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The tiny country of the Maldives is a honeymooners’ paradise, a hideout for celebrities, special celebrations and once in a lifetime journeys.
But for such a small country the resort offers are overwhelming. TripAdvisor lists over 170 properties and with so many powdery white sand beaches, azure waters and perfect over water villas choosing the one for you is a daunting task. After all the effort and small investment required, you do not want your expectations mismatched.
Here is a list of the best properties and Maldives luxury resorts for each type of traveler across the 26 atolls.
Lovers of food and romance, Conrad Rangali Island
The Conrad Rangali is the ultimate in couple’s escape. It is a long standing institution, having opened before the more recent waves of luxury hotels and boasts a few world’s first.
What I truly like about the resort is that it has perfected the art of catering to families and couples without compromising the needs of either. The resort caters to families and couples looking to relax by placing them in two separate islands. This is very rare in the Maldives despite being such a no-brainer.
Water villas are on the tranquil side of the resort as is the infinity pool and chill out bar where sunset cocktails and canapes are served as the sun goes down to the sound of Ibiza style tunes. This is a child-free area guaranteeing tranquility to guests who are looking for relaxation. Look either side of your bright orange cocoon and you will see only cuddled up couples.
Families can happily enjoy the main island where the larger pool and the activities center are. A kid can snorkel in the house reef or partake in any of the many activities offered.
If your love is aimed at fine dining more than at romance, this will be heaven for you, starting with Ithaa, Conrad’s most famous claim to fame. Located 16 feet under water it is a sight to behold. For cheese lovers, the resident Maitre de Fromage has selected 101 of the best cheeses available for pairing with the cellar’s 20,000 bottles of wine, the largest selection in the country.
If cheese and wine are not your definition of decadence, Koko Grill may be. Set in the sand as an open-air, live-cooking Japanese-inspired restaurants under the stars, Koko Grill is the ultimate in romance. The cellar also organizes wine discovery journeys where the knowledgeable sommelier will share wine pairing menus for a few lucky guests. Did we say this is also under the sand?
For surfer dudes, Six Sense Laamu
The Six Senses Laamu is located at the atoll of the same name and in close distance to one of the best known breaks in the Maldives: Yin and Yang. The hotel offers surfing lessons and can take you to a host of breaks to test your skills.
In case your other half does not surf the resort is also an eco-haven following Six Sense philosophy and laid-back atmosphere. The spa is divine as are the over water villas, the diving options and the many activities on offer including Sunset Dolphin Safaris. These creatures are almost a guaranteed sight.
Being the only resort in its atoll the Six Senses provides insight into the way local Maldivians live in half and full day tours to nearby villages. Diving is also on offer and the Manta Trust guys are based at the Resort carrying out research and tagging efforts. To date, there have been 74 manta sightings and there is a large group of these beautiful creatures that are permanently based there. The chances of seeing them are close to 100% for now as one of their regular cleaning stations is only 10min away by boat. Both an advantage and a disappointment, the hotel is accessible by scheduled domestic flight. That means that you won’t get the chance to board a seaplane but you will be able to stay at the resort till the evening if you have a late night flight as seaplanes can’t fly at night.
Their organic focus ensures that you are nourished inside and out. The resort offers Zero Carbon dinners and grows its own vegetables and herbs in the organic garden by Leaf Restaurant.
Bear in mind Six Senses Laamu has no common pool but their villas are very spacious. Go for the ones with pool for the perfect chill out set-up.
For over-the-top luxery, Cheval Blanc
The third resort in the LVMH incursion into the hospitality word, newcomer Cheval Blanc, is a minimalist haven of celebrities and the most discerning travelers.
Conceived to cater both to couples and families the resort is a contemporary mix of modern and native materials and design. It is a welcome into the French “Art de Recevoire”. Guests are not welcome to their villas but to the “Maison” and their needs are attended to by “Alchemists” whose job is to ensure they return home full of fond memories.
Terribly refined and cultivated this exclusive resort is dotted with unique pieces of art, signature of the Cheval Blanc brand. The air is of sophisticated elegance. White and a light beige palette dominates except for the splashes of color provided by the Dot paintings.
