Things to Consider for a Trip to Paradise
There are many things to consider when trying to choose the right island resort for a holiday in the Maldives. Whether you travel with children or are planning a trip away without them, there are many key things to consider and keep in mind. Of course it is easy to sit back and relax and book package through one of the luxury travel agencies, but I believe it is way more rewarding to find the perfect dream holiday in the Maldives on your own initiative.
This is probably one of the main factors to take into consideration. Most people think of the Maldives as only a five star luxury destination. This is a wrong assumption there are plenty of lower budget options available. First review your budget and then stick to it when booking a vacation to one of the secluded islands in the Indian Ocean. Also remember that even if you book all inclusive there might be additional costs that you might not have thought about before hand, so do some research and allow for these, they are generally listed on the hotel’s website, if you are unsure write to them and ask for a list.
Water Villa, Beach Hut or Hotel Room?
We stayed in an over water villa during our stay in the Maldives. This was definitely an incredible experience. Over water villas are usually in the atoll lagoons on stilts, providing privacy and direct steps into the sea. However staying above the water may not be for everyone. If you have smaller children you might prefer to stay in a beach villa where you do not need to worry about your child accidentally falling into the sea in case you are not keeping an eye on them for a second. Some island resorts do not rent water villas to families with small children out of principle for exactly that reason. A beach villa also has the advantage that a child can spend time on the beach, building sandcastles and play and run more freely. The absolute height of luxury are beach and over water villas with their own private pool. Water villas are usually more expensive than beach villas and both more than a standard hotel room.
Boat transfers have the advantage that they are cheaper than seaplane transfers, albeit that they restrict the range of choices to nearer the airport. A few people I met have told me though that the water quality at resorts in the Maldives with boat transfer (due to their proximity to Male boat traffic and the airport) may be less clear at times, meaning the water might be a little murkier than if you go for an island further away.
Seaplanes are a great experience! Not only can you enjoy the amazing view of the reefs and the sea from the air, it is also a very different way of flying. Two things to keep in mind if you opt for sea plane transfer, it is expensive and only a very limited amount of luggage is generally included. If you travel with lots of bags and suitcases they might not get onto your plane and may arrive with one of the later ones, plus you will incur extra cost. If you were planning on taking pushchairs I would reconsider. First of all you would possibly need to pay an extra fee and you might not be able to use it on the sandy island paths anyway. The charge for additional luggage can be quite hefty. Also check if the transfer is included in your hotel booking. If you book a package it most likely is, otherwise make sure you are not in for a nasty surprise once you arrive at Male airport.
Choose the Right Time to Fly
Another important fact to take into account, if you are planning on taking a seaplane: If you arrive after 16:00 local time, you will probably have to find overnight accommodation near Male for one night as seaplanes only fly by daylight and during good weather conditions.
Private Island Getaway
If you want to go all out and do not care about the costs then a private island getaway is your place to stay. Depending on the size of the resort you can feel like Robinson Crusoe. There will only be you, the other hotel guests and members of staff. You might miss out on local colours and experiences, but then this is probably not what you came for anyway. Be aware, you will be restricted to your resort in terms of food and activities!
On a local island you will have the chance to meet locals and see how they live their daily lives. You might have the options to eat at other restaurants and cafes and do some shopping or head to other local islands in the vicinity. Please note that alcohol is prohibited on most local islands according to local laws. A stay on a local island can be much cheaper, however, there might not be the same offer for water sports and other activities.
Consider that the Maldives is a Muslim Country
The Maldives is a Muslim country; therefore bikinis are a no-go on the local islands beaches unless the island or hotel has a private garden or a tourist beach. To be honest the locals are far more tolerant now of western dress, t-shirts and shorts, sundresses and vest tops are not frowned upon. Having said that away from the resorts and hotel grounds female travellers should dress modestly, keeping your chest covered and not wear short skirts or shorts. This is essential if you are planning on visiting a local village, mosque or even a Maldivian home. We should always respect Maldivian culture and their religious values!
