Paradise found in the Maldives

by Amanda.Statham

Tented resorts, drop dead gorgeous villas, and dining for two on a private sand dune – no wonder the Maldives is honeymoon heaven

The islands of the Indian Ocean are setting new standards for luxury resorts and service, leaving the rest of the world trailing in their wake. And of all of the thousands of islands scattered across the expanse of turquoise ocean, it is those in the Maldives archipelagos that are truly redefining the honeymoon experience. Nowhere on earth has more chilled-out chic retreats that are bursting with individual charm as well as all the latest mod cons. The archipelagos of 1,190 islands stretch 500 miles in 26 atolls across the Indian Ocean. The majority remain uninhabited and those that have been touched by human hand largely consist of a scattering of wooden villas. The result is a place on earth that really does appear to be a blueprint for paradise: tiny coral islands ringed by pure white sand, bright green palms and some of the cleanest, clearest water in the world, making it a number one dive spot.
 

The Beach House

Set on the private 35-acre Manafaru Island in the Haa Alifu Atoll in the northern Maldives, The Beach House, which opened its doors in December 2007, is all of your tropical island dreams rolled into one. Coral reef lagoons, perfect white sand beaches, 68 luxurious villas with private pool and butler service and gourmet meals in a swish thatched restaurant are run of the mill for the Maldives, but extras such as a huge trampoline to allow guests to jump as high as the palm trees, martial arts lessons, kite surfing and spa in a jungle setting make this a fun place to spend your time in paradise.
 

W Resort and Spa Maldives

The W Retreat and Spa Maldives caused a real stir in the Indian Ocean when it opened a couple of years ago, thanks to its contemporary design and gizmo-packed villas; think iPod accessories, high speed wireless internet, Bose sound systems, 42 inch plasma screen TVs and DVD players. There are over-water villas with glass floors, lit up for night viewing, and when guests can drag themselves away from their hi-tech pad they can chill out in 15 Below, the resort’s trendy bar/nightclub, with dance floor, trance DJs, projections and 30 types of vodka to sample.
 

Anantara Veli Resort and Spa

It’s all about romance at Anantara Veli Resort and Spa, part of the upmarket resort group whose other properties are scattered across Thailand’s Golden Triangle. From the moment you step on the speedboat that whisks you across 35kms of turquoise water from Malé you’ll be entranced. There are 68 tasteful beachfront villas, with enormous bathrooms with outdoor rain showers, but if you can afford to splash out we recommend the 38 over-water villas, which come with a private sun deck from which you can step down into the warm lagoon. The resort’s Aqua bar is a great place for sundowners, overlooking the infinity pool, which glows with fibre optics at night. The spa is excellent, using lots of indigenous botanical and herbal ingredients - the aromatherapy massage is particularly heavenly.
 

Naladhu

A short boat ride from Anantara, this chic resort has a more intimate vibe than its larger neighbour. The 19 oceanfront houses are named after Maldivian flowers and are very spacious at 225 sq metres, which includes a huge bathroom with tub that backs onto a private pool. Luxurious touches such as a housemaster (butler), antique writing desks and dining in your own private outside sala make this a gem of a getaway for sybarites and lovers alike.
 

Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru

The Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru is the latest offering from the five-star Four Seasons chain and already an immense hit with the honeymoon market. A short seaplane flight from Male, the resort has 102 thatched beach and water villas with obligatory plunge pools and outdoor living areas. The two-bedroom Royal Villa is particularly impressive at 890 sq metres, with a 30-metre lap pool, outside dining pavilion and two massage beds in the garden courtyard. The Four Seasons Explorer, an 110-cabin, three-deck catamaran, is available to take guests island hopping and dine at sister property the Four Seasons Kudaa Huura.
 

Diva Resort & Spa

If you think the Maldives is a party-free zone, then check out Diva Resort & Spa, a cool new five-star property that opened in March 2008. As well as the usual Indian Ocean prerequisites - white sand beach, excellent reefs, 192 rooms including 52 water villas with 24-hour room service and a big spa – there’s an injection of nightlife to lift it above the norm. You can enjoy five mouth-watering restaurants, five bars and even a nightclub!
 

Banyan Tree Maldives

From the moment the Maldives’ first tented resort opened its canvas doors, it instantly became one of the top romantic retreats in the world. There are just six white tented pool villas, each comprising three individual tents housing huge bedroom with beautiful wood floor and rattan and leather furniture, living room, pool and bath tent with spa beds for in-villa treatments. An Island Host caters to your every whim (think butler but less stuffy), but if you want to venture out of your tent there’s Boa Keyo, an all-day restaurant and bar, or treat yourselves to an overnight stay on Banyan Velaa, the resort’s 30-metre yacht.

Amanda.Statham

Travel editor of Cosmopolitan and You & Your Wedding magazines, plus freelancer for various national newspapers and magazines. Author of the Brit's Guide to New York and The Globetrotter's Guide (out in May 09); keen photographer and addicted to travel. Aside from roaming the planet, I love cocktails, surfing, sunshine, reading and flip-flops. Favourite places? It's soooo hard to whittle it down. My perfect morning would be waking up to sunshine and the call to prayer in Marrakech before having breakfast on Riad Tarabel's rooftop, with views of the whole city. Lunch would be a long and lazy affair sitting with friends at the huge al fresco table at Villa Fontelunga in Tuscany, while an afternoon surfing at Hana in Maui or Florianopolis in Brazil would be hard to beat. For sundowners, it has to be a gin & tonic on an African safari, and for a night out, New York, New York, or Jamaica's remote Pelican Reef bar. Built by owner Floyd from mangrove sticks, it lies on a sand bank one-mile offshore from Treasure Beach, can only be reached by boat, and is the coolest bar on the planet.