Joali Being: the first serious wellness retreat in the Maldives

The Maldives are so deeply ingrained in our minds as a honeymoon destination that we may all be missing something obvious. These tropical spots, with their coconut palms, white sand beaches and Tiffany Blue lagoons, may be synonymous with romance, but they could be even better for well-being. Until now, however, among its more than 150 hotels, it was difficult to find one entirely dedicated to well-being.

That’s not to say the islands are short on pampering options. I rate massages at Soneva Jani and Six Senses Laamu like any other in Thailand, facials at Cheval Blanc Randheli a match for any Parisian beautician, and Ayurvedic advice at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru on a foot on par with a Keralan clinic. But these places are still mainly for easy barefoot living.

Villa swimming pool

Joali Being, a small clump of jungle in the remote atoll of Raa, is truly the Maldives’ first luxury wellness retreat, with big ambitions to compete with big names such as Chiva-Som in Thailand, Vana in India and SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain. . He wins instantly on the spot. The others are all in suburban settings without charm, even if the excellence of their therapists means that I would come back to them with a well-modulated crush.

All things being equal, I prefer self-improvement to heaven, so it’s good news that Joali Being has recruited alumni of the famous three for key roles, including Ayurvedic doctors, specialist healers and chefs. . The programs are built around four pillars: mind, skin, microbiome and energy, and offer high-tech diagnostics and a mix of modern treatments and ancient practices to achieve a feeling of “weightlessness”. .

Areca Wellness Center

Initially, however, it was the hardware that made me feel lighter. The 68 villas, four restaurants, and 39-room spa were built using science-driven biophilic principles to promote a connection with nature. In reality, that means temple-like thatched structures with high ceilings, sections of sandy floors, and rooflines that mimic the waves beyond. The interiors are what Robinson Crusoe could have done with the place if he had hit the big time: handcrafted driftwood finished with brushed bronze caps, restrained use of cane and coir, and color soothing pebble grey, dusty pink and teal. palette. The open-plan villas have nice touches such as positive affirmations on the hangers. Minibars play things more directly than some modern wellness retreats (I’m thinking CBD drinks and dried kelp from New York’s Equinox Hotel, for example): organic juices, raw fruit bars and veggie crisps .

The restaurants are more imaginative, but with a crowd-pleasing mix of Maldivian culinary styles, from the Mediterranean to the Middle Eastern. Meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan dishes list the calorie, carbohydrate, fat and protein content and which of the four pillars the ingredients support. I was happy that my spicy seafood nasi goreng (290 calories) was good for my brain and my microbiome and grateful that my coconut pie (190 calories) also boosted the immune system. The food wasn’t quite up to the starry magic of Palazzo Fiuggi in Italy or Les Prés d’Eugénie in France, but I appreciated the freedom of a la carte choice rather than strict set menus, as well than the excellent organic wines. So did my other guests, mostly fit forty- and fifty-year-old couples, though several craved salt with their meals.

Sensory room

You could easily lose weight here without feeling deprived, but I wanted to improve mental focus and flexibility. My Ayurvedic doctor had extraordinary insight. He took my pulse and gently asked me if I was grieving. One of my best friends passed away recently, but how did he guess that from my heartbeat? The yoga and Pilates, held in the Ocean Sala with its bird’s eye view of the water, was good but I longed for a change of venue and sunset yin yoga on the beach or in a jungle glade . Instead, I would go to the wonderful Discovery Sound Path at dusk. It has a series of gongs, tube bells and lithophones nestled among the pandanus trees, which I struck to create my own healing vibrations in the warm jasmine-scented air. It was magical. The main complex has many more distractions: glazed saunas, steam rooms, ice fountains, hydrotherapy pools and a huge salt room with illuminated Himalayan pink salt bricks, where I spent a good half hour every day to breathe mineral-rich air to improve myself. my mental clarity. It’s even prettier than the salt room at Euphoria Retreat in Greece – so far a favorite. There’s also an extensive Technogym, as well as the Maldives’ first cryotherapy chamber. I felt euphoric as I staggered to the fabulous herbal bar for a bespoke anti-stress infusion. If Vianne in Chocolate had been a herbalist, his workshop would have looked like this.

I ditched icy blasts in favor of watsu, water-based body manipulation in a shimmering dome-shaped pool. It was like being sent back to the womb ready to be reborn as a principal ballet dancer. And I was blown away by the sound healing for which I lay on a bed that had a built-in musical instrument, increasing the intensity of these transcendental vibrations.

There are things I would change – adding outdoor treatment rooms to make the most of the convenient location, or not charging for fitness sessions in an already wallet-friendly location. But if you can afford to honeymoon with your health rather than your partner, Joali Being is a welcome format change – one that just might ensure that you and your inner self will live happily ever after.

Joali Be, Maldives. Double from $1,499 (Rs 1,14,000). Website