The Maldives are the dream destination for sun-lovers, honeymooners and anyone who fancies a holiday on a classic treasure island.
But which of the many islands should you choose? At last count there were more than 100 resorts on almost as many different islands, most of which have completely different styles and facilities.
Having visited at least two dozen sites over the years, here’s my lowdown on choosing the best location for your holiday style.
Anantara Kihavah is ideal for lovers of pampering as it provides unlimited treatments if you book the spa pool villa
Best for: The finest pampering in the Maldives, thanks to the unlimited treatments (yes, as many as you want) for guests in the spa pool villa. The award-winning Naked Skin Package aims to take the years off you, or why not book in with a visiting practitioner for a chakra balance with Tibetan singing bowls? Attention to detail reigns supreme (your bike even has your name carved on a wooden plaque) and guests swear that the island has soul.
Rooms: Water villas have glass-bottomed tubs so you can see fish as you bathe. But the ultimate indulgence is the deluxe Spa Pool Villa, which has a larger pool, private gardens and your own en suite room for those unlimited pampering treatments.
Food: Start the day with breakfast served in your private pool: a floating tray with eggs Benedict arrives with fresh truffles. Other options include an underwater fine-dining restaurant and wine cellar, where you get endless colourful theatre from the marine activity all around. There are also tapas and sundowner spots, a Japanese restaurant and an Asian alternative with a fabulous show kitchen. Visit the organic vegetable garden, where chefs pick herbs and present generous handfuls of basil, mint and aloe to take back to your villa.
Wow factor: There is characteristically great diving in the day. And at night the remote location minimises light pollution and delivers big starry skies, especially from the roof of the Sky Bar, which has the Indian Ocean’s most powerful telescope.
Book me in: A seven-night stay in an overwater pool villa on a half-board basis, including economy flights and seaplane transfers, costs from £3,995pp with baileyrobinson.com or go direct at anantara.com.
No shoes requires: Mirihi has stripped-back luxury – there are no motorised watersports, no TVs in the rooms and only limited wi-fi
There isn’t a swimming pool, so you are forced to cool off in the sea (a balmy 26C) and commune with nature instead
Best for: Minimalist Robinson Crusoe-style escapism. Mirihi subscribes to the ‘no shoes, no news’ ethos, with none of the excess of bigger resorts. Its matriarchal owner, Swiss-born Amy Steirli (who lives on site for six months of the year), takes a less-is-more approach and eschews passing trends to keep her island peaceful. Don’t get me wrong, this island – just 30 minutes by seaplane from the airport at the capital Male – is as luxurious as they come. It just stays close to its roots and exudes a quiet sense of class from beach to bed.
Rooms: The island is shaped like a wishbone and has a small cluster of 39 wooden-stilted villas at its apex. Mirihi’s stripped-back luxury includes no motorised watersports, no TV in the rooms and only limited wi-fi. Far more important is the local news – guests are told that a hawksbill turtle has just laid her eggs on the beach, for example. And as there isn’t a swimming pool, you are forced to cool off in the sea (a balmy 26C) and commune with nature instead.
Food: The sand-floored restaurant offers big buffets with a mix of international specialties and seafood. Oh, and there’s a selection of 300 wines.
Wow factor: The diving in the South Ari Atoll is among the best in the Maldives. The resort itself is tiny, stretching barely 400 yards in length, but there are more than 40 dive sites nearby and a house reef that I loved seeing lit by clouds of bioluminescent plankton at night.
Book me in: Seven nights in a beach or water villa on a half-board basis, including economy flights and seaplane transfers, costs from £4,450pp with chiclocations.com or go direct at mirihi.com.
A stunning sunset at Amilla Fushi, which has a whiff of Miami, with strings of glamorous whitewashed villas and sit-up bikes for exploring
Best for: Families, who will love the children’s club, the flexible one- to eight-bedroom accommodation, the vibrant house reef, unlimited non-motorised watersports, and a big spa menu.
Rooms: The vibe has a whiff of Miami, with strings of glamorous whitewashed villas and sit-up bikes for exploring. Everyone will love the two-bedroom Treetop Pool Villas, nestled 40ft up in the canopy. They can sleep six people in a style that would surely turn Tarzan green with envy.
Food: Enjoy an unstuffy approach in a dozen dining options which huddle around one of the Maldives’ biggest swimming pools. You can get anything from fish and chips to food fresh from the wok. For a sophisticated dinner, there’s a Japanese restaurant too.
