Jetting off to the faraway Maldives for a trip is just the right answer for finding the ultimate in rest and relaxation. But the new JOALI BEING resort will help your newfound wellness extend far beyond a vacation.
Opened in November 2021, JOALI BEING offers everything you expect from an over-the-top Maldives luxury hotel: it boasts 68 contemporary aqua-and-gray villas (more than half of which are over water) with their own pools, an eye-catching novelty (a turtle-shaped private dining treehouse), tropical grounds (there’s stunning biophilic design, architecture that connects you to nature) and an endless expanse of aqua waters. But it’s also part of a new breed of hotels, like Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii and the forthcoming Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences in Palm Beach, where wellness touches every part of your stay, from nutrition to sleep, making it a transformative destination.
“The growing expectation is for the implementation of wellness to be integrated into all areas of our daily touchpoints, with the notion that wellness should be part of the infrastructure of our lives, not an addition to it,” said Esin Güral Argat, founder of JOALI BEING and its nearby sister resort, the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star JOALI Maldives.
Wellness tourism has quickly become a booming industry whose annual growth rate is more than 50 percent higher than tourism growth overall, according to the Global Wellness Institute.
Before arriving at JOALI BEING in Raa Atoll’s Bodufushi Island, you’ll have a wellness consultation over the phone. Later, when you land at the adults-only resort, you’ll undergo a comprehensive integrative health assessment and movement analysis to determine which wellness pillar — mind, microbiome (gut health), skin or energy — to focus on during your time there. Then a team of experts will customize a five-, seven- or 12-day immersion program based on the pillar chosen.
You also will receive individualized advice; to help our microbiome, we were told to include immune-boosting ginger and turmeric in our food, drink warm water with meals and plan earlier dinnertimes. But don’t fret too much if you can’t commit to one of those schedules, since the hotel has à la carte offerings, but longer stays allow you to fully experience the program.
To help you on your wellness path, JOALI BEING has found ways to help you avoid too much screen time and other excesses. The boutique hotel only offers Wi-Fi in the villas, the accommodations don’t have TVs (though they can be provided upon request), the restaurants serve just a smattering of alcohol options (several natural wines and a handful of cocktails) and in-room mini-bars don’t carry liquor (but there’s an impressive tea-making station with a special hourglass tea timer, kettle and tools to whip up matcha as well as a Nespresso machine).
But otherwise, you won’t want for anything — JOALI BEING makes wellness less about abstaining and more about finding workable ways to incorporate better habits into your life. The sublime surroundings make this an easy offer.
Take meals — you won’t be forced to dine on bland diet foods. While the two restaurants’ menus do list calorie, carb, protein and fat counts as well as the targeted pillars, the dishes are both healthy and enjoyable. For breakfast, indulge in the berried French toast with pumpkin spice and coconut caramel, or the akuri, Parsi-style spicy scrambled eggs tucked neatly inside a dosa pyramid.
Dinnertime also brings flavorful options, like seared scallops in a pool of creamy nantua sauce with compressed watermelon salsa and roasted baby beets, or a lobster curry with mango and rhubarb sauce. And good nutrition doesn’t mean having to forgo dessert: Textures of Strawberry artfully lays out strawberry sponge, preserves, parfait, jus and fruit bits on the plate, and the crème muscovado features a hazelnut dacquoise with mango-passionfruit gel and citrus sorbet.
Pampering is part of the experience, too. Every immersion program includes the Four Pillars Signature Massage, a stress-blasting treatment that uses essential oil blends made at the Maldives hotel’s Aktar herbology center to target elements important to each pillar. The microbiome mix, for example, includes digestive and probiotic essential oils like ginger, caraway, clary sage and fennel.
You’ll want to spend time at the striking spa, with its exaggerated inverted-V design and stone steps across a palm-lined pool leading to the quiet area under a thatched hut where you can put your toes in the sand. Come for the white and gray marble circular hammam, the glowing pink-brick salt inhalation room, the starry-ceilinged Watsu pool or the unusual Seda, an instrument-filled villa made for sound therapy — there are even musical strings under the treatment bed. But the big reason to make repeat visits to the spa is the skilled therapists. We felt light and deeply relaxed after every service, including the abhyanga, a scalp-to-soles ayurvedic massage that involves using an excess of warm oil to help increase circulation, stimulate the organs, detoxify and nourish the body.
After your treatment, you’ll sit outside of Aktar in the center of the spa for the signature tea (a delicious blend of cardamom, hibiscus, clove and rosehip) and surprisingly good gluten-free cookies with flax and ginger (they offer an energy boost). The light, bright herbology center is one of the hotel’s most popular spots. Take a seat inside at the bar and a knowledgeable, personable herbologist will create a customized tea and an oil rollerball based on your pillar and tastes.
As you sip a cup, she also will educate you on some of the healing properties among the 65 herbs on hand, like how sage is an antiviral and good for the female hormones, while licorice relieves sore throats. In addition, Aktar hosts workshops on how to make herbal teas, body creams, face masks and oils.
Obviously, an immersive wellness program will involve more than spa treatments and tea times. There will be physical work. No matter which pillar you choose, you will join daily group classes under two categories: Mindful Movement (like Afro dance, tai chi, yoga and Pilates) and Mind and Body (like “Expansion Through Gratitude” and “Connection & Purpose”).
To challenge you even more, you also may be assigned private workouts like a boot camp, muay thai and “Cross and Core.” We enjoyed starting our day with a limb-warming private Heart Opening Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) yoga session in an elevated thatched hut overlooking the crystal-clear ocean and worked up a sweat in a personalized training session.
You’ll find other wellness activities throughout the wellness resort. The outdoor Discovery Sound Path is a fun, interactive way to explore sound healing. A forest trail leads to 12 instruments, like an oversized disc painted with blue waves that makes a vortex of sound when you spin it. All accommodations also have instruments like xylophones for further sound experimentation. Plus, they have aqua Electra bikes (each has a wooden plate with your name carved on it that you receive as a parting gift) parked outside for easy transport across the island and to encourage you to pedal around and explore.
When each day concludes, you’ll relax in tranquility in your expansive villa’s infinity pool, outdoor rope swing or overwater hammock. Or unwind inside in a spacious standalone tub overlooking the Indian Ocean. And if you need anything more to add to this tropical ideal, just ring your jadugar (meaning “skilled magician” in the local Dhivehi language, the staff member is your personal butler) on a pre-programmed cell phone.
At the end of your trip, you will have a departure consultation, and there will be follow-ups after you return home to help keep you on your wellness path. But it will be easier when you recall the island’s lush foliage and mesmerizing water for motivation.