Shangri-La Maldives Treehouse Villa

Golf in the Maldives: A Week at the Shangri-La Villingili Resort

It all started with a Google search “golf in the Maldives.”

Naturally, I wasn’t expecting anything to show up.

I mean, Male is the second most densely populated island in the world, and many of the other islands are tiny resorts barely big enough to service guests, let alone all the resort staff as well.

So you can imagine my surprise, when the first thing that pops up is the Shangri-La Maldives touting themselves as having the only golf course in the entire country. 

I was intrigued.

My wife and I had about half a million points we were willing to spend on the flights for our trip, and we knew we wanted to go somewhere really exotic.

Like that once in a lifetime, “oh my God, I can’t believe we’re doing this kind of trip.”

We’d been to the Shangri-La Boracay in the Philippines and were blown away by it.

So, the more I cruised around the Shangri-La Villingili website, the more I knew there was no question: this was the perfect honeymoon destination for us.

I’ll get into all of the different reasons why later in this post, but you should know my wife doesn’t really golf.

And she made it very clear: “you get one round of golf on our honeymoon.”

Shangri La Water Villa Deck

The view from our deck 🙂

I was looking at places like Mauritius, Fiji, Hawaii and more – where I could get a lot of really scenic rounds in – and then I’d have to beg her to be cool with me spending half our honeymoon on the course.

Probably not the smartest bet.

So that’s why Villingili was so appealing.

It was only a 9 hole, par 3 course that barely stretched out over 1,000 yards.

I could get in a round a day before she even got out of bed! Not only that, but  because it’s such a short course, I could probably even get her to go with me.

And with that, it was settled, our honeymoon would be at the Shangri-La VIllingili Resort in the Maldives – and the decision proved to be one of the very best we have ever made.

If you’re looking for a honeymoon or resort vacation destination that has a never-ending list of activities, has unbelievably beautiful villas, and has one of the most exotic golf courses in the world – look no further than this Shangri-La.

If you’re looking for a honeymoon or resort vacation destination that has a never-ending list of activities, has unbelievably beautiful villas, and has one of the most exotic golf courses in the world – look no further than this Shangri-La.

What is the Shangri-La Maldives?

The Shangri-La Villingili is one of the most unique resorts in the Maldives – for a variety of reasons.

First off, it’s in the southern most part of the country in Addu Atoll, which is actually just south of the equator.

This area of the country was originally a secret base for the British Royal Air Force during World War 2. You can even take bike or car tours on the neighboring islands to see first hand some of the history of the region – this is one of the only resorts I know of in the country where you can have this cultural experience.

The Shangri-La is also one of the largest resorts in the entire country. You get around my golf cart (buggies), or bicycle, as every room includes bikes.

Bike at Shangri La Maldives

You see, as much as we wanted to think we could be, Tate and I are not sit on the beach and do nothing for a week type of people.

And that’s often what the Maldives is – so trying to find a place where we could chill out, while also being active and adventurous was important to us.

And that’s exactly what we got.

The Experience and Initial Impressions

I do a lot of traveling. I’ve been to a lot of cool places and had some amazing experiences, so I don’t say this lightly.

Our time in the Maldives was the very best vacation of our lives.

After arriving on the 70 minute flight into Gan International Airport from Male, you’re immediately met by an employee of the Shangri-La who makes it as easy as possible to get to the resort.

They helped with our bags, walked us to a mini-bus for what was literally a 300 yard trip to the dock, and we boarded the speedboat which got us to the island in less than 10 minutes.

The first thing you notice when you arrive is just how friendly everyone is.

There are nearly 600 staff on the island, and every single one was incredibly friendly to us during our stay.  There’s something about walking around and being able to say “good morning” with a smile to everyone you see, that just keeps you in a good mood.

Speaking of good mornings. This wasn't a bad view to wake up to every day.

Speaking of good mornings. This wasn’t a bad view to wake up to every day.

You’re greeted with a coconut welcome drink, and in what’s kind of a cool feature, they immediately whisked us away to our villa where we went through the check in process.

