Maldives

Luxury Maldives Travel Guide

An archipelago consisting of 26 separate atolls, the Maldives is made up of more than 1000 coral islands. Influenced by various cultures over the centuries, including Indian, Arab, African, Portuguese and Dutch settlers, it became a British protectorate in the 19th century. The Maldives then gained independence from British rule in 1965 and has since developed into an independent and popular tourist destination. Viewed as the ultimate paradise spot with untouched white sand beaches, clear lagoons and low rise, often over-water ultra-luxe accommodation, it’s a frequent first choice for honeymooners and A-listers.

Useful Info

How to get there

Expect to be on a plane for between 10 to 12 hours, followed by a speedboat transfer, domestic flight or seaplane to your resort (the latter part of the journey is a picturesque experience and very much part of your Maldivian holiday adventure). Malé is the main international airport, with direct flights from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Bristol. Many visitors like to combine the trip with a few nights’ stop-off in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha or Muscat. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways are among the carriers who fly to the Maldives.

When to visit

The peak tourist season is January to March when the weather is generally dry and there’s minimal rainfall. It’s an excellent time for water activities as visibility is at its best. And the temperatures are comfortable, ranging from 25°C to 31°C during the day. May to November is a quieter time, characterised by more rainfall and higher humidity, although showers are usually short-lived and followed by sun. Those seeking a balance of busyness and settled weather may choose to travel during the shoulder seasons.

Ideal holiday types

Romance is synonymous with this part of the world, providing the perfect environment to switch off and connect with one another in breathtaking and peaceful surroundings.

Families also love the Maldives, with all-inclusive resorts offering kids’ clubs and large self catering villas — some with huge slides right into the lagoons.

Watersports are abundant here; snorkelling, diving and swimming the reefs allows visitors to discover some of the world’s most colourful tropical marine life.

Spa breaks are popular, with the isolated nature of the islands allowing travellers to focus on their personal wellness in five star resorts.

Eco-friendly activities like coral planting and marine conservation projects are on the rise.

Eat

Ozen Life Maadhoo – M6m

Imagine dining six metres below the sea, surrounded by colourful marine life, bathed in the aquamarine hues of the ocean. This is the reality of a meal at M6m, Ozen Life Maadhoo’s signature restaurant. Begin your culinary journey with champagne and caviar at the upstairs lounge, before descending into this magical world; a sublime setting for any anniversary, proposal or bucket list experience. All tables are placed to face the watery spectacle, so you can enjoy the freshest seafood and wine pairings, while mesmerised by the view. M6m serves lunch and dinner, with the latter reserved for over 12s. Read our review of the Ozen Life Maadhoo

View Menu – theozencollection.com

Ozen Reserve Bolifushi – ORIGINE

Ozen Reserve Bolifushi offers several restaurants, including this multi-sensory dining experience at ORIGINE. Many of the veggies and herbs come handpicked from the Chef’s Garden, these are paired with the freshest local seafood and high-quality cuts of meat. The hotel’s Elite Cellar Selections provides a choice of over 80 labels of wines to accompany your meal (the illuminated “Cuvee Library” collection can be seen through floor-to-ceiling glass panels). Comfy armchair-style seating, ambient lighting and glowing amber hues create a convivial and warm atmosphere. Read our review of the Ozen Reserve Bolifushi

View Menu – theozencollection.com

Soneva – Flying Sauces

Follow a 200-meter trail by zipline through a canopy of trees, to reach this dining platform and open kitchen. Part of Soneva Fushi, Flying Sauces is an incredible treetop culinary experience set 12 metres above ground. It has the largest collection of wine and fizz in the Indian Ocean, thanks to the resort’s library-like cellar and incredible views. Once you’ve arrived and removed your harness, you’ll take seats around a huge circular table seating up to 12, for breakfast, lunch, high tea, or dinner, by Chef Rasal Jayawardene. Flying Sauces meals range from one hour and 15 minutes to around three hours. 

