COMO Cocoa Island’s transformative renovation highlights award-winning reputation

The Maldives is made up of a string of tiny islands – perfect dots of white in the turquoise waters. Each island is no more than a few kilometres across, most far smaller. Other summits sit just below the surface, creating smudges of milky indigo. Occasionally, frothy surf gathers on an island’s windward flank, highlighting coral reefs.

In December 2002, the Maldivian shores were greeted by COMO Hotels and Resorts as they opened their first private island resort, COMO Cocoa Island, which brought COMO’s vision of privacy and stylish beach living to life.

Locally known as Makunfushi and just a 40-minute speedboat transfer from Velana International Airport, COMO Cocoa Island is located among South Male’s coral atolls in the opposite direction to the majority of resorts. The area is undisturbed and quieter, away from the humdrums and business of the city life.

The resort looks out towards calm, cerulean waters. The island is long and narrow – about 350 metres long – with sand snaking out into a perfect spot that disappears in the evening tide. The natural landscape has not been disturbed, and there are a variety of palms, wild sea grapes and hibiscus flourishing on land. The house reef, which encircles the resort, delineates a gin-clear lagoon that is rich and abundant in marine life, including rays and baby sharks.

In 2019, the resort underwent a major transformative renovation as part of COMO Cocoa Island’s ongoing commitment to an award-winning reputation.

Under the careful eye of Singapore-based Lekker Architects, the resort was reimagined: adding private pools to both the One-Bedroom Water Villas and COMO Water Villas, creating a new airy Pilates studio, adding a two-floor gym and yoga centre, and completely redesigning the interior of every villa.

Each of these 34 villas sit offshore on the southern side of Cocoa, overhanging the gorgeous blue lagoon. They are reached by planked overwater walkways – a mini adventure in itself. Structures combine New Zealand pine with Kajan thatched roofs and natural materials are carried through to the interiors, with high raftered ceilings and glossy teak flooring.

The inside/outside space merges on the horizon-side, with vast floor-to-ceiling glass windows opening up to a substantial deck for taking a refreshing dip or snorkelling in the waters. These same decks provide complete privacy for lounging in the sun, or a place for quiet, al fresco dining under the stars.

The island’s serenity is reflected in the clean-lined, airy interiors combining clean whites and shades of blue – more Hamptons beach hut than the usual rough-rustic aesthetic favoured by other Maldivian hotels.

The Dhoni Water Villas are split-level, with steps that lead into the lagoon. The bathroom is large with a double-ended tub backed by a mirrored wall, providing that much needed space for a long relaxing bath after a day filled with adventure.

The Dhoni Loft Water Villas, which stretch to 110sqm, are distinguished by bedrooms on a mezzanine level beneath the rafters (with an en-suite bathroom). This ensures commanding views through the floor-to-ceiling windows, the ocean light softened by sheer white drapes.

Loft Water Villas are similar in style to the Dhoni Loft Water Villas, though each has an outdoor shower with steps directly into the sea. These water villas are perfect for honeymooners or for sharing with loved ones.

The four One-Bedroom Water Villas with Pool are located at the ends of walkways on the sunrise side, ideal for sunrise-lovers. Their interior style is similarly chic – whites, teaks and contemporary hand-finished furniture inspired by the colonial traditions of southern India. But they boast a larger living area, with bathrooms that open into private shower areas with the sea visible below.

The brand-new Cocoa Water Villa with Pool – the only one of its kind at the resort – is spacious, with a 10-metre swimming pool that provides soul-stirring views of the sunset, as well as a roomy gym and private study.

Finally, the two COMO Water Villas – Sunset and Sunrise – are both excellent for friends or families holidaying together. Each has two bedrooms and four decks overhanging the lagoon, as well as a private jetty, private pool and direct lagoon access. They are also distinguished by personalised butler services.

As with all COMO Hotels and Resorts, cuisine is considered a crucial element of the guest experience. The restaurant is called Ufaa, meaning “Happy” in Maldivian language, Dhivehi. The Cheong-designed, foot-in-the-sand space flanks the resort’s infinity-edged pool, in natural wood and Kajan thatch. Ufaa serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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