Size of the Island
The size of private atolls with exclusive resorts can differ a lot. This impacts not only the amount of people you will be stranded with but also the offer of general facilities, like restaurants, pools, kids club, water sports activities, spa and other recreational facilities. Some people might prefer to stay on a tiny island with just a few other people for a more intimate and exclusive feel, while others prefer the anonymity of larger resorts in the Maldives. If you travel with children, a larger resort might be preferable as there will be more choice on activities for them to not get bored, plus more space to explore.
Many people do not consider the choice of restaurants for their stay, however, you have to remember that if there is only one choice of restaurant you will be eating there breakfast, lunch and dinner. You might be bored of the food after a few days and this could detract from your holiday. Remember you cannot easily leave most resorts and go out for dinner somewhere else. Also check if the restaurant is buffet style only. It might make your luxury stay less exclusive if you have to get your food and drinks yourself every time you eat. A la carte restaurants generally have a more limited selection of dishes on their menu.
All Inclusive, Full Board, Half Board or Breakfast only
Our stay at Lux South Ari was our first ever experience of an all-inclusive holiday. It was the best decision we made before booking our stay in the Maldives. We knew exactly what we were letting ourselves in for, and there were no surprises at the end about additional costs. While you might think you will keep track of your expenditure at the resort or hotel you could rapidly lose the oversight and find out at the end that your activities, food and drinks have cost more than you had anticipated. Trust me, drink and food on the islands come at a price – not only have they been shipped in from all around the world, some hotels charge extortionate prices for just the basics like drinking water. You also do not want to worry about the second drink with dinner or the ice cream in the afternoon as a treat when on holiday in paradise?
Other Inclusions in an All Inclusive Stay
All-inclusive at Lux South Ari also included free snorkelling equipment and some of the water sports activities. They did have a restriction on the Japanese restaurant Umami, where we only received a discount on food and drinks, but then we had so many other options on where to eat dinner that it did not bother us and we only went there once for a treat. You can always request a list of the inclusions and exceptions (some do not include alcohol or cocktails for example) before booking to make sure you are getting a good deal and know what to expect.
Discounts for Children
Some resorts and hotels have a discount for children or some even offer an entirely free stay and food for kids. Of course some resorts and islands naturally do not offer all-inclusive, I would then at least consider for half or full board. Be careful though some hotels have restrictions on where and what you can eat/drink if you are all-inclusive or on a meal plan. Research your options to ensure you get the best deal and to avoid disappointment.
Check whether your choice of hotel/resort is child friendly, this includes everything from food aimed at the little ones to the activities they offer. If you have very young children you will need to check if they offer nappies and other baby essentials, as shopping is unlikely if you run out of supplies. Also find out if there are kids club or kid friendly activities if you want a break for a few hours by yourself and/or a babysitter service so you can enjoy a romantic dinner for two.
Do you want to get away from the children for a childfree holiday or cannot imagine your honeymoon with children running about? There are plenty of adult only resorts and hotels that offer a great break from the kids, of course!
Snorkelling off the Beach
One of the main highlights of a trip to the Maldives is the incredible snorkelling. Depending on your resort you may do so off the beach or on boat trips out to the reef edge. I would advise to do some extensive research on this topic if this is one of your main reasons for a visit to the Indian Ocean. If you travel with children, bear in mind that your children (and you) need to be confident swimmers and snorkelers, there may be tests before the resorts will give you snorkel equipment or let you out on boats. However some offer free life vests to their guests for safety.
Resorts with sandy beaches surrounding them will be better for younger children and if you want to just go for a swim in the clear turquoise sea.
Keep in mind that if there is a coral reef within swimming distance that depending on the tide you might not be able to snorkel at all. Coral can be painful if you accidentally touch it or if walk on a fragment washed up on the beach. Therefore it is advisable to take water shoes to protect your feet. Educate your children to not touch coral, fish or turtles, these are living creatures and should be treated with respect. There are some resorts and islands where you have both, sandy beaches on one side and the coral reef on the other.
