Ouch. That’s most people’s reaction to Maldivian resort prices, and it’s fair to say this is not and will never be a cheap place to stay. There are almost no single rooms in resorts, so singles are nearly always doubles for single occupation, with a similar price tag to a double room. Therefore we just list the standard room price (r) in the cheapest accommodation category, which is for two people unless otherwise stated. Prices include a service charge (normally 10–12%), GST (12%) and the green tax (US$6 per person per night in resorts, US$3 per person per night in guesthouses).

Resorts

The majority of travellers will stay at one of the roughly 120 self-contained island resorts throughout Maldives. Each is on its own island and provides accommodation, meals, and activities for its guests, ranging from the most basic beach huts, with a buffet three times a day and a simple diving school, to vast water villas with every conceivable luxury, multiple à la carte dining options and all kinds of activities, from kiteboarding to big-game fishing.

Most resorts have a range of room categories, so for simplicity we generally give the rate for the cheapest room. However, be warned, these prices are nothing more than a guideline. They are based on the best rates available in high season online, and so booking through a travel agent may well get you access to far better deals.

Budget resorts (up to US$350 per room per night) tend to be busier and more basic in their facilities and level of sophistication than more expensive resorts. Few budget resorts are being built these days – their thunder rather stolen by the advent of independent tourism in Maldives – so those that do exist tend to date from the 1980s or '90s and are often in need of a lick of paint.

Midrange resorts (from US$350 to US$750 per night) are noticeably slicker and have a better standard of facilities and accommodation, all carried off with some style, and are truly luxurious at the top end of the bracket.

Top-end resorts (more than US$750 per night) are currently what Maldives is all about. The standards in this category range from the very good to the mind-bogglingly luxurious, and high-end resorts are exceptionally ambitious and competitive with one another. These days most are backed by international hotel chains and are huge financial undertakings that sometimes take years to build. Many more top-end resorts are currently under construction in Maldives.

Booking resorts through travel agents is nearly always cheaper than doing so directly, with some amazing deals to be had compared with the eye-watering rack rates. However, increasingly some resorts offer great deals via their websites and on hotel booking sites such as www.booking.com or www.tripadvisor.com, so it's always worth checking online. Last-minute deals can also bring big savings; simply call the resort you want to visit a day or two beforehand on the off chance that they'll offer you a competitive rate to up their occupancy.

Guesthouses

Until 2009, laws prohibited the construction of guesthouses on islands inhabited by locals. Since the change in the law under former president Mohammed Nasheed, guesthouses have sprung up all over the country and are continuing to affect massive social change in this traditional and conservative nation. 'Guesthouse' is a catch-all term used for any type of accommodation on an inhabited island, be it a hotel, boutique hotel or the closest thing to a resort.

Staying at a guesthouse offers a totally different experience to staying in a resort, and so your first important decision once you've decided to come to Maldives is whether you want a resort- or a guesthouse-based holiday. It's quite possible to combine the two, of course. If you choose a guesthouse holiday, you'll have far more contact with local life and far cheaper accommodation, but staying in one also entails certain restrictions, particularly with regards to alcohol and attire.

Safari Boats

Live-aboard safari boats allow you to travel extensively throughout the country, visiting great dive sites, desert islands and small local settlements usually too remote to see many travellers. They have an enjoyable, social atmosphere. Live-aboards range from simple to luxurious, and you generally get what you pay for. Prices range from bargain basement to exorbitant, depending on the facilities available.

Hotels in Male

As hotels in Male are far cheaper than those of island resorts, we’ve used a separate price breakdown for the capital’s hotels: budget (under US$80), midrange (US$80 to US$150) and top end (over US$150). These apply also to hotels on Hulhumale, the man-made extension island of the capital, 2km away.

Choosing a Resort

Don’t worry about the judicious use of Photoshop in brochures – almost every resort in Maldives will get you a superb beach, amazing weather and turquoise waters overlooked by majestic palms. Indeed, so uniform is the perfection, it’s often hard to take memorable photographs here – they all just look like they’ve been lifted from a holiday brochure.

