Your brain probably imagines the Maldives as a tropical paradise with calm, turquoise sea waters, beautiful island sunsets off white sand beaches and long days of lazy relaxation. You’re not dreaming hard enough! Nothing can prepare you for the combo of top-class Maldives accommodation and the magnitude of beauty within this incredible, tropical setting.
In the Maldives, nearly every destination and resort can offer you the island holiday of your dreams. So the real question is not about the best time to visit, but how do you go about choosing where to stay in the Maldives when everything looks so incredible?
We looked at some of the best resorts on offer and picked out some of the things that make each one stand out. Hopefully, this summarized list of your options will give you some idea of the best places to stay in the Maldives during your vacation.
Where are the Maldives?
First, some background. The Republic of Maldives is the name for a collection of 1190 islands just south-west of India. The islands are grouped into 26 atolls formed along a submerged mountain range.
In total, the archipelago nation is spread over around 35 000 square miles (91 000 square km).
Around a quarter of Maldives’ people live in one city – the capital, Malé. The rest of the country is spread across the island in villages, towns, and resorts. Only 200 islands are still inhabited by the original Maldivian people. Another 100 or so of the islands have been developed as resorts for tourism purposes. Most of the other islands are uninhabited or not developed.
The best time to visit is between November and April, which is regarded as the “dry” season. The “wet” season runs from May through October, which can bring lots of rainfall, high winds, and choppy seas.
Even so, the weather on any given day can be quite unpredictable, so best to keep an eye out for sudden changes when in the country.
The Best Hotels in Maldives
The Maldives is an incredibly popular holiday destination, due to its beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and warm equatorial climate. But where does one choose to go, when there are a thousand islands to choose from?
The ‘Best place to stay in the Maldives’ is a subjective topic, but maybe this quick guide to Maldives’ best hotels can help.
South Malé Atoll
Of the 30 beautiful islands in this atoll, 17 are resorts. Most of those are connected to Malé by speedboat, making them popular and easy to get to.
You can get the Jumeirah via their own speedboat from Malé International Airport. When you get to the resort, you’ll find overwater bungalows, each with its own pool, a spacious deck and access to the gorgeous blue waters below.
If these surrounds get too slow for you (no such thing), you can take a guided snorkeling tour.
Como Cocoa Island
There are only 33 rooms, designed as a call to the traditional Malidivian dhoni or fishing boat. Two private reefs are for your diving and snorkeling pleasure. It’s worth noting that the resort’s restaurant prides itself on Keralan-style food. Kerala is a region of South India.
OZEN by Atmosphere
OZEN is consistently rated at the top of Maldives resorts lists. The all-inclusive resort is found on Madhoo Island, and is a honeymooners’ paradise. Your room has a private pool and is stocked with eats and drinks twice a day. But a definite highlight is M6M, an underwater restaurant that specialises in seafood. Definitely one of the best places to stay in the Maldives.
A highlight here is the bathrooms which are roofed, but essentially outdoors. Shower or relax in the tub with both 5-star luxury with the peaceful sounds and flora of the outdoors. There are also five restaurants (one main buffet and four a la carte) and two trendy bars to try out.
South Ari Atoll
South Ari Atoll forms one half of the Ari or Alifu Atoll, the other being North Ari. Alifu is one of the bigger atolls, and therefore contains many of the Maldives’ legendary beautiful island resorts – 20 of them to be exact.
Lily Beach Resort and Spa
Located on Huvahandhoo Island, Lily Beach’s all-inclusive plan includes all meals, drinks and activities. These include water sports, a kids’ activity club, three restaurants, pool bars, tennis courts, a gym and more.
Interesting to note here is that the smart design of the resort means you can enjoy quiet zones, or a more family-friendly area, depending on your preference.
Constance Moofushi Maldives
The Constance Moofushi experience starts way before you actually get to the resort. They operate a private airport lounge in Malé, from where a seaplane will fly you to the island. The resort itself has a total of 110 beach, water and senior water villas – the latter marked by a larger deck over the water.
Some say this is the best area to stay in Maldives! The area is a diver’s hotspot, and known for schools of rays that can be seen swimming by. Interestingly, guests are asked to set their watches an hour ahead of Malé time, to extend the sunlight hours.
Baa Atoll is a biosphere reserve, and is known for its great biodiversity. Hanifaru Bay is especially famous as one of the few places in the world where gorgeous whale sharks can be seen in numbers.
Four Seasons Resort Maldives, Baa Atoll
One of the great touches here is the Manta-On-Call service. If mantas are spotted nearby, you will be notified and given an alert to grab your snorkeling gear and meet at the boat. You’ll then head out and have an opportunity to dive with the rays. Awesome!
There are wonderful talks at the Marine Discovery Center as well, making Four Seasons one of the top hotels in Maldives.
The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort
The wonderful design of this resort takes on an oceanic theme; a clamshell for an arrival area, or even a bungalow layout that looks like a turtle from the air. There’s also a sustainability element – you may notice some parts of the facilities made from repurposed building materials.
Bonus points for that, because this resort is located in Baa, which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
In terms of resorts, Llaviyani Atoll is relatively small – only five of its 54 islands are resort islands. But it does offer some of the most amazing dive experiences in the country, such as being able to see sea turtles, mantas and manta rays pass you by in the shallow waters.
Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives
The island upon which this amazing resort sits is just 90 meters wide. That’s not completely unusual for the Maldives, but it still boggles the mind that you could walk from beach to opposite beach in less than a minute. This could well be the best island in the Maldives!
If scuba diving has a home in the Maldives, it’s probably in the Dhaalu Atoll. The channels are suitable for beginners and more advanced divers, and if you’re lucky, you may be able to observe some of the coral life feeding. If you’re really lucky, you may spot silver tip and white tip reef sharks.
Niyama Private Islands Maldives
What does an underwater nightclub look like? This resort built the first one we know of. There’s also a sub-aquatic restaurant to match. There’s another restaurant set half a kilometer out to sea, and accessible only by boat. As if that wasn’t enough there’s a tree-top setting designed for private couples dining.
North Malé Atoll
The main atoll in the Maldives – in a manner of speaking – houses the capital. It also has a number of breathtaking historical buildings like the National Museum and Grand Friday and Hulhumale Mosques, which are all well worth a visit. It’s the closest you might get to a traditional “city visit” experience in the Maldives.
Gili Lankanfushi Island, North Malé Atoll, Maldives
Any resort that is voted the best resort in the Maldives on a popular travel site deserves a look. The spa also happened to be named the 2018 Best Destination Spa at the Conde Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence.
All the villas here are over water, the smallest of them being 210 square meters (2200 square feet)!
Laamu Six Senses Laamu
The relatively rustic feel of the Laamu sets it slightly apart from the rest. There’s a down-to-earth feel here that actually helps you feel more relaxed, especially if you’re not into that personal, overcooked butler service that many other luxury resorts offer. That’s not to say that service isn’t excellent… just a little less intrusive.
You are also more likely to see mantas here when you go diving, as they tend to be more populous around this atoll.
Coco Privé, Kuda Hithi
How about just booking your own island? If you truly want to get away from everything and everyone, you’ll struggle to do any better than this five villa resort. This is the ideal option for a small group looking for a private holiday. It’s probably why it is thought to be popular with celebs who want to avoid prying eyes – it’s the definition of private and exclusive.
Although there are 59 islands in this atoll, it has remained relatively quiet in terms of resort development. Interestingly, the atoll islands are popular with surfers, looking for those hard-to-get-breaks.
Up until very recently, it’s been the only resort in the Thaa Atoll. If, for some reason, you tire of the turquoise ocean and sandy beach, you can lounge around in a plunge pool at tour villa. Then, satisfy your tummy at the top-rated Japanese restaurant.
Interesting fact: Spinner dolphins are commonly seen here. You’ll also encounter the largest swarms of fish in the Maldives here, which can be an awe-inspiring sight. The atoll offers diving for all levels of skill.
Velaa Private Island
Like most of the other resorts in the Maldives, Velaa has those amazing beaches and waters to die for. It also has an excellent spa and gym, squash and tennis courts, and a golf academy. Jose Maria Olazabal designed the swing studio on-site, just another indicator of the prestige the resort is aiming for.
Not surprisingly, diving is the name of the game in the Maldives, especially in Shaviyani Atoll. It is a famous breeding ground for sea turtles. Only 16 of Shaviyani’s 51 islands are inhabited, and tourism has only taken off here very recently.
Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi
All the overwater villas here have decks and plunge pools. But there’s also a jungle-style tented villa option, which feels like the middle of the jungle. It’s a nice touch that alternative to the usual beach and sand Maldives offering.
Strange as it may be, up until the 90s, Raa Atoll was not open to tourists. As a result, there are only a few resorts to be found. This may not be the case for long, as a number of resorts are planned for the region in the coming years. Majestic schools of Mantas can be seen in the area all year round.
There are some top-end touches here, like an iPad by your bed that is programmed to control lights, air conditioning, and the curtains. The resort will also endeavor to bring your meals to you, whether you be on the beach, in the jungle, or almost anywhere on the island.
Last Thoughts on the Best Places to Stay in the Maldives
What’s the best place to stay in the Maldives? It’s a question many of us would love to wrestle with. Malé has all the basic draws of the capital – the museums, the people, the food and the culture.
But beyond that, most of the Maldives is great for snorkeling, bumming on the beach, beautiful waters and luxurious resorts. Hopefully, this shortlist of ideas will help to narrow down the choices available in this almost literal ‘thousand island’ sauce of options we call the Maldives!