Ask anyone what’s on their travel bucket list and it’s likely the Maldives will be near the top – and it was just named among eight countries removed from the UK’s red list as of September 22.
Pristine white sand beaches, dazzling azure waters and the promise of complete relaxation have been drawing Brits to the country for decades.
Located in the the middle of the Indian Ocean, with Sri Lanka and India its closest neighbours, the Maldives is made up of 22 atolls and 1,200 islands.
With 120 resorts spread across these islands, deciding where to stay in the Maldives can be tricky – with each resort even lovelier than the last.
To help, we’ve come up with a definitive guide of our 20 favourite resorts below, from the ultra-luxe to the budget bargains.
The best luxury hotels in the Maldives
Hidden in the heart of a UNESCO biosphere reserve, Milaidhoo Island Maldives has reinvented luxury since it opened in November 2016. The Water Pool villas are the ‘entry-level’ rooms and you can expect to be greeted by a private infinity pool, sun loungers and a swinging day bed along with a egg-shaped, free-standing bath inside. The boutique resort is located on an island so small you can walk around it in five minutes – but that only adds to its charm as the small-scale luxury encourages you to switch off and enjoy the quiet.
Rooms from £850 per night, milaidhoo.com
Coco Privé Hotel on Kuda Hithi
If money is no object, then why not reserve an entire Maldivian island for yourself? Located in the middle of the Laccadive Sea in the northern part of the Malé Atoll, privacy is of the utmost importance here, which is why it’s a favourite among A-Listers and billionaires. The 1.4 hectare island boasts all the usual decadent trappings of a Maldivian resort: a lush pool, endless white sand but sans any over-water villas. Instead, the island has five guest villas and a 30-strong team of staff including butlers, a private chef and spa therapists.
Island from $45,000 (£34,430) per night, cococollection.com
Unveiled in October 2016, Soneva Jani is the sister resort to Maldives favourite Soneva Fushi – and both reign supreme as two of the best resorts in the Maldives. The stunning architecture at Soneva Jani is what makes it stand out from the Maldivian crowd and all of the rooms include a retractable roof above the bed for night time star gazing. The overwater, open-air cinema at the far end of the island is a treat and all food served is sourced locally, offering everything from pizzas to roast lamb and even a chilled cheese and chocolate room.
Rooms from £1,470 per night, soneva.com
Located on Muravandhoo Island in the Raa Atoll, Joali Maldives is fringed by white sand beaches and surrounded by the brilliant azure waters the Maldives is known for. Choose from beach villas, water villas or residences – with the largest residence boasting four bedrooms across 500 square metres and accommodating eight people. The Espa Spa offers tailor-made treatments in its garden and seaside vista and honeymooners can choose to set out for a romantic picnic aboard the resort’s custom-designed sailboats.
Rooms from £1,806, joali.com
Six Senses Laamu
Despite the slew of recent openings over the past few years, Six Senses Laamu in the remote Laamu Atoll, continues to offer one of the best experiences in the Maldives. The only resort in this atoll, there are 97 rooms, a mix of over-water and beach villas, all carved from local wood and featuring rainfall showers. On arrival, you’re given bikes for getting around the island and allotted a ‘gem’ (personal butler) for the duration of the stay. If you’re staying in an over-water villa be sure to nab one with its own infinity pool, for that extra touch of luxury.
Rooms from £771 per night, sixsenses.com
Gili Lankanfushi, said to be the number one resort in the Maldives, offers an eco-friendly environment in which all the buildings are constructed using sustainably-sourced plantation teak, palm wood, bamboo and palm fronds. The hotel also holds the coveted title of the World’s Largest Overwater Villa as its Private Reserve covers an astounding 1,700 square metres complete with a 63-metre pool, a Jacuzzi and a library – all yours for £7,385 per night.
Rooms from £964 per night, gili-lankanfushi.com
Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island
If once-in-a-lifetime experiences are what you’re after during your trip to the Maldives, it’s hard to beat Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island. Not only does the hotel boast the world’s largest all-glass undersea restaurant, it also opened the world's first underwater hotel suite. The latter is called Muraka, a hotel room that lies 16.4 feet under the Indian Ocean and costs $50,000 (£39,000) per night – a price that includes daily 90-minute massages, on-call fitness instructors and a private speed boat. If you’re on more of a budget, the underwater restaurant costs around £382 per head for dinner so you can still experience life under the sea. Room-wise, there are relatively more affordable villas above sea level with beach and water villas to choose from.
