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August 17, 2023

The Most Exclusive Hotels in the Maldives

From wellness havens to eco-friendly retreats these dreamy resorts are a cut above the rest.

By Irenie Forshaw

Choosing where to stay in the Maldives can feel almost impossible. The idyllic archipelago is brimming with picture-perfect hotels, each seeming – at first glance – remarkably similar. Thatched roof overwater villas? Powdery white beaches? Expansive spas? Many of the most exclusive resorts tick every box.

But look closer and key distinguishing factors begin to emerge. Made up of over 1,000 coral islands grouped into clusters (or atolls) in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is home to a vast array of hotels – some hidden away on ridiculously-hard-to-get-to private islands, others a short speedboat hop from the bright lights of Malé.

When planning your trip to the Maldives, the first step is figuring out when to visit; for the most sunshine, book your stay outside of monsoon season between November and April (we recommend arriving in May to avoid the crowds).

Of course, staying in the Maldives comes with a hefty price tag so it’s worth taking the time to choose your dream accommodation. Once you’ve decided whether you’re looking for total seclusion or somewhere a bit more sociable, it’s worth narrowing down your top priorities.

To help, we’ve curated a list of the very best hotels in the Maldives, spanning everything from eco-friendly havens to secluded wellness retreats.

[See also: A Luxury Guide to Island-Hopping in the Maldives]

The Nautilus

Nautilus beach villa
Choose from either over-water or beachfront accommodations / ©The Nautilus

Our list kicks off with a breathtaking private island in the northeast Baa Atoll – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve home to one of the largest manta ray gathering spots in the world. You’ll have to take a 30-minute flight by seaplane from Velana International Airport to get to The Nautilus but the journey is certainly worth it.

The level of service is especially noteworthy; before you even step foot on the island the ‘house master’ gets in contact to find out your preferences on everything from pool temperature to your favorite drinks.

With just 26 private villas, this is the perfect option for those looking for somewhere on the quieter side. You can choose from either over-water or beachfront accommodations – or go all out and opt to book the entire island for yourself.

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Recently, the resort added a host of new ‘after dark’ experiences from dining under the stars to night-time snorkeling. There are also four different restaurants to choose from and a tranquil spa set on stilts above the ocean.

Velaa Private Island

Velaa Private Island golf course
The resort has a sprawling golf academy / ©Velaa Private Island

Next, we head to Velaa – a tiny private island a 45-minute seaplane ride from Malé. If you’re looking to indulge in some R&R this might just be your place: the resort launched a Wellbeing Village this summer adding a gleaming new spa, detox restaurant and yoga pavilion.

This is no run-of-the-mill wellness offering either; a collection of doctors, therapists and osteopaths are on-hand to craft personally tailored programs, and you can optimize your health with medical treatments including blood analyses and IV therapy.

The resort is home to just 47 villas (18 are overwater) – the most exclusive is the Velaa Private Residence which boasts two terraces, an infinity pool and a private beach with twin gazebos (you can also book the entire island for exclusive use).

And, if you begin to get bored lounging on the beach, you can head out to the ocean for an afternoon of hoverboarding or tee off at the José Maria Olazabal-designed golf academy.

St. Regis Maldives Vommuli

St. Regis Maldives Vommuli
This is the ideal spot for those looking for a classic resort experience with all the bells and whistles / ©St. Regis

Our list of the best hotels in the Maldives would not be complete without mentioning St. Regis. With 77 rooms, the luxury brand’s Vommuli Resort is bigger than the previous entries on our list – but just as glamorous.

Nestled between two reefs in the southwest Dhaalu Atoll, the island is a 45-minute seaplane ride from Malé. Eco-conscious travelers will be pleased to hear St. Regis is making efforts to protect the stunning surroundings – earlier this year the resort partnered with marine environmental consultancy Reefscapers to launch a conservation initiative.

This is the ideal spot for those looking for a classic resort experience with all the bells and whistles; Vommuli is home to six restaurants, an over-water spa and a dive and water sports center kitted out with all the newest equipment. Service is impeccable; a personal butler is on-hand to take care of your every need from making dinner reservations to planning day trips.

Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi

Fairmont Maldives aerial view
There are 120 villas in total, split across over-water, beach, and jungle / ©Fairmont

Another resort that’s eager to protect its precious surroundings is Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi. Hidden away in the Shaviyani Atoll, the ‘secret water island’ (as it is known by locals) boasts lush mangroves, pristine white sandy shores and a 600-hectare lagoon.

Last year, the resort unveiled its latest environmental project, the Sustainability Lab, which uses specialized machinery to transform waste plastic and ghost nets into souvenirs, furniture and essential products for local schools. Fairmont Maldives, Sirri Fen Fushi also has an impressive coral regeneration program, cultivating new and healthy corals at its in-house nursery that are rehabilitated into the reef.

Beyond its eco efforts, the resort has plenty to offer. There are 120 villas in total, split across over-water, beach, and safari-style tented villas in the jungle (all of them come with a 24-hour personal butler). The most exclusive is the 12,432 sqft Three Bedroom Beach Sunset Villa that boasts a gorgeous private pool and relaxation Sala. When you can bring yourself to step foot outside, head to the hotel’s jaw-dropping infinity pool – the largest in the Maldives spanning over 600 feet.

Raffles Maldives Meradhoo

Raffles Maldives overwater villas
The resort has just 36 villas including 16 overwater / ©Raffles

For serious seclusion, we recommend Raffles Meradhoo. Set across two private islands in the Gaafu Alifu Atoll just above the equator in the far south of the archipelago, the waters around this remote resort are home to some of the richest marine life in the Maldives.  

Getting here isn’t easy; from Malé you’ll need to take a 55-minute domestic flight to Kaadedhdhoo airport, followed by a 10-minute speedboat ride. However, taking the time to get here comes with its rewards – the waters here are home to a wide variety of tropical fish, sea turtles and reef sharks.

The resort has just 38 villas – 16 are over water while 22 are on the island itself. If it’s water sports you’re after this is your place; the Gaafu Alifu Atoll is a wonderful underwater playground and Raffles has crafted some standout experiences spanning everything from whale-shark encounters led by experienced marine biologists to sea fishing adventures. Every guest is treated to a Marine Butler who can lead personal snorkeling tours in crystal-clear waters.

The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Island

Ritz-Carlton Fari Island
Kerry Hill oversaw the contemporary design at the resort / ©Ritz-Carlton

It would be remiss of us not to include The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Island in our roundup of the most exclusive hotels in the Maldives. Situated in the north Male Atoll around a 50-minute boat ride from Male Airport, the resort features a striking circle of sleek over-water villas with a spa in the middle.

You won’t find any thatched rooves here; Ritz-Carlton brought in Kerry Hill to oversee the contemporary design. Interiors are pared back and minimalist while sliding glass doors open onto breezy outdoor decks and private infinity pools.

This is a real haven for foodies. The resort boasts an excellent collection of restaurants including the laid-back Beach Shack where you can enjoy light bites and cocktails, and the floating Summer Pavillion which serves upmarket Cantonese fare.

It’s also a great spot for those that get restless staying on one island; the hotel is connected to two other resorts – Patina Maldives and the soon-to-be-opened Capella Maldives – where you can enjoy access to the neighboring facilities.

Six Senses Laamu

Six Senses Laamu
The resort has a mix of over-water bungalows and private villas / ©Six Senses

Last but by no means least on our list is this eco-friendly retreat in the remote Laamu Atoll. The resort has partnerships with three NGOs – The Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation, and Olive Ridley Project – to ensure the surrounding marine habitats and seagrass meadows continue to thrive.

Like most of the most exclusive hotels in the Maldives, Six Senses Laamu has a mix of over-water bungalows and private villas. There are 76 in total – many with direct beach access and killer ocean views.

Anyone that has stayed at a Six Senses property will expect top-notch wellness facilities and the Laamu outpost certainly doesn’t disappoint. The resort has an excellent thatched-roof spa right on the beach, a meditation and yoga studio, and even a juice bar where you can grab a smoothie after your treatment. You can also opt for the personalized wellness screening to have a bespoke program tailored to your health needs.

[See also: The Best Safari Camps Championing Sustainability in Africa]

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