It takes only twenty minutes by speedboat to reach Baros from Male airport these days, but back when the resort first opened in December 1973, on the third holiday-resort island in the Maldives, things were very different.
Then Male airport was little more than a shack and transport to and from the resort islands was generally by dhoni, traditional sailing boats, and took hours across the open ocean. There were no banks and Morse code was still the typical method of communication.
Baros resort started life on its pint-sized coral island with only 28 rooms (‘huts’) without air conditioning. Over the next 30 years the resort doubled in size and in 2005 construction was completed on the new Baros Maldives, a five-star boutique resort with 45 luxury beach villas and 30 luxury overwater villas. Since then further room upgrades have taken place but the resort stays true to its original concept: a small island with a big welcome, an intimate and quiet place for guests to unwind. This is not an all-singing and all-dancing resort but somewhere for low-key couples and families to spend their holiday in the sunshine on the most picture-perfect little island, tiny waves lapping on bright white sand. It’s a good two kilometres from the nearest island so it still feels remote and tranquil.
What speaks volumes about Baros is the number of repeat visitors it receives. Every year the vast majority of clients are those revisiting the island. During my stay I met guests who had made the island their holiday base 15, even 20 times. What is attracting these guests? What makes Baros stand out from the crowd?
The hotel is exceptionally well run. The staff, a large number of whom have been here since it first opened, are hospitable and welcoming, efficient and unflappable. The rooms are elegant and well appointed but not over the top. By Maldivian standards the rates are quite reasonable. The resort is consistent, not trying to be all things to all people. It has its following and, after my stay, I can see why.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Resort credit
- US$100 or equivalent per room per stay applicable to Spa treatments and food and beverages
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- Departure gift
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
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The jetty at Baros leads straight onto the lush island and is really quite eye-catching from the boat. I was met by the sales manager but, rather than head to the lobby area, I was escorted straight to my room for check-in. He informed me about the cocktail party that evening, gave me a brief orientation of the room and offered to make a lunch reservation. My luggage arrived shortly afterwards and I was left to unpack.
Rooms and suites
Baros is unpretentious, something that is reflected in the rooms. Forget hi-tech, forget no-expense-spared, these rooms are small but perfectly formed, designed for guests spending time outside, not indoors.
The Deluxe Villas are single storey, soft, cream-coloured cottages with thatched roofs, all facing the ocean, either with uninterrupted views or with a more private setting behind lush foliage. They are relatively spacious at 89 metres square but thoughtfully designed to make maximum use of the space.
The interior of my villa was elegantly decorated in white and beige with plenty of natural light. A vaulted ceiling made the room feel cool and the Scandinavian-style furnishing had contemporary flair.
The bed, beautifully made with crisp white linen, faced towards a small living area with a TV, and beyond that was a private terrace. There was a desk to one side of the bed and, in addition to the minibar, espresso machine and kettle, I was pleased to see an ironing board and iron. The hotel has a full laundry and pressing service but it was a relief not to be held ransom to this. It was perfectly in keeping with the unassuming air of the resort that guests are given the choice.
There was also little in the way of high tech but there was reliable Wi-Fi and mobile phone signal, a decent sound system with iPod docking station, plenty of charging sockets and logically situated light switches.
The open-air bathroom was accessed through a small hallway with a wardrobe and modest dressing area. It had beige-and-white ceramics, elegant twin vanity units with a central bathtub, and beyond, an outdoor shower in a walled courtyard garden with a vaulted and thatched roof. The WC and shower were both inside frosted-glass units.
Like the room layout, the bathroom was well designed and made good use of the space. The lush plants at the back gave it a fresh feel, as if you were showering in a luxurious jungle: a very peaceful setting.
Lighting is particularly good, with backlighting on the vanity mirrors and magnifying mirrors for the brave among us. L’Occitane toiletries (100ml) were replenished daily, and there was a good- standard hairdryer.
All the dining outlets are based on the south and south-west side of the island, so that they have a good view of the sunset.
All-day casual dining is at Lime, next to the island’s swimming pool. This over-water venue has tables out on the decking as well as inside in case of rain, and it’s a great place to come for a quick dip before eating. Lime is where Baros’s delicious buffet breakfast is served, featuring the lightest, fluffiest egg-white omelette I have ever tasted. The lunch menu comprises Asian-influenced salads, wraps, dips and so on, and in the evening it features more substantial curries, grilled fish and sushi.