View Menu – soneva.com

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi – Li Long

This experience is designed to feel like you’ve been invited to a meal at one of Shanghai’s noble residences. Choose to dine in the main restaurant or reserve the private dining room, with a direct outlook on the lagoon. The timber construction houses polished wood floors, leather seating booths and traditional aesthetic elements such as carved screens. And there are a handful of candlelit tables outside on the overwater deck. The kitchen boasts Maldives’s first classic wood-fired oven in which most of its recipes are perfected; do try Li Long’s signature roasted Peking duck and finish your meal with a nourishing Chinese tea. 

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View Menu – waldorfastoriamaldives.com

Read our guide to the best restaurants in the Maldives

Do

Stay In an undersea villa

It’s all about the water in the Maldives, whether on it, in it, or in this case, under it. At the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort, you can sleep 16 feet below sea level. The en-suite master bedroom is set in a curved acrylic tunnel that serves as your own private 180-degree aquarium. Upstairs in The Muraka villa, are two bedrooms and a bathroom with ocean facing tub and an outdoor deck with an infinity pool. You’ll also have a butler on call 24 hours a day.

www.conradmaldives.com

Go snorkelling

Book your holiday for the dry season, if you want to get the best possible snorkelling experience. Some of the best spots in the Maldives for this pursuit include:

  • Hanifaru Bay (a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve famous for manta ray and whale shark sightings)
  • Maaya Thila (known for its abundant marine life)
  • Banana Reef (one of the oldest and most popular dive sites)
  • Kuda Rah Thila (ideal for both snorkelling and diving)
  • Fushifaru Thila (part of the Lhaviyani Atoll, with colourful fish, turtles and some hammerhead sharks.

Take a flight in a seaplane

The seaplane is a key mode of transport within the Maldives, connecting the main international airport with various resort islands scattered across the atolls. But if you arrived by speedboat, regular plane, or want to expand on your existing experience of flying by air and sea, you can take a sightseeing trip for breathtaking views of the atolls, islands, and turquoise waters. Most resorts will arrange these excursions, or you can contact a local provider to enquire about routes. Again, you’ll find the dry season to be the best time for this, due to stable weather and increased visibility.

www.atolltransfer.com

Go on a submarine adventure

Submarine tours in the Maldives often reach depths of around 100 feet (30 meters) or more, providing a unique perspective on coral formations, marine life, and underwater landscapes. The duration of the tours vary but typically lasts around 45 minutes to an hour. Suitable for all ages and physical abilities, this is a super way to enjoy the immersive underwater spectacle without any physical exertion or getting wet.

maldivestour.guide

Have a spa underwater

Having slept underwater, why not spa underwater?! Huvafen Fushi’s treatment rooms lie eight metres below the surface, creating a mindful and deeply calming environment in which to indulge in a massage or signature ritual, incorporating techniques from the East and West. Beata Aleksandrowicz — a former Sunday Telegraph wellness contributor and Spa Awards judge — is the expert in-house therapist at Huvafen Fushi.

www.huvafenfushi.com

Play golf at Kuredo

Part of the Kuredu Resort and Spa, the Kuredu Golf Club comprises a 6-hole Par 3 academy course, a driving range with 10 practice bays and a putting green — all surrounded by palm trees and the soothing sounds of the adjacent ocean. A PGA-qualified pro is on hand if you’d like any tuition. There’s a golf shop. And there’s a sports bar for after the game, where a big screen shows all the major fixtures. The course has been in situ for two decades now and has become a bucket list venue among golfers.

www.kuredu.com

Go sunset fishing

Take a two-hour trip into the far reaches of the Maldivian lagoons, as you drop lines into the depths of the reefs. Not only is this a scenic and satisfying activity, it’ll give you an insight into local culture, as you sample the traditionally practiced activity. And you can taste your catch the following day, as the chef prepares and serves it for your lunch or dinner. A guide will be on the boat, along with a range of beers, soft drinks and all the equipment you need to be successful. It’s a sustainable pastime too, operating on a catch-and-release basis, other than the allocation of one fish to keep per person.

