When pretty views are not enough: Best Maldives resorts for every vacationer
I cannot stress enough how important it is to choose the right Maldives resort.
Its white beaches, crystal clear waters and incredible service makes the Maldives Heaven on Earth.
Or so I thought before I first visited the nation of 26 atolls.
After being stuck on one of the tiny islands with my family for a few days, surrounded by honeymooners and with nothing to do in our boring resort (surprisingly, jumping into the ocean from your patio gets old after a few days) I was ready to swim all the way back home.
The Maldives are known for their pristine natural environments. Translation: urban distractions and entertainment are next to zero.
Outside of the capital island Malé, this made-for-tourism destination is just resorts, resorts and more resorts, punctuated by endless stretches of empty beach.
But picking the right Maldives resort for you will keep things exciting. Here is a selection of the best ones for those looking for sports, romance, family fun and more.
Best Maldives resort for people who can't sit still
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa
Some of the best surfing spots in the Maldives are just a few minutes away from the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa.
The in-house surfing school, for ages six and above, has instructors from Australia who promise to get you standing after the first lesson.
This Maldives resort also offers complimentary wakeboarding, windsurfing, sailing and water-skiing.
If that’s not enough, thrill-seekers will be pleased with the shark safari where you can rub shoulders with blacktip reef sharks.
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Room to book: Sunrise Water Bungalow sits on stilts above the calmer eastern lagoon and comes with a private pool, a sundeck and an outdoor shower.
Insider tip: Recover from an active day byindulging in The Night Spa where guests are escorted via fishing boats to the Island Spa located on its own island.
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, North Malé Atoll, + 960 66 44 888; www.fourseasons.com/maldiveskh; doubles from US$900
Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa Maldives
Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa Maldives is set on one of the biggest islands in the Maldives and is connected to five other islands via bridges.
The resort is adjacent to two deep-water channels so even when you just snorkel around the island the variety of marine life is spectacular.
There are also plenty of nature trails both on land and under the sea. You can even take in a bit of Maldivian culture by biking through a Maldivian village.
Room to book: The Tree House Villas, perched three meters above ground, will give you a chance to reminisce about your childhood albeit with an elevated infinity pool with breathtaking ocean views.
Insider tip: Book the resort’s 21-meter yacht and take a trip to the equator, 64 kilometers from the island.
Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa Maldives, Villingili Island, Addu Atoll, +960 689 7888; www.shangri-la.com; Doubles from US$1,250
Island Hideaway Spa Resort & Marina
With the resort taking up only five percent of the crescent-shaped island with its endless powdery white sand beach, this Maldives resort experience is as Robinson Crusoe as it gets.
The Island Hideaway Spa Resort & Marina is part of Haa Alifu Atoll, Maldives’ most deserted island.
Meridis Dive runs a dive center on the island and offers everything from underwater photography courses to scooter diving. The 20 dive sites around the resort are magnificent including shipwrecks and a site aptly named Shark Point.
Room to book: The beachfront Raamba Retreat, located near the house reef, has a rustic feel with its thatched roof and simple decor.
Insider tip: Whale sharks and manta rays tend to visit the house reef from May to October.
Island Hideaway Spa Resort & Marina, Haa Alifu Atoll, +960 650 1515; www.island-hideway.com; Doubles from US$695
Best Maldives resort for lovebirds
Anantara Kihavah Villas
The best part about Anantara Kihavah Villas are the villas themselves, each of which come with a personal host so newly-weds never have to stray too far from their bedrooms.
If you do decide to leave the villas, be sure to swim in the magnificent infinity pool, the longest in the Maldives, and dine at Sea, the underwater restaurant and wine cellar.
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Room to book: The Over-Water Pool Villas come with hammocks on the sun decks and glass-bottom bathtubs that have views of the private pool and the ocean.
Insider tip: Book the Romance in Kihavah package (US$6,400) which includes accommodation in an overwater pool villa for four nights, daily breakfast, a romantic meal on the beach and a couples’ spa treatment.
Anantara Kihavah Villas, Kihavah, +960 660 1020; www.anantara.com; Doubles from US$2,000
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru
Located in the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve of the Baa Atoll, the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru has it all. There is a beach so white that it will blind unprotected eyes and there's thought-of-everything service including poolside Evian misting.
Rent one of the many luxury yachts for a sunset or overnight cruise with a stop on a secluded beach.
The concierge also arranges for private meals wherever you and your sweetheart desire.
Room to book: Sunset water villas which have living rooms that open out onto a sundeck with a pool.
Insider tip: The Kundalini Ritual for couples is part of the spa’s Tantric Traditions and harnesses both male and female energy.
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, Baa Atoll, +960 66 00 888; www.fourseasons.com; Doubles from US$1,100
Soneva Fushi by Six Senses
This quaint Maldives resort started out with only six villas. Though it has since expanded, it still manages to maintain its cozy feel.
Honeymooners get quite a few complimentary benefits here including a photo album, a candle-lit dinner and a 50-minute spa treatment.
