Romantic Dreams in a Tropical Island Paradise. Experience an idyllic island escape in the secluded sanctuary of JA Manafaru, Maldives. In the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean lies a tropical Maldives resort, blending the serenity of the Maldives with seven world-class restaurants, extensive leisure activities, and exotic spa and wellness facilities.
Haa Alif Atoll Dhidhdhoo Maldives 20012 Maldives
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The resort is just perfect for a relaxing getaway. We were here for 6 nights and couldn’t fault anything. Staff were amazing nothing was too hard for them. They even organised a floating breakfast in our villa pool for our anniversary which was lovely.
Thank you so much for the amazing adventure we had on this island. It is a beautiful place with a snow-white beach and a very hospitable staff. It offers delicious food and great service at the restaurants. I would like to express special gratitude to Ilona who accompanied and helped us whenever needed. Also I would like to note that waiter Farukh performs duties to the best possible standard. We will definitely be back to visit this paradise. Yelena R.
Background We had 12 nights in the Maldives based on flights we had booked with BA and wanted to experience a more authentic island for our second visit to the region. JA Manafaru (JAM) looked amazing, but we were worried about not being able to return to Malé on the morning of our departure (and so being forced to spend our last night in town). Consequently, we decided to spend 7 nights there and find another resort that would be more easily accessible for our return. We should not have worried as JAM do provide an alternative seaplane service for early morning departures that leaves around 7am. Indeed, since October 2022, it is now a doddle getting to the island; Manta Air now fly to Hoarafushi island, which is less than 10 minutes away by speedboat. The plan is to eventually get landing lights at the airport, which will make departures after 6pm possible. Location On arrival at Malé, we were greeted, bags checked into the domestic flight and had around an hour sitting in a café watching the boats leave for nearby islands. The domestic terminal is a little chaotic, with loads of locals as well as bewildered tourists catching the numerous Maldivian Airways departures. Eventually, the gate showed our flight number, and a dozen or so people joined us for the ~50-minute flight to the most northerly resort in the Maldives. Louder and hotter than a seaplane, you don’t get quite the same thrill taking off or landing, but the service was excellent, with fruit, drinks and cold towels provided. A line of private cars and taxis were ready to take us the short distance to the quay and, lifejackets secured, we skimmed across the bay for Manafaru. Karen, the lovely resort manager, was on the dock and introduced the various welcoming staff, before we were assigned to Haraj who took us on a tour of the 35-hectare island showing us all the points of interest. There are around 80 units on the island, which could cater for 160+ guests, but the island was probably 60%+ full. You are instantly enveloped in both the warmth of the staff, together with the masses of greenery providing gorgeous shaded paths that circumnavigate the island. Manafaru is a beautiful resort – a jewel of a destination. The resort has seen a number of owners over the years, but Karen and her team have overseen a transformation to sympathetically modernise the facilities, but keen to keep the sense of serenity and wellbeing that envelopes you. For example, the Horizon Fitness Pavilion used to be next to a Chinese-themed restaurant and bar. That has been moved, which allows the space to be used for morning yoga and gym users not to be tempted too early for a cool beer while they workout. There are flowers and plants everywhere and all the paths and beaches are swept early in the morning to provide a pristine look to the island. Bikes are provided free of charge for each villa, so if you wanted to cycle to breakfast (or anywhere else just for fun) you can. Nowhere is more than a 10-minute walk. You can circuit the island on the paths in around 20 minutes, but you can also walk the whole way round on the beaches, which provides breath-taking vistas in all directions. In our view, the beaches on the east and north side were spectacular and gave all the colours of blue you would wish for your holiday snaps. The snorkelling is outstanding, especially from the long “Coral Jetty” pier by Kakuni (or Crab) restaurant. More on that later. One of the keys to JA Manafaru’s success is their staff, many of whom are long-time staffers and who live on the local islands. A number of the bar staff come from Sri Lanka, and their warmth adds to the welcome you will find everywhere on the island. There are two scheduled flights a day from Malé on Manta Air, but most days there seemed to be a 7am departure by seaplane. It turned out that on our last day, we were able to stay in our beautiful room until 2:30, when we caught a seaplane (80 minutes) back. We were staying on another island in the South Atoll, 30 minutes from the airport and room-to-room it only took 3 hours. Rooms What makes the island unique is that every villa has a pool. We splashed out and stayed in the Deluxe Beach Villa with Family Private Pool (which was sumptuous), but all of the residences were delightfully private. Our room was very Balinese in style, with a deep pool with black stone walls and floor. Not just one, but TWO waterfall walls made the backdrop to the pool, so there was the constant trickle of water to soothe the senses. There was a day bed to shade under and two large wooden loungers to soak up the sun. Even the outdoor shower had Elemis soap and shower products. We also had a veranda on the beach side with a coffee table, another day bed, huge hammock and two more loungers from which to watch the sun go down. If only we’d known that we could have returned in the morning of our last day to catch our flight at 11:45am, then we would have stayed for 12 nights! The rooms are chic, nicely furnished and with all the comforts you would expect. Tea and Nespresso machine and water is included, as well as all of the mini bar products. On arrival we were also given a bottle of Taittinger champagne and a selection of macaroons. Naeem, our house boy, did an excellent job of keeping our room well-stocked and the wine fridge and minibar full. While all the Maldives is eye-wateringly expensive, this suite was really worth the money. We did want to check out the overwater