A sunny Bank Holiday Weekend was an inspiration to invest a bit of time on Maldives Complete and revamp the Best of Maldives section a bit. With now over 300 distinctions, I’ve had to add yet another tabbed page (‘Service’) to hold them all. I split out sub-categories in a few areas like adding a ‘Sweets’ section for ‘Food’ and splitting ‘Drinks’ into ‘Soft’ and ‘Bar’. I added a new section called ‘Workplace’ distinctions since good management and workplace innovation are pet professional subjects of mine.
With more resorts with more distinctions than ever, it has never been harder to wade through the riches of choice to find the resort for your often once in a lifetime trip. The Sunday Times featured a piece a short while back on ‘How to Pick the Perfect Resort’, but it focused on skiing). I often get emails and other contacts from Maldives Complete fans looking for advice on choosing the best resort for them (there is no ‘best resort’, there is only ‘the best resort for you’). I thought I would document the steps I often go through to help them winnow down the selection…
- What’s your budget? – Don’t ever say ‘Money is no object’ in the Maldives unless you are a billionaire. This is the single most important question to ask to start with and will narrow your search significantly (resorts vary in cost from £1,000 per week to over £10,000).
- Large or small island? – Some people prefer the intimacy of a place barely larger than a plot of sand and palm tree. Others prefer more to explore and more infrastructure to support a broader range of options and activities (islands range in size from 5,000 square metres to to over 2 million)
- How important is off-beach snorkelling? – This is also known as the “House Reef” question. You can snorkel on any Maldives island. But real snorkelling afficionadoes eschew the limited fish and coral life of the sandy lagoons for the thrill of the ‘main event’…house reefs that plummet from the shallows into deep open water where large schools of fish and forests of variegated coral fill the wall between land and ocean. The most active and enthusiastic snorkelers will often insist on a great house reef. Those who just want to try a bit of great snorkelling are happy with going on a few snorkel safari excursions.
- Seaplane ride? – The resorts split roughly down the middle between (a) those that are a speed boat ride away from the main Male airport, or (b) those that require a seaplane transfer to a more remote atoll (81 out of 132 resorts are a seaplane ride away). The advantages of the the seaplane ride is that it opens up more resort options, but more importantly the trip can be an exhilarating experience in its own right. The birdseye view of the mottled blue tapestry of island, reef and ocean is almost like visiting another planet. The disadvantages of the seaplane include…
- Extra cost – Typically about $500 round trip.
- Extra time and logistics for the transfer – Especially on the return leg where the resorts need to book lots of extra time into your transfer to make sure no weather delays have you miss your plane.
- Noise – You can’t even talk to your seat mate the small turbo props are so loud in the cabin (ear plugs are standard issue on all flights to reduce the irritation).
- Fear of flying – You pretty much had to get on a plane to arrive in the Maldives in the first place (unless you are on a cruise stop), but nervous flyers who can just about handle jet planes can find smaller planes a bit to unsettling.
- Children? – Some resorts actively cater for children. Other resorts (or sections of them like their water villas) actively discourage them (or a few even prohibit them).
- All Inclusive? – Some people prefer ‘all inclusive’ plans so they know what total costs they are on the hook for and don’t have to keep track of the extra charges that they are racking up. (38 out of 132 resorts offer all inclusive).
- Pool? – While the resorts are ostensibly surrounded by the world’s biggest swimming pool, an actual pool is often appealing to some for lounging, refreshing, exercising or playing. We often found that the children could only take so much irritation from the salt and sand of the beach and preferred spending a chunk of time at a more sanitised pool environment (86 out of 132 resorts have pools). [ADDENDUM October 2020] In my first post, this comment referred to a common area resort pool, but a decade later, pretty much every resort has a main pool so this is no longer a distinguishing feature. What is a distinguishing feature is whether you want your OWN private pool at your villa. This villa feature has skyrocketed in popularity to the point that fully half of all room categories now include a private pool.
- Any favourite activities? – The old myth (and mystique) about the Maldives is that there is nothing to do. Now with over 120 resorts, there is something for everyone and virtually every activity and pastime are catered for. If you have a particular interest or hobby like kite surfing, painting or cigar smoking, finding the resorts that offer these will get you right to a short list of places that will offer these special treats for you.
The answers to the first 6 questions typically will get you down to a manageable shortlist through the Maldives Complete Resort Finder. From there people use question 7 as a tie breaker or just surf the Maldives Complete Profile section to see which property most captures their fancy.
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Hope your well and you could help me find the right resort/island,
I want to book for my honeymoon, my budget is around £3000 including flights,
Looking for island which has jet ski, and fun activities, my partner is worried she will have nothing to do,lol
We are not interested in snorkeling, just a chill out holiday really,
We don’t mind seaplane or boat transfer, there will be no children, looking
for cheap island with water villa/bungalow,
Any help is appreciated.
Mo – Happy to help if I can. Where are you flying from?
A browser through the database indicates that 30 active resorts have jet skis so that won’t be difficult to find.
If your partner is concerned about “nothing to do”, tell her to glance at this page – http://maldivescomplete.com/maldivesv/Best%20Of/bestof2.aspx (and if there are any particular activities that strike her fancy, that will help to narrow down your search).
A little help required. Me and my spouse are travelling for our honeymoon (3N/4D stay). The resort guide was indeed helpful, and we were able to find one in our budget. Only constraint, each resort is charging exorbitant price for airport-resort transfer and back. Any suggestion so that these high prices can be avoided, I mean any alternative way to travel to the resort at cheaper prices?
Ankit – Apologies for the delay of response (I am actually travelling myself at the moment). It depends on the resort. Some of the medium distance resorts have the option of a seaplane transfer or a boat transfer (for example, you can get to Kuramathi by 20 minute seaplane or a 2 hour boat ride). Other resorts that are very far away (eg. South Ari, Haa Alifu) offer the cheaper alternative of a domestic flight. But if it is a resort that you can only get to by seaplane, the costs for the seaplane are always high. That’s just what it costs to fly these things. They are very expensive pieces of equipment and only carry a modest number of people across which to spread their costs.
My husband and I are planning to visit the Maldives again after visiting Mirihi last June. Can you recommend a resort has good house reef and lots of fishes?
Caroline – Probably the best way to get a short list is to go to the Finder section of Maldives complete and select “Resort”. Then you can filter on “House Reef” selecting “Distinctive” or “Very Good”.
Be aware that (a) “Distinctive” means that some aspect of the reef is amazing, but other aspects might not be so great, and (b) most of the house reefs have changed (for the worse) dramatically over the past year due to global warming (sea temperatures are record highs) exacerbated by El Nino as well as the COTS epidemic.
Hello. I am female traveling alone. I would like a suggestion for a place I can get to by boat that has great snorkling and possibly also a snorkeling trip near by as well. Not expensive where I can wear a swimsuit and possibly have a drink if I want. I will be there 3 to 4 days.
All resorts will have “snorkeling trip near by” to the best snorkeling spots in the area.
Depends on your definition of “great snorkeling”. For Maldives aficionados, that usually means a very accessible ‘house reef’ (one where you can get to in a minute from the beach) with lots of both coral and animal sea life. With the recent bout of warm seas (amplified by this year’s El Nino) and the COTS outbreaks, many reefs have been hit hard.
If you want to “get to by boat” (which makes a lot of sense for a short stay of “3 to 4 days”), then you are pretty much limited to North Male and South Male atolls.
I would look at the following…
– Kurumba: Not great coral on the house reef, but amazing animal life (sharks, turtles, rays, morays). Very diverse and lively place where a single person would be able to socialise and mix a bit. Not cheap as a 5-star property, but probably the best value 5 star in the Maldives – http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/2012/10/20/best-of-the-maldives-5-star-value-kurumba/
– Club Med Kani – Not great house reef at all, but plenty of fine snorkeling excursions to get your snorkeling fix. Some very good value villas. Definitely great ambiance for a single person – http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/2016/08/01/best-of-the-maldives-singles-club-med-kani/
Bruce – You indicate that most of the house reefs have changed dramatically (for the worse) the last year. We are planning a trip for March 2017 and I’m now concerned that given a great house reef with snorkeling is a must for my wife and I, the Maldives may not be the place to go…at least yet. Is the impact primarily to the coral or has the fish life also been impacted? We visited Biyadhoo in 2002 and found the house reef excellent. Wishing to go to a different island (and less dated), we are considering the following resorts: Vilamendhoo, Angaga, Angsana Ihru, Ellaidhoo and Eriyadu. Want easily accessible house reef with good snorkeling plus good dive center (will do some diving…but mostly snorkeling). For a treat, also looking at spending a few days at Mirihi or Kandolhu. Any suggestions on best islands (1 high end, 1 lower end)? Or should we wait another year or two? Thanks.
Jim – All of the resorts that you have listed have excellent house reefs. As you note, with the impact of warm oceans and COTS, it’s hard to know really which have been the most effected. I generally think that the Kaafu atolls (near Male) have been hit harder (but none of your islands are there). I’m also wondering if island closer to the open ocean (ie. edge of the atoll) might get colder water and fare better? Just speculation. Most of the best house reef islands are traditionally well inside the atoll where (a) they are protected more, and (b) where the topology of the islands tends towards the small, island “dots” which male the reef accessible and have a drop-off.
Bruce – Thanks for the input. Any other resorts that are in the price range of $300-$500/night that you’d recommend be on our short list (outstanding house reef + good dive center+nice beach)? Also, if we are looking at 2-4 days at a resort running around $800-$1000/night, with same criteria, any other suggestions? And does spending twice the money at these resorts actually give you twice the quality in accommodation and food? I don’t want to pay a bunch extra for amenities we’ll never use.
Thanks for this great site. I am having hard time choosing a place for me and my 6 friends. We want some place quiet with beaches and something to drink. Couple of us including me love everything related to water so snorkeling is a must. we’ll be staying for 2 nights and don’t want anything fancy. I would really appreciate if you could help me out
It depends on what you mean by “anything fancy”. As the post describes, the range of budget in the Maldives is quite extensive. ‘Not fancy’ could still be thousands of dollars a night. What’s you budget? You mentioned “having a hard time choosing”…do you have a short list?
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Hi Bruce! A Long post coming your way:
First, thank you for the comprehensive Maldives analysis on your site, it has been very helpful!
I am planning a 5-day holiday with my partner to the Maldives on January 2017 (10 year anniversary!)
Thanks to your site I have managed to reduce the huge list of options to 5 resorts that -barely- accommodate our budget 🙂 I could use your help to make a final decision!
Our top picks are: 1) Dusit Thani Maldives, 2) The Residence, 3) Velassaru, 4) Sun Aqua Vilu Reef and 5) Ayada Maldives.
We are in our late-twenties and looking specifically for a water villa with pool. Privacy within our villa is very important, i.e. we don’t want that neighbors can easily peek at us. Also we would like well maintained facilities, doesn’t have to be high-end luxury, but we wouldn’t like it to look outdated or show excessive wear. Any advice?
Also, I’m having a hard time deciding between all inclusive and breakfast only. With breakfast only, I’m scared about the price of everything else. How much can it cost on average per person per day to eat and maybe a couple of cocktails? With all inclusive, besides the added cost, I’m concerned about the quality/variety of what is actually included.
One last thing: we are a gay couple, we are aware of the country’s views on this matter, and although we are not into public displays of affection, do you think we can still receive discriminatory treatment for staying together on a villa and such? Will you still recommend Maldives?
Sorry for the long post and thanks again for the help!
Of those resorts in your short list, my favourite is Ayada. Primarily for its reef which is the best of your list (though all the reefs have suffered damage from warming seas). Dusit and Velassaru are superb properties as well.
I would recommend looking at the back area pictures of the rooms you are considering in the Maldives Complete Room Profiles to see if the privacy is what you are looking for. I think they have pretty decent dividers on the sides.
The best thing to do is to look at the menu for the dining and think about your eating and drinking habits. My wife and I have huge breakfasts, then a snack for lunch (or a pina colada!) and then a nice diner. As a result, we don’t consume a lot on our third meal and we don’t drink a huge amount so half-board tends to suit us. AI is really designed for people who eat and drink a lot. That said, it is also easier on the mind because it is more convenient and you are not constantly thinking about how much something costs.
Do not worry at all about being gay on a Maldives resort. I have many gay friends who have visited there regularly and have never experienced anything discriminatory. You will be fine.
I hope this helps.
Thank you, Bruce!!
I want to take my family on a four day trip to the Maldives I have a 12 and 15 year old boys! I really want to be in a fun resort preferably and overwater bungalow. I also have a budget of 400 a night the max can you help me please
Take a look at the following resorts which have the most value priced over-water villas – Cinnamon Dhonveli, Embudu, and OBLU by Atmosphere.
I would also give a look at Club Med Kani. Unfortunately, its over-water villas are a higher standard and are considerably more expensive and likely out of your budget. But the resort itself is full of activity and superb for a 12 and 15 year old (you will love it too).
Thanks for this great blog. I am having hard- time choosing a place for me and my wife. We want some place quiet with beaches and with lots of animals. As we ain’t masters in swimming water sports are no for us. we’ll be staying for 3 nights(2N beach bungalow and 1N water bungalow)budget restraint and just want to enjoy the peaceful beaches. I would really appreciate if you could help me out.
If you could help me out from the picks to take the final decision.
1.Club Raanhali: Very quiet, relatively convenient
2.Kurumba: Highest quality. Very good for weak swimmers as it is surrounded by shallow lagoon protected by seawalls. Least quiet as near Male – so you will get periodic sounds of airplanes taking off and landing at the nearby airport. Most convenient as just a few minutes from airport.
3.Veligandu – Least convenient. I don’t know much about it as I haven’t been to it.
Just starting my search. Looking for a water villa with excellent shore snorkeling/right from our deck…$1000 US dollars price…per night preferable. Can’t decide between boat or seaplane transfer…staying 10 nights…should we split between 2 locations? Good snorkeling is top priority. Thank you for directing us to some locations.
10 night split – Some people really like just getting into chill mode and once there not disrupting it all, but we found that after about a week, we were keen to explore a new reef, new resort, new menu, etc. It would be ideal if you could split your trip with a very nearby resort that would require just a short resort boat transfer. Transferring with a sea plane will eat up the better part of one day of your treasured holiday time.
SOUTH ARI – You could do something like Vakarufalhi and Lily Beach (they are right opposite each other and both have superb house reefs). You might be able to manage Athuruga and Thudufushi (not only nearby, but same ownership so very easy to manage a combo trip).
NORTH ARI – Halaveli, Kandolhu and Ellaidhoo are all nearby each other, all have great, accessible house reefs, Halaveli is a bit pricier, but Ellaidhoo is a bit more value range so it might balance out to something manageable.
First, thank you for putting together such a website. The information available is second to none.
My wife and I are thinking of heading to the Maldives in the first week of April, 01 – 08 April.
I’m looking for overwater accommodation, all inclusive package, with excellent snorkeling. I’m an experienced snorkeler and diver (but after an unfortunate accident I am now unable to dive) and my wife is of more moderate experience and skill level so I would be looking for a resort with excellent reef snorkeling as well as a drop off.