Room to book at Soneva Fushi: The Crusoe Villas are beachfront duplex villas with a living room on the lower floor and a bedroom with a terrace on the upper floor. Couples will love the outdoor bath in the private garden.
Insider tip: Book the Desert Island picnic where you get dropped off on a private island with nothing but a picnic basket and towels.
Soneva Fushi by Six Senses, Kunfunadhoo Island, Baa Atoll, +960 660 0304; www.sixsenses.com/soneva-fushi; Doubles from US$842
Best Maldives resort for VIPs
Because rockstars need a time out now and then, there's the Jumeirah Dhevansfushi.
Divided into two distinct areas, the main resort island and the more exclusive Ocean Pearls, the latter is a group of villas located 800 meters away from the main island, literally in the middle of the water.
Feel totally secluded from the hullabaloo while staying at the Ocean Pearls, without giving up decadence. There is a swimming pool, spa treatment rooms and a restaurant so that guests can choose not to go back to the main island at all.
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Room to book: The Ocean Revives has round-the-clock butler service, an Apple Media Centre, Hermès toiletries, an outdoor bathtub, a pool and free Wi-Fi for guests who can’t leave work behind.
Insider tip: The morning yoga session on the beach at this Maldives resort will calm even the most jumpy CEO nerves.
Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, Meradhoo Island, Gaafu Alifu Atoll, +960 682 8800; www.jumeirah.com, Doubles from US$2,500
One&Only Reethi Rah
One&Only Reethi Rah has hosted everyone from Tom and Katie Cruise to Fergie and Josh Duhamel.
Maybe it’s because the butlers or villa hosts never say "no." Whether it’s organizing a party with a DJ in a villa or dinner on a private island, this Maldives resort will make it happen with a smile.
Room to book: The Grand Water Villa, a one-bedroom villa with a dedicated villa host, a private pool and best of all, a series of hammocks that are perched over the ocean.
Insider tip: The restaurants enforce a strict dress code for men of long pants and a polo shirt or long-sleeved shirt, so pack appropriately.
One&Only Reethi Rah, North Malé Atoll, + 960 664 8800, reethirah.oneandonlyresorts.com; Doubles from US$1,220
Soneva Gili by Six Senses
The resort has 45 over-water villas connected to the mainland by a jetty and has a No News, No Shoes policy in keeping with island culture.
It attains that balance between rustic eco-friendliness and luxury chic, built using sustainable materials.
Soneva Gili has a really secluded feel and understands how to help guests maintain complete privacy. You can be left totally alone at this Maldives resort and pretend you're the last person in the world if that's what you desire -- until you get thirsty.
Room to book: Feel like royalty at ThePrivate Reserve, a 1,400-square-meter residence that is only accessible by boat.
The reserve has two master suites, an entertainment suite, a spa, a gym, a private motor boat and a coral pool with a slide.
Mr. and Mrs. Friday, the personal butlers, are on call 24-hours-a-day and even tailor the music collection in the reserve to your taste.
Insider tip: Order the tasting menu at By The Sea, the resort’s Japanese-Peruvian restaurant.
Soneva Gili by Six Senses, Lankanfushi Island, North Malé Atoll, +960 664 0304; www.sixsenses.com/soneva-gili; Doubles from US$1,181
Banyan Tree Madivaru Maldives
Banyan Tree Madivaru Maldives is the ultimate in exclusivity with only six tented pool villas on the island.
The tent villas feel like a desert camp in an oasis. With outdoor showers, handcrafted furnishings and open vistas all around.
In-room spa treatments take place in the spacious bathroom which looks out into dense foliage.
Insider tip: Book all the tents in this Maldives resort for an intimate special occasion party-vacation.
Banyan Tree Madivaru Maldives, AA. Ethere Madivaru, Ethere Madivaru Island, North Ari Atoll, +960 666 0760; www.banyantree.com; Doubles from US$2,255
Best Maldives resort for spa lovers
Huvafen Fushi is home to Lime, one of the best spas in the atolls.
The spa boasts two glass-walled underwater treatment rooms, the world’s very first of its kind.
There is something surreal about getting a massage while schools of fish swim by. If you are lucky you may even see a shark.
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Room to book: The Beach Bungalow which has a plunge pool and an outdoor deck with a daybed.
Insider tip: Book a private dinner on the resort’s infinity pool which resembles a bioluminescent bay at night.
Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Maldives
The main attraction at Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Maldives is the Jiva Grande Spa.
The spa creates treatments inspired by Indian royalty-style pampering and spotlights Indian herbs and essential oils. An on-site Ayurvedic doctor will sort out body and mind for a total rehaul.
There's an Indian Royal Mud Bathing Experience and yoga and meditation areas. The resort also offers spa cuisine low in calories, rich in taste.
Room to book: The Lagoon Suites which comes with separate living rooms, a deck filled with white sand and a private pool.
Insider tip: This Maldives resort is close to the capital Malé, just 15 minutes' away by boat.
Taj Exotica Resort and Spa Maldives, Emboodhu Finolhu, South Malé Atoll, +960 664 2200; www.tajhotels.com; Doubles from US$1,200
Best Maldives resort for social butterflies
Niyama, in contrast to most other resorts in the Maldives, offers a lively atmosphere.
