Now is the time to look to the future. Plan your next dream holiday. Lucy Cleland, Eva Ramirez and Rosalyn Wikeley embrace island life for this guide to the best resorts in the Maldives – offering everything from beach-front rooms to over-water dining, these hotels will make your experience of paradise all the more perfect…
Best For All-Inclusive
Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa
This idyllic new resort is located
in the northwestern part of the Maldives archipelago in Raa Atoll, taking over Fasmendhoo Island. The USP here is the all-inclusive aspect, which is executed elegantly. Once you’re on the island, there’s no need to worry about extra costs (bar a few extras, such as jet skiing) – even the mini-bar is replenished daily, which is unusual for a five-star hotel of this caliber. With 20 hectares of land to play with Emerald has more space than many islands in the Maldives, allowing privacy across the 120 villas, which are split between the beach and the water. Food is a highlight, with four restaurants to explore including Amazònico, the first South American restaurant in the Maldives: a rainforest-style, lantern-bedecked space with an open fire grill. Villas are available to book for a lower rate than many of the resort’s all-inclusive competitors, though this certainly doesn’t come at the price of design, facilities or service – all of which are impeccable.
BOOK IT: Deluxe beach villas start from £550 a night on an all-inclusive basis; emerald-maldives.com
Best For Bucket List Moments
Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island
Lauded for its kaleidoscopic blue waters, pristine shores and exquisite villas peppered across two verdant islands, the Conrad may be a beloved classic and author of the Maldives signature wooden stilt villas, but it is far from complacent. The hotel’s relentless quest for a spicy edge over its counterparts reached its climax this year with the launch of THE MURAKA, a once-in-a-lifetime butlered residence and affront to tired ideals on luxury, submerged five meters under the Indian Ocean with Bond villain panache. Guests are privy to a near-psychedelic flush of marine life from their sumptuous bed, shower, walk-in-wardrobe, even loo. As a barefoot luxury veteran, the resort’s spas, restaurants and villas are sewn delicately into the lush, celestial landscape: the infinity pools play on the sea’s vibrant hues, the Over Water Spa embodies the treasured edge of the Maldives cliché and even the tennis court is wrapped in exotic bloom.
BOOK IT: Prices start from £589 for a Deluxe Beach Villa for two on a bed and breakfast basis and are POA for THE MURAKA, with a butler and extra exclusive experiences available; conradmaldives.com
Best for Glamour
One and Only Reethi Rah
Welcome to extreme luxury, a pleasure zone beyond. This is one of the most polished hotels in the world, let alone the Maldives. Forget barefoot, it’s like landing in a Net-a-Porter advert, so pack your best resort wear. Beach Villas are palatial and private: lots of mahogany and teal, his and her wardrobes, a mini-fridge for your make-up (seriously), and a private pool. It’s just a short amble to a perfect white-sand beach with translucent sea. What a show stealer. If you can bear to leave the confines of your villa there’s an overwater, enchantingly-lit Japanese restaurant with black cod and buttery sashimi to die for, a smoothie bar on the sands and a beach club restaurant with epic calamari. Plus watersports galore, obviously, a giant lap pool and an Espa spa offering properly holistic and delicious treatments in cabanas overlooking the sea. A honeymoon dream for those who like things flash.
BOOK IT: Villas from $1,700 (£1,303) B&B plus taxes; oneandonlyresorts.com
Best-Kept Secret Boutique
The Maldives is formed of 20 mesmerising natural atolls which have, over the years, become home to more envy-inducing resorts than an Instagram star could shake a selfie stick at. With big hitter Soneva Fushi and its Six Senses Spa still flying the flag for the larger, more established resorts, it’s this smaller, boutique addition to the pack which promises ultimate solace and serenity in bucketloads. Muravandhoo Island is home to a 73-strong pack of villas, split across the beachfront and wooden jetty, each with private steps down to the crystal clear water’s edge. A fantastic kids’ club, hosting daily storytelling and treasure hunts, keeps little ones entertained while adults get to grips with the wealth of activities on offer, from snorkelling to unearthing the many mosaic art installations dotted across white sands. The wellbeing centre, meticulously brought to life by ESPA, provides respite from the often sweltering temperatures.
