A Guide To Paradise: The Best Luxury Resorts In The Maldives
From romantic retreats and design-conscious digs to fitness-oriented and family-friendly offerings, these are the top luxury offerings across the archipelago.
Relatively speaking, the Maldives haven’t been on the vacation radar for that long, but the archipelago nation has made up for that in the last decade or so with a near-constant stream of eye-catching resort openings. To date, there are over 160 resorts in the destination, the majority of which each sits on its own islet, away from any other signs of civilisation. With most of the major hospitality names represented, and nearly every resort offering things like overwater villas, secluded beaches, and water-based activities, it can be tough to narrow down which slice of paradise might be best for you. To help, we’ve highlighted 26 properties by the type of traveller they might best appeal to, from the family-focused to the foodie, the romantic to the budding marine biologist.
For the Romantic
True, pretty much anywhere you choose in the Maldives is going to be romantic, as the dreamy setting—plus things like private decks and plunge pools, secluded dining spots, and champagne-fuelled cruises—have helped make this a top destination for honeymoons and proposals. But some hotels offer a little extra for their coupled-up guests.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island’s hotel-within-a-hotel, the Muraka, is set a short speedboat ride away from the main resort, and features just one suite: a two-level residence with a living room, bedroom, and dining and entertainment spaces floating above the ocean, and a master bedroom, bathroom, and lounge area set 16-feet underwater, complete with glass walls so you can take in the vibrant marine life. This first-of-its-kind undersea suite comes with its own 24-hour butlers, who can arrange private seaplane transfers directly to the suite; a private chef, who will lead cooking classes or fishing trips; and access to exclusive activities like guided stargazing excursions and midnight snorkelling tours.
Naladhu Private Island Maldives
This small, elegant resort is perfect for honeymooning couples and guests who want a more intimate vacation. It has just 20 private villas, each with a pool, private beach cabana and discreet butler service. Naladhu Private Island specialises in curating exclusive experiences, whether that’s a private outdoor movie night on cozy couches in the Coconut Grove or a dinner under the stars on the beach. The resort has a no-menu concept and a fabulous French chef who will make all of your culinary dreams come true. It’s the perfect place to escape from the world with your beloved.
For the Gourmand
Since guests of Maldivian resorts can only eat on property (with no other hotels or villages around, you’re pretty much marooned), most resorts offer several dining options serving a variety of cuisines, to help keep things interesting. Some spots, though, take things to new culinary heights.
The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands
The Fari Islands are quickly becoming one of the Maldives’ hot spots. The ultra-luxury archipelago has three hotels, a marina, beach club, boutiques, marine biology centre, and a plethora of restaurants. The newest opening and crown jewel is the Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands. In addition to its superb service, modern design and divine spa, the resort has a fantastic dining scene that spoils you with choice. Five marvellous restaurants showcase cuisine from around the world. At Locanda, you can enjoy southern Italian dishes in an open-air environment. Summer Pavilion serves modern Chinese cuisine in a refined atmosphere, while Iwau treats guests to a chef’s table and ultra-fresh sushi selection. Head to the Beach Shack or Tum Tum, an Asian-inspired food trailer, for more casual fare. Over at Fari Marina, just a quick boat ride away, you’ll find Arabesque, a delicious Lebanese and North Indian restaurant in a Bedouin-tent-inspired space. The resort also hosts visiting chefs and bartenders throughout the year.
The St. Regis Vommuli Resort
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort earned its foodie credentials soon after opening in 2016. In addition to menus that run the gamut from Italian and Japanese to Indian, Korean, Pakistani, and Cantonese, the resort has hosted Michelin-starred chefs for a series of notable tasting dinners and intimate cooking classes, which we hope will come back post-Covid. It also has an award-winning wine cellar with difficult-to-find vintages, including the oldest bottle of wine in the Indian Ocean. But, it’s not all fancy fare. Head to Crust & Craft to design your own pizzas or eat fresh tacos. Don’t forget to have the resort’s signature Bloody Mary at the Whale Bar, the resort’s gorgeous overwater lounge.
If wine’s your thing, check in to Vakkaru Maldives, set just a 30-minute seaplane ride from the main island of Male, in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The resort’s wine cellar, Vakkaru Reserve, is stocked with over 6,000 bottles from around 400 labels spanning both the Old and New Worlds (among the oldest is a 1974 Château Cheval Blanc), valued at approx. $1.1 million. The wine cellar is also a well-equipped space to enjoy a wine tasting with cheese and charcuterie or a paired tasting menu dinner. Both will be led by the resident sommelier.
