Like the recently opened Patina Maldives, the Ritz-Carlton forms part of a triptych of resorts on Fari Islands, a man made archipelago on the North Malé Atoll, which when complete will also include a new property from Capella Hotels & Resorts.
Spread over a trio of islands, this 100-villa property was the last project for architect Kerry Hill, who set a new design standard for the Maldives with a concept that takes its cues from the ‘notion of completeness’ with lots of circular shapes and sensuous curves.
These can be found throughout, from the resort’s magnificent ring-shaped spa to the glorious overwater villas. Here, dressed in an understated palette of neutral materials and natural, tactile textures, the space seamlessly flows from the inside to the outside, where a curved deck and pool merge into the sparkling sea beyond.
The resort itself is intimate in size with the majority of the restaurants located on Culinary Island. This includes IWAU, an outdoor Japanese restaurant; Summer Pavilion, which serves tapas-style modern Chinese fare in a lantern-inspired space perched over the velvety lagoon; and La Locanda, which serves breakfast by morning and transforms into a Southern Italian restaurant for lunch and dinner.
The Beach Shack, at the very end of the third island, is pure beachside bliss, where a crowd-pleasing menu of dishes from refreshing salads to burgers can be enjoyed against the lazy lap of the crystalline waters, as paddle boarders drift past in the distance.
As for its green credentials, the resort’s sustainability programme includes an efficient approach to gastronomy, and design elements that include sustainably sourced timber, solar panels, as well as a dedicated plant that provides the resort’s still and sparkling water.
BOOK IT: One-bedroom Ocean Pool Villa starts £1,308, including breakfast. ritzcarlton.com
The debut resort from Capella Hotels & Resorts’ new elevated lifestyle brand, Patina has certainly stepped things up a notch in the Maldives.
Newly opened, this 110-villa property is part of Fari Islands, a new man made archipelago in the North Malé Atoll, which when complete, will comprise a trio of hotel brands including Capella and the just-opened Ritz-Carlton, designed by Kerry Hill.
Patina itself is spread over a sprawling 42-hectares, its lush interiors fringed by talcum-white sands and beyond that, a clear turquoise lagoon. Alongside the resort, the island is also home to Fari Marina Village, a 20-berth marina and a social hub comprising a collection of the resort’s 12 restaurants from the Patagonian-inspired Brasa to a burger truck.
Designed by Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan, the resort’s neutral palette is boosted by earthy hues, subtle textures and matt surfaces that includes timbers, linen, rattan, stone and natural fibres.
There’s lots to do too, from dolphin-spotting at sunset aboard the resort’s Adastra superyacht to getting pampered in the photogenic spa, where a series of low-lying cubic treatment rooms can be found dotted among the lush landscape.
We suggest spending some time on your spacious outdoor deck, reading a book in the swinging hammock, followed by a bath at sunset with an indulgent glass of champagne.
BOOK IT: One Bedroom Sunset Water Pool Villa from £1,860. patinahotels.com
One&Only Reethi Rah
North Malé Atoll
It might have opened two decades ago, but One&Only Reethi Rah is still setting the bar high in terms of luxury hotels in the Maldives. Perched on a lush 108-acre octopus-shaped island with over six-kilometres of secluded coastline, the resort is the ultimate in barefoot luxury with 12 pristine beaches, a sprawling spa, an exceptional water sports offering and a collection of excellent restaurants and bars.
The villas have been designed by Jean-Michel Gathy to feature soaring ceilings with exposed bamboo beams, indulgent bathrooms, which are the same size as the bedrooms, and details like a mini fridge (yes really) for your makeup.
Spend the day lolling on your private cabana at the Beach Club, before heading to Fanditha – the Arabian restaurant – or Tapasake to watch the sun go down. The latter is the resort’s overwater Japanese-Peruvian restaurant, where you can get your sushi and sashimi fix alongside other crowd-pleasers like the black cod with miso.
Not to mention the spa, which completes the experience as the ultimate honeymooner’s dream destination.
BOOK IT: Beach Villa from £1,345, including breakfast. oneandonlyresorts.com
Private Island, Lhaviyani Atoll
Imagine a place where everything and anything is available at any time, anywhere you want. Welcome to Kudadoo, an intimate 15-villa resort with an exclusive all-inclusive offering that covers everything from unlimited spa treatments to champagne on tap.
