Lush, verdant islands. Squeaky, white sand beaches. Clear, warm water teeming with marine life. You know it, they know it, we all know it: the Maldives is heaven on Earth – a destination so idyllic it could be a figment of the imagination, made even more so by its collection of some of the world’s most luxurious – and expensive – resorts.
And as for those, there are a lot of them. And we mean a lot… somewhere to the tune of 130 island resorts, with another 23 under construction to cater for even more international hotel heavyweights such as Waldorf Astoria, Movenpick and Pullman, arriving in the Maldives in the next few years. Considering tourism in the Maldives only began in 1972 with a measly three hotels, that’s some serious growth, and a testament to the demand of this paradisiacal destination in the Indian Ocean that is almost certainly on every traveller’s bucket-list.
But despite this surge in development, just one-sixth of the country’s 1,190 islands are inhabited, meaning the destination remains relatively untouched, its aquamarine waters swarming with healthy reefs and a dazzling array of multicoloured fish, rays and sea turtles.
Formerly known as 'King's Island’, ‘the Maldives’ means ‘garland of islands’ in Dhivehi, the local language – a fitting way to describe the sparkling archipelago with its surreal landscape of indigo lagoons and soft white sands.
But when you arrive in Paradise, where do you stay? The Maldives is one of the few destinations in the world where every resort is considered ‘luxury’. But for the discerning traveller, those seeking an absolute, ultra-luxury hideaway, a handful stand out that embody the most luxurious thing of all – exclusivity and seclusion.
Here are five super-luxurious resorts that will potentially ruin all future resort experiences for you for the rest of your life (sorry!).
Velaa Private Island Resort
If you’ve always dreamed of staying on a private island, the Maldives has its fair share of luxurious private island resorts, but Velaa Private Island Resort is one that deserves consideration. A boutique hideaway, the resort was developed to embody the very best of the unique archipelago, and was designed with a goal of creating a beyond-luxury experience for its guests. At just under 20 hectares in size, around half a kilometre in either direction, it provides both exclusivity and privacy.
Located 187 kilometres north of Malé in the gorgeous Noonu Atoll, this private retreat’s name means ‘Turtle Island’ in the local language, a tribute to the countless generations of sea turtles that have flocked to its sandy shores to nest and hatch over the years, and you’ll find references to this throughout the property. Velaa Private Island also has a hatchery and conservation plan in place for its marine friends.
Like most Maldivian resorts, the Indian Ocean takes centre stage at Velaa, and the local environment is a huge consideration. Each of the 43 private retreats have been built using local materials, and combine contemporary appeal with cultural touches. Generous terraces and sultry gazebos are positioned to maximise shade, breeze, views and privacy, allowing for a 360-degree immersion in nature.
Guests can choose from private villas, houses or residences, with 18 of the 43 built overwater, fulfilling that overwater bungalow holiday dream of many aspirational travellers.
And of course, a Maldives holiday wouldn’t be complete without that ultra-luxurious Maldives staple – the butler – at Velaa, saved in your villa phone.
The WOW Factor
- Arriving at Velaa by seaplane, you’ll see the island’s over-water villas come into view and find that together they resemble the head of a turtle, with the island forming the body.
- The Romantic Pool Residence can can only be reached by boat, providing even more privacy and exclusivity.
Cheval Blanc Randheli
Another beauty in the Noonu Atoll is the ever-impressive Cheval Blanc Randhel. An exotic oasis, the Noonu Atoll includes a handful of unspoiled green islands protected from the ocean by a large coral reef. Imagine bendy palm trees, fragrant tropical flowers, paper-white sand banks, pristine turquoise water and fringing reef and you’re starting to get the picture – it's a place where your very own ultra-luxury Robinson Crusoe moment awaits.
Like Velaa, guests of Cheval Blanc Randheli have the island to themselves, and accommodation ranges from on-island to over-water and lagoon villas.
The Water Villas and Lagoon Villas offer the quintessential Maldives overwater bungalow experience, with the cocoons-on-stilts featuring stunning views over either the lagoon or the Indian Ocean from every angle.
Taking it up yet another luxury notch, the Garden Water Villas and Lagoon Garden Villas offer an unprecedented experience of the Maldives, perched on stilts and opening onto a lush private garden in the back. On the stilts side, an infinity pool and a pergola with a dining table, armchairs and loungers are positioned, with direct access to the crystal-clear water.
In a bid to continually bring the spectacular outside environment in, the design throughout the resort is modern yet traditional Maldivian, elegant and understated. The graphic, contemporary architecture is complemented by stylish interior design furnished with materials from the Indian Ocean and natural textures like rattan, bamboo, mother-of-pearl, coral and shagreen, all enhanced by vivid pops of colour.
The WOW Factor
- For even more seclusion, you can book Cheval Blanc Randheli Private Island – a four-bedroom villa sprawling across one hectare of dedicated island, accessible only from a private berth and jetty.
- The epitome of exclusive privacy, the private island villa has its own spa, an oversized 25-metre long outdoor pool, private pristine beaches and exotic gardens, while in the main house three light-filled successive reception rooms feature a grand piano, multiple sofas and lounges and a bar, the interior peppered with bespoke furniture and individual artworks.
One&Only Reethi Rah
North Malé Atoll
Another all-villa Maldivian beauty, One&Only Reethi Rah is a jewel on the necklace that is the soft sand islands of the North Malé Atoll. In the transparent water you’ll find over 2,000 species of fish found amidst incredible coral reefs, and the resort boasts six kilometres of private coastline including 12 pristine beaches, two separate swimming pools – one for adults, the other dedicated to children and families – and a 30-metre-long lap pool stretching into the lagoon.
