How To Plan The Ultimate Maldives Getaway, According To Expert Hoteliers

With so many dream-worthy resorts to choose from, a Maldives vacation is a uniquely paradisal escape. Here, experts from three of the country’s most incredible island hotels reveal how to elevate your luxury experience to a once-in-a-lifetime adventure

The Water Retreats at Soneva Jani all have private pools – with waterslides into the lagoon – and its Sunset Villa 41 is the perfect beach-front family retreat, with a large wraparound swimming pool. Meanwhile, over at Soneva Fushi, the Once upon a Table restaurant is a culinary theater, showcasing some of the biggest names in fine dining – there is no menu, allowing the creativity and skills of the chef to take center stage… alongside the incredible view, of course


Eva Malmström Shivdasani, the creative director and co-founder of Soneva, first came to the Maldives in the late 1970s, before returning a decade later with her husband, Sonu Shivdasani. Her most-loved spot is their home on the island of Kunfunadhoo, which is also the location of their spectacular and sustainability-driven resort, Soneva Fushi.

Picnic on a private beach

“Sonu and I like to get aboard our Soneva in Aqua yacht and sail around the beautiful azure waters that surround the resorts. We usually stop off and enjoy a picnic at one of the many pristine private beaches. We also recommend going to the nearby atoll called Goidhoo, which has fantastic snorkeling (including a wonderful area called the Rose Garden), where the color of the water is really special.”

Sample local, expertly created cuisine

“When staying at Soneva Fushi, I recommend you try dishes from one of the resort’s most beloved chefs, Chef Sobah, who is known as the grandfather of Maldivian cuisine. He uses local and healthy ingredients to create an authentic fine-dining experience.”

Adopt the mantra ‘no news, no shoes’

“By just visiting Soneva, guests contribute to conservation in the archipelago, as our work through the Soneva Foundation is funded by Soneva’s 2 percent carbon levy on room revenue and profits from the sale of water bottled on the property. We give 50 percent of the water revenue to water charities that help provide people around the world with access to clean water and, as a result, we have contributed to clean drinking water for 750,000 people.

“Another sustainable initiative I am proud of is our new ‘Regeneration’ initiative that we recently launched, which guests can get involved with. It is a fully carbon-neutral island ‘makers’ place’ studio that upcycles our waste plastic and aluminum into beautiful works of art and décor objects that we will use across the resort, and also sell in our little upcycling gift shop. Both Sonu and I share a deep passion and commitment to sustainability, and we are very clear about our responsibilities as custodians of these beautiful places in which we operate.”

By just visiting Soneva, guests contribute to conservation in the archipelago… Both Sonu and I share a deep passion and commitment to sustainability
Eva Malmström Shivdasani, creative director and co-founder of Soneva
Joali’s spectacular seaplane and speedboat arrival ‘hut’ on the jetty is an architectural work of art to behold – before you’ve even set foot on the paradisal island of Muravandhoo


For general manager Enver Arslan, the incredible location of Muravandhoo – situated in the vast Raa Atoll (which boasts an abundant array of marine life) and the cultural destination of Joali Maldives – is one of the islands’ most special.

Explore beneath the waves

“Swimming with manta rays is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you cannot miss; the underwater world of the Maldives is mesmerizing. About an hour away from Joali via speedboat sits Hanifaru Bay – one of the best locations to swim with manta rays, which is also recognized as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve. You can spot around 200 manta rays and even whale sharks, particularly from June to October.”

Dine with a view

“The Manta Ray Tree House at Joali is the perfect private-dining spot with a difference. Designed by Porky Hefer, and built using local craftsmen and natural, sustainable materials, it’s completely unique and has unparalleled views of the horizon at sunset.”

Book a transformative wellbeing journey

“After many, many years of planning, our wellbeing retreat, Joali Being, will be opening at the end of this year on Bodufushi island, which is also in the Raa Atoll. It’s going to be a transformative, nature-immersive experience and we want it to be the beginning of guests’ educational wellbeing journeys. Combining the best of evidence-based science and time-honored traditional practices, our in-house Masters will guide guests on a journey of self-discovery and renewal through a completely bespoke Immersion Program tailored around four key health pillars: mind, skin, microbiome and energy.”

Discover the local arts scene

“We regularly host local Maldivian artists at the resort to display their works of art, and offer creative interactive workshops to guests. As most travelers to the country are resort-based, we believe this is a great way to help showcase Maldivian art to international audiences, raising the profile of the Maldives’ art scene and supporting local talent.”

Whether you’re lounging in style on the private deck (with pool) of your Ocean Residence over-water villa or relaxing in the Spa by Espa hammam, Joali Maldives has everything you need for the ultimate Maldivian experience
The underwater world of the Maldives is mesmerizing. About an hour away from Joali via speedboat sits Hanifaru Bay – one of the best locations to swim with manta rays
Enver Arslan, general manager at Joali Maldives
Featuring natural tones and expansive indoor and outdoor spaces, the reef villas at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi are decadently appointed for a luxurious stay – complete with infinity pool, stunning views and an outdoor dining area, terrace and deck


General manager Etienne Dalancon still finds himself stunned every time he steps onto the private island of Ithaaafushi – “It’s like a dream coming true and the feeling cannot be replicated, seen or experienced anywhere else,” he says.

If it’s privacy you’re after, Ithaafushi’s duplex Stella Maris Ocean Villa is the one for you – complete with a chef’s barbecue station on the upper deck and an infinity pool, hot tub and hammocks on the lower deck. And if you prefer to gaze across the ocean as you dine among the treetops, why not enjoy a romantic sundowner in one of seven bamboo pods at Terra restaurant?

Take time out in nature

“Enjoy some time on a deserted sandbar, with a picnic, an espresso in hand, watching the turquoise ocean alone with nothing but nature around.”

Enjoy an elevated dining experience

“The fine-dining menu at our treetop restaurant Terra is not to be missed. The bamboo pods overlook the resort’s lagoon; the refined dishes put on a performance; and the backdrop of stars in the sky is the grand finale – it’s truly magical.”

Ask a local for the weather forecast

“The locals know how to get the weather forecast right without using a weather app [which are not accurate or reliable in the Maldives]. Being in the middle of the Indian Ocean doesn’t make it easy, so learning how to read the moon and the tides, and observe the clouds and the wind direction, helps us to understand and plan the few hours ahead.”

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