2. Korean Air First Class SFO-ICN, British Airways lounge at SFO
3. Eating our way through Seoul + Park Hyatt Seoul
4. Korean Air First Class ICN-CMB-MLE, Korean Air First Class Lounge at ICN
5. Back to the Islands: Cocoa Island by COMO
6. Cathay Pacific Business Class MLE-HKG-SFO, CX lounges at HKG
After clearing customs and immigration at MLE, we headed out into the arrivals lobby and were greeted by a representative from Cocoa Island. We were whisked away to the boat jetty and hopped right onto a speedboat bound directly for the hotel – since we were arriving so early in the morning we were the only passengers for the ride which took around 45 minutes.
I outlined some of the reason that we ended up booking at Cocoa Island, and the speedboat vs. seaplane transfer was one of them. Looks like things worked out just as planned, as while the actual boat vs. seaplane rides are similar lengths of time, we only had to wait 5 minutes to jump on the boat whereas the seaplane transfer could easily take a few hours.
The weather gods weren’t cooperating to give us a bright, sunny welcome to the Maldives, but we had set our expectations accordingly by going in May at the start of low season. Fortunately, this was one of the gloomiest days and we basically had sun the rest of the time, aside from 5-10 minutes of rainy bursts each day.
On the boat ride we were given cold towels and water and just spent the time checking out the scenery. After arriving and jumping off to boat, we headed to the front desk area and were again provided with cold towels and a welcome drink. We got used to receiving cold towels everywhere we went as they were provided at the beginning of each meal service and after yoga classes and dives.
After check-in we were given a brief tour of the island which only takes 15-20 minutes to cover everything, then shown to our villa. We lucked out that it was unoccupied the night before so we were able to check-in at 8am even though official check-in time is closer to 2pm.
A gloomy start to the trip
Our Villa / Resort & Facilities
Cocoa Island has 4 categories of 1-BR villas and two 2-BR villas (one sunset side, on sunrise side) across a total of 33 villas on the Island. I would say that this is one of the smaller, more intimate properties in the Maldives and that’s what we were looking for on this trip.
I currently don’t have any top-tier status with the hotel chains, and maybe that’s a good thing in some ways as its made me less inclined to book at chains by default. I had thought about using points to stay at the Park Hyatt, but based on what I was looking for it just didn’t fit. I really wanted to stay at Cocoa Island and if I was going to travel that far, I figured that I should just stay where I wanted and not just where was free. So I guess in some ways my mindset on points/miles has changed a bit, and instead of only looking at the universe of places that my points can take me, I’ve started to look at all options and figure out how I can use to points/miles to subsidize.
As I had also mentioned in the introduction, Cocoa Island’s low rates start on May 1st so we were able to utilize both the “stay 4 for the price of 3” promotion as well as the $150 resort credit per night deal. So when I crunched the numbers, the rates that we would be paying the 1st week of May were about 40-50% lower than the rates just the week before.
We were shown to our villa #1002 by our butler, Muru. The 1-BR Villa is the highest category of the 1 bedroom villas and is located off of a separate walkway from the other rooms. It is clustered with 4 other 1-BR Villas and the Sunrise 2-BR Como Villa and was great for added privacy.
The villa is extremely spacious with over 1,200 sq. ft, and features a separate living room area, bedroom, and huge bathroom with both indoor and outdoor showers. Accessible through the living room is a good-sized outdoor deck with direct ocean access. None of the villas here have plunge pools or hot tubs which is certainly one of the nice-to-have’s that we enjoyed at the Conrad.
I’m no design aficionado but I guess I would best describe the villa’s design as minimalist luxury, very much consistent with the overall concept of the resort. Clean lines, a lot of bright/white color – you can tell that everything is nice but without feeling sensory overload like the more “blinged-out” Conrad.
Waiting for us inside the room was fresh fruit and cookies which were replenished daily, along with about 6 jugs of drinking water which were refilled twice a day. The water is really good and we even inquired about it – they use reverse osmosis to filter it. The amount of water provided as more than enough and we were relieved that we wouldn’t have to ration like at the Conrad which only provided 2 jugs a day. Also, wifi speed was surprisingly good.
