Which Maldives Island is For You?
The Maldives’ heavenly island idylls are home to chalk-white powdery beaches, gin-clear waters, beautiful coral reefs, rich marine life and world-class hotels. Each has its own character, quirks and appeal, and our team of Destination Experts know them inside out so can select the right one for you. They have hopped on speedboats and seaplanes to explore each hotel and every atoll, so their insider knowledge is second to none. Scroll down to read about six of our favourite island retreats:
1. JOALI – Best for the ultimate honeymoon
Situated in the northern Raa Atoll, just a 30-minute seaplane from Malé, it is easy to reach and well worth it when you arrive.
“The style of the island is contemporary, sophisticated and playful,” says Penny Buckley, our Head of Sales. “It has exceeded the high expectations of all the clients we have sent there. When I visited, I was blown away by the exceptional service, unpretentious and relaxing but spoiling atmosphere and world-class culinary offering.”
The villas and rooms at JOALI (which means ‘hammock’ in Dhivehi) are out of this world and extremely comfortable, with incredible attention to detail and everything custom-made. They offer privacy, space and uninterrupted views that really make the most of this incredible, remote location, encircled by beautiful sandbanks in the Indian Ocean. The sunsets are jaw-dropping.
The island is run by a fantastic team of highly skilled and impressive individuals, and the quality of service and food is a huge focus. Despite being a relatively small island, there are four world-class restaurants, including the incredible Japanese overwater restaurant, Saoke. Don’t miss the marinated tuna tartare, washed down with sake.
“The food on the island was truly exceptional and the best I’ve ever had in the Maldives. The breakfast was the best I’ve had anywhere,” says Penny.
There is plenty to do here. The island’s spa is stunning and there is a great gym and wellness centre, kids club and tennis courts. We can arrange for you to set sail on a yacht, explore in a private speedboat, embark on a snorkelling or scuba-diving expedition, or enjoy a wonderful private picnic in a stunning spot.
2. Six Senses Laamu – Best for families
Six Senses Laamu has a lovely, laid-back rustic feel, while still being extremely luxurious and very comfortable. The villas are all spacious and well designed, with all the modern comforts and fantastic views onto pristine beaches or over the crystal-clear sea.
There are four restaurants on the island, with excellent food at each, so you can enjoy lots of variety during your stay at lunch and dinner, including Japanese, Italian and an organic garden grill called Leaf, which is suspended over the vegetable gardens.
We can recommend many incredible experiences, such as scuba-diving, snorkelling, fishing, desert island picnics, spa treatments, sailing, surfing, cookery classes, open-air cinema, marine conservation, sunrise yoga and much more.
3. Baros – Best value escape
Baros has plenty to recommend itself, particularly for honeymooners. First off, there’s its intimate size, which means staff are attuned to every guest’s needs and personal touches are just that. Then there’s the remarkably peaceful ambience rippling through the island, due in part to the 12 and up rule. It’s also just a 25-minute speedboat ride from Malé, making it very accessible.
Baros has a wonderful sense of place, it is naturally beautiful, lush and green. The island is large enough that you can go for a 20-minute walk around it, it feels intimate and infinitely relaxed. There’s no need for shoes. When one of our Destination Experts visited recently, she was extremely impressed with the service and quality of the food. There are three superb restaurants to choose from, and four times a week they have special beach buffets and barbecues. The turnover of staff at Baros is very low with most of the waiters and senior staff members having worked there for many years so the team is uniquely professional, friendly and helpful (there is a 2 to 1 ratio of staff to guest).
Baros is also home to one of the best coral reefs in the Maldives, and they have even created their own shipwreck for the most inspiring snorkelling. The house reef at Baros is one of the best in the whole of the Maldives – there is just so much to see, from turtles to reef sharks, and more. It is also worth mentioning that the resort is slightly more affordable than other Maldives options.
The rooms at Baros are beautifully done, with exceptionally comfortable beds and spacious bathrooms.
“The water villas are good,” says Penny Buckley, our Head of Sales, “but ideally, you want one with its own private pool. We loved our Beach Villa, which was more private and had direct access to the beach. Our favourite restaurant had to be The Lighthouse, with its freshly-caught grilled lobster and views out over the Indian Ocean.”
