Seaside Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives review: barefoot luxury in the heart of a UNESCO biosphere reserve

From beach dinners for two under the stars through to sunrise yoga on the sand spit, Seaside Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives's unique luxury offering manages to give guests world-class service in a relaxed setting

Updated on 21 March 2023 • Written By Rosie Conroy

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Seaside Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives review: barefoot luxury in the heart of a UNESCO biosphere reserve

If the anticipation of arriving in the Maldives hadn’t already sent you into an excited spin, the turquoise reefs coming into view as you drift over Male might just tip you over the edge.

It’s a landing we suspect few destinations can match, and it’s the precursor to an even more novel seaplane ride that brings the lapis lazuli haze of the atolls below into sharper focus, revealing the nuances of their fringed turquoise edges, alive with coral and the creatures that feed on it. After forty minutes the plane bumps into land, where a White Lotus-style waving line-up greets you. Show over, and guest relations whizz you round the island in the only landward mode of transport for guests - a golf buggy - to get your bearings before depositing you at your room to soak up the sweet silence.


Heaven always seems a superlative too far, but if you got to the big pearly gates and found Finolhu written above them we doubt you'd be disappointed. Here you’ll find life slows down to the perfect pace, where you drift from one meal to the next with very little to vex you in between. Maybe you’ll carve out time to unwind at the tranquil spa, don your flippers to discover the house reef or brave the tennis court for a quick pre-prandial rally.

One of the hotel’s USPs lies in its two-kilometre-long trailing sand spit that elongates its landmass to allow for a gentle stroll into the sunset at the end of the day, a walk that uncovers a fairy dust trail of plankton sparkling on the shoreline as the light dips. It’s one of many natural wonders uncovered on our trip, which also included a display of dancing dolphins at breakfast, swimming with turtles and looking for hermit crabs on the beach. 

There's a lively undercurrent to all this relaxation too, with guests invited to various mixers throughout the week. Take the White Party, for instance, where management put on a complimentary bar at the Crab Shack restaurant for guests to enjoy sundowners and fire dancers against the backdrop of sunset on the Indian Ocean. This carefully thought through roster fosters relationships, and many guests find themselves making friends for impromptu holiday meals, drinks, or activities.

Everywhere you go you’re met with world class service and attention to detail. It’s a level of comfort for guests that relies on nearly four hundred staff living and working on the island in complete harmony. You'll notice the maintenance and service never stops, with paths constantly swept, non-stop cleaning of common areas and a continuous cycle of buggy taxis circling the island to allow guests easy transport up and down the jetty. The results are perfection. 

Seaside Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives review: at a glance

An activity-packed sprawling five-star hotel spread across a paradise island and two-kilometre-long sand spit, the longest of any resort in the Maldives. Seaside Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives finds its home in the heart of the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean, where not a grain of sand falls out of place amongst the pristinely manicured grounds.

Stay one week B&B in an overwater private pool villa from £1,675 per person. Price based on two adults and two children travelling in March 2023

Rooms: 9/10

Generously proportioned and carefully thought through, rooms vary from beach villas through to overwater bungalows. The latter are islands of their own, moored out in the pulsing majesty of the sea where the watery song of waves slapping against the decks puts you to sleep each night and brings you round in the morning.

When compared with the visuals you see online, the room felt larger than expected in real life. The comfortable bed takes centre stage, with crisp white linens and stacks of soft, plump cushions. Outside there’s a sun deck complete with private pool (although this varies according to category), loungers and a day bed. Overhead a whirring fan brings cool relief in the middle of the day to the terrace, and the steps that reach down from the corner of the deck lead directly into the sea, offering up the underwater tapestry of the house reef for you to explore.

Alongside the pool and the turquoise shallows to splash around in, there’s also a deep bath, and three showers - two outdoor and one inside. We couldn’t find fault with the maintenance of the room, which is a feat given the non-stop degradation the wind, sun and salt water no doubt cause.

Food and drink: 8/10

There are five restaurants on the island as well as in-villa dining available. The main restaurant Beach Kitchen serves a buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, while elsewhere there’s Japanese dining room Kanusan, the Crab Shack out on the sand spit, Middle Eastern restaurant Arabian Grill and a pool bar serving snacks.

