COMO Cocoa Island is one of the smaller, more discreet island resorts in The Maldives with just 33 overwater villas located within the quietness and privacy of South Malé’s sandy atolls. Designed by award-winning Singapore architect, Cheong Yew Kuan with a subsequent re-imagining in 2019, this is the archetypal resort that one dreams about when thinking of The Maldives. With a sea rich house reef surrounded by palm fringed white sandy beaches and the intensely turquoise waters for which the destination is renowned, COMO Cocoa Island is perfect for those seeking a restful break away from the cares of the everyday.
Resort facilities include the all-day dining Ufaa Restaurant showcasing modern interpretations of Indian and Mediterranean cuisine using only the freshest of local produce and the Faru Bar for that “feet in the sand” cocktail at the end of a busy day relaxing. For the active, there is a 25-metre infinity edge swimming pool; a lounge and internet room; a library with internet and printing facilities and COMO The Shop for those vital necessities. There is also the COMO Shambhala Retreat for spa and wellness offering a menu of Asian-inspired holistic therapies within two double and one single massage pavilions and one couple’s pavilion, each offering an outdoor shower/tub in the lush gardens. The double storey wellness building features an open-air yoga pavilion with a view of the ocean with a gym underneath offering cardio equipment and free weights. There is also a TRX hydrotherapy pool, a steam room with separate male and female facilities and a Cadilla-Reformer Pilates Studio.
For water activities, head to the PADI Dive Centre with options for all levels of scuba diver plus a water sports centre offering snorkelling, catamaran sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and boat charters of the resort’s COMO Princess Yacht for that custom sunset cruise, for watching dolphins frolicking away or for a fishing jaunt.
The first of two COMO Hotels and Resorts located in the Maldives, COMO Cocoa Island opened in 2002 and is located on South Malé Atoll, a short 40-minute speedboat ride from Malé International Airport. Her sister property is the larger property COMO Maalifushi, Maldives and is the only resort on the Thaa Atoll.
The island is known locally as Makunufushi and is located in the far quieter reaches of The Maldives than the populous North Male atoll. A long, thin strip of land, about 350 metres long, the natural landscape is untouched and features palms, wild sea grapes and hibiscus. The house reef encircling the island is rich in sea life including ray and baby sharks.
The 33 overwater villas’ architecture is simple and uncluttered mixing contemporary and traditional Maldivian styles with more than a little touch of Hamptons style in the minimalist yet stylish interiors. They range from the ingenious Dhoni (indigenous local boats) styled water and loft water villas to the more usual water villas with pool, sunrise and sunset villas – positioned to follow the sun. The structures combine New Zealand pine with Kajan thatched roofs with natural materials used throughout with high raftered ceilings and teak flooring.
The villas are positioned off planked walkways forming two sweeping arcs across the ocean with those with private pools on one side and those without on the other.
Each room has handmade Italian linens, private sundecks with lounges and dining areas; bathrooms with separate showers, tubs, hairdryers and custom Shambhala bathroom amenities; air conditioning and antique colonial ceiling fans; private bars; complimentary tea and Nespresso machines; complimentary fresh fruit and bottled water daily. There are also 107-centimetre flat screen LCD TVs with satellite channels and select movies, private safes, iPod docks and Bose sound bars with Bluetooth connectivity. There are also yoga mats and complimentary beach bag and flip flops.
The Dhoni Water Villas are split level and shaped like a traditional Maldivian fishing boat. Offering a generous 75 square metres of living space with private decks with loungers and dining tables and stairs down to the ocean, the space is sleek and clean lined in a monochrome colour palette with a vaulted ceiling and floor to ceiling windows opening out onto the deck and the ocean beyond. The Dhoni Loft Water Villas (110 square metres) follow a similar design but have a larger living space ideal for families downstairs whilst the master bedroom is upstairs.
The Loft Water Villas (123 square metres) offer the best of indoor / outdoor living with the living areas downstairs and the master suite upstairs. These also offer a secluded outdoor rain shower. For those who love a pool, the slightly large (125 square metre) One Bedroom Water Villas with Pools sit on private jetties surrounded by an azure ocean.
The two largest villas – the Two Bedroom COMO Sunrise Villa (300 square metres) and the Three Bedroom COMO Sunset Villa (590 square metres) – as the titles might suggest – follow the route of the sun with the former offering two wings and two ensuite bathrooms and balconies and the latter effectively two linked overwater villas connected by a wooded walkway, each with their own infinity pools. It also features a private gym and has the services of a private butler.