Secluded Beach Villas are fringed by lush tropical greenery and their own stretch of sandy shore that provides direct views of the turquoise ocean and access to a private beach, while Water villas are strategically perched high above a turquoise lagoon providing true privacy, accessed by over-water walkways.
With no less than four restaurants, standouts include the aptly named BOTANICA restaurant with its field-to-fork cuisine served amid hundreds of blooms or under the canopy of an ancient Banyan tree, and contemporary Japanese restaurant Tapasake. There, expect innovative sake cocktails, top-notch sushi and sashimi and an unbeatable ambience, with four open-air Teppanyaki stations.
At cocktail o’clock, head to Fanditha bar – one of three bars at One&Only Reethi Rah and arguably the most romantic spot to watch the sun setting over the glistening ocean.
The WOW Factor
- If you’re going the whole hog, book the spectacular Grand Sunset Residence on the island’s largest stretch of private beach. Tucked away amidst tropical greenery at the end of a private road, the Grand Sunset Residence is the ultimate indulgence and a space that is nothing short of extravagant, with three ensuite bedrooms, lavish living and dining areas, and a private 50m² swimming pool surrounded by an elaborate terrace.
- Enjoy a tipple at Fanditha Bar with its sultry, boho-chic atmosphere. Think: plush divans and Arabian carpets-clad cabanas, exotic mezzes and refreshing tropical spirits.
- Choose a bottle from one of the two temperature-controlled walk-in wine cellars that house more than 500 labels and 4,000 bottles from the famed regions of California, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Australia and South Africa.
Kudadoo Maldives Private Island
Promising to be ‘the very best sort of escapism’ and a ‘refuge for the soul’, one of Kudadoo Maldives Private Island’s biggest drawcards is its all-encompassing AAA experience – a promise that anything is available, anytime, anywhere – to impress even the fussiest, most well-heeled travellers. Swim with manta rays, freedive with turtles, blue light snorkel, embark on a dolphin expedition at sunset, take a jet ski safari, or dive with sharks on underwater scooters – all of these activities and any other you can muster are included in the nightly tariff at this all-inclusive resort.
Like most Maldives resorts, Kudadoo is strongly committed to sustainability, and the island is 100% solar-powered. With architect Yuji Yamazaki at the helm of the island’s eco-design, Kudadoo utilises exclusively eco-conscious materials, including wood from sustainably managed forests in Canada, New Zealand and Indonesia, creating a luxury experience that treads lightly on the planet.
Just 15 oversized one- and two-bedroom overwater residences are on offer at Kudadoo, each with unobstructed ocean views, design that encourages guests to feel the elements of the Maldives, the crème-de-la-crème of sound systems in Bang & Olufsen, and Netflix and Spotify on command. Oh, and it’s adults only, so you’ll have to leave the kids with Grandma to enjoy this blissful escape.
The WOW Factor
- Dine on one of the countless memorable spots on or off the island with Kudadoo’s Unscripted Dining. Our pick? A romantic rendezvous on Dream Island – Ihaviyani atoll’s iconic sandbank located just a short ride away from the main island and a second private piece of paradise amidst the vastness of the Indian Ocean.
- Ever dined under the sea? You can at Kudadoo, at the world’s largest all-glass undersea restaurant that serves dinner with the fishes. Just minutes from guest residences, 5.8 Undersea Restaurant can also be booked in its entirety for private dining. For this unique experience you’ll need to fork out beyond the nightly tariff.
Four Seasons’ Maldives property is a private island resort located on the 44-acre island of Landaa Giraavaru in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – a 35-minute seaplane flight from Malé International Airport.
Our pick of the villas is the Sunset Two-Bedroom Water Suite, found at the far end of the resort’s water-villa jetty. This is where to stay for utter seclusion, with uninterrupted lagoon and sunset views on offer from every angle. Take a seat on the sprawling pool deck, the sea-gazing loft, in the dining and lounging areas, or just relax in bed with an azure panorama on display from dawn ‘til dusk.
Make sure you book in for a treatment or complimentary yoga at The Spa & Ayurvedic Retreat – a 10 pavilion, open-air spa spreading across 1.2 hectares of lush land that begins in the heart of the island and ends in the middle of the lagoon. Or better yet, go for the full Ayurvedic Retreat, embarking on a journey of physical and mental wellbeing rooted in an Indian healthcare tradition that has been practiced for over 5000 years.
When your appetite gets the best of you, head to the resort’s overwater Shish Bar for a cocktail, where curtained sofas and ornate lanterns set a romantic mood for the night ahead. Then head upstairs to the rooftop restaurant, Al Barakat, named for the North African scholar who made the Baa Atoll his home in the 12th century, for some Middle Eastern cuisine.
The WOW Factor
- Swim right along the shoreline in a 20-metre saltwater pool that appears to float near the Main Pool.
- Sip sundowners while lounging on comfortable cushions and listen to the beats coming from a live DJ at the resort’s floating Seabar – a spot that must be one of the most relaxed decks in the Maldives.
- For a whole new level of romantic seclusion, sail from Landaa’s Fuego shore out to a floating platform for a romantic, candlelit dinner served by boat in the middle of the sparkling lagoon.
- Book in for the Om Supti Night Spa Ritual, set in a private jungle clearing, where an outdoor bath and swinging bed set the scene for a mesmerising ritual designed to pave the way for deep, restful sleep.