In terms of eating and drinking, we like to do both and preferably more premium drinks.
Budget would be around the AUD$1,500 (USD$1,100 – 1,200) per night but could go higher to USD$1,400 – 1,500 for the right resort.
Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated as neither of us have been to the Maldives previously.
AUD$1100-$1500 is essentially the 4 star. Any other criteria to help filter? Have you tried using the Room Type Finder, filtering for AI=Yes and WaterVilla=Yes and seeing what comes up?
Dear Bruce, Quick question: As a female solo traveler who doesn’t want to bump into too much honeymoon couple, where is the best island to hop in for about 5 nights? :).
I would love the opportunity to go surfing, any water sports activities, probably diving (depends on the current as I have equalizing challenges..), snorkeling and just do nothing.
Appreciate if you don’t mind to give an advice of course,
thank you so much!
The first resort that comes to mind is Club Med Kani. See my post here – http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/2016/08/01/best-of-the-maldives-singles-club-med-kani/. As the post says, they have tons of activities including surfing and are right next to one of the great dive sites in the Maldives (Lankan Point, a major manta feeding station). Also, the proximity to Male will reduce transfer time eating into your holiday time for the relatively shorter stay of 5 nights.
Hi Bruce, thank you very much for this very useful & informative blog. I am planning my husbands 63 years old birthday in June. since our flight arrives just before 9 PM, we wish to stay in a hotel that does not require a transfe by seaplane. My husband would love snorkelling/scuba-diving. All that I hope is unblocked Seaview & not noisy. After much research, it seems our choices are limited to (1) Baros -highest rating (2) Taj Exotica – lovely design with bath room overlooking the Seaview (3) One & The Only (4) Coco Island-with snorkelling & scuba-diving/fishing & dining on the Dhoni. Which one would you recommend? Grateful for your thoughts.
All four of those are excellent properties. Each of them has a completely different vibe and strengths. Baros and Cocoa have snorkeling from their beach, while Reethi and Taj require a short boat trip. Baros and Cocoa are tiny, while Taj and Reethi are quite a bit bigger. All will have virtually identical scuba diving. Reethi will be considerably more expensive while Taj will likely be the best value. Lots of small differences that entirely depend on your individual preferences.
When people have a shortlist, I often recommend that people read through my “Best of the Maldives” post and see which distinctions appeal to them most.
HI Bruce – thanks for your message on trip advisor. I am considering a water villa with a slide at Soneva Jani for a family of 4 but its coming just outside of our budget – can you recommend any other hotels that offer OW rooms with a slide around the £1,500-2,000 per night range?
The other “Soneva heritage” resorts (Gili Lankanfushi, Six Senses Laamu) also have water villa slides, but only on their biggest residences.
Centara Grand has a “slide-mobile” for water fun you can get from their water sports centre- http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/2016/08/30/best-of-the-maldives-water-slide-car-centara-grand/
i love your website!!
i have few questions that i would need your help in !!
1- i would like your recommendation on a 5 star hotel that have amazing white sands but also we can do snorkeling for hours
2- is it worth the money to spend on sunset villa ? or we go for a sunrise villa?
3- a lot of people are advising me to take the sea plane as the experience is amazing – what about the boat trip?
4- what are the activities that we can do in Maldives ? beside snorkeling , diving .. is it true we can do island jumping ?
5- i am not sure if there is an ideal resort , where the island is big enough , a lot of good activities and nice ambiance at nigh yet its an amazing site for snorkeling !!
Dee – Glad the site is useful to you.
1. Anantara Kihavah, Maafushivaru and Kandolhu comes to mind for the mixture of white sands and fine snorkeling.
2. Here’s the post on the differences. It really depends on whether you enjoy watching the sunset from your villa – http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/2015/10/23/how-much-does-a-sunset-cost/
3. The boat trip is just fine…but the seaplane ride is indeed *amazing* (but it’s also pricey).
4. The activities found in the Maldives are boundless (though each island only will offer a few select activities) – http://maldivescomplete.com/maldivesv/Best%20Of/bestof2.aspx. Resorts will often provide excursions to (a) uninhabited “picnic” islands, and (b) inhabited local islands. You can’t easily just visit another resort island (unless you break your trip into pieces staying for a bit at one and then moving to another).
5. There are plenty of big islands with lots of activities. The bigger the island, in general the snorkeling from shore is weaker (big islands tend to sit on the atoll edges on big plateaus, while small islands are intra-atoll dots with steep house reef drop offs). Take a look at Kuramathi and Kuredu who have quite sizeable islands with lots of activities and very good snorkeling.
Which of the three Fihalohi or Kandoma or Olhuveli better for a family of 2 + 2 (aged 13/17)? Water Villa and Snorkeling are key factors apart from the budget.
Krishna – I have only visited Kandooma (of the 3 you have listed) so it would be hard for me to compare them directly. Sorry.
Me and my friend will go to Maldives on 26 June till 1st July 2017.
We are still confused in which island should we stay? We are planning to stay on a budget guesthouse for 3 days then 1 night stay in over water villa. Do u have any recommendation? Some said we should go to Maafushi island cos it;s cheaper and all excursion activities offered at a super cheap price. Then we are looking for the cheapest over water villa with the cheapest transportation cost as well.
Thank you in advance.
I don’t really know much about the new guesthouse segment. I haven’t stayed in them and I haven’t researched them much. To save on transportation costs, you want to stay in the South Male (or maybe North Male) atoll. The cheapest water villas I know of in those atolls are at Embudu (it is a lovely little resort too…I stayed there last summer).
I am looking at a 4 star property and a water villa. i would like to see animal life of turtles, sharks and sting rays. Ideally would not like to take the plane as it increases cost.
can you please help, ill be very greatful.
Kanika – Turtles, sharks and sting rays are all among the most common creatures in the Maldives. I would look at a place like Olhuveli, Bandos or Embudu which are 4 star resort with lively and easily accessible house reefs within a speedboat transfer of Male.
Thanks so much for all of your helpful information. My fiancee and I will be going to the Maldives for the last week of September this year (so in less than 3 weeks….!). Our priority is scuba diving. We are looking to be as budget-conscious as possible (I do not want to pay over $250 per night), and really could care less about amenities, food, drinking, etc. All we want is the best diving possible for our stay. We’d like to be semi-close to Male to maximize our time (but preferably far enough to not hear planes). And we’d just like to be in the water as much as possible. Considering that we want to be budget-conscious and as much accessibility to the best reefs as possible, what resort do you recommend?
Lu – Your budget with limit you most of as there are very few resorts at $250 or less. Being close to Male (or at least in the North or South Male atolls will both reduce some time spent transferring, but also eliminate what can be an expensive charge for a seaplane transfer. Frankly, the *best* diving spots are scattered all over the north and south Male atolls. You will taking boat trips to get to them. There is no one cluster of superb dive spots that you can get a resort next to. I would look for deals at the value priced resorts like Olhuveli, Club Med Kani, Summer Island, Centara Ras Fushi, Cinnamon Dhonveli, Embudu, Rihiveli.
Compare Paradise island resort and Sun island resort in terms of ratting / fascilty/infrastructure /activity
Similarities: Large islands, not really a house reef (so you take a boat to snorkel spots), value-priced, older properties.
Differences: Sun Island – South Ari Atoll (which some claim is better diving, but at least has the potential to see nearby whale sharks), bird sanctuary, jungle restaurant, huge spa facility. Paradise Island – run by Italians which gives it a lively vibe, generous snacks set out in afternoon and evening, sporty (squash courts, golf driving into lagoon, beach tennis).
I am trying to book a holiday for myself and my daughter who loves snorkelling. The following hotels are within our budget Adaaran Select Hudhutsn Fushi and the Adaaran Select Meedhupparu what would be the best option for snorkelling. thanks.
Meedhupparu is much better for snorkeling. Hudhuranfushi is on an atoll-edge plateau which makes for difficult snorkeling on the outer atoll edge and in general the access is considerably further away from the beach. Meedhupparu is an inner atoll island so it is a round island with a house reef dropping off quite close to the beach edge.
Hi bruce! Question about the bioluminescent beach in maldives, is there a specific season where you can see them often? Planning to go this june with my family. For first times, would you suggest we stay in a resort that has a good reef or marine life? Or is there a resort that offers both? Thanks!
Ken – First and foremost, do not get your hopes up. I have been travelling to the Maldives for 20 years and I have never seen the bioluminescent beaches. They are a bit like the Northern Lights…a lot of things have to be in alignment. Also like the Northern Lights, you need a very dark night for the luminescence to be more visible (ie. New Moon). Remember, the photos that you have seen on the web have been enhanced with long exposure shots and a bit of Photoshop colour tuning magic. The other thing you need is lots of plankton (they are the things making the light). Plankton blooms vary by place and time. I’m not sure how predictable or seasonal they are. In short, I would choose your resort on considerations other than bioluminescence and then just stroll the beach every night in hopes that you are blessed with a sighting.
I definitely recommend “marine life” over “good reef” these days. The Maldives are still recovering from water temperatures of El Nino as well as the COTS problem a while back. As a result, the coral is not in its greatest glory even on the best reefs. Some reefs have been hit a bit less than others, but it is hard to confidently determine which ones those are (even Maldives experts don’t get to revisit dozens of reefs each year to get an updated check).
Your blog is so informative & helpful.
We will be there on July staying at the Maafushi….Ocean beach hotel for 6 nights.
Family of four (2 kids age 14 & 20)
We are planning to:
1) Full day Excursion to one of the Resort Island near Maafushi to experience the real luxury & beauty of Maldive resort.
2) Snorkeling…. hopefully with lots of varieties of fish and / or turtle.
Would highly appreciate for your guidance on which is the best place to choose.
Here’s some places from iCom Website:
Thank you very much !
Jimmy – Thanks for the kind words. Your choice of resort to visit from Maafushi will be entirely dependent on which nearby resort (if it’s not nearby you will struggle to get a boat transfer to take you) will allow daytrippers to visit. Most resorts to do allow people to visit from other islands. Maafushi is somewhat near Male and some of the resorts closer to Male do have a visitor protocol (you pay a day fee) mostly in response to demand from the cruise market which stops in Male. I would pull up a map of the Maldives resorts, see which 3-4 star ones are a 15 minute boat ride north of Maafushi (ie. closer to Male) and email them to see if they permit visitors from other islands.
Thanks for an excellent site! Really informative. Still hard to choose resort due to my large list of criteria 🙂
We are a family of 6 from Norway who love sports: surfing, snorkling, any water sport really. Our kids (not really kids anymore) are 15 to 23, so we do not want to go to a island for families with very young kids.
We are going in July, and I am trying to find a resort that has lots of fun for us, a good house reef and which the opportunities to go surfing for a day. It has to offer all inclusive: my boys are tall, hungry Norwegians 🙂
Not so close to Male so that we hear airplanes /noise/see lights, but not more than an hour away (boat/plane) . Not to crowded. Not the tinyest island, but something you could do a little walk on. Water villas.
Lots of criteria I am trying to cram in, as you see. Any suggestions?
1. Surfing – Surfing is a good criteria because it trims the list down to 19 resorts.
2. AI – Of these 7 offer all-inclusive:
Adaaran Hudhuran Fushi
Centara Ras Fushi
Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa
Club Med Kani
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru
Of these, Centara Ras Fushi has the best traditional “drop off” house reef, but Hakuraa Huraa has a stunning coral garden lagoon. In general, great surf resorts are on the outer edges of the atoll on long plateaus which do not lend themselves to great house reef snorkeling (you certainly don’t want to be snorkeling on the rough, surf side). But that’s fine because you can take short jaunts to great nearby reefs for snorkeling with snorkeling excursions the resorts lay on daily.
I don’t know what your budget is, but Landaa Giravaaru is nearly twice the price of the others.
Kani is a very “family” oriented resort and there are indeed a good number of small children, but there are lots of honeymooners and adults and we have never felt that the children we that significant. An outstanding buffet.
I would do some checking out of the websites and pricing of the short list and see what appeals to you.
Thank you for your help! I’ll look into these right away.
One last question: if one would stay at a resort close to a surf resort, but with a better reef for snorkling, is it possible to go to a surf resort for the day?
Thank you so much for all the information! I’m trying to narrow down between Vilamendhoo or Komandoo for 10 days in July. They are very similar in price for the overwater villa but both look to be a bit dated? Our main objective is to snorkel right off the beach, relax and eat yummy food & drink! Can you recommend one over the other or make another suggestion?
I appreciate your time and valuable input!!!
Vilamendhoo and Komandoo are both super resorts with excellent and very accessible house reefs. In order to “snorkel right off the beach, relax and eat yummy food & drink”, you are really splitting hairs. I always recommend that when you get a short list this tight in comparison all you can do is browse their websites, browse their Best Of the Maldives pieces (http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/tag/vilamendhoo/ , http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/tag/komandoo/ ), and browse their TripAdvisor reviews (remember to take the bad ones and the ecstatic ones with a grain of salt) and just get a FEEL for each property. At this point, you are really down to subtle and subjective distinctions. By the way, there is no wrong answer which ever one you choose.
Dear Bruce: We love and deeply appreciate the helpfulness website u put together. Me and my fiancee are planning a liveaboard diving trip to the maldives and plan to stay 3 nights at a 1000ish usd/night, 4~5 star resort before the dive trip. We’d like to do some prewedding photos with a tripod ourselves as well as try our hand at underwater freedive with white dress shoots with my camera in a dive housing (and me in scuba gear) so would like to find a resort with easy access to Male but quiet, snorkel depth 3~10 meter depth with easy access preferably right off the villa deck, and great sunset/land backdrop for photo shoot. Any input would be great!!!!
Wayne – Thanks for the kind words. The resort that comes to mind is Coco Bodu Hithi (in price range, in Male atolls, good reef for shooting, no seawalls for vista, inner atoll for reef and calm water).
Thank you for your prompt reply!!! We checked out Coco Bodu Hithi and think it would b great for above water and under water photo shoots~ If we may pick ur brains a bit more, what resort would come to mind if we had 2x our previous budget to burn :)?
The resorts in the Male area at that price point with a good/accessible house reef would include Huvafenfushi, Four Seasons Kuda Hura, and Cocoa Island. Also, in that price range, I find Velassaru especially photogenic both on the island and the expansive lagoon surrounding it, but it doesn’t really have a house “reef” per se (just sandy lagoon with coral croppings).
Awesome!! Thanks for ur insta feedback~~
We just happened upon your blog and have learned so much already! We just booked air for our first Maldives holiday, but USA agents are not too familiar with it.
We arrive on 10 April 2019 for 7 nights.
Our top priorities are: 1) Excellent house reef for snorkeling & diving, 2) Premium all-Inclusive with quality drinks & diverse dining, 3) A pool & good socializing.
Our optional Wish List includes… 4) Whale sharks, 5) undersea restaurant access, 6) Tennis 7) Fishing
The resorts we’re looking at so far are: Kuramathi, Lily Beach & Centara Grand.
We would appreciate your personal feedback on them and/or other resort recommendations. Please also advise pricing for said resorts. Cheers!
