We’ve quickly fallen in love with COMO Cocoa Island, a recently renovated boutique resort in the Maldives. It’s a very special and unique place, offering an experience quite different to other resorts.
We interviewed General Manager Vincent Durier about the COMO Cocoa concept and vision. And to get some amazing insider tips for anyone planning a Maldives holiday.
What’s your philosophy at COMO Cocoa Island?
We offer understated luxury. So no big chandelier or marble bathroom. It’s minimalist. Everything is slick and polished, with a big focus on the details. You have what you need and it’s all top quality.
Less is more. We have less so we can focus more on quality and this is why guests are coming back.
For example, we only have one restaurant whereas our competitors have three, four, even ten outlets. The chef meets every guest and says ‘tell me what you like to eat and I’ll make it, or leave it all up to me.’ It’s only fresh food and the menu changes every day.
How big is COMO Cocoa Island?
We only have 33 accommodations so it’s boutique. And we have more than five team members per one villa. Everyone will know your name and preferences.
We approach the guest experience more like a private club than a hotel. A guest is like a family member or friend and they feel that.
We don’t have to fill 100 rooms every day. We are a small resort with a niche market, for people who want authenticity and intimacy. We’re very private and here we have a real relationship with people. Nothing is fake or staged.
Is this approach consistent with other COMO properties, like Laucala Island in Fiji or Shambhala in Indonesia?
We are a small collection with only 15 properties and our approach to hospitality is part of our core values at COMO.. This concept of being close to the guest and going beyond service to provide authentic experience. Everything must be private and authentic.
We don’t need to do a million things but when we do something it has to be top quality.
Time is very important, you cannot buy time. Here we give people a chance to switch off, to unplug, to be looked after. You walk barefoot on the island, there is no dress code. With simplicity you have this home feeling, you quickly feel you belong.
So what top quality things have you done recently?
This year I had the two time world champion kitesurfer Youri Zoon here for a month, doing classes and experiences. He’s coming back for all of May 2023.
We don’t do group classes. It’s completely private for customers to spend a few days with him, learning from him. I had a two Michelin star chef leave the resort this morning. He’s not a celebrity or exposed in the media but he’s the best at what he does in Bordeaux.
We have these people who are really known by the connoisseurs. We can offer quality time with somebody amazing. This has no price, it’s a lifetime experience.
Tell us about the renovation and what’s new at COMO Cocoa Island.
The resort was built 20 years ago and we did a full renovation two years ago. We have new facilities, new wellness, a new Pilates studio, new fitness, a new main pool and new restaurant.
Everything feels completely new, especially the rooms with new layouts and furniture. We also added the pool villas. We have guests coming for 15 years who say they love the renovation, it’s fresh but the essence of the island is still there.
Just like before we have overwater villas in the shape of a dhoni, which is a local fisherman boat. You really feel like you’re on a boat, like you are on the ocean. The hull has been completely changed. It’s simple and very homey.
What type of person comes to COMO Cocoa Island for their holidays?
We cater a lot for very well travelled people. Our guests can afford to stay in places like Patina, Waldorf Astoria or Cheval Blanc, but they need something more authentic and intimate.
We’re at the same level of hospitality of course. Most of our rooms are for two people but we are not a honeymoon resort. We don’t have any kids facilities but we do have families, often repeat visitors who return after having children, or they bring other generations of their family.
What are you most proud of during your 18 months as general manager?
The team. They are taking the resort to another level. The average length of stay for a team member is seven to eight years.
We have a very beautiful property but the way the team takes care of the customers, from their heart, I haven’t experienced this anywhere else I’ve worked.
I learn from the team every day, the way they make guests feel like they are family.
How did you come to the Maldives then?
Life is full of surprises. I was working for COMO in Phuket, Thailand, and came to fill in for a couple of weeks. I fell in love with the place, the people, the hospitality, how they deal with guests.
The island is 100% natural and in the Maldives there are so many artificial islands. Here it is just back to nature. Simplicity. Less is more.
I didn’t think the Maldives would be a place for me but I feel very connected to this place now. I never thought I would be so happy here.
What would you say to other people who don’t think the Maldives is a place for them?
During the pandemic many destinations were closed. Many people came to the Maldives for lack of other options. They thought maybe ‘we’ll get bored’, ‘it’s not the type of holiday we do’, ‘normally we’ve very active’.
And those people left the island saying I will be back, I will be a Maldives addict. Here you can really find peace, you can really unplug, find a wellbeing sanctuary.
Which Maldives Resort is Best for Your Holiday?
What do many people not know about the Maldives?
It’s a huge country. People say ‘I’m going to the Maldives’ but from the north atoll to the south is a huge distance, more than two hours by flight.
Guests need to know if they want to travel by seaplane and maybe lose a few hours, or be at places like COMO Cocoa Island they can reach with a speedboat.
What tips do you give people thinking of a Maldives holiday?
There are so many diverse islands and resorts, so guests should first know what is important for them. Is it diving, snorkelling, surfing, the culinary experience, the wellness experience?
You have everything in the Maldives and not everywhere is for everyone. We want the right clients to go to the right hotel.
Evening entertainment and clubbing? That’s not us. If guests want the best wellness then we can be one of the options. If you want diving we have 20 of the country’s best dive sites around the hotel.
If tyou want a house reef then we have three, they’re more like an aquarium, with turtles, sharks and rays. You don’t need to book a boat, you jump off from your villa and you’re on the reef.
Some people just buy from the pictures in the brochure. It’s important they understand what they are expecting from their holiday. When they do it properly they really have the best experience of their life in the Maldives.