Wow factor: Amilla Fushi has an in-house marine biologist who can explain the secrets of the island’s house reef. Experienced snorkelers can get to the Blue Hole (a renowned diving spot) right from the beach, alongside optional snorkelling in Hanifaru Bay, home to the world’s largest groupings of manta rays and whale sharks.
Book me in: Seven nights’ half-board in a beach house, with economy flights and seaplane transfers, costs from £5,679pp with scottdunn.com or go direct at amilla.mv.
Cheval Blanc Randheli
Cheval Blanc Randheli has 45 lavish pool villas and a dedicated wellness island. It’s part of the Noonu Atoll
Best for: Pure swank. Not the newest lair in the Maldives but Cheval Blanc Randheli prides itself on being the most all-encompassing thanks to 45 lavish pool villas and a dedicated wellness island. It’s part of the Noonu Atoll, 40 minutes north of Male, and is ideal for reef snorkelling, diving expeditions (day or night), fishing adventures and sunset cruises.
Rooms: The palatial overwater and beach-lined villas, under cathedral-high thatched roofs with dashes of vibrant yellow, are awash with designer touches such as candles from Christian Dior.
Food: Something for everyone. For a delicious local tuna curry try The White. Diptyque specialises in Japanese and Asian tempura. Gourmands head to Le 1947 for the tasting menu, while Deelani specialises in Mediterranean fare and home-made pizzas.
Wow factor: Watersports galore including waterskiing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, windsurfing, fun-tubes and canoeing. Adrenaline junkies will enjoy recent additions including a flyboard, hoverboard and jet surf. For tennis fans, there’s a Jim Courier Tennis Club on neighbouring Maakurandhoo Island where you can take a private lesson with a former tennis professional, then head to the Guerlain Spa just across the water to ease those aching muscles.
Book me in: Seven nights in an island villa with breakfast costs from £7,999pp, including economy flights and seaplane transfers, with turquoiseholidays.co.uk or go direct at chevalblanc.com.
So seductive: A water villa with an infinity pool at the Joali resort, which is a ‘flop and flirt’ fantasy island
An indulgent bathroom at the Joali resort with a large freestanding bath big enough for two
Best for: The art of seduction. Joali is a ‘flop and flirt’ fantasy island, where you can doze off in a shady hammock or cool off with the fish. For a perfect moment, go diving at the nearby manta ray hangout, or take a sunny day trip on a traditional dhoni and sail off into the Maldivian sunset.
Rooms: Almost 1,000 master craftsmen have transformed the island into a star. Every villa has the service of a butler or jadugar (Urdu for skilled magician) who will arrange anything from daytime dives to candlelit dining. All villas have infinity pools and original art. Bathrooms are an indulgence, with tubs big enough for two and outdoor rain showers.
Food: Take breakfast in your villa, lunch barefoot on the beach, and dine under the stars in Mediterranean-themed Bellinis, or in the overwater Japanese restaurant Saoke. Its traditional sushi and sashimi, and the black sesame ice cream, are a joy.
Wow factor: Check out the art. Pieces include unique ceramic installations.
Book me in: Seven nights on a half-board basis, with international flights and seaplane transfers, costs from £7,995pp from cazloyd.com or go direct at joali.com.
Naladhu has 20 very private and rather cavernous colonial-inspired villas, with private pools (long enough for lengths) and swinging double daybeds
Best for: A traditional boutique getaway or multi-generational escape for families. Somehow it manages to be popular with both older couples and children under two. Easy to reach, it’s just 30 minutes by boat from Male airport (you step from plane to a swish Sunseeker) and it’s loved for a sense of intimate escapism. But while it’s one of the smaller resorts, you can also spend time on the adjoining resorts of Veli and Dhigu via a long wooden walkway or travel there by traditional dhoni.
Rooms: There are 20 very private and rather cavernous colonial-inspired villas, with private pools (long enough for lengths) and swinging double daybeds. Expect vast bathrooms with sunken tubs and private steam rooms.
Food: If you want a break from long menus and prefer home-style cooking and the choice to eat whenever you like, look no further. Breakfast (which can be ordered at any time of the day) is best served in the Bare-Foot Living Room. I’d happily dine there for every meal, though you should also head across the water for Thai, Japanese or Italian fare at Naladhu’s sister resorts.
Wow factor: Relaxed simplicity and the 24-hour roar of waves on the rugged eastern reef. Small is definitely beautiful in the case of Naladhu.
Book me in: Seven nights, including economy flights, breakfast and return boat transfers, costs from £4,280pp with triangletravel.co.uk or go direct at anantara.com.
- British Airways offers direct ten-hour flights to Male three times a week between March and October – return fares cost from £702. Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Turkish Airways fly to the Maldives year-round but all have at least one stop.