None of those resorts will give you “undersea restaurant access” and only Lily Beach will give you a chance to see whale sharks. It is pretty easy to find premium AI, pool, tennis and fishing. If you want accessible house reef, undersea restaurant and whale sharks, you are really pointing directly at Conrad Rangali. I don’t have direct access to pricing, but most website publish their rack rates on their websites.
I am planning a trip from NYC to the Maldives in early Feb, 2019 for 7 or 8 nights. I would say my 2 most important considerations would be quality house reef…one either not as damaged from the El Niño a few years ago or one making nice comeback…and cost. I know all quality Maldives resorts (and I do want quality) are not cheap. Just trying to keep it within reason…750 or under per night for 2 including meals…500-600 would be even better. Other considerations would be water skiing with calm water and tennis. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
In reading your other responses, I see that you recommend coming up with your own short list which I did. I decided i also wanted an otw bungalow or villa while still staying close to budget. I came up with three so far: Vilamendhoo, Kuredu, and Meeru. I love Meeru for having so many activities on both land and water, but I think there may not be much of a house reef so at this point i’m leaning towards the other 2. I would love to hear your opinion or any other suggestions that fit my criterion. Reading through this page was quite an education in itself! I appreciate all the time and effort you’ve put in to help others like me.
Randy – Apologies for the delay of response. I’ve been quite busy planning my own tour of the islands (I am there now, at Makunudu).
Unfortunately, it is very hard to confirm which house reefs are least damaged by El Nino and COTS or which are making the best comebacks. My knowledge of the Maldives goes back two decades, but all of those house reef snorkels are obsolete past the recent few years now. Lots of discussion on the forums about places where the coral is stronger, but no real consensus that I can determine. Some sense that the southernmost atoll (ie. Seenu or Addu) has fared okay, but I can’t vouch for it. Plus, Addu doesn’t have any resorts with the classic drop-off of an intra-atoll island (all the resorts are on the edge of the atoll).
Your budget is on the value 5-star or good 4+ star range for which there is lots of choice. Of your short list, Vilamendhoo has the best house reef. They also have a tennis court and water skiing.
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! I found your blog on Tripadvisor and I am reading everything, it’s amazing!
Could you help me please with a recommendation for a resort? I am travelling for the first time to Maldives this August (we still haven’t booked). We are a couple (late 20s and early 30s) and we are looking for a resort that is not too big, crowded or with lots of kids. We would love to snorkel either there or with tours.
Thanks for your help!
What’s your budget?
Hey Bruce, we are a couple in mid twenties. we are headed to maldives on the 1st November for a 4 nights trip. We are looking for a combination where we could stay at a decently prices beach bungalow for 3 nights and 1 night exoerince the water villa at a different resort but nearby to the first one. We are on our babymoon hence dont want to diive but snirkelling with some fun activities indoors and a romantic spot would be preferred. For the 3n stay our budget is about 250 USD a night and for the water villa stay at a good resort we could extend the budget upto 400- 500 US. Can you suggest.
Hershey – 250 USA per night is extremely low for the Maldives. For starters, I would stay in the Male atoll (North and South) to (a) avoid the expensive seaplane transfer, and (b) avoid the extra time a seaplane transfer usually takes since your stay is relatively short. There are some very good value priced resorts in the Male area – Makunudu, Summer Island, Centara Ras Fushi, Olhuveli, Embudu.
All of those will be a pushing your budget (you didn’t specify if the budget was just for the room or room and board or room and board and everything else like drinks, activities, etc). Different resorts and different operators often have deals, offers and specials if they have a bit of excess inventory. I would recommend shopping around asking about those resorts and see if any come up with a bargain that fits your price bracket.
My husband and I are looking to visit the Maldives for 10 nights Jan/Feb 2019 for our Honeymoon. We have a budget of £4000 (to also include flights and spending money) and are currently trying to figure out which island to stay on and the best accommodation for us. We love sea activities but also want it to be peaceful and romantic. Please can you help us in our search?
That’s a fairly tall order. Flights from the UK that time of year (with taxes, transfers, incidentals) are going to eat up about £1000 for each of you leaving £2000 total for the two of you for 10 nights (£200 per night). February is (a) the highest season (most expensive and busiest), and (b) it is only a couple months away (people often book the Maldives up to a year in advance). As a result, recommendations don’t really matter. What matters is whether there is *any* rooms available for that price left.
OBLU Select is a very attractively priced brand new resort and they might have a slot in February for you. Malahini Kuda Bandos is delightful and probably just comes in your budget. Maybe even Meedhupparu (but I haven’t stayed there so I don’t really know much about it).
HI Bruce ,
This is Saumit From India,
First of all thanks a lot for the blog and sharing your knowledge and insight here,this is indeed helpful,
I don’t want to waste time and money on seaplanes and islands far away from the International Airport.
So after reading your blog and what people have discussed above,i think i would like to visit either BANDOS OR EMBUDU, Both the properties look good for me, What i want to ask is what would be the charges for Water sports activities like Scuba or snorkelling or night fishing as they mention ( if you can give me a generic idea about this ) Also i would like to ask if all the resorts charge any extra fees amount for the usage of the facilities like Spa and Gym or Lawn Tennis and Table tennis @ the club house at the Bandos for that matter…?
Saumit – Most resort provide use of gym, tennis and table tennis and unmotorised water sports like paddleboarding or kayaking for free. I don’t recall the details for Bandos and Embudu. Scuba, spa, night fishing and motorised sports will definitely be charged. I would email the resort and ask for the latest prices.
Could you please recommend which island to stay at for a romantic couple getaway?
Travelling end of February for 5-7 night stay.
Accommodation: either 1. (all inclusive) resort, 2. water bungalow or ocean villa (no children permitted)
Budget: US$300-$400 / night.
From airport: prefer speed boat transfer.
Activity: laying horizontal as much as possible + novice snorkel + good food
Population: semi-private + some night life is okay
Thank you, Antigua
Of the adult-only resorts (http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/2015/11/23/best-resorts-for-adults/) a speedboat ride away there are only the following resorts…
Finolhu Villas – No under 18s
Anantara Dhigu – No under 18s (though under 18s from Naladhu and Veli welcome at times)
Centara Ras Fushi – no under 12s
Baros – No under 8s
All offer All Inclusive, but I suspect that only Centara Ras Fushi will meet your budget. They do have some night life and they are all ocean villas.
Hi Bruce ,
We are a family of 4 travelling to Maldives first week of April. This will be our first visit to Maldives .My husband and my sons ( 19 years and 15 years) are marine aquarium hobbyists and my sons want to take scuba diving lessons. After reading through your blog and keeping our budget ( since we want to take two water villas / bungalows) in mind we were thinking of Vilamendhoo . But the question in our mind is along with a good house reef and marine life will it also be a spot for colourful corals. Please advise us on same .If in your opinion we could get to see better colourful corals and diverse marine life in any other atoll / resort please advise .. accordingly we could cross our budget to a certain extent..
Vilamendoo has an excellent house reef. Probably in the top ten for the Maldives. Be aware that warming ocean temperatures, El Nino and COTS has had a huge impact on the amount of “colourful corals” across the entire destination. The “marine life” of fish and other animals (eg. turtles) is still very vibrant.
I highly recommend doing the classroom portion of the scuba diving course (PADI) somewhere at home. It will be cheaper and you won’t be spending a chunk of your holiday sitting in a classroom, Courses allow you to just take the classroom bit somewhere and then go on your certification dives somewhere else. Maldives is a great place to do your certification dives.
Hi Bruce ,
Our family , 2 adults and 1 teen (12). would like to go to Maldives in the coming August. We plan to spend 5 days 4 nights in the resort. This is our first time travel to Maldives, so we have high expectation for the trip, especially to explore the underwater live.
I have looked at quite a number of the resorts and read the reviews as well, and it is really difficult to come up with an decision.
Here are our wish list:
1. Stay on the Water Villa with direct access to the sea / house reef
2. The resort with great snorkeling enviornment and good house reef (with many different kinds of sea creatures)
3. Prefer All inlusive plan / full board, at least half board
4. Budget within USD4000-5000 (including all the expenses, any extra spending, such as join 1-2 excursions)
Besides, our departure flight back home, will be late 21:00. So we prefer a resort that can allow us to stay late on the last day. As I have read some reviews stating that some resort asked the visitors to leave early, due to the schedule of the transfer, and they had to wait in the airport for 5-7 hours. If in this aspect, can I still consider resort which requires seaplane, or domestic flight transfer?
Some of the choices includes: Oblu Select, Centara Grand, Vakarufalhi , Mirihi, Amari, Outrigger, Carpe Diem….
Which one are the best? Most valuable? or any other suggestions. If it is hard to tell the best, please at least let me know which one is not a good choice. I do like Vilamendoo, however its villa not allowed child aged 12.
Really appreciated if you can give me some advice. Thanks in advance.
Best regards, Alice
I only have visited Vakarufalhi and Mirihi. Both are reknowned for their great house reefs that are very easy to access. Both are also in the South Ari atoll so you have the possibility of trying to go see whale sharks which is amazing. I’ve not been to Carpe Diem, but it is one of the most impressive new entries in the affordable luxury class so I would check that out seriously as well.
Thanks a lot!
Mirihi is very good, just it’s excursions are very costly. Their whale shark excursion is more than USD200 per person.
If you have more information of Carpe Diem , pls do share , would like to know their house reef condition 😊.
I don’t have much more info on Carpe Diem. Best to check their website and some of the early TA reviews. Whale Sharks trips are all costly, but it is a once in a life time experience (but there is no guarantee to see a whale shark either).
Celebrating a 50th and 18th birthdays of twins . teenagers want some fun with snorkelling water sports . we want relaxing . not too big a resort would like luxurious . budget around £1000pp per day incl food
house reef good food several restaurants
not too boring
Sorry for the delay of the response (been travelling). I would look at Olhuveli or Kurumba (if you don’t mind being near Male).
I am hoping to get some advice. I would like to find a resort that has:
– access by boat
– overwater bungalows
– accommodation for 2 adults, 2 kids (my two teenagers are male + female and would prefer not to share a bed)
Thank you in advance
Mel – Your criteria are wide open and a couple dozen resorts would match what you have listed. The most important consideration is price. What is your budget? Any other criteria?
Absolutately amazing work you have here! Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and time. You’re definitely a top Maldives expert and I hope the country appreciates all you’re doing for that bit of Paradise.
I’ve spent a few hours going thru your site, including blog posts, comments sections and the filter page.
It’s great and miles ahead of anything we can find elsewhere.
We’ve used your filter and I appreciate your database has most of the information needed to short list a few.
However, I decided to ask for your opinion, as this comments section clearly shows how valuable your insights and qualitative opinions are.
We’re looking for a week in Dec 2019 just for the 2 of us – no kids.
For a budget around 450-600 / night (full board as minimum and excluding flights; I believe this makes the question “easier” to answer), trying to find recomended hotels considering the following aspects that are more relevant to us:
– overall environment – modern, not dated, stylish decors, “not too big, not too small”, luxury feel would be nice
– guest population – we’re not on honeymoon, but the spirit is the same; mostly adults would be a good choice; we’re not focused on “pool socialization” so this is basically to get a quiet and civilized place 😉
– snorkeling and overall water activities – we’re very keen of bringing great memories, so a great house reef would be a must (I’ve seen and appreciate your comments about global warming impact on coral; hopefylly marine life can make up for this)
– transfer time – the shorter the better; domestic flights are like to extend the trip for a few more hours
– restaurants – resort buffets tend to be boring so would be good to have 2/3 alternatives
– water villa and/or pool are not a must – we’ll go for it only if fits in our budget
Would you be able to share 3/4 options that I’m sure quickly come to your mind?
Many thanks for your help and congratulations for this amazing work! We’re learning a lot!
Bruno & Marta
Bruno & Marta –
Thank you for the kind words. I’ll do my best to help as always. Here are some thoughts…
– budget around 450-600 / night (full board as minimum) – In the peak season of December this is more on the value end of the spectrum.
– overall environment – modern, not dated, stylish decors, “not too big, not too small”, luxury feel would be nice: Most of the new properties will tick this box and there are lots of new properties (opened in the past 5 years).
– guest population – we’re not on honeymoon, but the spirit is the same; mostly adults would be a good choice; we’re not focused on “pool socialization” so this is basically to get a quiet and civilized place 😉 – Nearly all resorts are quite quiet, so might use this as a tie breaker.
– snorkeling and overall water activities – we’re very keen of bringing great memories, so a great house reef would be a must (I’ve seen and appreciate your comments about global warming impact on coral; hopefylly marine life can make up for this) – Since all house reefs are pretty equally affected I will direct you to resorts with traditionally fine house reefs.
– transfer time – the shorter the better; domestic flights are like to extend the trip for a few more hours
– restaurants – resort buffets tend to be boring so would be good to have 2/3 alternatives – Your budget is on the value end and usually these properties are primarily buffets (with premium resorts featuring multiple eateries).
Some of my immediate thoughts…
Kandolhu – Not quite in your budget.
Gangehi – Only one a la carte restaurant (in addition to buffet)
Centara Ras Fushi – Ticks all the boxes (including chance to stay in water villa), but the location near Male puts a lot of people off).
Anantara Dhigu – Not great house reef.
Cocoon – Not great house reef. Seaplane transfer.
Kandima – Not great house reef. Seaplane transfer.
Many thanks Bruce.
Your help and dedication is second to none.
I’ll let you know what we decide. I’m learning we may need to stretch our budget further 😉
Maldives is really complex for newbies, considering all the variables! I’m valuing your work more and more each minute I spend researching.
So, following your reply, we ended up with an obvious conclusion: our budget needs to go up. 🙂
After days of research, we came up with the following short list:
Coco Bodu Hithi
Would be keen to get your view, considering your experience with (at least some of) these.
2 parallel questions, should you have an opinion:
– some transfers add quite a lot to the overall cost. I’ve seen https://www.atolltransfer.com/ mentioned in several places as a good site to use for transfers. Have you used it and/or have any feedback?
– I’m getting quotes from maldivesoffer.com. They’re generally good (compared to buying in the UK) but I have mixed feelings about them. Do you by chance have any experience and/or feedback on them?
As always, many thanks! we’re almost there and your help is precious!
Bruno & Marta
Thanks for the kind words.
Your short list is a brilliant selection of simply superb properties. I would put Kihavah and Hurawalhi in the top class. Kandolhu doesn’t have as much to offer because it is so tiny, but it is so perfectly formed and so iconically diminutive, it is one of my all time favourites. I would then put Kuramathi and Coco Bodu Hithi…both great resorts who biggest advantage is that I suspect that they would be considerably cheaper in price.
Your resort will sort out your transfers. The cost of those transfers will be a lot, but you really don’t have much choice. The way the system works is that the resorts arrange the guests’ transfers. AtollTransfer.com is really for transfer to NON-RESORT destinations from Male.
I’ve never heard of MaldivesOffer.com. I know most parts of the Maldives travel industry after 20+ years of visiting so if I haven’t heard of them, I would tread carefully. Make sure you have a testimonial from someone you trust. This TripAdvisor thread on the Maldives Forum makes them seem ok – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g293953-i7445-k11148743-o10-Need_recomendation_is_maldivesoffer_com_is_genuine-Maldives.html .
