For many, a trip to the Maldives is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Which means that picking the right resort for your special occasion is a major decision — and one we hope to make easier for you. We flew out several of Oyster’s trained, expert investigators to get the scoop on these unique properties. The Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean, is made up of over 1,190 islands, so almost every one of its 100-plus resorts has an island all to itself. Those looking to pay top dollar for some of the world’s most decadent luxury resort experiences will be spoilt for choice here, but we’ll help you narrow down your options by breaking down just what makes each property distinct.
Gili Lankanfushi is widely considered to be the top resort in the Maldives, and for good reason. This stunning, 46-villa, eco-friendly resort just 20 minutes from the airport succeeds in delivering truly unpretentious, relaxed luxury. Bare feet are encouraged (shoes are removed as soon as guests get on the boat from the airport), and each guest is taken care of by a personal butler with the title Mr. Friday. The spacious, charmingly simple overwater bungalows are made of several types of wood, and have outdoor (and rooftop!) decks with views that might induce tears of joy. On land, the beautiful island with 683 palm trees offers a range of activities and dining options. This special gem in the Maldives has more authenticity than other brand-name resorts of the same price point — just ask tennis pro Novak Djokovic, practically a regular here. If private pools and air-conditioning in every room are a priority, though, consider another option on this list.
Located on a small island 35 minutes from Male, this luxury resort has 33 high-end water bungalows and a peaceful, all-natural vibe. Cocoa Island is primarily geared towards couples, and children’s facilities are sparse. Property highlights include gorgeous beaches, an infinity pool, on-site reef, excellent a la carte restaurant, and a pricey spa with a hydrotherapy pool and free daily yoga classes. Rooms come at a fair price for this caliber of property, but food and extras can add up fast. Still, it's a popular and less expensive alternative to Gili Lankanfushi.
It’s hard to top Taj Exotica when it comes to food, romantic atmosphere, and convenience. Located on a private island just 15 minutes from the airport, this 65-room resort is one of the most luxurious destinations in the Maldives. Highlights include personal butlers, spacious guest rooms with private pools, gorgeous beaches, and two gourmet restaurants. Rooms and food are among the priciest in the Maldives (for good reason). Most of the villas here have private plunge pools -- unlike those at Gili do not, giving the Taj an edge for travelers who value a private dip.
Soneva Fushi is one of the top luxury resorts in the Maldives, and the lush jungle interior and charming Robinson Crusoe-style decor make the private island feel like a camp for wealthy castaways. Highlights include personal butlers, spacious beachfront villas (most with private pools), top-notch food, an observatory, outdoor theater, and plenty of free perks. Rooms and food are among the priciest in the Maldives, but guests should be prepared to bicycle barefoot through the wilderness and get a little dirty. It's very comparable to Gili Lankanfushi in its vibe, level of luxury, and celebrity cachet, but lacks Gili's communal swimming pool and overwater villas.
This luxury boutique resort from Thailand's Banyan Tree is slightly bigger and more expensive than sister property Angsana next door. Each of the 48 spa-like villas offers direct water access from the front (beach privacy varies), and in the rear, the pièce de résistance: a walled-in plunge pool and jetted tub area. Large bathrooms that have indoor and outdoor showers, which helps compensate for the slightly cramped bedrooms dressed in neutral decor. The walkable island has plenty of white sand and free non-motorized water sports; scuba divers have access to a shipwreck nearby. Spa lovers will adore the large Thai treatment rooms and professional staff, all of whom are trained heavily at Banyan Tree Spa Academy. In the evenings, couples -- and yes, a few families -- stroll down the long jetty to spot reef sharks after dining on contemporary cuisine. The resort provides 24-hour boat transfers from the airport, a 25-minute speedboat ride away, as well as free Wi-Fi.
Built in 2012, this Thai-style resort is one of the best all-around luxury picks in the Maldives. Highlights include 108 attractive waterfront rooms, great food, a large infinity pool, and an excellent house reef. Dusit Thani is pricey (for good reason), but it also includes nice freebies such as snorkeling gear, kayaks, Wi-Fi, daily yoga classes, a kids' club, and in-room Nespresso machines. The resort’s biggest drawback is its out-of-the-way location, at least 35 minutes from Male Airport by plane. The similarly priced Taj Exotica has a more convenient location, but it lacks Dusit Thani's kids' club.
Peace and quiet is the name of the game at this 45-villa resort from Singapore-based Banyan Tree, one of the world's most luxurious hotel brands. It's run by a thoughtful staff sporting colorful uniforms, as well as an omnipresent General Manager. Guests have access to one of the best house reefs in the Maldives' — literally just a few feet of shore — for snorkeling (free!), as well as scuba diving (there's a PADI center on-site). Two categories of stylish, modern thatched-roof villas include one with jetted tubs in huge open-air bathrooms, and one without; all villas have bathrobes, sandals, and thoroughly stocked minibars. Quality food and drink are served at the restaurant, and guests should expect light pressure to book appointments at the excellent Thai-themed spa. To mix it up, a free ferry runs to the Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru next door for use of the restaurant, bar, and spa there, as well.
Maafushivaru is an all-inclusive boutique luxury resort in the South Ari Atoll. The 48 villas have sophisticated decor, espresso machines, minibars, private decks, outdoor showers, iPod docks, and comfy king-size beds; some rooms have semi-private pools. Sandbags, crabs, reef sharks, and fish are common sights in the surrounding lagoon and the island's location is ideal for spotting whale sharks and dolphins year-round. Standout and unique features include a chic airport lounge, beachside infinity pool with large bar, laser light shows, large overwater spa and gym, and small wine bar. There's an all-inclusive option that includes alcohol -- not especially common for the Maldives -- but this former adult-only resort doesn't have much for kids to do.
A top-notch five-pearl luxury boutique, Kandolhu Maldives is home to 30 villas, all featuring private sundecks and sea views. Surrounded by a fish-filled house reef and close to good dive spots, it’s a good option for underwater lovers -- and it offers various packages, including an all-inclusive plan. This small, screensaver-come-to-life island has four a la carte restaurants, a relaxing beachside bar, spa, dive center, library lounge, and state-of-the-art gym. Favoring couples, this idyllic island is set up for privacy, limited social interaction, and relaxation. Upscale and contemporary styled rooms are outfitted with all the trimmings -- from fluffy towels to wine fridges -- and can feature outdoor bathrooms, private beach areas, and personal dipping pools.
Reopened in 2009 as a five-pearl property, Lily Beach Resort & Spa is a romantic and family-friendly spot with a true all-inclusive plan that covers meals, drinks, and activities. The stylish and spacious rooms have outdoor bathrooms with whirlpool tubs, outdoor decks with direct ocean or beach access, and amenities from suntan lotion and aloe vera to stocked minibars to large flat-screen TVs. Family-friendly features include a kids' buffet, pool, and activity club. Active guests can make use of the land and water sports available, while couples have plenty of romantic options and privacy. The only downside is the narrow beach.
Located on one of the smallest islands in the Maldives, the 37-villa Mirihi Island Resort has a personal feel, yet is stocked full of the luxe and convenient features you'd expect from any large luxury resort. From a beach cinema to a spa, free non-motorized water sports to a teeming house reef with its own shipwreck, and tons of events, excursions, and on-island activities, there are plenty of alternatives to just lying on the soft sand beach. This small but casually luxe spot is ideal for couples and small groups looking for top-notch dishes and impressive selection of wines and over 40 dive sites in a relaxing environment. All-inclusive options are available.