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, August 10 2023
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.

However, where some destinations struggle to live up to the lofty expectations we set in our minds, the Maldives (pronounced Moldeevz, in case you were wondering) isn’t one of them. It really is as spectacular in person as you hope.

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.

Think 24-hour butlers, Michelin-quality dining and spa or fitness treatments guided by leading wellness experts, not to mention bespoke experiences you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else (caviar for brekky on a lone sandbank in the middle of the ocean, anyone?).

Dining in the depths at Anantara Kihavah's SEA restaurant.
Dining in the depths at Anantara Kihavah's SEA restaurant.

As the destination’s popularity has soared in recent years, getting there is now easier than ever for Australians. Via Changi on the likes of Singapore Airlines, Malé Velana International Airport is a mere 4.5-hour connecting flight.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa

Sitting on the edge of the azure waters of Shaviyani Atoll, the JW Marriott Maldives promises a highly bespoke experience with five dining options, a wine cellar with carefully curated label collection, numerous fitness, wellness and water activities, and the 'Spa by JW'.

The 70 water villas and beach suites feature refined, eco-minded designs, accented by sleek bathrooms, spacious decks, outdoor showers and plunge pools.

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.

Pullman Maamutaa Maldives

Eighty spacious beach and over-water villas await guests at the Pullman Maamutaa Maldives, an all-inclusive resort set amid 18 hectares of lush vegetation and surrounding a natural lake.

There are 122 chic villas to select from, but the most spectacular option is arguably the immersive Aqua Villa, which features two bedrooms - one of which is underwater.

Not your typical hotel view.
Not your typical hotel view.

A rarity among Maldivian resorts is that your room rate at Pullman Maamutaa includes all meals, which you can take at any of the resort's three restaurants.

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.

Centara Grand Muthaafushi Resort & Spa

The Thai brand brings its signature hospitality into the Maldives at Centara Grand Muthaafushi, the 112 overwater villas wrap around an inviting palm-fringed beach and lagoon.

If diving is your thing, guests can explore a shipwreck just off the island which now makes for an artificial reef teeming with marine life. Back on land, there’s also a floating cinema or the opportunity to take a sunset cruise to visit some local villages.

Additional reporting by Chris Ashton.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 368

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.

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