Bruce, can’t thank you enough.
I wonder when will Maldives name an island after you!
We are looking to return to the Maldives after 15 years. We will be visiting as a family this time, with children aged 8yrs/11yrs and would like to book a hotel which will cater best for our needs. Our children are not children that want to attend a ‘kids club’ and so as long as the island doesn’t exclude children, this won’t be an issue. Our musts are: good snorkelling, accommodation with space (either 2 bedrooms or a slide door to partition) and if possible a small pool?! Water sports are also important, as we enjoy kayaking etc. We would also rather if on AI, that we have a set menu in the a la carte restaurants and are able to order a bottle of wine. We have been considering the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi but it doesn’t tick all of the boxes…maybe it’s not possible??! We would really value any suggestions you could give to help us find the right place to stay.
Thanks so much
What’s your budget? I don’t understand your comment “We would also rather if on AI, that we have a set menu in the a la carte restaurants and are able to order a bottle of wine”? Can you clarify what you mean by your meal plan requirement? Which boxes does Irufushi not tick? Thanks.
Hi, so our budget with flights is around £12,000.
All Incl doesn’t always mean that you can order a bottle of wine, but usually means you have glasses of wine instead of a bottle – in our experience this doesn’t mean the wine is at it’s best. We are only considering All Inclusive, as it seems almost impossible to find a resort that does not offer AI – usually a buffet style dinner. We would rather a three course meal. Some of these things are not ticked by Iru Fushi (but it looks lovely – don’t get me wrong!!), plus i’m not sure whether the snorkelling could be better elsewhere, as this is important. Does this make sense? We don’t usually spend this much on a summer holiday, so want it to be right.
I’m going to assume that your flights will be £1000/person so that is a resort budget of £2000 per person. How many days are you going for? Which of those things are no ticked off by Irufushi? Yes, Irufushi doesn’t have the best house reef. Bruce
Came across your website while going through the arduous search for the right resort based on our travel period and budget and would love your thoughts on possible options.
Details of travel as below:
Number of persons – 2
Dates – 19-24 Dec
Budget – around USD 4K total for stay period maximum(inclusive of airport transfers)
Looking for – Good to great house reef, Good activities in and out of resort, All-inclusive package with good food options, well-maintained room and resort facilities, Overwater villas, Great service
Some shortlist thus far:
Value category – Meeru Island (No house reef after some reads), Kandima, Komandoo
Luxury category – Hurawalhi, Anantara Kihavah
If you can get Hurawalhi or Anantara Kihavah for your budget, I would jump at it. Kandima (not the most accessible house reef) and Komandoo are also outstanding resort (and more likely to be in your budget range).
What s your opinion on Atmosphere resort?
I ll be traveling with my children.
I haven’t been to Atmosphere at Kanifushi or OZEN so I don’t have any insights on them.
Planning to visit maldives for honeymoon from 3rd to 8th Dec (6 days)
No of people-2
Budget around-4k usd including flights
Planning to stay in superior beach bungalows in resort with good facilities
Any suggestion for that
And should i go all inclusive, half board or full board.
We tend to go Half Board. We don’t drink much (just a pina colada…or two at sunset and maybe Lori will have a glass of wine with dinner) so AI doesn’t make much sense. We also find that with Full Board we just eat too much. The breakfast buffets are so lavish that we just stuff ourselves. When lunchtime rolls around, we are just not hungry. If we are a bit peckish, you can take the money you saved going Half Board and buy something light a la carte. Half board is also a useful strategy to prevent excessive holiday weight gain.
I don’t know where you are coming from so I don’t know your flight costs, but let’s assume around $500 per person so you have $3000 for 6 day or $500 per day. That’s going to be roughly $300 per night for lodging and $100 per person per day for food, etc. I would look at Thulhagiri that we visited last month. Very impressive resort that you might be able to get for that price. Others you might be able to get would be Summer Island and Embudu.
Hi Bruce, we’re staying in the Maldives for 6 nights at the end if February next year. We’ve provisionally booked the Vilamendhoo Island Resort but would be grateful for your advice on other options in a similar or cheaper price bracket. Our preference is to stay somewhere with off the beach access to a house reef with variety of marine life.
The website is extremely useful many thanks for the time and effort you have invested in it.
Sam – Vilamendhoo is a great resort, very good value for money and renowned for an extremely good house reef in the South Ari atoll. Trying to think of similar standard resorts (both on the island and the house reef) that might be a bit cheaper. Maybe Olhuveli (though reef not quite as good and access is by jetty), or maybe Kudafushi, or maybe Vakarufalhi (again, jetty access).
Bruce, many thanks for the suggestions.
I am so pleased to find your blog after searching for suitable resort to stay in Maldives for a while.
We are family of 4 with 2 teenagers aged 14 and 17. Our search criteria are:
1. Colourful house reef and marine lives within easy access
2. Option for overwater villa
3. Not too touristy
We have set our eyes on Vakkaru Maldives and Dust Thani Maldives on Baa Atoll and Reethi Faru Resort on Raa Atoll.
Could you please give me some insight of these resorts if you are familiar with them? or could you please suggest some other great resorts matching our criteria?
We are going at the end of next May. Our budget is under $8000 including flight(from Dubai), half board, transfer and other fees. Thank you.
I haven’t stayed at Vakkaru, but I understand that it is a very high standard. Dusit Thani is a 5-star while Reethi Faru is a 4+ star so the facilities at Dusit are cut above (you must be getting a good deal). Dusit Thani and Reethi Faru both have comparable house reefs in terms of marine life, accessibility and topology, but don’t get too excited about colourful coral which is still quite low on house reefs across the Maldives.
Thank you so much for your insight. You are right. Vakkaru is over our budget, but it looks stunning on the photos (need to put up a strong case to convince the hubby to dig deeper :-))
One last question please. Seaplane or domestic flight? Is it worth paying $500 more for all 4 of us to take seaplane and save half an hour journey each way?
Is it $500 more (a) in total, or per person? Either way, it’s totally subjective. The seaplane is a really unique experience. Both flying in one and flying low to get the treat of an aerial the seascape below. The domestic flights don’t really fly that much higher so you get lovely views with them as well. So totally depends of how much the “experience” of the seaplane journey is worth to you.
Thank you so much for the advice. 🙂
First I would like to thank you for providing such informative website on Maldives.
Myself and my husband are planning a trip to Maldives in March or April 2020.
Our main priority is that the resort should have a great house reef and one that
Doesn’t require a sea plane transfer.
We have narrowed it on Bandos.Can you please give your feedback on Bandos also
Can you suggest other resorts which have a great house reef and that don’t require
a sea plane transfer.
Thank you in Advance:)
We are also considering Vilamendhoo..which one do u suggest..Bandos or Vilamendhoo
Both Bandos and Vilamendoo have great house reefs (very accessible, great drop-offs, lots of marine life) though be aware that the coral side of things are still recovering in the Maldives at all resorts. Vilamendhoo is very much a big step above Bandos in terms of quality of the property. Vilamendhoo does require a seaplane transfer.
Hi Bruce, I wish I had come across your site sooner. Through weeks and weeks of research, my wife and I have narrowed it down to Cocoon, our decision was based on wanting to experience the seaplane, and one of the northern islands as we read less rain. We are aiming for April 10, 2020 through April 17, 2020. We liked that Cocoon as seen on google maps has a relatively large frontage of shallow water. Here comes my question, how is the current for the over water bungalows at this resort. On your resort map for Kuredu it stated strong currents, my wife is a good swimmer, i on the other hand not so good. I love kayaking and jetskis but prefer both in relatively shallow waters.
I don’t recall the current in front of the Cocoon beach villas having a particularly strong current (if any). Current is very dependent on conditions and the best thing to do is always just check with the dive center for their advice as they will check the current every day (what direction it is in, how strong it is). I’m not sure why you mentioned Kuredu?
Hi Bruce, Kuredu was one of our choices, in doing some reach online, some have said strong currents. When I came upon your site in your searchable database, I opened the large island map you have via a link, on that map it says strong current…
Many years ago I went to what was a wild and untouched Vilamendhoo. It was Ace.
I am looking to go to The Maldives with my wife and we are looking for an island with a good house reef for snorkelling, dive centre, cosy accommodation and good food.
Looking both at your resort finder and elsewhere the number one pick is…Vilamendhoo but I was kind of hoping to go somewhere different.
Filitheyo looks similar but the rooms don’t appear anywhere near as nice and it is more expensive and has no wifi which is difficult as we would want to keep in touch with our kids who will be staying with their Granny,
Elaiyadhoo Cinnamon also looks nice but has that horrible concrete wall around it.
Are we missing anywhere?
Also, is it better to book a package holiday with one of the major providers or arrange flights ourselves and book the hotel directly?
“Are we missing anywhere?” Hmmm…not totally sure what all your criteria is but it seems like a reasonably priced (eg. $500/night) 4+ star. All resorts will have “dive centre, cosy accommodation and good food” so you are really looking for the “good house reef for snorkeling”. Other resorts that have good house reefs in that sort of price band are Olhuveli, Kurumba (if you don’t mind being by Male), Vakarufalhi, Gangehi, Bathala.
Thank you very much Bruce.
Do you know much about Oblu Helengeli? Purely based on what I can see on the internet it looks good and appears to have a good house reef too but it is also near Male (is that a bad thing?)
Helengeli is no where near Male. About an hour’s boat ride away. There are resorts in other atolls that are closer to Male than Helengeli is. I wouldn’t worry about it being “near to Male”.
I don’t know anything about the reef, but looking at the aerial photos it has all the hallmarks of a good one (especially being in a channel to outside the atoll…though be careful of currents).
I was struggling through the choices of resorts once we decided to go to Maldives, then I stumble across your website. I wouldn’t even attempt to guess the amount of time and energy gone into develop the database and make it available for the benefit of all. This is absolutely amazing! Thank you for your time and passion.
This is probably be a silly question and may already explained somewhere in your website, but I have not been able to find the answer.
1.Could I request you to explain the rating for the House reef, drop off distance, snorkel spotting and lagoon coral? Does 1 mean better than 3?
2. As family ( with two young adult kids 18 & 20) very new to Snorkelling but got excited about it after having an opportunity to do it at Molokini, Hawaii couple of years ago, hence the plan to go to Maldives. In terms of drop off distance is it better to have a drop off close by or further away?
3. The dreaded weather question! We are planing to go in first week of July this year. In one of the blog elsewhere it was mentioned that South Atoll might have less chance of rain than North Atolls in July, is it true in your experience?
4. Finally, If I could trouble you with few suggestions for resorts with best snorkelling experience (house reef & variety of animals) in July 2020 with resort rating 4 or above and maximum cost around GBP 2000 pp (for 7 nights half board and transfer), I shall be grateful for your time.
Deb – Thanks for the kind words. No such thing as silly questions, especially about the Maldives.
1. “1” is best (1=distinctive, 2=very good, 3=problems, 4=no info)
2. Everyone prefers a near drop off – (a) less time and effort swimming out to the “main event” (the drop off), and (b) less disconcerting as opposed to being (seemingly) in the middle of the ocean even if waist deep sand is just metre away.
3. We have been going in July for the past 10 years. You can go through my Tour reports on the TripAdvisor Forum to see my specific weather reports. A “typical” July day is “scattered clouds with light ocean breeze and possibility of a rain cloud coming along, dumping rain for 15 minutes and then moving on”. I’ve never believed the hair-splitting notion that any atoll has discernibly more or less rainfall at ay particular time than any other atoll.
4. 2000 GBP pp for 7 nights (approx 300 GBP) per night is at the value end of the scale. You probably want to stay in the Male atolls to avoid the cost of a seaplane transfer (which would eat up nearly a quarter of your total budget). Resorts at the more budget end with good house reefs include Olhuveli, Thulhagiri, Kurumba (very close to Male and most luxurious but some great deals and tons of marine life on house reef), Rannalhi.
Thank you very much for your time and answer. This explains a lot and in terms of weather widenss up my choices.
One more request, if I push my budget to 400 pp per night can you please suggest few more resorts? Again house reef will be the top priority.
Frankly, I think you will need close to 400 pp/night for the list I have provided (I erred on the side of more expensive on the hopes that you might get a good deal or you might just stretch a bit more).
Thank you again for your reply.
I just wanted to say thank you for so much info. This is great.
Could i ask for some help in picking a resort?
Here are my answers to the questions above,
1. Budget about £6000-£7000
2. Size of island not thought about but are a family of 4 with children aged 9 & 10
3. Snorkling off beach highly important or at least good marine life for the children to see daily
4. Sea plane a must if possible for the added experience
6.pool be good to get off the beach for a hour or 2
7. All inclusive needed
8. Like sport activities and watersports bonus if included
Islands we have looked at were
Cocoon maldives (top of budget)
Olhuveli beach but have read snorkelling is poor And not sea plane
Meeru found to be cheapest
Adaaran select hudhuran was also reasonable
Someone mentioned sun aqua vilu reef but this was just over our budget
Any help greatly appreciated.
Richard – Apologies for the delay of response (busy week). Key question – How many days are you wanting to stay?
Your info is amazing. I have been researching the Maldives for weeks now and this helps so much.
My wife and I are 30 years old and have been wanting to get to the Maldives for quite some time now. We are planning a trip for next year February as we think this is a good time for perfect sunny weather. We are from Cape Town, South Africa and will be flying through Doha on Qatar Airways. We just cant seem to decide on the perfect resort to stay at. We would like all inclusive if possible but if not its also ok. We would like an over the water Bungalow and white sandy beaches with great sunsets with the little wind if possible. I think the biggest plus’s for us is the amazing light blue water and great views from our room.
Budget is around 25000 South African Rand a night (so roughly between 1400 to 1500 Dollars a night at most.)
Duration of stay will be for 7 nights.
We wont be doing any diving but we do enjoy a good snorkel.
We also enjoy going to the spa and love good food and drink.
We don’t mind travelling by seaplane but my wife is not a huge fan of flying, so if there are any great options you know of that are accessible by boat that is a plus. But we will take the seaplane if it means the resort standard will be a lot better.
I dont know much about these Resorts but some that have grabbed our eye briefly are Club Med Kani, Dusit Thani, Baros, Ayada, One and Only Reethi Rah, Anatara Kihavah and the residence at Dhingurah.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks so much for the help and have a great day.
Thanks for the kind words.
All of the resorts on your list are superb. I have stayed at all of them except Dhigurah.
Dhigurah and Ayada are a domestic transfer (jet) away, and Dusit and Kihavah are a seaplane transfer away.
Reethi Rah and Kani don’t really have house reefs, but do have lovely nearby reefs for snorkeling they take you to on excursions.
I’d be surprised if you could get Reethi Rah for your budget.
Out of that list, without regard to flying, I would take Kihavah (great standard, great island, great house reef, great underwater restaurant). If you want to to not fly (Reethi Rah, Baros, Kani), I am thinking Baros is probably your best option.
We are planing for a Maldives trip for our 10th anniversary. This will be our first time in Maldives.
Between Havafen Fushi, Naladhu and OZEN Reserve Bolifushi wich one do you recommend?
