This tour review is not just marking the end of another year’s island hopping to do research for the Maldives Complete website, but actually marks a major milestone in our resort adventures. Our visit to LUX* North Male Atoll (LNMA) was the 100th Maldives resort we have visited. As best we can determine, we are the first non-professionals to have visited 100 resorts. LNMA helped us ring in the milestone in style with a lavish bed decoration (above) and a tasty treat (below).
All but 7 were overnight stays (to get the full 24 hours experience and explore a range of activities) which distinguishes us from the local Maldives travel pros who have probably hit a hundred, but with mostly short stop visits. The closest contender my fellow Maldives experts have identified is Michaela Reisner, who runs the a travel agency in Germany. She is at 96, and unfortunately for me will likely be the first to cross the “100 overnight stays” milestone when she tours in October. But, she is also a professional who is getting paid to do her trips so we are looking forward to being the first non-pro to hit 100 overnight stays during next year’s Tour.
The links between LUX* and Maldives Complete go deep over this century of visits. In the early days of the website, LUX South Ari Atoll (then “LUX Maldives”) was one of the earlier resorts we visited. We were especially embraced by their Resort Manager Dominic Ruhl and the Marketing Director Dolores Semanaro (who became a pioneer in the use of Twitter by Maldives resorts). We had a natural kinship in our appreciation of special touches and guest experience innovations. They were intrigued by this thing I had on the website called “a blog” where I celebrated them. Dominic even asked if I would do LUX’s blog, but I was maxed on Maldives Complete and didn’t want to introduce even the appearance of bias.
Fast forward to today, our LNMA visit was punctuated by another couple of longstanding friends from the Maldives who represented another of the site’s earliest and strongest supporters – Kurumba. Traipsing about, LUX’s Executive Chef Henry Jordan shouted out to me to say hello (see photo below). I had first met him when he was starting his culinary career at Kurumba and he remarked that I wrote the very first article about him (“Best of the Maldives: American Breakfasts – Kurumba”). He had gone on to a number of illustrious establishments including his own restaurant in Thailand and earning himself a Michelin star. Moreover, his boss at Kurumba, Dave Minten, is now the Corporate Executive Chef at LUX*. We had the pleasure of being hosted by him at Kurumba and even attended his wedding celebration there. When people ask me “Why do you do it?” (put so much work into the website for no money, in fact big expense), on of the reasons highest on my list is that I get to be a part of this diaspora of Maldives lovers whom I have be-friended over a shared love of paradise.
The resorts seem to be launching faster than we can visit them. Maybe a blow to my fantasies of “Complete-ness”, but at least maybe our odyssey in paradise will never end.
Green stars indicate resorts visited.
Yellow stars indicate resorts not yet ivisted.
Love the website. We have never been to the Maldives and are planning our first trip for March 2022. We are living in Ireland and are planning 3 nights in Dubai and 5 nights in the Maldives. I find trawling through all the information quite confusing. I will answer the questions you ask:
1. Budget – £700 per night
2. Size of Island – not too bothered but would like powdery sand beaches, no sea walls if possible, nice views.
3. House reef – first time snorkeling
4. Seaplane – yes
5. Children – we are in our late 50s – adult only would be fine but not a deal breaker
6. All Inclusive – very interested in this but would like a choice of restaurants and bars and mini bar.
7. Pool – would like an infinity pool.
8. No special requirements
Cleanliness is very important. Any help narrowing down resorts would be appreciated.
1. £700 is a good amount for a value priced luxury resort.
