The Maldives Hotels
North Huvadhoo Atoll
Tel: 960 682 8888
Getting to this island resort is the hard part: From Malé's international airport, it's another 55-minute domestic hop to Gaafu Alifu Atoll, followed by an hour's transfer by speedboat. But your reward for enduring the long transit is this indulgent yet eco-conscious resort's unaffectedly chic ambience and abundant natural attributestide pools teeming with starfish, an electric-blue lagoon filled with coral and a variety of tropical fish. The 50 villas20 with private pools and 14 of them overwater villas with spacious sundecksare standouts in form and function, with high, angled timber roofs that keep accommodations cool and with recycled-glass bottles of water purified at the hotel. Attentive personal hosts run flower-filled baths, decipher complicated air transit schedules, and happily suggest their own recommendations on and around the island (diving enthusiasts will want to explore the atoll's central lagoon, which plunges 300 feet). Want more? Multiday itineraries called Journeys by Alila can have you visiting Maldivian farmers and artisans (encounters with locals are rare at most Maldivian resorts) or gaining insight into the atolls' formation by exploring a submerged island or shifting sandbank. The sand-floored Battuta's serves up spicy local fare (try the char-grilled chicken marinated in pomegranate molasses), while Relish offers a more Western-focused menu.
Dhigufinolhu and Veligandu Huraa
South Male Atoll
Tel: 960 664 4100
The on-site reef dives, surf lessons, and spa make this duo of resorts ideal for families and active travelers. Located in South Male Atoll, the 50 overwater bungalows of Anantara Veli have plush beds, rain showers, and spacious outdoor decks from which you can jump right into the ocean. A bridge links Veli to the slightly pricier Anantara Dhigu's 68 whitewashed villas. Even standard rooms here have private sundecks, open-air bathrooms with infinity tubs, and minibars loaded with antipasti and Lindt chocolates. The 38 overwater bungalows resemble upside-down traditional Maldivian dhoni boats with coconut-thatched roofs, white-on-white beds punctuated with bright Maldivian fabrics, and Thai silk drapes. Dining options include the 73 Degrees seafood restaurant; the waterside grill, Terrazzo; and the excellent Baan Huraa Thai restaurant. Couples can book romantic private meals on a nearby sandbar. Nestled in the palm jungle, the renovated spa would fit in at a more expensive resort, with generous treatment rooms and attentive therapists from Bali and Thailand. Oriental sweetlips fish frolic about the resort's reefperfect for snorkelingand scuba fans are served by two dive centers. However, it's the surfers who are really in luck. On-site Tropicsurf instructors lead experienced wave riders to the Maldives's best breaks and teach novices in the calm lagoon.
AA. Ethere Madivaru
Ethere Madivaru Island , North Ari Atoll
Tel: 800 591 0439 (toll-free)
Tel: 960 666 0760
Privacy is guaranteed by the lush jungle at this six-suite, couples-only resort. In place of the conventional thatched-roof bungalows are safari-style tented suitesbut you'll be far from roughing it with wine fridges, massage tables, and plush daybeds. A personal butler arranges aquatic activities like dolphin cruises, fishing, scuba, snorkeling, sandbank picnics, and a sunset sail aboard Madi, a Turkish gullet boat (all included in the room rate). Also included are all mealseach a simple, ingredient-driven menu featuring fresh catch and organic greens served en suite or elsewhere on the islandand a spa treatment. Choosing just one service among the Thai honey facial, lime yogurt body scrub, or Balinese massage will be your biggest challenge. All treatments are performed inside the tents, where a spacious bathroom includes two cushioned massage tables plus a deep-soak bathtub and an outdoor shower concealed by palm fronds. Outside, a plunge pool seems unnecessary given the surrounding Indian Ocean ,where coral thrives in a rainbow of hues. One warning: The tented villas aren't entirely hidden by the foliage, so remember that natural does not mean au naturel (especially in this Muslim country).
