The Maldives are the dream destination for sun worshipers, newlyweds and anyone who feels like a holiday on a classic treasure island.
But which of the many islands should you choose? At the last count, there were more than 100 resorts on nearly as many different islands, most of which have completely different styles and facilities.
After visiting at least two dozen sites over the years, here is my overview of choosing the best location for your vacation style.
Anantara Kihavah is ideal for pampering enthusiasts because it offers unlimited treatments when you book the villa with spa pool
Best for: The best indulgence in the Maldives, thanks to the unlimited treatments (yes, as much as you want) for guests in the villa with spa bath. The award-winning Naked Skin package is meant to take the years away from you, or why don’t you book with a visiting practitioner for a chakra balance with Tibetan singing bowls? Attention to detail prevails (your bike has even carved your name on a wooden plate) and guests swear that the island has soul.
Rooms: Water villas have a glass bottomed bath so you can see fish while bathing. But the ultimate pampering is the luxury spa pool villa, which has a larger swimming pool, private gardens and your own room with private bathroom for those unlimited pampering treatments.
Food: Start the day with breakfast served in your private swimming pool: a floating tray with eggs Benedict arrives with fresh truffles. Other options include an underwater gourmet restaurant and a wine cellar, where you get endless colorful theater of the maritime activities around. There are also tapas and sunset spots, a Japanese restaurant and an Asian alternative with a fantastic show kitchen. Visit the organic vegetable garden, where chefs pick herbs and present a generous handful of basil, mint and aloe to take back to your villa.
Wow factor: There is typically great daytime diving. And at night, the remote location minimizes light pollution and delivers large starry skies, especially from the roof of the Sky Bar, which has the most powerful telescope in the Indian Ocean.
No shoes required: the sophisticated luxury of Mirihi does not include motorized water sports, no TV in the rooms and only limited WiFi
There is no swimming pool, so you are forced to cool off in the sea (a sultry 26C) and instead communicate with nature
Best for: Minimalist escapism in the style of Robinson Crusoe. Mirihi endorses the ethos of ‘no shoes, no news’ without the surplus larger resorts. The matriarchal owner, Amy Steirli born in Switzerland (who lives on the property six months a year), takes a less-is-more approach and avoids transient trends to keep her island calm. Don’t get me wrong, this island – just 30 minutes by seaplane from the airport in the capital Male – is just as luxurious as they come. It just stays close to its roots and radiates a calm sense of class from beach to bed.
Rooms: The island has the shape of a wishbone and has a small cluster of 39 wooden pole villas at the top. Mirihi’s stripped luxury does not include motorized water sports, no TV in the rooms and only limited WiFi. Much more important is the local news – guests are told that a Hawksbill Turtle, for example, has just laid its eggs on the beach. And because there is no swimming pool, you are forced to cool off in the sea (a sultry 26C) and instead communicate with nature.
Food: The sandy-floor restaurant offers large buffets with a mix of international specialties and seafood. Oh, and there is a selection of 300 wines.
Wow factor: Diving in the South Ari Atoll is one of the best in the Maldives. The resort itself is small, with a length of just 400 meters, but there are more than 40 dive sites nearby and a house reef that I gladly saw lit by clouds of bioluminescent plankton at night.
A beautiful sunset in Amilla Fushi, with a touch of Miami, with a series of glamorous whitewashed villas and sitting bikes to explore
Best for: Families who love the kids’ club, the flexible accommodation with one to eight bedrooms, the lively house reef, unlimited non-motorized water sports and a large spa menu.
Rooms: The atmosphere has a touch of Miami, with a series of glamorous whitewashed villas and sitting bikes to explore. Everyone will love the Treetop Pool Villas with two bedrooms, located at a height of 40 m in the awning. They can sleep six people in a style that would definitely turn Tarzan green with envy.
Food: Enjoy a heady approach in a dozen eateries that crawl around one of the largest swimming pools in the Maldives. You can get everything from fish and chips to fresh food from the wok. For a refined dinner there is also a Japanese restaurant.
