This is why our favourite Maldives holidays are at JOALI, Velaa, Cheval Blanc, Waldorf Astoria and Nautilus.
We personally visit hundreds of destinations and resorts every year, including dozens of inspections in the Maldives. From our experience these are the best five Maldives resorts.
The most exciting recent addition to the Maldives holiday scene, a beautiful island in the Raa Atoll with 73 beach and over-water villas, all with a private pool. Get here on a 45-minute seaplane flight from Male. Tip: charter the JOALI seaplane, one of the finest in the Maldives.
JOALI’s motto is ‘Joy of Living’. We love this resort for its amazing design and the overall quality of the villas, which are simply stunning.
JOALI Maldives is a good option for couples. It’s a pristine hideaway delivering a lot of privacy, with interesting design and art installations across the island. Note that the house reef isn’t the best ever, although you can do snorkel and diving trips to beautiful nearby spots.
It’s also great for families and not only because there’s a kids club. There are treasure hunts, cooking classes, even spa activities for older children. Families should book a multi-bedroom beach villa.
Sister property JOALI BEING raises the quality level even further, with its motto ‘Joy of Weightlessness.’ It’s a new concept for the Maldives, where everything is dedicated to your lasting wellness. It’s a medical wellness destination on a tropical island!
We love the holiday combination of JOALI Maldives and JOALI BEING. Both are packed with art pieces and installations. Two exceptional resorts with a very different atmosphere and approach, wrapped into one holiday.
Cheval Blanc Randheli
The quintessence of French glamour, transported to the Indian Ocean, 40 minutes by seaplane away from Male (Cheval Blanc have their own luxury branded seaplane). The 43 villas are spread across six artificial islands, connected by wooden bridges and short boat transfers.
One of the islands is dedicated to the spa, with a pool, spa restaurant and treatment rooms. Another is very unspoiled, only hosting a jungle boot camp and tennis court.
Cheval Blanc Randheli is French chic and luxury at its finest. Easily one of the best global resorts in terms of design and service.
You may know of Cheval Blanc in Courchevel, St-Tropez, or Paris. Cheval Blanc Randheli delivers a similar French sophistication and style, just with much better weather. On a tropical Indian Ocean island.
Le 1947 is the culinary highlight, an offshoot of Cheval Blanc Courchevel’s three Michelin-star restaurant – the 12-course tasting menu is phenomenal.
We recommend it for both couples and families, as the kids’ club and teenager’s space are both very good. For hyper exclusivity consider the four-bedroom Owner’s Villa, on its own private island with private beaches, spa and cocktail bar.
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Velaa Private Island Maldives
Velaa has been at the highest level for years and we don’t just say this because it’s Czech owned. It’s located in the Noonu Atoll, 45 minutes by seaplane from Male. Velaa also have their own branded seaplane.
Flying in you’ll notice how the 43 villas and four private houses resemble a sea turtle. Velaa means turtle in Dhivehi, the local Maldivian language, and the island is shared with plenty of sea turtles.
The best Maldives resort in terms of the variety and quality of watersports, with newest hi-tech toys like flyboarding and a tandem jetovator. Also the only ultra-luxe Maldives resort with its own golf course.
We know Velaa is always a safe bet for a Maldives holiday. There’s a reassuring quality and attention to detail, something for everyone to stay active, plus personal butlers, a kids club and the country’s best wine cellar.
Snorkelling on the Velaa reef can be a little disappointing but there are different water toys for a snorkelling trip. Mostly Velaa offers one of life’s great luxuries – space.
Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
A relative newcomer that’s become a firm favourite among our clients. A good choice for anyone and the best choice if you don’t want to travel by seaplane. This resort is for a shorter Maldives holiday, as it’s only 30 minutes from Male by boat and Waldorf has the best fleet of luxury yachts in the Maldives.
Incredible water villas, superb amenities, convenient location and a contemporary feel. The best Maldives resort that doesn’t need a seaplane.
Opened in 2019, this is a big resort with 122 villas, so it’s significantly bigger than the others on our list of best Maldives resorts. However, we’re really impressed at how Waldorf Astoria brings Maldivian space and serenity to this resort, along with the brand’s signature style and service.
As a larger resort, Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi has the best variety of restaurants and bars anywhere in the country. There are 11 different outlets. We particularly like the treetop dining of Terra and Shanghainese cuisine of Li Long.
Villas are either over the water or over the reef, complete with their own concierge and swimming pool (not only a plunge pool). It’s easy to spend your holiday just in your villa, although Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi also has a huge array of amenities.
Ithaafushi the Private Island is a new and hyper exclusive sister property, an island only bookable as a private buyout for up to 24 friends and family. Your own tropical paradise.
The Nautilus Maldives
A small resort with only 27 accommodations in the Baa Atoll, 30 minutes by seaplane from Male. Their concept is time standing still. It truly does. You can have breakfast at 5pm if you want. Laid-back is an understatement here.
Nautilus is the best boutique Maldives resort, a very intimate hideaway memorable for attentive service and exceptional food.
It’s a romantic oasis we recommend for couples. Thanks to multi-bedroom villas and a superb kids club, Nautilus can also work for families. I bet you don’t know that Nautilus has one of the best football teams in the Maldives and kids are invited to take part in training sessions, even games sometimes.
At Nautilus the accommodations are so big they are correctly called houses, not villas. We love the overwater glass flooring and unrestricted access to the house reef, which is one of the finest in the archipelago. Tip – from July to November Nautilus is just ten minutes away from the best place in the world to swim with manta rays.
Everything feels so familiar, intimate and exclusive, this combination of high luxury with a reassuringly friendly family feel.
Such a small and friendly report encourages bespoke exploration and you will likely have a different experience to each other guest, whether it’s gastronomy or water excursions.
Travelling to the Best Maldives Resorts by Seaplane
Cheval Blanc, Nautilus, JOALI and Velaa all have their own seaplane. What does that mean? Well, flexibility and comfort.
Standard seaplane transfers in the Maldives are operated by TMA and Manta Air. Their planes have 17 seats in rows of three, so a third of passengers don’t have a window. These seaplanes operate on a flexible schedule based on guest arrivals and departures. You may not have to wait, or you may wait up to 90 minutes as they only want to fly when the aircraft is full, or almost full.
Resorts with their own seaplane can provide a more luxurious experience. There is zero waiting time. The planes have two comfy leather seats per row, so there’s a lot more space. Often they’re booked as a charter but they are also used for shared transfers.
Getting to and from your resort is a very important consideration, even more so on your departure day, when most international flights depart Male late in the evening. At EliteVoyage this isn’t just a small detail for us, it’s an essential part of creating the best Maldives holiday for you.
Your Next Maldives Holiday
At EliteVoyage we settle for the best. We go out and experience hundreds of hotels and destinations every year, so we can plan your holidays based on real first-hand experiences.
We can tell you which specific villas are best in each resort and why. Most importantly, we’ll tell you what’s not so good at each resort, based on your specific requirements.
Travel means freedom so we don’t create holidays from a brochure. We design every aspect of your travel around you, from upcoming destinations to favourites like the Maldives.