Haa Alifu Atoll
Tel: 960 650 0400
Energetic types scared of growing bored of the country's laze-the-day-away pace would do well to consider a resort like the Beach House. There are enough activities here to keep you occupied for weeks, but the serene setting and service just might lull you into ignoring all of them. Located in the northernmost Ihavandhippolhu Atoll (say that five times fast), the 35-acre retreat is blanketed by wild palm and pandanus jungle. The island playground holds a spa, infinity pool, kids club, trampoline, golf simulator, and tennis, volleyball, and badminton courtsnot to mention nearby uninhabited islands perfect for picnics and snorkel trips. But the 68 beachfront villas are luxurious enough to keep you in your own digs. Even the standard accommodations have private plunge pools, shaded daybeds, open-air rain showers, and all the tech gadgets you could ever need (Wi-Fi, iPod docks, DVD players, and flat-screen TVs). The refined decor frames cream walls and linens against dark-wood furniture and beams. Beach villas and suites have private cabanas on the sand, while guests staying in overwater bungalows have water access right from their sundecks. Be sure to book treatments at the ten-room Shui spa, whose diverse menu has everything from an indulgent chocolate-almond body scrub to Ayurvedic detoxification programs supervised by an Indian doctor. Unique to the spa and not to be missed is the Veli Modun treatment, in which your body is buried under the powder-soft sand by the therapist who then digs you up to massage you in rhythm with the tides.
South Male Atoll
Tel: 960 664 1818
Though flashier resorts have sprung up across the Maldives, Cocoa Islandbuilt in 1981remains the standard-bearer of elegance. A calm 45-minute speedboat ride from Male takes guests across cerulean waters to the palm-fringed island's 33 overwater villas. Jewel-toned pillows and dark wood furniture contrast with the whitewashed walls and muted textiles, and private sundecks lead into the marine-rich reef, home to species with quirky names like peacock rock cod and harlequin sweetlips. Honeymooners should splurge on loft villas, where upstairs sleeping lairs open onto panoramic ocean views. The two-bedroom villas exude beach-house chic, and include kitchen, dining, and living spaces plus a dedicated butler. Staff here make everything seem possible for the guestsmostly couples who spend days kayaking, windsurfing, and exploring 20 nearby dive sites for manta rays, sharks, and rare turtles. Back on the island, skilled Indonesian therapists staff the COMO Shambhala spa retreat offering a range of massages, hydrotherapy, skin care, and yoga, as well as extended holistic Ayurvedic rituals. Meals, from the delectable pancakes to fresh-catch carpaccio, are organic and low-calorie yet entirely gourmet. Meals are taken en suite or in the resort's only restaurant, but guests here don't seem to mind the lack of venue choice one bit. They have come in part for Cocoa Island's healthy cuisine. Save room for the delicious sorbets in unexpected flavors like rhubarb and saffron.
South Ari Atoll
Tel: 960 668 0629
While the 79 beach and 50 overwater villas got stylish upgrades in 2007, the real stars here are the 21 couples-only spa villas. Designed by leading Thai architect Lek Bunnag in 2005, this resort-within-a-resort is made up of cathedral-ceiling stilt houses of weathered wood with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, plunge-pool-size bathtubs, and a two-table massage room. You can slip straight into the water from your split-level deck to snorkel with vibrant green and violet parrot fish. Experienced dive masters are on hand for eco-friendly excursions (anchorless boats protect delicate marine life), which often include giant-turtle sightings. Afterward, unwind in the overwater spa whose unlit tunnel entrance symbolizes the journey from urban stress to island idyll. Inside, therapists carry out such exotic treatments as an organic pineapple and papaya body scrub in sunny, glass-floored treatment rooms. The best food options are at the wine bar (with 101 cheeses on offer) and the organic Mandhoo spa restaurant. But Ithaa's kitschy all-glass dining room 16 feet underwater gets the most attention. The food is decent, but it's the live fish that make the meal. Be sure to make a reservation.