Our home for the next 4 nights, #1002
Fruit and cookies
Outdoor shower (only one I used)
View from the deck
After settling in and just soaking in the fact that we were back in the Maldives, we freshened up and headed out to walk around and check out the rest of the island. We had been given a brief tour during check-in and felt like we already knew where everything was.
The island is much, much smaller than the Conrad and literally from end to end it’s not more than a 10 minute walk. So no need for buggies by either the guests or the staff – they did have some carts that were wheeled around but nothing motorized. Near our villa was the long signature strip of beach that the hotel is known for and we walked it several times during our stay. It was especially great during low tide. It’s also the spot where they setup for weddings, and we saw two weddings going on during our stay. This included a cool ceremony where they beat drums as the bride and groom walk from their villa over to the wedding venue.
Stingrays near our villa, watch where your step!
View of our villa from the beach
Interesting beach tree
Long strip of beach
Snapping a few pics before the wedding party arrives
View of some of the other rooms – cool concept on the Dhoni
I guess part of the beauty of island life is that you’re not really sure where all of your time went – looking back I can certainly recount the activities we did on each day, but those usually amounted to just a few hours. I guess I’ll just bucket the other hours into “rest and relaxation” which was exactly what we were looking for.
The island is much smaller than the Conrad as I had mentioned, so activity-wise there are just a handful of things to do. We had pretty much run through everything by the third day, so we were in repeat-mode for the last two days which was fine, but perhaps would have become too repetitive if we were staying longer.
The first day we went to the spa for a relaxing couple’s spa treatment, and I also went back a couple days later for another massage. They have a total of 4 treatment rooms, 1 of which is large enough for couples. It was pretty easy to make reservations and in both cases I was able to get last-minute appointments.
Small library at spa reception
Spa treatment room
There is also a water sports/dive center located just next to reception and we made sure to go there on our 1st day to get our orientation dive scheduled. We ended up diving twice during our stay, but due to weather visibility wasn’t great. For PADI open water-certified divers they do dives at 10:30am and 2:30pm, and for advanced open water divers there is another dive at 8:30am.
There are some cool dive sites next to the resort and in both cases involved just a 15 minute boat ride out to the dive site – on the 2nd day manta season was just starting so we hoped to catch them at the cleaning station but struck out. Both times we dove it was just us alongside 1-2 more people, so the whole process was very efficient and start to finish was just about an hour and a half.
The water sports center also provides free rentals of kayaks, paddle boards, and catamarans and on a couple instances we took the kayaks and paddle boards out around the island. It was great for a workout and also for catching some sun.
Another big reason why we chose Cocoa Island was for the health and wellness aspect, which includes a food component which I’ll get to later, but also a yoga/meditation part. Everyday there is a 1-hour complimentary yoga class offered at 4:30pm, and every other day is there is a 1-hour morning yoga class at 8:00am followed by an optional 30 minute meditation class.
We did yoga everyday either at the morning or afternoon session based on our schedule for the day and was great way to stretch out and relax. The style of yoga was Hatha so not as intense as the classes we take back at home, but I was still sweating like crazy nonetheless mostly from the weather. We also tried the 30 minute meditation class and actually learned some good techniques that we’ve adopted back at home.
Lastly, there are just a few more activities to do on the island. The first is the wellness hot tub which is really something else. It’s the size of a swimming pool and has 6 different “stations” with different types of jets. We used this everyday and was great for relaxation. They also provide complimentary ginger tea here which is one of the COMO signatures – it’s amazing! We would literally drink a whole jug between the two of us. They also offer ginger tea after each yoga session. We loved it so much that we’ve already made it after we got back home. In case anyone is interested in trying it out here’s the recipe: warning, it’s spicy!
We also went snorkeling a couple times around the island, and the house reef is quite good. There is also a steam room located near the hot tub, as well as a fitness center which my wife used a few times (I only went once to steal a piece of fruit).