This was especially nice considering we didn’t arrive to the island until about 1:15am thanks to having to book all new flights the day before we left because of a Lufthansa strike.

The Rooms…errr, Villas.

There’s a lot to like about this resort, but without a doubt the thing that sells it the most are the villas.

Because we had traveled a long ways to get there, and had no idea when we’d be back we opted to do 3 nights in a Water Villa and 3 nights in a Treehouse Villa to have as many unique experiences as possible.

It was one of my bucket list items to stay in an overwater bungalow, and that was one of the things that initially drew me to the Maldives.

I don't think this quite qualifies as "bungalow". More like water palace. Yeah, let's go with that.

I don’t think this quite qualifies as “bungalow”. More like water palace. Yeah, let’s go with that.

At Villingili, you can’t even call them overwater bungalows. They are truly overwater villas, and are massive measuring nearly 1800 square feet each.

I remember waking up the first morning we were there, and seeing the view for the first time.

I literally squealed.

I’d never imagined a place so incredible could exist.

Our bed was overlooking the lagoon side of the island, which features it’s own private reef.

Our king size bed in our water villa.

Our king size bed in our water villa.

We had a two tiered deck with a day bed, lounge chairs, an umbrella, and a staircase leading directly into the turquoise water.

Every room also has an outdoor shower, a rainfall shower in the villa, and an oversized bathtub big enough for at least 3 people!

Small touches like bath salts, “after sun” aloe, and insect repellant were also nice surprises that came in really useful.

Every villa at the Shangri-La Maldives except the Water Villas features it’s own infinity pool, so it’s truly possible to never leave your room if you don’t want to.

In stark contrast to our Water Villa, our second three nights we stayed in a Treehouse Villa – that, we may have even liked more (if that’s possible).

It was set up on stilts about 20 feet above the beach, in the treetops, and we had a giant deck with infinity pool looking out over the Indian Ocean.

As much as we missed having direct water access, there’s something about having your own pool with ocean views that is pretty unbeatable.

Shangri La Villingili Treehouse Villa

Private infinity pool overlooking the ocean? Ok fiiiiine. If I have to, I guess I can slum it in a villa like this. 😉

Shangri La Maldives Treehouse Villa

My morning office in our treehouse villa

Shangri-La Maldives Treehouse Villa

Doesn’t get much better than this.

Even their standard “Pool Villa” rooms are huge, very nicely appointed, and have their own pool – so no matter which room you go for, you won’t be disappointed.

Note: I also realize this post probably sounds like one big sales pitch for the resort.

The reality? It truly was that special of a place. My wife and I have stayed in some very nice places over the years, and we both agree our villas here were far and away the nicest rooms we’ve ever had.

The Activities

As I mentioned, we’re not primarily “sit on the beach and do nothing type people.”

Well because of the unique size and location of Villingili, you have a ton of options for activities both on and around the island.

In the Water

Obviously the big draw in the Maldives are the water activities.

You can find some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world in this region.

Unfortunately due to ear issues going back to my childhood, I can’t dive – but we did get plenty of snorkel action.

Our first day we took a “Turtle Quest” snorkel tour, and took a boat out about 20 minutes to the other side of the atoll, where we found and swam with sea turtles, eagle rays, and even a couple reef sharks.

Not gonna lie, it’s also pretty cool to be able to walk out your back porch to your own private reef, which that in itself had some of the best snorkeling I’ve experienced.

So while you’re there, it’s kind of a given that pretty much any water activity is possible.

Kayaks, wind-surfboards, standup paddleboards – all are available for free at the resort.

Then for a little extra you can do anything from parasailing to wakeboarding.

We also took a dolphin cruise one afternoon and saw a pod of at least 100 dolphins, all showing off for us.

Tate and I on our dolphin cruise.

Tate and I on our dolphin cruise.

On the Land

When you go to the Maldives you expect the plethora of water activities. What we didn’t expect was just how much there would be to do on the island.