South Ari Atoll
Tel: 960 668 10 10
This classy overwater resort is in one of the archipelago's finest dive spots, the South Ari Atoll. Only 30 minutes by seaplane from Malé, it is also all-inclusivebuffet meals, alcohol, and even cigarettes are free. A quarter of the 110 thatched villas are on the beach, with easy access to island facilities, while the rest are on two jetties, each with a stairway down to the Indian Ocean and a private deck with a bathtub built on a gravity-defying overhang. The rustic decor uses rattan, rough-hewn marble, stripped wood, and closets built from white leather trunks, while in-room Mac Minis provide movies, music, and Internet access. The main restaurant, Manta, is rather ordinary, a disappointment that is offset by fresh catches at Alizée Beach Grill (a restaurant where meals do cost extra). There are two beach bars, an entertainment lounge wallpapered in Bollywood posters, and an Asian-inspired overwater spa with glass floor panels. The dive center is the big draw, with regular trips to sites famed for whale sharks and manta rays.
North Male Atoll
Tel: 800 819 5053
Tel: 960 664 4888
People who prefer their Maldives well manicured adore this Singaporean-owned resort. The food lives up to Four Seasons's lofty standards, and guest rooms have a light sprinkle of local flavor, but it's no coincidence the brand's second Maldives property, Landaa Giraavaru, feels more renegade. You can split your time between both resorts, and throw in a night or two at sea aboard the ultraindulgent Four Seasons Explorer yacht, complete with full-time masseuse and marine biologist. Kuda Huraa is modeled on a traditional Maldivian village with steep thatched roofs and buildings made from crushed coral. Inside the 102 villas, however, world-class luxuries abound, from pillow-top beds made with locally inspired textiles to deep-soak bathtubs. Located a convenient 30 minutes by speedboat from Male International Airport, the resort is known for its restaurants. Standouts include the crisp-crust pizzas and extensive antipasto bar at Reef Club. It's a sign of authenticity that the resort's Indian guests can be spotted dining at Baraabaru's private gazebo and overwater deck. Inside the vibrant dining room, an open tandoori bar allows guests to watch the chefs at work. You can sail by traditional wooden dhoni (or just swim) to the offshore spa. Try the Maldivian iruvai herbal oil massage with sandalwood body scrub in the overwater thatched-roof, glass-floored bungalows. In addition to the expected nautical activities, you can go pilot-whale watching by dhoni or sportfishing on the hotel's High Flyer yacht.
Tel: 800 819 5053
Tel: 960 66 00 888
This resort is Four Seasons in name and service, but the vibe is utterly laid-back and modern. The 102 guest rooms reference local culture while indulging the international clientele with saffron exterior walls, bright blue doors, and polished concrete bathrooms. Overwater villas have spiral staircases leading to sea-gazing lofts and glass-front bed-rooms and living rooms opening onto bi-level lounging decks. Beach villas have private pools and sand-floor living/dining gazebos with playful Maldivian swings. All rooms have pillow-top beds, fruit bowls piled high with exotic treats, and high-tech essentials. Barefoot casual dining at the oceanfront Blu focuses on razor-thin pizzas and fruity cocktails. After dark, couples head to Al Barakat, the Middle Eastern restaurant specializing in authentic fare like chicken couscous with cinnamon and seafood tajines. The spa specializes in multiday detoxification treatments with delicious diets overseen by Four Seasons's first Ayurvedic doctor, who grows his own ingredients in the surrounding gardens. For a racier option, book a tantric massage for two in the jungle in which both bodies are covered in geranium, sandalwood, and bergamot oil to symbolically create one union. The Four Seasons is committed to sustainable development and sponsors a world-class Marine Research Center. Guests can observe and participate in projects like coral propagation for the resort's teeming lagoon.
