The first time I came to the Maldives I stayed at a resort that may as well have been at the end of the world. It was in the deep south and there was nothing but ocean for miles. While it offered ultimate seclusion I also felt quite lost, almost agoraphobic. To be honest, I am not sure I liked it.
On my most recent trip which centered around a liveaboard trip, I decided I needed a more convenient location and that wouldn’t take a domestic flight or a seaplane to get to. But I had stayed at two Malé, Maldives resorts before and they were less than exciting, to say the least. So I started some research looking for a hotel near Malé airport which wouldn’t break the bank but still offer the comforts and amenities of a Maldives luxury resort.
That’s when I came across Kurumba, which is like Dhigali and Kandolhu part of the Universal group. There is no shortcoming of resorts which would consider themselves one of the best hotels in Maldives but Kurumba holds an indisputable title: the oldest resort in the Maldives. This year the hip granny of the Maldives turns 47 – quite an accomplishment especially in a country where new hotels pop up every minute.
Getting to Kurumba
I arrived in the evening from Singapore. The Velana International Airport arrival hall is full of hotel booths and resort staff which will take you and your luggage and whisk you off to your designated paradise – either by boat or by seaplane. Only I was all alone – this happens when you arrive 30 minutes ahead of schedule. I used the time to get a Maldivian SIM card which is pricey compared to many other Asian countries but still decent compared to Europe. Dhiraagu and Ooredoo have shops next to each other and offer prepaid SIM cards with various amounts of data for 7, 14 or 30 days. You can even pay in US dollars.
When I return to Kurumba’s booth my pick-up had arrived an I was led to the speedboat which was conveniently parked right outside the airport. From here it was a quick 10-minute ride through the night before I arrived at my home for the next 3 nights. Getting to Kurumba without the hassle and the cost of an extra flight, which so many resorts in the Maldives require, is one of the hotel’s biggest advantages. Not to mention practical if you arrive in the evening as seaplanes only operate during daylight hours.
Kurumba Rooms & Villas
Kurumba has approximately 170 rooms with various room and villa categories. Unlike so many other Maldives resorts it doesn’t have overwater bungalows as the water around it is too shallow. Personally, I didn’t mind that as I have come to realize that I prefer to bury my feet in the sand when I leave my room. I also recently learned that the structures for those bungalows built on the water are anything but good for the corals. So I was happy with my Beachfront Deluxe Bungalow which came with a small patio leading out to the beach and the most palatial open-air bathroom I had seen in a while.
While you could assume that a hotel of almost 50 years could be dated or worn, I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case. While the rooms are simple, Kurumba has done a damn good job at its upkeep and everything was spotless!
Iwas especially excited for free ground coffee and a French Press in the minibar as well as some stuffed animals reminding visitors to be mindful of the corals when snorkeling as well as request linen changes only if necessary. In the bathroom, there are refillable ceramic bottles with bath products (in the higher room categories even my beloved Molton Brown) and upon asking about it I learned that a filtered water system to avoid the use of plastic bottles is in the works!
Dining at Kurumba
All-inclusive is the way to go in any Maldives resort and Kurumba is no exception. They have a total of 8 restaurants with something for each taste ranging from Japanese and Indian to Italian and Middle Eastern. There is also the main restaurant, Vihamanaa, where all meals are served buffet-style as well as a cafe.
They offer various full- and half-board deals, some of which also include drinks and a choice of premium meals. Prices range from $70 for half-board to $155 for their so-called “Dine Around All-Inclusive”.
Not to sound like a spoiled brat but I was dreading the buffet. I shouldn’t have because the food at Vihamanaa was a pleasant surprise only made better by the fact that the resort wasn’t too crowded as it was shoulder-season. I arrived just in time for sushi night but discovered over the next few days that there is always something yummy like the made to order burger bar and a bowl of gummi bears as well as something healthy like the salad counter and plenty of fresh fruit.