The standard of facilities and accommodation in Maldivian resorts varies enormously, from budget and extremely average accommodation to the best of everything – if you can afford to pay through the nose for it. Your choice of resort or guesthouse is absolutely key to getting the holiday you want, though, so take plenty of time and weigh up as many options as possible before settling for the place or places you decide to book. There are plenty of factors you need to take into consideration when selecting a resort.

Top Choices

  • Best Rooms

Jumeirah Vittaveli Huge and sumptuously furnished villas with enormous outdoor bathrooms, surrounded by lap pools and enjoying direct beach access.

  • Best Pool

Anantara Kihavah Villas Simply our favourite pool in the country, long enough for swimming lengths and fun for kids too.

  • Best Beach

Kanuhura The endless white-sand beach is unbeatable, and the resort also owns a private desert island for you to boat over to for a picnic lunch.

  • Best Restaurant

Six Senses Laamu You're spoiled for choice here, but our favourite Six Senses restaurant is Leaf, where sublime Vietnamese cuisine is served at lunch and Mediterranean fare for dinner.

Atmosphere

Every resort cultivates a distinct atmosphere to appeal to its guests. Before choosing a resort decide on the type of holiday you want and the atmosphere most conducive to providing it. Honeymooners who find themselves surrounded by package-tour groups and screaming children may quickly come to regret their decision. Similarly, divers and surfers may find the social-life vacuum in a resort popular with honeymooners and couples a little claustrophobic after a week on a live-aboard.

Back to Nature

Maldives has built much of its tourism industry on the desert-island ideal: the fantasy of simplicity, tranquillity, beach and sea. Of course, the fact that many places also provide a butler, a gourmet restaurant and a fleet of staff who cater to your every whim makes the whole experience somewhat more luxurious than being a real castaway. These resorts tend to be well designed, use imported woods and natural fibres and have little or no air-conditioning outside the bedroom. The simplicity of such places (even at top-end resorts, which admittedly add supreme style and comfort to the mix), not to mention their peacefulness and relaxed feel, is what attracts people. These ‘no shoes, no news’ resorts are great for a romantic break, a honeymoon or total escape.

High Style

Few countries in the world have such a wealth of choice in the luxury market as Maldives. Most major luxury-hotel brands have or hope to have a presence here, and at times things can look like a never-ending glossy travel magazine, bringing ever higher levels of comfort and pampering.

And the pampering on offer here is almost legendary. You’ll have your own thakuru, Man Friday or Guest Experience Manager (all various terms for personal butler), who will look after you during your stay. And you’ll nearly always have a sumptuous villa stuffed full of beautifully designed furniture and fabrics, a vast, decadent bathroom (often open air) and a private open-air area (in a water villa this is usually a sun deck with a direct staircase into the sea). Now most resorts in this category also include private plunge pools – some big enough to do lengths in, but all a wonderful way to cool off or wash off the salt after a dip in the sea.

Food in these resorts is almost universally top notch. There will be a large choice of cuisine, with European and Asian specialist chefs employed to come up with an amazing array of dishes day and night. Social life will be quiet, and will usually revolve around one of the bars. Most of the market here are honeymooners, couples and families, but kids will certainly not run riot (most resorts impose a limit on the number of children), and even if they do, there will be enough space to get away from them. Although the general feel is romantic and stylish, activities will not be ignored – everything from diving to water sports and excursions will be well catered for. Essentially, if you can afford this level of accommodation (and you're looking at a minimum of US$1000 per room per night, plus food), you are guaranteed an amazing time, whatever your interests.

Romance

Romance is big business in Maldives, where more than a few visitors are on their honeymoon, renewing their vows or just having an indulgent break. Almost anywhere is romantic. That said, the more budget the resort, the more families and groups you’ll get, and the intimacy of the romantic experience can be diminished if it’s peace, quiet and candlelit dinners you’re after. Nonetheless, romance doesn't necessarily mean huge cost. It’s hard to think of anywhere more lovely than little Makunudhoo Island, for example, where there’s no TV or loud music, just gorgeously simple and traditional houses dotted along the beach, and vegetation thick with trees planted by past honeymooners. However, the maxim of getting what you pay for is still true here – the loveliest, most romantic resorts are usually not the cheaper ones.