BOOK IT: Beach villa from £1,456 B&B; joali.com
Best for Active Families
Kandima brings a full-blown resort concept to the Maldives at an accessible price point. It’s a three-kilometre-long private island, with acres of space and activities on tap. One of only a handful of hotels in the Dhaalu atoll chain, there are over 40 near-private dive sites and all manner of watersports in the vast turquoise lagoon. There’s tennis, badminton, five-a-side, volleyball, gym and art classes and an excellent kids’ club complete with mini water park, as well as gravity-defying aerial yoga, a first for the Maldives. The style is more like a contemporary Ibiza hotel, with a bold, shiny colour scheme. With 11 different bars and restaurants, a beach club and pool at the southern tip and another 100m pool by the watersports HQ, you can do something different every day. At this price point it’s easy to see why it won best newcomer in the Maldives travel awards last year.
BOOK IT: Seven nights half board from £455pp (family of four sharing a room), excluding transfers; kandima.com
Best for Solo Instagrammers
The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo
The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo is a classy, contemporary alternative to the castaway-chic resorts typically found in the archipelago. Japanese developers and Italian architects have infused the resort with a clean aesthetic, piazza-inspired entrance and modern suites complete with Toto electronic toilets. There are six room categories but no short straws to be drawn as all include Westin’s Heavenly beds and are located along the fringes of the island, offering spectacular sea views. Overwater villas include decks which span the full length of the open-plan suites, with a private pool, outdoor shower and steps leading straight to the sea. Overlooking a pristine turquoise lagoon in the Baa Atoll, Maldives’ only UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, the island’s tropical landscape is home to a rich mix of marine life, from reef sharks to manta rays. Solo travellers needn’t worry, a photographic studio with on- hand professionals will help you capture Insta-worthy holiday snaps.
BOOK IT: Doubles from £593 B&B; marriott.co.uk
Best for Water Slides
The latest outpost from Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, the couple who brought us one of the best and longest-standing hotels in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi. When Soneva Fushi first opened in 1995 there were few hotels to rival it. While it is still going strong, Soneva Jani is its younger, rather snazzier sibling. All rooms are in bells and whistles water villas: a kitchenette, a rooftop dining area, a private pool, a sitting room, a bed with a retractable roof so you can sleep under the stars. Most villas come with their own waterslide into the sea, and if they don’t you can pay to add one. Meantime the incredible Peruvian restaurant serves zing-fresh ceviche and offers an overwater cinema where you can loll with popcorn after your meal and watch a movie outside. Everything is designed to nudge you into enjoying yourself; it would be absurdly hard not to succumb.
BOOK IT: Doubles from $2,989 (£2,292) B&B; soneva.com
Best for Solo Women in Need of Escape
Set on a long, fish-shaped island, Kanuhura feels wild and pristine enough to have those Crusoe-style moments but small enough to nip back for a forgotten book. Cycle to breakfast beneath a forest of coconut and papaya trees and explore vast empty beaches where hammocks sway between palm trees. The 80 rooms are detached wooden cabins, including 20 built on stilts over the azure shallows, all minimalist whites and pale wood decorated with bright abstract artwork. A 30-minute boat ride takes guests to swim over shoals of bright blue and yellow surgeon fish and four-metre manta rays while the Kokaa Spa’s therapists offer body masks infused with crushed pearl and Himalayan crystal salt or warm mud blended with fresh seaweed, ginger and orange. There’s even a kids’ club where 4-11-year-olds can go on treasure hunts or dress up as pirates and sail to Jehunuhura, the hotel’s island where there’s also a tiny restaurant.
BOOK IT: Cabins from $690 (£530) B&B; kanuhura.com
Best Value All Inclusive
Gliding over the glistening Indian Ocean down to the South Ari Atoll is a wondrous experience in itself – step off the seaplane onto the ivory shores of Constance Moofushi and your breath is truly taken. Verdant pathways give way to pristine beaches while winding jetties lead to stilted ‘thatch and rope’ villas. Dotted with airy bars, oceanside eateries and an overwater spa, this paradise isle is tiny – you can stroll its palm-fringed perimeter in less than 15 minutes. While the vibe is horizontal by day, the island vivifies at dusk with DJs spinning chilled tunes and chefs rustling up candlelit grills on the beach. Head to the Totem Bar for oceanside sundowners and hypnotic views, or to the Manta eatery for moreish Maldivian fish curries. One of the few luxury all-inclusive resorts in the Maldives, you’ll find that drinks, colourful culinary offerings, most watersports and an offshore excursion are part and parcel here.