villas, but unfortunately none seemed available for viewing. Suffice to say that both piers give either sunrise or sunset views. If we were to go back and wanted something a little more economic, then we’d choose a beach villa on the east side, as the beach is so wide; it would be completely private, the swimming is fun and you are closer to the best snorkelling too. Dining The main restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner is Kakuni. The others begin opening at 11am (in line with the All-Inclusive service that runs until 11pm). Hidden in the jungle is Andiamo Bistro and Pool, which sits facing a meandering pool with water cascade features. It is a beautiful environment that serves Mediterranean fare (pizzas, pastas, grills). It is open until 8pm and is wonderfully served by Sathees and his colleagues Nizam, Upul and Imran. All of them made special efforts to make our stay special (and fast-tracked our order on the last day as we were running late). If you want to wriggle your toes in the sand, then Ocean Grill (evenings only) provides the incredible experience of sitting under palm trees and stars, listening to the lapping waves, while splendid local fish or not so local meat is cooked to perfection. Try the Maldivian Baked Fish, which was remarkable. We are deeply grateful to the attention paid by Shaad (who’s been there 17 years?), but also cheeky Nizam and sweet Rose. If you want to just chill and drink, then Infinity Bar, which also catches the sunset, is the place for you. You can sit pool side or down on the beach and Sheehan does a great job keeping the drinks coming and towels cleared from empty loungers. If, by some wonder, you are not stuffed from lunch, you can tuck in to “high tea” at White Orchid lounge. This sits on the arrivals/departures jetty and has the best views of sunset too. The lounge opens at 3pm and stops serving AI drinks at 11pm, but will stay open longer if required. Dharsharna and Raphael keep things ticking over. They also serve Asian style plates in the evening, but it is always busy and food service stops at 8pm. The only recommendation I would make, would be to provide more tables/chairs, but I am sure the capacity to serve food would be overloaded – so treat it like a bar and you won’t be disappointed. All dining, with the exception of breakfast, is a la carte. Breakfast at Kakuni is a treat as you can order from a menu and serve yourself to cereals, juices and continental style food while you wait for your hot order. The quality of food and service is exceptional. It is possible to book online in advance, so we did book two evenings at Ocean Grill to be sure we had something in place. It turned out to be a wise decision as it was deservedly very popular. We went All Inclusive and there was a great selection of cocktails, wines and spirits available. You can pay extra for top shelf drinks and even better wine. The staff are moved around different bars / restaurants depending on how busy things are during peak times, which means all the visitors get an exceptional service experience. Facilities There are plenty of activities that can be enjoyed for free, most notable of which is morning yoga with the excellent yogi Sham, which starts at 7am at Horizon. Lying in “Child’s Pose”, listening to the waves lapping below you was just sensational. I missed one session as I overslept, but what a way to start the day! Best Dives Maldives has an outlet on the island and they can organise free masks and flippers for the duration of your stay. We took the plunge and agreed to try the Discover Scuba Diver course having read another TripAdvisor review of how Tibo managed to get the person over their water fears. I nearly drowned as a teenager, so have sudden panics when I get out of breath in deep water, but Kayla patiently took my wife and I through the basics and I was able to bob around for 45 minutes at a depth of 5m while my wife struggled to find a mask that didn’t leak. It was a real shame as she’s a strong swimmer and it would have been amazing to go further out along the reef edge. Another thing ticked off the bucket list for me though and I will definitely try it again. In terms of snorkelling, there is a huge amount to see in beautifully clear waters at the end of the coral jetty. Some Spanish friends we met, floated almost round the whole island on the current and have some fantastic photos of turtles etc. to prove it. To burn of the ludicrous amounts of calories we ate, I visited the gym most days. It is equipped with good quality and modern equipment and it never seemed to be too busy. Aleem (curiously from the furthest south atoll) was a gentle guide in using the equipment and providing encouragement. In terms of gym location, it is one that is very hard to beat. I even saw an eagle ray jump out of the water while I was on the treadmill. We don’t often use the spa (I begrudge paying so much when you can get a similar experience for $10 on the beach in Thailand), but we did this time. It is a beautiful area hidden in the centre of the island, with meandering paths and water. Shri and yogi Sham provided a beautiful 90 minutes of indulgence. In terms of other activities, there is live music most nights at White Orchid. One not to be missed activity is just watching the stars – there is so little light pollution, the sky at night is breath-taking. Summary For us, the highlights included walking barefoot almost everywhere (although some of the walkways on the piers can get a little hot, despite the urns of water provided to cool your feet down!), the extremely friendly staff, the good choice of included food and drinks and the wonderful vistas you can enjoy on the beaches. We chose the island as we wanted classic Maldivian beaches, aquamarine waters, and good choice of restaurants and something a little quieter and more genuine. JA Manafaru does not disappoint. One of the top 3 destinations we have visited. Standout staff for us included: Hajar - our dedicated member of staff, who checked in regularly and catered for our needs. Naeem- our room boy, who kept a well-stocked minibar and tidy room Shaad – Kakuni and Ocean Grill, who quietly provided excellent service (+ Rose just back from Myanmar) Nizam - Ocean Grill (and Andioamo) - always fun Dharsharna & Raphael - White Orchid - hard working and attentive Sathees, Upul, Imran. & Nizam - Andiamo - next level service and friendly Sheehan – Infinity Pool/Bar - kept the place ship shape and looked after us Aleem- Gym; good guidance and empathy Sham - yoga & massage - what a beautiful way to start the day Shri - massage - firm and nurturing