Set on a postage stamp of an island in the Lhaviyani Atoll, the resort’s distinct Japanese aesthetic comes courtesy of New York-based Japanese architect Yuji Yamazaki. As such, the overwater villas channel tranquil ryokan vibes, their curved roofs and slatted timber exterior leading to an elegant interior with an open-plan living room and sleeping area, and an indoor-outdoor Japanese inspired bathroom.
When not lazing on your spacious outdoor deck – which comes complete with its own pool, sofa swing, outdoor dining area and easy access to the lagoon for some epic snorkelling sessions – head to The Retreat. Here, you’ll find the main swimming pool, restaurant (which has a wine cellar and cheese room), bar and spa, all housed within a space that has been smartly designed to maximise natural air flow, with a roof that incorporates 984 solar panels, enabling the entire resort to be purely powered by the sun.
Whether it’s a private yoga session, an in-villa massage, or a romantic breakfast on a secluded nearby sandbank, whatever you want is yours, at any time and anywhere. Pair this with the intuitive and discreet service of your personal butler, and you have a ground-breaking concept that will impress even the most discerning of travellers.
BOOK IT: One Bedroom Ocean Residence from £2,500, with everything included. kudadoo.com
North Malé Atoll
Huvafen Fushi might not be as flashy as some of its competitors, but what it lacks in excess is more than made up for with its charm, intimacy and amenities.
Its location is a short 30-minute speedboat ride from Malé, but it seems a world away, its compact size, lush foliage and quiet sandy lanes coming together to reveal a tranquil retreat with an informal, barefoot vibe.
There are just 44 private bungalows and pavilions, all of which have their own pools, however if you can tear yourself away, the main infinity pool is a great alternative, particularly at sunset, when you can meander to the adjoining bar for a cocktail.
Along with five bars and restaurants, including an underground wine cellar as well as Raw, which offers fresh, organic and wholesome dishes from its perch over the lagoon, there’s lots to do from stargazing with champagne on the resort’s dhoni to coral adoption. But it’s the spa that is the biggest wow factor with its mesmerising underwater treatment room eight-metres below sea level.
BOOK IT: Beach Bungalow from £1000, including breakfast. huvafenfushi.com
Hurawalhi Island Resort
Private Island, Lhaviyani Atoll
It’s no surprise the area of sea around Hurawalhi is called ‘The Aquarium’. Alongside an abundance of truly astonishing sea life, it is also a haven for dolphins – many of which can be seen frolicking at breakfast time just off the deck of Canelli restaurant – while there is a manta ray feeding and breeding ground 150m from the beach.
Aside from that, there’s plenty to do, from scuba diving and snorkelling to sunset cruises, spa treatments, or just lazing around on the spacious deck of your villa. But for something a little more elevated, head to 5.8, where you’ll dine on dishes like the ponzu salmon belly with aromatic glazed scallop while being entertained by a mesmerising display of undersea life.
As for being green, 30% of the island is powered by solar energy, there is also a water bottling plant, a food recycling programme, and extensive kitchen garden. Pair this with an array of restaurants and bars – including a romantic champagne pavilion for sunset bubbles – gently swaying palm trees, dazzling white sand and brilliantly clear turquoise waters, and you might just have the dream island escape.
BOOK IT: Ocean Villa from £428, including breakfast. hurawalhi.com
Amilla Maldives Resort & Residences
Finolhas Baa Atoll
Amilla Maldives Resort & Residences (previously Amilla Fushi) continues to be a true disruptor of the traditional Maldives experience thanks to its brilliant white minimalist cuboid villas along with a private marina, which feels much more Miami than Maldives. And then there’s the glitzy infinity pool, buzzy Emperor’s Beach Club and a spa and wellness village with offerings like Sensora light, sound and vibration therapy.
More recently, the resort has taken things a step further with a sustainability programme that goes far beyond banning plastic bottles to include The Nut – a dedicated coconut processing facility that will utilise waste to make everything from cold-pressed virgin coconut oil to coco peat for the gardens – and Cluckingham Palace- home to the happiest chickens in the Maldives.
If you can tear yourself away from your villa, there is a weekly activities schedule that includes all sorts from acrobatics classes to foot reflexology workshops. Complete this with a glamping experience in a luxury air conditioned bubble tent, which comes with champagne and a private chef, and it’s no wonder the resort is a favourite of the jet set.
BOOK IT: Double rooms from £790 a night, including breakfast. amilla.com
Paradise might be an overused word when it comes to the Maldives, but Anantara Kihavah really is heaven on earth. Perched within the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the private island is ringed by the whitest of sands and beyond that, nothing but a crystal-clear turquoise lagoon that is a playground for a kaleidoscope of tropical fish. Its remote location means endless horizon views and the starriest of skies, which are best experienced from Sky Bar, which is where you can also find the Maldives’ only over water observatory.
