The Dhoni has been a central feature of life in the Maldives for nearly as long as there’s been a recorded history of people living there. Traditionally, Dhonis were small sailing vessel built from coconut palm wood. Today, a Dhoni (pronounced: “doh-nee”) comes in a variety of sizes and is as likely to be powered by an engine as it is by the gentle trade winds that grace the Maldives. Travel around that archipelago of tropical islands south of India and you’ll see Dhonis everywhere. People fish in them. Children ride to school in them. Merchants sell their goods from them. And at one hotel, the Cocoa Island Resort, Dhonis have been turned into romantic, idyllic luxury suites.
The island that is the resort’s home—the locals call it Makunufushi—is a gorgeous bump of white sand in the Indian Ocean. It’s spotted with Frangipani flowering plants and surrounded by corals and clear tortoise waters.
Travel Health Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you in the event of an injury or illness while abroad and even pay for you to be evacuated back home if necessary. And, for the Maldives, travel medical insurance tends to be surprisingly inexpensive.
But what the island does not have is as important as what it does. There’s no traffic. There’s no noise. There’s no hustle or bustle. There’s also no nightlife, no shopping and no local culture. That’s because there’s virtually nothing on Cocoa Island except for the resort.
In the Maldives, it’s common for resorts to occupy entire islands. But even by Maldives standards, the Cocoa Island resort is devoid of activities. You can walk the entire circumference of the island in around 10 minutes! That makes being happy with the Cocoa Island Resorts’s accommodations, restaurant and those few activities that are on offer especially important. Our look at each:
The Rooms of the Cocoa Island Resort
Cocoa Island offers several room categories but the most distinctive (and, happily, also the least expensive) are in the above-mentioned Dhonis.
There are two types to choose from: Dhoni Suites and Dhoni Loft Suites. Both types feature modern interiors—a surprise given how rustic they look from the outside. And both types offer the exact same amenities, including an 42” HD satellite TV, a Nespresso coffee/tea maker, wifi access, iPod dock, fresh fruit brought to the room daily and, best of all, a private ocean-side deck.
The difference between the types? The Dhoni Loft Suites have two floors, which makes for better views from the bedroom and allows for more living space downstairs. Dhoni Loft Suites also have larger floor-to-ceiling windows. They tend to run US$100~150 more per night than the regular Dhoni Suites, a premium some will find worth it and others not. Check out the floor plan comparison, below, and the photos towards the bottom of this page.
Eating and drinking
The resort’s Ufaa Restaurant and Faru Bar are the only choices on the island.
The restaurant describes itself as offering “modern interpretations of Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine.” Its menu is more diverse than that, though, and includes Thai, Chinese and creative Western selections, many with copious amounts of fresh local seafood. Spiced tea smoked duck and scallop salad, anyone? The quality of the dishes is high (as are the prices) but, even so, how many meals in a row do you want to eat at the exact same place? Ufaa is excellent for two days and fine for a third. Much beyond that and some Cocoa Island guests start hankering for other options.
As for the bar, it’s adjacent to the beach-side infinity pool, comfy and highly hangoutable†. It offers a perfect mix of being indoors and outdoors and provides a welcoming communal atmosphere for meeting other guests.
As mentioned, there’s relatively little in the way of activities on Cocoa Island. What there is invariably involves lots of water and/or expense. Every guest gets their own snorkeling gear (which they’re free to take home with them). Upon request a staff member will lead you on a guided snorkel trips, not that a guide is needed—jump in the water from your private Dhoni Suite deck and you’ll likely see tropical fish, stingrays and sea turtles. You can also go windsurfing and catamaran sailing using the resort’s equipment.
Other activity involve booking through the resort’s travel desk. Scuba diving, visits to other islands and even a submarine experience are among the options. Costs are high. Eg. a private two-hour visit to a village on a nearby island costs $200 (!) per a couple.
The one activity you should consider is the $70-per-person sunset fishing cruise—we recommend it even if you’ve never fished before. In addition to catching some beautiful views, the helpful staff will make sure you catch some fish, which the resort chef will cook for you in a method of your choosing.
The Cocoa Island Resort is not a place one goes for activity-filled vacation. Though that’s true for nearly all the hotels in the Maldives. If you are looking for a high-end luxury beach resort with lots of cultural and outdoor offerings, there are many better options. (St. Lucia’s superb Jade Mountain Resort comes immediately to mind).
If you are looking for a luxury resort to chill and relax—one with impeccable service and one of the most gorgeous beaches and collections of marine life on Earth—then Cocoa Island is ideal.
What’s especially great about Cocoa Island is what we began this review with: the Dhoni boat accommodations. They aren’t as weird and quirky the places we write about in our unusual hotel section. But then if you are traveling for a honeymoon or some special occasion you probably don’t want weird and quirky. What you probably want is a travel experience that’s distinctive, uncommon and memorable. The The Cocoa Island Resort is certainly all those. And more.
† Spot Cool Stuff is declaring “hangoutable” to be a real word.
The Relaxing, Luxurious Soneva Gili by Six Senses
The Maldives Unusual Underwater Restaurant
Swimming With Whale Sharks Off Isla Holbox, Mexico
A Review of 7 Luxurious African Safari Lodges
A Review of the Best Dating Websites
For your trip
Getting there: The resort is a 40-minute speed boat ride from Male International Airport. The good news: The resort will pick up up right from the terminal. The bad news: The boat ride will cost you US$200 per adult ($100 per kid 4 to 13).
When: Cocoa Island is a year ’round resort and there’s no time that should absolutely be avoided, weather-wise. Historically, you’re more likely to encounter rain between May and November (and especially in July and August, when prices drop) but for the last few years the monsoons have been unpredictable. Our advice: Go whenever it fits your schedule and hope for the best.
Family Friendly? Kids are welcome on Coca Island but there’s little in the way of activities (besides swimming) for them. For a more child-friendly resort in the Maldives consider the Club Med on Kami instead.
For your bookshelf: Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization
Dhoni Suite Photos
Regular Dhoni Suite
Dhoni Loft Suite