Oceans of joy

From over-water villas to private island picnics, the Maldives is the king of luxury experiences and sun-soaked seclusion, says Charlotte Flach

The hammock sways lazily in rhythm with the breeze, as sunlight filters through the fronds of the palm trees which shelter me from the blazing midday heat. In the near distance, the ocean laps the sun-bleached sands as a thousand rays reflect off its glassy surface, creating shimmer as far as the eye can see.  

In one hand I’m grasping an ice-cold coffee, topped up with vanilla ice cream – that’s how they do it round here – and in the other, a novel which I’m barely reading. I already have all the escapism I could ask for right here in front of me.

In a few minutes, it will be time for lunch, where I can choose between freshly-made sushi, authentic Napoli pizza, or cuisine inspired by the famous spice route. Afterwards, I can laze on a daybed by the pool, while the resident DJ spins chillout tracks, or head to the spa for a massage in an over-water villa with a glass bottom that allows me to watch the marine life play.

I’m on a solo trip to the recently opened Cora Cora Maldives, a luxury yet family-friendly property with just 100 rooms, creating an intimate and relaxed vibe. 

Despite its reputation as a honeymoon hotspot, the Maldives offers an array of luxurious resorts and experiences to entice every type of client. 

It’s hard to believe that this island-nation was inhabited only by fishing families just 50 years ago. Fast-forward to 2022 and the Maldives is considered one of the most luxurious destinations with nearly 200 resorts across 26 natural atolls, around 10 of which opened in 2021. A further 12 are scheduled to open in 2022.

It’s certainly grown in popularity too with Kuoni naming it its number one honeymoon destination in 2021. It also topped the list of the luxury operator’s bestselling destinations for 2022.

Maldives ocean villa

“The Maldives has always attracted couples due to its tropical-island seclusion and feeling of truly getting away from the world and having some real time to oneselves, but the number of family-friendly properties has grown over the years – perhaps partly because those newlyweds in time want to return with their kids and share such a unique and magical destination,” says Rhonda Carrier from Aviareps, which represents the Maldivian Tourist Board in the UK. 

Cora Cora, one such resort, debuted in September 2021 with the motto ‘Freedom Time’ to encourage guests to relax.

But luxury isn’t just isolated to honeymooners; a new market is starting to evolve, with younger couples and parties of friends seduced by the idea of a tropical-island paradise far from the crowds. This means interest in more affordable resorts such as Sun Siyam and new and upcoming resorts for a younger crowd, such as The Standard, Hard Rock, Finolhu and Zazz. 

Agents can also take advantage of the trend towards solo travel to the destination, especially selling luxury wellness breaks to properties such as JW Marriott Maldives, Le Meridien Maldives or JA Resorts.

So why is the destination so popular with so many markets? Velaa Private Island’s General Manager Wayne Milgate says: “From the paradise beaches to a magical underwater world, combined with the perfect temperature year-round and the most exclusive resorts in the world, the Maldives is a dream destination. Add to this world-class gastronomy and revolutionary spa offerings as well as, in our case, our own golf course, the biggest fleet of watersport toys and the Maldives’ first snow room.”

Maldives underwater room

Top luxury experiences 

Don’t burst the bubble: Clients looking for ultimate seclusion can stay in their very own Beach Bubble on a private beach. Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives by Seaside Collection has upgraded its Dream Eclipse Experience with the introduction of its newly upgraded Beach Bubble, which features separate space for the bedroom, living room and bathroom. Located along a sandbank, away from the main island of the resort, the new set-up includes an outdoor bathtub and uninterrupted sea views. 

Take a moment to pause: Amilla Maddives Resorts & Residences  ‘Pause Retreat’ offers a five-day retreat for perimenopausal and menopausal women, where they can manage their nutrition, have one on one’s with a health coach, group sessions, yoga, and make their own kombucha. It has also launched a flexible way of dining, allowing guests access to all seven à la carte restaurants on the island. Guests can even enjoy Amilla’s signature contemporary Japanese restaurant, Feeling Koi, which is suspended over the lagoon. 

Pack a picnic: Clients can be transported to their own Robinson Crusoe island to enjoy a Castaway Lunch Picnic Hamper Experience with JA Resorts Maldives, complete with fresh produce and champagne. What’s more, the resort is running a limited-time spring promotion, valid until June 30. This offers 20% off its daily rates, one afternoon tea, daily breakfast in the Kakuni Restaurant, a Castaway Lunch Picnic Hamper Experience, and 10% off its Spring Ritual Journey at the Calm Spa Sanctuary. Kids under 12 go free.

Maldives resort

What’s new

CROSSROADS is the Maldives’ first multi-island, fully-integrated leisure destination, encompassing SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, Hard Rock Hotel Maldives and The Marina @CROSSROADS. Just 15 minutes by speedboat from Male international airport, shopping, 13 dining locations and entertainment experiences feature at the Marina @ CROSSROADS, which is connected to both hotel islands by footbridges with a bike and buggy service. Signature experiences range from in-room Fender guitars at Hard Rock to creating bespoke bathroom amenities in the Mix It Yourself Aroma Lab at SAii Lagoon. 

Vakkaru Maldives is hosting a week-long residency by Oliver Steeds, a former investigative journalist and the founder and mission director of Nekton, a science-based organisation that works with ocean nations to protect the seas and increase humanity’s knowledge of marine life.

Between August 19-25, guests of all ages can participate in a variety of activities to learn more about ocean life and its conservation in the Maldives, with workshops, cinema screenings and two expeditions, as well as sustainably sourced dinners and cocktail evenings. 

JOALI BEING will welcome children for the first time when it launches its ‘Joy of BEING’ programme this summer. The children’s club is being introduced for six- to 12-year-olds throughout June, July and August. 

The ‘Joy of BEING’ club will be a weekly seven-day programme designed around JOALI BEING’s Four Pillars of Mind, Skin, Microbiome and Energy. Children will learn new healthy culinary skills, the importance of protecting our planet, and wellbeing.

This year Velaa Private Island is inviting guests to re-energise and fulfill their fitness ambitions whilst taking care of the mind, body and soul through its Visiting Practitioners programme.

The initiative works with world-class athletes and practitioners to tailor exclusive workshops designed to promote inner balance, health and harmony. Joining the programme in the upcoming months is Holistic Practitioner Dr Buathon Thienarrom, who will offer private alternative medicine and holistic healing sessions.  

Gili Lankanfushi is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2022, and has introduced a new plant to plate menu and chef’s table experience, launching May 1. Guests can now also learn to surf in the waters surrounding the resort. 

Where to book it


TUI offers a seven-night stay at LUX* South Ari Atoll Resort & Villa in a beachfront bungalow with terrace, from £1,857pp. Price includes flights and bed and breakfast. tui.co.uk