Be aware that you cannot at present get married in Maldives, although this may change in the near future. However, if you really want to, you can organise non-legally-binding services and effectively have your wedding here even if the legal formalities are completed elsewhere. Nearly all midrange and top-end resorts can organise such ceremonies, so check websites for details and special packages. Honeymooners are often eligible for special deals and some added extras, but you'll need to prove your recent marriage with a certificate and let the resort know in advance that you're newlyweds.

Diving

All resorts have their own diving school and every resort has access to good diving. It’s very hard to say that one resort has better diving than another, when in fact all the sites are shared, but there are a few resorts that have obvious advantages, such as remote OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli, which offers access to some 40 dive sites, many of which are not used by any other resorts. You'll find a similar situation in and around Ari Atoll, where the dive sites are excellent, including Kuramathi Island Resort and Ellaidhoo Maldives by Cinnamon. Above all, divers should go for resorts that are focused on diving, as prices will be lower, and there will be more enthusiasm for the activity than elsewhere.

Ecotourism

Ecotourism can so often be a gimmick that it’s important to know who’s serious and who’s just trying to attract a larger number of visitors. Despite the lip service paid by many resorts, relatively few have genuine ecotourism credentials. Look for resorts that offer educational programs, sustainable development, environmentally friendly building practices, minimal use of air-conditioning and electricity in general, and a resort ethos that fosters environmental awareness and care (ie offering you not only Evian when you ask for water, but also water that has been desalinated on-site). The resorts we recommend in this category are leading the way in the use of materials, their interaction with the local ecosystem and the activities they offer guests. Those that are serious about their commitment to ecotourism include Gili Lankanfushi, Soneva Fushi, Rihiveli by Castaway Hotels & Escapes and Six Senses Laamu.

Guesthouses

Guesthouses are a relatively new initiative in a country where tourism and the local population were always kept scrupulously apart. There are now scores of these small hotels dotted around the country, and the experience offered here is one totally different to that found in resorts. Forget the infinity pool and cocktails – you’re on a dry local island here and swimming costumes aren’t culturally acceptable save on the so-called 'bikini beaches' where foreigners can enjoy swimming in areas screened off from conservative locals – but you can still enjoy the beach on nearby uninhabited islands, do lots of diving, snorkelling, surfing, fishing, island hopping and cultural tourism. This is the best option for anyone who finds being separate from the local population in a self-contained resort an unappealing idea.

Activities

Few people will want to spend an entire holiday sunbathing and swimming, so resorts are careful to provide a program of excursions and activities for guests. Bear in mind that this is the only way you’ll be able to leave the island during your stay, public transport from resort islands being nonexistent and opportunities for sightseeing almost as scarce.

While all resorts have a diving centre, the uniformity ends there; you’ll have to check to see if the resort you’re planning to visit has a water-sports centre or its own spa, organises guided snorkelling, lays on marine biology lectures or morning yoga sessions or has a resident tennis coach. For example, only Kuredu Island Resort, Velaa Private Island and Shangri-La Villingili offer golf courses, while Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani are the only resorts to offer an observatory.

Day Trips

From a resort, day trips are one of the very few ways you’ll be able to see something of the 'real' Maldives occupied by ordinary Maldivians. Even if you are an independent traveller, this is still a good way to see otherwise inaccessible islands, and all guesthouses offer such excursions.

Almost all the resorts in North and South Male Atolls offer day trips to Male. There’s enough to see and enough shopping to make this trip worthwhile, and it’s a great way to get a feel for Maldivian culture, as terrifyingly polite resort staff are replaced by a friendly and down-to-earth city populace.

Another popular excursion is a trip to an inhabited island, which allows you to see a small island community, traditional housing, craftwork and lifestyle. The trips inevitably feel rather contrived, but can still be immensely enjoyable depending on how friendly the locals are and how many people are around (with children often in school or studying in Male, and menfolk away for work, some islands feel like ghost towns). While it’s often more enjoyable to explore an island on your own, the resort guides will at least know all the locals and can be helpful in making contacts and telling you in detail about local life.

Fishing

Just about any resort will do sunset, sunrise or night-fishing trips, while many resorts can also arrange big-game fishing trips. These work out cheaper if there are several participants, as costs are high: from $450 for a half-day trip for up to four people. Large boats, fully equipped with radar technology, are used to catch dorado, tuna, marlin, barracuda and jackfish among others.

