With its gorgeous white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, this archipelagic country located in the Indian Ocean is a true remote paradise. Formed by a chain of 26 atolls, deciding where to stay can be overwhelming. Choosing the wrong accommodation could not only ruin your trip but also cost you a considerable amount of money. Continue to read for the key Maldives facts and my top tips on how to pick a resort island or hotel in the Maldives.
White sand beach in the Baa atoll
Maldives facts & how to pick a resort island or hotel
Maldives fact no. 1: staying in a resort island or hotel depends on your budget
Whether a resort island or hotel in the Maldives is best for you will most likely be dictated by your budget. Resorts with dozens of amenities on a private island will be significantly pricier than hotels or guesthouses on a local island.
With the effort that getting to the Maldives entails, it’d be a pity to miss out on the postcard-perfect water villas. If your budget is tight, you could stay in cheaper accommodation for the first leg of your trip and spend the last couple of days on a 5-star resort. Finding water villas for around 400 USD per night is possible. Yes, it is a lot of money. But it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Choosing a self-contained resort means you’ll be completely separated from the local population and not experience Maldivian life. The country practices Islam, so you can’t drink alcohol on local islands. Unless you visit a beach that allows bikinis, you’ll be expected to dress conservatively. The beach on local islands is not as pristine as on resort islands.
Begin your search for accommodation here.
The Maldives is a Muslim country and on local islands, visitors are expected to observe certain rules
Maldives fact no. 2: the resort’s atmosphere matters more than you think
Some resorts accommodate very specific markets, for example, the middle east. This will reflect on the decor, facilities, languages spoken by staff, entertainment and activities, menu, and overall vibe.
You may want to do some research on what countries the resort caters to and see if it is a good match for you.
Maldives fact no. 3: keeping in mind your preferred island activities will make the choice easier
Some resorts are family-friendly whilst others are for adults only. Some have a focus on water sports whilst others on ecotourism. Do you want to relax? Seek solitude? Discover marine life? Answering these questions will guide you in finding the perfect accommodation.
Typical resort activities include snorkelling, scuba diving, spa treatments, kayaking, cruises, motorised and non-motorised water sports, day trips, and tours.
For scuba divers and snorkellers alike, the quality of the house reef is as important as its access. You’d expect to snorkel or dive off the beach or jetty, with enough access points to enable you to enjoy the reef no matter the current.
View from a sandbank in the Baa atoll
Maldives fact no. 4: if accommodation is too cheap, then it may not be the best time to visit
The best time to visit the Maldives is during the dry season, between December and March. As it is also peak season, prices are likely to increase according to demand, especially between Christmas and New Year.
However, if you travel to the Maldives for its marine life, that time of the year may not be ideal. Manta rays, for example, migrate seasonally within the Maldives. Therefore, in certain areas, the best time to spot them is during the wet season.
Sunset in the island of Dharavandhoo
Maldives fact no. 5: location is key
Always check the aerial view on Google maps before booking your accommodation. What does the beach look like? Does the island have greenery? Are the water villas well distributed and far enough so as not to be affected by low tides? When you pick an island, you’ll be pretty much bound to it for the duration of your trip, so take your time before deciding.
In my own experience, I picked a hotel that looked idyllic, just to arrive and discover that the island was pretty much surrounded by rocks near the shore.
Some islands are tiny. Unless you have day trips planned or enjoy water sports, you may begin to feel claustrophobic after a couple of days. No island in the Maldives is huge. But there is a big difference between an island you can tour on a bike and one you can tour on foot in under 10 minutes.
Water villas are heavily exposed to the sun throughout the day, so if you prefer to chill in the shade, a beach villa may be better suited for you.
Local island surrounded by rocks
Maldives fact no. 6: if your stay is short, it is best to stay close to Malé
International arrivals will land in Malé, the capital of the Maldives. You’ll need to take a speedboat, seaplane, or domestic flight (plus a speedboat sometimes) to arrive at your destination. The experience of flying over the Maldives and landing on the water is unique, so it will always be my preferred option. This will, however, depend on the distance you need to travel.
Staying close to Malé means shorter transfer times, usually by speedboat. But it can also mean a lot of air traffic, subsequent noise, and the fact that Malé can remain visible from some of the nearby islands.
Check the relevant schedules before booking, as waiting times between transfers can end up taking up the whole day. Depending on your arrival time, you may have to spend the night in Malé. If you intend to visit the Maldives for three to four days, staying relatively close to the airport is your best bet.
Transfers, especially by seaplane, can be expensive and considerably add to the overall cost of your trip. The waiting times at the seaplane terminal can range from half an hour to several hours, and there are usually weight restrictions for the luggage. Check if complimentary transfers are available before deciding on your accommodation.
Aerial view of the Maldives
Maldives fact no. 7: food and drinks are ridiculously expensive
Last, but not least, this is probably one of the most important Maldives facts. Everything you will eat and drink during your trip is imported. This means it will be expensive. When deciding on a meal plan, look at the fine print to see what is included. Are drinks unlimited? Does the meal plan include snacks?
In my experience, if you stay on a resort island, going full-board is usually more cost-effective. Wandering off elsewhere for a cheaper meal is not an option, and you will end up paying a lot more than people on a full-board basis. Alternatively, you could contact the resort to check the price of food and drinks and do the math to decide.
It may be worth researching the specifics of the full-board basis. Will you be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the same place every day? Will you have a choice of a la carte and buffets, or do they only offer buffet-type meals? Is there a variety of food being offered? I found my hotel to be very ‘samey’, offering mostly Indian cuisine, which by day four felt like a bit much.
If you are staying on a local island with shops and eateries, a bed and breakfast, or a half-board alternative could be more convenient.
My last piece of advice would be to always check the reviews. And from more than one source. Seems obvious, but it is probably the best way to understand what the resort or hotel is really like, with the good and the bad.
Most resorts nowadays have a no-drone policy, so if this is an absolute must for you, you’ll have to contact your accommodation and discuss.
The concept of ‘all-inclusive’ varies greatly from resort to resort. It may not only refer to food, but also entertainment, rental of sports equipment, activities such as scuba diving, and even wi-fi. My hotel included a picnic on a sandbank with the scuba diving package, which was an absolute highlight of my trip.
Some resorts even offer an ultra-all-inclusive option, with all sorts of extras, such as massages and special drinks.
Picking a resort island or hotel in the Maldives can be a daunting exercise. Despite the diversity of options when it comes to price, I believe the Maldives remains a luxury destination and is much more enjoyable when splurging on a resort island. Apart from your upfront costs, water sports, day trips, spa treatments, and service charges/taxes could leave you with a substantial bill.
Do you know any other relevant Maldives facts? Please share using the comment section below.