It's as though some celestial artist lifted their brush after painting the tip of India, paused to drop a perfect, tear-shaped dollop of wonder where Sri Lanka lies, then finished their masterpiece by lightly dusting the nearby seas.
With nearly 1,200 perfect flecks of white sand and green trees on brilliant blue and turquoise water, the Maldives are, by every description of the word, a paradise.
There are few beach vacation spots which elicit more oohs and ahhhs than the Maldives, but the destination has really come into its own during 2020 as the ultimate escape.
The islands in fact remained open to many guests throughout much of the pandemic, even welcoming US passport holders throughout the ravages of isolation elsewhere.
Historically, the Maldives has always been a popular honeymoon destination and remains a top request for couples looking to unplug and unwind while they focus on their romance.
It is also surprisingly popular for affluent families.
There are few places you can visit with such subtle yet outstanding natural beauty.
And although the Maldives are indeed about as remote as you can get, your resort will remain well stocked for food & beverages and served with excellence.
It's also easy to visit, US passport holders are eligible for a no cost visitor visa valid for up to 30 days on arrival.
Choosing a resort in the Maldives
Top tips for choosing a resort include thinking about how much space you might like to yourselves during your vacation. You can't spend the whole thing in your suite, can you?
It isn’t a hard and fast rule, but the number and length of boardwalks a resort features tends to increase as exclusivity decreases.
More guests in more villas to help keep the nightly rate down, which can come at a significant cost to your personal space and comfort.
Some of the islands are only a few hundred yards long and feature little more than sand, sea, a few main buildings such as a spa, dining & bar areas, and a dash of greenery to break it all up.
Are you going to have enough space to yourself if there are hundreds of other guests and the island itself is only 200 yards long?
Be realistic about your transfer time
Another huge consideration you’ll have when choosing the right resort is the proximity to the capital, Male and how you’re going to arrive there from your home overseas.
I’ll touch more on the intricacies of transfers below, but in terms of choosing your property it should be a major factor in making the most of your time in the Maldives.
Do you want to fly 15 hours to Doha, another 4 1/2 onto Male, then transfer to the seaplane terminal for yet another flight – even if it is among the most scenic you’ll ever enjoy?
On the other hand, you could be prone to seasickness and a speedboat sounds like a personal hell.
Like I said, be realistic and think about your personal preferences.
If you’re looking to make the most of your time, I suggest picking a property within a reasonable distance from the main island.
There are, allegedly, 16 regional airports connecting inter-island travel with the Maldives's own domestic airline. I've yet to see this airline win any awards for best on time and my local contacts during pandemic have suggested the option as inviable during 2020 and 2021.
There will always be limitations to your comfort in transfer time by sea or whether the boat timetables work for you, but they tend to be a little more forgiving than the seaplane and in the time it would have taken to transfer airports you’ll be half-way to your resort.
On the other hand, getting on a seaplane opens up so many more properties and options for some breathtaking properties you’d otherwise miss out on.
An hour by boat or two by plane isn't unreasonable, you just need to plan well and factor your transfer into the budget. Expect $300 to $1,000 per person for the seaplane or you can charter a private seaplane transfer from about $1,200.
Choosing the perfect suite for your Maldives vacation
Your resort might feature a whole menu of room categories from which to choose, but we could realistically break them all down into two options: overwater villas and beachfront bungalows.
Do you want to sleep over the sea or on the beach next to it?
For many couples, it's too hard to pick. They instead opt to split their trip across two different rooms if they can’t decide which sounds more appealing.
This can also help bring the budget down if you want to try and push your trip investment and enjoy a more luxurious property during your vacation.
If you’re going to split your trip in two this way, I suggest staying in the beachfront room first and finishing in the overwater villa. Most people enjoy both experiences but find the overwater experience more luxurious and you should finish your trip on a high!
Now that you’ve picked which of the two appeals most to you on this occasion, it’s time to select an actual suite category.
These categories are often branded in some way, it can be tough to determine which amenities have the best appeal. My recommendation? See if you can figure out what the view or sun exposure is.
Some properties adjust room rates based on exposure to the sun. As always, if the rate seems a little too good it may be that the room category you’ve selected is in the shade after 11AM.
Choosing a dining package at Maldives resorts
Customer service in the Maldives tends to be delivered at a high standard, take advantage but be realistic about your own expectations of so-called inclusive dining.
There are very few places on planet earth which offer the same style of all-inclusive packages you might find in Mexico & the Caribbean.
Instead, you'll find variations of European style half and full-board, with some resorts offering their own take on all-inclusive dining.
Inclusive packages may include beverages, certain beverages, or no beverages at all.
You'll likely find that the exclusions extend beyond simply premium spirits and that you miss out on more by limiting yourself to the inclusive menu.
A great number of properties now feature something akin to specialty dining, such as underwater restaurants or chef’s table experiences. This too will be absent from the inclusive dining plan, as will any beverages you'd like to accompany your special meal.
When's the best time to visit the Maldives?
There isn't really a bad time to visit the Maldives, more so a good time and an even better time! With visitors enjoying unrivaled experiences throughout the year.
It's generally accepted that there are two seasons representing a shift in the winds and the frequency or intensity of rainfall – as with many destinations, climate change is making this seasonality a little harder to predict.
All destinations in the Maldives are islands, poor weather can blow out as quickly as it blows in.
Many guests find that May through October is the wetter season, with warm waters and a little bit of chop in the seas during summer’s peak. This is when you might choose to pack a surfboard over snorkel and fins.
November through April can be a little drier, although you should still see rainfall at some point during your stay. It might be more likely to fall at night but that isn’t always the case.