The style of the resort is traditional, with lots of timber and thatched roofs that add to the barefoot luxury vibe, while the 80 beach and over water villas are signature Anantara with high-end finishes. Elsewhere, there are six bars and restaurants, with four of them located in a hub. This includes Sea, which features the world’s first underwater wine cellar and marine activity so mesmerising, you might forget to eat.
Diversions include everything from snorkelling around the house reef with a marine biologist, to sunset cruises or wine tasting. Between June and early October, make sure to head to nearby Hanifaru bay to snorkel with the manta rays.
BOOK IT: From £1202 for a one-bedroom Beach Pool Villa, half-board and taxes included. kihavah-maldives.anantara.com
North Malé Atoll
Gili Lankanfushi has won a swag of awards for best resort in the Maldives and Asia – and it’s not hard to see why. It’s postcard perfect – from the blindingly white sand beaches fringed by swaying palms, to the room-temperature green ocean, to the champagne, sashimi and feet-in-the-sand breakfasts, to some of the best snorkelling in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s even changed its clocks to ‘island-time’, so guests enjoy an extra hour of sunlight. When you arrive at the North Atoll by speedboat (20 minutes from Malé airport), you surrender your shoes as part of the No Shoes, No News policy. Your butler then takes you to your spacious over-water villa. Each guest gets use of a bike, but it’s tempting – initially at least – to not leave your luxuriously appointed new home.
Whole days can pass pleasurably as you loll on the villa’s hammocks, daybeds and in the upper deck area (where a bed can be made up to sleep under the stars). If you feel energetic, you can jump off your back deck to have a quick snorkel. Once you do venture out, activities include the sunset dolphin cruise, surf lessons and diving. But it’s tempting to just chill. The spa is divine. Drift off during your Ayurvedic massage while looking at bull sharks and manta rays as they swim past the glass spa floor.
BOOK IT: Doubles from approx. £1,157. gili-lankanfushi.com
Private Island, South Malé Atoll
Translated as ‘beautiful island’, Naladhu is the ultimate in ‘far from the madding crowd’ privacy, offering pin-drop silence where rest and relaxation are the order of the day. Located in the South Malé Atoll, a nifty half-hour speed boat ride from Malé airport, just 20 spacious and immaculate residences offer a getaway where you literally don’t have to clap your eyes on anybody else. Unless, that is, you want a private chef to cook you up a wicked feast, or an in-house spa therapist with healing hands to administer massages beside your own swimming pool. In fact, it would be a sin not to submit to Naladhu’s famous in-room ‘spa journey’ – choosing between Ayurvedic, Thai, Balinese or Western programmes.
Once you’ve got over your jet lag and your body’s feeling soft and supple, head out for activities such as kayaking, snorkelling and swimming with sharks, should the mood take you. Come here for nothing more than the sand under your toes, the salty sea water against your skin, the sun on your face and every conceivable anxiety taken care of. Sounds like the perfect holiday. And you can always book out the entire island should you either be planning the reunion of the century or really can’t stand the thought of anybody else being around.
BOOK IT: From £954 B&B for an ocean house with a pool. anantara.com
JW Marriott Maldives
Straw hats off to JW Marriott. With its ultra-private supersize villas, sensational food and abundance of water sports, the brand has raised the bar yet again with its spanking new resort in the Maldives. Set on the remote island of Vagary in the northern atoll of Shaviyani, this beach retreat has 60 thatched villas, each with a private pool and thakuru (butler). Pops of cream, blue and natural materials echo the surroundings with massive expanses of glass to draw the outside in. When beachside lounging gets too much, get stuck into the preposterously long list of water activities on offer – the snorkelling turtle quest is a must.
Back on dry land, drop your little ones off at the fantastic kids’ club before heading to the sublime overwater spa (book the deeply healing stress relief massage). The five restaurants in the resort stretch from Italian to Thai – don’t miss the Japanese teppanyaki at Hashi, run by former Nobu chef Namuraj Tamang. Grab a cocktail beforehand in Rum Baan, nestled in the treetops, which has a staggering 98 signature rums to sample. Or, for the all-out local experience, go for a traditional Malaafaiy dinner on the beach. You won’t regret it.
