massive travel day, so the bed gets all the gold stars from me.

Due to the time change, I was waking up around 6 am most mornings, and watching the sunrise from bed made for the best start of the day.

Rating: 9/10


Avani Maldives
Courtesy of Avani+ Fares Maldives

Let me just stress how private the overwater villas are — no one can see into your villa unless they happen to swim by. This is unlikely, as the current around the villas is actually quite strong so folks tend to just swim outside of their villa or off the beach around the island. I took full advantage of this and enjoyed a few hours of letting the sunshine where it normally doesn’t daily by sunbathing in the nude.

Since the property allows kids, we had to knock one point off.

Rating: 9/10


Lola in the maldives
Courtesy of Lola Méndez

Paradise is picturesque — full stop. You can’t take an ugly picture here but if I had to recommend a few spots they’d be the stretches of white sandy beaches, the overwater nets on the arrival jetty, the infinity pool, and the poolside cozy round beds—with a fresh coconut in hand.

Rating 9/10


Lola in the maldives
Lola Méndez

Early March was an absolutely perfect time to visit — occupancy was low, the heat was bearable, and it was the tail end of the dry season. Dry weather in Baa Atoll lasts from January to April and then June to September. If you’re basing the timing of your visit around wildlife sightings, consider that the best time to swim with mantas at Hanifaru Bay is from late June and October and that May to December is the best time to try your luck at swimming with docile whale sharks.


maldives avani
Lola Méndez

I was a bit disappointed by the lack of cultural experiences available during my stay. When there’s higher occupancy there are fire shows and drumming sessions. Avani+ is formulating new cultural experiences including an on-site museum dedicated to Maldivian history and lore.


Rates currently start at $352/night for a minimum of three nights when booked directly here. This rate includes daily breakfast and a USD 100 spa credit per room per stay.