The Maldives is a true paradise on Earth and is right up the top of any list of "aspirational travel" destinations you might come across. White sand, crystal clear azure water, warm climate, incredible underwater scenery and luxury overwater accommodation; it's a perfect place to visit for a honeymoon or to celebrate a round anniversary.
It's often referred to as a once in a lifetime holiday but that's not necessarily the case. Have a read of any Tripadvisor forum about the Maldives and you'll see how many people return year after year, absolutely addicted!
Choosing a resort in the Maldives can be an intimidating task. Even if you're a seasoned traveller and have no problem picking a hotel in most destinations, the Maldives can be tricky. There are a few reasons for this and below are some tips on how to navigate your way around the amazing variety of Maldives resorts.
Chain Hotels Aren't Necessarily The Way Forward
Whilst most hotel chains are represented in the Maldives, they're not necessarily going to be the easy choice they can be elsewhere. Starwood, Hyatt, Hilton, IHG and Accor all have properties there but even if you're a die hard loyal customer of one of these brands, for varying reasons, their properties may not be the best bet for your Maldives adventure. That's not to say they won't be, just that you shouldn't jump straight to the Park Hyatt or the Sheraton because they're your usual go-to brands.
This is the big one for the Maldives. Accommodation choices in the islands range from very basic backpacker style accommodation all the way up to some of the most pimping luxury villas in the world.
If you're visiting for a special occasion, you'll likely be looking at properties in the 3 to 5 star range depending on your budget. Depending on the season and what deals are available, it's possible to get a nice beach villa in the 3 star category for as little as $100 a night including breakfast but at this price point you can't expect luxury. Anywhere from about $300 a night can get you a beach villa at a property in which you could expect a fairly nice level of service and comfort. $500 a night and up and you're looking at luxury accommodation with breakfast and starting from about $800 a night you can get a 5 star over water villa on an all-inclusive basis, meaning all your meals and drinks are included in the price. There are of course options that cost many times this and if you're in the market for a $10,000 a night villa, you'll still be spoiled for choice.
One way that you can find particularly good deals is by looking at resorts that are yet to open. As resorts often have "soft opening" rates, you can get some fantastic deals this way! And there is no shortage of new properties opening up in the Maldives. During 2017 alone, there are several brand new resorts welcoming guests, such as the Mercure Kooddoo and the tiny Kudadoo Island Resort, and you can bet that as soon as they get a few 5 star reviews on Tripadvisor their rates will jump up!
It won't come as a shock to anyone who has done even a little research that food and drinks in the Maldives tend to be expensive. So what's included in the rate of your room is an incredibly important consideration especially as the resorts are mostly on their own islands so you don't have the option of going off resort to grab a cheap meal up the shops. Thankfully, the resorts in the Maldives are actually great about publishing menus for their restaurants on their websites, much better than in most destinations. This means that you can calculate, to a reasonable level of accuracy, the cost of any meals not included in your room rate and even drinks. It's worth taking the time to have a look at this as it can make a massive difference to the total cost of your holiday. If you're planning on drinking cocktails all day and are a big eater, staying on an all inclusive rate could save you some seriously big bucks. If you don't drink and a big buffet breakfast is likely to get you through to dinner, then half board options may work out to be better value. Either way, just make sure to factor in an estimate for anything not included in your room rate when comparing rates.
Understanding Tripadvisor Reviews In The Maldives
While it is of course important to check out some reviews when deciding on a Maldives resort, you need to understand that the ratings need to be viewed a little differently to those for other destinations. The reason for this is that they are all extremely high! When people first visit the Maldives, they are invariably blown away by the natural beauty and are mostly going to rate their experience as 5 stars. This isn't to say that their reviews should be any lower, after all they have just had a genuinely 5 star experience, just that there is a very broad range of quality and luxury within the 4.5-5 star average rated properties.
Once you arrive into Male international airport, you're going to need to get to your resort and I'm sorry to say that Uber is not going to get the job done.