One&Only Reethi Rah
With eight restaurants, One&Only Reethi Rah is a gourmand’s dream. Many resorts in the Maldives have just one or two restaurants, so the diverse cuisine is especially notable. One night, you might indulge in sashimi and nigiri at Japanese-Peruvian-fusion restaurant, Tapasake. The next, a plant-based meal at Botanica by renowned chef Matthew Kenney, which is so delicious that you won’t miss the meat. Your most memorable meal might take place out in the island’s lush landscape; the resort specializes in private dinners with bespoke menus and attentive service.
Kudadoo Maldives brings the all-inclusive concept to new heights with its motto: Anything, Anywhere, Anytime. A butler will attend to your every need and plan fabulous activities, including decadent dining. They can set up private dinners or beach picnics anywhere on the island, perhaps under the stars or tucked away in a lush corner. Well worth the additional charge is the 5.8 Undersea Restaurant. The all-glass restaurant has curved walls and ceilings, so you can marvel at the sea life from all angles. Even the wine program is impressive, and a refreshing change from the sometimes lacklustre options at all-inclusive resorts. Here, the all-inclusive wine cellar has 80 labels, all with ratings over 88 points from Wine Spectator and a sommelier to help you choose. If you’re looking for something unique, bottles from the Owner’s Wine Cellar are available at an additional cost.
For the Family
Despite the dreamy romance of the destination, the Maldives offers plenty of spots that cater to multi-generational groups, and that offer fun for all ages of travellers.
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru
Children are not just accommodated; they are welcomed and celebrated at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. The resort goes above and beyond to ensure that families travelling with children of all ages have a fun and seamless vacation. Its experts have thought of everything, including items to childproof your room to strollers, organic bath amenities, bottle warmers, and pop-up tents to shield little ones from the strong sunshine. It also offers children under six free meals and has personalized birthday amenities for kids under 12. Book one of the Family Villas, which have sofa beds, cribs, or rollaways, so you don’t need to book a multi-bedroom suite to accommodate your family. Travelling with multiple families? Book one of the three-bedroom suites. Their days will be packed at the Kuda Velaa Club with programming for children and young adults or at the Marine Discovery Centre. They can learn to snorkel, discover wildlife, and help marine biologists transplant coral frames.
Jumeirah Maldives Olahali Island
Jumeirah Maldives Olahali Island is accessible by speedboat or a quick 15-minute seaplane ride from the international airport, which makes travelling with little ones easier. The all-villa resort has a unique design: each accommodation has a private infinity pool and a rooftop terrace with an alfresco dining area, giving you even more space for your family to spread out and relax. Children will stay entertained at the Kids Club, which has a water park on the beach. There’s also beach volleyball and tennis, as well as a host of water activities. You can take a trip to watch dolphins, swim with manta rays or turtles, learn to snorkel or even take a trip in a semi-submarine.
Niyama Private Islands Resort Maldives
Over at Niyama Private Islands Maldives Resort, you’ll find the hotel separated into two islands: the more adult-friendly “Chill”, and the family-focused “Play,” home to multi-bedroom villas, the treehouse Nest restaurant, great surfing spots, and a lively kids club. On “Play,” the younger guests are catered to with a wide array of activities, from baby yoga to pizza-making classes and snorkeling “safaris.” Parents can join their spawn on the adventures, or enlist the services of a trained nanny or baby sitter for when they need some quiet time.
For a refined family vacation, check into the Nautilus. This elegant property has just 26 villas, so your little ones will be close to you at all times but can feel free to explore the island. The hotel has superb programming for children to enjoy while you indulge in more grown-up activities, as well as a delightful selection of fun for the family to enjoy together. You might spend the afternoon at the spa while they have a pirate-themed day, then all come together for a private barbecue on a sandbank. Nautilus has different educational, cultural and activity programs for children and young adults, so even the difficult-to-please Gen Z guests will have a fabulous time. There’s also a 24-hour babysitting service.
For the Wellness Seeker
From traditional therapies that draw from the Maldives’ cultural heritage to the latest high-tech beauty treatments, you’ll find it all in the islands. With many guests checking in for at least a week, targeted wellness programs are also big here, with multi-day programs designed to tackle things like detox, stress relief, and fitness.
