Island vibes await in the Maldives’ best resorts and hotels

It almost goes without saying, but the Maldives really is as beautiful in person as you imagine.

By Lana Bogunovich, March 28 2024
Island vibes await in the Maldives’ best resorts and hotels

Stepping off a seaplane and into the embrace of a luxury Maldives resort is an experience most of us have dreamed of at some point. Given the island nation south west of Sri Lanka is home to some of the most enchanting escapes imaginable, that’s not entirely surprising.

Officially the Republic of the Maldives, the nation’s allure and appeal is part due to its geographical makeup and location; 22 atolls and 1,200 islands dotted across the remote Indian Ocean. And the rest? The hotels and luxury resorts, of course.

Picture yourself cycling from spa treatment to your own overwater bungalow.. Soneva Jani
Picture yourself cycling from spa treatment to your own overwater bungalow.
Soneva Jani

Accessible by scenic boat ride or private seaplane, it’s about premium villas and suites draped along specks of sand fringed by emerald palms; overwater bungalows perched above waters so clear you’d think you were gazing into a swimming pool. Service is next level too. 

Sound like an experience that’d slot nicely into your future? In no particular order and by no means a complete list, these are some of the best Maldives luxury hotels and resorts.

St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

Maldivian culture and nature are the inspiration behind the St. Regis’ eco-conscious design and sophisticated architecture. Sprawling over the lagoon is the Whale Bar, an overwater cocktail lounge that transitions sunset-watching into stargazing on its expansive deck.

Check in to indulgence in this overwater villa.
Check in to indulgence in this overwater villa.

The 33 land-based and 44 overwater villas offer either ocean or garden views from private pools and decks, while the renowned St Regis butlers ensure attentive and discreet service around the clock. 

Golden hour lives up to its name at The Whale Bar.
Golden hour lives up to its name at The Whale Bar.

There’s also a choice of six restaurants, with water sports available from a dive centre. 

Joali Being

Wellness and sustainability make up the backbone of the Joali Being eco-resort on the island of Bodafushi, accessed after a 40 minute seaplane flight from Malé.

Treat your body and mind in the Grand Beach Pool Villa at Joali Being.
Treat your body and mind in the Grand Beach Pool Villa at Joali Being.

The resort features 68 villas known as ‘well living spaces’, each with its own butler. Guests can make use of meditative musical instruments and wellbeing exercises available in their rooms along with private pools or direct beach access.

Guests are invited to customise their stay around a full health and wellness immersion program in line with the four pillars of the Joeli Being program, which after an initial assessment, are tailored to capitalise on areas of strength and improve personal fields of improvement.

Activities aim to work on areas such as mental clarity, digestive and weight rebalance and restorative sleep to promote positive health and immunity. Guests partake in scheduled sessions, self-care rituals and good nutritional programs, designed to foster long-term lifestyle change.

Six Senses Kanuhara

If it’s overwater glamour you seek, Six Senses Kanuhara is the one for you – and its overwater villas aren’t even the most notable feature of the private island escape.

Six Senses Kanuhara is an IHG Hotel, which is great news for members of the IHG One Rewards program.
Six Senses Kanuhara is an IHG Hotel, which is great news for members of the IHG One Rewards program.

A scenic 40-minute seaplane ride from Male, the new resort is a top-to-bottom reimagination of one of the country’s most iconic hideaways, one which not only adds Six Senses’ signature approach to wellness and sustainability but dials up the indulgence to dramatic effect.

A two-bedroom beach villa with private swimming pool? Bliss.
A two-bedroom beach villa with private swimming pool? Bliss.

From the bold circular swimming pool with swim up bar to 12 freshly-added Beach Retreats, complementing its 91 new-look beachfront and overwater villas, this is a resort destined to be seen on everyone’s Instagram feed (so you need to get in quick).

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

It’s one of the most recognisable resorts in the Maldives, with images of its Ithaa Undersea Restaurant – five metres below the surface – gracing the pages of almost every magazine or social feed at least once.

And yet, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island still manages to wow us. 

Marking the end of a multi-year makeover, the resort has celebrated its 25th birthday in 2022 with a new look in its overwater villas, together with revamped dining and an upgraded overwater spa – yes, you can actually watch fish swimming as you’re massaged.

All 50 of the adult’s only overwater villas now feature updated interiors, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living, and making them even more enticing.

Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru

Occupying one of the world’s most beautiful islands, Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru enjoys private views of a natural UNESCO biosphere reserve where the lagoon and jungle meet state-of-the-art facilities and the world-renowned service of the prestigious hotel brand.

Stretching along five hectares of untouched beachfront, the Four Seasons is far from crowded, with guests able to escape behind their gated villas to a place of true seclusion and privacy.

Grab a good book and take your afternoons by the lagoon.
Grab a good book and take your afternoons by the lagoon.