The island is really long and skinny. It takes 15-20 minutes to bike from one end to the other, and in the middle of the island is a lot of jungle, with cool hiking trails throughout it.

The health club facilities are world class. A lot of hotels say “world class gym”, but it’s really nothing more than a couple treadmills and some free weights.

This place legitimately had the nicest gym I’ve ever been in. The locker rooms had a jacuzzi, steam room, and sauna and was the perfect place for us to each have a our own personal spa afternoon before heading back to reality the day of our departure.

There are two tennis courts with on site pro.

When we first started planning this trip we were a little worried we’d get bored there. Then I found their huge list of daily activities they provided.

Whether it was a game of soccer with other guests and employees, or a guided nature walk – it would be almost impossible to get bored on this island.

The Spa

What’s a honeymoon or a trip to the Maldives without getting at least a little bit of spa action in?

After all, I know if you’re a dude trying to convince your wife that this is the best spot for a vacation – this is something she is going to want to know 🙂

The Chi Spa at the Shangri-La Villingili is truly world class.

The spa is it’s own private compound on the island perched above the ocean with a series of treatment rooms and a beautiful yoga studio.

We got a couples massage in a room overlooking the water that was absolutely fantastic.

Note: Make sure you use lots of sunscreen at all times. We luckily had our massage scheduled for one of our last days there – had it been earlier, it might have been a little uncomfortable 🙂

I’d book a half day session where you can take advantage of the outdoor baths overlooking the water, and truly embrace vacation mode.

The yoga class I took, was also first rate. They bring in some of the best instructors in the world, to do yoga while overlooking the ocean. While we were there it was Mandy Jhamat, founder of Yogasphere in London.

You can also do yoga and fitness classes on different parts of the island, such as at the summit of Mt. Villingili (see hole #8 below).

The Golf

Ok ok, since this is a golf site, and I’ve now just gone on for about 2,000 words on everything that’s not golf, let’s get to it.

Villingili Golf Club is (to my knowledge) the only golf course in the entire country of the Maldives.

I had one moment on the course where I said to myself, I’m literally the only person playing golf in this entire country right now – that was a little surreal.

It’s a 9 hole, par 30 course measuring out at 1,111 yards.

There are technically three par 4 holes on the course, but anywhere else these would be considered par 3s. That being said, the course was quite a bit more difficult than I expected.

On the longer holes you really don’t have much bailout, and there’s always water somewhere waiting to swallow your ball.

The routing is cool, as the entire course is on one end of the island.

Holes 1-5 traverse along the lagoon side of the island, then 6 is right along the tip of the island, giving you insane 270 degree water views.

Then 7-9 finish back up along the Indian Ocean, completely distracting you with crashing waves.

Don’t bother bringing your own clubs, unless you have a favorite putter or something. They have Titelist AP2s and Scotty Cameron putters, that while a little old, worked great for our rounds.

Not bad :)

Not bad 🙂

It’s up to you if you want to bring golf shoes. I played in golf shoes, tennis shoes, and flip flops during my time here – so it’s really your call.

While the course kind of felt like a novelty for most of the guests here, I found it to be perfect for what we were looking for.

I was able to get my golf fix whenever I needed to (the island wasn’t crowded while we were there), it was absolutely gorgeous, and between the views and the short length I even convinced Tate to go out with me a couple times.

Don’t come out here expecting a world class golfing experience, but if you come out with the expectation of a fun par 3 course, with spectacular views, you won’t be disappointed.

I’ll be doing a video of the course soon, but in the meantime I’ll do a quick walk through of the holes.

Hole 1: Manta Ray (Par 3, 79 yards)

Villingili Hole 1 Villingili Hole 1 Green

The perfect opener. Short, easy, and giving you views of turquoise water and overwater bungalows, letting you know you’re truly some place exotic.

Hole 2: Lionfish (Par 3, 106 yards)

Villingili Hole 2 Green

The second hole is another relatively easy hole to get you going. The trees open up more around the green to provide nice water views.