Six Senses Laamu
At Six Senses Laamu, the signature Six Senses personalized wellness assessment uses both diagnostic technology (including biomarker analysis and movement efficiency tests) and one-on-one consultations to create the perfect mix of treatments, workouts, meal plans, and expert sessions to fit your needs; a dedicated program for sleep health—which tracks and analyzes your REM patterns—is also available. (The barefoot-chic resort also has an all-day ice cream parlour dolling out complimentary scoops, if you want to balance the wellness with some indulgence.)
Holistic wellness is also at the core of COMO Maalifushi, the first resort in the pristine Thaa Atoll. In keeping with the COMO brand’s wellness philosophy, the resort helps you decompress and recharge via Asian-influenced treatments in the overwater spa rooms, yoga and meditation in the open-air pavilion, easy access to activities like surfing and diving, and dedicated COMO Shambhala Retreat healthy menus in the restaurants.
Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas
At Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas, check in to the Deluxe Spa Pool Villa to enjoy both holistic services—including two Ayurvedic programs featuring a mix of treatments, fitness, and healthy eating to target either Longevity or Detoxifying—as well as high-tech treatments like “Vampire” facials, IV therapies, and VelaShape fat-blasting in the Cocoon Medi Spa, the first full medi-spa in the region. The resort also has a visiting naturopath and nutritionist who offers intensive programs, complete with a health evaluation and wellness plan you can continue to use long after your stay. We recommend booking your trip around her residency.
Just from the name, you can tell that wellbeing is the primary focus of a trip to Joali Being. But, this isn’t an ascetic boot camp — the resort is pure luxury. Each of the 68 opulent beach and water villas has a private pool and personal butler to attend to all of your needs. A stay here is tailored to each guest, courtesy of in-depth consultations, a bespoke program, plenty of spa treatments and delicious yet healthy cuisine.
For over 25 years, Soneva’s luxury resorts in the Maldives have set the standard for sustainable luxury, but it isn’t content to rest on its laurels. Last year, the brand’s second property, Soneva Jani, unveiled a new chapter with the addition of 27 overwater villas, each ideally situated to ensure a sense of total privacy and stunning ocean views. The best part: many of the new Water Reserves have slides straight into the azure lagoon that children and adults will adore. Soneva also introduced a new unlimited offering, including all food, beverage, experiences, butler service, laundry and, perhaps most impressive, unlimited spa treatments at the nearly 19,000-square-foot Wellness Centre. Here, you can indulge in Ayurvedic and cutting-edge therapies, do yoga in an outdoor pavilion (including aerial yoga) and meet with specialists who can help you achieve your wellness goals.
For the Underwater Adventurer
Whether you’re an amateur marine biologist or just like swimming with the fishes, these resorts will help connect you to the wild underwater world.
Surrounded by a natural reef, Baros Maldives is home to the first EcoDive centre in the area to be certified by International Reef Check, which monitors, maintains and restores coral reefs around the world. Thanks to this on-site resource, guests can take a coral gardening workshop with the resident marine biologist, in which they’ll learn how to collect and re-attach broken coral fragments to help encourage regeneration. You can also join the biologist on a private snorkelling trip to other reefs in the area, do a guided night dive using specially filtered lights, or just paddle around with sea turtles, reef sharks and more a few feet from the Baros beach.
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru
At Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, guests of all ages can take advantage of the Citizen Science program, which educates you about marine life and reef conversation, then lets you get your hands dirty helping to plant and resort the reefs; you’ll also get to help monitor fish and shark population and collect data vital to conservation initiatives. It also has a Marine Conservation Lab that cleans and replants coral reefs, and you’re welcome to join.
Raffles Maldives Meradhoo
Over at the 21-villa Raffles Maldives Meradhoo, the legendary Raffles butler service is taken to new levels (or depths) with dedicated Marine Butlers. Available to all guests, the aquatic experts are available to lead curated snorkelling tours of the resort’s two house reefs, which are home to tropical fish, baby sharks and sea turtles—the latter of which have been meticulously catalogued by the biologists. The resort is located in the remote Gaafu Alifu atoll, renowned for its rich variety of marine life.
