The Maldivian Archipelago, located some 400 miles off the Indian mainland, could hardly be more remote. And yet the exceptional beauty of this nation has made it a favorite for the luxury sector. In recent years, some of the most prestigious hotel brands from London, Paris, New York and beyond have established properties in the Maldives with dazzling results.
The remoteness of the islands means it's necessarily an exclusive destination and with a demanding clientele, the luxury hotel scene is competitive and wildly inventive.
Designers are faced with the challenge of creating accommodation that's fittingly gorgeous for the magnificent surroundings, whether the result is more traditional beach hut vibes or chic minimalism.
Services-wise, it doesn't get much more OTT, from ocean-view holistic massage treatments, to personal butlers and even an on-water cinema.
Let's hop in our private seaplane and take a tour, shall we?
The best hotels in the Maldives
1. Ozen Life Maadhoo, Maldives
You may recognize this ultra-luxe Maldives retreat thanks to its famous underwater dining restaurant, much shared on social media.
The 94 beachfront and overwater villas don't come cheap, but they sure do look pretty, inside and out. The interior design is modern and clean, with touches of local artisanship in the décor.
Double doors open straight out on to the stunning blue lagoon where the hotel is situated. Back yards don't come much better than that.
You can dine six meters under the Indian Ocean, and it is all-inclusive with high-end restaurants and kids' club.
Book a stay at Ozen Life Maadhoo, Maldives (opens in new tab). Rooms from $1000.
2. Soneva Jani
Soneva Jani offers a whole new level of luxury and frivolity. Villas have their own slides straight into the water and guests can even watch a classic movie on the overwater cinema!
The light-bathed rooms of the villas are furnished with sustainable materials and offer just about anything the discerning traveler might need, from an open-air bathroom to a cooled selection of wines.
There's plenty of room for families to spread out in the villas and a kids' club in the main structure.
Each villa opens on to its own stretch of lagoon with private pool, and there is an on-site water sports center and tennis court.
Book a stay at Soneva Jani (opens in new tab). Rooms from $2000.
3. Patina, Fari Islands
This stylish modern villas of Patina, all earth tones and smooth lines, offer something a little different to some of the Maldives' more bling bling resorts.
The resort also has green credentials that go beyond the merely superficial. The whole complex is solar powered, water is recycled, there's no single-use plastic and produce comes from an on-site permaculture garden. Trees and plants are rescued from nearby islands, having faced industrial clearing - a nice touch, given the environmental strain the Maldives is under.
The hotel even offers kids' workshops on the subject of preserving the coral reef of the surrounding water.
Book a stay at Patina, Fari Islands (opens in new tab). Rooms from $1200.
4. Joali Being
A wellness focus with a relaxed, retreat vibe, there's a natural feel to the decor here. Curved lines abound with interiors inspired by seas, shells and shorelines.
Joali Being houses a turtle sanctuary and coral nursery, but the green credentials go beyond the superficial. Joali Being is home to one of just three turtle conservation sanctuaries across the Maldives. The hotel partners with the Reef Restoration Project and houses a coral nursery, with the aim of helping to rebuild the lagoon's reefs.
The focus is on wellbeing in a number of forms, so massage spa and so on, but also inspiring nature excursions and even personal consultations with a nutritionist.
Each of the 68 villas have a dedicated butler.
Book a stay at Joali Being (opens in new tab). Rooms from $2000.
5. The Standard
What happens when an American party vibe comes to the Maldives? The answer is the cool and buzzy Standard Maldives.
The Standard group has expanded across the world since their first opening in Los Angeles at the turn of the millennium. This glamorous compound of villas backing onto lagoon or ocean opened in late 2019 and is only just coming into its own, for obvious reasons.
The neon color accents in the room set the festive tone, as well as the disco ball in every bathroom! The Beru Bar has a see-through dancefloor over the water.
There are special wine and cocktail nights across the various buzzy food and drink locations.
Book a stay at The Standard, Maldives (opens in new tab).
London design studio Muza Lab is behind the look at this tranquil retreated located within a UNESCO-protected biosphere reserve.
All of the 125 private villas are either right on the beach or over the water and more than half have their own pool.
Interiors are stylish and pared down yet homely with joyful splashes of color in the details, like wall mosaics and vibrant soft furnishings. The spaces have been designed for privacy meaning guests are free to chill, sleep and shower on their own private terrace.
The venue even has a 'beach bubble hut', a secluded transparent beach pod where couples are encouraged to sleep under the stars.
Book a stay at Finolhu (opens in new tab).
7. Cheval Blanc Randheli
Since the first opening in Courchevel in the Alps fifteen years ago, this ultra-luxe hotel brad owned by LVMH has been slowly and surely expanding across the world.
Cheval Blanc Randheli offers the group's characteristic opulence and high level of service. The 46 villas a spread across an archipelago of six private islands, icluding one island dedicated just to restoration and wellness.
Guests can reach the islands by either private jet and boat or seaplane, with a private Cheval Blanc seaplane service available at a supplement.
As you would expect, facilities are exceptional. There's a 500 square-meter 'kingdom' for kids with trampoline, climbing wall and water slide. There are five restaurants and three bars, including a fine dining venue offering multi-course tasting menus.
The property also has its own art collection in its "Maldivian Maison" building, while the hotel's signature scent was designed by François Demachy, head "nose" at Dior.
Book a stay at Cheval Blanc Randheli (opens in new tab).
8. The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort
The design here is inspired by the island itself and its fauna. For example, the shape of the villas is based on the form of the manta ray and the Whale Bar is inspired by the whale shark with its curved roof and dazzling view of the water.
The property underwent a light renovation or refresh in summer 2022 and reopened offering spruced interiors and beach and some exciting immersive experiences, like a Ayurveda Monsoon Stay package or even an art retreat hosted by Denise Schmitz, founder of We Love Art.
Book a stay at The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort (opens in new tab)
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Hannah Meltzer is a Londoner by birth and Parisian by adoption. She previously worked on the staff of The Daily Telegraph’s travel desk, before moving to Paris in 2017. She writes regularly about travel and Parisian culture for The Telegraph as an expert destination correspondent. She has also written for The Independent, The Times, Vanity Fair, openDemocracy and Télérama. Recently she wrote a podcast series about Parisian culture for an LA-based production company.
Hannah is based in the 18th arrondissement in the less touristy side of Montmartre behind the Sacré-Coeur basilica. Though her life sometimes resembles a hammy cliché — sketching in sidewalk terraces, walking her beloved dog Babette through the streets of Montmartre — she is adamant she has not lost her London humour and open-mindedness, or her accent.
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