Snooze in a floating hammock; watch the sunset from a glass-bottom outdoor bathtub; or paddle in a private infinity pool that seems to flow into the sea. It seems a shame to visit the Maldives and not go the whole hog by splashing out on an overwater villa. Here is Telegraph Travel’s selection of the best to suit all budgets, from boat-shaped sleeping quarters and traditional huts on stilts to contemporary new kids on the block with private decks and romantic whirlpools under the stars.
This relatively new boutique luxury resort has its own house reef and ocean villas with ‘secret’ rooftop loft decks that offer staggering mint-green sea views. Guests can relax with a cocktail in a swing chair on their sundeck while listening to the spuming waves or do laps in a private freshwater infinity pool that seems to stream seamlessly into the sea. Bathrooms have tubs that peer out onto the water. Luxury touches include a personal butler and champagne on arrival. Milaidhoo is also home to a restaurant located on a boat in a lagoon; expect cuisine inspired by the Maldivian Spice Route.
The best of the vast overwater villas at this daringly designed tropical resort face west so guests can experience the dramatic chiffon-pink sunsets that unfold each evening with a glass of something in hand. All have private pools and hammocks suspended above the sea. Butler service, deep-soaking tubs and a complimentary hamper of wines come as standard. The lobster-shaped spa, with six overwater treatment rooms positioned in the pincers, is not to be missed. Guests can also dine in sunken wine cellars, and pop champagne corks in a bar that looks like a whale shark.
Think castaway island meets cosseting luxury hideaway. Vibrantly-decorated Water Pool Villas are peppered across its lagoon. The sleeping quarters on stilts boast plunge pools and private decks that look out over the Indian Ocean. The villas also feature indoor-outdoor bathrooms with open-air rain showers and overwater hammocks where guests can watch the sunset while swinging to the rhythm of the lapping waves. Kanuhura will suit those with a penchant for watersports and gourmet pig-outs; options for the latter include eight restaurants, bespoke romantic dinners, and private picnics.
This idyllic tropical resort – spread over two islands connected by a bridge – boasts a clutch of quiet overwater villas with steps that lead straight down to the warm Indian Ocean. Outdoor whirlpool baths change colour, making them an apt venue from which to watch the purpling sunsets above. Four-poster ‘floating’ beds showcase 360-degree views of the sea. The resort has two spas, tennis courts and a dive centre that loans guests free snorkelling gear (you can even get prescription masks). Ithaa Undersea restaurant, where you can watch shoals of fish dart by as you dine, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Loama’s overwater and beachside villas aren’t the biggest in the Maldives, and only a couple of them boast private pools, but they are bright and pretty, and ideal for those who dream of sleeping in the middle of the ocean but have budget constraints. Locally made rattan furnishings add a nice dose of style, as do high-tech touches like iPod docks, flat screen TVs and free films. Spa-seekers should make a beeline for the elegant wellness centre with overwater treatment rooms and a tome-like treatment menu covering everything from gold-leaf facials to massages for divers.
An award-winning hotel with some of the finest diving in the archipelago and water villas with direct access to the reef. These also feature sundecks with day beds and 180-degree ocean views. Sunset Water Villas have the best seats in the house for watching the nightly spectacle of the sun collapsing into the sea. The Vidhun Spa, set amidst lush gardens, offers a range of spoiling treatments. There’s also yoga classes, scuba diving, a good choice of restaurants, and a bar designed to resemble the upturned hull of the Maldivian fishing boat.
Home to some of the chicest water villas in the Maldives, including a selection shaped like a traditional Maldivian dhoni boat, which competes with Balinese day beds and private terraces. Dual-floor Loft Villas have dramatically elevated king-sized beds and outdoor showers. COMO Villas, approached by a private jetty, have two bedroom wings, living and dining areas and balcony steps leading into the lagoon. Facilities are low-key but include diving and yoga. The spa is a destination in its own right, offering everything from aqua therapy sessions to Javanese yoghurt baths.
This hip new kid on the block boasts funky, contemporary overwater villas that will appeal to a younger crowd. Private decks, deep soaking tubs that eyeball the ocean and splashy aqua colours are standard; some also have outdoor hot tubs. The Honeymoon Aqua Pool Villa has its own infinity pool, a huge living room and steps leading down into the ocean, perfect for a secluded swim. This veritable playground will suit the easily bored, with its 10 restaurants and bars, a spa with hairdresser and nail bar, activity jungle, Zumba classes, marine biology centre and diving school.