Rooms from £731 per night, conradhotels3.hilton.com
Soneva Fushi was ahead of the game when it first built its resort in 1995. The philosophy ‘no shoes, no news’ still rings true today at Fushi and its sister property, Soneva Jani which was built two decades later in 2016. All buildings are built, where possible, to fit in with the existing nature – so you won’t find any overwater bungalows here. With all villas on land, you can choose between the sunrise or sunset side – sunrise being best for privacy and sunset being ideal for snorkelers – dolphins and other sea life are regularly spotted here. Each villa is sprawling and unique – so whether you choose Villa 37 for its 11-metre tall viewing tower or the Crusoe Villa for its outdoor bathrooms and nature-immersion feel, you’re sure to be delighted.
Rooms from £1,582 per night, soneva.com
One of the most popular resorts in the Maldives, Anantara Kihavah is hidden in the Baa Atoll on the island of Kihavah. The white sands lead into a turquoise lagoon filled with blooming corals and a wealth of tropical fish. Manta rays and Hawksbill sea turtles are a common sight and you can arrange to dine on a deserted sea bank, for a truly unique experience. Over-water villas boast private infinity pools while the beach villas are spacious and sumptuous – and not a single tree has been moved in building the villas. Be sure to visit the SKY bar to star gaze with the most powerful telescope in the Maldives and learn more about the stars.
Rooms from £720 per night, anatara.com
LUX* North Male Atoll
LUX* North Male Atoll, a relative newcomer, makes a splash on a scene crowded by five-star resorts. This is mainly due to its distinct architecture, with its whitewashed penthouses peeking out of the island's greenery and perched over the astoundingly azure ocean. The new resort is home to 67 double storey residences, each featuring a private pool and a rooftop to relax on. There’s also the option to make your stay all-inclusive to enjoy sundowners and unlimited food to your hearts (and stomach’s) content.
Rooms from £826 per night, luxresorts.com
Cheval Blanc Randheli Maldives
Billed as a resort to enjoy ‘exclusive privacy’, Cheval Blanc Randheli Maldives was designed by famed designer Jean-Michel Gathy – the man behind the iconic Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. One for wellness junkies, you can choose your wellbeing journey on arrival with bespoke detox and fitness packages along with spa treatments devised by Guerlain. The 45 villas – some over water – are sumptuous and oozing with elegance and each featuring a swimming pool, hammock and day bed. Visit the Dive centre to explore the Noonu Atoll where the hotel sits, to discover the host of fish, rays and turtles that lie beneath the sparkling waters.
Rooms from £1,100 per night, chevalblanc.com
The best mid-range hotels in the Maldives
Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa
Located on the northern Haa Alifu Atoll, this all-suite resort boasts some of the largest beachfront villas in the Maldives. The over-water villas are sprawling – many with private pools – and all 107 suites comes with a pair of bicycles to help explore the island which, at 1.5 kilometres long, is one of the biggest in the Maldives. The villas are designed to emulate traditional coral-walled Maldivian homes and, if working out is something you like to do on holiday, gym and yoga sessions are offered, along with tennis, football and basketball. Take advantage of Hideaway’s learn to dive course to see the abundant wildlife – including dolphins, turtles, rays and sharks – that surrounds the resort. When you’ve worked up an appetite, four restaurants are waiting to serve you – or you can choose private dining on the beach as the sky turns pink at sunset.
Rooms from £397 per night, hideawaybeachmaldives.com
Coco Bodu Hithi
Bodu Hithi Island, in the North Malé Atoll is home to Coco Bodu Hithi – part of the Coco Collection and sister property of Coco Privé Hotel. Thatched roofs and outdoor showers are a staple of the four types of villas found at the resort: island, water, escape water and coco residence. The escape water villas are particularly enticing with its dreamy infinity pools and bath tub for two. With two bars and five restaurants – where Michelin star chef visits are common – there’s something to satiate every craving. A trip to the spa is a must to indulge in treatments inspired by ancient Indonesian, Thai and Indian techniques.
