My wife and I have been eyeing up a trip to the Maldives for a couple of years now. Neither of us have been, it’s a massive bucket list item for both of us and I managed to nut out our flights so that the marginal cost to get there on our way to Italy was negligible. So we’re booked for a four night stopover on the way to Sardinia next year and have finally managed to choose a resort!
The huge number of resorts and all the different variables to consider made it really difficult, especially as I’d never heard of most of the properties there. We finally booked a new resort called Hurawalhi that’s only just recently opened and we’re really looking forward to it.
After navigating our way through the massive variety of resorts, I’ve got a couple of tips for anyone planning a trip to the Maldives who might be struggling to pick a place to stay.
Chain Hotels In The Maldives
Whilst most hotel chains are represented in the Maldives, they’re not necessarily going to be the easy choice they can be elsewhere. Starwood, Hyatt, Hilton, IHG and Accor all have properties there but even if you’re a die hard loyal customer of one of these chains, for varying reasons, their properties may not be the best bet for your Maldives adventure. That’s not to say they won’t be, just that you shouldn’t jump straight to the Park Hyatt or the Sheraton because they’re your usual go-to brands.
This is the big one for the Maldives. Accommodation choices in the islands range from very basic backpacker style accommodation all the way up to some of the most pimping luxury villas in the world.
If you’re visiting for a special occasion, you’ll likely be looking at properties in the 3 to 5 star range depending on your budget. Depending on the season and what deals are available, it’s possible to get a nice beach villa in the 3 star category for as little as AU$100 a night including breakfast but at this price point you can’t expect luxury. Anywhere from about AU$300 a night can get you a beach villa at a property in which you could expect a fairly nice level of service and comfort. AU$500 a night and up and you’re looking at luxury accommodation with breakfast and starting from about AU$800 a night you can get a 5 star over water villa on an all-inclusive basis, meaning all your meals and drinks are included in the price. There are of course options that cost many times this and if you’re in the market for a $10,000 a night villa, you’ll still be spoiled for choice.
One way that you can find particularly good deals is by looking at resorts that are yet to open. As resorts often have soft opening rates, you can get some fantastic deals this way! And there’s no shortage of new properties opening up in the Maldives. During 2017 alone, there are several brand new resorts welcoming guests, such as the Mercure Kooddoo and the tiny Kudadoo Island Resort, and you can bet that as soon as they get a few 5 star reviews on Tripadvisor their rates will jump up!
Inclusions In Room Rate
It won’t come as a shock to anyone who has done even a little research that food and drinks in the Maldives tend to be expensive. So what’s included in the rate of your room is an incredibly important consideration especially as the resorts are mostly on their own islands so you don’t have the option of going off resort to grab a cheap meal at the shops. Thankfully, the resorts in the Maldives are actually great about publishing menus for their restaurants on their websites, much better than in most destinations. This means that you can calculate, to a reasonable level of accuracy, the cost of any meals not included in your room rate and even drinks. It’s worth taking the time to have a look at this as it can make a massive difference to the total cost of your holiday. If you’re planning on drinking cocktails all day and are a big eater, staying on an all inclusive rate could save you some seriously big bucks. If you don’t drink and a big buffet breakfast is likely to get you through to dinner, then half board options may work out to be better value. Either way, just make sure to factor in an estimate for anything not included in your room rate.
Tripadvisor Reviews For Resorts In The Maldives
While it is of course important to check out some reviews when deciding on a Maldives resort, you need to understand that the ratings need to be viewed a little differently than for other destinations. The reason for this is that they are all extremely high! When people first visit the Maldives, they are invariably blown away by the natural beauty and are mostly going to rate their experience as 5 stars. This isn’t to say that their ratings should be any lower, after all they have just had what they considered a 5 star experience, just that there is a very broad range of quality and luxury within the 4.5-5 star average rated properties on Tripadvisor.
Once you arrive into Male international airport, you’re going to need to get to your resort and I’m sorry to say that Uber is not going to get the job done.
Depending on the location of your resort and the distance from Male, your transfers between the airport and the resort will either be by speedboat, by sea plane or by a domestic flight followed by a speedboat.
A direct speedboat from the international airport is only available for resorts that are reasonably close to Male. These are often less costly than the other transfers, as well as less hassle. They can also pick you up and drop you off at any time which is great if your international flight arrives into the Maldives after sunset. There are some drawbacks to the resorts that offer speedboat transfers though. Some of them are close enough to Male that you will be able to see the capital from the beach on your island and in some cases from your villa. For some people this will be of little concern whereas some find that having the “real world” visible from their resort can take away from the Maldives experience.