BOOK IT: From approx. £681 B&B for a pool villa. marriott.co.uk
Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
South Malé Atoll
This highly anticipated new opening takes barefoot luxury to the next level from the moment you land. While others wait to pile onto tiny seaplane transfers, an air-conditioned Princess yacht with sun deck (and four bedrooms) whisks new arrivals, champagne in hand, on a blissful 40-minute cruise to the resort. Forget any corporate connotations – this Waldorf Astoria maximises on marrying innovative and imaginative concepts (think photogenic tree-top bamboo dining nests at the superb Terra restaurant and glass-bottomed spa treatment rooms for mid- massage shark spotting) with sophistication and relaxed comfort.
Spread across three private islands joined by bridges, it’s one of the Maldives’ larger hotels – though with comparatively fewer villas, there’s a total sense of privacy. Villas are vast. Some overwater, others on the beach, and reef villas: a bit of both. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto a spacious deckwith a private infinity pool big enough to really swim in. With snorkels delivered to your door, and a house reef teeming with a technicolour array of sea life just a short swim away, one could easily never leave their villa. Make sure you do, though, as with 11 restaurants, a sublime spa and an abundance of water sports and excursions on offer, there’s so much to see and savour in this truly exceptional spot.
BOOK IT: Reef villa with pool from £1,480 B&B. waldorfastoriamaldives.com
InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort
Here’s the thing – it’s not hard to find silky soft sand and azure waters in the Maldives. What truly sets this resort apart is the way it makes you feel. From the moment you step onto the arrival jetty and are welcomed like a long-lost friend with a cool drink and warm hug, you get a sense of home. The meticulous attention to detail extends beyond each room’s bricolage interiors, and is infused in every interaction you have with staff. A dedicated island curator will be on hand to make your stay seamless, organising snorkelling trips, stargazing, beach picnics, outdoor movie nights, spa treatments, and even unpacking and repacking your suitcase. It’s also the first InterContinental resort to offer Club InterContinental benefits to all guests, including complimentary afternoon tea and aperitif cocktails.
Enclaved within the Maldives’ largest lagoon, you needn’t venture too far to swim among rays, sharks, turtles and schools of fish. There are six dining spots but Fish Market, with its open kitchen and indoor/outdoor seating truly stands out with a bold menu that’s bursting with aromatic, south-east Asian flavour. The overwater spa is heavenly but for a truly transformative treatment, book in with the Chinese medicine doctor whose methods include acupuncture, cupping, remedial tui-na, herbal medicine and other ancient techniques to restore internal balance.
BOOK IT: From approx. £791 for a beach pool villa. maldives.intercontinental.com
The Residence Maldives at Dhigurah
Just 13 miles north of the equator, this resort is remote even by Maldivian standards. Too far from capital Malé to travel by seaplane, it can only be reached on a 55-minute domestic flight and final speedboat ride to secluded Gaafu Alifu, one of the world’s largest and deepest atolls. The island itself is thick with jungle, sandy pathways weaving through banana and coconut trees for a real back-to-nature feel. There are 173 villas, from beachfront to overwater with either sunrise or sunset views, but none will disappoint. All are spacious but simply designed, with thatched roofs, neutral colours and teak and rattan interiors, and all come with private pools, bicycles and Insta-perfect views of the glowing, aquamarine sea and endless horizon beyond.
There are water-sports galore, dolphin-watching cruises, a kids’ club, glorious 42-metre infinity pool, Clarins spa and the resort’s own deserted island for an unmissable picnic lunch. Otherwise, feast on international flavours at the Dining Room, classic Cantonese fare at Li Bai and the Mediterranean menu at poolside Café del Sol, or cycle the stunning one-kilometre bridge to Falhumaafushi to sample the excellent restaurants at the resort’s neighbouring sister property. A double delight.
BOOK IT: cenizaro.com
VARU by Atmosphere
North Malé Atoll
A relative newcomer, Varu opened in late 2019. Located on the north-west edge of the Malé Atoll, it’s just a 40-minute speedboat ride from Malé airport. On arrival, a golf buggy whisks guests to one of 108 beach-front or overwater villas, each with inviting décor featuring both luxurious and natural elements, with additions such as open-air bathrooms and private pools. Regardless of accommodation, every guest is on an all-inclusive plan that covers non-motorized water sports, a range of excursions (including stargazing and fishing), all meals and an impressive array of drinks (for example – the minibar is, dangerously, replenished twice daily).