The island wellness centre is COMO Shambhala Retreat, COMO Hotels and Resorts’ custom spa offering, offering a wide range of Asian-influenced holistic therapies. Facilities include two double and one single massage pavilion and a couple’s pavilion each offering outdoor showers/tubs in the lush, private garden. The resort also features one of the only TRX hydrotherapy pools in The Maldives with high pressure jets to target different areas of the body plus a two-story building with an open air yoga pavilion with a 360 degree view of the ocean on the top and a gym on the lower floor with cardio equipment and free weights. Other facilities include a steam room with separate male and female facilities, a Cadilla-Reformer Pilates Studio and a range of different daily classes including group yoga, meditation, family yoga, pilates and hydrotherapy circuit instruction. Guests may also learn the art of massage from the resort’s expert COMO Shambhala therapists.
There is also a 25-metre infinity edge swimming pool, a lounge and internet room, a Library with internet and printing facilities and COMO The Shop for those with an urge to splash the cash.
Outdoor activities include a PADI Dive Centre for all levels of scuba diving; a water sports centre with complimentary equipment rental including kayaks, stand up paddleboards, catamarans and windsurfing equipment. Guests may also try out reef bottom fishing at sunset, take a sailing or a windsurfing lesson, go snorkelling around the house reef or even try out night snorkelling and turtle excursion snorkelling. Snorkellers may also take to the waters, swimming with white tip and blacktip reef sharks just a 15-minute ride away from the resort or try out UV night snorkelling. The resort also offers private boat charters for custom itineraries including dolphin and sunset cruises.
For those who are interested, the resort’s resident marine biologist gives twice weekly talks on the marine environment whilst they can also protect the reef by sponsoring coral propagating frames to place on the seabed at COMO Cocoa Island’s coral garden.
As always with any property associated with COMO Hotels and Resorts, this property is at the very top of its game with a chic, almost Hamptons like allure in its interiors and a monochromatic palette allowing the intense blues and turquoise of the Indian Ocean to become the star of the views.
The uncluttered accommodation allows a certain peace and tranquillity perfect for those looking for calm rather than frenetic activity. It is deliberately restrained to be simple yet sophisticated. This does not mean that the island is without its activities – they are many and varied ranging from a unique spa offering to every kind of water-based activity you may want to experience – it is just left to the guest to choose the itineraries they want to try or simply to relax the day away.
Perhaps it is built this way to respect the previous owner, photographer Eric Klemm who arrived in The Maldives in 1976 and set up home here on Cocoa Island, building a four-bungalow hotel whilst photographing the island extensively. COMO Hotels and Resorts have cleverly bought into the original vision, just bringing in a touch of their special flair and expertise, bringing it up to date – a truly beautiful island with a soul.
The all-day dining Ufaa restaurant overlooks the main pool, beach and the ocean beyond and offers a mix of Indian and Mediterranean cuisine with an emphasis on locally procured produce including organic vegetables and the evening’s catch from local fishermen and farmers. Dishes take spicy inspiration from India’s Malabar Coast with ingredients such as coriander, ginger, tamarind, okra and green chilli. The menu also offers a range of COMO Shambhala healthy eating options. COMO Shambhala cuisine is a nutritional concept which incorporates rich organic ingredients whilst still delivering a punch on flavour and texture.
For those who love sitting at a bar with their feet in the sand, the easy-going and relaxed Faru Bar is custom built for them with a mix of refreshing and innovative cocktails and mocktails served alongside a selection of fine wines, classic cigars and light snacks. The bar opens at 10 am until late.
The resort also offers a selection of dining experiences including a Sandbank Dinner with a table set out on the island’s eastern sandbank where a five-course meal will be served by a personal butler; a Tented Dinner dining experience beneath the stars on a private section of the beach with the way lit by tiki torches and lanterns or a Sandbank Sunrise Breakfast watching the first of the morning’s sun’s rays appear over the horizon. The resort also offers a Whale Shark Expedition to swim with these gentle giants on a day trip with a beach picnic set up on an uninhabited island for that Robinson Crusoe moment.
COMO Hotels and Resorts are committed to celebrating local culture, supporting the domestic economy and minimising their impact on the environment, acting as custodians of the locations where their properties are based.
By reducing consumption, they are committed to reducing their use of precious natural resources by managing their water and energy usage, installing efficient equipment and fixtures. Employee engagement is key as is guest participation who can choose to re-use towels and linens during their stay or shutting windows and sliding doors to conserve energy.
COMO also sources locally if possible, supporting local producers, entrepreneurs, social enterprises and non-profit organisations. Suppliers are chosen not only for the quality of their products but also for being leaders of sustainable economic development in their communities. Believing in sustainable development, COMO also partners with local organisations to preserve cultural traditions, habitats and biodiversity.
Other initiatives at COMO Cocoa Island include partnering with secondary schools on neighbouring islands Maafushi and Guraidhoo to support education and vocational training. The resort also bottles its own water in reusable glass bottles and offers a coral propagating frame programme to re-populate the reef.