Hello paradise: Maldives

I’ve heard that some resorts are more than an hour’s seaplane flight from Malé. Which ones are close to the airport?

Despite being a mere four-hour flight from the UAE, some Maldives resorts are remote enough to require a further scheduled domestic flight or, more commonly, a seaplane taxi, which will likely stop at one or two other resorts along the way to your own island escape. This can mean your actual travel time clocks in at over five hours or more, so if you’re intent on squeezing in every possible moment in paradise, you should consider a resort that doesn’t require you to take to the sky once more. One such place is Jumeirah Vittaveli, which lies atop the ocean only 20 minutes (via a transfer aboard a motorised catamaran) from the airport. This is a place that adds a splash of wow factor to many of its offerings: the first ice rink in the Maldives and the newly opened Private Ocean Retreats with Slide (yes, a slide, which winds down from the upstairs balcony into the ocean). Also just 20 minutes in a speedboat from Velana International Airport (commonly referred to as Malé International Airport) is Gili Lankanfushi. A self-styled eco resort, the dwellings here were built from sustainably-sourced materials while not compromising on luxury. Of them, our firm favourites are the Crusoe Residences: two-storey, over-the-water villas stood a brief boat ride away from the main island.

Having recently removed the wraps from a two-year renovation, Baros Maldives is ripe for rediscovery – and only 20 minutes by speedboat from the airport. Enhancements to this much-loved Maldives stalwart (it welcomed its first guests in 1973) include the all-new Baros Suites, just two standalone villas which come with huge private pools and stunning sea views as standard. 

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I want to stay somewhere brand spanking new. Which places have just opened?

Kudadoo Maldives
Comprising only 15 villas – all of them on stilts over the ocean – the feeling of exclusivity at this all-inclusive resort extends to being able to have Dream Island, a neighbouring slice of sand owned by Kudadoo, all to yourself.  

LUX* North Malé Atoll
Taking bookings now for a February 1 opening is LUX* North Malé Atoll. Out go the thatched-roof villas common to resorts and in come white-washed penthouses. Swish. 

Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi
Water babies take note: Meaning ‘Secret Water Island’, Sirru Fen Fushi boasts one of the largest lagoons in the Maldives and a huge, 200-metre-long swimming pool. Rest assured it won’t stay secret for long. 

Joali Maldives 
Why slum it in a villa that has only one swimming pool when you can have two? Here, two-pool villas are available on the beach or over the water. 

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LUX* North Malé Atoll
Our favourite ‘only in the Maldives’ moments:

1. Snorkelling or diving are the obvious ways to familarise yourself with Maldives’ enchanting underwater world, but there are a few more unique ways to do so. It’s home to the world’s first underwater spa (Huvafen Fushi Maldives); underwater bungalow (Conrad Maldives Rangali Island); and underwater nightclub (Niyama Private Islands Maldives). 

2. Dining is a big deal in Maldives, with some resorts even flying in Michelin-starred chefs to rustle up one-night-only  dinners for guests. Yet a dining experience you’ll cherish for reasons beyond what’s on your plate is a  sandbank dinner – you’ll dine by flaming torches on a private slice of sand just for two. Heart melting.

3. Dolphins aren’t known for being shy, but in Maldives they go beyond offering the odd tantalising glimpse to staging a fully-fledged, almost choreographed show at sea. Myriad resorts lay on a sunset dolphin cruise and it’s an absolute must-do. 

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Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
Our favourite… jaw-dropping dwellings

Be the host with the most by inviting your entire crew to stay in the eight-bedroom The Great Beach Residence – the largest of the eight Amilla Beach Villa Residences at Amilla Fushi. This two-story Miami-style abode has a huge living room overlooking the beach and ocean, two pools and sun terraces, a kitchen stocked with all your favourite food, and your very own beach buggy and fleet of bikes parked outside for exploring the island.

If Velaa Private Island exudes exclusivity, its Romantic Pool Residence defines it. Suspended above a lagoon, this one-bedroom villa, replete with a spa and slice of cotton-soft beach, is spied upon by the sunset only,

The impeccably designed villas at Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa draw your eye in an instant, but its over-the-ocean villas (14 in all) take your breath away too. You’ll love being sprawled in their semi-submerged sun bed before taking the short step into the fish-filled lagoon.

Away from the ocean, the sunrise-facing Jungle Reserve at Soneva Fushi plots you amid dense greenery. But don’t worry should they forget you’re there – it houses a full kitchen, cellar, library, spa suite, gym, sauna and steam facilities.

Of a similar size is the lavish Royal Residence at JA Manafaru. Accessed via a pond-lined courtyard, the residence’s two-storey interior houses three bedrooms, a spa room, and a first-floor living room; an elevated position to make the most of stunning sea views by day and the star-filled sky at night, for which the in-room telescope comes in handy. Outside, two pools fringed by greenery and sun-kissed decking lead out to a private stretch of beach, for your feet only.  

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One&Only Reethi Rah
Our favourite… resorts for families 

The iconic One&Only Reethi Rah resort caters as well as anywhere in the Maldives to both kids and adults alike, with dedicated clubs for all ages (four-nine; nine-11, and 12 and up) manned by certified (and fun) counsellors. Not only does the kids’ club at Kanuhura offer age-appropriate activities to two groups, but if your kids are aged below 12 and share your room, they stay and eat for free. Looking for a social spot? The retro-fun vibes at Finolhu make it a great choice for young families (one-bedroom villas fit two adults and two children under 12), with the Oceaneers’ Club for tots to teens ensuring little islanders have a blast. 

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Soneva in Aqua 
I’m worried we’ll get bored staying on the same island. How can I see more of the Maldives?

For a start, unless you’re averse to just about every type of watersport imaginable, or tire quickly of seeing stunning sunsets, star-filled skies and frolicking dolphins, it’s unlikely you’ll get bored. However, there are options available that allow you to see far beyond one resort and to explore barely touched Maldivian atolls. Soneva in Aqua is one such luxury, a two-bedroom 23-metre yacht that’s yours to share with a dedicated (to you only) team comprised of a captain, sous chef, Mr. Friday (that’ll be your personal butler) and, on request, a dive master, massage therapist and astronomer. Another indulgence of note is the glass-bottomed spa tub in the master bedroom that offers a glimpse of the vibrant marine life below.

If you love to dive (and who wouldn’t in the Maldives’ crystalline and temperate waters?) then the Four Seasons Explorer should make it to the top of your wish list. It’s a three-deck catamaran that offers up to 22 guests an all-inclusive, three-, four- or seven-night cruise through a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Daily diving schedules are planned for you by a vastly experienced onboard dive team, and include visits to wrecks and an after-dark voyage into moonlit waters.

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Hurawalhi Island Resort
I want a romantic break without the kids (sorry, kids). Where do you recommend?

The boutique Milaidhoo Island offers not only heart-tugging scenery but does so with nary a toddler in sight – the booking policy here allows for children aged nine or over only. 

Then there’s Hurawalhi Island Resort, which is for adults only and houses Insta-worthy features like the world’s largest all-glass undersea restaurant. if you don’t fall in love all over again in these stunning surrounds, it’s probably time to get the lawyers in…