Certainly one of the “it” destinations of 2016, the Republic of Maldives will continue to be a hot spot in the new year. And a visit to this island country will show why (frankly, just our picture gallery will leave no doubt), as to why the Maldives continues to top every list of upscale, family-friendly destinations.
If you’ve never heard of the Maldives, don’t worry, chances you’re not alone. The country, which lies to the southwest of India and Sri Lanka, is made up of tiny islands, many of which are uninhabited. The Maldives opened up its first tourist resort in the 1970s and there are now over 100 resorts on the Maldivian islands, many of which take over their own island exclusively. You’ll find all the big names here: the Four Seasons, Anatara, Taj, and for those looking for more budget accommodation in the Maldives, some of the more remote islands will offer options. In December 2015 we stayed at the Jumeirah Vitavelli and had one of the most memorable trips of my life.
Getting to the Maldives:
Flights fly into the capital city Malé and from there, most hotels organize a boat transfer which can be anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on which island you are visiting. Please note: boat transfers are often an additional cost. The Jumeirah has a small lounge where they offer light refreshments and wi-fi while you wait for your transfer.
Getting around the Maldives:
Visitors typically stay at their own resorts and don’t do much island hopping as transfers are expensive. Hotels usually offer tons of activity and the ocean offers a constant source of entertainment, so while boredom is never really an issue, “sightseeing” is not really an option.
Things to do in the Maldives:
- Underwater Life:
The Maldivian islands are in the Indian Ocean and are blessed with some of the richest reef life in the world. The water is unreal: warm, clear and with mild currents, making it suitable for even beginner swimmers. You can literally stand in foot-deep water and see tiny fish swimming beneath you. Jumeirah offers life vests and snorkeling gear for all guests (including kids) and you can’t resist the urge to go exploring at every opportunity. Even my four-year old was addicted by the end of it.
Naturally, there are many dive and snorkeling expeditions you can sign up for. The youngest kids have to be to dive is 8 years old, but until then, there are plenty of snorkel opportunities.
2. Water Sports:
Boat excursions, jet skis, wind-surfing, water-skiing and more are all options. The Jumeirah offers paddle boats and canoes free of charge but frankly we were more interested in the motorized options. We loved the Sea Bob (it’s like a motorized boogie board that can take you underwater as well) and parasailing over the islands. A highlight was taking a jet ski out with a guide to a sand bank in the middle of the ocean, where there is a whole universe of fish to see underwater. There is a plethora of staff available to assist and accompany you, depending on your comfort level and needs.
The Maldivian culture is a blend of European (Portuguese, mainly), Arabic, and South Asian and this versatility is reflected in its food. And because it attracts discerning tourists from around the world, the top resorts will bring in chefs from all over the world to court your taste buds. The Jumeirah had four main restaurants:
- Samsara: A multi-cuisine restaurant where you can get anything from a salad to a Pad Thai or a traditional Maldivian curry. This is also where their extensive breakfast buffet, consisting of everything from made-to-order eggs, to sushi, falafels and hummus, dim sum and of course, Indian breakfast favorites like idli and poori bhaji.
- Fenesse: French fine dining on an exquisite terrace over the water
- Mu Beach Bar and Grill: A beachside al fresco dining experience with the best of grilled meats and seafood. This restaurant happened to be my favorite. It’s also the site of daily manta feedings so if you’re having a late lunch at Mu, you might see them coming by from 4pm onwards.
- Swarna: Jumeirah’s upscale Indian restaurant is only a few months ago and the pearl in its oyster with only 16 covers a night (it’s closed for lunch). Chef Rahul Kulkarni serves up innovative and delectable Indian dishes with a contemporary twist. The atmosphere is magical, and so are the cocktails! Kids can entertain themselves on the majestic maharaja swing or on the terrace overlooking the beach.
Meal Plans: The Maldives is expensive, and since you aren’t going anywhere other than your resort, it’s worth looking into half or full meal plans. Half board includes breakfast and dinner and includes about 60% of the menus at the above restaurants (except for Swarna which runs on a different plan). Other dishes are served with a supplemental cost. Room service was not included in the half board but the staff was very willing to accommodate us one night when our kids were just too tired to step out after a whole day in the water. Note that alcohol is not included in the meal plan sadly.
Kids’ Menus: Every restaurant has a kids’ menu. Kids under 12 eat free, and the staff at every restaurant is extremely willing to accommodate tastes, allergies, and fussy eaters!
Private Dining Experiences: The hotel can organize a private dining experience on the beach, or in a venue of your choice for a special occasion or a change of scene. You can choose from a few menus and guests on meal plans get 30% off.
4. Kids’ Club:
If you’re one of those parents who has never used a kid’s club, your life will change after an experience with Jumeirah’s Kuda-Koli Kid’s Club. This beautiful facility right next to the main pool has everything kids could dream of, from video games to a pool table and a shallow paddle pool as well (life jackets and life guards provided at all times). Daily activity schedules include painting, pottery, and much more and changes regularly and seasonally. The staff at the Jumeirah Kid’s Club was so awesome – we almost had a few tears at check-out! The Kid’s Club is included in the price of your stay and is open from 9 am to 9pm daily, with a 7pm movie screening every night. The Kid’s Club is free for kids from 3-13. Babysitting services for children under 3 are offered at an additional charge.
5. The Spa:
Treat yourself to a luxury experience to the sound of the waves at Jumeirah’s Talise Spa. This full-service spa offers body massages, wraps, facials, couples’ treatments, detox therapies and much more, all in over-water treatment rooms.
6. Fitness Activities:
Most resorts will offer a gym and other fitness and wellness opportunities. Jumeirah also had a variety of group classes offered free of charge. I took a private yoga class and my husband and I did a kick-boxing session with the trainer which was a lot of fun. It’s a good time to step back from your daily rut and try new things with your fitness regime.
With some of the most beautiful vistas in the world, it’s a rare person who doesn’t find peace and tranquility in the Maldives. Enjoy the sunset, ride a bike, or relax by the pool. The choice is yours!
The only downside to the Maldives is that it can be a really expensive vacation. There are budget hotels and options near Male and on smaller, remote islands but if you want the full-blown lux experience complete with over-water bungalow and staff to cater to your every whim, it will cost you over $500/night off-peak season and close to $1000 at peak times. We clearly thought it was worth every penny!
Here’s a pic taken by the hotel photographer at www.colourprofile.net. Clearly a keeper!