My food highlight was Kurumba’s contemporary restaurant Thila which has a terrace right by the ocean surrounding the biggest lobster tank in the Maldives according to the chef. If you saw my Instagram stories you may know that I even got executive chef permission to go snorkeling with the lobsters, something I decided against in the end because they looked a bit intimidating and surely knew I ate one of them.
Thila makes lovely food thanks to their Scandinavian head chef and the menu centers around fish and seafood. And while you are eating at a Maldives resort near Malé airport the mood is everything you would want from a romantic dinner: crashing waves, candlelight, and if you get lucky moonshine.
Something completely unique is the premium breakfast Thila offers for an extra price. This comes with a tiny buffet of yummy things as well as an a la carte menu. I am the first to admit that I am completely lost when it comes to breakfast buffets and my plate usually ends up looking like this:
(because a) I like baked beans, b) if I can eat chicken nuggets for breakfast I will and c) who doesn’t like peaches?!) In comparison, my breakfast plate at Thila on the left!
In addition to their beautiful arranged a la carte dishes you also get 2 glasses of bubbly with your brekkie or in my case non-alcoholic prosecco as I had splurged on rosé the night before and thought I should have a sober day. While I usually turn up my nose at alcohol-free wine or bubbles, this one was actually super nice and I even got a third glass for my walk back to the room.
Last but not least I got to try Kurumba’s room service, another pleasant surprise. On my last evening, I was feeling a bit meh and all I wanted was to eat a plate of comfort carbs in bed while watching The Bachelor documentaries. Luckily Kurumba’s room service division was more than happy to help me out and within half an hour I had a salad, pasta, and a glass of red wine in my room – one of the best room service meals I have had and you know just how picky I am when it comes to pasta!
Activities at Kurumba
Whether you pick one of the Maldives resorts near Malé airport or in the middle of nowhere chances are you want to play mermaid. And don’t worry – while you may have the occasional plane flying over your head and a view of the city in the distance there is just the same turquoise clear water at Kurumba as there is anywhere else in the Maldives. And of course, there is a water hammock for Instagram pictures as it should be.
Kurumba also has its own dive center which in addition to regular fun dives and PADI courses even offers free trial dives a few times per week. While I was super keen to sneak in and pretend I didn’t know how to dive, the dates didn’t work for me. Instead, I spent so much time floating in the ocean in front of my room that eventually even my GoPro had enough and decided to die.
Read more: What’s a story without Pictures?
For those who prefer a pool to the ocean, there are plenty of options and even some pool villas where you can splash around in complete privacy. If the weather is iffy, Kurumba has a big activity center with movies, kids area, and gym. They also have various activities which are free of charge you can sign up for with anything from cooking classes to yoga – let’s just say that even as a solo traveler you will not get bored.
If you don’t want to get wet (what kind of person are you??) you can take a trip with their glass bottom boats to see Nemos, eagle rays, reef sharks, and turtles up close. While this might be less exciting if you are a scuba diver or snorkeler, it is a great option when traveling with kids and a great alternative to any aquarium. Mind you, even I got a bit excited when we spotted those eagle rays though I wasn’t sad that we had to return after 20 minutes as a Maledivean storm of note was brewing on the horizon. The fact that I had a spa appointment waiting was probably part of the reason. If you love wellness treatments like I do check out their special spa packages which you can even split up when traveling as a couple.
Needless to say, the biggest advantage of choosing one of the hotels near Male airport is the short transfer back. This way, there are no delayed seaplanes and no extra cost if you are choosing their shared transfer (you may still have the boat all to yourself as I did though!). And best of all: you can stay a little longer in paradise, always a plus in my books.
Disclaimer: Kurumba Maldives is a great choice if you are looking for a hotel near Malé airport which won’t break the bank. Not only are their room very affordable for a Maldives resort but you will also save on domestic flights which are usually a must. You can check their various room options and rates here.
Kurumba invited me for a 3-night stay before I boarded my liveaboard and I am so grateful for the experience as their close vicinity to the airport made the start of my trip so relaxing. And have I mentioned that their staff is incredible?! Thank you for the invitation, I can’t wait to visit Maldives’ granny again!