It doesn’t get more luxurious than the Maldives. Stretches of white sand, butler service and overwater bungalows are what vacation dreams are made of, and the Maldives has it in spades. There are around 150 resorts and hotels to choose from on this 1,200 island nation in the Indian Ocean. To help you narrow down your options, here are ten of the best.
Gili Lankanfushi Maldives
This Robinson Crusoe paradise brings you barefoot luxury the moment you step onto the 20-minute speedboat from Malé.
Gili Lankanfushi reopened in December 2019, with 45 stunningly refurbished villas using upcycled materials made by local craftsmen. They also added spacious overwater Family Villas with Pools, a first for the island resort. Whatever you do, don’t skip out on their breakfast buffet cold room filled with handmade chocolate, cheese and charcuterie.
Opening last year, this design-forward resort has made a splash in the Maldives. Massive overwater and beach bungalows, each with a private pool, has feminine, trendy design touches like rose gold fixtures, iPad-controlled lights and curtains and hand-carved woodwork.
Dine inside Joali’s giant wooden manta ray perched above the treeline or an overwater Japanese restaurant with glass-bottom floors, and fresh Maldivian tuna. Or opt for some Italian where the mozzarella is made on the island, and so is the gelato.
You’ve probably seen smiling celebrities at both Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, two of the country’s premier resorts. Though wildly different in design, they both come with a laid-back island elegance, top-tier service and a truly fantastic breakfast buffet.
Soneva Fushi has more than 70 sprawling villas set against the lush palm trees on the island with a gigantic overwater restaurant and lounge area. Soneva Jani has 25 expansive overwater villas, each with its own private waterslide snaking around a jetty. If you want to be on the beach, head to Fushi, but if you’d rather experience an overwater villa, book Jani.
There are 80 beach and overwater pool villas that dot the palm tree private island and sapphire lagoon waters. This 5-star resort is an ideal place to snorkel with manta rays and sea turtles and stare up at the stars from the islands’ only overwater observatory.
Another unique aspect of Anantara Kihavah is its underwater restaurant and wine cellar Sea. Enjoy a fine-dining experience, and a glass of champagne as colorful fish swim by. End the night at Sky, the resort’s cocktail bar with a stunning star-filled ceiling.
St. Regis Maldives Vommuli
A seaplane ride from the capital brings you to an architecture lover’s oasis. The modern overwater villas at St. Regis Maldives Vommuli are designed to look like manta rays, and the posh beach villas are modeled after traditional Maldivian fishing huts.
Enjoy a sunset cocktail in the mouth of a whale shark. The St. Regis’ sprawling overwater bar is designed to look like the large mammal found in the waters outside the resort. The St. Regis’ overwater spa is modeled after a crustacean, legs and all.
Guests arrive by private seaplane to the famed French brand’s Maldives property. Choose from a variety of 46 villa types boasting different island locations, including Water Villa, a Lagoon Villa and Island Villa. Each of the villas is decorated with subtle natural colors and pops of bright yellow.
In French fashion, Cheval Blanc takes their dining experiences seriously. Offering an impressive five restaurants and four bars on the small islands means there is something for everyone. From Italian fare perched over the ocean to Japanese sushi and teppanyaki. Don’t miss an extraordinary 12-course French meal and wine pairing at Le 1947.
A one-hour domestic flight from Malé to the island of Gan, followed by a quick boat ride, lands you at the Shangri-La’s Villingili. Massive overwater bungalows, its location south of the equator and the islands’ only 9-hole golf course make this property unique.
The resort has eight different room types to choose from, including a One-Bedroom Beach Villa with a pool and a Sunset Overwater Villa. There are also three restaurants and three bars to eat everything from Middle Eastern to expansive seafood buffets.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
You’ve probably seen the Conrad’s underwater residence, Muraka, posted all over Instagram. If Muraka is booked, there are a variety of villas like the Sunset Water Villa with glass-floor paneling and multi-bedroom beach suites.
The resort has everything from the Majaa Kid’s Club to an overwater spa and an underwater restaurant. One of the most well-known resorts in the Maldives, it’s a perfect honeymoon and family retreat.
JW Marriott Maldives
New in 2019, the JW Marriott Maldives has 60 stylish villas with four different categories to choose from, including Overwater Pool Villa and Duplex Beach Pool Villa. The spacious villas are designed to look like inverted Dhoni, local Maldivian boats, all of which include a private pool.
One of the resort’s best offerings is its five exemplary restaurants. Led by a former Nobu chef, Kaashi is an open-air Thai restaurant set amongst the treetops. Pair your pad thai or green curry with a glass of wine from their 300-label cellar or a rum cocktail from their impressive collection of 98 rums.