The Maldives is one of the most stunning places I’ve been. After a busy and exhausting vacation around Sri Lanka, the pampering and peacefulness was much appreciated!
Our flight landed in Male after 8pm so we stayed the night there on the mainland since the sea planes do not fly to the resort islands much after 5pm. As soon as we woke up in the AM, we ate breakfast and headed back to the airport. Once we were given our boarding passes at the airport, they shuttled us over to the ‘sea plane airport’ where each resort has its own lounge.
Soon, we landed at what the resort dubbed its “international airport.” We LOL’d since it was really just a small dock big enough for the luggage and feet of about 10 people.
Then paradise arrived. We were greeted by a few of the 150 employees at Mirihi Island Resort (almost 3:1 ratio of employees to guests). Very quickly you’ll realize that you do not have to think for yourself whilel here. They knew our names without ever seeing us before, where we came from, and where we were before that. We were urged to remove our shoes and forget about them for the duration of the stay. Shoes aren’t necessary since the restaurants, bars, etc are all sand floors. Barefoot, we made our way to our overwater villa, personalized with our names on the door. As soon as we walked in, we popped a bottle of champagne, and soaked in the patio view with crystal clear water, crabs basking in the sun, and fish and corals galore. Each day was such an adventure. Snorkling gear, kayaks, and SUP (stand up paddle boards) are all free to grab at any time without having to go through anyone. We even saw a sea turtle, baby sharks and sting rays! Other things to do included signing up for excursions, attending happy hour to meet other guests, a personalized dinner, spa day, movie night on the beach, and watching the local employees play water polo.
Also, if you’re really feeling like a splurge, you can take a boat ride over to the Hilton Conrad Rangali for lunch at their Ithaa Undersea Restaurant. The restaurant is probably at least $300 per person and the boat ride over is about $200.
Let me tell you… We set our budget, then doubled it, and tripled it. Don’t be fooled by the water villas that are under $400 unless you don’t mind a long walk back to the island to use the community restrooms (ahemmm Cinnamon resorts). That was where our budget began, but we had to have a private bathroom, of course, then food and alcohol is all imported and all-inclusive doesn’t really exist, and the resorts have a monopoly on the transport to their islands which is another $600 per person. Transport to the resort is in addition to the flight to the mainland of Male. Also, the shorter you stay, the higher per night rate you’ll pay. As far as which resort to stay at, I doubt you can really go wrong as long as you have the basic amenities you require. I would recommend choosing a resort that isn’t in the middle atolls because you may hear sea planes flying overhead all day. They fly lower and can be rather loud. We stayed in the South Ari atoll.
If you want to do the Maldives on a low budget, go to a local island (not a resort island), and take the ferry. The ferry doesn’t go to the resort islands. Also, beware that this is a very strict Muslim country, so you’ll want to make sure you pick a local island where you can get in the water with a swimsuit (i.e. without being fully clothed).