Hole 3: Dogtooth Tuna (Par 4, 176 yards)

Villingili Hole 3

Villingili Hole 3 Green Villingili Hole 3 Green from Back

The first “par 4” and a much more difficult hole than expected. There’s a giant bunker running the length of the hole (smart from a maintenance perspective), and you pretty much have to hit it 180 yards dead straight. Too far right and you’re in the ocean or the “employee beach” and left, you’re in the jungle.

Hole 4: Green Turtle (Par 3, 93 yards)

Villingili Hole 4

This is where the course really starts getting going for me. You’re heading straight out to the water behind the green, with beautiful palm trees your only hope of saving a long ball. This green had a little more slope than some of the others. But most of the green complexes are extremely benign.

Hole 5: Giant Moray (Par 4, 168 yards)

Villingilli Hole 5 Villingili Hole 5 Green

Probably the most difficult hole on the course. You need to carry it about 160 over the water to a relatively small green guarded by a bunker in the back.

This is the one hole where if you’re playing with a spouse who isn’t a big golfer, to maybe just have them sit this one out.

I lost numerous balls on this hole throughout the week.

Hole 6: Skipjack Tuna (Par 3, 64 yards)

Villingilli Hole 6

When you walk up to the 6th hole, you don’t really want to leave. And the good news is, you most likely don’t have to.

I hardly ever encountered another golfer on the course (granted I was there during shoulder season), and was able to hang out, take photos, and enjoy the view pretty much for as long as I wanted most rounds without worrying about someone catching me.

This was cool because you really did have the course to yourself, so you could replay holes, make up your own games, or simply take in some of the best views you’ll ever find on a golf course.

The views on #6 are some of the best on the island.

The hole itself is one of the easier ones, with just a short wedge all that’s needed to get to the green. Biggest danger is overhitting it, in which case it’s entirely possible to plunk it in the ocean.

Hole 7: Barracuda (Par 3, 109 yards)

Villingili Hole 7 from 8

Villingili Hole 7 green from 8 teebox

Villingilli Hole 7 Green

7th green

You now have the sound of crashing waves to distract you. Anything right is dead, and you actually have a little bit of a bailout left, so don’t be afraid to use it.

Hole 8: Hammerhead Shark (Par 3, 140 yards)

Villingili Golf Club Hole 8

The 8th hole is special for one big reason. It’s the home of “Mount Villingili.”

What is Mount Villingili you might be asking? Well, it’s the highest natural point in the entire country.

And at 5.1 meters, it’s absolutely staggering in it’s height.

Tate reached the summit.

Tate reached the summit.

Ok not really, but Mount Villingili does serve as the teebox on the 8th hole, which has a forced carry over plants and wetlands. Even though the water is right there, the wetlands provide much more danger.

The front left greenside bunker doesn’t make things any easier either.

Hole 9: Dolphin (Par 4, 176 yards)

Villingili Golf Club Hole 9

The final hole heading back into the clubhouse has a back tee that’s absolutely brutal – and the front one isn’t a hole lot better.

The tee shot is to a slightly elevated green, over a massive waste bunker, with a pond hugging the front left of the green. Nothing less than a perfect shot will work here.

During my first round on the course I found myself considerably short, and pitched it in for what I guess was technically and eagle, since this is a par 4 on the card.

Whatever, I’ll take it!

Finally, you’re back at the clubhouse which may have one of the best views of any clubhouse in the world.

Villingili Clubhouse

After that first round we sat on the deck, enjoyed a few beers and soaked up the fact that we were literally at one of the most remote and exotic golf courses in the entire world.

Shangri La Villingili Clubhouse View

Sitting on the clubhouse porch…

Shangri La Villingili Golf Course Sean Ogle

Not very often you see her with golf clubs 🙂

The Food

As with any resort where guests can’t very easily venture away, there needs to be some solid food options to keep the guest interested – and Villingili didn’t disappoint here.

There were three primary restaurants on the resort: Fashala, Dr. Ali’s, and Javvu.

Javvu is right in the middle of the resort and is where breakfast is served each day, and is the most casual, all day dining option.