The reason I picked these resorts is they are close to Male and no need for a sea plane transfer.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks you in advance
I have visited all three of those resorts (well, I visited “Bolifushi” when it was just a 2 star dive resort and then I visited it when it was the full blown Jumeirah Vittaveli resort) and they are all great. They all have gourmet food, first class service, and stylish design. They all have distinctive features (check out the “Best Of” posts for each.
Your info is absolutely amazing and vast. I’d be really glad if you’d help me as well in picking up a resort. My requirements are :
1. 3 nights in a beach view room and next 3 in overwater villa with a pool
2. I’d prioritise the views from my room and decent snorkeling
3. It’d be honeymoon so I’d prefer rooms with decent privacy
4. Me and better half being vegetarian and non drinker, would you suggest me to go with the all inclusive package?
5. I’d love a romantic experience with seclusion and candle light dinner in seclusion with a good view.
6. Out of my wisdom, I’ve shortlisted Aayada, Baros, Ja Manafaru and Hurawalhi
With a short stay, I generally recommend staying in the North/South Male atoll to reduce the somewhat extra time in doing a transfer to another atoll. Of your shortlist, only Baros is in the Male area. It is a superb resort with very good snorkeling and good privacy in the beach villas.
I never really recommend the all-inclusive package unless you are a big drinker or you really have trouble controlling your spending during your stay.
Thank you so much for your advice. 😇
Really loving this blog and all the help you give everyone on the Tripadvisor forums.
I’m wondering if you can help me narrow down some resorts for me.
1) £15k budget for accommodation and transfers for 2 weeks. (Higher end of that if all inc, lower if not. I’m not a drinker so all inc doesn’t seem worth it.)
2) Small to medium sized island -just 2 of us so not a big kids club etc or party vibe too.
3) Ideally with a house reef
I’m a vegan so need somewhere that can cater to this well. I want to do a PADI when out there.
Seaplane or pool – I’m not fussed about either way.
Thanks in advance
Suhani – Thanks for the fine words. Especially with the current deals out there, £1000 per night will get you a very wide selection of solid 5-star properties. You are flexible on pool and location. Small to medium sized is most of the islands (large islands are rare). Only a few islands have a kids focus or a party vibe. All islands will cater strongly to vegan and PADI. So about the only thing that you have specified is a £1000/nt room with a house reef. That produces a short list of about 50 resorts. ANY?? other criteria I can use to winnow it down further?
Hmmm – It’s a 10 year anniversary so somewhere romantic. I also prefer a beach villa as opposed to a water villa. Somewhere with a gym. I’d also love really soft sand as opposed to grainy coral like sand. I love barefoot luxury as opposed to oppulent luxury.
Apart from that I can’t really think of anything else. I’ve been to Constance Moofushi and absolutely loved it, but would like to see if I can go somewhere even better.
So I’ve been researching more and I think I’d like to split my trip between 2 resorts in either Baa, Raa or Lhaviyani Atolls. Hopefully this will help narrow things down more.
Suhani – These two replies are helpful. Here’s the short list I would propose:
Hurawalhi – maybe a bit out of price range, but maybe coupled with cheaper resort.
Komandoo – sister resort to Hurawalhi so maybe a deal with the two together.
Amilla Fushi – very high end, but offering great deals
Kihavah – one of my favourites and might just fit in your budget. ticks all your boxes.
Reethi Beach – a bit less expensive option to maybe couple with one of the 2 above
Raa – tends to have very expensive resorts or lower end ones and only a few with good house reefs so not sure about a duo combo that would work for you.
This is really helpful.
I’m actually leaning towards AK for the first week (from the TA blogs I gathered its one of your favs, and so I chose it). I’ve read the rooms are old / tired- what are your thoughts?
I love the idea of Amila Fushi – esp the healthy superfood menus etc, but I can’t get past the eyesore of it. I’m guessing I’m a hut kind of person. With the deals – it fits into my budget- is it worth me revisiting it and not writing it off?
Alternatively Im thinking of Vakkaru, Heritance Arrah, Emerald. Would you say they are on par in terms of quality? There aren’t many info on these 3 in the TA blogs I’ve read.
(I did have a brief look at Huruwalhi and can prob just get into my budget, but I didn’t think the all inc option was actually that good for the money.)
Other resorts further away that I could pair with AK would be SSI or Ayada. But they are further away and would need seaplane transfers as opposed to speedboat. Would you say either of these resorts are worth the travel to?
AK – I haven’t seen it in recent years to assess how “old/tired” the rooms are. I suspect that it why it is now so affordable. If you go when they have a refurb, they will also likely jack up the prices out of your range. It really fits your brief to a tee – soft sand (top ten in this area), great house reef, underwater restaurant for romantic celebration. If the AI is not a great deal, go full board or even half board. I often find I is not worth the premium.
Amilla Fushi is a very modern design which is not to everyone’s liking. I would take a close look at it and make sure that it is not for you. It is an exceptional value for money and the new management are really transforming it.
I’ve not stayed at Vakkaru, Aarah or Emerald so I can’t comment on them from direct experience.
As long as you are in the same atoll, you will likely be able to get away with a speedboat transfer. If you are changing atolls, you nearly always have to take a seaplane transfer (which means flight to Male and then flight to next resort).
Thank you.When you say it really fits your brief to a T and then speak of all inc options – is this AK or Hurawalhi that you’re referring to?
Have you been to Ayada or SSI? How do they compare in terms of luxury / service to AK?
Sorry, yes, AK really fits your brief. But Hurawalhi does as well (GREAT underwater restaurant, excellent house reef, more fresh and new if that is a concern, lovely sand though I think AK is a touch softer).
I have been to Ayada but not Six Senses Laamu. Ayada is similar in luxury, but I would say that AK pips it. Ayada is great value (partly because you have to take a domestic flight to get there, but that’s not too much more effort really). No underwater restaurant. Excellent house reef. Great service.
Ok perfect, so AK defo for my first week. Between Hurawalhi, Vakkaru, Aarah and Emerald for the second.
Thank you so much for your help- really appreciate it 😃
Came across your website and its super helpful, thanks so much for sharing your experiences. We would really appreciate your advice.
My wife and I are planning our 10 year anniversary trip with our son (he is 6 years old)
We are looking to go in December for 5-7 nights, half board basis.
Our budget is no more 7500 GBP for hotel and transfers from Male. We are targeting 5* luxury hotels and we have shortlisted the following 5* resorts.
1)One & Only Reethi Raa (Have offered free upgrade from beach to water Villa)
3) COMO Malifushi
5) Anantara Kihavah
We are looking to stay in an over water villa in all of these properties but would like your advice on which would be best suited for us. We have a son who has has never been to the Maldives, (8 years ago we visited Shang ri La and loved it) . He is really excited about snorkeling and seeing the fishes, so we want somewhere where he will be able to see them a few steps away from our villa. We are novice snorkelers (I prefer to laze by days away) but son and wife are super excited about doing this.
I am assuming ‘Lagoon Villas have calmer waters so would be a better option for us in terms of safety for our son? Would he still see an array of fishes and sea life in a lagoon?
We also are looking for the best view in terms of tranquil, turquoise crystal clear waters from what I have researched, resorts that have this don’t tend to have a good coral reef or sea life close by? Does getting that crystal clear lagoon mean we will not see many fishes nearby/within close perimeter of our villa?
We are looking for the best of both worlds, tranquility and those beautiful turquoise waters whilst accommodating my sons dream of snorkeling in the water every morning and seeing a wonderful array of fishes.
I am aware that most if not all resorts offer a trip to a reef nearby but we want something within close vicinity of our villa. Would really appreciate if you can give us your experience of sea life around the villas for the aforementioned resorts.
For me service, food and the small touches are super important so would appreciate your input on that also.
Thank you so much in advance.
Here are a few thoughts on your short list…
1) One & Only Reethi Raa – Super high standard. Lots of stuff for a 6 year old. Lagoons.
2) Amilla – Management recently taken over by one of the very best GMs in the Maldives who is really introducing lots of special features to an already very high class property.
3) COMO Malifushi – Not stayed here so can’t comment.
4) Fairmont – Not stayed here so can’t comment.
5) Anantara Kihavah – Stunning resort with bonus of views from underwater restaurant and rooftop lounge.
6) Niyama – I would cross this off. Underwhelming and nothing great for kids.
“He is really excited about snorkeling and seeing the fishes,” – A 6year old will dazzle in seeing the simplest and most common fishes and EVERY resort will have an opportunity for this. A water villa will provide the extensive opportunity to just sit on your deck and watch the fish pass underneath.
“I am assuming ‘Lagoon Villas have calmer waters so would be a better option for us in terms of safety for our son?” There is not tons of difference in the calmness of the waters. Your son falling into even calm water is going to be risk (how far is the fall, how deep is the water, etc). If you choose a water villa, then you will simply have to keep a close eye on him (as you would if you were in a pool villa). Nearly all the problems happen with young ones falling in water (pool or lagoon) when the minding adults were not keeping a close enough watch on them.
“Would he still see an array of fishes and sea life in a lagoon?” – Absolutely.
“tranquil, turquoise crystal clear waters from what I have researched, resorts that have this don’t tend to have a good coral reef or sea life close by? ” – Correct. The islands with the best reefs tend to be inside-atoll small round ones, and the islands with the broadest lagoons tend to edge-atoll stretched out ones.
“Does getting that crystal clear lagoon mean we will not see many fishes nearby/within close perimeter of our villa?” – Maybe a little bit. When people refer to “house reefs”, they are tending to refer to not just the marine life but also the (a) coral growth (more in deeper water on drop offs), and (b) topology (the dramatic drop off which reveals so much).
I would review the “Best Of” pieces for Reethi Rah, Amilla and Kihavah and see which strikes your fancy the most. Any of those 3 would be wonderful.
Sorry I forgot to mention if you have any other suggestions for places we have missed on our shortlist would really appreciate.
I’m in my 60th year and one of the things I want to do to celebrate is go to the Maldives for a week, relax and snorkel. My husband doesn’t like snorkelling but is happy to relax and read etc. I have never learned to dive so will just stick to snorkelling, which I love. Budget, I was thinking between £5000 and £7500. As long as the hotel is a very good standard it doesn’t need to be the tops and hence the cut off at £7500, however, if there is somewhere that has an amazing house reef and lagoon accessible from the beach and its a bit more please let me know. Finally, because relaxing is important I’m thinking ideally no young children or motorised activities. lol
So my questions are:
1. When to go (I was thinking up to end of March as my husband will just want the sunbathing side)?
2. Best house reef that doesn’t require a boat to get to it, so beach access would be good.
3. Are there any that combine a great house reef and more?
If you need more information to help advise please let me know.
Many thanks for running this site, such a brilliant resource.
Kandolhu comes to mind primarily because it is one of the few resorts without motorised sports. A real gem that I think ticks your boxes. Check it out. In the meantime, I am going to research which other resorts don’t have motorised sports.
Our family of 4 (all AOW divers) were looking at Veligandu for a reasonably priced 7 day vacation early December (next month)
What’s your opinion of it for snorkelling and proximity to dive sites, and and there any other resorts within that price range where we would get a better house reef and dive sites?
We were contemplating a liveaboard, but have decided to leave that for our next trip.
I’ve never stayed at Veligandu so I can’t really comment. It is a tiny, moderately priced, fine quality resort with great diving (especially the Hammerhead Point).
Thanks Bruce, going ahead with Veligandu.
Many thanks Bruce. It looks great. Is the timing I was considering ok? However, if Covid stops travel until after end of March do you recommend a good time?
If you go after March, then I would try to do April because the end of May and June can have less predictable weather (mind you the worst weather in the Maldives is typically better than the best weather in most other parts of world).
Thanks Bruce. I’ve looked at Kandolhu and unfortunately it seems very expensive once you’ve added meals (not even all inclusive). If I gave on the motorised water sports would that widen the options? Just a thought.
My family of 4 (All AOW Divers) were looking at Veligandu for a 7 day trip in early December 2020.
What is you opinion about the house reef and dive sites close by?
Veligandu seems to tick all the boxes, as the others seem either too expensive or too large.
Are the any other resorts within that price range which you would recommend over Veligandu in terms of snorkelling and Scuba? Will do a liveaboard on our next vacation, want a bit of island relaxation and ambience this time.
Your site is absolutely amazing, many thanks for the wealth of information out here.
There’s always neighbouring Kuramathi which is a superb resort.
I am planning on visiting Karumba Island in Feb 2022, I am a wheelchair user with chronic spinal pain and have been told its a short transfer by speedboat, is this a smooth ride,? Enough room for a wheelchair /walker/luggage? Please can you recommend a nice villa which needs to be directly on the beach, facing beach with either a pool or jacuzzi. I probably will bring my walker instead of wheelchair and I can walk a short time with my stick. Can you let me know walking distance by minutes to restaurant please? This is my holiday of a lifetime and I’m planning on being there 2 weeks for peace and relaxation, I have noticed on map there are many villas, does this mean the beach gets crowded?
Samantha Tomlin (Oxford)
“this a smooth ride,?” – That all depends on the weather. In most situations it is mildly bumpy. The key thing is that the transfer is only 8 minutes long so you won’t have to endure much for long. Also, if you tell the boat captain that you would prefer a less bumpy ride, I’m sure he would be happy to slow the boat down to reduce the chop (especially as it is such a short distance).
“Enough room for a wheelchair /walker/luggage” – Absolutely. Plenty. It’s a pretty big boat.
“does this mean the beach gets crowded” – No beaches are crowded in the Maldives.
– If you look at the resort map on my site (http://maldivescomplete.com/maldivesv/ViewLargeMap.aspx?resort=Kurumba) You want to be between rooms 174-247 (that west facing for great sunset and being close access to their amazing sunset beach bar. The main restaurant is the “M” on the map (and other a la carte restaurants are all clustered around it). It’s not that far of a push no matter how you go (through the middle of the island or around the peripheral path) as the paths are paved and so very accessible. If I was walking from about anywhere on the island to anywhere else, it would take about 5 minutes.
“directly on the beach, facing beach with either a pool or jacuzzi” – The Pool Villas (see the red squares on the map) are wonderful (we stayed in one a few years back). The ones they have are set back from the back by about 100 yards (so you are not 100% “directly on the beach”). You could do a Pool Villa on the restaurant side of the island which would be (a) more directly on the beach, and (b) just a few steps from the restaurant, but it doesn’t have as good a view on that side of the island.
Thanks for this great website! I’m wondering if there is a place that is ideal for a covered Muslim lady to swim/snorkel privately (weak swimmer)? I know it’s impossible to zone off a beach/seawater, so the aim is to get a place that is as “private as possible” – budget for accommodation is towards the 3 or 4-star mark.