Great as a family resort, many of the accommodations feature multiple bedrooms, separate living and bedrooms and overwater hammocks for when it's time to bask in the sunshine.

Al Bakarat is your destination for tantalising Arabian flavours.
Al Bakarat is your destination for tantalising Arabian flavours.

When it's time to dine, menus from two Michelin-starred chef Gaetano Trovato await, crafted by his personal proteges who regularly visit his Tuscan home restaurant to further refine their craft. For a more private experience, get whisked away to a secluded sandbank to enjoy a breathtaking private-dining experience under a blanket of stars.

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

AA 40-minute yacht ride from Malé is the Waldorf Astoria: an enchanting all-villa hideaway spanning three interconnected islands and home to 119 beach, reef and overwater villas, each with its own infinity pool. 

Those seeking the ultimate indulgence can unlock the doors to two dual-level Stella Maris Ocean Villas, each one accessible only by boat and boasting a BBQ station and infinity pool, plus overwater hammocks. which boast overwater hammocks, direct ocean access and are only accessible by private boat.

Stella Maris Villas show that sometimes bigger is better.
Stella Maris Villas show that sometimes bigger is better.

Culinary experiences include 11 specialty restaurants, among which is a treetop restaurant and The Ledge Grill, helmed by esteemed Australian Michelin star chef Dave Pynt.

Cheval Blanc Randheli

Even in a destination renowned for its over-the-top induglence like the Maldives, Cheval Blanc Randheli is another level of opulence again.

Located in Noonu Atoll and within easy reach of some of the best diving spots in the country, the prestigious luxury group LVMH radiates wellness from the inside out with one of the most beautiful resorts in the Maldives.

The Randheli Villa sits on the shoreline.
The Randheli Villa sits on the shoreline.

Along with a selection of garden, lagoon and water villas - most with private pools and views to the horizon - for pure secluded paradise, you'll want to check out the hotel's private island located offshore from the rest of the resort.

Your own one-hectare island features a private jetty and a dedicated team of butlers available 24/7. Guests here enjoy their own 25-metre pool and private bar, and there's even a separate guest villa where you can house the kids in comfort while you enjoy the main house.

The deluxe grand bathrooms are open air yet steeped in privacy.
The deluxe grand bathrooms are open air yet steeped in privacy.

For a pampering fine-dining experience, head to Le 1947. With both a tasting menu and a la carte options, the hotel’s signature restaurant blends elegant French gastronomy and creativity in an haute-design ambience.

The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands

The Ritz-Carlton is one of three nestled across the fairly newly-formed quad-island Fari Archipelago and sits around the Fari Marina Village.

The resort's rather distinctive Lagoon Pool Villa.
The resort's rather distinctive Lagoon Pool Villa.

Guests of all three properties have access to the marina, which incorporates a deluxe beach club, boutiques, restaurants and a complimentary boat transportation network.

The Ritz-Carlton itself features five more restaurants and is an all-villa resort focused on integrating indoors with outdoors to offer guests a singular private space.

Each villa boasts its own infinity pool, with direct access to the ivory sands for guests in beach villas. A dive centre can kit guests out with everything needed for on-water and underwater exploration.

Raffles Maldives Meradhoo Resort

Located on one of the country's more remote atolls, the secluded Raffles Meradhoo is surrounded by a lagoon with two abundant reefs, where you can snorkel or view marine life through the glass floor of your overwater villa.

The main island’s chic beach villas and residences feature private pools, outdoor showers, and expansive living spaces. There’s also an overwater gym and spa, top-notch cuisine and signature experiences such as dining on caviar on a remote sandbank, reached by jet ski.

Make sure you utilise your 'Marine Butler' who, like a regular butler, is there to ensure your every whim is met, but is also trained to provide private snorkelling tours.

Six Senses Laamu

One of the most remote properties in the Maldives and set in a palm-fringed lagoon, Six Senses Laamu blends castaway five-star luxury with vibrant marine life and a highly visible environmental commitment focused on sustainability and restoration.

A bird's eye view of Six Senses Laamu.
A bird's eye view of Six Senses Laamu.

The 97 water and beachfront villas were crafted using local and sustainable materials, which minimises the pristine environment' whilst providing privacy and comfort. Featuring parquet wooden floors and with your choice of a lagoon or ocean vista, some villas feature sunken glass bathtubs and infinity pools which connect you to the ocean. 

An Ocean Beach Villa with Pool
An Ocean Beach Villa with Pool

A new marine education centre allows guests to learn about the underwater sea life, with the resort also in the process of building new ocean breakwaters to tackle beach erosion.

As the day starts, take a morning dive amidst wild turtles and manta rays before biking to the hotel’s Longitude restaurant, where you can sight dolphins while you enjoy your breakfast.

