The insider advice on this page is from one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for the Maldives: Justin Parkinson of Linara Travel.
Justin’s frequent trips to the Indian Ocean over the past 14 years make him uniquely qualified to match you with the specific island, resort, and overwater bungalow—even with the specific dive instructor or massage therapist—that best suit your needs. This is especially crucial in the Maldives, where you’re likely to spend all of your time at a single, private-island resort, and there are new properties opening every few months. In the Seychelles, Justin can help you rent a car to go exploring and point you to the best beaches and hiking trails. Given how many people fly to the Indian Ocean via Dubai, he has become an expert on the United Arab Emirates too (see Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and can help you save money there so that you can splurge in the islands. When he’s not exploring these exotic locales, you’ll find Justin at home in either Australia or L.A.
Where to Stay and Eat
Best-value luxury resort
Amilla Maldives represents great value year-round; their Reef Pool Villas are perfectly situated over the house reef with quick and easy access to good snorkeling. For fantastic entry-level overwater villas at a five-star resort, look to Finolhu Maldives. The food, service, and attention to detail here are much higher than what you would expect from the affordable room rates.
Best resorts for families
One&Only Reethi Rah has a KidsOnly club and a daily roster of imaginative activities, including pirate cruises, treasure hunts, and snorkel expeditions with a marine biologist. Teens have their own adjacent area with a juice bar and games, as well as options for nature and adventure trips. There’s also babysitting for infants and toddlers. The hotel will even provide bottle warmers and baby monitors.
Niyama Maldives has an entire island that is almost fully dedicated to families, and the wide range of villa options suit a variety of sleeping arrangements.
Best resort for two
Soneva Jani is the resort dreams are made of. Huge overwater villas that come with their own water slide and retractable roof over the bed are just the start. Soneva Jani is a modern take on barefoot, Robinson Crusoe-style luxury, and the warm, welcoming staff set the tone here.
Best overwater bungalows
For high-end sophistication, the 29 huge water villas at Cheval Blanc Randheli are amazing. The resort is owned by LVMH and was designed by the same architect responsible for a number of Aman resorts, so the entire property is stunning, but especially the water villas. As if having the ocean steps from your bed wasn’t enough, each villa has its own infinity pool. The most private of the bunch are at the end of the jetty (on island B).
Best resorts for foodies
Velaa Private Island has the Aragu Restaurant led by star chef Gaushan De Silva. This was recently voted one of the 50 best restaurants in Asia. The Waldorf Astoria is also a great option, with The Ledge by Dave Pynt and the newly opened Zuma outpost in the Maldives.
Tuna curry. Locally caught tuna, with spices influenced from neighboring Sri Lanka and India, has been a staple dish of the Maldivian diet for generations. All the resorts offer it, but the version at Gili Lankanfushi is one of the best. Once a week, the kitchen staff hosts a wonderful Maldivian night and puts a lot of effort into recreating traditional local dishes.
What to See and Do
Night UV snorkeling. Go out after dark with a marine biologist and an ultraviolet light to see how the corals light up in fluorescent greens, yellows, and reds—even those that aren’t particularly colorful during the day. Octopus, moray eels, and sharks are also more active at night.
Conrad Maldives in the South Ari Atoll. This location has access to great whale shark snorkeling all year round; the property has its own whale shark research center and runs whale shark snorkel excursions three days a week, with sightings on most outings.
Best excursion for families
Snorkel with giant manta rays in Maldives’ remote Baa Atoll Hanifaru Bay, where hundreds of rays congregate yearly in July and August for their annual feeding on the local plankton.
Early December and late April. European vacationers drive up prices from Christmas through Easter, but for the few weeks before and after this period, you’ll find a sweet spot of lower hotel rates and ideal weather: Temperatures are consistently in the high 80s year-round, but during these times there is almost no rain or wind, so the water is calm for snorkeling and diving.
May through September can get a little more rain—typically an hour or so in the afternoon or evening, a few times a week—though this is prime surfing season and best for spotting manta rays and whale sharks.
Exchanging too much money into local currency (the rufiyaa). Each resort occupies its own private island, and because island hopping is a hassle, not to mention expensive, most visitors rarely leave. Simply charge everything to your room and you won’t have to exchange any money at all.
Take some underwater shots, using a case for your smartphone. The Watershot housings are rated for depths of up to 130 feet. For optimal photos, get close to your subject—water mutes the colors—and shoot toward the surface, where there is more light.
Some resorts and travel agencies will quote you a room rate that includes meals. Often, however, the arrangement is restrictive—for instance, the meal plan might be valid at only one of the resort’s restaurants and not the others. It’s not always a bad deal to prepurchase meals, but make sure to ask about limitations.
Most resorts add a 10 percent service charge to your entire bill, so it’s not necessary to tip at meals. If your room includes a butler, tip $10 to $20 per day, depending on how much you use your butler and how good a job they do.
Lots of sunscreen. You’ll need more than you expect when you’re this close to the equator—and many resorts charge extraordinary prices for a new tube.