Snorkelling & Diving

All resorts cater for divers and snorkellers, and most organise twice-daily diving excursions and sometimes snorkelling trips too, especially if there's not good snorkelling on the house reef. If you’re keen on diving, it's always cheaper to bring your own equipment, including snorkel, mask and fins, plus buoyancy control device (BCD) and dive computer. Most top-end resorts supply free snorkelling equipment to guests, but it normally attracts a charge at budget and midrange places. Dive schools are generally of an exceptionally high safety standard, as regulated by Maldivian laws. Most resorts have at least 10 sites nearby and you can visit them in rotation. If there’s a particular dive site you want to visit, you should contact the dive school at the resort and check it’ll be running a trip there during your stay.

Spa Treatments

As a destination that has become synonymous with relaxation, Maldives unsurprisingly offers a huge array of treatments in purpose-built spas. These include many different types of massage, beauty treatments, Ayurvedic (Indian herbal) medicine, acupuncture and even traditional Maldivian treatments. All midrange and top-end resorts have a spa, and even most of the budget resorts now have them. The best are sometimes booked up in advance, so plan ahead if you’re interested in certain treatments. With staff often from Bali, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, you’re in safe (if expensive) hands. Resorts well known for Ayurvedic therapy include Adaaran Select Meedhupparu, Taj Exotica, Vivanta by Taj Coral Reef, Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru and Olhuveli Beach & Spa.

Surfing

The best resorts for surfing are Cinnamon Island Dhonveli and Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi, which are both blessed with their own breaks and are very popular with surfers during the season. The popularity of surfing is increasing in Maldives, with surfer arrivals going up massively in the past few years. However, it’s really only these two resorts that are perfectly located near good breaks, although nearby resorts, such as Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa and Paradise Island Resort & Spa can organise boat trips. Meemu Atoll is also great for surfing and is largely unvisited by travellers, despite there being two nearby resorts making access fairly easy. Another fantastic option to avoid the crowds and explore a pristine region of the country is to join a ‘surfari’ – check with your resort or travel agent.

Water Sports

In addition to diving schools, most resorts have a water-sports centre. These vary enormously. Some offer the most basic array of kayaks and windsurfing, while others run the gamut from water skiing to kite-boarding and wakeboarding. The best resorts for sailing and windsurfing have a wide lagoon that’s not too shallow, and lots of equipment to choose from. Non-motorised water sports tend to be free in better resorts, while they're all charged in budget and midrange ones in general. Good resorts for sailing and windsurfing include: Kanuhura, Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Kuredu Island Resort & Spa, Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa, Ayada Maldives, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, Huvafen Fushi, LUX* Maldives, Sun Aqua Vilu Reef, W Maldives, Kurumba Maldives and Meeru Island Resort & Spa.

Food & Drink

What you eat in Maldives varies tremendously, but essentially boils down to your budget and your choice of resort. At the top end, you'll be cooked for by Michelin-starred chefs, while at the lower end the buffet – the standard dining option – is of extremely variable quality. The adage that you get what you pay for is especially relevant here.

Alcohol is also becoming more of a feature at resorts – many have spent years building up wine cellars. One & Only Reethi Rah claims to have over 8000 bottles of wine in its cellar, while Huvafen Fushi's wine cellar is a work of art itself, buried deep below the island and hired out for private dinners at great expense.

Meals

Typically, breakfast is a buffet wherever you stay in Maldives. At the bottom end, there will be a fairly limited selection of cereals, fruit, pastries and yoghurts. At the midrange and top end you’ll have an enormous spread, usually including omelette stations, fresh fruit, good coffee, freshly baked pastries, curries, rice dishes, sushi, full English-style breakfast, meat platters and oodles of sweet cakes.

In budget resorts, lunch and dinner will usually be a buffet as well. This can quickly become repetitive, and while you’ll never go hungry, you may find yourself craving some variety. Some budget resorts have à la carte restaurants where you can dine to have a change of cuisine and scenery – if you’re on an full-board deal, meals like this will normally be charged as extras. However, for the most part there’s little or no choice at the budget end. Dinner will usually have the biggest selection, and may be a ‘theme night’ specialising in regional cuisines such as Asian, Indian or Maldivian. Almost all resorts serve locally caught fish and seafood, and these are an absolute highlight. Expect gorgeous fresh tuna, scallops, reef fish, crab and octopus in all but the most basic of resorts.