Wow factor: Amilla Fushi has its own marine biologist who can explain the secrets of the house reef of the island. Experienced snorkelers can go directly from the beach to the Blue Hole (a renowned dive site), as well as optional snorkeling in Hanifaru Bay, home to the world’s largest groups of manta rays and whale sharks.
Cheval Blanc Randheli
Cheval Blanc Randheli is proud to be the most comprehensive thanks to 45 luxury swimming pool villas and a special wellness island
Best for: Pure swelling. Not the newest lair in the Maldives, but Cheval Blanc Randheli is proud to be the most comprehensive thanks to 45 luxury swimming pool villas and a special wellness island. It is part of the Noonu Atoll, 40 minutes north of Male and is ideal for reef snorkeling, diving expeditions (day or night), fishing adventures and sunset cruises.
Rooms: The princely villas above the water and on the beach, beneath cathedral-high thatched roofs with vivid yellow stripes, are flooded with designer accents such as Christian Dior candles.
Food: For each his own. Try The White for a delicious local tuna curry. Diptyque specializes in Japanese and Asian tempura. Gourmets go to Le 1947 for the tasting menu, while Deelani specializes in Mediterranean dishes and homemade pizzas.
Wow factor: Water sports abound, including water skiing, wake boarding, kneeboarding, windsurfing, fun tubes and canoeing. Adrenaline junkies will enjoy recent additions, including a flyboard, hoverboard and jet surf. For tennis fans, there is a Jim Courier tennis club on neighboring Maakurandhoo Island where you can take a private lesson with a former tennis professional and then head to the Guerlain Spa across the water to relieve those aching muscles.
So tempting: a water villa with an infinity pool in the Joali resort, a fantasy island
A wonderful bathroom in the Joali resort with a large free-standing bath large enough for two
Best for: The art of seduction. Joali is a “flop and flirt” fantasy island, where you can doze off in a shady hammock or cool off with the fish. For a perfect moment, go diving in the nearby mantarog hangout, or take a sunny day trip on a traditional Dhoni and sail your way to the sunset in the Maldives.
Rooms: Nearly 1,000 master craftsmen have transformed the island into a star. Each villa has the service of a butler or jadugar (Urdu for experienced magician) who will take care of everything from daytime diving to candlelight dining. All villas have infinity pools and original art. Bathrooms are a treat, with baths large enough for two and rain showers outside.
Food: Breakfast at your villa, lunch barefoot on the beach and dine under the stars in Bellini’s with a Mediterranean theme, or in the Japanese restaurant Saoke. The traditional sushi and sashimi and the black sesame ice cream are a delight.
Wow factor: View the art. Pieces include unique ceramic installations.
Naladhu has 20 very private and rather cave-like colonial-inspired villas, with private swimming pools (long enough for lengths) and swinging double sun beds
Best for: A traditional boutique outing or a multi-generation escape for families. Somehow it manages to be popular with both older couples and children younger than two. Easy to reach, it is only a 30 minute boat ride from Male airport (you transfer from a plane to a swish Sunseeker) and it is popular for a sense of intimate escapism. But although it is one of the smaller resorts, you can also spend time at the neighboring resorts Veli and Dhigu via a long wooden walkway or travel there with the traditional Dhoni.
Rooms: There are 20 very private and rather cave-like colonial-inspired villas, with private swimming pools (long enough for lengths) and swinging double sun beds. Expect huge bathrooms with sunken bathtubs and private steam baths.
Food: If you want a break from long menus and prefer home-cooked food and the choice to eat whenever you want, look no further. Breakfast (which can be ordered at any time of the day) is best served in the Bare-Foot Living Room. I would like to dine there for every meal, although you also have to go over water for Thai, Japanese or Italian dishes at Naladhu’s sister resorts.
Wow factor: Relaxed simplicity and the 24-hour roar of waves on the rugged eastern reef. Small is absolutely beautiful in the case of Naladhu.
- British Airways offers direct flights of 10 hours to Male three times a week between March and October. Return fares cost £ 702. Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Turkish Airways fly to the Maldives all year round, but all have at least one stopover.