With more than 130 picture-perfect resorts competing for Instagram attention with their brilliant white sandy beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, swaying palms and coral reefs – choosing where to stay on a magical Maldives getaway can be tricky.
While each of the Maldives’ 1000+ islands look equally alluring, it pays to narrow down your search depending whether you’re looking for a romantic escape, a ‘flop and drop’ break, a family vacation 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 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.
For those just wanting to slip into their swimmers and make the most of every minute, there are a number of resorts within a short boat ride from Malé. On the other hand, those seeking more secluded spots can travel 90-minutes from Malé via seaplane and speedboat to reach their accommodation (but it’ll be worth it!).
Take a moment in Malé
Often overlooked by travellers rushing to get to their final island destination, capital city Malé is worth exploring for an insight into the Maldivian way of life. From the 13th century mosques, to lively fish markets and myriad of eateries dishing up fresh seafood, spicy curries and traditional roshi bread, Maléoffers an alternative view of life in the Maldives. And, since seaplanes only fly during daylight hours, you might need to stay in Malé pre or post-international flight – depending on your schedule.
Where to stay?
The Maldives offers four different types of accommodation:
Minimal travel – more time
For those keen to get to the cocktails and pools 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 galore – for those who want to keep busy
It pays to do your research if you fancy combining your R&R with an appetite for 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 wakeboarding 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).
Magnificent marine life – best resorts for snorkelling and diving
Whilst every Maldives resort will have access to magical marine life via its own lagoon and/or reef, there are a few standout regions 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 (try Mirihi Island Resort) 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 Fushifaru Maldives(Lhaviyani Atoll).
For serious surfers
Famous for its spectacular surfing, there’s a break for the bold 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 Movenpick Resort Kuredhivaru Maldives. 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 (25-minute seaplane), LUX* South Ari Atoll (25-minute seaplane) or Huvafen Fushi Resort & Spa (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 Malè 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 luxury and lovers
The Maldives’ resorts epitomise laidback luxe. 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: Conrad Maldives Rangali Island; St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort; The Residence Maldives; Joali Maldives; Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa; COMO Maalifushi and Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru.
For the budget-conscious
Located just 25 minutes from the airport by seaplane, Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa features iconic overwater accommodation at an affordable price. With several bars and dining options, water sports, a wellness spa and fitness centre, games room and more, this is the spot for the ultimate Maldives retreat, without the over-the-top price tag.
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