North Male Atoll
Tel: 960 444 222
A 45-minute boat ride from the airport takes guests across the oceanic spectrum from crystal clear to impenetrable midnight before arriving at this 43-bungalow property, where standard rooms are anything but: a minimum of 1,350 square feet, and all with ocean views. Behind the bed, past the requisite sunken bath, lies an enchanting lovers' garden with a plunge pool, a cascading outdoor shower, and a daybed for two. Reasons to emerge from these self-contained cocoons include an infinity pool, ingeniously tiled to match the sea; the Raw and Salt restaurants, appetizing additions to any culinary capital; and a deservedly hyped underwater spathink private yoga sessions with an outstretched octopus floating past.
South Malé Atoll
Tel: 960 664 0511
Watch for dolphins and flying fish in the lavender waters of South Malé Atoll as you arrive at this festive 160-villa island resort that offers great value for the money. The arrival jetty leads to a soaring open-air reception area, its design inspired by sea barnacles. Eco-friendly furniture, some made from pineapple leaves and vintage coral, decorate the cavernous space, which includes the bar. The towering Kandooma Café, where guests snack on standard resort fare (sandwiches and wood-fired pizza), resembles a bamboo igloo, while the waterside Kitchen restaurant has a laid-back rooftop lounge ideal for sundowners and stargazing. Whitewashed interiors give the feel of pricier Maldives accommodations, while a juice press and fresh oranges are among the creative touches in guest rooms, which also have deep soaking tubs and outdoor showers. Garden-view villas are tightly packed but acoustically well insulated. Duplex villas offer a groovy outdoor living room, either amid the foliage or facing the waves of the Indian Ocean. Surfers will like the location, as will divers: 18 nearby dive sites include caves, walls, a shipwreck, and Manta Point, known for its rays.
Veligandu Huraa Island , South Male Atoll
Tel: 960 664 1888
Located a swift 30 minutes from Male International Airport, this intimate property balances convenience with exclusivity. Lattice-carved wood doors open onto Bahamas-inspired white lacquered houses with woven cane beds, steam rooms, and plunge pools. Beach Houses set discreetly out of sight offer private stretches of sand. Ocean Houses have wooden decks that extend right out into the ocean. Take in the view from pillow-topped swinging daybeds or capture it with the easel and art supplies provided by the hotel. The outdoor shower is especially romantic, flanked by elephant-ear-size palm fronds, and in-room massage takes full advantage of these comfortable compounds. Personal attention from charming VGCs (for "Very Good Chap") is impressive even for the Maldives, with a residents' diary that explains virtually all details down to where to find the in-room hair dryer. When the urge to socialize emerges, head to the Living Room's alfresco dining tables set around the all-glass wine cellar for inventive pizzas and extravagant seafood platters, or stretch onto cushioned Indian beds set under the stars. Arrange to have a private dinner at sea on a traditional Maldivian dhoni sailboat. Daytime activities range from dive excursions to Thai cooking classes, surfing safaris to wakeboarding lessons.
Reethi Rah Island , North Male Atoll
Tel: 866 552 0001 (toll-free)
Tel: 960 664 8800
High-profile honeymooners like Mr. and Mrs. Tom Cruise add star wattage to this exclusive 109-acre resort. Located an hour by speedboat from the international airport, the 130 thatched-roof Bali-inspired villas are scattered among 12 beaches and more than 16,000 coconut trees. Deep-soak bathtubs are filled with flower petals by attentive butlers, who are at your beck and call 24 hours a day. Oceanfront beach villas have verandas with daybeds, while outdoor lounging in Water Villas involves a pillow-topped hammock over the sea. Though undoubtedly romantic, the range of activities at this family friendly resort makes it like the Ritz-Carlton of Club Meds. Children and teens can take cooking classes and dance lessons, go on excursions, and play sports, leaving the parents free time for big-game fishing, mini-triathlons, tennis tournaments, and snorkeling. Divers rave about the top-notch instructors and Scubapro equipment. But one of the property's centerpieces is the 95,000-square-foot One&Only Spa by ESPA. Jazz singers perform in the open-air Rah Bar after dark and late-night dance parties with a resident DJ are a regular feature at the Moroccan restaurant Fanditha, where authentic meze plates are delivered to daybeds in the sand. Raw-fish fans can get their favorites at Tapasake, where the executive chef is also a sake sommelier.
