Review: The Ozen Collection – a dream stay in the Maldives

Ozen Life Maadhoo and Ozen Reserve Bolifushi, where luxury meets nature, are almost too good to be true, says Nicole García Mérida.

Villas at Ozen Life Maadhoo
(Image credit: The Ozen Collection)

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, as the old adage goes. This has been my experience except for a handful of times and my visit to The Ozen Collection’s resorts in the Maldives now sits chief among them. I had never been to the Maldives. 

The postcard perfectness of it all seemed unattainable. It was as if every picture I’d seen of its landscapes was edited to look slightly otherworldly. But I can confirm, that the water really is that shade of blue, almost neon in the sunlight, contrasting with sand so pale it’s nearly silver, set against the lush green background of the local flora. 

Obviously, I can’t speak for the nearly 1,200 islands that make up the Maldives. But I can at least guarantee that this is the case for Maadhoo and Bolifushi, the two islands that are home to The Ozen Collection’s all-inclusive resorts in the South Malé atoll.

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Ozen Life Maadhoo and Ozen Reserve Bolifushi stand out from most resorts in the Maldives from the moment you land at the international airport in the capital, Malé. Not just because of the comfortable private lounge you’re escorted to once you’ve collected your luggage but because they are two of the few islands you don’t need to get on a different plane to reach. This is ideal because if you get caught in the tropical rain, these small planes are almost always grounded until the skies clear. The Ozen Collection’s luxury boats, however, depart promptly whatever the weather. 

A quick 45-minute trip takes you from Malé to Ozen Life Maadhoo. The island, a speck of sand in the broad Maldivian archipelago, hosts 94 villas, a spa, five restaurants, two bars and a gym. You have a choice between “earth villas”, which have direct access to the beach, and “wind villas”, which are raised on stilts above the water. Some of both types have their own private pools.

Inside a wind villa

A wind villa with clean lines and stellar views

(Image credit: The Ozen Collection)

I stayed in a wind villa, which had a staircase directly into the turquoise sea, as well as a spacious deck for sunbathing. While impossible to compete with the view, the inside of the villa far from disappoints. The interiors are luxurious and warm, making it easy to feel at home even atop the water. 

Keen divers and snorkellers will want to stop by the dive bar first thing to collect their kit. From the deck on my villa, I saw giant manta rays, blacktip reef sharks and dozens of different types of colourful fish. The wildlife is everywhere, so keep that in mind when you step off your staircase for a swim. 

If you want to venture further out, the resort offers twice daily, complimentary snorkelling excursions. The hotel’s resident marine biologist, Núria, rarely misses the morning trip and I would recommend joining her – she pointed out fish, sea turtles and sharks my inexperienced eyes may have missed. 

Afterwards, dry yourself off and take yourself to lunch at Lonu, the hotel’s relaxed but decadent Maldivian restaurant. Drink the hotel’s premium Champagne and treat yourself to the tasting menu, made up of four courses of mostly seafood flavoured with local spices. 

Traditions restaurant at Ozen Life Maadhoo

More fabulous views at restaurant Traditions

(Image credit: The Ozen Collection)

M6M, which stands for “minus six metres”, is another of the resort’s fine-dining offerings and, as its name suggests, is located underwater. You can eat a four-course dinner on the sea floor while spotting colourful parrot fish, serene reef sharks flanked by their remora fish, and tiny clownfish dipping in and out of the sea anemone.

Youthful adventures on Bolifushi

After two nights in Maadhoo, we took the boat back to Malé, where another boat was ready and waiting to take us to Bolifushi, which recently won the Tripadvisor award for the best all-inclusive resort anywhere in the world as well as the prize for the second-best hotel of all categories worldwide. So, expectations were high, not least because the stay at Maadhoo was nothing short of perfection.

The boat ride to Bolifushi is a little shorter, but time is immaterial inside the roomy, comfortable boat. The staff greeted us at the jetty, draping palm leaf necklaces over our necks while sounding a conch shell and drums before taking us to our rooms. 

