Relatively speaking, the Maldives haven’t been on the vacation radar—at least with U.S. travelers—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 130 resorts in the destination, the majority of which each sits on its own islet, away from any other signs of civilization. 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 19 properties by the type of traveler 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-fueled cruises—have helped makes this a top destination for honeymoons and proposals. But some hotels offer a little extra for their coupled-up guests.
Anantara Veli Maldives
Set in a part of the archipelago renowned for diving and surfing, Anantara Veli Maldives Resort is one of the few adults-only options in the Maldives, making it a natural pick for a romantic hideaway. Check in to one of the overwater pool bungalows—each equipped with lots of indoor and outdoor lounging space, easy beach access, and endless views out over the Indian Ocean—then enjoy activities like healing couple’s spa treatments, private dinners on a sandbar, and sunset cruises on the Nirvana yacht. Relax under the stars with a private outdoor movie screening (paired with drinks and dinner), or get the blood pumping with a whale shark snorkeling trip. The resort can also arrange for a pro photoshoot of your trip, so you’ll have plenty to post on the ‘Gram.
Intercontinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort
Meanwhile, some resorts offer separate couples cocoons within their larger facilities. At the recently-opened Intercontinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort near the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the all-club-level set-up (a first for the brand) means that every room comes with a butler, included breakfast, and access to the adults-only Retreat, a standalone, lagoon-side hideaway with a separate pool, restaurant, bar, and plenty of lounging areas; the spot is a particular favorite for pre-dinning cocktails and canapes, which are also included in the rates.
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 snorkeling tours.
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.
St. Regis Vommuli Resort
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort earned its foodie cred 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 introduced a Michelin-Starred Chefs in Residence Series, running from November 2019-March 2020. The series will highlight a rotation of some of the most notable and award-winning chefs from around the world, with each chef hosting a seated tasting menu dinner, followed by an intimate cooking class the next day. Some of the chefs already booked include Jonathan Zandbergen of the Michelin-starred Restaurant Hotel Merlet in the Netherlands, British “Master Chef” Marianne Lumb, and award-winning pastry chef David Gil Rovira of Barcelona’s TICKETS.
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) and is also equipped space to enjoy a wine tasting or a paired tasting menu dinner. Both will be led by on-site sommelier Stefanie Wiesner, who has also programmed wine-themed experiences for the resort-like meals with visiting winemakers, chefs, and chocolatiers, and wellness-themed organic wine dinner. Wiesner is also a certified Sake Sommelier if you feel like branching out into spirits.
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 travelers.
The Jumeriah Vittaveli is located just 20-minutes away from Male’s international airport by luxury catamaran, eliminating the need to corral the gang onto a seaplane. Among the resort’s 90 villas and suites (which range from one- to five-bedrooms) are seven Infinity Pool Ocean Villas equipped with water slides, and a five-bedroom Royal Residence boasting its own spa, gym, an overwater bar, two pools, and private beach. While the grown-ups are at the main spa or enjoying cocktails, kids can retreat to one of the largest children’s clubs in the Maldives (or to the Teen Lounge, if they’re older) for fun like a treasure island scavenger hunt. Another fun perk is the area’s first and only ice rink—where you can glide around, just feet from the Indian Ocean, on state-of-the-art (and sustainable) artificial ice plates.
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 two 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.
Conrad Rangali Island
The range of kids-only fun is also a highlight of a stay at Conrad Rangali Island. Available for guests aged 3 to 12, the Majaa Kids’ Club offers specifically themed activities each day—think Ocean Tuesday, Little Chef Wednesday, and Pirate Sunday—as well as other sports, games, workshops, and arts and crafts. Also notable are the family-focused treatments at the resort’s Over-Water Spa: in addition to special treatments designed for teens 14-and-over (with parental permission), designated “Father and Son” and “Mother and Daughter” packages encourage bonding time during services like massages, temporary tattoo applications, hair braiding, and more.
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 parlor dolling out complimentary scoops, if you want to balance the wellness with some indulgence.)
One&Only Reethi Rah
How you snooze is also one of the focuses at One&Only Reethi Rah, where the “Sleep Journey” package—launching this October—includes an assessment, targeted massage, and breathing and visualization sessions. The stellar spa also offers treatments with visiting practitioners who specialize in different disciplines (like herbal medicine, acupuncture, or physiotherapy) and work together with the spa team to craft holistic programs focusing on topics like energy, relaxation, and weight management.
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.
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 center 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 snorkeling 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.
Raffles Maldives Meradhoo
Over at the 21-villa Raffles Maldives Meradhoo—which opened this May—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 snorkeling 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 cataloged by the biologists.
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 liveaboard yachts in the Maldives. The nine-day itinerary (which include 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.
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.
Earlier this year, JOALI Maldives 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 fiber ropes, and made entirely by students from a vocational school. The resort also introduced a partnership with LUX Tennis, a Spanish tennis concierge service that will curate a rotating roster of visiting pros available to guests for games and lessons.
Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa
More on-land fun can be enjoyed at Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa, home to 132 villas (some with pools, others over the ocean) and one of the few golf courses in the Maldives. Surrounded by white sand beaches, tropical foliage, and views of the water, the nine-hole course includes a mix of par three and par four holes. Tennis on two Federation-grade courses, jogging trails, and guided bike tours of the five nearby islands are also available.
If you’d rather be in that 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 snorkeling with whale sharks can also be arranged.