Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

COMO Cocoa Island

Maldives

An exquisite private island resort that's as close to paradise as you can find on Earth

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COMO Cocoa Island

Location

Makunufushi, South Malé Atoll

Travel Information

Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Malé - 40 mins by speedboat

Top Tips

Snorkelling or diving is guaranteed to amaze - the waters are teeming with the most dazzling marine life

5-Star X-Factors

Intimate moonlit private dining on the Cocoa Island sands

MORE REVIEWS OF
THIS PROPERTY

Perfect zen
The magical Maldives

MORE REVIEWS OF
THIS PROPERTY

Perfect zen
The magical Maldives

Perfect zen

Our stay on Cocoa Island was always going to be special. It was, after all, our honeymoon. But the stars aligned, the angels smiled and Mother Nature herself stepped in to conjure up the most magical ten days of my life so far. I say "so far" because we will certainly go back for seconds.

We arrived in Malé early in the morning, stumbling out into the brightest sunshine to see a charming young man smiling at us. He deftly guided us to a spacious boat and handed us cool, lightly scented towels as we sped off to a turquoise horizon.

Halfway to our destination, the pilot slowed down to let us watch a school of dolphins, playing on the breakers around a reef, leaping into the air in groups of three and four. Our honeymoon had truly begun.

We soon pulled in to the island's own jetty, where gentle hands steered my disorientated body up the steps and onto terra firma. Our smiling guide, Farin, who we came to know and admire during our stay, escorted us to an open air lounge and handed each of us a chilled green coconut with a straw in it. Perfect.

Cocooned on Cocoa

The island is tiny, only a few hundred metres long, but you wouldn't know it. An immense amount of thought, love and care has gone into this place to make it feel wonderfully spacious and yet intensely private. Cocoa is all about cocooning and buffering you from the outside world.

As you walk over the combed sand, occasionally ducking under the intricately twisted branches of a hibiscus, taking a few indolent moments on one of the many swings and hammocks to marvel at the zillion-shades-of-blue ocean, you forget that you and your loved one are not alone. The only trace of other guests being two pairs of sandals, his 'n' hers, side by side on the steps of a pavilion.

The suites here are dhonis, styled after local fishing boats, generously spaced along a wooden walkway built out into the lagoon. There's a front deck (quite literally, since it's a boat) and a larger back deck with my new best friends: soft, canvas-covered loungers and astute screening for maximum privacy for those "Darling, help me with my suntan lotion" moments. Steps lead down into crystalline water and the smooth sandy bed of the lagoon, where cute, unbelievably bright, and perhaps slightly scary fish swim undeterred and unflustered by human interaction.

Diving is what people here in the Maldives do on their day off. It's part of life, in their blood. And even the locals will tell you that the Cocoa Island reef, just metres from your dhoni, is one of the best there is. It's teeming with angelfish, wrasses, pufferfish and even the titan triggerfish on patrol in mating season. We spotted a pair of baby sharks, who stick stubbornly to the shallows until they are big enough to defend themselves out there in the deep.

But you don't need to dive to experience the aquatic wonders of the Maldives you can relax on your deck, cool drink in hand, and watch transparent needlefish, iridescent parrotfish, striped sergeant majors and yellow butterflyfish (very romantic, always in pairs) play chase amongst the corals that dot the lagoon floor.

Soothing ambiance

Inside the dhoni is light, airy and spacious. There is no contrived 'native' feel, with the emphasis firmly on a soothing, calm ambience. Floor-to-ceiling windows are draped in embroidered cotton voile, filtering the sunlight and keeping the interior cool and comfortable. Hardwood floors and whitewashed walls play host to huge daybeds heaped with crisp white bolsters and squishy cushions, with a coffee table thoughtfully piled with relevant books, such as our well-thumbed favourite, 'Reef Fishes of the Maldives'.

The high ceiling is clad in pandanus leaves, and an antique bronze and wood ceiling fan spins quietly, though it's the AC units that do the real work. The bathroom is immense, and balances zen with luxury. There's a marble clad wetroom, a deep, double-ended rolltop bath, twin vanities and open shelves stuffed full of fluffy white towels and indulgent Como Shambhala toiletries.

Up the open-tread stairs to the bedroom where you'll find a divinely comfortable low-slung bed with thick, soft linen plus another bathroom, so you really don't have to leave the bedroom if you don't want to...but then you'd be missing out on the spa.

Pampering on paradise

The Como Shambhala Spa is integral to the Cocoa Island experience. Physically it takes up half of the island, with its individual treatment rooms, reception room and yoga pavilion peppered throughout the frangipane trees. The staff are gentle souls, smiling but serious in their work. There's none of the idle gossip you might get at the local beauty salon. This is spa raised to an art form.

I had chosen the Javanese Royal Lulur Bath, which sounded fit for a princess and in reality was worthy of a goddess: a divine, cossetting, pampering bliss for two and a half hours. Taking in the gentle sound of the breeze in the palms, the textures and scents of the Ayurvedic-inspired scrubs, oils and lotions, while my adorable therapist led me gently from jetlag to nirvana, was truly a highlight of my stay.