Buffets might conjure up less than appealing imagery, but the food here is very good considering the logistical challenges of being moored nearly 400 miles from the nearest mainland. A lot of the stations are manned by chefs who cook to order. Think French toast, hoppers, pancakes, shakshuka and omelettes at breakfast and steak, pastas and local seafood come the evening. Its location is just back from the shoreline, which if you’re lucky means a front row seat for watching dolphins skip through the waves or herons hunting fish in the shallows.

Kanusan majors in please-all Japanese plates of sushi, tempura and grills, while the Arabian Grill is a collective of popular Middle Eastern fare that spans nicely made mezze through to charcoal-licked kebabs.

Out on the eastern shore is the Crab Shack, which we found was most often cited by guests as a favourite. It’s not hard to see why. Here, wooden tables and chairs are setup along the water’s edge, under a palm covering where water misters keep guests cool (these are the sorts of thoughtful touches you quickly become used to as standard practice at Seaside Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives). In fact, part of the pleasure of the whole experience is discovering all the little details you can’t possibly gather from online reviews. We ate generously stuffed soft-shell crab tacos followed by nicely cooked platters of barbecued seafood.

Service: 10/10

The gracious team appears to have been hand-picked for their sharp skills. They handle the international crowd with ease and efficiency, with seemingly inexhaustible cheerfulness. It’s hard to think of a request that would be a stretch too far for their willingness to please and wherever you go you find people tirelessly working to maintain the entire resort’s pristine condition.

Things to do: 10/10

A packed programme keeps energetic guests busy. Dolphin spotting, scuba diving, private picnics, fire dancer shows, sundowner drinks parties and beach cinema shows are a taste of the entertainment options you can expect. While some things are chargeable there is also a generous number of complimentary activities on each day. Wander down to the main restaurant to find the full billing or download the app which is updated each day to reflect the various things to see or do.

Our favourite things included a mind-bendingly good massage; sunrise yoga on the beach with a peaceful, patient instructor; a turtle-skewed snorkelling trip which threw up five of the wonderfully pre-historic creatures; and a look at the beach bubble where guests are invited to spend a night under the stars complete with private butler service and their very own tailored dinner menu.

Eco efforts: 8/10

Finding it’s home in a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve site, Seaside Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives' commitment to preserving its slice of the atoll is markedly important to the team. There are no single use plastics offered to guests – straws, in-room miniatures, water bottles and the likes – and the resident Marine Biologist gives weekly talks to encourage guests to participate in the hotel’s coral restoration programme. Moreover, all water used is processed and purified from sea water, and solar power is generated from the year-round sunshine. The hotel also works with local communities to assist them in waste management and include their catches in their sourcing of locally supplied fish for the restaurants.

Amenities: 9/10

• Outdoor and indoor gym
• Tennis court
• Spa and adults-only pool
• Sauna
• Steam room
• Inflatable assault course
• Jet skies
• Paddle boards
• Kayaks
• Cinema
• Golf simulator
• Shake and coffee shop
• Clothing store
• Doctor
• Life-size chess
• Table tennis
• Pétanque
• Communal swimming pool
• Kids club and pool
• Multi-court pitch
• Five bars and restaurants
• Library
• Shisha lounge
• Butler service
• Beach volleyball
• Art studio
• Yoga studio
• Personal training
• Dive centre
• Marine Biologist

Getting there: 6/10

BA fly direct to Male from London Heathrow. On arrival at Male, the Seaside Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives team will meet you for the required seaplane connection, handling both baggage and check-in. You’ll be escorted to a separate terminal - around a five-minute drive away - to wait in the hotel’s lounge until boarding commences. The flight takes around forty minutes and is an adventure in iteself. 

Accessibility: 0/10

Unfortunately Seaside Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives isn’t suitable for disabled guests.

Value for money: 8/10

There’s no denying a holiday at Seaside Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives doesn’t come cheap. However, if you have the resources to do so, the splurge feels like it offers value for money given the level of service, quality of the food and the knock-out location of the island.

Honeymoon potential: 9/10

While you might expect an island in the Maldives to be awash with honeymooners, we were surprised to find plenty of families and groups too. It’s a bonus that ensures the place doesn’t feel too romantically contrived and as such felt relaxing whatever your celebration. That being said, we think the overwater villas are perfect for honeymooners, with their private pool and beautiful views. Massages, private trips and romantic dining experiences can all be booked too, to add a little something special to your holiday.

Still looking for your perfect holiday? Why not read our review of Baglioni Resort Maldives too. 

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