If you’re in a midrange or top-end resort, you’ll have a totally different experience. Almost all resorts in these categories have at least two restaurants, with a few exceptions for small islands where the restaurants are à la carte and have sufficiently long or changing menus to keep you satisfied for a week or more. The larger resorts will have multiple choices.

Another alternative to the usual buffet is a ‘speciality meal’. This might be a barbecue or a curry night, served on the beach and open to anyone who pays an extra charge. Or it can be a much pricier private dinner for two in romantic surroundings – on an uninhabited island, on the beach, or on a sandbank a short ride from the resort island. Most resorts will do special meals on request, and nearly all resorts offer in-room dining (room service) for those enjoying themselves too much to leave their villas.

Meal Plans

Many guests are on full-board packages that include accommodation and all meals. Others take a half-board package, which includes breakfast and dinner, and pay extra for lunch. Some resorts offer a bed-and-breakfast plan, and guests pay separately for lunch and dinner. The advantage of not paying for all your meals in advance is that you permit yourself the freedom to vary where you eat (assuming your resort has more than one restaurant). However, at good resorts your full-board plan is usually transferable, meaning you can eat a certain amount at other restaurants, or at least get a big discount on the à la carte prices.

Room-only deals are also sometimes available, but they’re rarely a great idea. Never underestimate the sheer expense of eating à la carte in Maldives at any level, although at the top end it’s positively outrageous – think US$75 per head without alcohol for a decent lunch. Self-catering is of course not possible, and there’s nothing worse than being unable to eat properly due to financial constraints. Unless you’re very comfortable financially and want to eat in a variety of different places, it’s definitely a good idea to book full-board or at least half-board meal plans.

All-inclusive plans are some of the best value of all, although in general they’re associated with the core package-tourist market and tend to be available only in budget resorts; though in recent years a number of luxury all-inclusive resorts have been opened.

In budget and midrange resorts all-inclusive plans typically include all drinks (non-brand-name alcohol, soft drinks and water) and some activities and water sports/diving thrown in for good measure. Always investigate carefully exactly what’s on offer meal-wise before you make a decision – the meal plan can make an expensive package worthwhile or a cheap one a rip-off. At luxury all-inclusives, you'll get good wines and brand-name spirits for your (not inconsiderable) daily rate.

Entertainment

Maldives is not a premium destination for entertainment. What little of it there is can be naff and uninspiring, and the resorts that put on a nightly DJ or live band often find them poorly attended. Simply put, honeymooners, divers and families, the core demographic of Maldivian tourism, don’t really come here for any kind of entertainment, preferring quiet romance, daytime activities and early bedtimes.

That said, don’t miss a performance of traditional Maldivian bodu beru (big drum) players, who perform regularly at resorts. Even better, if you’re staying on an inhabited island, you might see the real thing performed by local youths after nightfall. This is definitely a cultural and entertainment highlight – the passion and excitement of the performance alone is remarkable – and shouldn’t be missed.

A couple of clubs worth mentioning when it comes to evening entertainment are W Maldives, Finolhu, Niyama Private Islands and Huvafen Fushi, all of which have clubs and frequently book international DJs to perform.

Luxuries

You’ve come to the right place if this is your main interest. Maldives’ top-end resorts (and even some of its midrange options) offer an eye-watering range of treatments, pampering and general luxury.

Currently indispensable in the luxury industry is the personal thakuru, or butler, otherwise known as a Man or Woman Friday or villa host. The thakuru is assigned to you throughout your stay. They’ll be your point of contact for all small things (restocking the minibar, reserving a table for dinner), but given that one thakuru will often be looking after up to 10 rooms at a time, the term ‘personal’ is pushing it a bit, especially when even in the best hotels in the country there are often language problems and some service issues.

The home of pampering at most resorts is the spa. Until recently they were considered optional for resorts, whereas now they are usually at the very centre of the luxury experience. Expect to pay from about US$100 for a simple massage at a budget or midrange place, to US$500 for a long session of pampering at a top-end resort.

