Picture the setting: it’s evening time, you’ve just finished a delicious, light and fresh dinner, and you decide to stroll the mere metres back to your residence. The moon is full and the light shimmers on the ocean as the gentle waves lap onto the beach. The sand is so white that it could almost pass as daytime; the whole scene is mesmerising, almost unreal.
OK, so perhaps I shouldn’t pin my hopes on a Man Booker prize anytime soon, but COMO Cocoa Island inspired me; it took my breath away. It can be hard to differentiate between the myriad island resorts in the Maldives – they all look stunning on their websites but this one truly stands apart. It doesn’t try to be all things to all people, and COMO Cocoa Island has stood the test of time. It opened some 15 years ago and has barely changed, staying true to its original concept and keeping itself in great shape.
Physically, the resort island is very small. It takes a few minutes to walk from one side to the other, and a truly exquisite, world-class beach encircles it and stretches out at one end along a picture-perfect sandbank. All villas are over water along one jetty. With such a small area, facilities are limited but perfectly formed: one restaurant, one pool, one gym (you get the picture). Everyone is generally in bed by about 10pm, and there isn’t 24-hour room service, either.
No, you don’t come here to party. You come here for complete and utter relaxation, to unwind totally and spend your days meandering from one meal to the next, interspersed with a swim, a snorkel and a snooze. You enjoy luxury and elegance, but you prefer a barefoot style with draped white linen and warm touches. You don’t care if the light switches are old-fashioned, or if the decor hasn’t changed since it opened. This is a beautifully maintained hotel run by a delightful and faithful team. Somewhere to visit to drink in the vast skies and rippling lagoon. It’s the perfect desert island.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Resort experience
- Scheduled Yoga class
- 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.
- Detailed Review +
- Facts & Amenities +
Arriving from Male by speedboat, I was met on the jetty by the sales manager and the front-office team, who escorted me onto the island and over to the lobby area. Set on the sand with driftwood touches and wooden furniture, it felt more like an open-air living room. I got right into the swing of island life, and it set the tone for complete rejuvenation.
Rooms and suites
The One-bedroom Villas are set slightly apart from all the other over-water villas and do offer a degree of additional privacy. Accessed from the island via a short jetty, their exteriors are based on a traditional Maldivian boat called a dhoni. They feature a lofty, beamed and thatched roof with a wooden deck at the front (plus direct access into the sea), and one again at the back for an outdoor shower.
Inside the room, the bedroom was open-plan with a large living area, TV and writing desk. This all felt very light and airy as there were windows on each wall adorned with wafting white curtains, and at the front, floor-to-ceiling doors leading to a private terrace. As the bed itself was on a raised platform and curtained off from the rest of the room at night, it felt cosy and cocooned – slightly more practical for families as extra beds could be set up in the living area.
Everything worked – the light switches were in logical places, there was a ceiling fan as well as reasonably quiet air-con, a kettle, Nespresso machine, TV and so on, but they were starting to look a little dated. If this bothers you, you’re in the wrong resort. For me, I felt it suited the room, and everything was in perfect working order.
All the villas have steps of some kind, even just one or two. The resort does provide ramps and the staff bend over backwards to make every single guest feel at home. The rest of the resort is fairly flat, although it is sandy and this should be taken into consideration.
The bathroom was set behind the bedroom and was a large and bright room with a fairly open-plan concept. However, should you require privacy, you could always shut the doors connecting with the rest of the living space. There was plenty of hanging space, a nice bath tub, an outdoor shower and twin vanity units. Continuing with the theme of beach chic, it was all whitewashed wood and clean lines.
Como Shambhala toiletries were provided (possibly my favourite scent in any hotel ever, fresh and zingy) in small, 30ml bottles, replaced daily, sometimes twice daily. There was a lit shaving mirror and a good hairdryer.
There is just the one restaurant for all meals on Cocoa, Ufaa, which offers a broad range but specialises in fish and seafood, as well as plenty of vegetarian, vegan and wellness options. The tuna carpaccio is of particular note, as is the bluefin jack ceviche, delicately flavoured and the perfect portion size for a light dinner.
With plenty else on the menu, I treated myself to a Wagyu beef burger at lunch one day, which was succulent and juicy without being heavy on the stomach.
Breakfast is limited, but is a fresh buffet complemented by an à la carte menu with a deliciously healthy twist to most standard items.
The wine list caters for most tastes and offers a good selection of organic options as well.
Other restaurant options
Cocoa Island does make an effort to offer destination dining venues on the beach, in your villa and anywhere else that takes your fancy, but on the whole you eat in the main restaurant. Like most Maldivian hotels, you tend not to leave the island other than for the odd excursion, and almost certainly not to eat out.
Spa and wellness
Como Hotels has a solid reputation in the industry for its focus on spa and wellness, and this one is no exception. The venue houses four treatment rooms as well as a spa pool in a beautiful, covered, loft-style space. Massages use Como’s own blended oils and are based on Asian techniques from Thailand, Indonesia, India and Japan. Facials use either the Guinot range or Sundari products and adhere to Ayurvedic principles.
It’s worth noting that the resort also offers in-room and even after- hours treatments.
The gym is above the spa pool, and its beamed ceiling gives it a loft-apartment atmosphere, unusual in a gym and rather calming. The equipment is mainly from Life Fitness, fairly new, with a modest free-weights area. Daily complimentary yoga is offered, and they mix up the timings as well for the not-so-early birds like myself.
Pool and beach
The main pool is a very pretty, curved shape, softly textured with white polished concrete and sun loungers either side. It’s long enough for laps but it’s mainly a kick-back area, conveniently placed right next to the bar. Of course, the island’s principal draw is the dazzling white beach that surrounds it but also stretches out in a spellbinding sandbank, where many guests take a sunset stroll. None of the villas has a private pool at present but it is, of course, possible to enter the sea directly from the villa terraces.
Most guests who stay at Cocoa Island are here for a quiet holiday. Although the resort does not have an adults-only policy, neither does it have a dedicated kids’ club. There are various activities on offer to entertain children as well as grown-ups, such as fishing, water sports, cooking and so on, but I think you would need to be a fairly self-sufficient and docile family unit to enjoy a holiday at Cocoa.
Staff and service
In a country where staff turnover can be very high with new resorts opening all the time, Cocoa Island has one of the best retention rates around. Many members of the team have been here since the opening, and what a delightful bunch they are. Many repeaters maintain that the staff feel like extended family, and this remains one of the reasons why they return year after year.
Certainly, my own experience tallied with this. The service is informal but efficient, understated but considerate, quiet but attentive. My changing travel plans were not a problem: my early departure resulted in a prompt delivery of my laundered items, and the general manager was charming and present at meal times to ensure all the guests were happy and settled. Housekeeping was immaculate and turndown was very prompt.
This is a well-oiled machine with an outward appearance of complete tranquillity, in keeping with the relaxed pace of the island.
The kind of people who travel to Cocoa Island are laid back, relaxed, glass-half-full types. They tend to ditch their shoes on arrival and take things at two miles per hour. There was a true mix of nationalities from all over the world, and everyone seemed to get along. Guests come here to switch off from news, fashion, gadgets and gizmos, and their personalities tend to match this.
Check-out was bang on schedule. Bags collected, bill settling well organised, and I was off the island within a matter of minutes of leaving my room.
How to get here
40 minutes by speedboat from Male airport