While staying at the resort you’ll be assigned a hiyani, the local Dhivehi word for “shadow”. Your hiyani (in effect, a personal butler) can help you do anything, from coordinating dinner under the stars to arranging any excursions you may want to take. Saleem and Ahoo were always one step ahead of me, anticipating needs (but mostly cravings) I didn’t even know I was going to have, and always with a warm smile. 

Ocean villa at Ozen Reserve Bolifushi

Some ocean villas even come with slides

(Image credit: The Ozen Collection)

All of Ozen Reserve Bolifushi’s 90 villas, both overwater and beachfront, have their own pool. The “earth villas” are nestled between palm trees and greenery, making them feel slightly more private, but some of the “ocean villas” come with a feature I did not expect to love as much as I did – a slide. 

My 25-year-old self enjoyed this feature just as much as my 12-year-old self would’ve had she been staying there. 

Getting back to nature

Bolifushi’s house reef is a thing of beauty. It surrounds pretty much the entire island, meaning you’re never more than six feet away from colourful fish darting in and out of caves and anemone, or huge manta rays gently settling on the seafloor. 

The best snorkel spot is on the beach next to the spa – a short swim will take you to a reef spilling over with marine life. If you’re staying in one of the earth villas, there’s coral just a few feet into the sea, perfect if you don’t want to venture out too far, though I would highly recommend doing so. 

Bolifushi’s ELE|NA spa (an acronym for “elements of nature”) centres its wide range of treatments around five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water. And a consultation with one of the knowledgeable therapists will quickly help you determine the one you need. 

The reception is surrounded by palm trees and the only background noise is the sound of the sea and gentle wind chimes – a setting so tranquil you’ll feel relaxed before you even step into your treatment room. 

Spa at Ozen Reserve Bolifushi

Bolifushi’s ELE|NA spa takes nature as its inspiration

(Image credit: The Ozen Collection)

The spa rooms are over the water and have glass windows in the floors beneath the treatment beds. The rooms’ proximity to the reef means, for the first time probably ever, I did not fall asleep during a massage, wrestling against heavy eyelids to watch a puffer fish swim back and forth between the rocks. 

The spa focuses heavily on wellness, and, in partnership with the resort’s executive chef, it has created plant-based menus made up of locally sourced ingredients where possible to complement the rest of its indulgent offerings. It also hosts workshops, yoga and pilates classes. 

If you’re travelling with children, Bolifushi boasts the biggest kids’ club in the Maldives. If you’re not, the whole island is your playground. Take yourself to a mezze-style dinner at restaurant Sangu – definitely get the tender grilled meat and seafood and citrusy tabbouleh – and get the thali at restaurant Tradition Saffron. 

The hotel’s buffet, served at restaurant Vista del Mar, was generous, varied and fresh. Every morning for breakfast I had the traditional Maldivian tuna curry, and I’ve already looked up the recipe to try to replicate it at home. 

It’s well worth seeing the sunset with a cocktail in hand at Ozar, the pool bar – just get there early to secure your cabana – and booking at Origine, the resort’s modern French restaurant, if you fancy a luxury dinner. 

Bear in mind that though it’s all-inclusive, it’s not all-encompassing and there are restrictions to how many times you can access spa treatments or fine dining without extra charge – but the hotel’s management shared with us that the average check-out bill is under $100, which means guests are pretty satisfied as it is. 

Most things in life that sound too good to be true are, but not when it comes to these resorts on Maadhoo and Bolifushi. Reality doesn’t get any better than this. 

Nicole was a guest of The Ozen Collection. Save 15% on a seven-night stay at Ozen Life Maadho with Inspiring Travel, with prices starting at £4,250pp, including flights and transfers; and at Ozen Reserve Bolifushi from £5,799pp, including flights and transfers.

This article was first published in MoneyWeek's magazine and all information was correct at the time of writing. Enjoy exclusive early access to news, opinion and analysis from our team of financial experts with a MoneyWeek subscription.

Nicole García Mérida

Nic studied for a BA in journalism at Cardiff University, and has an MA in magazine journalism from City University. She joined MoneyWeek in 2019.