Beaches

Very few resorts in Maldives do not have an amazing beach. Some beaches suffer a great deal from erosion, but resorts work very hard to redress this with sandbags and seawalls in certain places. These can of course be unsightly, but they are necessary to hold the islands’ beaches in place. Obviously, the more expensive the resort, the more effort is made to ensure that sandbags are never visible. Every beach is cleaned each morning by teams of employees, and this is very necessary, as even the fanciest of resorts gets dozens of plastic bottles and other flotsam washing up on them every day.

For the record, here is a list of our favourite beaches in the country: Anantara Kihavah Villas, Sun Siam Iru Fushi Maldives, Kanuhura, One & Only Reethi Rah, Kuredu Island Resort & Spa, Soneva Fushi, Reethi Beach Resort, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, Smartline Eriyadu, Angsana Ihuru, Bandos Island Resort, Baros, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Gili Lankanfushi, Rihiveli by Castaway Hotels & Escapes, Paradise Island Resort & Spa, Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa, W Maldives, Veligandu Island Resort & Spa, Sun Aqua Vilu Reef, Huvafen Fushi and Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. This doesn't mean that resorts not on this list don’t make the grade – these are just our very top choices!

Children

If you’re bringing children to Maldives, it’s very important to get your choice of resort right, as only some resorts have kids clubs or babysitters available, and activities for older children can be limited at resorts more used to welcoming honeymooning couples. If you aren’t looking for kids clubs and your offspring are happy to spend the day on the beach, then almost every resort will be suitable. Note that several resorts do not accept children and this has been mentioned in reviews.

In general, kids will love Maldives, although more than a week might be pushing it unless you’re staying in a big family resort where there are plenty of other children for them to play with and lots of activities. Nowadays nearly all top-end resorts have kids clubs. These can be impressive places, with their own pools and a host of activities, which means parents can drop off kids (usually under 12) at any time, for free during the day. A few top-end resorts also have clubs for teenagers.

Resort Tips

  • It’s always worth checking a resort website yourself and even contacting the resort for specific, up-to-date information, as things change regularly. Is there construction work happening on the island or nearby? Is the spa finished yet? Does it still offer kite-boarding? Also, be aware that many resort websites are not regularly updated. While there are exceptions, it’s never a good idea to take the information there as fact – check when the page was last updated and also read up on the resort online.
  • Check the dive-centre website. It might provide a discount if you block book your dives before your arrival. Email them for specific dive information and to check that they will definitely be visiting any site you want to dive at during your stay.
  • If the trip is a honeymoon, or second honeymoon, or if you will be celebrating an anniversary or birthday, let your resort know – there’s usually something laid on in such circumstances. Some resorts require a wedding certificate before they do anything, though.

Resort Basics

You’ll be met at the airport by your resort representative, who will usually take your passport from you for the duration of your stay, something that is quite normal in Maldives, despite feeling rather odd.

Unless you’re arriving in the late afternoon or evening, you’ll soon be transferred to your resort – either by a waiting dhoni, speedboat, airplane or seaplane. You may have to wait for other passengers on the same transfer to get through customs, but it shouldn’t be too long, normally. Be aware that if you're heading to a resort, this is your last chance to buy things at a relatively normal price. You might, for example, want to buy any toiletries you've forgotten to bring, or get yourself a local SIM card for cheap data if you'll be travelling about the country a lot.

Travellers needing to take a seaplane connection who arrive after 3pm will have to spend a night at the airport hotel or at a hotel in Male or Hulhumale; seaplane transfers are not carried out after dark for obvious reasons, and so they generally do not leave Male after 4pm. Speedboat transfers can be done at any time of day or night, however.

On arrival at the resort you’ll be given a drink, asked to fill out a registration form and taken to your room. Resort staff will bring your luggage separately. In no resort in Maldives are cash tips expected – you tip by paying the service charge included.

Room Types

Most resorts have several types of room, ranging from the cheapest garden villas to deluxe over-water suites. A garden villa will not have a beach frontage, while a water villa will be on stilts over the lagoon.