Tel: 960 674 0555
The Maldives's first private island comes with its own 86-foot yacht, accommodations for up to 15, around-the-clock butler service, and unlimited spa treatments in the open-air overwater pavilion. The private seven-acre sandbox 30 minutes by air taxi from Male works better as an Indian Ocean house party than romantic escapeyou'll need that many people to get your money's worth from the multiple butlers, bars, and dining venues. However, couples in search of extreme solitude with ultra-attentive service will be completely satisfied. Your digs will include an expansive three-bedroom Rania Suite in addition to three beach villas. Though you'll have the standard high-end amenities (high-thread-count linens, outdoor showers), these are not the sleekest rooms in the Maldives, with bachelor-pad art and accent chairs that look like space-age La-Z-Boys. The real draws here are the outdoor experiences. Masterful butlers commit even the most complicated orders to memory and anticipate every need. They carve dinner tables into the sand, and offer a pile of Gucci pashminas for after-dark warmth. Another night, they'll arrange a trip for you on a traditional dhoni boat to stargaze or fish with friends. And Captain Mohammed knows which way to steer the yacht for sunset dolphin watching. Food by the Indonesian chef exceeds expectations with fresh tuna sashimi and grilled atoll lobster; offerings from the Western-style chef are less than stellar. The kitchen staff works with you to plan the menu, though, so steer them toward the more exotic offerings.
Tel: 960 689 7888
Like Club Med without the dancing, this 142-villa tropical resort in the southern Maldives has a sporty vibe, with something for everyone: biking and walking trails threading the two-mile-long island, water sports from catamarans and kayaks to snorkeling along an eco-trail, and diving with manta rays. The young staff are multicultural and energized, though the indifferent Maldivian villa hosts could use more lessons in hospitality. An eight-minute boat ride from Gan airportitself a one-hour flight from Malépasses spinning dolphins along the edge of the island's vast turquoise lagoon. At 1,432 square feet, double-height pool villas are especially spacious and are outfitted with daybeds, sun loungers on the deck, deep egg-shaped terrazzo baths, and both indoor and outdoor showers. For sand and a swimmable beach, opt for a beach villa, which splits living and sleeping quarters into two pavilions around a plunge pool. Even grander water villas are equipped with two-story decks on which suspended hammocks let you sway over the Indian Ocean. The resort's proximity to the equator maximizes each starry night, and a popular excursion allows guests to dine directly over the hemispheres' dividing line aboard the resort's 69-foot yacht.
North Male Atoll
Tel: 960 664 0304
"No news, no shoes" is the stated mantra here. While high-speed broadband and wireless Internet keep guests connected, most come here to lounge by the infinity pool, swing in the romantic overwater hammock, or live out their shipwreck daydreams in one of the Robinson Crusoe villas. These seven suites, accessible only by your private rowboat and pontoon shuttle, stand alone in the shallow lagoon. Personal butlersdubbed Mr. Friday after a character in the bookimpress from arrival, asking if the boat speed is comfortable and offering to unpack your bags. The other overwater rustic-chic villas are connected to the beach via wooden walkways and have private sundecks, outdoor living rooms, and rain showers. The eco-conscious resort uses organic cotton linens and sustainable building materials, and includes the cost of carbon offsets for your in-country flight in the per-night room rate. The measures are all meant to protect the local ecosystem, including the coral reef, which teems with yellow puffer fish, stingrays, and the occasional turtle. The overwater Six Senses spa is rightly known for its healing massages and Sundari facials, but adventurous sybarites might also try Reiki, acupuncture, private yoga, or a 3- to 14-day Ayurveda program. In fact, the only intrusion on healing and relaxation at this laid-back paradise is the occasional sound of planes overhead. On-site restaurants include a sand-floor café, an underground gourmet cellar with wine and cheese tastings, and an Italian eatery in the organic garden. The most romantic option is a private meal on One Palm Island, 550 yards offshore.