Dining options include a contemporary buffet and traditional Maldivian restaurant, complete with educational video on arrival. Unwind in the Elena spa, where face-down time is enhanced by views through the floor’s window onto the water, or lounge by the infinity pool for dreamy sunset views. Recreational options range from a games room (great for those scorching midday hours) to an Astro football pitch, to the free use of snorkelling equipment – perfect for reef exploration that can be accessed, blissfully, from your very own living space.
BOOK IT: Seven nights from £2,799pp, including transfers. varu-atmosphere.com
Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa
Mastering the tricky all-inclusive concept is the recently opened Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa, found in the northwestern part of the Maldives archipelago. Villas are available to book for a lower rate than many of the resort’s all-inclusive competitors, though this certainly doesn’t come at the price of design, facilities or service, all of which are impeccable. Once you’re on the island, there’s no need to worry about additional costs – bar a few extras, such as jet skiing – adding a new level of relaxation.
With 20 hectares of land to play with, Emerald has more space than many Maldivian resorts too, allowing privacy across the 120 villas, which are split between the beach and the water. Food is a highlight, with four restaurants to explore including Amazònico, the first South American restaurant in the Maldives: a rainforest-style, lantern-bedecked space with an open fire grill. ‘Natural elegance’ is the hotel’s tagline: bamboo, langhi langhi leaves and stones create a tropical-chic vibe in which the architecture exists in harmony with the natural landscape. Italian influences can also be seen in aspects of the design – the Venetian-inspired bathrooms are worthy of a special mention, featuring white marble, freestanding baths and floor-to-ceiling windows boasting some of the best views in the whole of the Maldives. And the bar is set high.
BOOK IT: From £550 all-inclusive for a deluxe beach villa. emerald-maldives.com
Lauded for its kaleidoscopic blue waters, pristine shores and exquisite villas peppered across two verdant islands, the Conrad may be a beloved classic and author of the Maldives signature wooden stilt villas, but it is far from complacent. The hotel’s relentless quest for a spicy edge over its counterparts reached its climax this year with the launch of THE MURAKA, a once-in-a-lifetime butlered residence and affront to tired ideals on luxury, submerged five meters under the Indian Ocean with Bond villain panache. Guests are privy to a near-psychedelic flush of marine life from their sumptuous bed, shower, walk-in-wardrobe, even loo. As a barefoot luxury veteran, the resort’s spas, restaurants and villas are sewn delicately into the lush, celestial landscape: the infinity pools play on the sea’s vibrant hues, the Over Water Spa embodies the treasured edge of the Maldives cliché and even the tennis court is wrapped in exotic bloom.
BOOK IT: Prices start from £589 for a Deluxe Beach Villa for two on a bed and breakfast basis and are POA for THE MURAKA, with a butler and extra exclusive experiences available. conradmaldives.com
Four Seasons Resort Maldives
Landaa Giraavaru, Baa Atoll
The skies are so vast and sparkling in the Maldives the idea of sleeping under an ordinary flat ceiling is unthinkable. Instead, the double-height vaulted bedrooms in the Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru create an expansive sense of freedom and overlook private pools long enough for a proper swim. Luscious hibiscus and glossy cheese plants surround the thatched outdoor living room, and beyond a bosky thicket of exotic plants the sea washes onto spotless white sand.
There are 102 villas here, but in the evening when the restaurants fill with people, you rather wonder where these fellow guests have been all day – indulging in room service or upside down, doing weightless yoga? Under the bright blue sky, hammocks hang loose between palm trees and the four swimming pools are exclusively yours for the day – one is the only Olympic-sized facility in the Maldives. The spa is brilliant, with an Ayurvedic massage that takes clients on a transcendental journey for 90 minutes. Don’t miss the Marine Discovery Centre, where injured turtles and fish come to recuperate with the in-house marine biologists. A heavenly idyll.
BOOK IT: From £6,569 for three nights B&B from 21 September, followed by three nights on the Four Seasons Explorer catamaran taking part in the Manta Trust diving expeditions. Includes flights and transfers. elegantresorts.com
Muravandhoo Island, Raa Atoll
The Maldives is formed of 20 mesmerising natural atolls which have, over the years, become home to more envy-inducing resorts than an Instagram star could shake a selfie stick at. With big hitter Soneva Fushi and its Six Senses Spa still flying the flag for the larger, more established resorts, it’s this smaller, boutique addition to the pack which promises ultimate solace and serenity in bucketloads. Muravandhoo Island is home to a 73-strong pack of villas, split across the beachfront and wooden jetty, each with private steps down to the crystal clear water’s edge. A fantastic kids’ club, hosting daily storytelling and treasure hunts, keeps little ones entertained while adults get to grips with the wealth of activities on offer, from snorkelling to unearthing the many mosaic art installations dotted across white sands. The wellbeing centre, meticulously brought to life by ESPA, provides respite from the often sweltering temperatures. It’s also dedicated to responsible luxury, and has recently been awarded the Silver Certification from EarthCheck – so you can relax in peace, safe in Joali’s green hands.
