Before I visited the Maldives (pronounced Mul-deeves) I thought that all of the resorts were sort of the same. But then I went there and found that these three resorts had their very own personality. There's Finolhu, the party island that has DJs, entertainers and the most delicious crab shack for lunch. Then there is Amilla, the ultimate retreat that offers you the most divine sanctuary from the world and celebrity chef pop ups. And then there's Anantara Kihavah, a resort that has an incredible underwater restaurant and out of this world snorkelling. There is something for every taste in the Maldives. And for the first time I share an exclusive Not Quite Nigella travel deal for two of these resorts!
Finolhu - For the Social Bunny $$ 4.5 stars
Finolhu is known as a party island. That's not to say that it's like Ibiza or that it is unapproachable for those that don't like to party or just want to relax. But it does mean that regular social events like beach parties are arranged. Finolhu is about a playful retro vibe, music, the staff are very friendly and will call you by your first name. It's no coincidence that it's a popular resort with Australians.
A stroke of genius for this resort (and its sister resort Amilla below) is that they set their own time that is 2 hours ahead of Male which means that there is more daylight at the resort to make the most of your time there. That makes it closer to Australian Eastern Standard Time too.
Finolhu is also very well priced. For much cheaper than other resorts you can get an overwater bungalow which is the ultimate Maldivian experience. This is where you can swim from your room direct into the ocean.
Food wise, there are five places to eat from casual salads and sandwiches to North African fine dining to my favourite place called the Crab and Fish Shack which is located at the end of a sand bank. The Sri Lankan mud crab has a cult following and once you try it, you'll understand why. You sit under a thatched roof with your feet in the sand and while away the time.
Pros: Friendly, personable service, high level of English spoken, Crab and Fish Shack is a must dine, well priced, excellent kids centre.
Cons: snorkelling is good but it is better at Amilla (you can take free day trips there). Villas are lovely but not designed to spend a lot of time there. No butlers. Yes I know that sounds pretentious, but they're a thing in the Maldives.
*Take a look at the Not Quite Nigella exclusive package deal for Finolhu where the two of you can stay for 4 nights from just $2,720USD (plus taxes). Reserve your package today by emailing email@example.com with your name, dates, promo code "AMILLA-NQN1" and your preferred room package. Click here to download a pdf of the various packages for Finolhu on offer.*
Amilla - For The Ultimate Retreat $$ 5 stars
Conversely, while Finolhu is basically a sparkly bikini, Amilla is like a linen dress. Amilla is where celebrities flock - Kate Winslet, Kate Moss, Ramsay Family, The Beckhams and Mel C are all big Amilla fans. This is where your beautifully designed villa is home and you need never leave it. It's a more private experience with a high staff to guest ratio and your Katheeb or butler takes cares of everything for you. Amilla opened in December 2014 and is a sister resort to Finolhu.
There are two types of over water bungalows here and one type is directly above the reef so you will see sea life from the moment you hop into the water from your bungalow.
Amilla also has a large range of private villas for larger groups called The Residences. These come with butlers and are a more private experience where you butler prepares breakfast for you in your villa.
Food wise, Amilla has six separate eateries (four of them are clustered under the "Baazaar" heading) with everything from high end Japanese, Asian, pizza, fish & chips, Italian to cheese and wine tasting from their extensive cellar.
One of the most exciting new things is the collaboration between Amilla and Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen (BSK) borne of Ramsay's fondness of the resort. Four times a year they send a team of five to spend 10 days at the resort bringing the BSK menu to the tropics.
Pros: Stunning villas, designed to be a retreat where you can stay all day, Katheebs or butlers, high staff to guest ratio. Time your visit with the Bread Street Kitchen pop up. Very good snorkelling.
Amilla cons: level of English can be a bit low with some staff.
*Take a look at the Not Quite Nigella exclusive package deal for Amilla where the two of you can stay for 4 nights from just $3,470USD (plus taxes). Reserve your package today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, dates, promo code "AMILLA-NQN1" and your preferred room package. Click here to download a pdf of the various packages for Amilla on offer. *
Anantara Kihavah - For Snorkelling $$$ 5 stars
There are four Anantaras in the Maldives and Anantara Kihavah is said to be the best of all four. It boasts an impressive offering. The island is also relatively small so it is easy to negotiate on foot. Staff are friendly and greet guests with their hand over their heart.