Four Seasons Explorer
If you’d like to spend most of your vacation in the water, book Original Diving’s tailor-made Exclusive Charter to the Deep South of the Maldives itinerary, presented in conjunction with the Four Seasons Explorer—one of the fastest and most luxurious live-aboard yachts in the Maldives. The nine-day itinerary (which includes seven nights on the boat) will have you island-hopping to some of the southern atolls’ most pristine and secluded scuba spots, each rich with marine and coral life; sightings of tiger, thresher, and hammerhead sharks may also be in the cards. In between the secluded dives, you can relax aboard the luxe three-deck catamaran, which has ten staterooms and a spacious Explorer Suite.
As one of the most sustainable resorts in the Maldives, it’s no surprise that Gili Lankanfushi wants to educate its guests about its magnificent surroundings. The resort has an impressive marine biology center with two dedicated marine biologists, a coral-restoration project and partnerships with international NGOs, including Manta Trust and the Olive Ridley Project, to help protect at-risk wildlife. The best way to learn about its marine conservation projects is through the five-night Dive & Discover program. You’ll dive every day, plant coral and learn about the best ways to help the ocean. You can also take surf lessons at a nearby wave break with a marine biologist who will take you on tour, pointing out wildlife. At night, rest your head in one of the fabulous overwater bungalows, or perhaps in the world’s largest overwater villa—a massive villa that sprawls over 18,000 square feet and has four bedrooms, a cinema, library, indoor gym, private spa, two-story waterslide and a 678-square-foot pool.
For the Design Aficionado
It’s not all thatched roofs and tropical flair here—the Maldives has attracted some of the world’s top architects and designers, many of who have brought a contemporary take to island living.
Cheval Blanc Randheli
This elegant resort from LVMH perfectly blends French savoir-faire and design with its tranquil Maldivian surroundings. Cheval Blanc Randheli was designed by celebrated architect Jean-Michel Gathy, who used traditional materials like rattan, mother-of-pearl and bamboo throughout the property. Instead of the typical blues and greens that echo the greenery and ocean, Gathy used white, taupe, and a signature hue, “pop yellow,” which makes a statement in the lush tropical environment. There’s also some unmissable art, including Vincent Beaurin’s copper Arch in the lagoon. The villas and restaurants all have a sleek contemporary look, and even the newly refurbished Kids Club, Le Carrousel, has a beautiful design; some walls are painted with imaginary fish, and the building seamlessly blends with the landscape.
Patina Maldives, Fari Islands
You wouldn’t expect to find a world-class art destination in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but Patina Maldives, Fari Islands aims to change that through an ambitious residency program, art installations throughout the property and, the star of the show, a James Turrell-designed Skyspace pavilion, Amarta. Patina Maldives partnered with the Artling, a Singapore-based contemporary art consultancy, to commission bespoke art that guests interact with during their stay. Of course, the resort itself approaches architecture as art with design from Marcio Kogan’s firm Studiomk27. The villas were sustainably crafted from natural materials and have a serene environment, encouraging relaxation and connection with nature.
For the Fitness Warrior
Because not everyone is content to shuttle between the beach and pool for two weeks, these resorts offer activities that will help get the circulation flowing.
The sister property to Joali Being—and the first resort in the new Joali brand—Joali Maldives in 2019 debuted the RAW Fitness program, which has combined wellness with philanthropy by creating an outdoor “green gym” made up of things like handcrafted wooden structures, coconut hand weights and natural fibre ropes, and made entirely by students from a vocational school. The property also has a partnership with LUX Tennis, a Spanish tennis concierge service, with a resident tennis coach who can teach you how to hit that perfect serve or improve your backhand.
If you’d rather be in the water, Angsana Velavaru offers two beginner PADI diving certification courses at its 5-Star Gold Dive Center, each including confined and open water lessons and all necessary equipment. Once certified, explore some of the 30 diving spots around the South Nilandhe Atoll. For those that might prefer to stay closer to the surface, fishing trips and snorkelling with whale sharks can also be arranged.
Velaa Private Island
Velaa Private Island has a huge variety of activities, including some unique to the Maldives. It has the only covered tennis court in the archipelago, a soccer field, squash court, climbing ball and a Technogym fitness centre. But perhaps most impressively, it has a golf “short-game academy” on the island from José María Olazábal, which offers swing analysis, a golf simulator and coaching with PGA professionals. On the water, you can embark on diving, snorkelling and fishing trips, or explore the island by jet ski, e-foil surfboard or even a hoverboard.
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