One of the more frequently asked questions on the Maldives TripAdvisor Forum is whether there is another other place on Earth similar to the Maldives. People bitten by the Laccadive bug which is known to inflict a lifelong addiction (case in point) seeking to get hooked up with a fix.
Usually the query is inspired by a stretched budget and the enquirer is seeking a generic, store-brand knock-off of the Maldives to satisfy their craving (in the Maldives Forum Search put in “like the Maldives” – here’s the longest thread). Thailand, Mauritius, Seychelles, Fiji, BVI, Turks & Caicos, Australia are frequently proposed, but a little research shows that nearly all resorts there are all on quite big islands and relatively close together. Aside from the basic similarities of sun and sand, not nearly the “plot of sand in the middle of the ocean” experience of the Maldives. World-travelling friends who introduced us to the Maldives have sent us postcards saying “[Tropical Island X] is wonderful…but it isn’t the Maldives.”. We ourselves have joined this island hunt with our trip to Indonesia which was superb…but it wasn’t the Maldives.
Over recent months I have been digging a bit deeper to come up with the closest facsimiles for those who need an alternative dose whether it be for a change of destination, somewhere less far to travel (the Maldives is quite an expedition for those on the other side of the world in the Americas), or even to save a bit of money. Despite the lattermost inspiration, nearly all the resorts I uncovered came in at just under $500 for entry level BB per person which is not too far off typical Maldives prices for nice 4+ star or a modest 5 star property. The closer the alternative destination property was to Maldives characteristics, the close the racks rate were to those in the Maldives.
There are obviously thousands of tropical island resorts in the world. For my most prominent filters, I excluded the following deal-breakers which keep a property from really having the Maldives vibe:
- Big Islands – Must be small enough to walk around in the time it takes to drink a bottle of beer and no elevation.
- Mediterranean – Weather and sea life too limited.
- Private Islands – Financially inaccessible (for most) properties that rent for tens of thousands for the whole place such as Richard Branson’s Necker Island in the Caribbean, David Copperfield’s Musha Cay in the Bahamas, or Noa Noa in the Philippines.
- Local Islands – The islands have to be dedicated resort islands (ie. no local residents), but can have multiple properties like Malaysia’s Mabul Island (and how the old Kuramathi, Maldives set up used to be).
- Remote Undeveloped Islands – Great bolt holes for liveaboards and cruise vessels, but that is an entirely different proposition to a resort and not everybody’s cuppa tea.
- Middle of the Ocean – Must be surrounded by 90% water with limited proximity, development, or high elevation islands on the horizon to preserve that “middle of the ocean” feel. This was the hardest aspect to adhere to and I bent consideration with a few selections below (eg. Akaiami Paradise Lodge, Le Taha’a Island, and Song Saa)
The top destinations with the most qualifying (and nearly qualifying) candidates are the following:
- Belize – Seems the closest as an overall destination – lots of islands, many small, coral and diving. I’ve included in a couple in the catalogue below, but I came across a good deal of others in my research. Also, seems to be considerably lower cost (though also lower standard) than many Maldives properties.
- Malaysia – Also, a good number of properties I came across and included a couple below.
- French Polynesia – Known most widely for the biggest island Tahiti, but it does have quite an array of smaller gems (again, a couple examples included in the list below).
Below is a list of the most prominent examples of Maldives mould alternatives. This piece will be a living post so if and as people recommend or I otherwise discover other resorts that meet the criteria, I will add them to the post and map.
Price indicated are approximate rates per person bed and breakfast based on queries to the resort website.
- Mabul, Borneo, Malaysia ($426pp)
- Lankayan Island, Borneo, Malaysia ($183pp)
- Coco Plum Island Resort, Belize ($456pp)
- Royal Palm Island, Belize ($120pp)
- Anantara Medjumbe Island, Mozambique ($390pp)
- Denis Island, Seychelles ($600pp) – thanks Moira
- Akaiami Paradise Lodge Aitutaki, Cook Islands, New Zealand ($480pp)
- Song Saa, Cambodia ($484pp)
- Lady Elliott Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia ($145pp)
- Vahine Island, French Polynesia ($311pp)
- Le Taha’a Island Resort, Tahiti ($517pp)
- Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort and Spa, Tahiti ($190pp)
- Mabul, Borneo, Malaysia ($426pp)