From rustic beach hideaways to barefoot tropical havens, we’ve deep dived into three resorts that are redefining the islands… 

A place of dreams for many, the Maldives promised paradise. Yet, my first visit revealed a reality so truly beautiful and luxurious, it far surpassed even my highest expectations. Though our trip fell during the ‘low season’ from May to November, often associated with rain and clouds, I was prepared for a much-needed escape from the sweltering Dubai summer heat. After 10 days of warm air and sunshine, it turns out the Maldives is never a bad idea…

Of course, there’s the common allure of the crystalline blue waters and gleaming white-sand. And, while no pictures could have ever prepared us for the undeniable raw beauty, what this stunning Indian Ocean archipelago really offers is so much more.

Comprising 1,200 tiny private islands, the Maldives is awash with magical five-star resorts. And now there’s a new generation of Maldives hotels taking hospitality to the next level, as well as proving that even the most luxurious and indulgent of places can be regenerative and sustainable.

Whether you spend your time swimming alongside turtles and sharks or lying under the shade of a palm tree – or a bit of both – the chances of you leaving bored or disappointed are slim to none. Here, your days are large blank (turquoise) canvases that you can paint with as much adventure or relaxation as you wish.

A note from… Alila Kothaifaru

Best for: Couples, families, and diving enthusiasts

Getting there: 45-minute seaplane from Malé

“It’s the people that make a place”, couldn’t be truer for Alila Kothaifaru. Situated on a private island located on the northern edge of the Maldives, Alila – which opened just two years ago – has managed to do the impossible and be as stunning as its surroundings. Hidden amongst jungle foliage and swaying coconut palms, the resort is made up of beach villas and overwater villas, all with private pools and either sunrise or sunset views. With the focus on preserving nature, the clever indoor-outdoor architecture and understated yet elegant décor throughout creates a feeling of complete privacy and ultimate relaxation.

We emerged from our jungle hideaway for long, laid-back breakfasts at the all-day poolside restaurant, Seasalt. There’s both a buffet and à la carte options served on the shaded terrace, perfect for taking in the panoramic sea views. The service here is second to none, and staff members know the names of all guests.. Families and couples coexist peacefully between six dining options, a kids’ club, water sports and dive centre, treetop spa, and yoga pavilion (with a dedicated butler to help manage it all).

Work up an appetite snorkeling with turtles and rays at the colourful house reef – a must-try experience at Alila thanks to the abundant marine life – before discovering an authentic dining experience that’s just as exciting: a lazy lunch at the Spice Garden. Using handpicked herbs and vegetables from the garden, you’ll cook alongside chef Muhammed and our lovely local server Maaish to create a wholesome three-course meal complemented with organic wines in a tranquil setting.

The novelty of waking up to the sound of waves and staring out at the dreamiest turquoise ocean never wore off. But it’s the relaxed, warm, and caring staff and impeccable level of service that make Alila stand out from the rest.

Rates from Dhs2,153 per night inclusive of daily breakfast. @alilamaldives

A note from… Six Senses Kanuhura

Best for: Luxe seekers, wellness lovers, and families

Getting there: 40-minute seaplane from Malé

If you look up ‘paradise’ in the dictionary, there’s a good chance you’ll see an image of Six Senses Kanuhura. Over the last 25 years, the hotels on this iconic island have changed hands three times. And we’re delighted they did. Building on the success of the beloved Six Senses Laamu, the newly opened sister resort, Six Senses Kanuhura, is a new chapter for the brand, offering a more modern interpretation of blissful island life.

Calm and tranquility wash over us as soon as our toes touch the island sand; with bags to ditch our shoes and bikes waiting for us with personalised wooden name tags. All the island’s accommodation was renovated and given the effortless Six Senses rustic-luxe touch, but much of the magic rests in the very special newly built Beach Retreats. Steps away from the Indian Ocean, these stylish two-bedroom villas feature private pools and large outdoor terraces, an indoor and outdoor rain shower, bright and spacious two-storey living space, colourful interiors and thoughtful touches inspired by the surrounding landscape, and incredible amenities from yoga mats to (our favourite) homemade lemongrass aloe vera gel. The attention to detail here is second to none.