BOOK IT: Seven nights from £3,469pp all-inclusive, including economy flights and seaplane transfers; inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk
Best for Design Savvy Divers
True barefoot luxury, this is Robinson Crusoe meets Wallpaper chic, perfect for design-savvy divers wanting easy access to the famed southern atolls where whale sharks and mantas lurk. One of the smallest Maldivian resorts, Mirihi weighs in at only 40 rooms, spread between overwater bungalows – book rooms 25 through 39 for the best snorkelling access – and beach villas hidden away in the coconut palms. Food is excellent, particularly the curries and sushi selection, with lavish themed buffets every night in the main restaurant. You can eat à la carte at Moraca, the restaurant on the water, and watch turtles, sharks and giant parrotfish swim beneath the underlit pontoon. It’s low-key, laid-back luxury, with no TVs in the rooms and not much to do on land apart from indulge in exquisite massages at the spa and relax into the paradise of tropical island life. Which is exactly the point.
BOOK IT: Seven nights B&B from £1,920pp, incl. taxes; mirihi.com
Best for Boho Rustic Chic
Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi
Flying in by seaplane, the first thing you notice about this hot new opening is the 200m swimming pool. It bisects the aptly named Sirru Fen Fushi or ‘secret water’ island. With only 120 villas – all of which come with private pool and butler service – spread over one of the Maldives’ largest resort islands, everything here is allowed to breathe. The design oozes understated style and bohemian rustic chic. Beach villas feel like private riads with lime-washed courtyard walls, ornate turquoise doors and large gardens, and the spacious overwater villas share the same vaulted ceilings and hand-etched cabinetry. A huge beaten copper bath takes centre stage. In a first for the Maldives they also offer lush safari-style tented jungle villas. Families are exceptionally well catered for, with a wonderfully imaginative kids’ club poolside. Teens will love the graffiti-covered shipping containers of Majaa, too.
BOOK IT: Seven nights B&B from £2,415pp, excl taxes and transfers; fairmont.com
Best for Surfing Families
One of the most breathtaking islands in the Dhaalu Atoll. Scarlet and lemony umbrellas pop out against pristine ivory beaches, aqua infinity pools melt into the ocean and jungle-flanked pathways lead to stylish abodes. Two islands combine to create the resort – ‘Chill’ is the hub, playing host to lavish lagoon villas and a spa, while ‘Play’ boasts chic beach villas, a super-cool surf club and Nest, an Asian-fusion eatery where you can chomp on teppanyaki among the treetops. A fashionable crowd of loved-up couples and families explore the islands on personalised bikes. When the kids are settled into their Explorer’s club, grown-ups can choose to while away the days on jet skis and catamarans, hop on a dhoni to spot bottlenose dolphins or ride the waves at Vodi surf point. Niyama is the only luxury resort in the Maldives where the surf breaks directly on its own shore.
BOOK IT: Seven nights from £2,929pp half board, including flights and seaplane transfers; inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk
Best for Free-Spirited Trendsetters
What you want, when you want, is the overriding vibe on this tiny speck of sand in the Baa Atoll – a 30-minute flight from the capital, Malé. This is a private and exclusive bolthole where world-class cuisine and the finest wines collide, 24 hours a day. There are three restaurants and two bars, but why not dream up a bespoke breakfast on an isolated sandbank, coupled with a remote beachside spa treatment? Or imagine a sunset barbecue on a nearby virgin island, followed by a dusk-lit search for dolphins. Calling The Nautilus’ 26 beachside and overwater houses ‘rooms’ would be a disservice – they’re ginormous homes, flanked by lofty coconut palms and surrounded by wooden decking, boasting large pools, easy access to the house reef and views of the horizon-gobbling Indian Ocean. So slow down, adapt, and be creative – the world (or at the very least this 242 x 249m island) is very much your oyster.
BOOK IT: Doubles from £1,909, including breakfast; thenautilusmaldives.com
Best for Wellness
Shangri La Villingili
Shangri-La’s Maldivian resort offers an extensive array of options for those who desire a fitness focussed holiday. In addition to the daily workout and yoga classes running year-round, the resort has a Masters in Residence programme where experts in the field of health and wellbeing are invited from around the world to host programmes of classes, talks and events on the island. Those who prefer to organise their own exercise have access to a Technogym equipped gym, tennis courts and three jogging trails. The guided snorkeling trips out to the reefs will have you so mesmerized by the shoals of technicolour fish that you’ll forget all the swimming you’re doing, until you return to the boat seriously ready for lunch. As well as the fitness, activities on offer also include dolphin boat tours, jet skiing, kayaking as well as traditional Maldivian night fishing.
