Four Luxury Resorts in the Maldives
This year is the 50th anniversary of independence, the first
resort opened in 1972 and now there are over 100. Rupert Parker picks four of the best.
The Maldives comprises 99% sea and just 1% of land so its 106 resorts
are widely spread out. Forget about
island hopping, as the distances are huge, and most of the time the transport
connects through the airport so you always have to pass “Go”. It’s therefore important to choose your
resort wisely. The group nearest the
airport are only about 30 minutes speedboat ride away, so they’re easily
accessible, particularly important after a long international flight. The downside is that they they’re not as
isolated as those further away so you may not get the tranquillity you
desire. Going further afield means
longer boat rides, domestic flights, or best of all, short seaplane hops. All
offer sumptuous accommodation, either on land or above the water, and a variety
of watersports including reef snorkelling and of course the obligatory spa
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa
A speedboat with free Wi-Fi will whisk you to Kuda Huraa in less than
30 minutes. This is medium sized resort with 96 bungalows, and there’s a choice
between those on stilts over the water or those on land with beach access and
private plunge pool. The spa occupies its own tiny island and you have to take
a tiny boat to get there. There are four restaurants serving anything from
Indian to Italian as well as excellent seafood.
The benefit of a larger resort is that a wide range of activities are
offered including parasailing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, wakeskating,
waterskiing and kneeboarding. They’ll even give you surf lessons, as there’s a
reef nearby where they hold an annual competition. Every evening you can take a
sunset cruise watching Spinner dolphins or fish for your dinner. They have a
turtle conservancy here and you can go out with their resident marine biologist
and swim with the critically endangered hawksbill turtle.
Of course there’s snorkelling galore and you get your own personal mask
and fins to explore the reefs round the island.
I liked their introduction to Scuba where you get a briefing with an
instructor before donning the gear and learning to dive in the shallows. From there you go out in a boat and dive to a
depth of over 11 metres. It’s exhilarating and makes you want to experience the
real thing and we did come into contact with a rather angry Moray Eel.
- Rates at Four Seasons
Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa start at £868 per night including breakfast.
This is also only around 30 minutes from the airport and is slightly
larger with 129 bungalows, again on both on water and land. Lush vegetation envelops the accommodation so
it doesn’t feel too crowded. The water
bungalow I stay in has a large outside deck area with its own infinity plunge
pool and the floor to ceiling folding glass doors mean you always have views of
the blue Indian Ocean.
There are five different restaurant experiences and executive chef
Carlos Exprua is keen to expand the dining offer. He’s introduced a range of world tapas dishes
in the outside Chill Bar, which you can snack on all day, and there’s the
Japanese inspired Teppanyaki restaurant. A special treat is private beach
dining at sunset where they’ll cut a table for you out of the sand and serve
you a private satay barbecue.
The Spa is also perched over the water, so you enjoy a range of
treatments, listening to the gentle sound of the waves, and they also offer
yoga sessions. As well as snorkelling and diving, there’s a whole range of
watersports including my favourite, kayaking in transparent glass bottom
- Rates for a Deluxe Villa at Velassaru
Maldives start at £347, including breakfast.
Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
Getting here involves taking a scheduled domestic one hour flight to
Kooddoo Island, then a 30 minute speedboat transfer, but that’s the price you
pay for seclusion. There are only 50
villas here, the park villas hidden by the jungle vegetation so you really do
feel you’re in the wild. Even the water
villas have been carefully built on the existing coral reef and it’s the only
resort in the Maldives certified for both design and construction by
environmental organisation EarthCheck.
The snorkelling on the house reef is particularly good as much of the
coral is intact, and I bump into a one metre reef tip shark breezing by. Amy Sing Wong, the resident marine biologist,
gives me a primer on coral formation then takes me on a boat trip to the edge
of the atoll, at 90m one of the deepest in the Maldives. Marine life is stunning here and I clock up
eagle rays, turtles and a couple of sharks, as well as many large fish. There’s
an opportunity to explore a couple of deserted coral islands and we even put into
an inhabited island, stroll around the town and enjoy some fresh coconut water.
Of course there’s a gloriously long infinity pool, if the sea or your
own private plunge pool isn’t enough. I also enjoy an intense deep tissue
massage in the Vidhun Spa, light and airy with high thatched ceilings. There
are only two restaurants here, the Dining Room, by the pool and the more
upscale Island Grill, with its open kitchen.
Local fish is definitely on the menu and I particularly enjoy Maldivian
fish soup and spiced fillets of reef fish.
- Rates at
For me this is the ultimate. You
take a small Twin Otter seaplane from the water by the airport and, after 20
minutes, touch down by a rudimentary mooring in the middle of the sea. You step out and a speedboat suddenly appears
over the horizon to whisk you away to this boutique retreat.
It only has 30 villas and, since it opened in Feb 2014, everything is
almost brand new with the highest quality interiors - German furniture, Swiss
bathroom fittings, even your own wine chiller. And if you’re on their Ultimate
Inclusions package you get to sample as many of these wines as you like, as
well as a range of spirits. It also has the highest ratio of restaurants to
villas, with Japanese, international, meat and seafood grills and Mediterranean
waiting to tempt you.
There’s a family feel to the place as its run by a young couple Marc
and Laura who make you feel very welcome. The house reef is spectacular and you
even see baby sharks swimming in the shallows on the beach. You’ve a choice
between a Jacuzzi villa, whose private pool opens directly onto the beach, or
an ocean pool villa, suspended over the sea, connected to the land by its own
private walkway. And don’t forget their
Varu Spa which can compete with the best.
- Rates at Kandolhu Island start
at £460 including breakfast.
Choosing a resort is difficult and really depends on how and where you
want to spend your holiday. Obviously the bigger ones offer a greater range of
watersports but all provide sunset cruises, snorkel excursions and fishing. Food is important so you might want to make
your decision on that basis but, ultimately, what makes the difference is the
standard of service. I can say in all
four of the resorts I tried, it was impossible to fault.
The other factor that may influence your decision is accessibility,
particularly if you’re not too steady on your legs. Fortunately there’s a law in the Maldives
which specifies that no building should be higher than a coconut tree so that
means no stairs or lifts, with everything at ground level in the resorts.
Domestic flights are equipped to deal with wheelchair users, but unfortunately
the seaplane services are not, so you might want to avoid those as the stairs
are rather narrow. The good news is that
the boats they use for transfers are much larger than your average speedboat
and they have a crew of three of four who can help you get on and off.
Emirates flies to Male via Dubai from six UK airports including London, Manchester and Glasgow. Return economy flights from London Gatwick Airport start from £768 per person.
has more information on the country.