BOOK IT: Beach villa from £1,456 B&B. joali.com
Orchid Magu Malé
Kandima brings a full-blown resort concept to the Maldives at an accessible price point. It’s a three-kilometre-long private island, with acres of space and activities on tap. One of only a handful of hotels in the Dhaalu atoll chain, there are over 40 near-private dive sites and all manner of watersports in the vast turquoise lagoon. There’s tennis, badminton, five-a-side, volleyball, gym and art classes and an excellent kids’ club complete with mini water park, as well as gravity-defying aerial yoga, a first for the Maldives. The style is more like a contemporary Ibiza hotel, with a bold, shiny colour scheme. With 11 different bars and restaurants, a beach club and pool at the southern tip and another 100m pool by the watersports HQ, you can do something different every day. At this price point it’s easy to see why it won best newcomer in the Maldives travel awards last year.
BOOK IT: Seven nights half board from £455pp (family of four sharing a room), excluding transfers. kandima.com
The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort
Miriandhoo Island, Baa Atoll
The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo is a classy, contemporary alternative to the castaway-chic resorts typically found in the archipelago. Japanese developers and Italian architects have infused the resort with a clean aesthetic, piazza-inspired entrance and modern suites complete with Toto electronic toilets. There are six room categories but no short straws to be drawn as all include Westin’s Heavenly beds and are located along the fringes of the island, offering spectacular sea views. Overwater villas include decks which span the full length of the open-plan suites, with a private pool, outdoor shower and steps leading straight to the sea. Overlooking a pristine turquoise lagoon in the Baa Atoll, Maldives’ only UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, the island’s tropical landscape is home to a rich mix of marine life, from reef sharks to manta rays. Solo travellers needn’t worry, a photographic studio with on- hand professionals will help you capture Insta-worthy holiday snaps.
BOOK IT: Doubles from £593 B&B. marriott.co.uk
Medhufaru Island, Manadhoo
The latest outpost from Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, the couple who brought us one of the best and longest-standing hotels in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi. When Soneva Fushi first opened in 1995 there were few hotels to rival it. While it is still going strong, Soneva Jani is its younger, rather snazzier sibling. All rooms are in bells and whistles water villas: a kitchenette, a rooftop dining area, a private pool, a sitting room, a bed with a retractable roof so you can sleep under the stars. Most villas come with their own waterslide into the sea, and if they don’t you can pay to add one. Meantime the incredible Peruvian restaurant serves zing-fresh ceviche and offers an overwater cinema where you can loll with popcorn after your meal and watch a movie outside. Everything is designed to nudge you into enjoying yourself; it would be absurdly hard not to succumb.
BOOK IT: Doubles from $2,989 (£2,292) B&B. soneva.com
Constance Moofushi Maldives
Gliding over the glistening Indian Ocean down to the South Ari Atoll is a wondrous experience in itself – step off the seaplane onto the ivory shores of Constance Moofushi and your breath is truly taken. Verdant pathways give way to pristine beaches while winding jetties lead to stilted ‘thatch and rope’ villas. Dotted with airy bars, oceanside eateries and an overwater spa, this paradise isle is tiny – you can stroll its palm-fringed perimeter in less than 15 minutes. While the vibe is horizontal by day, the island vivifies at dusk with DJs spinning chilled tunes and chefs rustling up candlelit grills on the beach. Head to the Totem Bar for oceanside sundowners and hypnotic views, or to the Manta eatery for moreish Maldivian fish curries. One of the few luxury all-inclusive resorts in the Maldives, you’ll find that drinks, colourful culinary offerings, most watersports and an offshore excursion are part and parcel here.
