Lonely Planet Writer

The first art-immersive luxury retreat has opened in the Maldives

Most destinations come with an intended story that shapes our experiences. When we think of the Maldives we imagine sunsets, snorkelling, swimming and lazy days spent on palm-fringed islands with unrivalled luxury and natural riches. Art rarely shapes that narrative. A new luxury resort plans to change that by debuting the archipelago’s first art and design immersive hotel.

Joali Maldives is an art immersive luxury resort. Image by Joali

Joali Maldives opened in December with an array of original, experiential works of art and design, reflecting the beauty of the islands’ natural riches. Sustainability is at the heart of the experience. Located on the island of Muravandhoo in the remote Raa Atoll, just 45 minutes by seaplane from Male, the resort showcases art and design as the stars of the story.

Porky Hefer’s Manta Ray hideaway. Image by Joali

Joali hosts a collection of works by 13 international artists, hand-picked by Istanbul-based No LaB; Ala Onur and Zeynep Ercan. The curators selected sustainable pieces which blend seamlessly into their natural surroundings. Some pieces are on show in the resort’s dedicated art studio and gallery, while others are dotted around the island. The international roster of celebrated designers include London-based Glithero and New York-based Misha Kahn, as well as South African architect Porky Hefer who showcased his signature passion for wildlife with his hanging ‘Heron’ beach chairs.

Design is at the core of the experience. Image by Joali

Acclaimed architect Cüneyt Bükülmez of Istanbul-based firm Atölye4n is responsible for the resort’s design, which was created to preserve the island’s delicate ecosystem. A highlight is the resort’s jetty with its curved thatched roof, modelled on the movement of the Indian Ocean’s waves and the super stylish 73 private beach and overwater villas. Inside the villas, design-led interiors include rose gold, rare wood and marble elements.

Porky Hefer’s heron chair. Image by Joali

The resort also has plenty of curious quirks including a liquid nitrogen ice cream corner and a Flower Garden that offers botanical workshops. Tokyo-based Studio Glitt are behind the overwater Japanese-Nikkei restaurant SAOKE, designed to reflect Japanese aesthetics. The Joali Spa by Espa is an indulgent retreat with a mission to “reconnect individuals to themselves in mind and body.”

The villa bathrooms are stylishly fitted. Image by Joali

Joali is located on the deepest atoll in the Maldives so there’s an abundance of marine life waiting to be experienced. Water activities are extensive, ranging from snorkelling to wakeboarding and dhoni boat trips, which take guests to meet local communities.

Each aspect of design is intended to aid relaxation. Image by Joali

In an effort to celebrate art and design – which is billed as central to the resort’s offering – Joali will continue to curate interactive art experiences, with new pieces added throughout the year. An annual art calendar will host a roster of workshops and residencies with visiting artists.

Rooms start from US$1294 (£1473) per night based on two people sharing a beach villa with a pool. For more information, see here.