www.comohotels.com

Take a star-stuck astronomy dinner

The dark skies of the atolls are made for stargazing with your lover. Soneva Jani has harnessed this, with its So Starstruck Astronomy Dinner. The raised platform standing over the sea, serves as an observatory, with its huge 16” telescope and handful of dining tables. This guided experience is led by the resort’s in-house Astronomer, with the opportunity to learn more about the night sky and be amazed. Paired with a fancy meal and drinks, this is a Bond-like, once-in-a-lifetime encounter with nature.

soneva.com

Sleep

Ozen Reserve Bolifushi

Ozen Reserve Bolifushi is an ultra-luxurious resort nestled in lush tropical vegetation and surrounded by white beaches and turquoise waters. This exclusive island offers 90 stunning villas, each with a private swimming pool and beautiful ocean views. Just a short 35-minute luxury catamaran ride from Velana International Airport, the resort welcomes you to experience the epitome of relaxation and opulence. Villas feature timber flooring, high ceilings, and spacious bathrooms, providing a perfect blend of tradition and luxury. Some water villas even have slides leading into the lagoon. Culinary delights await you with a variety of dining experiences, showcasing traditional Indian dishes, Middle Eastern delights by the beach, and gourmet seafood creations complemented by excellent wines and champagnes. For adventure enthusiasts, the resort boasts one of the finest house reefs in the South Malé Atoll, making snorkelling and diving experiences extraordinary. A PADI-certified dive centre arranges courses and expeditions for exploration. Indulge in relaxation at the spa, offering 100% organic treatments, or stay active at the overwater gymnasium. Non-motorised water sports and semi-submarine adventures provide ample opportunities for marine exploration while complimentary bicycles are available for leisurely island rides around the island. Families are warmly welcomed with a Kid’s Club and Teen Lounge, where regular events and activities, including the educational Island Treasure Hunt, keep younger guests entertained. Read our expert review here.

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Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

The ultimate in exclusivity, you can book your own private island within the already super private Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi; it comes with five pools, a cinema, two spas, a children’s playground and an entourage of chefs and butlers. Found in the South Male Atoll, the resort is spread across just over two miles and three islands (including the private one), accommodating 11 dining venues, watersports and a sprawling wellness centre. Shakira recently shared snaps on social media of herself and her family at the hotel, living the Maldivian dream, paddle boarding and taking speed boat rides from the hotel.

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Angsana Velavaru

Translating as “Turtle Island” in the local Dhivehi language, Angsana Velavaru is a wonderful place to snorkel and dive if you’re dreaming of coming up close to Maldivian marine life. It has its own PADI 5-star Gold Dive Centre and a Marine Lab (dedicated to protecting coral reef ecosystems through research and conservation) where you can join a class or a snorkelling safari. Those preferring to take it easy can visit the outdoor treatment pavilions of the award-winning Angsana Spa, or bliss out at the infinity pool with a design cocktail from the bar. Meanwhile, kids are catered for with activities at the Rangers’ Club.

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COMO Cocoa Island

With two private house reefs teeming with green turtles, reef sharks and bigeye trevally, this is an elite dive spot. 33 overwater villas have an understated design, adding to the sense of serenity encouraged at the resort. COMO Cocoa Island is a place to disconnect from the outside world; take a yoga class in the open-air studio, book a Shambhala massage treatment beside the lagoon, ease aching muscles in the hydrotherapy pool and take a wellness class to get fine-tune your holistic well-being. The food is created to balance flavour and nutrition, with organic ingredients rich in living enzymes, vitamins and sea minerals, served raw, steamed or grilled for optimum health benefits.

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Six Senses Laamu

Since opening a little over a decade ago, Six Senses has maintained a strong commitment to sustainability. Shoes are discarded on arrival, making it true barefoot luxury, and with the opportunity to feel the soft silver sand between your toes, and soak in your own glass-bottomed bathtub with marine life passing beneath, who needs footwear? It offers some unforgettable experiences and excursions, like sunset dhoni cruises, private picnics, sand-dune dining, chilli dining (at a communal table, surrounded by a garden of chilli plants), Cinematic Orchestra DJ sets and jungle movie nights.

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Read our guide to the best hotels in the Maldives