4. Soneva Fushi – Best for foodies
One of the originators of the relaxed luxury ethos of the Maldives hotels, Soneva Fushi never puts a (bare) foot wrong. And while there may be a ‘no news and no shoes’ current running through the resort, it can still be a hive of activity – if you want it to be.
We can arrange complimentary yoga tuition in the treetops, or head to the fully operational observatory at night to gaze at the stars. Time is just as happily spent lounging on the so-perfect-that-it-looks-Photoshopped beach, cycling around the island or exploring the coral reef, which is, unlike most islands, right there. Quite simply, owners Sonu and Eva Shivdasani have created their very own castaway paradise here. They also have a sister resort, Soneva Jani, which opened in 2016.
“Soneva Fushi is a real treat for foodies, with restaurants run by ex-noma chefs and a dizzying amount of cuisines to choose from,” says Henrietta Loyd, Founder and Co-Owner of cazenove+loyd, who travelled here with her daughter. “Our favourite was the pretty ‘Fresh in the Garden’, which is set on stilts between wooden walkways above the extensive herb garden.”
5. COMO Cocoa Island – Best for tranquillity
We love this low-key, adults-only retreat, where there are no cars, bikes or buggies and everything is within walking distance as this heavenly island is so tiny. All the 34 villas here are over the water and sharks and rays continually swim beneath them. We will select the best room for you, depending on your taste and preference, but our favourite has to be 830, which is situated at the end of the jetty and has wonderful, mostly uninterrupted views.
The service here is simply superb, with all the staff making you feel completely at home. Their warmth and friendliness is best demonstrated by the volleyball match, which takes place every afternoon, where all the waiters and housekeeping staff have a jovial game and invite guests to join.
The island has a fabulous spa, with five treatment rooms, a gym and the first hydrotherapy pool in the Maldives. There is a stunning 1.5km sandbank that we suggest strolling along at sunset, as well as an amazing house reef, where you are likely to spot reef sharks, squid and manta rays. We recommend having a good look around the shop too, which sells lovely block-printed sarongs, hats, linen and boutique brands from India and Indonesia.
Another highlight here is the food. With a daily changing, wide-ranging menu, there is so much to choose from, including delicious steamed and grilled fresh fish, oysters, Italian dishes, tacos, ceviche and Sri Lankan dishes. They also offer a COMO Shambhala menu if you’re looking for something with a focus on nutrition and health. This is some of the best food we have tried in the Maldives, and it can be enjoyed in the restaurant, your room or, for an extra-special experience, at a private table set up on the beach.
6. Vakkaru Maldives – Best for spa lovers
Without doubt one of our favourite Maldivian islands, Vakkaru lies in a pristine corner of the Baa Atoll, accessible by a 35-minute seaplane from Malé. It opened to visitors in late 2017 and is an excellent choice for families and couples alike. There are completely uninterrupted views from every point on the island and no overhead traffic, so you will feel very remote here. It is one of the greenest, lushest islands in the Maldives, with beautiful trees, flowers and vegetation everywhere. Previously a coconut plantation, it now has more than 2,500 fully grown coconut trees that are protected to preserve its past. Vakkaru is perfectly sized – not too big and not too small – and perfect for cycling down the sandy lanes and along the impressive jetties.
The hotel has a contemporary and modern feel, yet remains understated. The overwater and beach villas are well designed, with high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling glass and large, open spaces to allow guests to focus on the natural surroundings. The food is consistently excellent, with lots of variety, including Japanese, Southeast Asian, Italian and a modern grill restaurant focusing on freshly caught sustainable fish. The best is the overwater Japanese restaurant, Lagoon, which serves the most amazing sashimi as well as lobster tacos. The team here are all so welcoming and friendly; nothing is too much trouble.
There is an impressive array of experiences to enjoy here, from incredible snorkelling, swimming with turtles, sailing and tennis to stand-up paddleboarding, desert-island barbecues and open-air cinema on the beach, to name a few. The overwater spa is our favourite spa in the Maldives, with the most amazing therapists and lovely treatment rooms, as well as many wellness programmes to choose from.
We also have great respect for Vakkaru because of the emphasis it places on sustainability and the environment. The island is plastic-free, huge amounts of vegetables are grown in the organic garden in the centre of the island and some of the private pools in the beach villas have trees in the middle of them as the owners did not want to cut down a single tree.