The best hotels in the Maldives

"Веселые люди делают больше глупостей, чем печальные, но печальные делают большие глупости." Эвальд Христиан Клейсту ©
Время на прочтение: 25 минут(ы)

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Lux South Ari Atoll

    Best for: staying up late

    Fresh from a total overhaul, this revamped island has 193 villas, both on the beach and on two jetties (one of which is adults-only), with vaulted white ceilings, grey wood-effect ceramic floors and tree-trunk furniture. Many of the over-water villas are brand new, the spa is bigger and the interiors have been smartened up. There’s a mellow beach-club vibe throughout, with bicycles to nip between the two bars at opposite ends of the three-kilometre-long island: one more chilled beside the pool, and the other, livelier, with colourful reclaimed wooden tables, a reggae soundtrack, surfboards propped against the wall, and inflatable swans standing by to drift about on the sea. There’s coffee – roasted on-site – in reception, an ice-cream parlour with 32 homemade flavours such as bubblegum and pistachio, and live DJs at Beach Rouge, one of the six restaurants, including Allegria for Italian dishes and Senses for Indian.

    The expanded spa offers yoga in a grove of palms, or on stand-up paddle boards (great for strengthening the core), as well as a tennis coach for private lessons and a marine biologist to take guests swimming with whale sharks in a protected area. Frequent pop-ups include a mixologist making Aperol cocktails at East Point, an open-air cinema on the beach – and the sudden appearance of a rack of Panama hats guests can borrow. It’s impossible to miss home, but just in case, there’s a red telephone box by reception for free old-school-style phone calls. This hideaway, above all, is incredibly fun. EL

    Address: Lux South Ari Atoll, South Atoll, Dhidhoofinolhu, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Soneva Jani

    Best for: families

    The pioneering Soneva team, the first to introduce over-water villas to the Maldives as well as a strong environmental code and a determination to disconnect from the noisy outside world, brings us its third property. What sets Soneva Jani apart is that it is actually made up of five little islets in the Noonu Atoll. Snaking off the biggest is a 1.8 km jetty with 24 over-water villas, each one bigger than some hotels (the largest can fit a family of 10). And later this year there will be an equal number of beach villas hidden in the forests of screw pine, banyan trees and sea trumpet. A second island is home to the cute-as-pie tented restaurant hub, serving everything from grilled seafood to freshly baked pizzas. But the other three will remain undeveloped, so there will always be somewhere to play castaway.

    The scale of the villas is extraordinary: built using wood from sustainable plantations and crafted in great sweeping curves, they are a charming jumble of pitched roofs and rondavels with fairy-tale turrets, ladders leading into the Indian Ocean and portholes in floors to reveal marine life below. Retractable ceilings above beds unveil a starry night sky. There’s a bar and wine-tasting space, spa, gym, yoga studio and a phenomenal kids’ club, which takes an inclusive approach, helping families holiday together. You’ll also find an observatory with a telescope and live monitors that share the view through the eyepiece. Cycle across the island to the open-air, floating cinema, where guests wear Bluetooth headphones to avoid disturbing the turtles. Of all the openings in the Maldives, this is the drop-dead gorgeous one, with the best villas, best service, best green credentials and best vision. Michelle Jana Chan

    Address: Soneva Jani, Medhufaru Island, Noonu Atoll, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    The Nautilus, Maldives

    Best for: a boho experience

    If city living is all about the lean-in, the Maldives is for the recline. Named after Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus private-island retreat of 26 overwater and beach houses has maxed out on relaxed luxe. Sitting above the indigo Baa Atoll and its eddying UNESCO biosphere reserve of pale sandbars and just visible coral gardens, it’s a place where schedules are decidedly lacking and guests duck in via seaplane or yacht to zone out. The USP here is that everything is fluid: unscripted dining means scallop carpaccio or oyster ice cream at 5am if you wish. Waterborne adventures are impromptu, too, with watches and iPhones swapped out for snorkels and paddleboards at any time. This is very much a barefoot-and-board-shorts hideaway, crisscrossed with polished hardwood walkways and lofty palms beside walls of fragrant clerodendrum. Only the arrival of whale sharks and manta rays on their May-December migration provides a discernible sign of time passing. Unusually for hotels in the region, the Nautilus is independently Maldivian owned, and is designed for the next generation of smart travellers who are seeking out the latest go-with-the-flow modern boho experience.

    Address: The Nautilus, Thiladhoo, Baa atoll 20066, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Four Seasons Maldives Private Island at Voavah, Baa Atoll

    Best for: total privacy

    Wide-brimmed straw hats off to the Four Seasons. With this five-acre, seven-bedroom, profoundly private island it has raised the proverbial bar. (While the group was at it, it probably got its design team to take another look at the bar and turn it into something more pleasing to behold, pleasant to touch and practical to use. It’s what the Four Seasons does.) How much or how little you make of Voavah is likely to be your main – your only – concern. There’s no shortage of possibilities. It’s all yours. You’ve got the splendours of the Baa Atoll lapping at your shores and your own yacht on which to explore it. You’ve got your own dive centre and every beach toy known to man-child. Not to mention your own spa, the immaculate Ocean of Consciousness (surely missing an ‘un’), and 28 staff dedicated to making your life as agreeable as possible. There may be no better circumstances in which to simply retreat to a shady spot with a book and give everyone the day off.

    The place looks great and feels great too. The juxtaposition of smooth and rough textures, and traditional and contemporary materials, is brilliantly managed. Voavah is where woven seagrass met diamond-polished concrete and fell hopelessly in love. The muted palette of the interiors may at first appear unduly subdued – until you realise that what seems like conservatism is really a form of reverence. It serves to draw your eye outwards, back into the sublime, saturated colour and endless space of sea and sky beyond. SK

    Address: Four Seasons Maldives Private Island at Voavah, Baa Atoll, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives


    Best for: going back to basics

    Renowned Istanbul-based design studio Autoban (behind London’s Duck + Rice, the extraordinary airport in Baku and numerous hotels in their hometown such as the House Hotels and the Witt Suites) were commissioned to come up with something fresh and different at Joali. The design details in the overwater and beach villas are beautifully curated. Locally hand-carved wood panels and bamboo-slatted headboards are counterbalanced with rose-gold bathroom taps resembling giant pebbles. In the dressing rooms you’ll find heron-and-palm-leaf printed kimonos by Ardmore and slippers like chubby clouds.

    Joali is a hybrid of the best that the Maldives has to offer. Turn up barefoot at Mura Bar for a sunset Martini, a buttermilk-chicken slider and a shisha pipe. Or get dolled up for dinner at Japanese restaurant Saoke. It’s this deep-rooted, solid luxury, without the slightest hint of dictating who guests should be, what they should wear and how they should relax, that immediately aligns Joali with the frontrunners. For Maldivophiles, here is a worthy winter-sun detour that is every bit as high-achieving as some of the beloved old-timers and big-name brands.

    Address: Joali, Muravandhoo Island Raa Atoll, Maldives

    Telephone: +960 658 4400

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    Read the full Joali Maldives review

    Joali Maldives review: First In

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Milaidhoo Island Maldives

    Best for: switching off

    A wonderful reminder of the joys of getting back to basics. Milaidhoo gives classic Maldivian island style a refreshing contemporary twist. Understated, refined and properly spoiling. The 50 villas are enlivened with deft decorative flourishes – the vivid blue-on-blue accents and curvaceous lines of the Beach Pool villas, in particular, display great charm and panache. The island is small enough to get around without a buggy, so you can put a little of the barefoot work back into the enjoyment of barefoot luxury. Milaidhoo’s location in Baa Atoll – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with the world’s highest concentration of manta rays – is a huge plus. Nearby Hanifaru Bay is to ray fanciers what La Scala is to opera buffs. A snorkelling, diving or sailing expedition, especially in the company of the resident marine biologist, is likely to be as instructive as it is beautiful – the sort of experience that could alter a person’s entire attitude towards the oceans. The signature restaurant, Ba’theli, serving Maldivian and trade-route-inspired dishes in three cleverly interlinked dhonis, is a show-stopper. No less intriguing is the Deep Sleep Mood Menu. Four courses contrived for maximum soporific effect (passion-fruit-and-green-tea soup – who knew?) are served on your candlelit terrace. Ideally, it will be preceded by a spa treatment and followed by a meditation session and herb-infused bath. A bedtime story and glass of warm milk, though surely unnecessary by this point, could no doubt also be arranged. SK

    Address: Milaidhoo Island Maldives, 1 Milaidhoo Island, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Cocoon Maldives

    Best for: urban chic in an island setting

    You could’ve sworn you were on a flight to a private island in the Maldives, only to wake up wondering how you ended up in a boutique hotel in Milan instead. Or at least the interiors at Cocoon – a 150-room poem to pared-down, pastel-toned Italian chic – could make you feel that way for a moment. The concept, designer Daniele Lago explains, is to create an impression of floating weightlessly in space. The fun starts with the swings that dangle invitingly from the ceiling in reception and continues with furniture mounted on transparent legs, so that everything appears to hover in mid-air. There’s an interactive element to the faintly nursery aesthetic too. Picture frames in rooms could contain works of art by the previous occupant – a nice idea, whose success may depend on whether you were preceded by a Michelangelo or a maniac. Should you be curious about the island’s coconut palms, sign up for a coconut-palm tutorial. Alternatively, learn more about traditional Maldivian village life on a tour of the Traditional Maldivian Village that has been constructed for that purpose. (For a more convincing impression of authenticity, you can take a short boat ride to the next-door island, where actual locals live in an actual village.) But best of all for fostering a sense of neighbourly goodwill is the Community Table, to which the general manager welcomes any guests who might care to dine with him, and with each other. SK

    Address: Cocoon Maldives, Ookolhufinolhu, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Hurawalhi Island Resort

    Best for: marine aficionados

    It has the biggest underwater restaurant in the Maldives – and there are wonders on both sides of the glass. Hurawalhi is surrounded by no fewer than 50 outstanding dive sites, including one of the most reliable manta-ray hotspots in the archipelago, where you can marvel at the spectacle of these creatures lining up to be fussed over by lesser marine life. The 90 villas are compact and uncomplicated, differentiated only by their position and the presence or absence of a private pool. The two main restaurants and bar are airy spaces with soaring ceilings. Discreet touches – table-tops in a mosaic of petrified wood; transparent panels in the floor to allow fish-spotting – perk up the unpretentious design. Both the views and the menu (tuna carpaccio with pickled daikon, yuzu gel and shiso) at underwater restaurant 5.8 are deeply impressive. Another temptation is the small but splendidly stocked wine cellar, curated by managing partner Lars Petre, a pioneering hotelier and entrepreneur in the Maldives whose love of the islands is written all over his craggy Swedish face. But at Hurawalhi, it’s what’s below the surface that really counts. There’s an inspiring young dive team – all of whom appear to speak half a dozen languages and hold higher degrees in easy-going charm – to help you into your mask and fins. SK

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

    Best for: serious foodies

    The retro-futuristic design at Vommuli might have been inspired by The Jetsons. It looks like a vast docking station for flying saucers – all the more wonderful for being made entirely of wood. A Space Age vibe pervades the interiors too, with modular ceiling lamps that resemble chemistry diagrams and translucent bathroom surfaces lit from below. Though the house reef is excellent, there are enough distractions on dry land to keep you occupied for weeks. Of the half-dozen superb restaurants, the most charming is Cargo, a street-food emporium in a ship’s container – as if it had simply washed up on shore and been taken over by castaway hawkers of the Michelin-starred variety. The largest of the 77 villas – the biggest in the Maldives – is the John Jacob Astor Estate, named after the chap who built the original St Regis hotel in New York. Surely he’d approve of Vommuli. All the signature St Regis touches are here – the butlers, the grand staircase, the mural in the bar, the Champagne sabrage ceremony. There’s even a riff on the classic Bloody Mary, served in a seashell and renamed the Island Mary. If fancy cocktails in novelty vessels are not your thing, consult the wine list. Among other treasures, it contains a 1775 Madeira. Uncork it on the west-facing deck of The Whale Bar at half-past five and settle in for one of those transcendently beautiful Maldives sunsets. The tab for the nectar is 41,000 Yankee dollars. The sunset is on the house. Steve King

    Address: The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, Dhaalu Atoll, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Ozen by Atmosphere at Maadhoo

    Best for: a sporty all-inclusive

    All adrenaline-packed action takes place at one end of the island nicknamed The Hub, where there is a watersports centre – such as flyboarding and wakeboarding – a pool by the thatched bar, and five of the hotel’s six restaurants. But this is also the spot to wind down: at the pretty spa with its outdoor salt- and freshwater dipping pools, and stepping-stones over ponds decorated with half-submerged Oriental vases and lily pads. The 41 beach villas are good for families, while the 48 over-water villas offer more privacy; those with plunge pools face the sunset and all come with a shared butler who can whizz guests around the island in a buggy. For lunch, perch on wire-and-wooden bar stools at the counter of health-food restaurant Raw for sushi and sashimi, or at any of the surprising number of places to eat, given the size of the hotel. There’s Hong Kong-style, stir-fried lagoon crab at Peking; delicious hoppers with coconut chutney at Indo Ceylon, and six-course seafood menus (scallops with pumpkin and heirloom tomatoes; grilled yellowfin tuna; red mullet with pepper and pecorino) at underwater restaurant M6M. This is an all-inclusive that shouldn’t make you sneer; it’s a bit of a treat not having to think about prices and extras, and where every detail is taken care of. EL

    Address: Ozen by Atmosphere at Maadhoo, Laccadive Sea, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Drift Thelu Veliga Retreat

    Best for: runaway couples

    On one side of this island retreat – a circular hectare bisected by a sandy path lined with banana trees and bougainvillaea – is an open-air thatched bar, restaurant and water sports; on the other are the villas and a tiny but brilliant spa. The 10 beach and 20 over-water villas are simple and rustic, with apple-green, wood-panelled exteriors, coconut-leaf-thatched roofs and wicker sun loungers on the terraces (but no televisions, as the point here is to unplug). An early riser can practise hatha yoga with Rasmika Sahan before a snorkelling trip nearby (although the house reef is a treat too, with angelfish and baby blacktip sharks). Serious foodies might find the nightly buffet a tad repetitive, but it is, nevertheless, delightfully laid-back, carefree and barefoot. There are also beach barbecues and Sri Lankan feasts under the eye of chef Chaminda Udabage, who cooks up his homeland favourites of fish curries and dhal. This is a small, unhurried, good-value island aimed at those who spend their days drifting between sun beds and the ocean. Emma Love

    Address: Drift Thelu Veliga Retreat, Thelu Veliga Island, South Ari Atoll, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives


    Best for: party people

    Finolhu is the place to live it up. A party island that delivers on all levels. Forget Club 55: Crab Shack is the new top beach restaurant in the world, halfway down a staggeringly beautiful tail of white sand spearing nearly two kilometres into the Indian Ocean. Here you’ll find litres of delicious pink wine and soft-shell-crab tacos delivered by the metre. Staff are funny, charming and top-brass, filtered from other best hotels in the zone such as Reethi Rah. The main hangout is the Beach Club, part Ibiza, Thunderbirds and Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii. There’s a swim-up DJ bar, a VW Kombi van serving burgers and sushi, Pac-Man and Baywatch pinball machines, and a cinema showing classics from James Bond to Rocky. The beats begin at lunch and flow into the afternoon pool party: inflatable flamingos, mermaid acrobat performers and volleyball on the sand. There’s lively music from 6pm before the pace steps up with live bands, fire-eaters, contortionists and stilt-walkers.

    If guests do fancy some shut-eye, there are 91 over-water villas and 34 on the beach, some facing reef-protected calm waters, the rest with pools. Rooms are smart and fun: rattan furniture, Moroccan-style lanterns, Marshall speaker unit and record player to play original Diana Ross LPs. Food is sensational, from mezzes and shisha pipes at Middle Eastern restaurant Arabian Grill; char-siu pork belly with crispy aubergine and roast duck with truffle miso at Asian cuisine joint Kanusan. Downtime and detox is at The Fehi Spa, with its jungle gym, basketball and tennis courts, and the Milk LAB serves flat whites, protein shakes and açai bowls. Even the spa is sociable – sip Martinis on the deck while having a mini massage or a mani-pedi. Despite its party image, Finolhu is not to be underestimated. An instant professional, it delivers on high energy brilliance without forgetting to get rooms, service and food pitch-perfect. MJC

    Address: Finolhu, Kanufushi Island, Baa Atoll, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Ayada, the Maldives

    Best for: exploring

    At 15 hectares, Ayada, on the southern rim of the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll and just 30km north of the Equator, is big enough to get lost on, and the more walking or cycling about you do, the more surprises keep popping up. Take a stroll after dinner (there are six restaurants) and… hello, what’s this? A wine-and-cheese station for a glass of rouge and a sliver of brie while sitting on a bench fashioned from a fishing boat. Or as you head off to Zuzuu (the kids’ club), you might stumble across The White Room, a part-colonial, part-tropical folly (pillars and a thatched roof) of such kitschness, you half expect the ghost of Elvis to emerge in a white tuxedo. Or you could stop in at the Ottoman Lounge (a nod to Ayada’s Turkish ownership) and settle in for a coffee with a squidge of Turkish delight and a shisha pipe. The Middle Eastern mood shimmies through the villas: a filigree lampshade here, a joss-stick there, a flounce of Turkish fabric over the bed. And there’s a full-on Turkish bath in the spa. This far from Malé, there’s not a hint of light pollution in the inky night skies; by day there are dive sites, snorkelling with whale sharks and (unusually for the Maldives) surf breaks.

    NUMBER OF VILLAS 62 beach, 50 overwater

    TRANSFER TIME A 55-minute flight from Malé to Kaadedhdhoo, then 45 minutes by speedboat

    Address: Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll Maguhdhuvaa Island, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Six Senses Laamu, the Maldives

    Best for: eco-conscious travellers

    The Maldives is more famous for romantic sunsets than right-handers, but Six Senses – the only resort in the southern Laamu Atoll – sets itself apart from the fly-and-flop brigade with its Yin Yang surf break. There’s also paddle-boarding and catamaran sailing, alongside the usual dive boats and house-reef snorkelling. With all that splashing about, you’ll hardly notice there isn’t a single swimming pool on the island. Its eco-agenda means that Six Senses does the at-times-clichéd Robinson Crusoe rustic look with feeling: to discourage the use of air-con, the beds are draped in gauzy white canopies and there are wooden slats in the walls to open at night and catch the breeze; the thatched roofs are also low-slung to keep things shady and cool. Even the twig pencils on the desk are responsibly sourced. Of course, there’s no shortage of comforts – a 100-plus cocktail menu at the bar, a cheese-and-wine tower, a sensational sushi restaurant – but the vibe is very laid-back compared to some of the Maldives’ more flashy resorts. And nowhere more so than in the spa, where it’s all too easy to hole up in one of the thatched, nest-like pods for hours on end.

    NUMBER OF VILLAS 72 overwater, 25 beach

    TRANSFER TIME 35 minutes from Malé by seaplane, then 15 minutes by boat

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Cheval Blanc Randheli, the Maldives

    Best for: design aficionados

    Eight years after the first LVMH Cheval Blanc hotel opened in Courchevel (booked solid from day one) comes beautiful Randheli in the Maldives, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy, who also created One&Only Reethi Rah. Here he’s used the same large-scale, cathedral-roofed template for the beach villas, and the detailing is superb. Those insouciant little armless sofas; that Vincent Beaurin lemon-yellow sand-disc artwork, which slowly turns as the weight of perpetually falling grains of sand rotate it; the square, slate-lined pool; the de Havilland seaplane bobbing in the water; the white bicycles for getting around; the taupe espadrilles in the villas’ dressing rooms. It’s all so chic. In the Guerlain spa, reached by dhoni, even a glance upwards from the massage bed prompts a smile in appreciation of the exquisitely woven rattan ceiling. Some bits grate: having to press a switch to open the villa front door from the inside, for instance. But from breakfast on the terrace – molten-centred brownies, celestial with a cappuccino – to the doll-sized mouthfuls on the tasting menu at Le 1947 restaurant, named after Cheval Blanc’s most famous vintage, every element confirms this as the most sensational new resort in the Maldives.


    TRANSFER TIME 40 minutes by seaplane from Malé

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Shangri-la’s Villingili Resort & Spa, the Maldives

    Best for: a taste of island life

    Not many people know this, but down at the southern tip of this 800km island chain there’s a small airport called Gan. It sits in the heart-shaped lagoon of Addu Atoll and welcomes around 10 private jets a month, along with scheduled flights from Malé. Disembarking in the unfailing warmth (it’s just 60km south of the Equator), most passengers head for the five-star cocoon of Villingili. They come for the privacy, and for a sense of space unusual in the Maldives. About three kilometres long, Villingili has thousands of coconut palms and immaculately kept white sands, and every guest gets a bicycle to pedal off to the Chi spa for a coconut-milk-and-honey wrap, or to wobble home on after a lobster dinner. Villas are on the beach, over the water, and even up a tree, and there are dolphin cruises, wreck-diving, sailing in a 68ft yacht and a nine-hole golf course. But what makes Villingili really stand out is the four other islands just a short boat ride away, providing a rare insight into local life as you cycle through villages and nose about a 1960s RAF base.


    TRANSFER TIME 70 minutes by plane from Malé to Gan, then 10 minutes by speedboat

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Taj Exotica, Maldives

    Best for: seafood lovers

    Exquisitely presented shellfish and wahoo are now pretty standard at five-star Maldives resorts, but here chef Sheroy Kermani takes food artistry to new heights, a fact recognised across the island nation. Seafood creations such as medallions of Maldivian reef lobster with cornichon ratatouille appear on his menus alongside thyme-marinated quail with caramalised orange. This is fusion food of dexterous ingenuity. The long, thin island (it measures 700 metres by 70) has been cleverly planted with jade trees and sea hibiscus that need only scant supplies of water, with the two restaurants, bar and infinity pool on the western side (for sunsets) and the beautiful villas on the east coast. The water is an astonishing shade of aquamarine thanks to the island’s setting on one of the Maldives’ largest lagoons (it’s a short boat ride to the nearest reef for snorkelling), and it’s calm and safe for small children. The hotel also has two separate suites for couples at the excellent Jiva spa on the southern tip of the island.

    NUMBER OF VILLAS 54 overwater, 10 beach

    TRANSFER TIME 15 minutes by speedboat from Malé

    Address: Emboodhu Finolhu, South Male Atoll 02117, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Soneva Fushi, the Maldives

    Best for: playful delights

    This hotel keeps on getting it right. It was the the first in these parts to cut a cool swathe, brandishing its ‘no shoes, no news’ eco vibe with an easy insouciance that cash-rich time-poor urbanots immediately plugged into. Its owners Sonu and Eva, now that they have sold on their Six Senses empire, continue to pour all their passion into what is essentially their island home, a properly wild tropical spot shot through with all the stylish vision they can muster. Fantastical wooden houses with teardrop pools; treetop restaurants with Noma chefs; alfresco cinema screenings fuelled by visits to the chilled chocolate room; private lunches in the gardens. It is a happy place. It doesn’t matter if you’re here alone to bury yourself in the spa, or with a huge pack of family wanting action: the place is big enough, imaginative enough and clever enough to nail it for everyone.


    TRANSFER TIME 30 minutes by seaplane from Malé

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    COMO Cocoa Island, the Maldives

    Best for: wellness

    Back in the 1970s, COMO Cocoa Island was devised as a Robinson Crusoe haven by German photographer Eric Klemm, who built a few beach huts here. Fast-forward to 2020 and the island reemerged from an extensive refurb with an new focus on wellbeing, at the centre of which is the impressive Shambhala Retreat and its four spacious treatment rooms, Pilates studio, yoga studio (with lagoon-views of course), and one of very few hydrotherapy pools in the Maldives. Most of the overwater suites and villas are styled as local dhoni fishing boats (six newer villas follow a more sophisticated pattern). From here, at high tide, you can kick back from your private deck and drift out over a coral reef. Many guests are honeymooners who enjoy the slick room service and rarely leave their offshore world-apart. Yet the island is full of sensory delights such as the Ufaa restaurant, masterminded by Australian chef Timothy de Souza, serves a blend of Mediterranean and Indian dishes that might include roast jobfish with fried capers.


    TRANSFER TIME 45 minutes by speedboat from Malé

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, the Maldives

    Best for: the ultimate spa experience

    Something to keep in mind when planning a holiday in the Maldives is that the remoteness once guaranteed by these faraway atolls can no longer be taken for granted. Resorts too close to the capital, Malé, may have views across to its high-rise skyline; others may have a neighbouring hotel within earshot or clear sight. But the gloriously isolated Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, a former coconut plantation, has no such problems. The villas are also big and well spaced for privacy, the food couldn’t be healthier (catch of the day at Fuego Grill; Lebanese mezze at Al Barakat) and the spa is truly outstanding. Our 2020 Spa Guide winner for most meaningful experience, as well as overwater treatment rooms, it has a shady Ayurvedic area in a clearing, where prayerful therapists from a Tantric Ayurvedic centre in Indonesia administer rituals lasting hours. It’s also set up to provide a restorative 14- or 21-day panchakarma cleanse, which takes pounds off like nothing else. The island’s Marine Discovery Centre, run by a team of biologists whose main focus is manta-ray research, could get anyone hooked on the wondrous world revealed as one sinks below the ocean surface with a snorkel or tank.


    TRANSFER TIME 30 minutes by seaplane from Malé

    Read our full review of Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Huvafen Fushi, Maldives

    Best for: an island party

    Huvafen Fushi, Maldives is one of our favourite secluded hotels in the world. With the vast infinity pool that lights up with twinkling stars at night, we can imagine few places we’d rather be. The cocktails and great food are tempting (the seven bars and restaurants include a wine cellar where dinner is served), but there are also plenty of opportunities to detox in the world’s first underwater spa, where you can have a massage while staring meditatively at clownfish. The spa is even more spectacular at night, a glass of Champagne in hand as you watch the lit-up coral garden: the light attracts ditzy little fish, who get eaten by canny big ones, a metaphor for life to consider as you sip your fizz.

    NUMBER OF VILLAS 26 overwater, 18 beach

    TRANSFER TIME 30 minutes by speedboat from Malé

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Coco Prive Kuda Hithi, the Maldives

    Best for: privacy

    The ludicrously pretty and impossibly slick Coco Privé Kuda Hithi is only available for private hire. Previously a boutique hotel, the island’s main building has an enormous master suite, and there are five other villas to fill. The architecture is stunning, with massive expanses of glass to draw the outside in, and natural materials and organic shapes to echo the surroundings. Every light, heat-source and sound setting can be zapped from your personal iPad, and the attention to detail is phenomenal (the place is repainted between every stay). The kitchen is yours to use, but the chef is brilliant and will prepare anything you want (stories include a specific variety of apple being flown in at a guest’s request), such as baked red snapper in aromatic herbs, and banana fritters with sweet crêpes in caramel. Sun-bleached decking around the island leads to mini jungle paths where pretty wicker baubles dangle, red flowers burst and the resident fruit bat swings from palm to palm. As a bonus, the reef is monitored by a team of experts who know each turn and turtle intimately.


    TRANSFER TIME 30-40 minutes by speedboat from Malé

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Maalifushi by COMO

    Best for: little ones

    With its sister COMO hotel in the Maldives popular with couples, Maalifushi is aimed at the next stage: parenting. At the kids’ club, four- to 12-year-olds can grow crystals, fold palm leaves into parrots and learn Dhivehi (well, a few words anyway). But they’re just as likely go hunting for geckos or shark spotting, in keeping with COMO’s new ‘Play’ philosophy, which encourages children to take charge. It’s all about boosting confidence. For teens, there are plenty of watersports and desert-island hijinks plus getting down with dad at family yoga sessions if they (or you) are up for it. With shady gardens and plunge pools, and just a few steps from the sand, the beach villas are best for families. There’s a natural, understated vibe throughout, and children won’t eat this healthily anywhere in the archipelago: coconut, cinnamon and almond porridge for breakfast, lentil cakes with crushed avocado for tea. But really the joy of Maalifushi lies in its sensational spa, where parents are likely to disappear and emerge with a much higher patience threshold. Which let’s face it, means a marvellously relaxing time for everyone.

    NUMBER OF VILLAS 32 overland, 33 over water

    TRANSFER TIME Approximately a one hour flight via the Island’s sea plane from Malé

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, the Maldives

    Best for: a grandiose stay

    Set in the remote southern Gaafu Alifu Atoll, this island is so small you could stroll its white-sand circumference in 15 minutes. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in swank: the beds are a stonking three metres wide, and the vast wardrobes indicate that most guests do not travel light and may be unfamiliar with the notion of unpacking for themselves. Each of the villas has a private pool and a mind-reading butler. The Talise spa and gym sits in the ocean at the end of an octopus-like tentacle; and 800 metres out to sea, unconnected to the island, are the Ocean Pearls: 16 overwater villas that might have been dreamt up by Ian Fleming, with a private spa, bar and Johara restaurant serving Japanese fusion food. There are another two restaurants on the island itself, Azara and Mumayaz, serving wagyu beef, foie gras and truffles to folks who order bottles of Dom Pérignon, barefoot but wearing watches worth the GDP of a small African country.


    TRANSFER TIME Either a 55-minute domestic flight followed by a 15-minute speedboat transfer, or a direct seaplane flight that takes 1 hour 45 minutes

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    One&Only Reethi Rah, the Maldives

    Best for: jet-set glamour

    When you spot a woman in Prada getting off one of the seaplanes arriving at Malé airport, it’s almost certain she’ll have been staying at Reethi Rah. The hotel is deeply glamorous: guests dress up for dinner in its dimly lit, gently gleaming environs, and sometimes for breakfast, lunch and dive school, too. Super-smart, with its stone baths designed for two, often with a royal in residence (never seen but identifiable by uniformed bodyguards sitting outside the villa), this is an immense and hugely successful hotel, with 12 private beaches. There’s a very Zen spa where you can fully detox, and an amazing teen zone with ping-pong tables and all kinds of watersports. Since it opened, a cookery school has been added and its overwater villas now have pools, but the beach pool villas are still the best: thrillingly big and impressive, they have wardrobes and shoe space to match.


    TRANSFER TIME 45 minutes from Malé by yacht, or 15 minutes by seaplane

    Address: Reethi Rah, North Malé Atoll, Malé 08440, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Velaa Private Island, the Maldives

    Best for: state-of-the-art facilities

    One of the most expensive resorts in the Maldives is owned by 42-year-old Czech billionaire Jiri Smejc, who asked his villa butler at Huvafen Fushi, Maldives to find him an island. He then hired a hot-shot general manager, Hans Cauchi from the Corinthia in London, installed his former butler front-of-house, and brought in 500 Czech builders for six months. The result? State-of-the-art boys’ toys (not even glossy rivals Cheval Blanc or One&Only Reethi Rah have a Seabob or semi-submarine); a spa with expert therapists, an ocean-view sauna, snow room and snooze pod; a nine-hole golf course; tennis and squash courts; an extraordinary three-storey wine tower with a 6,000-bottle, £970,000 inventory (including a 1978 Romanée-Conti for £36,000); and Aragu, an overwater, open-kitchen restaurant and Champagne lounge with a Sri Lankan chef. Some design elements are straight out of a granny flat in Prague: suede-effect giant-weave cushions; patchwork carpets; the hanging chair and three massive vases you have to dodge to get to the bath. But the outdoor bathrooms are quite wonderful, and four-bedroom villas plus top-notch security are great for those who must factor in space for the bodyguard and long-range-lens issues. Saudi’s crown prince was among the first guests to arrive when the resort opened in December 2013.


