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Best hotels in the Maldives 2023: Where to stay for luxury, private beaches and relaxation

Indulge in wellness retreats and watersports at these luxurious Maldives hotels

Lee Cobaj
Thursday 29 June 2023 10:22 BST
<p>Take a break from the rest of the world in the Maldives </p>

Take a break from the rest of the world in the Maldives

You’ve decided to splurge on a dream trip to the Maldives, and who could blame you? From its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, not to mention the vibrant marine life, culture and, of course, tropical climate, it’s a top bucket-list destination for a reason.

While you may have spent years dreaming about staying in one of the many over-water bungalows, when it comes to actually choosing where to stay, the choice is almost overwhelming.

The total number of resorts in the Maldives now reaches well over 160, so there really is a head-spinning choice of different vibes and styles to wade through. From far-flung castaway piles to laid-back fly and flops, lavish beach palaces, design-driven spa retreats and romantic hideaways, picking the perfect place to stay is easier said than done.

To help narrow down your search, we’ve rounded up what, in our opinion, are the very best hotels in this Indian Ocean paradise. Whether you’re visiting for a honeymoon, an anniversary or simply want to tick this trip off your “most wanted” list, we’ve covered all bases.

The best hotels in the Maldives are:

Best hotel for a wellness break: Joali Being

Location: Raa Atoll

Get a slice of peace at one of Joali Being’s beachside villas

The first luxury island resort in the Maldives fully dedicated to wellness is set in the ravishing Raa Atoll, a 30-minute seaplane ride from the capital Malè. The biophilic (nature-inspired) design soothes the soul from the moment you pass through the Gate of Zero welcome pavilion, sculpted by Turkish artist Seçkin Pirim. It encourages guests to reset and take full advantage of the resort’s “transformational spaces”, which include a hive of hydrotherapy facilities – watsu, banya, hammam – sound discovery paths, cryotherapy chambers, yoga studios, meditation pavilions and a herbology centre.

Best edge of the world escape: Six Senses Laamu

Location: Laamu Atoll

Six Senses sits right at the edge of the secluded Laamu Atoll

The only luxury resort in the secluded southern Laamu Atoll, located just five degrees north of the equator, Six Senses feels about as far away from the outside world as you can get. The design taps into the castaway setting, with guests arriving at a fantastical triple-storey timber, bamboo and driftwood hub housing restaurants and bars that open to the elements and have glass-panels in the floor to watch the fish swishing below. Villas are equally adventurous, all bleached woods, multi-level decks and netted beds. The surrounding reefs are full of wondrous marine life and virtually no other tourists. Visit between May and August to witness baby turtles hatching on the beach.

Best hotel for sociable types: Jumeirah Maldives

Location: North Malé Atoll

Enjoy a stylish break at Jumierah Maldives

Jumeirah Maldives’ bright-white Art Deco-inspired architecture splashed with pops of cerise pink brings the look and feel of Miami’s South Beach to the North Malé Atoll (a 50-minute speedboat ride from the capital). The villas are some of the largest in the Maldives, with circular living rooms, private rooftops (perfect for stargazing), rambling bathrooms and private pools big enough to swim in. The food is consistently excellent, the bars buzzy and there’s no end of things to do, from sunrise yoga to jet-skiing to the edge of the atoll to hang out with bottlenose dolphins to riding a yellow submarine to photoshoots with a professional photographer.

Best hotel for design-lovers: Patina Maldives

Location: North Malé Atoll

This luxury hotel is just 45 minutes out of Malè

You’ll quickly flatten your battery snapping the striking tropical modernist architecture and arty interiors at this stylish resort, located a 45-minute speedboat ride from Malé. There’s plenty of substance too; a museum-worthy art collection with a James Turrell light installation the star of the show; plant-based, Japanese-Nordic and South American restaurants worthy of any major metropolis; a deep-reaching spa; and an ocean conservation programme. Part of the man-made Fari Islands complex (alongside the Ritz-Carlton and Capella), guests can also take advantage of shared facilities, which include yacht docks and a beach club.

