Imagine private white-sand islands fringed by crystal blue waters… the Maldives is the ultimate luxury island escape
The speedboat slows and it comes into sight. A tiny speck of an island surrounded by a turquoise lagoon and the whitest sand you’ve ever seen. It’s better than the pictures – the Maldives is where colour comes to life. We can tell you this first-hand, because we’re the original Maldives experts and have been creating luxury Maldives holidays for almost 50 years.
There’s a reason why this is our most popular destination. Expect to lose all sense of time and what’s going on elsewhere as you sink into your overwater villa’s private pool and drink in the views. Here, working your way through the hand-crafted cocktail list is as strenuous as it gets. Need more? How about venturing beneath the ocean’s surface to glide alongside turtles and whale sharks; sipping Champagne on a luxury cruise as the sun sets; or escaping to an uninhabited island, Robinson Crusoe-style, for an unforgettable evening-for-two under the stars.
We can tell you where you’ll find the best house reefs, the sleekest water villas and the best-value all-inclusive options. From rustic beach escapes to ultra-luxury private pool retreats, we’ve hand-picked 36 of the best Maldives hotels and each of our chosen resorts sits on its own private island.
Maldives holiday highlights
Best time to visit
Temperatures in the Maldives stay at a wonderfully warm 25-30°C year-round and only drop a few degrees at night. There’s an average of 8 hours of sunshine every day and the water temperature barely falls below 25°C. There are distinct wet and dry seasons; peak season is between December and April when it’s drier, hotter and less windy. Most travellers see this as the best time to go, but there are other factors to consider when choosing the time of year to travel here – like when to see specific marine life and when you’ll find the best value offers. May to July and September to November tend to have higher rainfall and some cloud, but still see plenty of sunshine amid short downpours. Check out our climate guide for a month-by-month summary and short video about when’s best to visit the Maldives.
Service and standards are famously high in the Maldives – and then there’s the best of the best, where exclusive villas come with private butlers and super secluded water villas can only be reached by boat. At the top end of the scale, our favourite luxury Maldives hotels include Milaidhoo Island Maldives, which has some of the most beautiful pool villas in all of the Maldives, and Gili Lankanfushi – once voted ‘best hotel in the world’ at the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards.
There are a whole range of activities that you can book when you reach your chosen resort. A sunset cruise is one of our favourite excursions; sip a glass of fizz as the sun goes down and keep a look out for dolphins. Robinson Crusoe-style escapes are great way to celebrate a special occasion – at Maafushivaru you can even cast away to a tiny uninhabited island for the night. Or, to see a more cultural side of the Maldives, book a day trip to the capital, Malé, and explore its colourful markets. In the very south of the archipelago, Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa is one of the best resorts for more unexpected activities – it’s home to the Maldives’ largest 9-hole golf course and the nearby island of Gan has a surprising British military history.
Diving & snorkelling
The Maldives is one of the best places on Earth for diving and snorkelling. The underwater world here has been the subject of countless documentaries and many islands have house reefs that can be reached straight from the beach. There are warm water temperatures year-round and when conditions are good, the underwater visibility is at the highest level – sometimes exceeding 50 metres. Top dive sites include Lankanfinokhu (‘Manta Point’) to see manta rays being cleaned by local colonies of cleaner fish and the Hanifaru lagoon in the Baa Atoll, which between June and September is one of the best places to spot whale sharks and manta rays.
Food & drink
The general standard of food and drink on a Maldives holiday is excellent, with many islands offering a choice of buffet and à la carte restaurants and well-stocked wine cellars. Seafood dishes top the menus, but you’ll find flavours from all around the globe. Private dining experiences are incredibly popular, with options ranging from lobster dinners by candlelight to desert island picnics. Dining at Ithaa on Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is an experience in itself; this is the iconic underwater restaurant located 16 feet below the ocean’s surface. At Niyama Private Islands you can venture six metres below the ocean’s surface to Subsix as well as six metres high up in the treetops at Nest.