Book it: firstname.lastname@example.org; (096) 689 7888 or book online at shangri-la.com
Since opening in 2015, Amilla Fushi has been a true disruptor of the traditional Maldives experience and an indulgent island home from home for discerning jet-setters with an eye for the avant-garde. With its clean, contemporary architecture, thoughtful service and witty attention to detail, the resort – located in the UNESCO Biosphere of Baa Atoll, just 30 minutes by seaplane from Malé International – has put the Maldives on the map as a destination not just for couples, but for families and groups of friends. Literally translating as ‘My Island Home’, Amilla Fushi effortlessly conjures a luxurious ‘homecoming’ feeling for first timers and old friends alike, offering a choice of 67 Miami-meets-Maldives Island Homes and Residences that hover over the crystal clear lagoon or hug the shores of pristine white sand.
Book it: US$1,250 per night, based on two adults sharing a one-bedroom Lagoon House including breakfast (excludes tax and service); www.amilla.mv
Hurawalhi Island Resort
Why stay here? The diving. The area of sea around the island is called ‘The Aquarium’ as it has an unusually high diversity of sea life, even for the Maldives, with a manta ray feeding and breeding ground 150m from the beach. An adults-only island, the only families out there are with older children. There’s plenty to do and enjoy, from scuba diving and snorkelling, to sunset cruises, spa treatments and yoga. Experience dinner at 5.8, the world’s largest, all-glass, undersea restaurant, or lunch on a deserted island. As for being green? 30 percent of the island is powered by solar energy. There is also a water bottling plant to substantially reduce the island’s plastic consumption, a food recycling programme and a collection of local greenhouses producing fresh produce for guests. The Manta Trust also operates on the island helping to preserve the Maldives’ underwater wildlife.
Book it: Prices start from £520 for a Beach Villa (for two) on a bed and breakfast basis; hurawalhi.com
Kanuhura has been re-imagined as a unique island retreat. In the ambition to create a truly different destination for this part of the world, the designers took the word ‘Gypset’ as their starting point, a lifestyle that combines that of the gypsy fused with the sophistication and speed of the jet set. Guests have exclusive access to Jehunuhura Private Island, so you can get a true Robinson Crusoe feel. You can eat lunch or dinner or have spa treatments and yoga sessions on the island, accessible only by boat or foot from the resort. The bedrooms on the beach, the Palm Houses, all have uninterrupted views towards the ocean and offer a colour palette inspired by the palms, comprising private pools and outdoor dining areas.
Book it: Beach Bungalow Sunrise during low season (April to 30 September 2017) start from $700 based on two sharing on a bed & breakfast basis; kanuhura.com
Push the Boat Out
In a preserved environment, pristine waters and opulent vegetation offer Cheval Blanc Randheli an exceptional setting. The Maison has been conceived in synergy with the island’s natural surroundings, lush vegetation and lagoon views. Stunning design by Jean-Michel Gathy and exceptional service, treats and surprises punctuate the stay to adorn everyday life and to surprise guests. With an exceptionally personalised and caring approach, service is tailored according to each guest’s wishes. Choose from Island Villas, Water Villas or – unique in the Maldives – Garden Water Villas which combine private garden space on one side with direct water access on the other side. The Owners Villa is an exclusive four bedroom villa on its own private island, the ultimate holiday experience for families and friends.
Book it: From approx. £1,850 per night for a double room, including breakfast and all taxes and charges; chevalblanc.com
Back to (Luxurious) Basics
This is the ultimate resort for laid-back luxury, ideal for the high-end luxury traveller whether that’s couples, honeymooners or groups of friends, who love diving and adventure. Foodies can learn how to master traditional recipes, handed down through generations and can join the local fisherman for the catch of the day. Waterbabies can discover the spectacular Maldivian sea life with Milaidhoo’s resident marine biologist, with a visit to Hanifaru Bay, a marine protected area which attracts the largest seasonal groupings of manta rays in the world. For the ultimate day out in paradise, take a trip to a remote sandbank where you can snorkel, sip champagne, enjoy a seafood bento box lunch and laze around on sunbeds crafted out of sand, adorned with cushions.
Book it: From $1,625 per night in a Water Pool Villa on a half board basis, based on two sharing; milaidhoo.com
Baros Maldives is the ‘original’ luxury resort in the Maldives, having opened in 1973. It is situated in the central southern part of North Malé Atoll, just 25 minutes by speedboat from the international airport. Surrounded by one of the best house-reefs in the Indian Ocean – only 15–30 metres from the shore – the spectacular resort is alive with colours, fish, turtles, rays and coral. It’s romance all the way; Baros was voted ‘Most Romantic Resort in the World 2016’ at the World Travel Awards for the fourth time, where it’s all about the ‘outside, inside life’ feel for guests with their 45 Beachside and 30 Water luxury Villas, many complete with private pools. Designed by Maldivian architect Mohamed Shafeeq, with interiors by Anita Indra Dewi, all were built by local craftsmen using natural materials to blend with the surrounding environment, including natural stones, tropical wood, coconut thatch, sandstone and timber.
Book it: From $675 per night in a Deluxe Villa on a B&B basis, excluding taxes; baros.com
Six Senses Laamu, Southern Laamu Atoll
This is the only resort in the Southern Laamu Atoll with an incredible signature Six Senses Spa, its own resident marine biology team committed to turtle conservation and coral health and recovery, and some of the best waves in the Maldives to surf. The vibe is most definitely barefoot luxury, aimed at those who want a luxury Indian Ocean resort experience that goes beyond just five-star service. It is also a family paradise with so many on offer to keep little ones entertained and allow parents some R&R time. Aside from the incredible spa offering for which perhaps the group is most famous, guests can venture out onto a yacht for the day, which includes fishing, snorkelling and a picnic on a deserted island, with a beach barbecue on the private sandbank serving up a delicious catch of the day.
Book it: From US$827 (approx. £635) per night in a Lagoon Water Villa. This is subject to 10 percent service charge and 12 per cent GST; ; sixsenses.com email@example.com
The first thing to note about this resort is its size. This isn’t a ‘ten-minute to walk around the island’ job. Kandima is three km in length so plenty of room for your tropical paradise tranquillity but with a cool twist of play, partying, action and exploring. The island is designed to suit everyone, from families, friends and honeymooners, attracting those who have always wanted to go to the Maldives, but worry about there being nothing to do. There’s a stunning large lagoon, the longest white-sand beach in the country, ten restaurants and bars, a beautiful spa, and even a marine biology centre. Don’t miss the sunrise Hammerhead shark diving experience, it’s worth getting up early for.
Book it: Available from £160 half board per person per night, based on two adults sharing; kandima.com
Green & Serene
Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru
A pioneer among global resorts, Landaa Giraavaru has been at the forefront of innovative hospitality since it first opened. But we’re not talking gimmicks here, but more emotional and transformative innovations, the kind that make you happy just to be there. For example, the resort’s pioneering apprenticeship scheme that has transformed the lives and kick-started the careers of nearly 500 local youngsters since it launched over a decade ago; conservation projects that include an on-site turtle rehabilitation centre; the surrounding UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, home to the world’s largest known population of manta rays; and the multi-award winning Spa & Ayurvedic Retreat, one of Asia’s most renowned centres of natural healing – a three-acre haven of wellness that offers everything from AntiGravity yoga to Panchakarma.
Book it: The Beach Bungalow with pool from USD 1,300 per night, plus taxes; www.fourseasons.com/maldives
Best for Gourmands
Furaveri Island Resort and Spa
Entering the Maldives’ gourmet game, Furaveri Island Resort and Spa is a lesser-known island that has joined the country’s string of luxury resorts. Furaveri is a humble island that is in touch with its destination. Away from the overdone glitz and glamour many other Maldivian resorts offer, here is a friendly and unpretentious island with a sense of place. From a Mexican grapefruit margarita on the perimeter of the reef to chopsticks set to the stage of an interactive Teppanyaki Counter, here at Furaveri – global flavours lead the way. Offering diners, the opportunity to taste the globe whilst encircled within a tropical paradise, from destination dining across the verdant island to à la carte in-villa dining, flavours at Furaveri are drawn in from far corners of the globe to keep diners on their toes.
Words by Georgie Bentley-Buckle start the slideshow
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