Best hotel for turtles: The Residence at Dhigurah

Location: Gaafu Alifu Atoll

Rooms are extremely spacious with large private swimming pools

A 55-minute domestic flight (rather than a seaplane journey) from Malé, this affordable five-star resort has a location that its ultra-luxury hotel counterparts would kill for. Spread across a jungly 2km-long island flanked by pure white sands and connected to a sister island via a kilometre-long wooden bridge, guests flit from breakfast to the infinity pool to the spa and restaurants by bicycle, along the way spotting a multitude of green sea turtles which bob around just off shore. And while the room design isn’t going to blow up Instagram, all are extremely spacious with big comfortable beds and large private swimming pools.

Best hotel for swimmers: Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi

Location: Shaviyani Atoll

This pool is 100m long

This fantastic all-rounder set on a whale-shaped island located inside an atoll teeming with megafauna – manta rays, eagle rays, marble stingrays, sea turtles, reef sharks – is one for water babies. Aside from sensational snorkelling, diving and deep-sea fishing, guests can also swim inside the hotel’s stainless steel coralarium, the only underwater sculpture gallery in the Maldives, and do laps in the 100m-long swimming pool. The Willow Spa, too, focuses on water, with a separate serenity swimming pool and yoga pavilions overlooking the Indian Ocean. The grand water sunset villas are the rooms to bag.

Best hotel for manta rays: Soneva Fushi

Location: Baa Atoll

Try out a once-in-a-lifetime astrology experience at Soneva Fushi

The original Maldivian barefoot luxury resort is located in the heart of the Baa Atoll, where Sir David Attenborough came to film the world’s largest aggregation of manta rays for Blue Planet II. If you want to swim with the aqua-giants, visit between June and November. Otherwise, swing by for the big, beautiful back-to-nature villas; the inspired dining – looking out for visiting Michelin-starred chefs; and singular experiences, from spending the night alone on a sandbank to staring at the Rings of Saturn at the observatory to a health reset at the Soneva Soul Spa, which combines ancient healing practices with vitamin IV infusion and hyperbaric chambers.

Best hotel for chilling out: COMO Cocoa Island

Location: South Malé Atoll

Take a break in one of Cocoa Island’s 33 overwater villas

For the ultimate fly-and-flop, look no further than COMO Cocoa Island. Located an easy-breezy 40-minute speedboat ride from the airport, with broad champagne-gold beaches and just 33 overwater villas, the island exudes tranquility. Start your day with a long lazy breakfast, followed by a long lazy lunch, perhaps a dip in the bath-warm Indian Ocean before whiling away the afternoon under a palm tree reading a book. For a change of scene, there’s the wonderful Como Shambala Spa, where you can drop into daily complimentary wellness classes, use the hydrotherapy facilities for free or book a signature ylang-ylang scented massage.

Best hotel for luxury: Conrad Rangali

Location: Alifu Dhaalu Atoll

Conrad Rangali features an overwater spa and dive centre

The Conrad Rangali hit the headlines in 2018 with the opening of The Muraka, a Bond-worthy three-bedroom overwater residence with a mesmerising underwater master suite. But this resort has got plenty more going for it. Between the two large natural islands (one for socialising and one for hiding away) there are 12 top-notch restaurants, including Ithaa, which is underwater, and Mandhoo, which serves delicious spa cuisine, as well as two swimming pools, an overwater spa and dive centre where you can book trips to swim with 7m-long adolescent whale sharks that congregate nearby.

Best hotel for boho style: Amilla Maldives Resort

Location: Baa Atoll

Indulge in yoga and meditation at this luxury resort

Pack your best kaftan for a stay at this hip resort, a 30-minute seaplane journey from Malé in the Baa Atoll Unesco Biosphere Reserve. The large contemporary villas were designed for lingering in, with large living rooms, big soaking tubs, plenty of outdoor space and private pools. But drag yourself away and you’ll find a host of excellent cafes and restaurants, a tip-top spa and plenty of free activities to keep you busy – yoga, meditation, art classes, kombucha-making, football academy, hula-hooping, DJ-ing and snorkel tours inside a unique blue hole formation found on the house reef.

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