The overwater villas here may fetch up to US$1,000 (£750) a night, but they do feature glass floors for spotting fish and coral, floating hammocks and outdoor showers. The best also have infinity pools that spill into the sea. It’s all about engineering amazing experiences here, from breakfast with champagne on a sandbank and picnics on a private beach to candlelit villa dinners and outdoor film screenings under the stars. Head to the spa for hatha yoga, ayurvedic therapies or a romantic flower-petal bath. Reef snorkelling, scuba excursions, sunset dolphin watching and fishing trips are also popular.
A wide choice of water villas is on offer at Meeru, one of the largest Maldivian resorts, conveniently located a speedboat ride from Malé airport. All have fetching wooden sundecks with chaise longues and partially-open-air bathrooms. The best have hot tubs for two, best enjoyed at night with a glass of champagne in hand underneath the drama of the stars. There’s always plenty going on, from scuba diving and snorkelling to pitch and putt golf, to disco parties and jazz nights. Food options aplenty too, from Maldivian night each Friday to a range of à la carte restaurants, such as Asian Wok, laid out on a little jetty.
It’s one of The Maldives’ more remote properties and requires a bit of extra effort to reach. Yet as one of the island nation’s very finest hotels, it’s absolutely worth it – fabulously expensive, but also generally fabulous, this is the epitome of barefoot luxury. Opt for an Ocean Water Villa, where guests can jump off a jetty into the psychedelic reef below, or stay put on a hammock just above the turquoise waters. Some have infinity pools; guests can also relax in a glass-bottom bathtub or admire the views from their treetop deck. Snorkelling right off the villas is world class.
When Jean-Michel Gathy designed the hotel, he raised the benchmark the world over for sumptuous yet tasteful, overwater villas. The latter feature 12-metre-long infinity pools with showstopping views of the vibrant coral reef and a glimpse of passing manta rays and turtles. A hammock, loungers and a huge daybed also come as standard. Garden Water Villas, partially suspended over the the sea, are flanked by lush vegetation, offering the best of both worlds. The only Guerlain Spa in the Maldives sits across the water on its own island, treatment rooms between the palm trees.
Velaa’s interior designer Petr Kolár uses the phrase ‘polite luxury’ to describe the resort; rather than gold-plated bathrooms and Swarovski-studded chandeliers, its impressiveness is designed to be near imperceptible. There’s a Sunrise Water Villa and a Sunset Water Villa, catering to both early birds and sundowner enthusiasts. Both feature pools and ocean-facing beds. Overwater restaurant Aragu dazzles with its creative gourmet menu served to the murmur of waves. There’s a champagne bar but most guests tend to enjoy in-villa drinks with their paramours, and who could blame them?
Maldivian water villas don’t get more elegant than this – chic and white above the cobalt blue sea. Their expansive terraces have direct access to the ocean, living rooms and four-poster beds that gaze out to sea. A selection also has outdoor hot tubs. Two-bedroom water villas are ideal for larger parties or families with older children and boast a large pool. Lantern-lit dining on the beach, sushi overlooking the reef and papaya body treatments in the spa are among the standout experiences. Diamonds also has some of the best snorkelling in the archipelago, and there’s a large lagoon for watersports.
An island retreat without the bravado associated with many of the extravagant new Maldivian resorts. Mirihi maintains a focus on its beautiful surroundings and prides itself on having one of the most fascinating house reefs in the Maldives – expect to see reef sharks, manta rays and green turtles. Opt for a water villa: the shower room has full slide-away doors, opening up views to a vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, and a private outdoor deck with direct access to the sea. Food is where Mirihi really excels, from the sunset à la carte options to beachside buffets.
This handsome resort, great for keen divers, has a collection of adults-only water villas accessible via a jetty off its island’s southern tip. Expect outdoor hot tubs and private sundecks furnished with chaise longues. Balcony steps lead straight into the sea, ideal for impromptu swims away from the crowds. The adults-only section of the hotel features a ‘floating spa’, Sunset Bar, pool and two restaurants. Private dinners on the beach are also popular with honeymooning couples. The snorkelling and scuba here is second to none.
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