And there is also a pool located near the restaurant which we didn’t really use, but was a good central location for people watching and lounging. This is typically where the kids would hang out and play, hence why we avoided it for the most part. Overall, we really didn’t see any kids our first 2 nights, then saw a few here and there the last 2 nights.
I would say that this isn’t as much of a group-oriented resort since there are fewer rooms, so overall much quieter than the Conrad. Can’t really comment if it is typically family or kid-oriented in case that’s something you’re looking for or not looking for, it’s really hit or miss based on who’s there similar to who you sit next to on the airplane. But again since there aren’t many large groups, pretty much all of the kids we came across were just with their parents and well behaved.
Fitness center and wellness pool building
Wellness hot tub
Sunset view near the pool
Food and Beverage
My favorite part of every trip report To be quite honest, while we did enjoy almost all aspects of Cocoa Island more than the Conrad, we would say the food was on par which is a compliment to the food at both resorts, absolutely fantastic!
Part of the health and wellness aspect of the resort manifests itself in the food, and at each meal alongside the a la carte menu there is the COMO Shambala menu which has a wide range of healthy options. We ordered a few things off of this menu, and they were delicious. Also, about every other day there is a special dinner choice offered alongside the other menus and while we were there this included a Thai menu, Indian menu, and seafood buffet.
Breakfast was included in our rate and includes a small buffet with fruit, yogurt, pastries and an a la carte menu. We were told that we could order 1 entree each and 1 to share, so 3 total which was more than enough food.
Breakfast entrees – fritatta
Healthy menu – nut flatbread with hummus, tomato, and avocado
Health menu – poached egg with green goddess sauce
Michael – the 1-legged beloved friend of the resort staff
Going in we were planning to stuff ourselves at breakfast, skip lunch, and then eat dinner as we had done at the Conrad. But the breakfasts here just aren’t made for stuffing yourself, and dinner starts later at 7pm, so we decided to just eat normally and have lunch if we were hungry which we did on 3 out of the 5 days. The lunch menu has a good sampling of things on the a la carte menu, along with a few specials which included things like “Taco Tuesday” and “Sushi Wednesday”.
Lobster for lunch, sure why not
Cocoa burger – delicious
Dinners were absolutely fantastic, wasn’t a single thing that we had that missed the mark. Since there is only a single restaurant, the special set menus were great to mix things up and on those days, aside from the seafood BBQ which we both had, it was perfect to get 1 set menu and another entree to share between the two of us.
Both the Thai and Indial Thali set menus were great – to be honest we were a bit skeptical at first of the Thai menu, but the food was so good and very authentic. We had no doubts about the Indian menu since many of the chefs are from India, and it definitely lived up to the billing.
Thai set dinner
Indian Thali set menu
A la carte menu selections
Amazing lamb, honestly the best we’ve ever had anywhere
Healthy menu – tuna with spirulina noodles
Indian chicken biryani
Blood orange souffle
Healthy menu – steamed grouper
And last, but certainly not least, a whole section devoted to the amazing seafood buffet. I believe that every seafood known to mankind was properly represented here, and this was one of the days where we skipped lunch so we could pig out. I think the final tally was about 7 lobsters
Seafood BBQ buffet
Freshly imported from Australia
Lobster, reef fish, prawns, squid and tuna being BBQ’d outside
Lobster, tuna, and squid
Vanilla and mango ice creams
Donuts (interesting choice for shape)
Overall, Cocoa Island really lived up to all of our lofty expectations, and we were looked after with extremely personalized and attentive service and made to feel like we were at home. I haven’t mentioned him much, but a large part of that is attributable to our butler, Muru, who did a fantastic job looking after us. He really served as more than an island host who just organized activities for us, and even doubled as a waiter to personally serve us at meal times.
We were lucky in that our 4-night stay really became closer to 5-nights with an early arrival and late departure. Our flight was schedule to depart at 10:30pm and the boat transfer took place at 8pm which really gave us an entire day on the resort and again validated the choice to not take the seaplane, which would likely have left in the early afternoon. On top of it all, we were given the room until 6pm which was a really nice gesture, and really sent us off on a positive note.
For those that are looking at resorts to stay in the Maldives, I highly, highly recommend Cocoa Island!