If you’re looking at staying in a resort that requires sea plane transfers, you need to be aware that these only operate during daylight hours. This generally means that if your international flight arrives after about 4:00pm or departs earlier than 9:00am, you’ll need to spend a night close to the airport. Male international airport is on an island just next to the actual island of Male called Hulhumale. If you need to do an overnight by the airport due to the arrival or departure times of your flights, your best option is to stay on the island of Hulhumale rather than on Male as it will be easier and quicker to get between the airport and your hotel.
The sea plane transfers in the Maldives are an amazing experience in themselves and even though they are generally more expensive than speedboat transfers, quite often it’s not a huge jump in price and the marginal cost is probably worth it for the experience of the flight alone.
With regards to resorts that require a domestic flight and then a speedboat, well that’s definitely going to take up some of your valuable Maldives time and is generally going to be expensive. If you have your heart set on a resort that requires this type of transfer then you just have to accept that it is what it is. Once you’re there, no doubt you’re going to feel like it was worth the effort but it isn’t advisable to choose an island that requires this type of transfer if you’re visiting for less than a week.
Robinson Crusoe Or P Diddy?
Luxury in the Maldives comes in many forms but one decision that is worth making before you get too deep into picking a resort is what general style are you after.
While islands like Mirihi are all about a “no news, no shoes”, Robinson Crusoe escapism version of 5 star luxury, other resorts such as Amilla Fushi are all about pimped out pool villas with every conceivable modern amenity.
This is a very important distinction as it will have a big impact on how your time in the Maldives is spent. Do you want to be on an island with as few as 20 rooms, where you can find a beach all to yourself with no noise but the gentle waves lapping at your feet? Or would you prefer to have the option of a bit of nightlife? Maybe even an underwater nightclub like Subsix at PER AQUUM Niyama? Do you want your Maldives experience to be one of utter, uninterrupted tranquility or do you fancy having the option of taking a jet ski out for a spin should you feel like it?
For many visitors, the number one reason they’re in the Maldives is for the snorkeling and diving. The underwater scenery of the islands is unparalleled and on many islands all you need to do is look over the edge of your villa’s deck to see white and black tip reef sharks, turtles and manta rays.
Some resorts have spectacular house reefs where those so inclined could spend weeks exploring the world underneath the sea without getting bored. Some require a short boat trip to get to better areas for snorkeling and some are just more about the beach than coral reefs.
If you’re planning on doing a two tank dive every morning, you’re going to want to pick an island with a top house reef such as Park Hyatt Hadahaa, which is said to have the most colourful and interesting coral formations in the Maldives (which would automatically make it a contender for the best worldwide). If you’re planning on spending most of your time on the beach or by the pool and are just planning on the odd half hour of snorkeling, you may be better off looking at islands with a shallow lagoon and beaches with fluffy white sand. Or even better, a long sand bar like the one at Finolhu.
Once you’ve made decisions (and agreed on them with your travel partner!) about these considerations, you’ll find that the field has been dramatically filtered and deciding on a resort will be far less intimidating.
Checking Different Channels To Get The Best Price
Now this isn’t going to come as a shock to anyone but room rates vary from website to website. While looking at properties in the Maldives though, it’s out of control. Between different websites, rates jump by 100% and more for so many of the resorts, it’s totally insane. It makes checking prices a little laborious but totally worthwhile, especially if it changes a room’s rate from $2000 a night and totally out of the question to $750 a night and now a real contender.
How We Ended Up Choosing Hurawalhi
Over the course of a month or so, we booked and cancelled at a handful of resorts because, for various reasons, we kept deciding we could do better. Budget was a big consideration for us but at the same time we’ve been dreaming about visiting the Maldives for ages and we want it to be incredible as well. Once I started looking at food and drinks prices on resorts’ websites, I really felt all inclusive was going to be the way forward for us. I just don’t want to be sweating about ordering another glass of wine at dinner. By which I mean another tequila. At breakfast.
A house reef isn’t too important for us. As long as we can get a half hour or two of snorkeling done and maybe see a turtle we’ll be stoked. It’s far more important for us to have a nice room and nice stretches of sand and we managed to stretch the budget to get us an overwater villa with a plunge pool.
The transfers at Hurawalhi are US$360 per person return, which isn’t cheap but by Maldives standards it’s very reasonable for two 40 minute seaplane flights.
We booked direct with the hotel as they had the best rate by far. I actually found this to often be the case for resorts in the Maldives but definitely not all the time. Anyway, with the discounted opening rates they’re currently offering for an overwater villa on an all inclusive basis, I’m feeling pretty good about the booking.