2. This is a helpful criteria.
3. Helpful as well.
4. Got it.
5. Never many children in the Maldives and very limited selection of “adult only” resorts so I wouldn’t push for this.
6. All-inclusive – This can add a lot to your costs especially if you want a dine-around and mini-bar.
7. Pool – do you mean (a) your own private infinity pool, or (b) one at the resort.
The resorts that come to mind:
1. Amilla – ticks budget (close), house reef, seaplane, resort infinity pool, no seawalls at all
2. Anantara Kihavah – budget questionable but maybe a deal, great beach, great house reef, ticks seaplane and resort infinity pool, no seawalls at all
3. Maafushivaru – definitely ticks budget, fantastic sand, good house reef, seaplane, resort infinity pool, a couple of unobtrusive seawalls (check out the aerial photos to see if okay)
4. Huravalhi – budget maybe with a deal great beach, great house reef, ticks seaplane and resort infinity pool, no seawalls at all (and is adults only).
Hi Bruce, fantastic resource you’ve put together here, top marks!
We’re currently planning our first trip, and like everyone else feel a bit overwhelmed.
Our budget per night for the two of us (HB or AI) is something in the region of £1750, give or take. Planning on staying four nights, and may try to do two nights in an over-water villa and two nights in a beach villa for variety.
I think our top criteria would be quality/variety of the food, as if it’s poor I think it could easily ruin a (captive) resort holiday for us. I’m not expecting Michelin-star quality for every meal, but something tending towards that would be brilliant. Aside from the general quality, a lot of resorts I’ve looked at seem to have reviews lamenting the lack of seafood, which certainly seems a shame for somewhere in the middle of the ocean!
Beyond that we’d prefer somewhere with no kids (though their numbers might be low if we avoid school holidays) and somewhere with a great house reef.
Definitely want at least some of our stay to be over-water with our own pool (infinity ideally) and access to the water.
We’ve looked at a lot, and in depth at a few, but it’s so hard to know which reviews can be trusted and which information is up to date. I wonder also how much things may have changed since covid; for instance has it caused a lot of resorts to make big cutbacks, maybe closing half of their restaurants etc?
I feel most other things (activities, watersports etc) we’re not that bothered about. We might want to do a bit of something, but I’m guessing everywhere will have their own options, and we don’t know/care enough to narrow our search down based on those things.
Lastly, when do you think is the best time of year to visit? We were planning the first week of December, but will it still be too wet then do you think?
Many thanks Bruce,
Your budget really opens up a lot of the finer 5-star resort so you are spoiled for choice for all but the most luxurious properties (for which you would be paying extra for Michelin-star quality food, etc). One criteria will whittle the options down is the great house reef. Some of my fav properties in solid 5-star category, with very fine house reefs and great food include Amilla, Conrad Rangali, Ayada, Hideaway Beach, Kandolhu, W Maldives. These are all very different in many other aspects (eg. style, ambience, size). I would recommend browsing their profiles on Maldives Complete and perusing their “Best of the Maldives” posts about them and see which ones resonate with you for their vibe, offerings, etc.
Thanks Bruce – Hideaway and Kandolhu seem to be popular on the tripadvisor forums too, we will have a more in-depth look at those two. The recommendation on those forums has been Baros, not sure if that’s one you’ve been to or not? As for timing, we’re thinking now of pushing it back to Feb for the slightly lesser chance of bad weather.
Baros is slick and has a nice-house reef. We didn’t have a great experience there, but might have been unrepresentative and was a long time ago so worthy of a look.
I am exhausted from researching resorts. Your site is brilliant. I know there are many views on AI but do you have any recommendations/ feedback on Premium dine around AI?
I tend not to do AI as it doesn’t really work for us (we eat big breakfasts and skip lunch, we don’t drink much, and we don’t really value the security of a fixed price). As a result, I can’t really advise on this matter. Sorry.
Regarding the cleanliness: every resort island in the Maldives would be very clean. Extremely clean. Yea every resort.
To be honest, in general, Maldivians are very clean people.
What an outstanding experience that would have been. Your blog is truly benchmark for people looking for information and experience for Maldives Trip.
How did you managed to bear cost of travelling and stay as you said while comparing with Michaela Reisner that you don’t get paid for it and probably you don’t get sponsored.
Really helpful if you can share something on family time, expenses and travelling.
