In December 2002, COMO Hotels and Resorts opened its second private island resort, in the Maldives. Called COMO Cocoa Island, this landmark opening brought COMO’s vision of privacy and stylish beach living to the Indian Ocean.
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.
COMO Cocoa Island, known locally as Makunufushi, is located among South Malé’s coral atolls. Importantly, guests don’t need seaplanes to access the island; it’s just a 40-minute speedboat transfer from the international airport on Malé (the main island). In addition, COMO Cocoa Island is located in the opposite direction to the majority of resorts (concentrated in the North Malé atoll) and occupies a quieter, undisturbed area.
Despite a heady combination of good climate, white sand and warm seas, tourism developments have been sensibly controlled, displaying respect for the region’s inimitable culture and natural resources. Outside the capital, there’s no traffic, and little noise. Tiny fishing boats slowly turn into distant specks that tip over the Maldives’ mirror-flat horizon.
The resort looks out towards these calm, cerulean waters. The island is long and thin – about 350 metres long – with sand snaking out into a perfect spit that disappears with the evening tide. The natural landscape has not been interfered with, and the island features palms, wild sea grapes and hibiscus. The house reef, which encircles COMO Cocoa Island, delineates a gin-clear lagoon that’s rich with sea life, including ray and baby sharks. It is a sea without currents, making COMO Cocoa Island an ideal choice for families.
The resort aesthetic is by Singaporean architect Cheong Yew Kuan – most recently responsible for two new COMO Hotels and Resorts, COMO Uma Ubud, Bali, and COMO Uma Paro in Bhutan. At COMO Cocoa Island, the style is deliberately restrained; a simple yet sophisticated mix of the contemporary and indigenous. Certain room types occupy ‘dhoni’ boats, based on the designs used by Maldivian fishermen. They are not unlike the houseboat typical of Kerala, the nearest Indian state.
Each of these 33 rooms – which include eight Dhoni Suites, nine Dhoni Loft Suites, ten Loft Villas, four One-Bedroom Villas and two Two-Bedroom COMO Villas sit offshore on the southern side of Cocoa, overhanging the lagoon. They are reached by planked walkways. Structures combine New Zealand pine with Kajan thatched roofs. 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 floor-to-ceiling glass windows opening up to a substantial deck for slipping in and out of the water. These same decks provide privacy for lounging in the sun, or a place for quiet, al fresco dining.
As with all COMO Hotels and Resorts, cuisine is considered a crucial element of the guest experience. At COMO Cocoa Island, the chef is Nantanit Juljorhor. The restaurant is called Ufaa, meaning ‘happy’ in Maldivian. The Cheong-designed, foot-in-the-sand space – seating 60 both covered and uncovered – flanks the resort’s infinity-edged pool, in natural wood and Kajan thatch. Ufaa serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. An all-day dining menu is also available.
Menus display a rigorous reliance on well sourced seasonal ingredients from nature’s larder – organic vegetables and the evening’s catch, supplied by local fishermen and farmers. Dishes also take inspiration from India’s Malabar Coast, and its traditions of spicing – coriander, ginger, tamarind, okra and green chilli – while the true flavours of fresh produce are finished off with light-handed, contemporary flourishes. Coconuts, found everywhere in these islands, also feature significantly.
Guests can benefit from COMO Shambhala Cuisine, designed to maximise energy and wellbeing with the use of organic foods rich in living enzymes, vitamins and sea minerals. At COMO Cocoa Island, the Tandoor is employed to allow for fat-free grilling of meats and fish. Raw salads feature, in line with the rigorous nutritional principals originally established by South India’s Ayurvedic health system.
In recognition of COMO Cocoa Island’s unusually peaceful location, the resort has developed a substantial COMO Shambhala Retreat, designed for guests seeking greater health through Yoga and related treatments. The open-air pavilion for group and private Yoga practice is located on the sunrise side of the island. In addition, find four treatment rooms (including one for couples), a steam room and a large hydrotherapy pool.
The Asian-based therapies range from specific body treatments to facials and sophisticated massages, including the COMO Shambhala signature massage, delivered by experienced practitioners who customise treatments according to individual needs.
For the actively inclined, the Maldives’ warm waters promise some of the world’s best diving. The famous Guriadhoo Channel lies on COMO Cocoa Island’s very doorstep, while snorkelers can enjoy a marine-rich lagoon – pristine largely because of a lack of local sea traffic (this is not always the case north of Malé). Note that COMO Cocoa Island has highly qualified instructors on the island to lead dives, as well as provide tuition for beginners. State-of-the-art equipment is provided. Beyond COMO Cocoa Island, there are a number of private excursions available. Enjoy beachside picnics or follow dolphins from the prow of a privately chartered dhoni. Explore Malé, its markets and shopping possibilities. Or simply relax and feel rested for the silence COMO Cocoa Island affords.
Explore even more of the Maldives by combining your visit to COMO Cocoa Island with a stay at the sister resort, COMO Maalifushi, which opened in 2014 as the first luxury resort in the pristine Thaa Atoll. Seaplane transfers could be arranged between the properties.