South Male Atoll
Tel: 866 969 1825 (toll-free)
Tel: 960 664 2200
The 62-room Taj Exotica is Four Seasons with a deep bow toward India. First impressions of the lagoon aloneone of the largest in the Maldiveswill leave you with lasting memories. An intimate ambience permeates an island so narrow that you never lose sight of the vibrant sea in either direction. Land villas feel like beach houses, set back from the shore with cozy outdoor daybeds, while the overwater villas provide direct access to the ocean from decks angled to maximize privacy. All rooms are stocked with generous-size bottles of Molton Brown bath products, a rotating menu of delectable homemade treats, high-thread-count linens, and Ploh bathrobes in two thicknesses. You'll want to disrobe for the Giva Spa where two in-house Ayurvedic doctors heal in unexpected ways: like the dincharya treatment, which includes rubbing a mixture of castor oil, camphor, and cow ghee in the eyes to cleanse tear ducts. More indulgent treatments, like Maldivian mud wraps and water therapy, are also on offer. An afterthought at most resorts, the on-site boutique here stands out with silver-tip stingray belts from Bali and original jewelry that wouldn't look out of place at Barney's. Food figures prominently in the indulgences here, from speedy room service for decadent breakfasts to the show kitchen at 24 Degrees where the menu extends from authentic Indian fare to spicy Thai and juicy burgers. Also check out the overwater dining room at Deep End, which serves rich indulgences like Moroccan-spiced lobster medallions and foie gras terrine.
Fesdu Island , North Ari Atoll
Tel: 877 946 8357 (toll-free)
Tel: 960 666 2222
The snail's pace relaxation of the Maldives can be a shock to the system for more energetic urban types. The W Maldives is a great solution: It's the escape that you want with the edge and activity that you need. Guests get into the groove right at the Male International Airport, where they sip cocktails on Balinese daybeds while awaiting their 30-minute transfer to the Ari Atoll islands. Fesdu is one of the country's most idyllic isles and one of the most enjoyable to circumnavigate on foot. At the end of the jetty sits an open-air living room where New York City's latest lounge music simmers. Upon arrival, smiling staff take guests on a tour, passing the sweet spotsrefrigerated islets stocked with cold towels, Coca-Cola, and ice cream barsthe dive center, and the water sports center where glass-bottom kayaks provide excellent exercise plus underwater views. Next it's off to your villa. You should opt for a Beach Oasis room, where you can watch the sunset from your swinging daybed. Circular daybeds cantilever over your private plunge pool, and open-roof bathrooms have sexy tubs cosseted by palm fronds. Water villas, meanwhile, are entirely too close together. However, all 78 guest rooms include fantastically comfortable king-size beds, lavishly stocked minibars, and Bliss body products. For a true island party, book the 5,000-square-foot two-bedroom Ocean Haven suite, the ultimate private water world with a full-size infinity pool, wraparound outdoor deck, and glass-bottom living room. The impressive young team lives up to the "whatever/whenever" promise, delivering discreet evening turndowns precisely at the appointed hour. At Fish restaurant, the fresh sashimi practically swims to the table and Fire provides a twice-weekly show of edible pyrotechnics. Sip sits adjacent for those who prefer to imbibe quietly aboveground while international DJs spin at 15 Below, the resort's underground cave of cool. White sails shade the open-air Away Spa where Balinese therapists knead in harmony with the waves.