More expensive rooms tend to be bigger, newer and better finished. They can have a bathtub as well as a shower, a minibar instead of an empty fridge, tea- and coffee-making facilities (and often an espresso machine), a sound system and maybe even a plunge pool, which are now de rigueur in newly built resorts.

Taxes, Single Supplements & Extra Beds

High-season room rates are December to March for single/double occupancy. Rates also spike over Easter and in August. The cheapest time to visit Maldives is from April to July and from September to November.

Extra people can usually share a room, but there’s normally a charge for the extra bed, which varies from resort to resort, as well as additional costs for meals. Bear in mind that there's also the obligatory US$6 per person per night green tax which is collected by the resort for each tourist. This is only US$3 per person per night in guesthouses.

For children two years and younger, usually just the US$6 green tax is payable. From two to 12 years, the child supplement will be more, though usually less than a full adult rate.

Be aware that most resorts in Maldives quote their prices exclusive of taxes, which are significant. In general all resorts add on a 10% to 12% service charge as a tip for staff and a 12% general services tax (GST). Therefore bear these extras in mind when you’re totalling up a trip’s cost – the 'plus pluses', as they're known, essentially add around an extra 25% of all your resort costs, as they're added to food, drinks, activities and transfers too! We've included all taxes in our room prices.

Pricing Periods

Pricing patterns vary with the resort and the demands of its main market – some are incredibly detailed and complex with a different rate every week. The basic pattern is that Christmas–New Year is the peak season, with very high prices, minimum-stay requirements and big surcharges for the often obligatory Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinners. Early January to late March is high season, when many Europeans take a winter holiday. Chinese holidays such as Chinese New Year and the first week of October can also see price hikes in resorts where Chinese guests make up a big share of the crowd. The weeks around Easter may attract higher rates (though less so than Christmas). From Easter to about mid-July is low season (and the wettest part of the year). July and August is another high season, for the European summer holidays. Mid-September to early December is low season again.

Safari Cruises

The massive expansion in the market for safari cruises has meant an increasingly sleek approach from the tour companies that run them. A typical, modern boat is air-conditioned and spacious, and serves varied and appetising meals. It will have hot water, a sun deck, fishing and diving gear, wi-fi, a full bar, a projector/TV for watching movies and cosy, comfortable cabins.

Costs start at around US$120 per person per day, including the US$6 per person per day green tax and all meals, plus roughly US$80 per day for diving trips. There’s usually a minimum daily (or weekly) charge for the whole boat, and the cost per person is lower if there are enough passengers to fill the boat. You’ll be charged extra for drinks, which are priced comparably to most resorts.

The most basic boats are large dhonis with a small galley and communal dining area, two or three cramped cabins with two berths each, and a shared shower and toilet. The bigger, better boats have air-conditioning, more spacious accommodation, and a toilet and shower for each cabin.

Choosing a Safari Boat

There are over 100 safari boats operating in Maldives, so you’ll need to do some research. When you’re considering a safari-boat trip, ask the operator about the following:

  • Boat size Generally speaking, bigger boats will be more comfortable, and therefore more expensive, than smaller boats. Most boats have about 12 berths or less. Few boats have more than 20 berths, and those that do may not be conducive to the camaraderie you get with a small group.
  • Cabin arrangements Can you get a two-berth cabin (if that’s what you want)? How many cabins/people are sharing a bathroom?
  • Comforts Does the boat have air-con, hot water and desalinated water available 24 hours?
  • Companions Who else will be on the trip, what language do they speak, have they done a safari trip before? What are their interests: diving, sightseeing, fishing, surfing?
  • Food and drink Can you be catered for as a vegetarian or vegan? Is there a bar serving alcohol, and if so, how much is a beer and a bottle of wine etc?
  • Recreation Does the boat have wi-fi, fishing tackle or a sun deck? Does the boat have sails or is it propelled by motor only?

Safari Boat Operators

Safari boats often change ownership, get refitted or acquire a new name. The skipper, cook and divemaster can change too, so it’s hard to make firm recommendations. The following boats have a good reputation, but there are many others offering decent facilities and services. The boats listed here all have a bar on board, oxygen for emergencies and some diving equipment for rent. Universal’s Atoll Explorer is like a mini-cruise ship with a swimming pool on deck, while the Four Seasons Explorer is the most luxurious and expensive. The official Maldives tourism website (www.visitmaldives.com) has reasonably up-to-date details on almost every safari and cruise boat.