As I have written about, it is a VERY expensive hobby. I did recently add a Patreon page for people who I help to show their gratitude with contributions to keeping the site going – http://blog.maldivescomplete.com/2021/06/12/maldives-complete-patreon/
We have been to the Maldives 3 times, one and only Reethi Rah, Baros and Outtrigger Konotta.
We would like to get some advice on our 4th visit to Maldives as we now have a better idea what we value the most:
– house reef for snorkelling
– quality food, we value quality food over quantity and we like Asian food a lot ( Indian, Thai etc), we value the cooking skills/expertise/techniques
– privacy of accommodation
– adults only or children restricted by age
– nature ( matured vegetation)
– high service standards but not intrusive
– elegance with quality rather than luxurious
Budget – GBP 700 per night
Stay – 14 days
Seaplane – can be
Do you have any particular resort coming up to your mind based on our criteria?
Thank you so much
We value your insight.
Erika and Paul
The two easiest to apply filters are (a) your budget (mid-tier 5-star), and (b) adults only.
The children restricted resorts are…
Centara Ras Fushi
Club Med Finolhu Villas
You & Me
Of those, Baros, Finolhu Villas, Huvafenfushi, Hurawalhi, Kudadoo, Milaidhoo will be well over your budget leaving –
Centara Ras Fushi
You & Me
Of those, the following do not have great house reefs – Veli, Kuredu, You & Me. Also, I have not visited Drift Thelu, Veligandu or Robinson Club so I can’t comment on them. All of the remainder have high service standards. That leaves:
Centara Ras Fushi
Considering your final criteria:
– quality food – Centara is a Thai property with great Thai food, Kandolhu is very strong as well. I would rate Komandoo and Vilamendhoo is a touch less distinctive.
– privacy of accommodation – really varies by villa so best to browse through the villa galleries to see what best meets your expectations.
– nature ( matured vegetation) – Vilamendhoo is the only real sizeable island of the short list. Centara has very little vegetation.
– high service standards but not intrusive – Al of these in the short list will have superlative service.
– elegance with quality rather than luxurious – I would rank the “elegance” of these options in this order – Kandolhu, Centara, Vilamendoo, Komandoo
Thank you Bruce for your prompt reply.
If we only limit our criteria to VERY GOOD HOUSE REEF, QUALITY FOOD and PRIVACY OF ACCOMODATION, which of the resort selections would meet our preferred parameters?
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru
Thank you so much
Erika and Paul
The only ones on that new list that would be close to 700 GBP per night would be Ayada and maybe Hideaway Beach. Actually, Hideaway Beach prides itself on its distinctive privacy and their house reef is superb. Food’s great too. Ayada should be a bit cheaper, excellent food and also superb house reef (I can’t really recall the privacy but the villa pictures should give you an idea).
Thanks Bruce for all your help. Your expertise truly helps us.
One final question and we mean it. If we remove the budget and we only focus on very good house reef, quality food, privacy accommodation then what would you say on:
We do mean that this is our last question.
Thank you so much
Feel free to ask as many questions as you like. There was a time when Huvafenfushi would have been the runaway choice, but we were there quite a while a ago and some reports say that the decor is faded and it is not up to its super-premium status. Its underwater spa (the the “Night Aquarium” experience is truly a “wow” feature though). You are really splitting hairs on very subjective aspects (eg. privacy). I would browse through the respective website, read my best-of pieces on each and go through some TripAdvisor reviews (ignore the 1-star and 5-star reviews and focus on the 4-star reviews with from the reviewers with the highest “Helpful Vote” counts to get the most accurate account of the properties.
Very helpful Thanks Bruce
So far We favour Kandolhu but having been offered a quote it seems that our budget will go up to £1,000 per night. With this in mind, alternative resorts may come to play here so I will have further look what other resorts offer for £1,000 per night but still within our parameters of delivering good snorkelling, delicious food, privacy of accommodation. If you have any other ideas please feel free to drop them in. Thanks Bruce
You might look at Amilla.