Realistically, it can rain at any time and on any day in the Maldives. It’s just that the wetter months may see more frequent or intense rainfall, say for a couple of hours in the afternoon or during the evening.
Those clients we have sent during summer months have still enjoyed themselves and you should again note that it is a year-round destination. Just be prepared to experience at least some rain.
Will my trip be affected by Ramadan?
The Maldives is a majority Muslim destination and the locals do celebrate the holy month of Ramadan and other customs throughout the year.
Customer service is unwavering in the resorts. Your trip will be most likely unaffected unless you've elected to spend a night in Male during this time, in which case you might see local stores and restaurants close their doors during the day.
How long should you plan to visit the Maldives?
Getting to the Maldives is truly an adventure. There’s no beating about the bush, it’s a long journey no matter which way around the globe you go.
With about two days of travel time in each direction, you'll certainly want to make the most of your vacation time relaxing!
For honeymooners and couples celebrating an anniversary, we tend to see trips lasting a little longer. Anywhere from a week in the resort, to ten days or more. It’s nice to take things slow while you’re really focusing on the romance!
Others enjoying their vacation for different reasons might enjoy a shorter stay, say 5-7 nights in the resort itself.
You’re going to want to make the journey worthwhile, but if you’re not celebrating a romance or if you’re not really, really into your surfing or your scuba/snorkeling trip, you may find that there’s only so much time you can spend relaxing on the beach in paradise.
What else is there to do in the Maldives?
As above, some people head to the Maldives explicitly to see some sea life or to celebrate with a special someone while getting away from it all.
You’ll find that most activities involve boating or spending time on, near, or below the water.
Boating, fishing, and sailing are popular throughout the islands, you could always arrange to visit another nearby island and you may find visitors to your island in some instances.
For surfing, there are plenty of options to try your hand at catching some waves. For beginners or those who simply want to dabble while on vacation, maybe look for a resort in the North Male Atoll.
Snorkeling can typically be arranged in-house, while scuba diving is also often available. You could also search out a property more specialized in diving and dive culture, there's plenty of sea life to enjoy around the islands.
Waters around the Maldives can be superbly clear with plenty of coral, the currents and sea floor faces off some of the atolls attract big schools of fish, alongside manta rays, whale sharks, and several species of sea turtle.
If your resort is near enough to Male you could even find yourself backtracking to the city for a cultural exploration of the colorful corners of town.
Getting to the Maldives
The bulk of your planning and preparation needs to go into the journey to or from Male, with serious consideration for your arrival and departure times and what it means to transfer by boat or plane.
Expect about a 2-day journey from the US, spread over seemingly countless time zones.
This is where some good planning comes into play as you’ll want to stay comfortable and to arrive just in time to catch a convenient onward transfer to your ultimate destination.
Flights from the East Coast tend to stop in Europe or the Middle East while West Coasters can expect a change in Southeast Asia or possibly Hong Kong or even Seoul. Although I’ve been seeing more connections via Doha or Dubai from both Miami and LA, which is interesting.
Think about this: It’s a 15 hour flight to Dubai and then another 4 ½ hours on to Male before catching your resort transfer. Plan to stay comfortable.
No matter which direction you travel, the calendar will probably roll forward 2 days or more between the time you lock your door at home and the time you’re feet up with a drink in your hand in the Maldives.
The journey home is a little more forgiving, the effect of returning across the international date line or at least in crossing so many time zones back the way you came – it’s more likely you’ll arrive home the next calendar day after you start your journey home.
Transferring from Male to your resort
Planning for success means planning your return flights well with seaplane & speedboat timetables in mind.
Both the seaplane and the speedboat have limited operating hours. If you don't plan well and account for some possible delays as you navigate the globe, you could end up with an unexpected overnight in Male and a lost day at your resort. This would be catastrophic, especially for a shorter visit.
In general, the seaplane won’t fly after 2-3pm and even the boating option isn’t very flexible this late in the day.
Realistically, this means you’ve got to plan to arrive into Male before 10AM for the best chance at success. Plan your flights to arrive early into the Maldives early in the morning and to depart from Male's Velana International Airport later in the afternoon or early evening if possible.
Lastly, pack smart. You’ll only have one piece of checked baggage and one carry-on for your transfer unless you've opted for that private charter experience. Don't bother bringing duty free alcohol with you, it'll have to wait for your departure at the airport.
Some top recommendations for where to stay in the Maldives
My personal recommendations for clients have always been to make the most of the remote nature of the islands and to splurge for a trip of this magnitude. Your resort is the absolute focal point of your stay, make it a memorable visit.
One&Only Reethi Rah
One of the larger islands of the North Male Atoll, there are only 130 rooms and 12 beaches dotting the resort. Offering plenty of options for socializing and for private dining & other experiences, there's a family-friendly pool and one for adults-only.
Rates from $1,400 per night including breakfast and shared luxury boat transfers*.
The Ritz-Carlton Maldives
Opening only in May of 2021, this Marriott brand property features only 100 villas and offers personal butlers and infinity pool views - in case the Maldives weren't grandiose enough already!
Rates from $1,775 per night including half-board and shared luxury boat transfers*.
The Nautilus Maldives
A stunning boho-chic private resort property, rated as ultra-luxury and featuring only 26 villas and beach houses for unrivaled exclusivity.
Rates from $2,750 per night including breakfast and standard seaplane transfers*.
Does your dream feature something different in the Maldives?
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*rate snapshot June 18-25, 2021 in lowest prevailing room category correct at time of initial publish. All rates are not valid quotes and are provided for information purposes only.
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