Let’s get one thing straight: Not all atolls were created equal. But on the plus side, the Maldives has thousands of sun-drenched islands, and discovering the perfect one for your trip is all part of the fun.

Every resort in Maldives is its own private island but choosing the right one for you can be difficult. Want to kick off your Indian Ocean holiday in style? Our guide will help you know what to look for in the hunt for your ideal island, whether you’re searching for affordable options or five-star resorts with brilliant dive schools. 

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Standup paddleboarder in the turquoise waters off the shore of the Patina Maldives resort
The new Patina Maldives resort makes an ideal launchpad for island-hopping excursions @ Patina Maldives, Fari Islands

The distance dilemma

Yes, your sun-kissed island resort might be wonderfully secluded, with no other atoll in sight, but remote locations inevitably crank up the price – not simply because there are higher costs to cover (such as getting supplies to the resort in question) but because it’s likely you’ll need to pay for a short domestic flight or a seaplane flight to get there. Seaplane transfers are the most expensive option (expect to pay anywhere from US$300 to US$900 for a round trip), while domestic flights to one of the Maldives’ smaller airports (followed by a boat transfer) will be slightly cheaper.

The good news? Some of the best Maldives resorts are just a boat ride from Malé’s Velana International Airport, so don’t write properties off simply because of their close proximity.

We recommend: Patina Maldives, the Fari Islands

A brand-new resort on the new Fari Islands development, Patina Maldives, the Fari Islands is a 45-minute speedboat transfer from the international airport. Fancy a spot of island-hopping? Traveling between islands in the Maldives can be expensive, but Patina Maldives is just a short shuttle-boat service from the Fari Islands’ other resorts (a Ritz-Carlton and a Capella), so there’s no chance of claustrophobia setting in.

Where to stay for the best food

It may sound self-indulgent, but trust us – knowing your culinary criteria can make or break a holiday. That tiny, exclusive island you’ve got your eye on might well have a Michelin-starred chef, but even the most delicious seafood will soon look rather plain after you’ve eaten your way through the restaurant’s menu in the space of two days. In summary, bigger is often better if food is a priority.

We recommend: Siyam World Maldives

Opened in October 2021 on the island of Dhigurah, in Noonu Atoll, Siyam World Maldives has eight restaurants, including one with an underground wine cellar and one which specializes in Japanese cuisine. It’s also incredibly family friendly, making it perfect for anyone visiting the Maldives with kids in tow.

Where to go for downtime

Why are you going on holiday to the Maldives? If you’re dreaming of lazy sunbathing sessions on the country’s best beaches, your priorities will be different than those of the adrenaline-fueled traveler keen to try every high-octane activity available, whether it’s swimming with manta rays or learning to dive. As a rule, smaller resorts are great for crowd-free downtime, while larger ones are best suited to families and active types.

We recommend: Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu

For the best of both worlds, consider Baa Atoll's Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, where there’s a wide range of activities and experiences on offer, but where you can also escape your fellow islanders by signing up for a rather cool activity – a night on a nearby deserted island.

A couple on a dock watching a colorful sunset at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa
Four Seasons Resort Kuda Huraa is one of the best Maldives resorts for honeymoons © Ken Seet/Four Seasons

Money talks

It’s a myth that you have to be a millionaire to holiday in the Maldives, although without a little research, costs can easily spiral out of control. Travelers keen to make the most of their hard-earned cash should familiarize themselves with the packages on offer to make sure they’re getting the best value for money. Options can range from bed-and-breakfast only packages to to ones which include all meals and drinks, along with certain activities.

We recommend: Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa

A private island in North Male Atoll that's one of the best spots in the Maldives for honeymoons, the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa not only has a huge range of room categories, it also offers a brilliant selection of packages, including Island Romance packages, which have fantastic added extras designed with couples in mind.

What to look for in sustainability

Taking a second to consider your destination’s sustainability credentials won’t just benefit Mother Nature, it could also save you serious amounts of cash. If an island is producing its own drinking water, growing its own vegetables and transporting guests by boat rather than gas-guzzling seaplane, there will be lower outgoings, which means less costs to cover – all of which translates into lower room rates.

We recommend: Amilla Fushi

Another Baa Atoll resort, Amilla Fushi excels in the sustainability stakes. Reverse osmosis is used to produce drinking water, jams, pickles and spa products are made from plants grown on the island and crushed glass is transformed into building materials. 

Ditch the over-water obsession

It’s easy to become fixated on recreating the images associated with the Maldives, famous for its over-water villas, but there are downsides to these much-sought-after accommodations – and in fact, there are numerous reasons to choose a villa that isn’t over the water.

They're typically the priciest accommodations and the furthest from resort facilities, and the vistas – usually of the sea and nothing else – aren't necessarily much to write home about. Over-water villas are designed for privacy, so views are often restricted by high walls framing the decking – unlike beachfront villas, where there’s often more to look at, whether it’s a cute lizard or a parrot fish zipping through the shallows. There’s usually better noise insulation courtesy of surrounding greenery too.

We recommend: Kuramathi Island Resort

Located in the natural atoll of RasdhooKuramathi Island Resort is a teardrop-shaped island where walking trails weave through lush greenery, much of which provides privacy for the large number of villas set back from the beach. 

Snorkelers filming and swimming near a manta ray in Hanifaru Bay, Maldives
Swim with the manta rays in the Baa Atoll ©Bernard Radvaner/Getty Images

Timing is everything

Let’s get one thing straight: there’s no such thing as a bad time to visit the Maldives. But considering the season is important if you’ve got your heart set on certain activities. If you’re planning on swimming with mantas, for example, a stay on a Baa Atoll resort between May and November is your best bet, although July to October is a great time for manta sightings elsewhere. If you’re planning on a surf session, you’ll need to visit between April and October.

We recommend: frequent holidays

To ensure you experience the Maldives’ best bits, schedule a holiday every month without fail. We’re joking, but you get the point: think what you want to see and do, and brush up on the different areas’ seasonal selling points.

You may also like:
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