Aside from the common-place Maldivian activities such as diving and snorkeling, the resort has two tennis courts, rare in the Maldives, and a golf simulator. There is also a 3-person submarine and a separate children and teenager center where activities such as kids yoga, kids disco, astronomy lessons and submarine photography safaris are on offer. For avid photographers the resort also offers private seaplane tours.
Fine dining has a new meaning at Cheval Blanc. Le 1947, named after the Chateaux Cheval Blanc’s most prestigious and sought-after vintage, is a lesson in refined dining. It serves French fare adapted to Maldivian influences. For that extra romantic dinner, the resort offers a few options. From dinners on floating platforms at sea to beach dinners, moon yoga salutations or private in-villa dining.
When you thought the Maldives could not get any more exclusive, along came Cheval Blanc.
Jungle eco-chic, Soneva Fushi
Who doesn’t want a selection of 60 ice-cream flavors to cool down in a hot day?
Soneva Fushi are known for their Robinson Crusoe approach to a total laid-back atmosphere. You kick back and relax. No shoes. It is unpretentious, familiar and understated.
All of their properties are in beautiful surroundings with a great sense of place. Mr/Mrs Friday will tend to your every need and the resort prides itself in butlers knowing what you want even before you do. They follow the SLOW LIFE philosophy embracing organic, environmentally friendly and sustainable practices.
The resort is in the Baa Atoll, recently named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The marine life in the Maldives is exquisite no matter where you stay but here it is that extra bit better. Manta rays grace the waters in season (June to November) and even whale sharks can occasionally be spotted.
Villas are large, starting at 250 sqm and going up to almost 2,000 sqm. As opposed to the traditional over water villas pervasive across the country, Soneva Fushi has located all of their accommodations on shore hidden between the plush jungle. Because it is located in one of the largest islands in the country guests are offered bicycles to travel to and from their rooms.
Dining options at Soneva Fushi are dominated by fresh and organic ingredients. Breakfast is soulful and plentiful. Enjoy a drink suspended over the beautiful waters, comfortably relaxed on an oversized hammock. All of Soneva Fushi’s dining concepts go back to life’s simple pleasures. Have we mentioned they have 60 flavors of ice cream and sorbet?
For sea and serenity lovers, Cocoa Island by COMO
No.1 on Tripadvisor and guest pleaser Cocoa Island is a haven of peace and quietness. Even on fully booked nights the resort has a way to make guests feel as if they had the island to themselves, partially because of its smaller size. The resort only has 33 suites and villas.
What sets them apart from the rest is the teeming house reef. Snorkeling off the beach will take you to a real-life marine zoo. You will swim among manta rays, turtles, colorful fish and even young reef sharks. Diving is also exceptional with several dive sites less than 30min away from the resort. You will be able to see large schools of fish, eagle rays, mantas, reef sharks, tunas and schools of giant trevally.
The resort is understated and refrains from any flashiness. Rooms, built with local materials and wood, as with most other properties in the Maldives, are decorated in whites and blues with splashes of red. Dhoni villas resemble the indigenous boat shape.
Dining is simplified with only one restaurant option albeit with a very wide and changing menu. Ufaa, happy in Maldivian, follows the COMO Resorts organic and well being philosophy with a cuisine that maximizes energy.
The Shambala retreat spa has a large hydrotherapy pool from where to while away the stress, if there is any left.
Located close to the airport transfers are by speedboat, faster and more affordable than at other resorts.
Jetsetters and party lovers, W Retreat
Don’t let the word retreat fool you, this is the party destination in the Maldives offering seclusion and peace in the comfort of your room while DJs serenade the starry nights.
Pool parties and sunset chill out sessions are the norm. For over indulgence, there are lobster parties and 15 Below, the resort’s underwater club. Guests are expected and encouraged to mix and mingle. Beautiful people and tanned bodies shining in the Maldivian sun, recovering in their luxurious villas or sipping a drink on the swim-up pool bar make the clientele.