The culinary journey encompasses seven restaurants including Drift, a delicious seafood shack set on the uninhabited island of Jehunuhura; and all-day eatery, The Market, for extensive breakfast spreads, freshly squeezed juices, fluffy pancakes, and a never-ending stream of coffee. But the pièce de resistance is The Point, a new addition to the island since the takeover with an overwater Spanish tapas restaurant downstairs – perfect for watching out for passing sharks and rays with the help of friendly local server and passionate diver, Faris. Upstairs, there’s a sunset infinity pool with a swim-up bar to watch the Maldivian skies turn through varying hypnotizing shades of pink.

As with all Six Senses resorts, there’s a huge focus on wellness and to call this a spa would be an understatement. There are eight treatment rooms, a nail bar, a biohacking recovery lounge, yoga and sound healing studio, sauna and steam room, outdoor hot and cold-water pools, and an alchemy bar where you can learn how to make natural Maldivian skincare products to take back home. When it comes to sustainability, Kanuhura leaves no stone unturned. The impressive ecological credentials are reflected both on and off the island from the rehabilitation of corals and marine life to the on-site hydroponic farm and orchid nursery. Even the little ones will get to explore the Earth Lab at the Grow with Six Senses kids’ club.

Whether you’re craving calm and reconnection to yourself and nature or looking to experience everything this tropical haven has to offer, you will return to this barefoot hideaway, we’re sure of that.

Room rates from Dhs4,819 per night inclusive of daily breakfast. @sixsenseskanuhura

A note from… Ozen Life Maadhoo

Best for: Young groups, families, and foodies

Getting there: 45-minute speedboat from Malé (look out for dolphins!)

For a rustic and authentic Maldives adventure, Ozen Life Maadhoo has long been a favourite for families and couples alike. The resort is conveniently located on the southern edge of the Maldives, just a short boat ride from Malé. In true Maldivian style, we were welcomed like it was our home with magical Boduberu drums, Champagne, and a relaxing foot ritual on arrival.

Ozen Life Maadhoo continues to pioneer innovations in sustainable hospitality with the recent opening on the new indoor hydroponic farm, serving guests fresh produce straight from farm-to-table. In fact: Eating here is taken very seriously and you can make the most of the fantastic offerings and five international restaurants with the all-inclusive Indulgence Plan. Notable dining experiences include the underwater restaurant, M6M, which showcases the best ingredients the ocean has to offer as if a story book is coming to life. But it was the flavours and memorable service at overwater Indian/Sri Lankan restaurant, Indoceylon, that blew us away (be sure to try the coconut fish curry). A real treat for the palate.

We’re staying in a postcard-perfect beach villa, ideal for families and beautifully placed between the ocean and lush foliage. While we can never get bored of lying on the beach, Ozen Life Maadhoo has plenty of facilities so guests can be as busy and active as they want – from daily snorkeling trips to themed parties, sunset cruise to the relaxing overwater spa.

You might also like

Travel guide: The ultimate Bali bucket list
16 bucket list destinations within a four hour flight from Dubai
Travel guide: Why Mykonos is a surprisingly fun family getaway

For a wonderful hassle-free escape, this hotel delivers on food, service, facilities, value for money, and all-round vibes.

Room rates from Dhs3,416 per night all-inclusive ‘indulgence plan’. @ozenlifemaadhoo

Getting there

Our peaceful getaway began long before we touched down in Malé thanks to Beond, a new Maldives-based, all-premium-class airline. Flying direct from Dubai Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC), this boutique airline redefines luxury travel with its competitive pricing and exclusive private-jet-style experience. From the moment we arrived at the airport, Beond’s swift hassle-free check-in and personalised service perfectly set the tone for the rest of our extraordinary Maldivian adventure. Onboard, we enjoyed luxury amenities like iPads and noise-cancelling Beats headphones, as well as a delectable (locally sourced) three-course meal served on restaurant-quality dinnerware.

Return flights from Dhs7,422 per person.

Images: Provided/What’s On