This archipelago of 1000+ islands scattered across the Indian Ocean boasts more than 100 atolls, which are ringed by soft white sand and home to some of the best hotel accommodation on the planet (there are more over-water villas here than you can shake a flip-flop at). Little wonder then that Maldives is a honeymoon hot spot and a regular fixture on calendars of the elite and anyone looking for picture-perfect, sun-drenched things to do. It’s an expensive destination, but prices drop for the rainy season (May to November), which really just means sporadic showers and higher humidity. Besides, if you take advantage of viewing the incredible marine life, you’ll spend most of your time getting wet anyway…
The Best Hotels in the Maldives
It’s all about simplicity on this tiny isle which is part of the South Malé atoll (40 minutes by speed boat from capital and main island Malé). Never have the words ‘barefoot chic’ been more appropriate, with just 33 over-water villas inspired by dhonis (traditional Maldivian sailing boats) furnished in white and wood and with a terrace for slipping into the sea to spot rays and baby sharks. A small bar, restaurant and the region’s best spa complete this small but perfect resort.
The original ‘no shoes, no news’ resort is a 30-minute seaplane ride from Malé and a great choice if you want to ‘get away from it all’ but actually still have plenty of things to do. Eco-chic thatched villas come with their own Mr or Ms Friday butler and there’s diving, yoga, a Six Senses spa, treetop restaurant reached via an Indiana Jones-style rope bridge, open-air cinema and kids’ club to keep guests of all ages happy.
Holiday choice of millionaires (rooms start from around £2439pn), this ultra luxurious getaway is where the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge vaycay. What makes it so special? Butlers, a Guerlain spa (the only one in the Maldives) on its own island, 45 vast villas each with their own pool, four gourmet restaurants and a kids’ club with water slides.
Offering something completely different in the Maldives, Kandima isn’t just for honeymooners and oligarchs. Its accents of bright pink (cushions, inflatable flamingos), a variety of budget-friendly rooms (from around £177pn, incredibly low for the Maldives), 10 restaurants (including a deli so you can picnic on the beach), Kandiland kids’ club, DJs and the longest pool in the region make this a fun, affordable option for families and groups of friends.
One of the largest, most decadent resorts in the Maldives, Reethi Rah (meaning beautiful island) is a favourite of A-listers and has a price tag to match. This isn’t for you if you want a Robinson Crusoe vibe (though there are 12 dreamy beaches to escape to), but do book if you want an island escape with all the trimmings, from tennis and a FIFA-certified footie pitch to a sunset cocktail bar, amazing restaurants (including Tapasake for mouth-watering Japanese food) and an ESPA spa.
Baros has everything you’d want from a Maldives holiday, with the added bonuses of the best house reef around on its doorstep and more affordable prices than other all-villa escapes. Thatched villas by local designers open onto a garden then beach and are full of natural materials – some have fibre optic-lit infinity pools for a romantic ‘sprinkled with stars’ effect. The beautiful Lighthouse restaurant, with over-water seats, is an Instagram favourite, but for that really special meal, board your own personal dhoni for a dinner cruise for two.
One of the smallest resorts in the Maldives, Mirihi might also be the most perfect. The 33 thatched roof, overwater bungalows allow you to dive directly into the exotic underworld of the Indian Ocean. The island is surrounded by four miles of one of the Maldives' best house reefs, home to turtles, fish and riotously colourful coral. If you’re looking for larger creatures, the atoll’s waters are prime whale-shark and manta ray-spotting territory and the hotel offers regular excursions on its beautiful wooden sailboat. The resort has two restaurants – a buffet option that’s a cut above most you’ll find on the islands and the a la carte Muraka, which is also the best place on the island for a sundowner. The entire resort is open-air, there are no televisions and the “no news, no shoes” atmosphere will lull the most stressed of characters into soporific bliss. In fact, with evocative sunsets, dazzling waters and sparkling golden sands in such ample supply, you’ll find it a wrench to leave.
It’s the Four Seasons so unsurprisingly is extremely high-end with the best service in the region, yet its aim is sustainable luxury; think turtle conversation and a manta ray research station along with your over-water restaurant and three-acre Ayurvedic wellness spa. Situated in the remote Baa Atoll (a 40-minute seaplane flight from Malé) it’s in a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, which means it’s a particularly great spot for marine life too (including whale sharks and manta rays).
If reading the words ‘rustic chic’ make you shudder then design-led Amilla is a breath of fresh air. Hip, glam, grown-up and fun, it’s all dazzling white architecture, funky furniture and cool pool to hang around. There are underwater scooters to take for a ride, contemporary treehouses to stay in (along with the usual beach villas) and room service is included so you can dine in private at any hour you choose. Oh, and it shares the same reef as the Four Seasons, but it’s half the price to stay here.
A rare thing in the Maldives, this beautiful South Malé Atoll resort is truly family-friendly. First off it’s a 30-minute speed boat from the airport, so no long seaplane wait for tired tots. Then children are welcomed with genuine smiles (rather than a half-grimace), beach kit and mini bathrobes and slippers. Throughout their stay everything and more is provided; think cots, kids’ menus, Dhoni Club with play rooms in traditional Maldivian boats, climbing walls, surf school and 24-hour babysitting service – there’s even a picnic island with sea swings and beach hammocks. Though we think the grown-ups might be fighting the kids off those two.
Not one but two islands are on offer at this chic resort. ‘Chill’ is a secluded island covered in coconut palms and perfect for honeymooners, while ‘Play’ is the more lively, family-friendly option – the two are linked by a wooden bridge. Guests of both get to use Drift Spa and the amazing dining options, including Edge which can only be reached by boat, and Subsix, an underwater restaurant and bar with glass walls for marine-life spotting. Niyama’s also a top spot for surfing.
One of the newest resorts in the Maldives, JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa opened in November 2019 and is doing things differently. While a lot of resorts in the archipelago are couples-only, the Marriott’s 60 spacious villas are refreshingly open to all. There are split level three-bedroom beachfront options, a huge pirate ship play area and a hands-on kids club that gets out and explores the marine life of the island. Grown-ups are well taken care of too with an adult-only infinity pool and plenty of quiet nooks to retire to. The resort’s food scene is spectacular, with five restaurants including Kaashi and Rum Baan nestled into the treetops, and Hashi, a Japanese overwater restaurant run by former Nobu chef Namuraj Tamang.
The 91 villas at the welcoming Veligandu resort are sumptuous; each has access to the Indian Ocean either directly from the decking of the overwater villas or via a small stretch of beach. Some have al fresco showers, others have jacuzzis that are perfect for an early evening wallow with a glass of champagne. The resort occupies a languid, picture-perfect stretch of sand – Veligandu means 'sandbank' in Maldivian – and has a nice community feel, which is something of a rarity. The staff football games make for a compelling spectator sport and the buffet restaurant is buzzy with friendly waiters and lively cooking stations. The house reef is a major draw, the coral dropping to form an underwater cliff off the island’s eastern coast that is home to turtles, reef sharks and kaleidoscopic fish.