BOOK IT: Seven nights from £3,469pp all-inclusive, including economy flights and seaplane transfers. inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk
Private Island Resort
True barefoot luxury, this is Robinson Crusoe meets Wallpaper chic, perfect for design-savvy divers wanting easy access to the famed southern atolls where whale sharks and mantas lurk. One of the smallest Maldivian resorts, Mirihi weighs in at only 40 rooms, spread between overwater bungalows – book rooms 25 through 39 for the best snorkelling access – and beach villas hidden away in the coconut palms. Food is excellent, particularly the curries and sushi selection, with lavish themed buffets every night in the main restaurant. You can eat à la carte at Moraca, the restaurant on the water, and watch turtles, sharks and giant parrotfish swim beneath the underlit pontoon. It’s low-key, laid-back luxury, with no TVs in the rooms and not much to do on land apart from indulge in exquisite massages at the spa and relax into the paradise of tropical island life. Which is exactly the point.
BOOK IT: Seven nights B&B from £1,920pp, incl. taxes. mirihi.com
Hotel Fairmont Maldives
Sirru Fen Fushi
Flying in by seaplane, the first thing you notice about the Fairmont is the 200m swimming pool. It bisects the aptly named Sirru Fen Fushi or ‘secret water’ island. With only 120 villas – all of which come with private pool and butler service – spread over one of the Maldives’ largest resort islands, everything here is allowed to breathe. The design oozes understated style and bohemian rustic chic. Beach villas feel like private riads with lime-washed courtyard walls, ornate turquoise doors and large gardens, and the spacious overwater villas share the same vaulted ceilings and hand-etched cabinetry. A huge beaten copper bath takes centre stage. In a first for the Maldives they also offer lush safari-style tented jungle villas. Families are exceptionally well catered for, with a wonderfully imaginative kids’ club poolside. Teens will love the graffiti-covered shipping containers of Majaa, too.
BOOK IT: Seven nights B&B from £2,415pp, excl taxes and transfers. fairmont.com
Niyama Private Islands
Olhuveli, Kudahuvadhoo Dhaalu Atoll
One of the most breathtaking islands in the Dhaalu Atoll. Scarlet and lemony umbrellas pop out against pristine ivory beaches, aqua infinity pools melt into the ocean and jungle-flanked pathways lead to stylish abodes. Two islands combine to create the resort – ‘Chill’ is the hub, playing host to lavish lagoon villas and a spa, while ‘Play’ boasts chic beach villas, a super-cool surf club and Nest, an Asian-fusion eatery where you can chomp on teppanyaki among the treetops. A fashionable crowd of loved-up couples and families explore the islands on personalised bikes. When the kids are settled into their Explorer’s club, grown-ups can choose to while away the days on jet skis and catamarans, hop on a dhoni to spot bottlenose dolphins or ride the waves at Vodi surf point. Niyama is the only luxury resort in the Maldives where the surf breaks directly on its own shore.
BOOK IT: Seven nights from £2,929pp half board, including flights and seaplane transfers. inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk
The Nautilus Maldives
Thiladhoo, Baa Atoll
What you want, when you want, is the overriding vibe on this tiny speck of sand in the Baa Atoll – a 30-minute flight from the capital, Malé. This is a private and exclusive bolthole where world-class cuisine and the finest wines collide, 24 hours a day. There are three restaurants and two bars, but why not dream up a bespoke breakfast on an isolated sandbank, coupled with a remote beachside spa treatment? Or imagine a sunset barbecue on a nearby virgin island, followed by a dusk-lit search for dolphins. Calling The Nautilus’ 26 beachside and overwater houses ‘rooms’ would be a disservice – they’re ginormous homes, flanked by lofty coconut palms and surrounded by wooden decking, boasting large pools, easy access to the house reef and views of the horizon-gobbling Indian Ocean. So slow down, adapt, and be creative – the world (or at the very least this 242 x 249m island) is very much your oyster.
BOOK IT: Doubles from £1,909, including breakfast. thenautilusmaldives.com
Shangri La Villingili
Villingili Island, Addu City
Shangri-La’s Maldivian resort offers an extensive array of options for those who desire a fitness focussed holiday. In addition to the daily workout and yoga classes running year-round, the resort has a Masters in Residence programme where experts in the field of health and wellbeing are invited from around the world to host programmes of classes, talks and events on the island. Those who prefer to organise their own exercise have access to a Technogym equipped gym, tennis courts and three jogging trails. The guided snorkeling trips out to the reefs will have you so mesmerized by the shoals of technicolour fish that you’ll forget all the swimming you’re doing, until you return to the boat seriously ready for lunch. As well as the fitness, activities on offer also include dolphin boat tours, jet skiing, kayaking as well as traditional Maldivian night fishing.
