It takes nearly 15 minutes by speedboat from Male International Airport to reach one of the thousands of small islands that make up the Maldives, some 1,300 miles from India. The ride is brisk, punctuated by glimpses of planes taking off and landing, resorts perched on white sand beaches, and clear, green water stretching into infinity.
The newest resort to arrive in the Maldives, Saii Lagoon Maldives from Hilton’s Curio Collection of lodgings, opened its doors in early September on Emma Fushi Island. The 198-room resort includes rooms that start at $300 a night for a 473-square-foot “King Sky One Bedroom” with a view of the sea, all the way up to around $1,900 an evening for a 2,583-square-foot two-bedroom pool villa with a private terrace.
“Our resort allows you to explore the Maldives, recharge and refuel yourself, and really feel like you’re on your own private island,” says Mark Nagel, global head of Curio Collection by Hilton. “From the moment you step off the boat onto the beach of the resort, you leave to go to an idyllic place for couples and families.”
The hotel’s developers, Singha Estates and S Hotels & Resorts, collaborated with a crew of designers to create SAii Lagoon Maldives’ overall look. The eclectic design fuses Maldivian art style—the use of raw materials like shells, stone, coir, natural oils, and paints—with a Mediterranean flair, yielding a light, relaxing vibe dominated by a color palette of white, coral blue, sea green, and goldenrod.
SAii Lagoon Maldives offers an infinity pool with a view of the ocean, a fitness center, spa, and a unique aroma lab that allows guests to create their own bathroom amenities from scratch. Guests follow a four-step process, which has them pick a base product, like a shampoo, shower gel, or body lotion, and pair it with one of the lab’s many scents to forge a personalized formula. The hotel’s experts are also on hand to advise. All guests’ formulas are kept on record so their favorite scents can be purchased, if they like, when they check out or quickly re-created if they visit again.
Guests craving a bite can try the poolside seafood grill and bar Miss Olive Oyl, which serves up seasonal dishes using mostly regional ingredients: fish caught by local fishermen and herbs, and fruits and vegetables plucked from the gardens on nearby Thoddu island. Bites range from lighter fare, such as chunks of reef fish, watercress, and fish roe with a light salmoriglio emulsion to chorino brizola: cider-apple-and-sage-roasted pork chops, topped with feta cheese and kalamata olives, served with orange-crusted potatoes.
Meanwhile, the Thai-Italian fusion eatery Mr. Tomyam, with its open kitchen and alfresco dining areas, puts a twist on dishes like a spicy coconut risotto with lime shrimp or wok-fried flat noodles doused in spicy tomato sauce and topped with fish balls.
Guests who tire of the resort’s eateries—or just fancy a little island exploring—can cross the footbridge a few yards away to check out The Marina at Crossroads. The 2,600-foot-long, high-end shopping and entertainment complex houses 60 shops, cafés, bars, and restaurants, including two of Asia’s top 50 best restaurants from Sri Lankan chef Dharshan Munidasa. The Ministry of Crab is as its name suggests: a culinary celebration of the Sri Lankan crab in everything from the dishes—garlic chili crab, crab liver paté—to the crab-claw plants that serve as the restaurant’s only decor.
Meanwhile, Munidasa’s other culinary claim to fame, Nihonbashi, is known for its 11-course “kawara,” with cold appetizers such as a signature maguro carpaccio, char-grilled yakitori, and sushi platter, with many handpicked ingredients flown in from Sri Lanka’s Negombo fish market.
SAii Lagoon Maldives is the 75th hotel in Hilton’s upscale Curio Collection of lodgings and the company’s fifth location in the Asia Pacific Market since Hilton launched the Curio brand in 2014. According to Nagel, Hilton plans to have 90 hotels under the Curio brand by the end of 2019.
“With the Curio Collection in its fifth year, it’s been amazing personally witnessing our hotels expand across the world,” Nagel says. “While the Maldives is very much a target market, it exemplifies the spirit and diversity of people we attract to our resorts. These people want to travel, to explore the world. It’s really quite amazing, really.”
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