Asia is blessed with countless beautiful beach destinations, but none are as perfect as The Maldives. With crystalline turquoise waters softly lapping against isolated stretches of pristine white sand, the islands of the Maldives offer a peaceful sanctuary away from the stresses of the outside world. These staggeringly beautiful islands are amazingly remote and impossibly pure; the breeze rustling through the palm fronds is often the only reminder that you are not trapped in a postcard.
This tiny island republic is made up of about 1200 little islands dotting the Indian Ocean – the exact number varies according to the season and islands come and go with the wind and waves. They are grouped into 26 atolls – ring shaped coral reefs that protect a central shallow turquoise lagoon. This unique geography has created visual and sensual perfection.
I had the opportunity to live here for almost three years, and not a day went by that that blue – that indefinable, indescribable, indelible turquoise blue – did not stop me in my tracks and remind me that life is better in flip-flops.
These days there are almost 130 resorts dotting the islands – each a one-island one-resort concept, each competing for the title of best in class – and all offering ultra-luxurious accommodation and flawless service. Most resorts are located in a handful of atolls – North Male, South Male, Baa, Lhaviyani, Ari and Felidhu – but resorts are popping up all over the island nation, providing extraordinary eye-candy for resort aficionados, but also a major challenge – which one is the right one for me?
The challenge of finding the “right” resort can be daunting – each property provides a unique atmosphere and ethos but the nuances can be ever so slight. However, there are ways to navigate the superlatives and find the perfect fit to suit your personality, desire and pace to ensure that you have the perfect Maldives experience.
Here is a series of questions to ask yourself before choosing a resort…
How many days am I planning to stay?
Resorts are located throughout the Maldives – but some are more accessible than others. While some of the remoter islands (home to resorts such as Maalifushi by COMO or Cheval Blanc) are stunning and offer a true Robin Crusoe feeling, the hours that it takes to get there might eat into your much-needed relaxation time. By selecting a resort reachable by speedboat, such as One & Only Reethi Rah, Baros Maldives or Cocoa Island by COMO, you could be out of your traveling clothes and into your bikini within 30 minutes of touching down at the airport.
What type of room do I want – over-water or on the beach?
The overwater villa is the quintessential dream. You have seen it in all the iconic photos – a stunning bungalow out over the water, a private deck with a ladder reaching out to the crystal-clear waters below, perhaps even a plunge pool. If you are seeking hours on your deck, total privacy and an uninterrupted view of the lagoon, look at Cheval Blanc or Huvafen Fushi.
On the other hand, there is the beach villa – nestled amongst the morinda plants and palm trees, a perfect haven just a few steps away from the white sand and lapping waves. If you are a lover of sand & sea, this is indeed the option for you – check out Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru.
Do I want my own private pool?
Some resorts provide private plunge pools and lap pools – but not every property has this amenity. If a private pool is important to you, this will narrow down your search to Huvafen Fushi or Cheval Blanc.
What is my budget?
There is wide range of luxurious properties to select from – from 5-star, to 5-star-plus, to uber-5-star. Prices can range from $500 to $5000 per night. The top-echelon of resorts typically start at a minimum of $1000 per night, but it is possible to find an extraordinary resort experience for less.
What style of resort do I want?
Each resort has a personality that has been carefully cultivated to create a certain atmosphere of luxury. Some resorts, such as Soneva Fushi and Huvafen Fushi, have developed the ultimate “barefoot luxury style” – a chilled out setting where you can leave your shoes at home and lull yourself into a zone of sans souci. Others - One & Only Reethi Rah and Cheval Blanc to name but two - are super-stylish, where fur and bikini become the height of beach fashion. This is where you go to rub elbows with high-flyers and celebrities. Some are youthful. Some are classic. Some are traditional. Some are trendy. Which personality suits you the best?
Do I want to go diving or snorkeling?
One of the biggest draws of the Maldives is the extraordinary underwater world. The quality of house reefs and nearby dive spots are key assets for those in search of underwater exploration. Diving is absolutely everywhere but some atolls are better than others…and some resorts offer better house reefs than others. If this is a top priority, make sure that you select a resort that scores high on the reef report card – such as Baros Maldives.
Hours on the beach or hours at the pool?
Each island is different. Some are very large, and some you can walk around in 5 minutes. Some have stunning beaches that go on forever, and some have smaller narrow beaches. If beach time is critical and you plan on spending hours lounging on a beach chair, than make sure that your island’s beach offers plenty of white powder – the beach at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru is one of the very best. If you prefer spending a lot of time at the pool, than miles of beach might not be your big draw.
Early to rise or late nights?
A few resorts offer more active nightlife, DJs, dancing and clubs. However, many people are so lulled by calm relaxation, that an early night and a lie-in are just what the doctor ordered.
Children’s paradise or paradise with no children?
While the Maldives has been consistently crowned the most romantic paradise on earth, ideal for honeymoons, anniversaries and amorous getaways, in recent years it has become more popular with families seeking a relaxing beach holiday. If you are looking for a family getaway, several resorts offer excellent children’s programmes, kids’ clubs, and even teen clubs. The Maldivian culture is very family-centred, and the staff at the resort will be super-keen to take your kids off your hands and entertain them for hours on end – giving you some time to enjoy paradise solo too. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru is a recommended resort for families.
For those who would prefer to a more quiet atmosphere, there are resorts that have maintained a stronger couples-only feel, and some even have policies limiting children under 12 or all together – Baros Maldives for example.
And rest assured, once you pick a resort – the stress stops there. Because once you land in the Maldives, it will all melt away. Relax. Breathe. Rest. Dream.