Thanks in advance,
Check out Nika who have sort of private beaches including a good part of the ocean because of how they have exploited their groynes – http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/2013/09/24/best-of-the-maldives-private-beach-nika/
We are 2 families with young kids (between 2-3 yr olds), so 4 adults and 2 kids, looking to travel to maldives in end of January. We have been to komandoo and Paradise Island resorts earlier. Our budget is less than 3000 GBP for a stay of 5 nights, beach villa would be great. Few of us are vegetarians so having good vegetarian options are a must, Paradise resort had fulfilled this requirement for us, hut we did not find good reef for snorkeling. We are just floaters, not really swimmers, so managed very well with life-jacket for snorkelling just off the reef breakers at Komandoo and loved the experience. Which resorts would you suggest? We would really love to be able to get decent vegetarian picks along with not too deep reef for good snorkeling (not more than 20-25 feet n not too great a current)
Anu – Just picking this up as I myself am in the Maldives at the moment. I will reply to your message tomorrow. Bruce
Is your budget of 3000 GBP for (a) both families, or (b) each family?
Enjoy your vacation Bruce. Thanks for replying 🙂
3000 GBP is per family.
My post was approved late and i didn’t know if this will go through or not, so i wrote one more below before you replied!
So, about 600 GBP per night (I am assuming you are paying for flights separately). You should be able to find a fine resort at that price.
You were at Komandoo before. What was the other resort you went to? Aside from the AI, what were the things you liked and didn’t like about each?
posted my response in the below post by mistake, damn small phone screen, now it says duplicate comment if i post here. Please check below
Absolutely love your blog!
My husband and I have been to the Maldives twice already and are thinking of planning yet another trip in January 2021. This time with our 2.5 year old. We will be travelling with another couple and their almost 3 year old. So requirements are a bit different this time around.
We are all can-just-about-manage-swimming or can-only-float kindaa folks. Yet we had tons of fun while snorkelling at the drop-off just outside reef breaker walls at Komandoo while donning life-jackets as the current wasn’t strong.
I have been researching which island resort to choose and kind of have my heart set on Angsana Ihuru, mainly due to their house reef and distance from male. But its slightly pricier than what we are comfortable with, but if we don’t find a better alternate then we might go with it. Also I am not sure if this resort is a bit dated or not. I want to stay at a beach villa instead of a water villa.
I would have loved to go to Baros but they have only 8+ year olds allowed and Ellaidhoo by Cinnamon is also something that i loved but they charge a 2 year old as an adult and if we go the AI route then it just doesn’t make sense to spend so much extra for the child. We are not big on drinking and are vegetarians, so not sure if full board is the way to go or AI. What we loved with AI @Komandoo was that we don’t have to think about prices of a meal or a drink or inclusions while on our holiday.
Do you have any suggestions for us other than Angsana Ihuru? Would love to hear from you.
We were at Komandoo, liked the food taste but not satisfied with number of vegetarian options, loved the snorkelling and the relative shielding from strong current by the reef breaker walls near the corals, sunset cruise and the yummy pina coladas!
Then last year we went to Paradise Island Resort, loved the food and the pool, found the beach villas to be a bit dated and spotted a good variety of fish near the jetty while snorkelling but no real reef to speak of.
I would really love to be able to get resort transfers + full board stay at a resort for 3000 GBP per family. I would prefer if transfers can be done by a speed boat but if I can get a 4 or 5 star property which is moderately priced then domestic flight/sea-plane is also not a deal breaker.
All in all, top constraints are good house reef, good food, relatively new resort and within budget.
So far, my shortlist includes
1. Coco Bodu Hithi – reef, indian food options as per Booking.com reviews, room furnishings
2. Angsana Ihuru due to reef and food and option to go to Vabbinfaru island as well, not a fan of ultra modern color scheme of beach villas though and the lack of a pool
3. Amari Havodda, liked the snorkelling based on youtube videos and general TA reviews, only thinking twice due to distance from Male
4. Vilamendhoo, only minus again distance
And i skimmed through comments section above, so going to take a look at few more.
Please suggest if Bandos, Malahini Kuda Bandos, Vakarufalhi, Eriyadu, Veligandu, Gangehi and Angaga are worth considering as well? Right now i am leaning towards Coco Bodu Hithi the most.
I haven’t visited the following islands so I can’t comment on them from personal experience: Ihuru, Havodda, Eriyadu, Veligandu, Angaga.
Thoughts on the others listed:
Coco Bodu Hithi – The highest standard of all of those on your list. Not really new and a bit faded/dated infrastructure, but still lovely.
Vilamendhoo – Seaplane ride, but house reef of the bunch.
Malahini Kuda Bandos – Close to Male, not the best snorkeling. I think a bit lower quality than you are looking for.
Bandos – Similar to MKB.
Gangehi – Second best choice to CBH with a slightly better house reef.
Others to look at:
Thulhagiri – Bit of a unsung sleeper. I think ticks your boxes (also a bit older though).
Olhuveli – Ticks your boxes.
Dear Bruce, I hope you can help narrow down resorts for us.
I hope you can help my wife and I on our first trip to the Maldives
We love snorkeling and kayaking
Very important we get a room with a fully private open air backyard/bathroom to sunbathe in privacy
Water bungalow not a must
Prefer boat distance from male
Medium sized island
Thank you very much
Sun Siyam Olhuveli Beach Villa should be perfect for you.
Any cheaper alternatives? cheapest i found was 5000$ for half board Sun Siyam Olhuveli. 3000$ is our maximum
Thank you once again Bruce
Ooh, sorry about that. I thought you might squeeze under. You are a very challenging set of requirements:
1. Budget – $300/day is at the very lowest end of the price spectrum. It also limits you to resort with no seaplane transfer (ie. Male atolls or domestic flight) as that would take a big chunk of budget.
2. Good Snorkeling – This cuts out a big chunk as I would estimate only a quarter of Maldives resorts have really strong house reefs.
3. Private sunbathing area – This is the killer especially when combined with the budget as the cheaper resorts tend not to have the enclosed, open-air back areas.
Assuming you are sticking to your budget, then you could have #1 and #2 with a place like Thulhagiri. But I’m struggling to locate a villa with a private enclosed area that falls within your budget. Sorry.
We have reconsidered and removed our requirement for the Resort to be close to Male. Also we can accept average-quality of house reef. How are our options now?
Thank you again Bruce!
Actually, it doesn’t matter quite so much that you have freed up this requirement (to be close to Male) because your budget does that implicitly (as you can see in my original reply, I did not consider the Male proximity). With a limited budget you have to avoid seaplanes which are around $500 roundtrip so that eats a third of your budget. You can fly domestic jet planes to some atolls and they are much cheaper. But actually, I already looked at that option and still got stuck.
You could try Kandima (they have domestic transfers, great prices and private enclosed back areas). Also, look at Medhufushi (great prices and private back areas).
After reading your blog we choose to stay in Vilamendhoo for our first trip to the Maldives this Christmas and new year. We enjoyed Vilamendhoo, the snorkeling was great and saw some great fish.
We are already planning to come back next year and wanted your input on where to go next. We would like another great house reef and excellent marine life, as well as a big enough island for a of a party at new year and good quality accommodation but we do not need 5 star luxury. the most important thing for us is the underwater world! We are not divers but are pretty ambitious snorkelers.
Hope you can offer us some suggestions!
PS we are a family of 5 so we try to budget around 1/1,5k per night but will pay more for better marine life. Although not for better luxury accommodation as we do not really need it.
Hope this makes sense
Islands that come to mind to look into Mirihi, Amilla, Olhuveli, Reethi Beach.
thanks v much
Will take a look
Hi there …. we are a family of 6 adults looking to spend Christmas/New Year 2021 in The Maldives. We need 3 rooms (2 basic for ‘kids’ and an upgrade for us ie: water villa). Flying from LGW/LHR on 22/12/21 for 10 nights. AI. Most important thing is a good house reef. Budget £4k pp. We’re looking at Oblu Helengeli, Amari Havodda (bit pricey)! Anything else spring to mind please. We have already been to Meeru, Oblu Sangeli and Coco Palm Dhoni Kohlu. Many thanks.
I haven’t been to Helengeli, Havodda or Sangeli so I can’t comment on any of them. If you are looking for a good house reef, then I would remove Meeru. I would look at Kuramathi (especially putting the kids altogether in the 2 BR Beach House). I haven’t been to Vilu Reef, but its house reef looks accessible and they have a 3 bedroom overwater villa (where you could all be) which might just fit your budget.
Thanks Bruce – will have a look at Kuramathi and Vilu Reef. Have you been to Filitheyo? Thanks.
Yes, we have been to Filitheyo, but it was many years ago so the resort infrastructure has likely changed significantly. It did have an extremely good house reef.
Loved your website and thank you for something so comprehensive!
We are a couple flying to maldives for a much needed break after 2020 and I am extremely confused by so many reviews.
I did have a look at your search filter as our
top most priority is an excellent house reef ,then the food (not variety but just good food) and then a nice comfortable resort ( not run down,quiet.clean etc)
Budget : upto 650 usd a night
Could you please suggest top 3?
Also is there really a lot of waiting to get from airport to the resort? some reviews online are cribbing about waiting 3 hrs for a seaplane and wasting a day etc – any way to get around this?
Thanks so much for your help
It’s hard to assess budgets because prices are all over the place at the moment with the post-COVID inducements. There are some great deals and so I think you will have lots of options to meet your criteria in that price range. For value-prices 5-star or high -end 4-star properties with good house reefs and good food and not to dated, some that come to mind are Olhuveli, Vilamendhoo, Kuramathi, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, Ayada.
In terms of transfers, that really does matter. Sometimes, you get off your flight and hop immediately onto a transfer boat or even a seaplane. But, for obvious reasons, sometimes the resort needs to wait for other passengers to arrive and get their bags and get through customs. That can take a while. Sometimes the other guests are on a flight arriving a hour or more after yours. There’s not too much you can do about it unless you have your own private plane to go straight to the resort or you pay thousands for a special transfer laid on just for you.
We don’t really mind the transfer delays on arrival. We buy ourselves a much needed coffee, we freshen up, we change out of our warm plane clothes into more comfortable clothes, we check our email, we have a look around and soak up being back in this paradise (the airport itself is on an island with water all around right outside to door so it’s not like being at an airport in the middle of ugly landscape in other parts of the world).
in Ohluveli – do you mean Sun Siyam Olhuveli? will have a look.
is there a vast difference in house reef life to be seen between Sun Siyam Olhuveli and Vilamendhoo island resort?
last question – another one that came up was OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli – how is that in terms of house reef?
Yes, Sun Siyam Olhuveli.
Hmmm…I wouldn’t say vast difference. I would say they were both comparable as accessible, extensive house reefs with lots of marine life based on our snorkeling at each of them.
I’ve not visited Helengeli so I can’t comment.
Hi, thanks for the guide! What a great website with so much of info!
Also, a little suggestion from you would help us a lot –
So, we are on a honeymoon trip of 4 nights 5 days, with 2+2 split between Over water villa+beach villa. We are looking for a great overall vacation experience – so ideally a good island atmosphere, ambience along with some privacy! We may be fine to spend a little on snorkeling excursion trips! So, what’s your take and suggestion on choosing one of the three resorts,
1) Oblu by Select, Sangeli
2) Coco Bodu Hithi
These 2 seem to provide very similar experience, absolutely no clue which could be better of the two!
3) Hardrock – live music and a great overall island atmosphere + night life here somehow seems more attractive to us. I see there’s not much of snorkelling experience here, do they provide snorkeling excursion trips to nearby places?
Please help with your suggestion. Thanks a ton!
1 – Not been to Sangeli
2 – Lovely resort with a lovely house reef (but it is a bit ways from the water villas and I would go with a snorkel guide on your first outing to it). It is the oldest of your options so it is a bit faded, but it is still a luxury property. Also, I have been reading about some absolutely astonishing deals they have been offering so you might get an incredible deal.
3 – Hard Rock – They do provide snorkeling excursions go you will get some great snorkeling. Hard Rock (and its connected sister properties Crossroad and SAii Lagoon) have really pioneering a strikingly novel resort concept in the Maldives. We adored it, but it is not the stereotypical Maldives experience (Coco Bodu Hithi is very much a classic Maldivian property). Look at the photo gallery of the resort and see if that is the kind of vibe you are looking for.
Hi. We are looking for a resort within a budget of approx. $300 USD – $700 USD/night and have a family of 5 – kids are 11, 12, 13. I’d prefer not to have to fly there to save time and money. Looking for a good house reef, possibility of diving close by, and all-inclusive would be nice if it’s reasonable. Would like a room or separate bungalow that can house the whole family instead of booking separate hotel rooms.
CLUB MED KANI – great for families, one of the best manta cleaning stations nearby (for diving or snorkeling), weak house reef but excursions to good ones, connected family rooms available.
FOUR SEASONS KUDA HURAA – normally would be out of your budget but there are so many incredible post-COVID deals right now maybe you would be lucky, not a great house reef per se but a rich coral garden in the lagoon good to snorkel as well as snorkeling excursions, and the Manta Point is close as well, they have family rooms and good activities for youngsters.
GANGEHI – great house reef, family rooms
HARD ROCK / SAII LAGOON – Not your typical Maldives resort, but lots of fun. Some okay lagoon snorkeling and excursions to better snorkeling and diving. Tons to do. Great value. More of a striking resort complex in the middle of the ocean than a “deserted island” vibe. Family interconnected rooms available.
RIHIVELI DREAM – It has a family bungalow. Truly a unique island especially with its lagoon connecting to two other islands. Not great house reef, but excursions to good ones. Ultimate in deserted island vibe. Rack rates are a bit pricey but maybe good post-COVID deals.
Thanks for the info. Most of these you say don’t have a very good house reef…can you recommend some that we can enjoy good snorkelling right from our beach? I’m not concerned about the high end luxury, just some decent rooms and a nice resort. Again, we don’t really want to fly. The ones that’ I”ve see you recommend that I like the looks of are Sun Siyam Olhuveli, Kuramathi (I can’t get a quote for 4 people for some reason) and also OBLU. Anything I’m missing? I would go for a lower standard as well if it was closer and had a great reef (3.5 -4 stars). Thanks!
Yes, for a fine reef, Olhuveli and Kuramathi are great options. So is Gangehi. I also like the Thulhagiri reef. But, except for Olhuveli, I don’t know about the options for getting connecting rooms or one big villa (but you certainly could get adjacent villas).
Hope you can shed some light. Undecided between 3 resorts. I’m an avid diver going with my 70 yr old mother. These were singled out due to split stay approvals during Covid. Ideal resort is Baros but that’s beyond my price range. I’m a newbie snorkeler who loves seeing sea life that is looking for a relatively easy entry house reef so my mother can enjoy her first Maldives experience.
1. Angsana Ihuru – See raves about their house reef. Cost is the lowest but see dated, non-luxury rooms. No OW villas, so wondering if it’s worth it.
2. Coco Bodu Hithi – See lots of your reviews of the house reef. Heard of dated rooms. Is the reef and resort worth it over the dated rooms?
3. Constance Moofushi – Pricier due to sea plane. Curious if the resort, rooms and reef compares to the others.
If you have other recommendations, let me know. Had to cross off OBLU Helengeli, Kuramathi, Reethi Faru, and Vilamendhoo due to their Covid guidelines.
