Here’s what to consider before you book a holiday in one of the world’s most paradisiacal – and luxurious – destinations
The Maldives is truly the stuff of dreams – a destination so picture-perfect you’d think that no real life encounter could ever live up to the hype. But you would be wrong. This paradisiacal island destination never fails to impress honeymooners and families alike, but with more than 130 resorts all offering access to white sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters, palms and coral reefs – choosing where to stay can be tricky. And while each of the Maldives’ 1000+ islands looks equally alluring, it pays to narrow down your search depending on whether you’re looking for a romantic escape, a ‘flop and drop’ break, a family getaway or an action-packed adventure exploring the island’s marine life, surf breaks and local culture.
When to go
Despite the water and weather being warm in the Maldives all year round, November to April is peak season, when it is particularly dry and calm. The humidity is higher from June until August, and rain is more likely in September and October.
While there are numerous direct flights to the capital Malé from Singapore, Sri Lanka, the Middle East and more, the location of your resort will determine whether the next leg of your journey is via speedboat, seaplane, domestic flight – or a combination of these.
For those just wanting to slip into their swimmers and make the most of every minute, there are a number of resorts a short boat ride from Malé. On the other hand, those seeking more secluded and exclusive private islands can travel up to 90-minutes from Malé via seaplane and speedboat to reach their accommodation.
Take a moment in Malé
Often overlooked by travellers rushing to get to their final island destination, the Maldives’ capital city of Malé is worth exploring for an insight into the Maldivian way of life. From the 13th century mosques, to lively fish markets and the myriad eateries dishing up fresh seafood, spicy curries and traditional roshi bread, Malé offers an alternate but rewarding experience of the Maldives. Besides, seaplanes only fly during daylight hours, so you might need to stay in Malé pre- or post- your international flight anyway, so why not make the most of it?
Where to stay
The Maldives offers four different types of accommodation:
- Resorts: The Maldives is one of the only places in the world that can host one resort per island. These luxurious retreats offer relaxation, adventure, private beaches and incredible cuisine all in one spot. The Maldives has 140 resorts to choose from – with new properties opening each year.
- Hotels: On the more affordable side are the 12 hotels on offer, which cater to business travellers and those wanting to have easy access to different parts of the Maldives.
- Liveaboards: For the seafarers and thrill seekers, there are over a 150 liveaboards to sail away on. Guests can learn how to dive and surf – as well as be wined and dined – all from the comfort of their own private or semi-private vessel.
- Guest houses: Nested amongst the Maldives’ most welcoming of local communities lie over 500 guest houses, where travellers can experience traditional Maldivian culture and cuisine.
Minimal travel, more time
For those keen to get to poolside cocktail hour as soon as possible, there are a number of resorts within a half-hour boat ride from Malé’s international airport. Some of the closest resorts to Malé include: Huvafen Fushi (15-minute seaplane ride); Jumeirah Vittaveli (20-minute speedboat trip); Kurumba Maldives (10-minute speedboat ride); and LUX* North Malé Atoll (15-minute seaplane).
Activities for those who like to keep busy
It pays to do your research if you fancy combining your R&R with plenty of activity and adventure. Consider whether you want a resort with a gym, tennis courts, evening entertainment, water sports or a choice of restaurants and bars – or whether a bed, a beach and a book are all you need.
Resorts offering numerous activities ranging from wake-boarding and jet-skiing to parasailing, golf, tennis, cycling, wreck diving and more include Amilla Fushi (10-minute speedboat from the airport); One and Only Reethi Rah (45-minute speedboat from Malè); and Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa (domestic flight from Malè followed by 5-minute speedboat).
For snorkelling and diving
The Maldives has long been known for its amazing snorkelling and diving, but not all islands are made alike when it comes to their reef systems. There are a few standout regions for snorkelling and diving when it comes to proximity to shipwreck dive sites, manta rays, or swimming with whale sharks.
Ari Atoll and Vaavu Atoll (especially Alimatha Island) are popular with divers, Banana Reef is terrific for snorkelling, and the South Ari Atoll is the prime spot to snorkel with whale sharks all year round. To meet the Maldives’ famous manta rays, head to the UNESCO-protected Hanifaru Bay – Milaidhoo Island Maldives is just 10-minutes away, making it the ideal place to stay.
Other resorts renowned for their excellent locations for snorkelling and diving include Finolhu (Baa Atoll), Six Senses Laamu (Laamu Atoll), Baros Maldives (North Malè Atoll) and resorts in the Lhaviyani Atoll.
For serious surfers
Less commonly known about the Maldives is the fact that it’s a surfer’s paradise, and there’s a break to catch throughout most of the year in the Maldives. From March to October the action is on the Malè Atolls; between May and August there’s sublime surfing on the Central Atolls; while the Outer Atolls boast two separate surf seasons, from February to April, and again from August to October. Resorts offering surf trip packages – and in great surfing locations – include Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi and Niyama Private Islands. There are also plenty of liveaboard boat charters for those preferring to keep the action on the water 24/7 such as Carpe Diem and Scubaspa Ying.
For party people
For a vibe that’s more ‘Mykonos meets the Maldives’ than ‘Castaway’ – think international DJs, pool parties, underwater nightclubs, sports simulators, 3D outdoor cinemas, waterfront discos and a glam, festive vibe – choose W Retreat & Spa Maldives (a 25-minute seaplane), LUX* South Ari Atoll (a 25-minute seaplane) or Huvafen Fushi Resort & Spa (a 35-minute speedboat).
Explore the local life
In recent years, a number of the Maldives’ inhabited islands have begun opening guest houses and Airbnb accommodation for travellers looking for an alternative to the typical ‘one island, one resort’ experience. Browse markets for handicrafts, play chess with locals in the street or take a dip at a local beach – just remember to do so in clothing not swimmers, just like the locals do.
Another option is to take a day trip to a local island, either from Malé or from select island resorts. Maafushi is just half an hour from the airport and home to a population of 4000, while Thulaadhoo is renowned for its lacquered wooden handicrafts, and is accessible by speedboat or the local ferry from Male.
Not just a destination for honeymooners, the Maldives is also home to a growing number of family-friendly resorts offering activities and accommodation options to suit all ages. Popular choices include JA Managaru (75-minutes by seaplane from Male); Kanuhura Resort & Spa (40-minute seaplane); Taj Exotica Resort & Spa Maldives (20-minute seaplane); The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Maldives (45-minute seaplane); and Lily Beach Resort & Spa (25-minute seaplane). Activities range from table tennis and extreme water sports to outdoor movie nights, marine biology talks, teen clubs, dedicated kids’ pools and more.
For unbeatable luxury and loved-up couples
From overwater bungalows with glass floors to underwater restaurants, personal butlers, decadent spa treatments and private dining, there’s plenty of ways to indulge yourself – and the one you love.
Ravishing resorts acclaimed for their exclusivity, ultra-attentive service, five-star cuisine, spacious suites and spectacular style include: Velaa Private Island Resort, Cheval Blanc Randheli, One&Only Reethi Rah, Kudadoo Maldives Private Island, Four Seasons, Soneva Jani, St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, The Residence Maldives, Joali Maldives; Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa; COMO Maalifushi and Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru.