Maldives: What Kind of Luxury Do You Want?

During a recent trip to the Maldives, David experienced three of the top Maldives luxury hotels and was able to do site inspections of three other resorts. You can read his complete site inspection report on FlyerTalk. When trying to find the perfect Maldives luxury hotel to suit your needs and travel personality, you must ask yourself:

“What kind of luxury do you want?” 

In the Maldives, you have two options:

  1. Are you a traveler who wants polished elegance, the best of the best in every respect? Do you appreciate inspiring architecture and guestroom furnishings that could grace the cover of Architectural Digest?
  2. Do you prefer a casual, sand-between-the-toes experience? Does the idea of no dress code in a barefoot, casual, laid back, and relaxed resort sound appealing?

When it comes to Maldives luxury hotels, you can find both kinds of luxury! Read on for David’s take-aways and hotel advice…


Maldives: Velaa Site Inspection Report

Velaa Private Island is a small resort about an hour north of Male by seaplane, although your plane will likely stop along the way to drop off passengers at another resort. Velaa is a small island just one mile in circumference, and its villas are spread around the island’s perimeter.

Your private butler will be on call 24/7 and will pick you up in a golf cart to take you to the restaurants, spa, golf course, or tennis courts … or use one of the wide-wheeled bicycles that Velaa provides its guests to pedal around on the sandy paths.

Most of the villas are overwater. We stayed in a lead-in Sunrise Water Pool Villa (94 m of interior space with 223 sqm of total space). The decorating style was soft, warm, and simple with white limestone floors and light tan walls. The appealing woodwork mixed different varieties of wood in the doors, trim, ceilings, and cabinetry.

Deluxe Sunset Water Pool Villas are larger and come with a larger pool, but the villas in highest demand are Beach Pool Residences with direct access onto your private section of beach. That would be my choice.

See more pictures from my visit to Velaa Private Island on our Flickr Page. 

Cheval Blanc Randheli is in the same lagoon as Velaa, likewise reachable from Male either by commercial seaplane or by the resort’s own private and much more luxurious seaplane. Though more expensive than a commercial flight, you’ll get a non-stop trip from MLE to the resort.

The resort in developed on six small islands connected by small bridges (or accessible by boat). I was only able to see one Water Villa, but its architecture was astounding. Its strong, vertical lines reminded me of France’s gothic cathedrals. Interior doors measure 23 feet in height, and your room is simply breathtaking with commanding views of the lagoon. Furnishings are appropriately elegant, and guests can even choose between white or taupe bed linens. Each villa is assigned its own butler (Majordome), and you will be assisted by a team of concierges (Alchemists) in designing unique experiences for your family.

There are eight dining facilities, with the signature restaurant Le 1947 offering 13-course tasting meals. One drawback — Cheval Blanc does not have a house reef, so if snorkeling or diving is your thing, this resort would not be your first choice.

See more pictures from my visit to Cheval Blanc Randheli on our Flickr Page.

One&Only Reethi Rah is close to Male, useful to keep in mind if your arriving flight arrives in the evening. Seaplanes do not operate after 6 p.m., but Reethi Rah provides speedboat transfers to and from the airport 24/7.

Occupying a sizable island (108 acres of land area) with 12 beaches in natural coves around the island, Reethi Rah is a larger resort with 96 beach villas and 32 water villas. The grounds of the resort are landscaped with manicured lawns and flower plantings. Mature plantings of palm and banana trees provide shade and frame beautiful views of the lagoon.

Designed by the same architect as Cheval Blanc, the villas are gorgeous (although ceilings are not so over-the-top high). Limestone floors and mahogany woodwork create elegant, comfortable spaces, and louvered woodwork both controls light and provides privacy.

Reethi Rah has a more cosmopolitan feel with dancing at night to live bands.

See more photos from my visit to One & Only Reethi Rah on our flickr page.


Gili Lankanfushi sets the mood the moment you board its speedboat at the Male airport. An attendant will provide a bag for your shoes, and you’ll basically remain barefoot until that sad day when you must depart. “No News – No Shoes” is Gili’s trademark.

The resort is Robinson Crusoe casual. The 45 villas are constructed with weathered wood siding and thatched roofs. Interiors have simple wood floors and exposed thatched ceilings, simple canvas fabric being used for window blinds and upholstery. We stayed in a Villa Suite, and the large living room is completely open air. There’s a ceiling fan, and by raising the blinds and latching open the front door, you get delightful cross-ventilation when there’s a breeze. However, the living room is not air conditioned. If would be is a deal-breaker, you’ll want to book a Residence whose living rooms have French windows and are air conditioned.

To the right of the living room is your air-conditioned master bedroom with a 270º seaview. To the left of the living room is the open-air bathroom with dual granite vanities, WC, large soaking tub with a view, and a circular shower over the sea.

We loved it here and enjoyed having our breakfasts and dinners in the open air dining area on the beach. Meal plans are available and highly recommended.

See more photos from my visit to Gili Lankanfushi on our Flickr page. 

Six Senses Laamu is a four-star version of Gili Lankanfushi. Located in the far south of the Maldives, you get there by a domestic flight followed by a speedboat ride … but I’m told direct seaplane service from Male is soon coming.

Very casual, the tone is set when the boat attendant relieves you of your shoes! This resort would be a great option for guests on a tighter budget. Compared to its sister resort of Gili Langkanfushi, Six Senses has twice the villas (97), and each villa is about one-half the size of its counterpart at Gili. More of a 4* experience, guestrooms have compact interiors with a lot of outdoor space. There’s not a square inch of marble on the entire island; instead, you’ll find a dual wooden vanity in your villa’s entry area, and both your soaking tub and shower are outdoors.

My strong recommendation: book a Beach Villa. They always sell out, so just book it as you won’t get upgraded into one. These rooms are flooded with beautiful natural light from three sides, and you’ll enjoy a larger outdoor bathroom. While beach villas do not have the same incredible sea views as the overwater villas, the view does feature an enchanting sandy path leading to your own private stretch of beach. More space, more light, and more greenery!

We met a young family from England on the boat back to the airport. They had originally booked a seven-night stay, then extended their stay to ten nights. They were totally happy guests, and I think that will be your experience as well. We quickly grew to love the Six Senses Laamu — especially the unlimited free ice cream!

See more photos from my visit to Six Senses Laamu on our Flickr page. 

Four Seasons offers something in-between with predictably comfortable accommodations and services. Four Seasons’ presence in the Maldives includes two resorts (Landaa Giraavaru and Kuda Huraa) and a cruising yacht (the Maldives Explorer). Sarah has visited both resorts; you can read her report here.

Due to logistical realities, it was only possible for me to visit Four Seasons Kuda Huraa on this trip. The smaller and original of the two resorts, Kuda Huraa has 96 rooms and occupies a 12 acre island about 20 minutes by speedboat from the airport. It’s is an ideal resort at which Four Seasons fans can begin or end their Maldivian vacation.

We were provided a lead-in Beach Pavilion with Pool for our afternoon stay. The pavilion’s entrance was a private outdoor courtyard plunge pool. French doors led into the hexagonally-shaped guestroom (45 sqm of total air conditioned space) with hardwood floors and stucco walls. The marble bathroom had dual vanities, soaking tub, and both indoor and outdoor showers. This room would be fine for a short stay at the beginning or end of a longer vacation in the Maldives.

More exciting was the 2BR Suite the we were shown, large and very attractively decorated with a living room, two bedrooms, a dual shower in the master bathroom, and a private pool.(The 1BR Suite has the same features but just one bedroom). Because of high occupancy, these were the only rooms I was able to see.

Like Maui, Kuda Huraa has an adults-only Serenity Pool and whirlpool at the Reef Club.

See more photos from my visit to Four Seasons Kuda Huraa on our Flickr Page.

You Found a Favorite… Now What?

For any trip to the Maldives, we recommend staying at a minimum of 2 resorts for a minimum length of 5-nights per resort. So, your first challenge is to pick your second favorite!  Once you know which resorts are the right fit for you, then you must decide, Overwater or Beach Bungalow?

We love all of these Maldives luxury hotels and this is just the beginning, let us introduce you to even more options. If you’re serious about planning that Maldives Vacation or any upcoming trip, let us know and we’ll help make it a reality!

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