As the world opens up and newlyweds look for ever-more exciting or alternative honeymoons – experiences like volunteering, cruises and safaris – the Maldives still maintains its position as the planet’s number one destination for couples looking for uninterrupted natural beauty, romance and relaxation. Here we take a look at why and how the magic is maintained.
An archipelago of 1,190 islands, the Maldives stretches like a double-chain pearl necklace atop ancient volcanoes, now hidden under the Indian Ocean. It is the smallest Asian country and one of the world’s most dispersed and least populated, which perhaps explains the sense of remote exclusivity so appealing to honeymooners. The islands make up 25 atolls, composed of pure-white sand bars and live coral reefs packed with tropical marine life, which only add to the enchantment.
With a history of rule under sultans, trade with Asia and Africa, and colonization by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, it has been an independent republic since 1968. Throughout centuries of international influence, the Maldives has managed to preserve and cultivate its indigenous culture; today its islands strike a balance between the exotic and the familiar, from design and architectural aesthetics, to the food.
If its fascinating history and superlative geographic features don’t have you convinced of the country’s distinctive charms, the resorts – many of which occupy their own private islands – will do their best to do so. The world-class hotels here truly know their markets, and besides being increasingly popular with families, eco-tourists and divers, romantic breaks are still a top reason to visit the Maldives. Indeed, many of the hotels go out of their way to cater to honeymooning couples, offering something above and beyond, and the chance to experience something a little more special.
Here are our top five picks for the most romantic Maldivian honeymoon activities, and the hotels that offer them.
1. Dhoni Dreaming – Huvafen Fushi by Per Aquum
The traditional dhoni is an icon of the Maldives, historically built by hand from planks of coconut wood by master builders, who passed the art to their apprentices without any written plans. Easily recognized by their lateen sails, distinctive prow and sleek plank-board sides, today’s dhonis have changed very little in form, and indeed some fishermen still navigate the waters using the sun and stars. However, beneath their traditional exterior, the Dream Dhonis of Huvafen Fushi boast a thoroughly-modern interior designed by Philippe Starck, and are fitted with Smeg appliances and a Bose sound system. Honeymooners electing to step aboard for the private overnight cruise can head into the deep blue without compromising on comfort. As you explore the waters around the resort and beyond, you can stop where you please to swim with manta rays, dolphins and reef fish. A picnic lunch is served on a sandbar and the crew are happy to add a cultural element, regaling you with folktales and traditional music and, for a little extra indulgence, administering a traditional Maldivian massage with local coconut oil. A sunset dinner of freshly-caught seafood is served by the butler with champagne and wine from the onboard cellar before you drift off to sleep in your private cabin.
2. Sandbank Cinema – Baros Maldives
Just 15 minutes’ sail west of Baros Maldives lies a thila (a secluded white sandbank), on which the resort offers private dining surrounded by the ocean. While sunrise breakfast and picnic lunch packages are available, it’s the addition of a private outdoor cinema that makes dinner on the sandbank truly special. Across the water by boat, you can spend the evening on your own strip of sand, under the stars, watching the movie of your choice. Share a bottle of champagne and homemade popcorn and nibbles, or enjoy a complete candle-lit dinner before the movie starts. Set menus are available, or you can order particular favorites to be prepared by the resort’s culinary team. Highlights include a barbecue dinner of tuna tataki, grilled reef fish and beef tenderloin, or a seafood banquet starring poached lobster tail.
3. Romantic Photoshoot-The One & Only Reethi Rah
At the One & Only Reethi Rah, you and your new spouse can mark the special occasion by working with photography team, Digiphoto. Scenic North Male atoll makes a rather ideal backdrop to capture your first few days as a married couple, and snap some newlywed memories. Choose the time that suits you, and work with the experts to decide on a few locations around the island. Popular settings include sunset on the beach, relaxing at the Lawn Club, or more intimate shots in the privacy of a villa. Your look is taken care of at the on-site hair salon, managed by Taylor Taylor London, and a makeup artist can be arranged on request. The final selection of shots is up to you and One & Only presents them in a leather album so you can take a slice of the Maldives home.
4. Private yacht cruise – Cheval Blanc Randheli
As you might expect from a Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy resort designed by architect Jean-Michel Gathy, the Randheli prides itself on delivering French Art de Recevoir (the art of hospitality), and includes guests’ use of their 101-foot yacht. Designed by Italian-based Azimut, the company behind some of the most opulent yachts in the world, the Randheli’s Azimut 98 Leonardo yacht boasts four cabins – each styled by the renowned yacht interior designer, Carlo Galeazzi. Thanks to the craft’s powerful twin engines, you’re able to cruise at a rate of 29 knots to beauty spots around Noonu atoll. Just an hour’s sailing brings you to Lhaviyani atoll, a diver’s paradise, where you can see bannerfish, redtoothed triggerfish and eagle rays. Meanwhile, at nearby Shark Point, barracudas, grey reef sharks, leopard sharks and manta rays abound. Alternatively, southwest of the Randheli is the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve of Baa atoll, rich in diverse sealife. Ideal then, for couples with a shared interest in underwater wildlife, the Azimut 98 Leonardo is also available for charters with more of an emphasis on romance. Honeymooners can enjoy the comfort and privacy of heading out to sea on a two- or three-night cruise, exploring the reefs and bays at their leisure, and relaxing on board in the open-deck jacuzzi. The team of four professional staff takes care of everything on a “barely there” basis, so you are free to enjoy quality time. If you prefer not to be offshore overnight, sunset dinner cruises are also available. Enjoy a romantic meal, freshly prepared on board as you glide through waters teeming with spinner dolphins and turtles.
5. Underwater Dinner – Anantara Kihavah
Dining at Kihavah is an elemental affair, with restaurants themed around and named for salt, sky, fire and sea. Fire is a teppanyaki lounge, while Salt specializes in creative cuisine heavily featuring Himalayan rock-salt, and Sky is a rooftop bar with panoramic views of the island. Perhaps most enchanting though, is Sea, where you can dine beneath the ocean, surrounded by a 360-degree view of the underwater world. With just eight tables, lunch or dinner here is intimate and the Mediterranean menu places an emphasis on fresh seafood. Relax and dine with a panoramic view of the tropical fish and exotic marine life populating the waters around the resort and, for an added spot of fun, each table comes with a book of Maldivian reef fish so you can look up the colorful characters together. The well-stocked wine cellar is the first in the world to be located underwater and the resident Wine Guru is on hand to help you select the perfect vintage to pair with your gourmet dishes.