    TRANSFER TIME 50 minutes by seaplane from Malé

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Per Aquum Niyama

    Best for: kid’s clubs

    The clever Per Aquum group has clocked that honeymooners may want to return to the Maldives with some additions to their party. That’s where sister hotel Niyama comes in. Staff smile at sticky fingers, scoop up tantrummy toddlers and debate football teams with teens. The new island, Play, has at its heart a gleaming kids’ club, run by an unflappable Scott Dunn-trained team. With circus-top-themed rooms, a marathon of activities, the softest sand-floored playground and a water park, it’s a spirited hideaway for children, a refuge from the equatorial sun. For parents of smaller ones, the fact that the club takes kids from 12 months old is worth ordering another gin and tonic for. For those with tech-obsessed tweens, there’s a separate games zone with Xboxes, computers and an awesome pair of simulator rooms: one for cinema screenings and one with kit for golf, shooting and goal-scoring practice. And, of course, there are the beaches, the snorkelling, banana boats and dhoni trips. There’s not a chance in hell anyone will get bored.

    NUMBER OF VILLAS 48 Villas on the Play island

    TRANSFER TIME A 45-minute seaplane journey from Malé to the island

    Address: Olhuveli, Kudahuvadhoo Dhaalu Atoll, 13080, Maldives

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  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Kanuhura, the Maldives

    Best for: family activities

    Children get special treatment here, and can be whisked off to the Kids’ Club (for four- to 11-year-olds), complete with junior-size windsurfers, to enjoy banana tube rides, cooking classes and even pirate cruises. There are also abundant options for all the family, from sunset fishing to beach football and movies under the stars. Set in an otherwise little-visited area of the archipelago, Kanuhura has 80 contemporary-chic villas, each with a butler who will organise anything from a highchair to a desert-island excursion.

  • The best hotels in the Maldives

    Baros, the Maldives

    Best for: diving

    This understated, elegant resort has a loyal following. Among its most notable attractions are the cuisine (seafood at Cayenne Grill, Mediterranean at white-tented Lighthouse, informal meals at Lime) and the diving. Baros is home to one of the archipelago’s original dive centres, as well as the first EcoDive Centre in the Maldives to be certified by International Reef Check.

  • W Maldives

    Best for: watersports

    Arrival by seaplane from Malé sets the tone; and from white-tented spa to swim-up pool bar, this resort encapsulates ‘jet-set glamour’. The 77 villas offer all the mod cons you could possibly want plus plunge pool, sundeck, wine fridge and barbecue station. Over-water accommodation features glass floors and beach villas are equipped with muslin-draped daybeds that – cleverly – can be cantilevered over the pool. The resort is also big on action, with diving, kite-surfing and SeaBobs (which zoom underwater like dolphins), and scheduled DJ’s spinning tracks in the evening.


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    Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

    Best for: underwater dining

    The advantages of size are wonderfully apparent here. The resort is spread over two islands linked by bridge and has 150 villas as well as a two-level residence featuring a fully-submerged underwater bedroom with dome ceiling. For dining there are seven impressive restaurants, including Vilu Restaurant (Asian-Mediterranean) and Koko Grill (Japanese). Most striking are the underground Wine Cellar, with a degustation menu to complement tastings, and the Ithaa Undersea restaurant which does exactly what it suggests: you dine 16ft below sea level looking out on to shoals of fish.

    Address: Rangali Island Alifu Dhaalu Atoll, 20077, Maldives

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    Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa

    Best for: laid-back island life

    For all its glamour, a mood of laid-back friendliness is maintained at this 96-room resort and staff offer a particularly warm welcome to families, whether arranging beach picnics or excursions in dhoni fishing boats. The spa offers junior treatments (‘Kuda sole’ minty reflexology; ‘miracle mud mask’ facials); complimentary baby and children’s toiletries are provided; the Reef Club (for Italian cuisine) and the Baraabaru (for Indian) have children’s menus; and two clubs cater for small children and for teens. Best of all is the surf school, to which beginners, whether children or adults, are encouraged to go.

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