1. Best for A-list New Year’s Eve Party: One & Only Reethi Rah
Reeti Rah is like a private island for the super-rich. As soon as you arrive on the island, you are surrounded by CEOs of investment banks, fashion houses, Formula 1 and hedge funds. (Not to mention the Russian oligarchs who leave their wives with their bodyguards while they go to another island to see their mistresses). Only on Reeti Rah Island is there a 100 person waiting list for the Christmas – New Year’s week and NYE party for those too cool for St. Barth’s and guaranteed to be paparazzi free (even Mustique has been papped, but Reethi Rah is still virgin territory). Supermodels, fashion designers, hedgefunders, and CEOs congregate for the countdown, wondering how the new year could be even better than the last. Everyone knows each other and conversations at breakfast are about international real estate, mega-yachts and private jets. Even dropping £100,000 on two Grand Beach Villas during the Easter Break and organising a lavish beach BBQ with grilled lobster and Dom Perignon flowing all night won’t guarantee a place at the New Year’s Eve party. It is a teenagers’ paradise, who can roam freely on the island, ordering cocktails on daddy’s tab, travelling on bicycles to mingle with other super-rich teenagers and staying all night star-gazing, both at Orion and real superstars.
2. Best for Robinson Crusoe Romance: Gili Lankanfushi
Stay in a Crusoe Residence, a 250 sqm stand alone villa in the Indian Ocean only accessible by your own motorised rowboat moored on your villa’s private pontoon (My personal favourite, although I am biased as it was my honeymoon destination). Everything can be done from your villa; snorkelling, star gazing on the upper deck, watching stingrays around your pontoons, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner on the different decks, your own open air shower, and anything else you can think of… The hotel only has 45 gigantic, overwater villas in total so expect to spend days without seeing anyone else but your fiancé/husband/lover/child bride.
3. Best for Knowing what to Expect: Four Seasons Kuda Huraa
One of the best Canadian exports, after Ryan Reynolds, the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is a wonderfully, lovely resort with beautifully appointed rooms, a very nice kids club and very good food (especially the grilled lobster on half board). It is perfect for the travel risk-adverse, knowing that you will get great quality without any unhappy surprises (unlike when we went to the Touessrok Mauritius resort which was a big disappointment compared to any Maldivian resort). It is popular with groups of young, 20 something, moneyed, future billionaire Chinese, who hop over for a long weekend from Shanghai or Beijing. Its only problem is that it is like Ryan Reynolds: beautiful but boring.
4. Best for Low Key Luxury: Cocoa Island by COMO
‘Simple yet sophisticated, contemporary yet indigenous, and always deliberately restrained’ as described by the hotel’s website, Cocoa Island prides itself in its uniqueness and understated luxury. Instead of glamping, stay in a Dhoni suite, a villa inspired by Dhoni boats, the local fishermen’s sailboats, decorated in blues and whites reflecting the soothing colours of the Indian Ocean. With only 35 villas, this small island is perfect for intimate privacy.
5. Best for Barefoot Luxury: Soneva Fushi
One of the original luxury resorts in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi is the perfect castaway island, with beachfront villas dotted around the island privatised by the surrounding jungle and trees. ‘No News, No Shoes’ is Soneva Fushi’s mantra, like all Soneva resorts, so crackberries and android phones are best left at home. It excels in rustic chic, with warm colours of orange, browns, and yellow, blending in with the birds and tree houses.
6. Best for Huevos Rancheros Breakfast: Taj Exotica
Taj Exotica is one for the foodies. The Taj has the best breakfast Huevos Rancheros in all of the Maldives and its chef strives to perfect local cuisines working with local organic products. Taj Chefs have their own ‘Food Philosophy’ striving for culinary innovation ‘at the heart of the Taj Hotels dining experience’. After catching your own line-caught groupers and snappers during the sunset cruise, the chefs will prepare the fresh, grilled fish to perfection for next day’s lunch, which doesn’t get fresher and more blissful than this. (It is one of the few resorts where I would recommend the beach villas over the water villas, which are small and close together relative to the other Maldivian water villas).
7. Best for Minimalism meets the Royals: Cheval Blanc Randheli
LVMH’s new luxury hotel has already bagged its marketing campaign by inviting Prince William and Kate to stay at the Cheval Blanc and letting the media do the rest. It is the biggest Maldivian opening in years. Straight lines, modern art, white minimalism and exorbitant prices will appeal to the Nouveaux Riches, Royals and Russians, and is already at the forefront as the most O.T.T. hotel in the Maldives. Alchemists, ‘genuine experience designers’, create and compose ‘bespoke and unique experiences for their guests.’ Seriously?? This is one hotel that takes itself way too seriously. Hopefully, it won’t become a ‘Russians Only’ resort, hotels so expensive that only Russian oligarchs can afford, but personally I find that the minimalist, extreme luxury takes away from the Maldivian charm, which is a real shame.
8. Best for ‘Affordable’ Family holidays: LUX* Lighter. Brighter.
Ok, so no luxury hotel in the Maldives is really affordable, but by booking through the British Airways combined online flight and hotel booking system, you can get a week’s stay for less than £10,000 including flights and accommodation for a family of 4, outside school holidays, which in the Maldives is a bargain. The Play Kids Club and Studio 17 Teenagers Club are open from 9am to 9pm. Need I say more? For some peace and quiet, diving and massages, the all day kiddy entertainment will keep them occupied all day long. And with 7 restaurants to choose from and 4km of beaches, they will never get bored.
9. Best for Cool and Trendy: W Retreat & Spa
A playground for adults with its own resident DJ, underwater weddings, WET Pool Parties and mixologists creating signature cocktails, this is for those looking for a bit of nightlife and cool factor. Expiration Date: Kids.
10. Best for Underwater Spa: Huvafen Fushi
Housing the world’s first underwater treatment room, indulge in the LIME Light Crystal Ritual for 180 minutes, their signature underwater experience involving a coconut, lime and mineral massage and ice cubes, while watching triggerfish, stingrays and clownfish dancing around the lagoon making you feel like the Little Mermaid. The Per AQUUM resort and spa has ‘stand out, one-off events, bringing musicians, artists and creative stars from around the world’ each month. Currently, you can create your own Irma style Avatar with creative artist Jasmin Kherzi and view their Phantasy Fairytale Underwater art exhibition in the Spa. If that doesn’t take you out of this world, nothing will.