For couples looking for a bit of fun the W has it all: Parties and breathtaking but secluded rooms. For a true Robinson Crusoe experience or to skinny dip in the cerulean waters the W has its own private island where it is possible not only to organize a romantic meal but also to spend the night. Play castaway and enjoy the total peace of your own private island.
Rooms are over the top. Huge two story beach villas with plunge pools, large daybeds, open air bathtubs and even a wine cellar. They’re a hideaway oasis set amid the lush jungle. Total privacy and quietness, because everyone needs a little bit of TLC after partying the night away.
The water villas are sublime. They all come with plunge pools, glass bottoms and sun decks. The daybeds come with their own curtains so you can have a quick nap and replenish energy. Aside from the wine fridge they come with their own BBQ pit.
For an even more over the top experience the lagoon water villas come with glass floors everywhere in the room, including the bathroom where you can shower with the fish.
Dining sees the usual suspects at W worldwide. Kitchen restaurant offering local and comforting dishes; Fire, cooking BBQ delights; and Fish, carrying the produce of the sea, offers the quality and stylish experience we’re accustomed to.
If you ever find the energy to leave the room or your sun lounger a host of activities await. In keeping with the resort’s glass bottom obsession there are glass bottom canoes.
To make the most of your trip, the resort can organize either a seaplane or a speed boat for late or very early departures so you can make the most of your time.
Children are not allowed at the resort only teenagers.
Those quick to get bored, One & Only Reethi Rah
One & Only properties around the world are exuberant. Set in exclusive locations around the world the brand truly lived up to its name.
The resort in the Maldives is a yacht ride away from Male. A private yacht, not a speedboat, so you arrive in St. Tropez style.
Shaped like a 6 km wide crab and with 130 villas, the One & Only is much larger than other resorts and so it has a wide choice of activities, accommodation, dining options and places to hide from it all. It is the perfect place for those worried about being bored. You can even splurge on a shopping spree!
There are tennis courts, badminton, petanque and a football pitch. Aside from in-villa pools there is a main pool and a lap pool branching into the ocean. Families looking for a slice of romance can leave their kids in the large kids club where they can acquire a love for arts or pottery. Marine activities include the usual suspects in the Maldives plus turtle, dolphin or shark safaris. Turtles hatch in the island. Reethi Rah does transportation better than anyone. Instead of taking a boat to a nearby deserted island you can charter a seaplane and get dropped in your own piece of paradise.
Guests can pedal around the island on their bicycles and find the perfect spot to sunbathe or hide.
A gastronomic experience awaits in the many dinner options including under the stars tepanyaki, an excellent Japanese restaurant complete with a sake sommelier and many locations for that particularly romantic meal. The hotel also offer shishas and Hotel Manager and Executive Chef hosted dinners. Champagne and Wine classes are also possible with the Head Sommelier. The hotel grows a lot of its fresh produce in the garden where one of the restaurants is located.
Rooms are spaciously located and the water villas are in groups of 4 at every small island inlay instead of being lined up on long wooden platforms like in most other resorts. There are many a beach in which to take in the sun.
The spa has won many accolades and it goes beyond the usual treatments. You can enjoy a pedicure by renowned Bastien or a family spa treatment where the entire family gets a treat. But book early for that muscle soothing treatment.
The resort conveniently runs 1h ahead of Male time so days feel longer.
For peace of mind, Lily Beach
The first and one of the few all-inclusive resorts in the Maldives Lily provides just that: value. And lots of activities for children. It has been recently refurbished into an upmarket property which gives peace of mind to guests, something that is so necessary in the incredibly high priced resorts.
Lily offers affordable luxury without breaking the bank. Aside from a few chargeable activities and the spa guests are guaranteed a quality stay for an all-inclusive rate. Crowd pleasing Lily Beach has very positive reviews, a 95% recommendation rate and a 5* rating on TripAdvisor, something very hard to achieve with 1,000 reviews.
The Platinum Plan offers an array of restaurants including two fine-dining diners and two excursions per week per guest. Alcohol choices are large too.
The main restaurant has a huge selection of food buffet style from BBQ to sushi, freshly caught fish, salads and desserts so you are never bored.
Have you been to the Maldives? Have you got any other recommendations?