At the risk of sounding like clickbait, I am going to say, do not plan a Maldives holiday.
Unless you are a well-heeled traveler, who has already seen all that our blue planet has to offer. Or you’re someone who plans to never take another holiday or step out of the confines of your house.
Otherwise, the memory of the soft, white, iridescent sandy beaches lined with trees of a vibrant, tropical green, will make you turn up your nose at every single beach you ever visit, stare in dismay at the fanciest hotel room you ever book, and sulk in your living room, staring at your bleak surroundings, wondering if you will ever experience beauty in the world again.
Maldives is the resort capital of the world, with its 1200 coral islands and sandbanks grouped into clusters called atolls.
The atolls that are closer to the capital city of Male, are easily accessible by speed boat, and most resorts will offer free transfer. The ones further away, however, are accessible only by seaplane, and the transfer can set you back by anywhere between 400 to 800 USD, so make sure to read the fine print before you book.
Most resorts are the only establishments on their respective, private islands. Resorts are also fully self-sufficient, featuring restaurants, adventure sports and entertainment options. At the time of our trip, covid restrictions prevented us from island hopping, but if you have the time, it is a great way to get the full breadth of the “wow” factor of Maldives.
Maldives has some of the most outlandish concept restaurants in the world – at the risk of getting dated, I am going to refrain from listing suggestions, but a quick Google search will help you discover some fabulous places. Dine in an underwater bubble, on a cargo boat, or perched on a treetop, the options are endless.
Check in with your hotel for activity options – snorkeling, certified diving, submarine riding, karaoke, dancing, customized photo shoots, private dinner on the beach ... the list is endless. Our visit coincided with Christmas, so we were treated to a (paid, and non-optional!) mile-long Christmas dinner buffet, featuring a wide spread of cuisines, the choicest seafood, and sinful dessert all accompanied by live caroling.
It is useful to book all-inclusive options. Since mobility is limited, your only choices for food are the resort’s own restaurants and bars which are often priced rather creatively so ala-carte can quickly run up a bill.
While most resorts offer a plethora of room options, when in Maldives, you absolutely must check out the over-water villas.
Perched like rows of patient cranes right off the shallow waters of the island, these cabins are a divine experience. Wake up to a calm expanse of bright blue water on all sides, do your morning yoga on your private patio, spend the day reading on a deck chair, as a flirtatious wind musses your hair. A short flight of steps from your room will lead you to the waters – take a quick dip or rent snorkeling gear from the hotel (and for the less adventurous, get a full view of the dazzling marine right from the deck). Take in a quiet evening, with a golden sun melting into the turquoise waters like a spoonful of hot butter.
We also loved the beach villas, cottages that offer you a private slice of the powdery, soft beach sand. It is a good idea to split your booking across both kinds of rooms, so you can get the full experience.
When on the beach watch out for the friendly, black-tipped reef sharks! They are frequent shallow waters, on the lookout for their next meal (small fish, not pedicured feet), so don’t be alarmed to see a handful clinging to the coastline!
The waters and reefs of Maldives are home to a host of creatures – sea turtles, eels, rays, sharks and schools of brightly coloured fish. In recent years, rising water levels and coral bleaching has resulted in the Government taking active steps to promote sustainable tourism. Single-use plastics are banned, many resorts run entirely on solar power, and have invested in coral reef regeneration projects. At time of writing this, the Tourism Department was taking feedback from tourists in the departure lounge, at the Male International Airport through detailed surveys!
My favourite part of traveling is discovering local flavour – in the bricks and walls, and stories of everyday life. It’s hard to experience that in a resort holiday. Despite all the luxurious hospitality, I found myself missing that piece, but then I realized visiting Maldives is about discovering yourself. There are zero things on the agenda - no trains to catch, no diabolical visiting hours to chase, no Top- 5 must do/must see lists. It is just you, and an occasional sunset, you can take all the time you need to find not just answers, but also some questions you never asked.
Usually when you travel you bring a little something back home with you. In Maldives, I left a little something behind.