Daily activities include beach soccer, Zumba, kickboxing and tai chi. For something low-impact, spend your daylight hours networking at Dune, the beach bar, and evenings at Fahrenheit, a sunset rooftop bar with live music.
Subsix, billed as the world’s first underwater nightclub, will be opening shortly with international DJs and artists on rotation.
Room to book: Water Studios have private pools, sundecks with loungers and spacious bathrooms.
Insider tip: The homemade ice cream at The Deli is something to write home about.
Niyama, Dhaalu Atoll, + 960 6762 828; niyama.peraquum.com; Doubles from US$850
W Retreat & Spa – Maldives
The W brings its cool, hip vibe to the Maldives. The resort offers plenty of drinking spots including Wet, the swim-up pool bar, and Sip, a lounge ideal for sunset drinks.
The real highlight here is 15Below, an underground nightclub 15 steps beneath the island that hosts international DJs and does great cocktails.
Room to book: The Ocean Haven, a 465 square meters two-bedroom suite with an infinity pool, wraparound sundeck and glass-bottom lounge.
Insider tip: The resort runs SeaBob lessons so you will learn how to zoom under water.
W Retreat & Spa – Maldives, Fesdu Island, North Ari Atoll, +91 960 666 2222; www.starwoodhotels.com; Doubles from US$1,155
Best Maldives resort for tree-huggers
Six Senses Laamu
Six Senses Laamu, the only resort in the Laamu Atoll, was built with minimal impact on the environment.
Sustainable and recycled materials such as weathered wood have been crafted beautifully to create everything from the jetty to the villas.
The resort also hosts an annual fund-raising event in aid of environmental conservation.
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Room to book: Water villas which fabulous sundeck with day beds and glass dining tables.
Insider tip: Surfers and kitesurfers should visit between July and November when the winds reach 20 knots between July and November.
Six Senses Laamu, Laamu Atoll, +960 680 0800; www.sixsenses.com; Doubles from US$740
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru located on a teardrop-shaped island is surrounded by thriving coral reef.
The Banyan Tree Marine Lab extends out to the entire circumference of the island. The lab aims to provide research, raise awareness and protect local flora and fauna.
Guests can participate in the bi-weekly marine biology classes, monitor the conservation of sea turtles as well as sponsor a coral garden.
Room to book: The Beachfront Villas dotted on picture-perfect stretches of white sand beach.
Insider tip: The Naiboli Bar has a telescope for stargazing.
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, North Malé Atoll, +960 664 3147; www.banyantree.com; Doubles from US$1,020
Best Maldives resort for families
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
The Conrad Maldives is stretched across two islands, Rangalifinolhu and Rangali, connected by a wooden bridge. The resort offers a host of facilities designed specifically for children.
There's a kid’s club with daily activities such as Pirate Day as well as a mini submarine for exploring the coral reef.
Even the spa caters to children with an ice cream menu with flavors from apple pie to lavender lullaby for under-13s.
Room to book: Twin Beach Villa which has a terrace and a rollaway for the children.
Insider tip: Take advantage of the All Year Offer until December 23, 2012 during which under-12s can stay and eat for free.
Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island, +960 668 0629; conradhotels3.hilton.com; Doubles from US$625
Viceroy Maldives, which opened this month, has some of the biggest villas in the atoll nation.
The Maldives resort houses Generation V, a club for children aged 12 to 14, where kids can learn everything from shell painting to kite-flying while you relax on the beach.
Teenagers are also catered to with canoe races and Frisbee games.
Room to book: Deluxe beach villa which comes with a twin-sharing bedroom in addition to a master suite.
Insider tip: The opening special offer is valid until September 30, 2012 and gives guest two nights free when booking a four-night stay.
Viceroy Maldives Resort, Vagaru Island, Shaviyani Atoll Maldives, +960 654 5000; www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com; Doubles from US$1,670
Best Maldives resort for affordable luxury
This funky 45-villa resort is located on a tiny island. Given that you can walk around the island in 10 minutes, you will appreciate that the capital Malé is just 20 minutes away.
The house reef that encircles the island is definitely the star of the resort and is home to more than 140 species of fish. The spa offers Asian therapies and is well worth a visit.
Room to book: Beachfront villa which has a lovely outdoor bathroom and cabana.
Insider tip: The resort provides a free shuttle to its more upscale sister property Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru where you can use the facilities for free.
Angsana Ihuru, Ihuru Island, North Malé Atoll, +960 664 3502; www.angsana.com; Doubles from US$510
Hilton Maldives/Iru Fushi Resort & Spa
There is nothing small-scale about Hilton Maldives/Iru Fushi Resort & Spa. The resort located on a 21-hectare island houses 221 rooms, 10 dining and drinking establishments and a wide range of facilities from a business center to a spa with 21 treatment rooms.
Insider tip: The best snorkeling opportunities are away from the resort as the house-reef is not great.
Hilton Maldives/Iru Fushi Resort & Spa, Noonu Atoll, +960 656 0591; www.hilton.com; Doubles from US$361