This resort has always epitomized to us the “barefoot chic” luxury, even before we got the chance to pay a visit. Located on a dreamy coral island and surrounded by the shimmering ocean, Gili Lankanfushi turned out to be as beautiful and serene as we anticipated. The few days we spent here immersed us in a laid-back atmosphere. The resort’s stress-free philosophy and sophisticated service make every day at Gili Lankanfushi incredibly detached from the “regular” life.
The resort’s experience is created around the idea of a “Robinson Crusoe” vacation, with all the tropes it entails. There is the island with dense tropical foliage, there are the white-sand beaches and barefoot dining, and the villa design harks back to the simpler times. Yet the standard of living here is on the level that the Daniel Defoe book’s protagonist would have never dreamed about.
Seemingly afloat in the blue lagoon and designed in a rustic-chic style, all the forty-five guest villas are built over-water and are open to the outside, with big windows looking to the ocean, walkways and rooftop sun decks. All are very generous in size and laid out to maximize the Maldivian sun, ocean breeze and to provide easy access to the shallow sea.
Our villa was a perfect tropical hangout and our own slice of a luxury paradise, for a few short days. The sun deck, in particular, was a picture-perfect place and was our favorite spot to chill. We loved its over-water hammock-style nets and the sun loungers, and the fact that the calm sea lapped the wooden decking. Like the other villas, ours also had a rooftop terrace with a daybed, which was one evening especially prepared so we could spend a night “under the stars”.
The design is an important part of the “Robinson Crusoe” experience, but the most famous castaway is referenced in more ways. For example, the dedicated butlers are called Mr (or Mrs) Friday, and there is the “no news no shoes” philosophy, put into practice from the first minutes, as guests are presented with cute bags for keeping the footwear away.
So just like everybody else staying at the Gili Lankanfushi, we forgot about our flip-flops for the duration of the stay. After all, breakfasts here take place directly on the beach, and even riding the bamboo bikes—yes, literally made of bamboo—did not require putting them on.
The foliage covering the resort terrain was surprisingly thick and lush. It was nice to cycle around the island and discover that it’s actually bigger than we expected. The paths that cut through the jungle led us to poke around all the corners and find all the secrets of the resort — even the open-air cinema, very well camouflaged in the bushes.
But of course, the coolest places and experiences are located on the water edge, or in the sea. Among them was the over-water bar, where we would end up often, be it for lunch or for sundowners. Or the spa, where one evening, being the last customers, we’d be fighting the slumber, lulled to it by the very excellent, oh-so-very-delicate therapists.
The pathways lead also to By the Sea, the appropriately named Japanese restaurant, where we went for fantastic sushi (never had a better one). Another night, the dinner was set up on the beach, and it was a buffet, served from “market stalls”. Every now and again the resort creates these themed dinners in the spirit of a tropical village.
This was the last stop in our island-hopping journey and it was really hard to leave Gili Lankanfushi behind and get back to normal life. The island is only some 20-minute speedboat ride from Male airport—but it could just as well be a world away.
What we love
- Gili Lankanfushi is private, relaxed and low-key, and the scenery is lovely: white-sand beaches, lush forest, and blue lagoon. Perfectly matching this is the chic, beautiful rustic luxury — and a very high level of service. It’s a fantastic combination and the ultimate in a tropical paradise living.
- We loved the layout of our massive Suite Villa. The romantic bedroom and bathroom flank the very pretty sun deck, surrounded by the shallow sea. There is also the roof terrace where we spent a night in the specially prepared for the night gazebo. Sleeping under the stars was nice!
- All guest villas are overwater but some of them are literally their own “islands”. Crusoe Residences are sprawling estates, free-standing in the shallows. The only way to get to them is by boat.
- We loved all the small experiences that make the resort special — like the chocolate room, the No Shoes No News idea, the hidden-in-the-jungle open-air cinema concept… or simply riding the bamboo bikes around the island.
What you should know
- If you happen to have a mountain of cash to burn, splash out and book the best from among the sprawling Residences: the Private Reserve. At 1400 m2 it is one of the largest “water villas” in the world.
- The resort’s dive school promises to PADI-certify new divers within a week and there are other water sports and activities available, including sunset and dolphin cruises, windsurfing and Hobie Cats sailing.
- The resort has a very convenient location, only some 20 minutes by boat from Malé. This is great if you have a late arrival, or, as in our case, a late departure, as the seaplanes can’t operate after dark (we purposefully placed Gili Lankanfushi at the end of our island-hopping journey). However, the proximity to this major hub does mean some noise from the motorboat traffic and the occasional plane overhead.
- Guest villas are arranged along three jetties. The ones on the eastern side stand in a very shallow part of the lagoon which at low tide gets a lot of exposed corals.