This is more what you might think of with a classic Maldives resort. The property is also older opening in 2011. There are beach pool villas and over water villas and I would definitely recommend going with an over water villa for the true Maldivian experience. The beach pool villa while nice doesn't feel Maldivian.
The snorkelling at Anantara Kihavah is fantastic. There is a reef just near the dive centre and you can lose count of the number of colourful fish that swim past.
There are six restaurants and the one that you may have heard about is called Sea. It's the resort's underwater restaurant located on the edge of a reef.
While it may not be the world's first it is said to be one of the best simply because of the amount of sea life you can see. It doesn't come cheap though-it's $245USD for food and $275USD extra for matching wine.
Pros: Incredible sea life for snorkelling, 5 star service, food offering is excellent, Sea restaurant, English level very high.
Cons: Price for villas and food are expensive, beach pool villas not a Maldivian experience.
Tip to make A 5 Star Resort in the Maldives more affordable:
Usually the Maldives is seen as a very, very expensive, exclusive place to holiday. It is generally speaking but here are some tips to make it more affordable. The low season in the Maldives is between May-October which happens to coincide with the Australian Autumn and Winter (yay!!!). Just be prepared for monsoon season which means about 2 days of rain in a week. But the good thing is that prices and occupancy are much lower (the Christmas festive season is the most expensive and popular time to visit).
A lot of flights arrive in Male at night. Don't pay for that expensive resort only to arrive at midnight. Stay one night in Male and travel to the island the following day.
Most resorts will have three package options: bed and breakfast, half board (breakfast and dinner) and full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Beverage packages are added on top of these and cost from $70USD per person per day so we saw many people drinking still water at dinner so that they wouldn't add to their package price. I found that having a half board package was enough for us especially if you sleep in, eat breakfast late and make it a brunch. Dinners tend to be very lavish and generously portioned so we never felt like we needed lunch.
One area in which the Maldives is markedly more expensive is with alcohol. Wine purchased a la carte is expensive (over $200USD a bottle) and you cannot bring alcohol into the Maldives. If you do go with a bed and breakfast package, make sure to research costs for the food at the resort. Generally the more expensive the resort, the more expensive the food. However most high end resorts include everything: cabanas, non motorised water sports, internet i.e. there are no "resort fees" or additions. Just check your package but at all of the resorts in this post a good variety of activities from SUP, kayaking, snorkelling and sailing.
One way to access the Maldives is via Singapore so if you're travelling there to Europe you can make a 5 day detour to the Maldives. You'll arrive in better condition and it's a 5 hour flight from Singapore. Or you can also fly via low cost airlines too. You can also fly from Sri Lanka or Kuala Lumpur or the Middle East.
Tips for travelling to the Maldives:
- The fastest connection from Australia is with Singapore Airlines and their subsidiary Silk Air (so your luggage can get checked all the way). However the arrival time into Male is not ideal (see point above).
- The Maldives has 26 atolls and over a hundred resorts within these atolls. If you resort hop, it is really best to stay within the one atoll because transfers can be more time consuming and expensive than one might think. All of these resorts above are located in the Baa Atoll where there are other properties like the Four Seasons, Soneva Fushi and Dusit Thani.
- The Maldives is a Muslim country so alcohol, pork and dogs are banned. However the resorts do not have these restrictions and are "anything goes" but please be respectful of customs while in Male.
- You don't need to pack heels or even wedges due to the amount of sandy beach paths. Instead bring those sparkly flats or sandals for nights and thongs for during the day.
- Colourful caftans, sun dresses and flowing clothes are perfect clothing. I packed three bikinis and that seemed about right.
- Bring high protection SPF50+ sunscreen. I've never been sunburnt until this trip. Also bring after sun lotion. You can buy them from the resort but they may not have the brand that you like. Better still, bring a rash vest especially if you intend to do a lot of snorkelling.
- In terms of photography I'd recommend bringing the following: a waterproof case for your phone, a GoPro (rental is expensive) and for photos that really pop, a polarising lens for your camera.
- High end resorts like the ones above have fast, free internet. It's streamable quality if you want to Netflix and chill.
- There is a wonderful lack of mosquitoes in all three of these resorts. They do spray for them and unlike other tropical countries they seem to have them under control.
- There are three types of tax you will pay. Your room will include a green tax of $6USD per person per night. Food and drinks will incur a 10% service charge and a 12% charge. There is no departure tax at the airport.