The complimentary breakfast was absolutely incredible.

Shangri La Maldives Javvu breakfast

This was our view every morning for breakfast.

There’s an assortment of fresh juices, any kind of coffee you want, an omelette station, waffle/pancake/french toast station and dozens of items from all over the world.

I’m not going to lie, I’m currently missing my habit of their “healthy juice of the day”, lox and capers, and an omelette.

Oh, and Tate would kill me if I didn’t mention the jelly donuts – unreal.

Our favorite of the restaurants was hands down Dr. Ali’s.

It’s pretty cool in that it is three restaurants in one, with cuisines from the: Indian Ocean, South China Sea, and the Arabian Gulf.

They actually have three different chefs working there at all times that each specialize in one of those cuisines. So it’s not like your typical toursity restaurant in Asia which will serve spaghetti and meatballs next to tacos, and orange chicken.

Fashala was good, but a little spendy for what you got – but had a cool location at the far end of the island on the opposite side of the golf course.

It’s also got one of the most impressive wine lists you’ll ever see.

Overall I’d give the food on the island a B+. The breakfasts were fantastic, we had some of the best food of of our lives and then we had the occasional thing that just didn’t quite do it for us – but that’s going to be the case just about anywhere you go.

The Bars

Considering we were on vacation in a tropical place, you can bet there were some adult beverages consumed.

Along with the restaurants, there were two primary options for drinking on the island.

Endheri was a square shaped bar right next to Javvu and the main resort pool. We often had lunch here and enjoyed what was a surprisingly solid selection of island cocktails that didn’t disappoint – the mojito became a personal favorite.

Manzaru is located near the main lobby and dock area and was our favorite spot for pre or post dinner cocktails.

The bartenders there were awesome. They clearly knew how to make a drink (I’m a bit of a cocktail snob, and have had some awful drinks at other tropical resorts) and were a lot of fun to sit and talk to (we got to know them well).

They also had a late night happy hour going that had a good selection of two for one drinks after 9pm – so we made good use of that – but the cocktail prices weren’t unreasonable given the level of the resort.

There’s also a huge outdoor beach area next to this bar which often has a DJ at night, and is a great spot to watch the sunset.

Dine by Design

One of our best memories of the entire week was the Dine by Design night we had.

Sorry, I know this post is long, but there is a lot to say. And I know if I were considering going here, this is exactly the type of post I’d be looking for.

There are a handful of spots on the island where they do “Dine by Design” dinners.

This is where you pick from one of four menus, and you have a dinner with your own private chef and server.

They do it in the jungle, on the beach, in the presidential villa, or even in your own room.

However, ours was right on the 6th hole at the golf course at sunset.

Dine by Design Shangri La Maldives

All that’s missing is the rose.

It seriously felt like we were on a date from the tv show “The Bachelor”

Our three hour meal was some of the best food I’ve ever had.

We opted for the surf and turf, which started out with a quartet of appetizers, was followed by the “surf” where we each got a lobster tail, red snapper fillet, and the biggest (and most amazing) scampi I’ve ever had.

Then the ribeye came out.

And the desserts.

We could barely move afterwards, but it was totally worth it and something I recommend everyone splurge on while they’re there.

Here’s one more video showing off some aspects of the resort:

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t been able to tell thus far, the Shangri-La Villingili in the Maldives absolutely blew away my already exceedingly high expectations for the resort and our trip.

Everything about it was world class.

While it’s certainly not the easiest (or affordable) place to get to, as a big honeymoon or anniversary trip I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better resort island experience anywhere in the world.

Want more Shangri-La goodness? Check out my review of the Shangri-La at the Shard in London.

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  1. Ashley

    I am sooooo jealous….it’s been dumping rain in Portland! This is a great review, Sean! Maldives and this resort is now on my short list of vacation destinations.

    Interestingly enough, I just saw an interview on TV about the politial situation in the Maldives. Here’s the article:

    Does it seem like a country with a lot of political unrest? Do you feel safe there?

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