COMO Cocoa Island Makunufushi

A short boat ride from the country’s capital, Male, will see you disembarking at one of the Maldives’ first luxury resorts. The COMO Cocoa Island Makunufushi packs a plethora of wellness amenities and the opportunity to completely unwind.

Como Maalifushi reflects idyllic perfection.
Como Maalifushi reflects idyllic perfection.

Following a complete renovation in 2020, the resort's 33 overwater villas are inspired by traditional Maldivian fishing boats, connected by simple wooden walkways. Almost like a luxury sea shack, villas featured slanted roofs with spacious downstairs living areas and a mezzanine bedroom.

Then, wander outside where a private infinity pool features tranquil waters that seem to merge with the Indian Ocean. There are also 32 land-based rooms situated among lush greenery, along with multi-bedroom beach villas and residences for larger parties.

Beach villas each feature a private pool.
Beach villas each feature a private pool.

Dining takes place at Madi, a delightful seafood restaurant which specialises in local produce and sustainably caught fish which combine to form a menu of healthy dishes.

There's also Tai, one of the best Japanese restaurants found in the Maldives, while more casual bites can be enjoyed at Thila. Private dining options can also be coordinated in various stunning locales across the island.

To further unwind, check out the hotel’s Shambhala Retreat, a soothing wellness centre offering regular yoga workshops, meditation, and the only hydrotherapy pool in the Maldives.

One&Only Reethi Rah

One&Only is renowned for its sophisticated accommodation and personalised experiences in some of the world’s most captivating places, and the multi-award-winning Reethi Rah is no exception.

Choose from a beach villa with its own private garden and stretch of beach, or a water villa, from which you can jump straight into your own pool or lagoon.

The One&Only Spa offers holistic treatments and private meditation gardens and pavilions overlooking the ocean.

InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort

InterContinental’s first Maldives resort boasts 81 villas and residences, each with butler service, on Maamunagau Island. With calm waters and sunset views from every angle, the resort’s natural environment drives its focus on sustainability and wellness.

In addition to the overwater spa, guests can take a holistic approach to their wellness with tailored treatments from the in-house traditional Chinese doctor.

Accessible after a short seaplane flight, guests can drop their bags and head for the ocean to start exploring the vast marine life, starting at the resort's manta ray sanctuary.

Soneva Jani

What could possibly make the Maldives even more fun? How about your own private waterslide directly from your villa into the azure waters of the lagoon?

There'll be no line to navigate to ride this slide.
There'll be no line to navigate to ride this slide.

If that’s not your speed, not every villa at Soneva Jani features a slide, so you can opt for a villa minus the rapid water descent if you choose. Many other rooms also offer a retracting roof over the bedroom, transforming your evening quarters into a tanning bed at the push of a button.

Soneva Jani is tucked on a private island amidst the soothing waters of the Indian Ocean. It’s arguably a new benchmark for overwater luxury and, conveniently, no more than a 45-minute seaplane ride from Male.

The open air restaurant creates a delightful dining atmosphere.
The open air restaurant creates a delightful dining atmosphere.

The island is sprinkled with luxurious whitewashed wooden villas ranging from one to four bedrooms, from the smaller Chapter One Retreats to the massive and newer Chapter Two Reserves, which also feature private lap pools.

The hotel’s heart is at the Gathering, an open-air, two-story building home to the main dining area, overwater spa, and a private tasting room.

The Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa

Another new addition to the Maldivian resort community, The Emerald is located in the Raa Atoll and presents a selection of 120 beach and overwater villas with modern, tropical designs.

When you’re seeking a diversion from the view, you will be able to indulge your tastebuds at the five restaurants, snorkel with manta rays or take a massage at The Emerald Spa.

Additional reporting by Chris Ashton.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 385

You missed one, Niyama Private Islands. I just got back from there a few weeks ago (second time staying) and it is truly magnificent and often voted one of the best.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 717

WoW!  Double WoW!!   Sure has changed a lot since I was last there (40 years ago).  

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1423

Also good to visit the capital Male well worth a day wandering around to see the country’s main hub. It takes an hour to walk around, and mostly devoid of cars, but don’t expect a drink. Go across to the airport for that.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 966

Problem with the Maldives is getting there and then the sea planes can’t fly at night causing an overnighter in Male. Several years back I was told by one of the Malidians that Jetstar was looking at flying direct out of Australia but that hasn’t happened.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 232

Truly a beautiful place but comes with a " WHOPPING " price tag. A villa by the beach is $1500 USD/per person/ per night . That's $3000 USD for a couple / night. This type of accomodation is for the very rich or the " Lotto " winners of which I am neither so obviously I won't be staying there.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 32

This article came out just after I booked a stay at the Park Hyatt, my wife was particularly fascinated by the diving possibilities. I will supervise from a convenient bar close by. I hope we didn't screw up.


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