Although it might not be the obvious choice for families, the Maldives is a natural playground and a number of resorts offer colourful kids’ clubs, fun and educational activities, and family villas. Popular Kurumba Maldives is just ten minutes by speedboat from the airport – ideal for little ones needing to reach their destination quickly after a long flight. Niyama Private Islands has a second island which has a family focus, and Constance Halaveli Maldives’ gently sloping lagoon and wide beaches are ideal for younger guests.
There’s a reason why the Maldives ranks highly on honeymoon wish lists – these picture-perfect islands are a real-life desert-island fantasy. Crystal clear lagoons, vibrant coral reefs and palm-fringed beaches come as standard, while romantic candlelit dinners under starry skies, exclusive upgrades and bespoke experiences-for-two make for an extra special start to married life. Maafushivaru is a honeymoon favourite thanks to its small size and the option to spend a night on a desert island. For a little more choice, Kuramathi Maldives has extensive facilities, while Diamonds Athuruga has stunning white water villas that are perfect for newlywed couples.
Whether it’s an all-inclusive island or one with an all-inclusive option, this is one region of the world where it really does make sense to opt for the complete package. Inclusions vary between resorts – some of the most generous Maldives holiday packages include all meals at a choice of restaurants, sparkling wine and cocktails, minibar drinks, watersports and excursions.
We can tell you where you’ll find the best house reefs, the sleekest water villas and the best-value all-inclusive options. Whatever your wish list, talk to us and we’ll help find the right Maldives island for you.
Transfers & getting around
Maldives transfers There are few places in the world where your hotel transfer is a huge part of your holiday experience. Forget long minibus rides from the airport or endless hours stuck in a taxi, the unique formation of the Maldives means that to reach your private island resort you’ll get to travel by speedboat or seaplane. Some islands – like Kuramathi Maldives – offer the choice of speedboat and/or seaplane transfers.
Speedboat Speedboats are the most cost-effective option. After you arrive into Malé airport, your speedboat will arrive at the jetty just across the road from the terminal. Speedboats are operated by individual resorts and come in various forms, but all offer a comfortable start to your holiday. Depending on the location of your resort, you’ll pass other islands en route – both resort islands and tiny uninhabited ‘picnic islands’ – and it’s worth keeping a look-out for dolphins.
Seaplane For islands that are further than an hour-and-a-half speedboat ride from the airport, we generally recommend a seaplane transfer. A seaplane is far quicker at transporting you from A to B, with boat journeys of three hours easily reduced to a 30-minute flight. One of the other benefits of a seaplane transfer is the aerial views – it’s a thrilling excursion and a practical mode of travel in one. The seaplane terminal is just a short bus ride from Malé airport, and seaplane charter flights depart at scheduled times during daylight hours. Seaplanes in the Maldives are small, and you’ll be sharing this experience with around 15 other passengers. Often, stops are made to pick up/drop off guests at other resorts en route. It’s worth noting that most seaplanes have a luggage limit of 20kg per person and adverse weather can cause delays.
Events & festivals
23 April The 2020 holy month of Ramadan begins (known as Ramazan in the Maldives)
26 July Independence Day – Independence from the United Kingdom in 1965
11 November Republic Day – After so many years as a monarchy, the Maldives became a republic on this day in 1968
December Mawlid al-Nabi – A celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam.
Good to know
Language: Dhivehi. English is widely spoken
Passport & visas: Not required if under 30 nights
Voltage & electricity: Voltage is 220v AC so on most islands UK plugs will work – there’s no need for an adaptor
Public holidays: Public holidays won’t affect you on holiday although some shops may close or not open until later in the day. If you’re on an inhabited island, you may see small parades and public celebrations.
Payment possibilities: Small denominations of US dollars are useful for tips and for shopping in local shops and markets. Credit cards are widely accepted. Travellers cheques and pre-paid travel agent gift cards are not accepted in the Maldives. A 10-12% service tax is charged on all extras (including drinks, snacks and excursions).