The Lighthouse is a two-in-one venue, with a bar upstairs and fine dining downstairs, housed in a circular, over-water pavilion with a tented roof, giving it the appearance of a sail. It’s impossibly romantic with its sunset views, and up on the first floor you can see for miles around. Every Friday there is also live jazz.
Just above sea level, the restaurant tables, on a semi-circular deck, all face out across the water. As night falls, the stars start appearing in the vast skies and the underwater lighting allows you to see sharks, rays and all kinds of fish as they meander past during the course of dinner. The menu is inspired by French and Asian cuisine, and dishes are a combination of local, regional and imported ingredients. I ordered the salmon stroganoff on the recommendation of the sales manager: it was light as a feather and delicately flavoured. Brilliant. The marriage of tuna and foie gras as a main could have been overly rich but the perfect proportions meant the meatiness of the Maldivian fish worked a treat with the duck liver.
Other restaurant options
This is a tiny island where guests come for peace and quiet so Baros doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of dining choices. The resort is about doing a few things very well, and you will find yourself repeating your restaurant visits, but there are a couple of other dining options, on the beach and jetties, and plenty of different areas to eat within your villa.
Spa and wellness
There is a very pretty spa area with four treatment rooms and a yoga sala. As with everything at Baros, it’s small but perfectly formed. The spa therapists give massages, scrubs, facials and wraps with treatments taking inspiration from Thai, Balinese and Swedish practices and use Elemis, TheraNaka and Coolis products.
One thing I thought particularly astute was that in addition to individual treatments and spa packages there were also add-ons. Book a Thai massage and add on a toning facial or body scrub – it’s a great and easy way to tailor-make your spa experience.
The decent-sized gym houses about half a dozen Precor cardio machines, some free weights and weight machines. It’s not a vast space but every time I went in, it was almost empty. Daily yoga is complimentary and private lessons are available. Meditation is also possible to book in advance.
Pool and beach
The main pool stretches out over the sea in front of the Lime restaurant but it doesn’t feel overlooked. It truly feels like an infinity pool and is quite a social place to spend an afternoon catching the late-afternoon rays since its deck faces west.
However, the main draw of Baros is the beach. The white sand and crystal-clear waters wrap around the entire island. Even though the beach is not especially wide, small jetties here and there provide extra sun loungers, so when combined with the private terraces outside each villa, there is plenty of space for everyone. The benefit of having such a well-established resort is that the sea life has been undisturbed for many years. This has resulted in a very healthy house reef, so although there is plenty of good diving nearby, there is also superb snorkeling straight from the resort.
Worth a small footnote is the seawall. To protect the island, a seawall was constructed on the east side many years ago, which rises about a foot out of the water. I barely noticed it but, technically, it does obstruct clear views.
Baros is a tranquil island and only accepts children over 8 years old. There is no dedicated kids’ club and although the staff are incredibly hospitable and welcoming towards families, I would only consider the island for a calm, quiet and perhaps more grown-up family.
Staff and service
Unlike the staff at some resorts I have visited, those at Baros are like a happy family, almost as if the island is more of a second home than a place of work. It’s a clichéd thing to say but when you have a staff retention that is much higher than any other Maldives resort, you can make such assumptions. This is about more than just smiles, it is genuinely heartfelt service.
When walking around the island shortly after I arrived, every single guest I encountered said hello. This really is the friendliest Maldivian resort imaginable, and that’s not just down to the staff but also the guests.
Baros does tend to attract mainly couples but there were also a couple of older families and a couple of single travellers staying. Everyone was made to feel welcome and completely at ease. In fact, if I were returning to the Maldives on my own, this is possibly the only place I wouldn’t feel self-conscious.
My departure from Baros was the smoothest of anywhere I have experienced in the Maldives. With a regular speedboat service to the airport, there is no hanging around at reception. The bill was settled quickly, luggage fetched promptly and, after leaving the room I was on my way to the airport within five minutes.
How to get here
25 minutes by speedboat from Male International Airport