Widely considered the planet’s most exclusive holiday destination, the Maldives is home to a string of ultra-luxurious hotels and resorts that embody the ultimate tropical paradise getaway for honeymooners, sun worshipers, discerning travelers, scuba divers and celebrities. The Maldives are a collection of more than thousand small coral atolls, located on the equator towards the south of India and stretching across 800 km (500 mi) of the Indian Ocean on a north-south axis. The stunningly beautiful islands are the visible coral tips of an oceanic volcanic mountain range whose outer edges at some points plunge to depths of over 3 km (10,000 ft). The archipelago is blessed with some of the world’s most astonishing beaches, crystal clear turquoise lagoons, phenomenal underwater wildlife, and unrivaled luxury resorts that take up their own private islands.
1. SONEVA JANI
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Located on an uninhabited five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll, the Maldives’ most exclusive resort is fringed by pristine beaches, blanketed with lush tropical greenery, and surrounded by a 5.6 km (3,4 mi) lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted Indian Ocean views. The world-famous resort features 51 overwater pool villas, spread along two jetties that curve into a 5.6 km (3,4 mi) magnificent lagoon of crystal clear waters. Known as Chapter One and Chapter Tow, both jetties are connected to the Maldives’ largest resort island, a tropical paradise fringed by pristine beaches and blanketed with lush tropical greenery. Highlights at Soneva Jani include the villas’ retractable roofs, private water slides, a wide range of sublime restaurants, personalized experiences & excursions, and a spectacular new spa facility, Soneva Soul. Guests staying at Chapter Two can benefit from an all-inclusive way to experience the best of the resort with Soneva Unlimited.
2. SONEVA FUSHI
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Soneva Fushi, the first ‘Robinson Crusoe’ style hideaway in the Maldives, is set on the privately owned tropical island of Kunfunadhoo in Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The island – which is 1,400 m (4,600 ft) long and 400 m (1300 ft) wide – ranks among the largest islands in the Maldives. Apart from the crystal clear waters, white beaches and tropical climate, the island’s unusually rich vegetation offers a unique natural experience. Massive, multi-bedroom, fairytale-like luxury villas and private residences are hidden among dense tropical foliage. In keeping with the castaway theme, many are built to resemble tree houses. All open to their own private stretch of sugar white sands, and most boast their own private seawater swimming pools.
3. ONE&ONLY REETHI RAH
This chic resort offered a level of style and sophistication unsurpassed in the world when it opened in 2005 and it still delivers as the Grand Dame of the Maldivian archipelago. Set on a partly man-made, octopus-shaped island in the North Male Atoll, the resort is blessed with an extraordinary 6 km (3,7 mi) of coastline, dotted with white sand coves and turquoise bays. All 130 spacious villas are discreetly placed amidst beautiful landscaping, each occupying its own secluded piece of sandy shore or private deck over the lagoon’s crystal clear waters. Food is innovative and of the finest quality, prepared in an inspiring variety of ways, and staff are always receptive to the personal requirements of each and every guest. Set apart from the rest of the resort, the spa is located within tranquil gardens and manicured lawns.
4. VELAA PRIVATE ISLAND
Located in the Noonu Atoll, 187 km (110 mi) north of Malé, Velaa Private Island is the realization of a dream to create a ‘beyond luxury’ exclusive hideaway where guests are treated like royalty. Its name derived from the generations of sea turtles that flock there to nest and hatch, Velaa was developed to embody the very best of this unique archipelago, bathed by azure skies in the aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean. The resort comprises 45 private villas, houses and exclusive residences – sleeping from 1 to 10 guests – and also includes a romantic pool residence which can only be reached by boat, allowing even more exclusivity. Each villa comes with stone pavements from the desert in Jordan, Indonesian flowerpots, luxury wood paneling from Borneo, and glimmering Italian marble.
5. JOALI MALDIVES & JOALI BEING
JOALI offers two spectacular islands in the Maldives, with both properties sharing a common vision, while each has its own distinct identity. The Joali story began with the launch of JOALI Maldives, a 73-villa property tucked away in the stunning Raa Atoll where travelers can experience the joy of beachfront living through an incredible collection of artworks that unfold across the island. Innovative dining concepts include Japanese restaurant Saoke, authentic Asian Vandhoo and Levant restaurant Tuh’u, and Tuscan-inspired Bellinis, as well as numerous destination dining experiences. The Spa by ESPA invites guests on a wellness journey along with a world-class fitness center and expert trainers.
6. CHEVAL BLANC RANDHELI
The ultraluxe Cheval Blanc Randheli Resort calls the spectacular Noonu Atoll its home, and Soneva Jani and Velaa Private Island (cf below) its neighbors. The property is built on a handful of tiny islands protected from the ocean by a large coral reef which houses a dazzling sampling of multicolor fish, rays and sea turtles. Getting there involves a trip onboard a Twin Otter of Havilland seaplane that has been exclusively designed for the Maison, combining the brand’s signature taupe with Randheli’s solar yellow. The famous resort offers 46 island, water and garden villas in neutral colors and tones that complement the open design of the space.
7. THE ST REGIS MALDIVES VOMMULI RESORT
Located in the Dhaalu Atoll – a 40 minute seaplane ride southwest from Malé – the iconic St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort is surrounded by dreamy landscapes, thick tropical vegetation, a fine white-sand beach, a pristine lagoon, and the glistening turquoise Indian Ocean. Combining contemporary design and local craftsmanship, with a profound appreciation for the ecological environment, the resort’s 77 luxuriously appointed villas feature expansive private terraces leading to pristine beaches and infinity pools with the magnificent Indian Ocean as a tranquil backdrop. The resort also boasts one of the largest three bedroom over-water villas in the Maldives, the John Jacob Astor Estate. Guests can savor epicurean delights from all over the world in the six restaurants and bars and restore their well-being at the over-water Iridium Spa.
8. FOUR SEASONS RESORT MALDIVES AT LANDAA GIRAAVARU
Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru is a remote island hideaway in the secluded Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, a scenic seaplane ride from Male. Combining innovation, wellness and conservation, the resort comprises 103 thatched bungalows and villas of contemporary Maldivian design spread across the island’s remote jungle wilderness.
9. RAFFLES MALDIVES MERADHOO RESORT
Set on the private island of Meradhoo in the southern end of the Maldives archipelago, the Raffles Maldives Meradhoo Resort opened in 2019 following an extensive refurbishment of the previous Jumeirah hotel. The property boasts 21 island villas with private pools set steps from the beach and – a short boat trip away from the main island – 16 ocean villas with steps directly down to the deep blue and outdoor marble baths looking out the horizon. The resort has 3 restaurants, a scenic cocktail bar and an array of facilities and activities to relax, rejuvenate and reinvigorate the body, mind and spirit. There’s also an award winning luxury spa, over-water fitness center, private dining options, 24-hour butler and private chef service.
10. ANANTARA KIHAVAH VILLAS MALDIVES
Set on Kihavah Huravalhi, one of the most pristine and beautiful islands in the Maldives, Anantara Kihavah Villas is a 30-minute seaplane flight from Male International Airport (an unforgettable experience in itself as the plane flies over a string of glowing coral islands amidst turquoise waters). The resort’s 79 spacious ultra-luxurious villas are either poised over the water with sweeping ocean views or nestled along a pristine stretch of private beach. All overwater villas are built out of groove-lined timber, with high ceilings and hardwood floors, and feature expansive terraces with private pools, from where to take in the horizon and catching sightings of turtles in the lagoon and dolphins in the Indian Ocean.
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