Rooms from £423 per night, cococollection.com
Mirihi Island Resort
Located in the South Ari Atoll, you’ll find Mirihi – one of the smallest islands in the Maldives. But what it lacks in size it makes up in luxury with heavenly villas offset by powder-soft white sand and a spectacular house reef. Choose from one of the 39 beach or water villas, some with two bedrooms and all with complete privacy. The Ocean Pro Divecenter is a must for guests to discover the 40 diving sites nearby and the chance to swim with whale sharks.
Rooms from £485 per night, mirihi.com
Niyama Private Islands
With twin islands, Play and Chill, Niyama offers a different kind of Maldivian experience. Located on the Dhaalu Atoll, Play is tailored to adventurous honeymooners and families (children aged up to 11 can stay and eat for free) while Chill is for foodies and spa lovers. The beach villas hide among the 4,200 coconut palms that line the island while the water villas offer classic Maldives luxury. In the rooms you’ll find full-sized fridges with complimentary homemade ice cream and popcorn makers on the bench and, when you can tear yourself away from your abode, a visit to Subsix – the underwater restaurant – is a must. One on one surfing lessons are available as are tennis sessions, badminton, football and morning yoga.
Rooms from £473 per night, niyama.com
Located on the quiet Lhaviyani Atoll, Kanuhura Maldives is the ideal family-friendly resort – but don’t let that put you off if you don’t have kids, the island is large enough to find your own slice of solitude. Known for its large marine life – dolphins, whale sharks, puffer fish and four-metre wide manta rays can be spotted here – it’s a snorkeler’s haven. The comprehensive Kokaa Spa menu is also not to be missed and includes everything from crystal massages to traditional Theyo Dhemun oil treatments. The rooms – both water and beach villas – offer barefoot luxury while the eight restaurants and bars will serve up something for everyone.
Rooms from £436 per night, kanuhura.com
The best budget hotels in the Maldives
Fihalhohi Island Resort
A comfortable 40-minute speedboat transfer from Male International Airport, Fihalhohi Island Resort is located on the last island of South Male and offers 138 beachfront rooms alongside 12 over-water villas. The over-water villas are fringed by the stunning house reef, teeming with wildlife and the resort offers a free dive every day at 4:30pm. Whether you choose a half-board stay or go all-out with an all-inclusive package, there are two bars and one delicious all-day restaurant to dine in. The Huvandhumaa Spa offers everything from cupping to Balinese massages – the perfect place to unwind before returning to your heavenly villa.
Rooms from £111 per night, fihalhohi.com.mv
Ellaidhoo Maldives by Cinnamon
With over 100 dive sites nearby, this is the ultimate resort for the diving enthusiast. Caves, coral and rich marine life make up the surrounding reef – one of the best in the Maldives – and there is also a small shipwreck to explore as well. Even if diving isn’t your thing, the two-storey villas and water bungalows will be enough to entice you. The buffet dining is ideal as most guests here opt for the full-board or all-inclusive packages and the Azmaara Spa provides the perfect pampering experience.
Rooms from £128 per night, cinnamonhotels.com
Gangehi Island Resort
Located on the outskirts of the North Ari Atoll, Gangehi Island boasts one of the most gorgeous reefs in the country. The barrier reef protects the island and there you can snorkel to see a myriad of colourful, tropical fish, marine turtles, manta rays and dolphins. The white sand is shaded by towering coconut palms and the resort offers a mix of 45 beach, garden and over-water villas. The tranquil Ginger Spa offers traditional ayurvedic treatments and a couples massage is a must.
Rooms from £78 per night, gangehi.com
Settled in the Baa Atoll, Kihaa Maldives opened in 2012 and has been welcoming guests to its 118 spacious beach and over-water villas ever since. Close to Hanifaru Bay, a UNESCO Marine Protected Area biosphere, be sure to visit during the manta ray and whale shark season to swim with these glorious animals. Flat-screen TVs can be found in the bedrooms, but you’ll be too busy lapping up the views of the white sand beaches and Tiffany-blue hues of the surrounding ocean to notice. A highlight of the resort is the opportunity to go night fishing the traditional Maldivian way – with a hand-held line – while you bask in the fiery sunset.
Rooms from £133 per night, kihaamaldives.com
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