Maldives Resort Ratings

We've ranked the resorts we cover in Maldives with scores out three for the beaches, the child-friendliness, the quality of the diving nearby, the suitability for couples, the food on offer and how much we love the rooms. Three is the very highest standard in its field, while zero means that the resort has nothing worth mentioning on a subject; for example, if it doesn’t accept kids, it gets a zero for child-friendliness.

BeachesChild-friendlinessDivingCouple SuitabilityFoodRooms
Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi323222
Adaaran Select Meedhupparu322223
Adaaran Prestige Vadoo223111
Amari Havodda Maldives323222
Amilla Fushi333333
Anantara Dhigu & Veli322322
Anantara Kihavah Villas333333
Angsana Ihuru322222
Angsana Velavaru333133
Asdu Sun Island211112
Ayada Maldives333133
Bandos Island Resort231221
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru312322
Baros302333
Biyadhoo Island Resort213121
Canareef Resort Maldives323222
Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives323323
Cheval Blanc Randheli323333
Cinnamon Island Dhonveli212222
Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa323222
Ellaidhoo Maldives by Cinnamon113222
Coco Bodu Hithi322333
Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu323322
Cocoa Island by COMO313332
COMO Maalifushi223333
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island333322
Constance Halaveli Maldives313322
Dhevanafushi Maldives Luxury Resort213333
Dusit Thani Maldives233332
Embudu Village113211
Equator Village123111
Fihalhohi Resort213221
Filitheyo Island Resort313222
Finolhu313222
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa232332
Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru333333
Gili Lankanfushi323333
Hurawalhi303333
Huvafen Fushi322333
Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa333322
JA Manafaru323333
Jumeirah Vittaveli233333
Kandolhu Maldives313323
Kanuhura333332
Komandoo Island Resort & Spa202322
Kuramathi Island Resort323222
Kuredu Island Resort & Spa233222
Kurumba Maldives232232
Lily Beach Resort333222
LUX* Maldives323323
Makunudu Island312321
Medhufushi Island Resort312222
Meeru Island Resort & Spa322222
Mirihi323222
Naladhu Private Island233333
Nika Island323322
Niyama Private Islands323332
OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli223222
Olhuveli Beach & Spa323222
One & Only Reethi Rah333333
Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort323323
OZEN by Atmosphere at Maadhoo223333
Paradise Island Resort & Spa332211
Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa323323
Reethi Beach Resort323322
Rihiveli by Castaway Hotels & Escapes323223
Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa333323
Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa222323
Sirru Fen Fushi323333
Six Senses Laamu223333
Smartline Eriyadu213211
Soneva Fushi333333
Soneva Jani132333
St Regis Vommuli323323
Summer Island223222
Sun Siam Iru Fushi Maldives233222
Taj Exotica322333
The Residence Maldives323233
Thulhagiri Island Resort313222
Velaa Private Island323323
Veligandu Island Resort & Spa323222
Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa223212
Sun Aqua Vilu Reef333222
Vivanta by Taj Coral Reef223223
W Maldives303333

Eating local in Resorts

It used to be rare to find Maldivian food in tourist resorts – but now many resorts do a Maldivian night once a week, which is very enjoyable if not totally authentic. The main dishes are fresh reef fish, baked tuna, fish curries, rice and roshi (unleavened bread). The regular dinner buffet might also feature Maldivian fish curry. Now almost ubiquitous is the serving of Maldivian breakfast favourite mas huni at breakfast: a healthy mixture of tuna, onion, coconut and chilli, eaten with roshi. This is a delicious way to start the day and many visitors get hooked. If there’s nothing Maldivian on the menu, you could ask the kitchen staff to make a fish curry or a tray of ‘short eats’ – they may be making some for the staff anyway. Small resorts and top-end resorts are usually amenable to special requests. Otherwise, do a trip to Male or an island-hopping excursion to a fishing village and try out a local teashop. They’re always a fascinating and tasty cultural experience.

Resort Top Fives

Back-to-Nature Resorts

Water Villas

Romantic Resorts

High-Style Resorts

Diving Resorts

Stylish Midrange Resorts