I don’t have first hand experience with Angsana Ihuru or Moofushi not having stayed there. Coco Bodu Hithi is a bit faded and dated, but that just means much better value for money. However, their house reef is not the most accessible so I’m not sure it is ideal for what you are looking so. I would take a look at Mirihi, Anantara Kihavah, Amilla, Hurawalhi, abd Lily Beach as top flight luxury properties with accessible house reefs and good value for money.
Kyle here from Cape Town South Africa again.
We are hoping to get to the Maldives by February next year depending on what happens in the world with Covid.
Last time you advised on Baros as it was on my short list. We are interested in perhaps taking an all inclusive option.
Could you please perhaps give me a few of your thoughts on Velassaru Resort as this one has really stood out for us as I have done some more extensive research. Beach looks beautiful, very blue water and all inclusive. I also see it’s a short boat trip away from the airport.
Second one I looked at was Sun Siyam Iru Fushi?
Just want to know which you would prefer or can your recommended something else? We want to stay in an over the water villa with pool. We don’t dive but we will snorkel for sure.
Thanks once again for all your help Bruce. It is awesome.
The Velassaru island was our very first Maldives resort back in 1998 (when it was a 3-star Laguna Beach). So we have especially fond memories of it. It is renowned for having one of the loveliest and most extensive shallow lagoons around it. As a result, of it being more a “lagoon” topology, it doesn’t have any real “house reef” so you will need to take a snorkeling safari excursion for good snorkeling. Also, it is fairly close to Male (you clearly see Male in the distance and well as number of other local islands) which many people don’t enjoy (it reduces the sense of isolation and immersion in a pristinely natural environment). The property is top class (some of the best landscaping) and the lagoon legend, so it is up to you how much the other considerations are a detriment to you.
Sun Siyam Iru Fushi is great value. Quite a high standard (not as high as Velassaru). Bigger island so more activities and things on offer. It does have a house reef (not the best, but okay). Great evening entertainment.
Look at Amilla which has some very appealing offers at the moment.
Thanks so much for the reply Bruce.
Yeah I have heard before that you can see the other islands around Velassaru and Male included. This is a bit of a pity as the lagoon is everything we looking for with its light blue water all around and white sandy beaches.
We do also want that sense of isolation on a tropical island when visiting the Maldives. The other big issue I have come across on many blogs is the so called “Trash” island which people say you can clearly see from the shores of Velassaru island. I have read that you can see them burning the rubbish most days? This doesnt seem very appealing.
I dont know if you have any thought on this?
I came across Vakkura which looked very posh but beautiful, not sure if you have any thought on this one too?
I think we are in a toss up now between Velassaru, Baros, Sun Siyam Iru Fushi. They all look great.
Thanks again Bruce.
Have a great weekend.
I’ve never been put off by the “Trash” island. I’ve stayed at several resorts close enough to see the wisps of smoke rising from the burning it does. I’ve never smelled it. But I’m not as sensitive to such things.
I’ve never visited Vakkaru so I can’t really comment on it first hand.
I am Murtaza from Sri Lanka.
We are a family of 4. (2 Children 16 & 19) hoping to travel in end of June for 3 nights. Looking for a ideal resort with Water Villa which can be accessed by speedboat transfer. House reef is a must as we are plan to snorkel and dive. We plan to take 2 Water Villas. We can stretch our budget to USD 400 per night H/B or F/B excluding transfers. We are looking for 4 * and above properties. Ideally not very old resorts. We are also looking for a resort which would be mid size and have many activities besides diving.
Your advice is greatly appreciated.
So key criteria = water villa @200 USD/nt (x2) + speedboat transfer + house reef + mid-size + not too old.
Your biggest constraint is your budget. It is very hard to find a water villa under $300 just B&B (H/B tends to add $50-80 on top of that). Normally, I would say that it would be very hard to find something in that price range, but post-pandemic, many properties are running some amazing special offers so you might just get lucky. The lowest priced water villas within a speedboat tranfer are the following:
Gangehi – small/mid size, a little on the older side, great house reef.
Thulhagiri – small, older, great house reef, very well priced.
Bandos – small, older, great house reef, very well priced.
Centara Ras Fushi – tiny, newer, good house reef
Embudoo – small, older, good, okay house reef
Hey Bruce, just wanted to start with saying really appreciate the website, it’s definitely the most helpful Maldives resource I’ve found! I have a couple of questions please, I’ve been twice before to Vilamendhoo and Filitheyo (I’m a big snorkeller and love a house reef!) and have booked flights to go again in June – but we haven’t booked a resort yet. My questions are:
– Having been in September (2015) and December (2018) it’s my first trip in a June. I’ve heard that with the weather being South West monsoon season, the weather might be more reliable in the north, is this true, or just an old wives tale??
– On that basis (and the fact I’m quite keen to get to Hanifaru Bay for Manta season) I have shortlisted Kihaa and Reethi Beach. The main factor is the house reef, followed by overall value for standard of accommodation/food etc, so which of these would you recommend (if you’ve been to both?) based on those 2 factors? And – are there any other resorts in Baa Atoll you would recommend that are under or around the $350-$400 a night all inclusive mark?
Thanks very much in advance!
“more reliable in the north?” – I think it is an old wives tale. Actually, the most analytical look I have seen on this topic indicates the at SOUTH has better weather – http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/2013/03/21/regional-weather-update/ . Frankly, I just don’t think there is much difference and it is all a crap shot.
“Hanifaru Bay” – Be aware that access to Hanifaru Bay is considerably limited now (as it was so over dived and visited that it was really affecting the marine life and it is a Marine Protected Area). Last time we visited it, we were not allowed in the Bay itself. We toured around the edges looking for mantas (as one diver in the group desperately wanted to see one) and we eventually came across one (which the diver scared away by swimming after it). Kihaa and Reethi Beach are the two value-priced resorts (both with great house reefs) that would come to my mind. I’ve been to both and Reethi Beach has a significantly higher standard of accommodation and food.
Brilliant, great advice thanks Bruce!
My wife and myself are planning celebrate our marriage anniversary during 3rd week of October 2021.
We want to spend at least five+ (5) nights in a private resort. These five+ nights need to have combination of beach villa as well Water villa with pool.
Both my wife and myself do NOT know how to swim and hence house reef is not important to us.
Further, we both do NOT drink alcohol hence Full board plan is preferred. At the same time if a resort is good but offers only AI options then we will also go ahead with AI plan.
Activities like Sandbank visit, Dolphin excursion, Sunset fishing, Submarine tour, Candle-light dinner on beach etc. are we would like to avail. If there are some unique experiences can be added like lunch/ dinner in an under-water restaurant then it’s welcome.
Speedboat and Seaplane, we are fine with both the transfer arrangements.
Sir, request your expert help to suggest resorts for us with budget of USD5K please. I am not able to decide. regards
Your budget is comfortably for a solid 5-star luxury resort and your requirements are quite modest. Most 5-stars will offer what you list. The truly limiting requirement here is the submarine tour. Here are the resorts I know have offered such tours – http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/tag/submarine/. Not surprisingly, mostly these submarines are featured at the most exclusive properties that are most twice the price of your budget. There is an independent submarine company operating out of Male, Whale Submarine – http://www.whalesubmarine.com.mv/. So you could stay in a Male area resort and then take a day trip to Male (all resorts offer them) and include a trip on it. Take a look at Olhuveli. They are well within your budget, have sand bank tours, but also lots of sandbanks you can wade to at low tide. They also have their own glass-bottom boat for a submarine-lite experience to boot. I would also look at Rihiveli Dream which has an amazing lagoon where you can wade to a neighbouring island.
I get goosebumps seeing such dedication and handwork. Compliments for that.
I’ll be on my honeymoon trip in nov this year. Booked coco bodu hithi for 4 nights and got a good deal for the same. But I think it’ll be missing few things which I’d like to explore. Non swimmers so would be needing guided snorkeling tour. Hammocks in water villas and honeymoon experiences which resorts do offer in maldives. Looking for 3 nights stay before I reach coco. Spa, good snorkeling and view from water villa with hammock is the priority. Would love to hear from you. Budget is 2500 usd for 3 nights
LOVE your blog. It’s definitely the best.
Finally able to go back to the Maldives and so now need to find a resort. Due to covid, we aren’t doing a split stay this time and so happy to go further out this time.
Budget – around $15,000 for 10 nights this October (exc flights)
Medium sized island with a beach villa with soft sand and ideally no sea walls. Pool not necessary but a great house reef and options to go diving nearby (not fussed on mantas as have seen lots in South Ari before.
Open to any transfer type, No children
We are vegan and so needs to cater to that and regarding board, as we don’t drink alcohol so I’m guessing we won’t go AI unless we find a really great offer.
Thank you in advance.
Thanks for the kind words. I would take a look a Kihavah which has a lovely reef and a lovely wrap-around soft white sand beach.
I was thinking of saving Kihava to do it as a twin with Milaidhoo. I had planned this last year but it got cancelled due to lockdown.
What are your thoughts on Ayada? And how does it compare to Moofushi as we loved CM.
I haven’t been to Moofushi so I can’t comment. Ayada is lovely. It is great value for money as it is a domestic flight away (most of the Gaa Alifu and Gaa Dhaalu resorts are very good value due to this transfer distance which really isn’t bad at all). The reef is superlative The property has a Turkish vibe (from its Turkish owners) which is distinctive. The food is excellent.
Hi Bruce -Great website. Our son is getting married this Dec and the brides parents and we are keen on gifting a Maldives honeymoon package between 27/28 Dec and 2nd Jan. Budget is 3000-4000 GBP all in. looking for a speedboat rather than sea plane ride. Your recommendations please for a complete package
When resorts offer half board packages are there other restaurants on islands ?
Most resorts (not all) have additional restaurants on the island that you can visit instead of the main restaurant if you are on a half-board plan. Typically, you make a reservation and tell that you are on half board, and they will apply a credit to your meal cost to account for the fact that you are not eating at the main restaurant. A week for £4000 is going to be about £500/per day which for HB is going to be a low-end 5-star or a strong 4-star. There are probably about 2 dozen options in the North Male and South Male atolls (which would be a speedboat ride away). any other criteria to further winnow the short list down?
I am traveling alone with my 2 kids (12 and 13) and have a couple days on each side of a trip to Bali.
I will be there for 2 nights March 11 and 12, and 2 nights March 20 and 21st.
What is your suggestion considering the cost of transfers to islands, etc? We would like to spend at least one night in an over the water villa. Both kids are excellent swimmers and snorkelers.
What is your budget?
I am so happy to find your website! It is such a precious service to people like myself who is going nut researching for FIRST trip to Maldives.
My husband and I are looking for a nice water villas with pool. We are not active people so, we will enjoy looking turquoise color water from the villa with good food but, at the same time, we’d like to stay at a resort with good house reef so we can do some snorkeling without going outside of the resort.
Since we are retired, we are not bounded to travel in certain month. When would be the months that I should AVOID to travel to Maldives? If you can suggest a few resorts meeting the following condition, I would really appreciate:
Type and size of resort: luxury small to middle size
Room type: water villa with pool
Transportation: Speed boat or sea plane
Budget: about $10K for 5 nights
House reef: good
Looking forward to hear from you. THANK YOU!!
$2k is a healthy amount for a solid 5-star resort. One challenge is finding a resort with both a good house reef and a good lagoon (most islands have the topology for one or the other). A few that come to mind are Kihavah, Hurawalhi and Amilla (they are more house reef resorts than lagoon resorts). Cocoa Island is lovely with an okay house reef and an okay lagoon. Conrad Rangali has both, but maybe a bit over your budget (or maybe you might get a good deal).
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!
I was also looking at Milaidhoo, Vakkara and Fourseason Kuda Huraa. How are they?
Also, as I mentioned before, we are very flexible on travel season. When would be the best time to go without over paying? Thanks again.
Milaidhoo and Vakkaru are supposed to be superb properties, but we haven’t made it to them so we can’t comment specifically. Kuda Hura is lovely, but close to Male and with neither a great reef nor great lagoon. Milaidhoo and Kuda Hura will also be pushing your budget. We tend to go in July when we find the prices quite attractive and the weather delightful.
Thank you!! Have a wonderful day!
Hello! Amazing site you’ve put together. So easy to get overwhelmed trying to research all the different resorts. Maybe you can help me narrow it down. Thinking no more than $650/night. Solo traveler. Snorkeling is important and would like it within reach (not have to take a boat ride to reach), with as much seaside and coral as I can get.
I’m thinking of splitting my time between a beach villa and overwater villa – both with pools.
All inclusive options, with more than two restaurants if possible
Excursions to other island and hopefully some form of scuba introduction/lessons. Would really love to get certified
Any suggestions?? And thanks so much
Fantastic site Thankyou !
It’s my 50th birthday in August we want to take a family on holiday of a life time me and my husband went to Maldives two years ago (Meeru) had an amazing time
Our youngest is 14 then we have a 21 (who a sailor) and 25 year old with girlfriend so looking for 3 beach villas
Weather looks like a gamble in August so was going to go April
Would like good house reef would love to see dolphins manta and turtles
Soft sand our budget is £14 including flights is Meeru our only option
Would happily go back but just wanted to know if there was anywhere else you could recommend
Thanks for the kind words.
I’m assuming that you are looking for 1 week. Budget £1k/pp for flights (and other things like parking at the airport, etc) so that leaves you with £9k or $12k for a week (or $4k per villa per week or just under $600 per night per villa). That is a good amount for a value-priced 5-star or a “punching above its weight, deliberately under-rated so as to exceed guest expectations and get great TripAdvisor reviews” 4.5 star.
For starters, I would avoid seaplanes. Those transfers will lop a sizeable chunk out of your budget. That means sticking to the Male atolls mostly, but take look at Gangehi and Kuramathi which are both delightful properties a longer (2 hour) speed boat transfer away with superb house reefs.
Speaking of house reef, turtles can be found pretty much everywhere in the Maldives. The same with dolphins but you won’t see them snorkeling on the house reef (in 20 years we have seen them twice underwater when we were diving). But dolphins are all over the place in the Maldives. The resort know where they tend to hang out in each atoll and regularly offer dolphin cruise excursions where they go out and you can see them swimming (and jumping) all around the boat).
Mantas a little trickier. I’ve only seen one on a house reef. You tend to find them at cleaning stations which can be found in most atolls but usually are at a depth that you have to scuba dive to see them easily. One benefit to finding a resort in the North Male atoll is that the Manta Point dive site has lots of mantas and they can often be seen snorkeling and resorts in the area will have excursions there. The other place to find mantas are in certain feeding areas the most prominent of which are Hanifaru Bay and Maamgili MPA. These are in the South Ari Atoll and Baa atoll respectively. They both do have cheaper domestic flights to these atolls, but few resorts in these atolls use the domestic flight transfers (most use sea planes).
In addition to Gangehi and Kuramathi, some other possibilities to look at are in the Gaafu Alifu which have pretty well run domestic transfers. In particular, I can recommend Ayada for great quality, great value and lots of dolphins in the area. Some others to look at in the Male atoll area include Olhuveli, Thulhagiri (good value, good house reefs).
what do you think to kandima ? As an option
Kandima is great. Superb value, stylish, contemporary. It doesn’t have a house reef (so your snorkeling requires a short boat trip).
