4 Things to Know Before Your First Trip to the Maldives

There can be few better places for social distancing than an overwater villa. If the islands are calling you more than ever before, here's how to do them right.

Luxurious bungalows, electric-blue seas, and blissed-out vibes: What's not to love? "The Maldives have been at the top of our clients' bucket lists for the past ten years," says Judy Stein, president of the Stein Collective by Ovation Travel and a member of T+L's Travel Advisory Board.

But what has always been a "maybe someday" kind of trip turned into a "why not now?" experience over the past year, when the Maldives became one of the first countries to reopen its borders during the pandemic. Americans have been free to visit the more than 150 private-island resorts in the archipelago since July. And while the price tag for these escapes hasn't changed — most visitors should budget at least $800 a day just for the room — there's an ever-growing range of options for those willing to make the long-haul trip. Get the most out of your stay with this advice.

A traditional drone for guest use at One&Only Reethi Rah
Guests at One&Only Reethi Rah can explore the surrounding seas aboard the resort’s private yacht. Courtesy of One&Only

Skip the flight and take a boat.

Travelers arrive at Velana International Airport near the capital, Malé, and many private-island resorts offer the choice of transferring by boat or seaplane. While the puddle-jumper flight sounds quick — and the views from the air are incredible — it's actually the more time-consuming option, because seaplanes depart from a different airport. Instead, opt for the boat transfer. Getting to the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi (doubles from $1,980), for example, takes just 40 minutes aboard the property's yacht. The speedboat ride to Gili Lankanfushi (doubles from $1,624), home to dreamy Robinson Crusoe–style villas, takes 20 minutes. And the barefoot-luxury One&Only Reethi Rah (doubles from $2,150) is 45 minutes from the airport by sea.

Fish swim outside the glass of an underwater bedroom at a hotel in the Maldives
The Muraka residence at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Courtesy of Conrad Hotels & Resorts

Bring the family.

Many people think of the Maldives as being only for couples, but a number of resorts are geared to families with kids and teens. Soneva Fushi (soneva.com; doubles from $1,900) has the largest and arguably best kids' club in the country, complete with a Lego room and countless things to do, including surfing lessons and stargazing at the hotel's observatory. The kids' club at Lux* South Ari Atoll Resorts & Villas (luxresorts.com; doubles from $515) has a pirate-themed pool exclusively for young ones, plus island-wide treasure hunts.

Consider spending points, not dollars.

If you've been stockpiling points during the past year, this might be a good time to cash in. Villas at the stylish new JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa (doubles from $920) start at 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, depending on the season. The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort (doubles from $1,360) is also available for as little as 85,000 Bonvoy points a night, depending on when you go. And stays at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi can be had for 120,000 Hilton Honors points per night — with the fifth night free.

Overwater villas in the Maldives
A string of overwater villas at Joali, which opened in 2018. Courtesy of Joali

Go all out.

With some of the most over-the-top accommodations you'll find anywhere in the world, the Maldives is an ideal place for a splurge. Soneva Jani (doubles from $3,290) is one of the nation's most luxurious resorts, with massive new overwater villas complete with waterslides. Joali (doubles from $2,958) brings the wow factor with palatial villas featuring private pools. Cheval Blanc Randheli (doubles from $3,550), a sister property to the LVMH resort in St. Bart's, has 45 private villas — including a four-bedroom jaw-dropper on its own 2½-acre atoll. And the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island (doubles from $790) is home to the crown jewel of the Maldives, the Muraka residence (from $19,170), with its incredible underwater bedroom, fitted with a see-through domed ceiling for watching marine life swim past.

A version of this story first appeared in the March 2021 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline Maximize Your Trip to the Maldives.

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