There’s more to the Maldives than honeymoons – April Hutchinson picks resorts to suit all types of travellers
When it comes to sheer escapism, it’s hard to beat the Maldives. But with so many resorts to choose from, how do you decide the right one for you? Here are some suggestions, whether you are planning a family holiday, a pampering break or even a corporate gathering.
Best for… spa lovers
In terms of wellness, it’s hard to match Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, set in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Landaa’s Spa and Ayurvedic Retreat is one of the most comprehensive spas in the country and offers Anti Gravity yoga, a Yoga Energy Trail, and Panchakarma, an ayurvedic cleansing programme. Request one of the redesigned and extended over-water villas, each with a 12-metre private pool, and sign up to Manta on Call so the resort team can contact you as soon as these graceful creatures are spotted.
Part of the exclusive LVMH hotel group, Cheval Blanc Randheli comes with an entire spa island, accessible only by boat and featuring Guerlain treatments, its own pool, hammam and Spa Bar. Elsewhere, Huvafen Fushi features the world’s first-ever underwater spa, with treatments that match the location in their brilliance.
Best for… families
With its Explorers Kids Club – a circus-themed area with trampoline, splash park, gourmet kitchen and a stage for performances – Niyama has one of the most comprehensive family offerings. Four different “tribes” are welcomed at its kids’ clubs: Globetrotters (12-24 months), Adventurers (three- to four-year-olds), Voyagers (five- to seven-year-olds) and Pioneers (eight to 12), with activities ranging from lullabies in Dhivehi, the local language, to dolphin spotting and cookery lessons.
Another option is the Residence Maldives at Dhigurah, a new 173-villa resort linked to a sister island by a 1km bridge. The Turtle Kids Club has a raft of daily activities, there’s movie time daily at 4pm and a Bubblemaker Dive programme (eight years and up). Another child-friendly option is the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa on Furanafushi Island, North Malé Atoll, a 15- to 20-minute speedboat ride from the international airport. It recently completed a US$20 million renovation and has cottage accommodation designed for families, plus the Sheraton Adventure Club for kids.
Look for resorts offering all-inclusive packages to help manage the budget – Angsana Velavaru offers Live for Family Fun, which includes daily breakfast, lunch and dinner (free meals for kids under 12), ice cream and snorkelling lessons, among other things.
Best for… party lovers
Not all resorts in the Maldives are full of honeymooners. With its contemporary style, Amilla Fushi has always set out to be a place where groups of friends and families can hang out together. The focus is on combining toes-in-the-sand relaxation alongside DJs, live acts and the best parties in the Maldives – last year’s festivities included Rita Ora appearing on New Year’s Eve with Nick Grimshaw DJing.
Finolhu is another equally sociable island choice, with regular events encouraging guests to gather, such as pool parties, movie nights and the weekly White Party, where all guests dress in white, enjoy sunset drinks and dance into the early hours. If a group of friends want space to spread out – and splash out – try the Rock Star Villa at the Hard Rock Hotel Maldives, which has its own infinity pool (pictured below), a tuk-tuk bar on the terrace and, via the Sound of Your Stay, the chance to curate your own soundtrack.
Best for… meetings
A country made up of small islands, space is at a premium in the Maldives, so don’t expect to be able to hold a huge conference here. However, new on the scene is Crossroads, the country’s first integrated resort development and one of its most ambitious projects to date. Close to the capital, Malé, and the international airport, the project includes easily one of the largest rentable spaces in the country, the Crossroads Event Hall, a state-of-the-art, multipurpose 326 sqm venue that can hold 400 delegates.
Also part of the nine-island development are newcomers the Hard Rock Hotel and SAii Lagoon Maldives Curio Collection by Hilton, which are both connected to the main Crossroads island by bridge or the inter-island water transportation system. Dining venues at both hotels can host large group dinners and the Hard Rock also has 1,300 sqm of indoor and outdoor event space, including a poolside terrace and function lawn. A ten-minute speedboat ride from the airport is the long-established Kurumba Maldives, a 180-room resort with eight restaurants, three bars, and Bougainvillea Hall, holding 200 guests.
Best for… surfers
The Maldives might not be the first place you think of for big surf breaks, but it’s gathered quite a reputation for it in recent years. Como Maalifushi has embraced the trend, offering one of the country’s most comprehensive and geographically diverse surfing programmes. The only resort in the entire Thaa Atoll, its Surf Pass sees surfers travel between three atolls in a speedboat in search of breaks such as “Surf Machines” at Laamu, “Kasabu” at Dhaalu, and “Farms” at Thaa. A full-time guide from high-end surf brand Tropicsurf is based at the resort from April to October, when the biggest swells come through.
Also worth a look is Six Senses Laamu, the only resort in the Laamu Atoll and also a partner with Tropicsurf, whose team can take you out to tackle the mighty Yin Yang, one of the country’s most famous breaks.
Best for… going green
Eco-minded travellers should head for Soneva Fushi, where sustainability and ethical practices are core values, from auditing its impact on the environment and counter-balancing this via a carbon tax, to teaching local children to swim. Soneva Fushi has its own glass factory, which takes in glass from neighbouring resorts and upcycles it into attractive tableware, ornaments and pieces of art.
Gili Lankanfushi is one of the country’s other best-loved eco-resorts, and is set to reopen on December 1, with ten of its 45 villas having been totally recreated and accredited to silver standard by Earth Check. A newer contender for the eco crown is Joali, which opened last year and offsets all carbon emission from guests’ stays with tree planting on local islands.
Best for… foodies
The days of the Maldives being stuck in a culinary cul-de-sac are long gone; top island resorts come with top dining concepts. The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort has six restaurants but is bringing a global roster of gourmet chefs to the island to make it even more of a foodie haven. Chefs booked to visit between November and March include David Gil Rovira from Tickets in Barcelona, Dutch Michelin-starred chef Jonathan Zandbergen and French two-star chef Guillaume Bracaval.
Elsewhere, vegans are increasingly being catered for. Amilla Fushi has paired up with chef Tora Olsson to launch dishes combining molecular gastronomy and organic plant-based ingredients, while the little resort island of Mirihi now has vegan cookery classes. For authentic local food, head to Milaidhoo Island, where Ba’theli serves only Maldivian dishes, including curries of lobster, slow-braised beef and chicken.
This 81-villa resort opened in September close to the coveted Baa Atoll, classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which means more chances to play among incredibly rich marine life. Designed by Singapore-based Eco-ID, the resort comes with a six-room overwater spa and six restaurants and bars, including the Retreat, an adults-only enclave with an infinity pool.
Bringing Italian flair to an island idyll, Baglioni opened its 96-villa tropical escape on October 1. Expect bed linens by Frette, sparkling wine by Ferrari Trento, and spa treatments by Insium, an Italian vegan spa brand. Hang out at the pool bar, enjoy three restaurants and explore the beautiful waters of the surrounding Dhaalu Atoll.
Open since September, this mega hotel is so close to Male that you could be on the beach within 15 minutes of leaving the airport. Part of the new Crossroads integrated resort, the 178-room property aims to keep you busy with the Hard Rock Cafe, Body Rock fitness centre, Rock Spa, Hard Rock Roxity Kids Club and Teen Spirit Club. You can even order a Crosley turntable to play records in your room, or borrow a Fender guitar.
Opening on November 1, JW Marriott’s Maldives property will wow with impressive gourmet offerings across six restaurants, including one in a treetop setting, Kaashi and Rum Baan. There are 60 all-pool villas, a wine room housing 300 labels, an open-air cinema, an adults-only pool and club, a kids’ club and spa.