BOOK IT: shangri-la.com
Cheval Blanc Randheli
Noonu Atoll Randheli Island
In a preserved environment, pristine waters and opulent vegetation offer Cheval Blanc Randheli an exceptional setting. The Maison has been conceived in synergy with the island’s natural surroundings, lush vegetation and lagoon views. Stunning design by Jean-Michel Gathy and exceptional service, treats and surprises punctuate the stay to adorn everyday life and to surprise guests. With an exceptionally personalised and caring approach, service is tailored according to each guest’s wishes. Choose from Island Villas, Water Villas or – unique in the Maldives – Garden Water Villas which combine private garden space on one side with direct water access on the other side. The Owners Villa is an exclusive four bedroom villa on its own private island, the ultimate holiday experience for families and friends.
BOOK IT: From approx. £1,850 per night for a double room, including breakfast and all taxes and charges. chevalblanc.com
This is the ultimate resort for laid-back luxury, ideal for the high-end luxury traveller whether that’s couples, honeymooners or groups of friends, who love diving and adventure. Foodies can learn how to master traditional recipes, handed down through generations and can join the local fisherman for the catch of the day. Waterbabies can discover the spectacular Maldivian sea life with Milaidhoo’s resident marine biologist, with a visit to Hanifaru Bay, a marine protected area which attracts the largest seasonal groupings of manta rays in the world. For the ultimate day out in paradise, take a trip to a remote sandbank where you can snorkel, sip champagne, enjoy a seafood bento box lunch and laze around on sunbeds crafted out of sand, adorned with cushions.
BOOK IT: From $1,625 per night in a Water Pool Villa on a half board basis, based on two sharing. milaidhoo.com
Private Island, North Malé Atoll
Baros Maldives is the ‘original’ luxury resort in the Maldives, having opened in 1973. It is situated in the central southern part of North Malé Atoll, just 25 minutes by speedboat from the international airport. Surrounded by one of the best house-reefs in the Indian Ocean – only 15–30 metres from the shore – the spectacular resort is alive with colours, fish, turtles, rays and coral. It’s romance all the way; Baros was voted ‘Most Romantic Resort in the World 2016’ at the World Travel Awards for the fourth time, where it’s all about the ‘outside, inside life’ feel for guests with their 45 Beachside and 30 Water luxury Villas, many complete with private pools. Designed by Maldivian architect Mohamed Shafeeq, with interiors by Anita Indra Dewi, all were built by local craftsmen using natural materials to blend with the surrounding environment, including natural stones, tropical wood, coconut thatch, sandstone and timber.
BOOK IT: From $675 per night in a Deluxe Villa on a B&B basis, excluding taxes. baros.com
Six Senses Laamu
Southern Laamu Atoll
This is the only resort in the Southern Laamu Atoll with an incredible signature Six Senses Spa, its own resident marine biology team committed to turtle conservation and coral health and recovery, and some of the best waves in the Maldives to surf. The vibe is most definitely barefoot luxury, aimed at those who want a luxury Indian Ocean resort experience that goes beyond just five-star service. It is also a family paradise with so many on offer to keep little ones entertained and allow parents some R&R time. Aside from the incredible spa offering for which perhaps the group is most famous, guests can venture out onto a yacht for the day, which includes fishing, snorkelling and a picnic on a deserted island, with a beach barbecue on the private sandbank serving up a delicious catch of the day.
BOOK IT: From US$827 (approx. £635) per night in a Lagoon Water Villa, subject to 10 percent service charge and 12 per cent GST. sixsenses.com
A humble island intrinsically connected with its destination and situated near a UNESCO biosphere reserve, Furaveri offers enticing dive sites and manta ray hotspots. Entirely un-reclaimed, meaning the development of the island has had minimal impact on its surroundings, here is a place that champions natural beauty with a glorious, unspoilt beach that elegantly wraps itself around the lush 23-hectare island. Friendly and unpretentious, it’s a great alternative to the glitz and glamour of many other Maldivian resorts. Woven among a dense jungle retreat, the understated chic of the 107 villas offer spacious, marble-finished bathrooms with huge egg- like bathtubs, whilst the beach pool villas feature laissez-faire cabanas filled with the sound of the ocean.
From a Mexican grapefruit margarita on the perimeter of the reef to Japanses dishes from an interactive teppanyaki counter, Furaveri offers diners a global menu. Much of its organic produce is sourced from its considerable chef garden, which nurtures chilli trees, herbs, fruit and vegetables for both guests and those who live and work there. The island also houses its very own on-site bottling plant, where up to 360 tonnes of seawater is transformed into drinking water.
BOOK IT: From £295 for a beachfront villa full board. furaveri.com