Hello from Canada Bruce. This is an amazing resource, and after spending many hours reviewing it, I’m hoping you can assist with some advice. My wife and I are travelling to the Maldives for the very first time in early May. We have already booked the flights, and have five full days (arriving at MLE just after 6am on a Sunday and departing just after 715pm on the Friday). After much back and forth, I think I have settled on using Marriott points, rather than paying cash, and that has obviously narrowed my choices significantly.
We definitely want to be in an OWV. The two most important considerations for us are the quality of the marine life we can observe/quality of the house reef and the natural beauty of the resort/island itself, which includes being away from other islands/noise/etc. Another important consideration, although less so, is going to a place that is luxurious, without being overly pretentious. Since we are intending to use points (and have enough to pick any of the resorts), I expect cost of food and activities to be similar wherever we go, but if some of the resorts stand out – positively or negatively – because of things like quality of food (good or bad) or service or if the costs is considerably higher/lower, that could play a role and I would appreciate your feedback. We’re not drinkers. My wife likes to go to use the gym, so that is a requirement also.
So, with all of that said, I think I have narrowed it down to the W or to the JW Marriott (The Ritz Carlton and St. Regis just seem a little too snobby for us, and RC doesn’t seem to have any real house reef at all. The Westin doesn’t seem to let you book OWV on points and the Sheraton seems just a step below. The Le Meridien looks interesting (and is quite a bit cheaper, points wise) but as first time visitors to the Maldives, perhaps I’ve just thought we should aim a little higher. If you think otherwise, I would be interested in your advice.
In any event, taking into account the time of our travel (first week of May – not sure if that makes a difference), and the other factors above, would love to hear your feedback.
Thanks very much in advance.
Thanks for the kind words. Your primary filter is definitely Starwood availability. I haven’t stayed at the Ritz, St. Regis or Le Meridien so I can’t comment on them. The Sheraton is definitely a “step below” and will not have the “being away from other islands/noise” being so close to Male. We really loved the W and it definitely has a great reef. The W is definitely “luxurious”, but some people feel that it is “pretentious” in that it is very modern. Another consideration is that they have a lot of music playing around the general areas which is literally part of their vibe, but some people find it distracting and might not fit your requirement for “being away from other noise”. Have a look at my blog posts about the W and you will be a good feel for its distinctive vibe and whether it is for you or not – http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/tag/w-maldives/ . Sorry I don’t know more about your other options.
Hi Bruce, I have just come across your website. It’s very informative and looks like a very comprehensive database. I am hoping to go to the Maldives and really could do with some help in narrowing down the resorts. We are a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 small children – under 8). I have listed some of the main requirements below.
Needs to be family friendly – good kids club/facilities like playground etc.
Should have as a minimum tennis courts and possibly other sports too.
Good dining options – live cooking stations, meat and seafood grills etc.
Needs to be a beach villa/suite with decent pool, not tiny plunge pool.
We won’t be doing any water based activities so the quality of reef, snorkeling etc is not a factor at all.
Would prefer to avoid sea planes if possible as kids not great flyers.
Hotel Budget: 7/8 nights stay – no more than $10k for hotel and transfers. plus main flights on top.
Some options we looked into:
We loved Kuramathi but they only allow 3 sleeping in a pool villa.
Meeru looked good too in terms of sports facilities but they don’t have pool in any of their villas.
Kurumba – had the facilities too but it’s right next to the Male airport and all the plane noise etc was off putting.
Movenpick, Atmosphere Kanufushi, Syam World, Kandima, Dusit Thani, Furaveri.
What do you think of these? Can you think of others similar or better within our budget? Preferably like Kuramathi?
Thanks so much
I’ve not stayed at Movenpick, Kanifushi or Siyam World so I can’t comment on them.
Check out Kandima’s Family Sky Studio – https://maldivescomplete.com/maldivesv/Room%20Types/RoomTypeProfile.aspx?resort=926
Club Med Kani are also very kid friendly and have rooms that can be joined together.
Hi, The Kandima sky studio does not have a private pool option. They do have a beach villa with pool but one of the cons was the volume of negative reviews. All the negative reviews were focused on how bad the staff were, how slow the service was, the room ac not working etc. What was worse was the response from the general manager who wrote the below generic comment on a number of the reviews:
“We do apologize if we did not meet your expectations on AC temperature in the room. we love all feedback as it allows us to learn, review and improve for the future.
We do not market or sell ourselves as a small exclusive resort with private butler and private buggy serviced, but a quality Lifestyle Resort, which is sold at affordable price”
It doesn’t sound like the Maldives experience at all. How did you find it when you went?
Kandima – Ah, yes, sorry I forgot about that requirement. I thought that the service very good. I have been to resorts with very bad service and Kandima was not one of them. What part about the comment “doesn’t sound like the Maldives experience at all”? The bit about not being a “small exclusive resort with private butler and private buggy”? I took a look at the recent TripAdvisor reviews and they all look superb. I looked at just the people who wrote “Terrible” reviews and they all did not impress me.
Also, have a look a Ayada. They do a number of family suites a they might bring an extra bed/settee in for a small child in their beach suite. Same possibility for Kudafushi.
I have read your reviews on TripAdvisor, and found your blog incredibly helpful. I needed your help choosing a suitable resort.
Me and my husband are traveling on 1st week of May 2022 for a week, we are both non swimmers.
We have a budget of $5/6k. We don’t drink so not sure if all inclusive is for us. We have basically few things on our bucket list.
1. Watching/ snorkeling with whale sharks and manta rays
2. Over water villas
4. Underwater restaurant.
1. Since we don’t know what would be plausible with the weather in May and us not knowing to swim, could you please let us know what all is achievable from the bucket list. I would like to prioritize snorkeling with manta/whale sharks. But if the weather is rough and that’s not possible I would like to lean towards house reefs with good marine life and less currents and underwater restaurant.
2. We were trying to zero down between you &me, reethi beach resort, sun island and spa, royal island. Please feel free to suggest other options as well.
We were thinking of staying at reethi/sun island and doing a day trip to the underwater restaurant but, apparently conrad doesn’t allow that right now. So, we were gravitating towards you and me in case the weather makes other things unachievable.
Very good criteria to narrow down your options. And really your only choice is Maldives Rangali. If you want to watch/snorkel with whales sharks and manta rays, then you pretty much have to be in the South Ari Atoll (Baa atoll has actually more mantas and some whale sharks, but their main hang-out, Hanifaru Bay, has very restricted access). And if you want an underwater restaurant, then that is going to be Rangali. Unfortunately, the property is just outside your budget especially for a water villa but take a look around. You are right in the sweet spot of when special deals come up for unsold inventory and you might get lucky (remember you need to save several hundred dollars for the underwater restaurant meal.
Another couple of options to look at are Hurawalhi and You & Me. These are in the Lhaviyani and Raa atolls respectively, neither of which are known for their whale sharks and mantas (though when we visited Hurawalhi, a whale shark was spotted by the dive centre but when we went to go look for it, it was nowhere to be found. Which brings me to a point about whale sharks and mantas – don’t pin your Maldives trip on them. They are around and lovely to see, but they are not sure things by any stretch. We remember going on a dive trip with one other guest desperate to see a manta and we were very flexible so we said it was fine for the dive boat to just scour the area looking for possible manta sites. We were in the vaunted Baa atoll all around Hanifaru Bay, and we only found one manta at the end of the day (and you wouldn’t have seen him snorkeling). And…we have been visiting the Maldives for nearly 25 years, we have over 100 dives there and have snorkeled more house reefs (over 100) than any one else in the world…and we have never seen a whale shark. If you want to absolutely see whale sharks, so to the Yucatan, and if you want to see mantas go to Komodo Indonesia.
Which brings me to an added point…if you are “non-swimmers”, you have very limited options for “snorkeling with whales sharks and mantas”. Such excursions are done in the open ocean and most resorts will be very hesitant to take you on such an excursion. Ostensibly, you could put on a life jacket and jump in the water, but (a) this is still not 100% safe, (b) you will have limited movement so won’t be able to get to any sighting, and (c) you will bother everyone because you will take so much time and attention away from the rest of the group.
With the caveats on whale sharks and mantas and your swimming situation, I HIGHLY recommend focusing on an underwater restaurant, specifically Hurawalhi (a bit pricier, but again a good deal might be available in your budget and the snorkeling is better), our You & Me (which might be your key option for a water villa). You will get a phenomenal underwater experience that will blow your mind as non-swimmers.
Thanks Bruce, this has been immensely helpful! We were a bit worried about the house reef in you & me but with your expert approval we’ll go forward with it.
The house reef at You & Me is brilliant, but as non-swimmers you won’t be on it that much. Best to go on a supervised “snorkel excursion” where they will take you to a superb reef nearby and go in the water with you.
I am planning a trip to Maldives for my family,i.e 2+2 kids( 14 years &10 yrs old male kids) during second week of april 2022, Pls suggest some good resort provided kids enjoy to the max. We are looking for Pure Veg Food option and trip would be ideally for 4-5 days and will start our journey from Bangalore/India.
The most important question is “what’s your budget”?
So great that you help folks narrow the vast selection. My wife and I are traveling for our 30th wedding anniversary, my 60th bday, and to celebrate becoming empty nesters. We are planning 7-10 days, preferably split across two lux resorts, at least one over-water (if not both), great snorkeling, private pool, don’t typically prefer all-inclusive (but can make an exception), but great food. We want to just enjoy each other, but also want the option of activities. Not sure about price range, but probably $1-2K per day inclusive, not including travel (but we’re flexible). Any suggestions?
I think some people have a negative view of “all inclusive” resorts as somehow a bit more downmarket, but really in the Maldives you get a lot of seriously luxury resorts offering all-inclusive because of demand for it from people who want to cap the expense of this very pricey holiday. That doesn’t mean that the resort is cheap, but just that they respect for some customers it is a bucket list trip or special occasion and they are stretching their wallet to these generous degrees.
I think splitting across two resorts is a good idea for visits over a week. It gives you a chance to have two adventures and experience two different takes on this paradise. The “$1-2 per day” is a sweet spot where there are LOTS of stunning options to choose from. Do you prefer are smaller (more intimate) island or a bigger one (with more on offer)? Any special thing you enjoy doing that might help narrow the options further?
Thanks for the timely response. Are there reasonable transfer options that allow us to split between smaller and bigger? We don’t want to spend days flying in seaplanes between the airport and for the transfer, but we probably wouldn’t mind seaplane trips at the end if the resort was worth it. We enjoy snorkeling, kayaking, and most other water sports, ideally not a location where there is a lot of all-day power boat noise. Ideally, we’d like to enjoy quiet at the villa, but also have nice options for dining. Our preference is an over-water villa with a private pool, direct water access, and an outdoor relaxation space with options for shade. Great dining options, with a spa and gym are preferences.
We had a friend stay at Gili Lankafushi and it looked nice from photos (the Villa Suite with Pool); not sure if you have any insight/opinion on that resort? Lux for us doesn’t have to be the newest facility if it has been kept up. Part of the charm is the integration with nature… Does that help?
It’s fairly easy to transfer within an atoll with a speedboat transfer. I agree that doing a seaplane transfer between resorts is a considerable pain. Gili is a gorgeous resort, but it doesn’t have a great house reef (though they will take you for excursions nearby). Resort combos to look at include Amilla/Kihavah (Baa), Kandolhu/Bathala (North Ari), Thudufushi/Rangali (South Ari), Hurawalhi/Komandoo (Lhaviyani), JA Manafaru/Hideaway Beach (Haa Alifu).
Life got in the way, but we are working to finalize our trip for mid-April 2023. We plan to do Gili for 5 nights and are looking for another resort for 4 nights (before/after). Someone recommended Dusit Thani, so if you have thoughts on that one? Ideally we’d be looking for a contrasting location with the same priorities (beauty, tranquil, etc.) maybe with a better house reef? Thanks so much for the insight on this exciting first visit!
Dusit Thani is a seaplane ride away which will eat up an entire day of logistics. I would recommend going somewhere else in North Male Atoll (or maybe South Male Atoll) so you can have a simple speed boat transfer). Also Dusit Thani is a significantly lower standard than Gili. Are you looking for another property like Gili or one that is less swish? Same price point?
Thanks so much for your quick response. We agree with your feedback. We are looking for another property like Gili, but just a change up during our stay. Also, if you can recommend another similar (but different such as better house reef), do you also have a recommendation on the best order for visiting the two resorts?
Jumeirah Maldives is VERY different (very contemporary versus the rustic chic of Velaa) and it has a great house reef (my fav North Male option for your criteria). Huvafenfushi, Vabbinfaru,and Baros are all high standard with good reefs.
We’ve booked at Gili and are looking at Jumeirah. Are there alternate speedboat transfer providers, or are they only booked through the hotels? Jumeirah is quoting $2500 for a one-way transfer from their hotel to Gili (as an alternate to traveling back to MLE, then taking the boat to Gili. Any ideas on how best to transfer from Jumeirah to Gili?
Thanks much! Your assistance has been extremely helpful!
Your only option is to use the boat transfers provided by the resort. And yes, they are very expensive in most cases (petrol is expensive in the Maldives).
We have a 16 year old son who is a keen diver. He’s got his advanced PADI and is currently training fir his rescue diver qualification. I’m sure he’d also like to be able to do water sports too.
My hubby and I have been to Constance Moofushi twice but would like you to recommend an island with more to do.
We’ll need a separate room for our son.
Budget approx £10K. 7 nights
£1000+ per night is the sweet spot for a large range of 5-star luxury properties in the Maldives…for ONE VILLA. TWO villas (or a 2BR villa) is a bit trickier. Take a look at the OZEN Maadhoo Earth Pool Pavillion and the Cocoon Suite.
Firstly, thank you for this amazing informative website.
We plan to visit the Maldives in the month of June this year. It will be me, the missus and our 6 year old son.
Our requirements are – Water villa + beach villa (split stay), Kid friendly activities, not too keen on scuba diving, beautiful & relaxed property, relatively newer property with reasonable travel time from MLE, Full Board, great food including vegetarian options, budget ~USD 3500 including taxes and transfers for a 4-5 night stay (can stretch a little more if needed).
Please recommend a few properties. Anything else you’d want to know from me?
USD 3500 does not include return flights from MLE by the way. It includes local transfers only.
so 3500 for 5 night stay is about $700/nt which is good budget for a value-priced 5-star property. You will have no problem finding lots of vegetarian options with the subcontinental culinary tradition of the area. I would propose considering going half board. It is often considerably cheaper. The breakfasts are so large, the appetite is often moderated by the warm weather and you can also spend some of the money that you save on just buying a few snacks to hold you over until dinner.
The first island that comes to mind is Kuramathi. It has been around for a while, but it had a major refurb a few years back. Same with Olhuveli which has some older rooms, but also lots of brand new rooms. One other one which might work is a new resort called Kuda Villingili (but I haven’t stayed there so I can’t vouch for it).
Thank You for your inputs Bruce. Highly appreciated.
Also, what are your thoughts on Varu by Atmosphere? Is it worth considering? The package looks relatively affordable and is all-inclusive with transfers. Should I go ahead and book it?
I haven’t stayed at Varu so I don’t really know.