Snorkel Tours to the House Reef
At Lux South Ari and they offered free snorkelling tours twice a day to the house reef. It was fun to go out on the Dhoni boat and we sometimes went to different places depending on the current and the tide, which made it more interesting than always snorkelling in the same spots of the lagoon. Few other resorts offer similar, but be aware that the trips can get booked up so you may have to plan ahead and your days’s activities around the snorkel trips.
It is worth considering that younger children under the age of about seven will not care whether they are on a secluded island in the Maldives or a beach on the Mediterranean Sea. It is certainly worth thinking about whether they will benefit from a trip to a tropical paradise before they are a little older.
Besides snorkelling, diving is naturally another popular sport for the Maldives. The quality of dive centres varies and so do the fees. Make sure they are PADI certified courses and guides. Again check websites for prices and read reviews to find out if the centre is right for you. You may also want to research dive locations to ensure different and exciting dive trips.
Whale Shark Tour
The South Ari Atoll is a famous spot for whale shark tours end expeditions. The sharks live here all year round compared to other destinations where they can only be seen at certain times of the year (e.g. Mexico). Swimming and snorkelling with a whale shark is a truly unforgettable experience. Other big fish like Manta rays can be seen at different places but may involve a long and expensive boat ride to reach.
Other Water Sports Activities
Most hotels will offer a variety of other water sports activities, including swimming pools, jet skis, banana boat rides, kayaking, paragliding, jet skis, pedalos…and more. You may also join a romantic sunset cruise or exciting fishing trips… Check the hotels website for a list and prices. Many will be charged an extra fee.
Additionally check the resort’s offer for other activities, whilst children love the water they might not want to spend all day on the beach and in the water. Duringour stay in the Maldives, we enjoyed the tennis courts, pool tables and outdoor chess sets, just to name a few. Adults will also appreciate yoga sessions, fitness studios and fun evening activities, including quiz and bingo nights, open air cinema on the beach and many more.
Almost all island hideaways offer spa treatments and the larger resorts have their own dedicated spa. From massages to pedi and manicures, the offers are plentiful, just choose your preferred treatment and relax in paradise.
When is the Best Time to Go?
The Maldives are a great beach destination all year round. The dry season is from November until April, with the most popular times around Christmas and New Year. Temperatures are around 25-30C the entire year. The humidity in the months from May to October during wet season might make it feel slightly hotter though. During the wet season you might experience not only more rainfall but also windier conditions than in the dry season, which might have an impact on the water quality for snorkelling, diving and swimming.
We had two days of rain during our stay in the Maldives in February, which was apparently unusual for this time of the year, but thanks to the warm temperature we did not let this bother us and still went swimming and snorkelling.
Offseason Travel Deals
You may find great deals if you are prepared to travel offseason and outside school holiday periods. The weeks just after the New Year usually has good offers for holidays to the Maldives.
Eco and Environmental Friendly and Sustainable Resorts
One more thing to keep in mind when planning your dream holiday to the Maldives and one often overlooked and ignored but one that should be considered before booking a stay in the Maldives is how environmentally friendly the resort is . Some hotels unfortunately still do not care enough about the fragile eco system that surrounds the mesmerising islands and atolls. Some islands and resorts have now implemented solar systems, desalination plants, rainwater tanks, and drinking water is produced on the island and bottled in re-usable glass bottles. Check the resort is plastic free, meaning no plastic bags, coasters, straws and the like are used on site… Tourism will never be entirely green, but I recommend checking what efforts your destination is making to minimise their impact and try to be as sustainable as possible.
Booking Through a Travel Agency
One other thing to consider when planning for your dream holiday and finding the right resort in the Maldives: We generally book our flights, hotels and trips completely separate from each other. With the Maldives I made an exception, as the overall price was considerably cheaper than if I had it booked individually and booked it online through a travel agency. I would therefore advise you, especially if you are planning on staying in one resort during your entire stay, to check with several travel agents online for the best offer. You then also have the option to seek help or complain if part of your trip does not go as planned. I am more than happy to answer any of your questions in case you need help. Enjoy your trip to paradise!
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