Depending on the location of your resort and the distance from Male, your transfers between the airport and the resort will either be by speedboat, by sea plane or by a domestic flight followed by a speedboat.
A direct speedboat from the international airport is only available for resorts that are reasonably close to Male. These are often less costly than the other transfers, as well as less hassle. They can also pick you up and drop you off at any time which is great if your international flight arrives into the Maldives after sunset. There are some drawbacks to the resorts that offer speedboat transfers though. Some of them are close enough to Male that you will be able to see the capital from the beach on your island and in some cases from your villa. For some people this will be of little concern whereas some find that having the "real world" visible from their resort can take away from the Maldives experience.
If you're looking at staying in a resort that requires sea plane transfers, you need to be aware that these only operate during daylight hours. This generally means that if your international flight arrives after about 4:00pm or departs earlier than 9:00am, you'll need to spend a night close to the airport. Male international airport is on an island just next to the actual island of Male called Hulhumale. If you need to do an overnight by the airport due to the arrival or departure times of your flights, your best option is to stay on the island of Hulhumale rather than on Male as it will be easier and quicker to get between the airport and your hotel.
The sea plane transfers in the Maldives are an amazing experience in themselves and even though they are generally more expensive than speedboat transfers, quite often it's not a huge jump in price and the marginal cost is probably worth it for the experience of the flight alone.
With regards to resorts that require a domestic flight and then a speedboat, well that's definitely going to take up some of your valuable Maldives time and is generally going to be expensive. If you have your heart set on a resort that requires this type of transfer then you just have to accept that it is what it is. Once you're there, no doubt you're going to feel like it was worth the effort but it isn't advisable to choose an island that requires this type of transfer if you're visiting for less than a week.
Robinson Crusoe Or P Diddy?
Luxury in the Maldives comes in many forms but one decision that is worth making before you get too deep into picking a resort is what general style are you after. While islands like Mirihi are all about a "no news, no shoes", Robinson Crusoe escapism version of 5 star luxury, other resorts such as Amilla Fushi are all about pimped out pool villas with every conceivable modern amenity.
This is a very important distinction as it will have a big impact on how your time in the Maldives is spent. Do you want to be on an island with as few as 20 rooms, where you can find a beach all to yourself with no noise but the gentle waves lapping at your feet? Or would you prefer to have the option of a bit of nightlife? Maybe even an underwater nightclub like Subsix at Niyama island? Do you want your Maldives experience to be one of utter, uninterrupted tranquility or do you fancy having the option of taking a jet ski out for a spin should you feel like it?
For many visitors, the number one reason they're in the Maldives is for the snorkeling and diving. The underwater scenery of the islands is unparalleled and on many islands all you need to do is look over the edge of your overwater deck to see white and black tip reef sharks, turtles and manta rays.
Some resorts have spectacular house reefs where those so inclined could spend weeks exploring the world underneath the sea without getting bored. Some require a short boat trip to get to better areas for snorkeling and some are just more about the beach than coral reefs.
If you're planning on doing a two tank dive every morning, you're going to want to pick an island with a top house reef such as Park Hyatt Hadahaa, which is often said to have the most colouful and interesting coral formations in the Maldives (which would automatically make it a contender for the best worldwide). If you're planning on spending most of your time on the beach or by the pool and are just planning on the odd half hour of snorkeling, you may be better off looking at islands with a shallow lagoon and beaches with fluffy white sand. Or even better, a long sand bar like the one at Finolhu.
Once you've made decisions (and agreed on them with your travel partner!) about these considerations, you'll find that the field has been dramatically filtered and deciding on a resort will be far less intimidating.
Getting to the Maldives from Australia has never been easier! There are many easy, one-stop routings with both Asian and Middle Eastern airlines, such as Singapore Airlines and Emirates and during sales, return economy fares can be had for under $1000. You can get there for even less with no frills airlines like Scoot and Air Asia!