Oh and don't forget the ginger tea. Their own special recipe, the Como Shambhala ginger tea is a wondrous thing, offered at the end of all spa treatments. Sweet and uplifting, it soothes and warms the body whilst sharpening the brain. The Como Shambhala Spa is something everyone should experience at least once in their life.

The Como Shambhala ethos touches all parts of the island, including, much to my delight, the food. Shambhala cuisine makes up about one third of the menu, introducing a lighter touch, adding steamed rather than fried, wholewheat rather than white, fruit rather than chocolate variations of the restaurant's exquisitely crafted pan Asian fare.

Fish, whether steamed, barbecued, skewered, sushi or fried, takes pride of place, but whatever you choose there's a fabulous wine list to go with it. There's a casual edge to Cocoa dining you can hardly aspire to rigid formality when half the diners are wearing a kaftan and flip flops but the warmth of the staff is endearing and the attention to detail is at once perfect and unobtrusive.

As a special treat a wedding gift we dined 'under the stars' one evening, surrounded by magnificent hurricane lamps, in perfect privacy amid palms and red hibiscus with the gentle rhythm of the tide just yards away. Holding hands, toes buried in the cooling sand, my husband said, "If I hadn't already done it, this is where I would want to propose." What more do you need to know?

Louise Santa Ana

The magical Maldives

The travel press are often talking about the war going on in the Maldives. No, not that sort of war, but a battle to win the title of the best resort or hotel in this paradisiac. We thought we could knock the judges off the bench and decide that the winner, for now, is Cocoa Island.

The Maldives is quite simply, paradise. We have never been more captivated by island beauty than in the Maldives. Even if you were to stay in a little shack on the beach you could still appreciate the crystal clear water, the incredible variety of sea life, the coral reefs with drops off the shelf that make you feel you are flying over the largest and deepest aquarium imaginable.

But that is all God-given, down to nature as long as it lasts (as the atolls are supposedly sinking). So what did man do to try and match these remarkable natural assets? He created paradises to blend with nature.

Loco for Cocoa

Conveniently situated just 30 minutes by speedboat from Malé, the main island and transport hub, Cocoa Island is also in the opposite direction from most of the islands popular with tourists. This makes it quieter and deeply tranquil. Outside Malé there is little infrastructure so no traffic to cause noise and pollution. The only visitors are fisherman in their pretty wooden boats dropping in and out of the horizon.

The resort's island is long and thin surrounded by the hypnotically translucent sea below a cerulean sky. The unspoilt landscape with palms, screwpine, vines, wild sea grapes, ylang ylang, and red hibiscus buzzing with tiny humming birds, has sand forming a perfect bank, which, by night, is covered by the gentle tide. A house reef creating a calm, pristine lagoon for gentle bathing and spotting rays, encircles the island.

Rooms here are inspired by local dhoni boats, adjoined by simple walkways above the shallow and clear Indian Ocean. Suites are cool, uncluttered and ocean-facing. From your soft bed, you walk out onto a private terrace and, from here, you step into the gentle waters.

Attention to slumber out here is inspirational at Cocoa. You sleep under natural ylang-ylang roofing in beds cocooned in smooth cream cotton and the bathrooms are large, whitewashed and airy.

A-list guestbook

Apart from spotting the trumpet fish, rays and angel fish as you step within two feet of the sea, you will also notice a variety of another well-known species (with lungs rather than gills) and which are equally as private as, say, the leopard moray eel or the untouched turtle. They are known as A-listers and walk the sand space of Cocoa Island with privacy and in peace.

Celebs love it here because no one gives a damn. The island is only ten minutes walk long by two minutes wide and every room is a dhoni (a fixed wooden boat moored in the lagoon). Even Jude Law went unnoticed, well, almost.

There is always a concern that no matter how loved-up or romantic you are feeling, you need a little more than a book in paradise. Well have you learned to dive? I did just so in the Maldives and the result was that I put on no weight, I was totally obsessed with the thrill of the next adventure, I learned more about sealife in one week than I had in my entire life; and I felt I deserved every calorie and every cocktail I consumed thereafter.

For those of you who don't fancy the O2 on the back then relax; just swimming out from your dhoni you will see almost as much as if you were diving.

Fusion fare

Food in the Maldives can be dodgy and repetitive. No matter where you stay there will always be a spice or two, but here they have mastered the fusion of Asian and Western to perfection. Fresh lobster can be grilled or Keralan style. There is an optional menu for those who wish to stick to a healthy regime. So whatever your culinary cravings, they will oblige in true five-star style.

In the main restaurant you can pick at those succulent claws with your eager toes pressing deep into the cool sand sipping a glass of Puligny Montrachet. That's paradise! There's a great bar, which makes perfect cocktails from 10am until midnight.

Holistic haven

The spa has adopted an holistic approach with a yoga style slant, all very now and zen and with a Maldivian backdrop. The treatments are comprehensively impressive, and the quality of massage and oils is again five star.

There is a genuine care here, from the harmonious staff, to instill inner peace in the oft-weary traveller, and to induce feelings of pure passion.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer