In light of the news that the Maldives is welcoming tourists once again, now is the time to start planning 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… 2020 Travel Trends: What Your Holidays Will Look Like Now?
The C&TH Guide To The Maldives
This glorious tree-filled paradise with views over envy-inducing empty stretches of Instagram-worthy private beaches is just what the doctor ordered after the first half of 2020. Offering so much more than just the three S’s, more active travellers can revel in days packed with Land Rover drives, star-gazing with the in-house astronomer, underwater dining (and wine tasting!), and unrivalled snorkelling and diving in the UNESCO protected seas.
Splice up that action with plenty of time to just be, whether that’s submitting mind and body to the experts in the spa or just meditative breathing in your beachside villa, taking in those views. For dedicated spa bunnies, you could even opt for some more serious non- surgical intervention – senior aesthetic and wellness nurse, Nur Laili, offers everything from platelet rich plasma treatments and meso facials to IV drips to replenish your system after a long flight, or too many champagne cocktails at the Sky bar.
BOOK IT: From £7,053 for two people for six nights, including snorkelling with manta rays, stargazing at the Maldives’ only over-water observatory, and dining underwater at Sea restaurant. Until 31 October 2021. kihavah-maldives.anantara.com
Gili Lankanfushi has won a swag of awards for best resort in the Maldives and Asia – and it’s not hard to see why. It’s postcard perfect – from the blindingly white sand beaches fringed by swaying palms, to the room-temperature green ocean, to the champagne, sashimi and feet-in-the-sand breakfasts, to some of the best snorkelling in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s even changed its clocks to ‘island-time’, so guests enjoy an extra hour of sunlight. When you arrive at the North Atoll by speedboat (20 minutes from Malé airport), you surrender your shoes as part of the No Shoes, No News policy. Your butler then takes you to your spacious over-water villa. Each guest gets use of a bike, but it’s tempting – initially at least – to not leave your luxuriously appointed new home.
Whole days can pass pleasurably as you loll on the villa’s hammocks, daybeds and in the upper deck area (where a bed can be made up to sleep under the stars). If you feel energetic, you can jump off your back deck to have a quick snorkel. Once you do venture out, activities include the sunset dolphin cruise, surf lessons and diving. But it’s tempting to just chill. The spa is divine. Drift off during your Ayurvedic massage while looking at bull sharks and manta rays as they swim past the glass spa floor.
BOOK IT: Doubles from approx. £1,157. gili-lankanfushi.com
Naladhu Private Island
Translated as ‘beautiful island’, Naladhu is the ultimate in ‘far from the madding crowd’ privacy, offering pin-drop silence where rest and relaxation are the order of the day. Located in the South Malé Atoll, a nifty half-hour speed boat ride from Malé airport, just 20 spacious and immaculate residences offer a getaway where you literally don’t have to clap your eyes on anybody else. Unless, that is, you want a private chef to cook you up a wicked feast, or an in-house spa therapist with healing hands to administer massages beside your own swimming pool. In fact, it would be a sin not to submit to Naladhu’s famous in-room ‘spa journey’ – choosing between Ayurvedic, Thai, Balinese or Western programmes.
Once you’ve got over your jet lag and your body’s feeling soft and supple, head out for activities such as kayaking, snorkelling and swimming with sharks, should the mood take you. Come here for nothing more than the sand under your toes, the salty sea water against your skin, the sun on your face and every conceivable anxiety taken care of. Sounds like the perfect holiday. And you can always book out the entire island should you either be planning the reunion of the century or really can’t stand the thought of anybody else being around.
BOOK IT: From £954 B&B for an ocean house with a pool. anantara.com
JW Marriott Maldives
Straw hats off to JW Marriott. With its ultra-private supersize villas, sensational food and abundance of water sports, the brand has raised the bar yet again with its spanking new resort in the Maldives. Set on the remote island of Vagary in the northern atoll of Shaviyani, this beach retreat has 60 thatched villas, each with a private pool and thakuru (butler). Pops of cream, blue and natural materials echo the surroundings with massive expanses of glass to draw the outside in. When beachside lounging gets too much, get stuck into the preposterously long list of water activities on offer – the snorkelling turtle quest is a must.
Back on dry land, drop your little ones off at the fantastic kids’ club before heading to the sublime overwater spa (book the deeply healing stress relief massage). The five restaurants in the resort stretch from Italian to Thai – don’t miss the Japanese teppanyaki at Hashi, run by former Nobu chef Namuraj Tamang. Grab a cocktail beforehand in Rum Baan, nestled in the treetops, which has a staggering 98 signature rums to sample. Or, for the all-out local experience, go for a traditional Malaafaiy dinner on the beach. You won’t regret it.
BOOK IT: From approx. £681 B&B for a pool villa. marriott.co.uk
Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
This highly anticipated new opening takes barefoot luxury to the next level from the moment you land. While others wait to pile onto tiny seaplane transfers, an air-conditioned Princess yacht with sun deck (and four bedrooms) whisks new arrivals, champagne in hand, on a blissful 40-minute cruise to the resort. Forget any corporate connotations – this Waldorf Astoria maximises on marrying innovative and imaginative concepts (think photogenic tree-top bamboo dining nests at the superb Terra restaurant and glass-bottomed spa treatment rooms for mid- massage shark spotting) with sophistication and relaxed comfort.
Spread across three private islands joined by bridges, it’s one of the Maldives’ larger hotels – though with comparatively fewer villas, there’s a total sense of privacy. Villas are vast. Some overwater, others on the beach, and reef villas: a bit of both. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto a spacious deckwith a private infinity pool big enough to really swim in. With snorkels delivered to your door, and a house reef teeming with a technicolour array of sea life just a short swim away, one could easily never leave their villa. Make sure you do, though, as with 11 restaurants, a sublime spa and an abundance of water sports and excursions on offer, there’s so much to see and savour in this truly exceptional spot.
BOOK IT: Reef villa with pool from £1,480 B&B. waldorfastoriamaldives.com
Intercontinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort
Here’s the thing – it’s not hard to find silky soft sand and azure waters in the Maldives. What truly sets this resort apart is the way it makes you feel. From the moment you step onto the arrival jetty and are welcomed like a long-lost friend with a cool drink and warm hug, you get a sense of home. The meticulous attention to detail extends beyond each room’s bricolage interiors, and is infused in every interaction you have with staff. A dedicated island curator will be on hand to make your stay seamless, organising snorkelling trips, stargazing, beach picnics, outdoor movie nights, spa treatments, and even unpacking and repacking your suitcase. It’s also the first InterContinental resort to offer Club InterContinental benefits to all guests, including complimentary afternoon tea and aperitif cocktails.
Enclaved within the Maldives’ largest lagoon, you needn’t venture too far to swim among rays, sharks, turtles and schools of fish. There are six dining spots but Fish Market, with its open kitchen and indoor/outdoor seating truly stands out with a bold menu that’s bursting with aromatic, south-east Asian flavour. The overwater spa is heavenly but for a truly transformative treatment, book in with the Chinese medicine doctor whose methods include acupuncture, cupping, remedial tui-na, herbal medicine and other ancient techniques to restore internal balance.
BOOK IT: From approx. £791 for a beach pool villa. maldives.intercontinental.com
Lux* North Malé Atoll
If your vibe is more Miami than Maldives, then you’ll love the newest opening from the sexy Lux* group, in the North Malé Atoll, easily reached by speed boat or a 15- minute sea plane hop. Nautically inspired blindingly white duplex villas accented with zesty pops of pink and red, cut a different shape to the traditional Maldivian Robinson Crusoe-esque abodes. Whether it’s overwater or on the island’s golden sand beach, each villa has a spacious deck, Instagrammable turquoise and pink tiled infinity pool as well as an upstairs open-air lounge area – a unique offering with panoramic views of the Indian Ocean, perfect for sunset gazing and dolphin spotting.
There’s an energy to this resort, in contrast to other so-laid-back-they’re- horizontal islands. Guests are busy jet skiing, water skiing, snorkelling and playing tennis. All that action calls for some of the best food on offer in the Maldives. In-villa dining is taken to new heights with the option of floating breakfasts and lunches beautifully served on trays while you stay cool in the pool (and pose for a photo or two). And don’t miss Inti, the Japanese- Peruvian fusion spot, serving world class fresh ceviche and sushi, under the twinkling stars.
BOOK IT: Water villa from £925 B&B basis. luxresorts.com
The Residence Maldives at Dhigurah
Just 13 miles north of the equator, this resort is remote even by Maldivian standards. Too far from capital Malé to travel by seaplane, it can only be reached on a 55-minute domestic flight and final speedboat ride to secluded Gaafu Alifu, one of the world’s largest and deepest atolls. The island itself is thick with jungle, sandy pathways weaving through banana and coconut trees for a real back-to-nature feel. There are 173 villas, from beachfront to overwater with either sunrise or sunset views, but none will disappoint. All are spacious but simply designed, with thatched roofs, neutral colours and teak and rattan interiors, and all come with private pools, bicycles and Insta-perfect views of the glowing, aquamarine sea and endless horizon beyond.
There are water-sports galore, dolphin-watching cruises, a kids’ club, glorious 42-metre infinity pool, Clarins spa and the resort’s own deserted island for an unmissable picnic lunch. Otherwise, feast on international flavours at the Dining Room, classic Cantonese fare at Li Bai and the Mediterranean menu at poolside Café del Sol, or cycle the stunning one-kilometre bridge to Falhumaafushi to sample the excellent restaurants at the resort’s neighbouring sister property. A double delight.
BOOK IT: A Book Now Stay Later package offers up to 50 per cent off the best available rate, for stays anytime from 1 October 2020 to 31 October 2021, when booking minimum four nights. Doubles from £328. cenizaro.com
A relative newcomer, Varu opened in late 2019. Located on the north-west edge of the Malé Atoll, it’s just a 40-minute speedboat ride from Malé airport. On arrival, a golf buggy whisks guests to one of 108 beach-front or overwater villas, each with inviting décor featuring both luxurious and natural elements, with additions such as open-air bathrooms and private pools. Regardless of accommodation, every guest is on an all-inclusive plan that covers non-motorized water sports, a range of excursions (including stargazing and fishing), all meals and an impressive array of drinks (for example – the minibar is, dangerously, replenished twice daily).
Dining options include a contemporary buffet and traditional Maldivian restaurant, complete with educational video on arrival. Unwind in the Elena spa, where face-down time is enhanced by views through the floor’s window onto the water, or lounge by the infinity pool for dreamy sunset views. Recreational options range from a games room (great for those scorching midday hours) to an Astro football pitch, to the free use of snorkelling equipment – perfect for reef exploration that can be accessed, blissfully, from your very own living space.
BOOK IT: Seven nights from £2,799pp, including transfers. varu-atmosphere.com
Best For All-Inclusive
Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa
Mastering the tricky all-inclusive concept is the recently opened Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa, found in the northwestern part of the Maldives archipelago. 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. Once you’re on the island, there’s no need to worry about additional costs – bar a few extras, such as jet skiing – adding a new level of relaxation.
With 20 hectares of land to play with, Emerald has more space than many Maldivian resorts too, 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. ‘Natural elegance’ is the hotel’s tagline: bamboo, langhi langhi leaves and stones create a tropical-chic vibe in which the architecture exists in harmony with the natural landscape. Italian influences can also be seen in aspects of the design – the Venetian-inspired bathrooms are worthy of a special mention, featuring white marble, freestanding baths and floor-to-ceiling windows boasting some of the best views in the whole of the Maldives. And the bar is set high.
BOOK IT: From £550 all-inclusive for a deluxe beach villa. 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
Green & Serene
Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru
The skies are so vast and sparkling in the Maldives the idea of sleeping under an ordinary flat ceiling is unthinkable. Instead, the double-height vaulted bedrooms in the Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru create an expansive sense of freedom and overlook private pools long enough for a proper swim. Luscious hibiscus and glossy cheese plants surround the thatched outdoor living room, and beyond a bosky thicket of exotic plants the sea washes onto spotless white sand.
There are 102 villas here, but in the evening when the restaurants fill with people, you rather wonder where these fellow guests have been all day – indulging in room service or upside down, doing weightless yoga? Under the bright blue sky, hammocks hang loose between palm trees and the four swimming pools are exclusively yours for the day – one is the only Olympic-sized facility in the Maldives. The spa is brilliant, with an Ayurvedic massage that takes clients on a transcendental journey for 90 minutes. Don’t miss the Marine Discovery Centre, where injured turtles and fish come to recuperate with the in-house marine biologists. A heavenly idyll.
BOOK IT: From £6,569 for three nights B&B from 21 September, followed by three nights on the Four Seasons Explorer catamaran taking part in the Manta Trust diving expeditions. Includes flights and transfers. elegantresorts.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
Best for Gourmands
Furaveri Island Resort and Spa
A humble island intrinsically connected with its destination and situated near a UNESCO biosphere reserve, Furaveri offers enticing dive sites and manta ray hotspots. Entirely un-reclaimed, meaning the development of the island has had minimal impact on its surroundings, here is a place that champions natural beauty with a glorious, unspoilt beach that elegantly wraps itself around the lush 23-hectare island. Friendly and unpretentious, it’s a great alternative to the glitz and glamour of many other Maldivian resorts. Woven among a dense jungle retreat, the understated chic of the 107 villas offer spacious, marble-finished bathrooms with huge egg- like bathtubs, whilst the beach pool villas feature laissez-faire cabanas filled with the sound of the ocean.
From a Mexican grapefruit margarita on the perimeter of the reef to Japanses dishes from an interactive teppanyaki counter, Furaveri offers diners a global menu. Much of its organic produce is sourced from its considerable chef garden, which nurtures chilli trees, herbs, fruit and vegetables for both guests and those who live and work there. The island also houses its very own on-site bottling plant, where up to 360 tonnes of seawater is transformed into drinking water.
BOOK IT: From £295 for a beachfront villa full board. furaveri.com start the slideshow
Featured image: GettyImages
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