Okay, so here goes. I’ve had a few people tell me they’d love a blog post detailing the information about my vacation with my niece to the Maldives, so I’m going to capture it here and try to make it as organized as possible. Also, I’ll include links to my reviews of the resorts eventually (haven’t gotten around to do them yet. I try to review most places on Trip Advisor.
Also, I’m going to qualify this post, though, with one major disclaimer: this was a once in a lifetime trip for me, so while I was not totally “money is no object” about the trip (I’m not made of money and I’m a terrible budgeter), I was also not traveling on the cheap either. And I’d almost say if you tend to be a very frugal traveler, the Maldives is probably not for you.
Getting there: There are airlines that fly to the Maldives, but from the west coast of the U.S. (which is where I was coming from) I recommend Cathay Pacific (even though that means LAX and I LOATHE LAX). You will fly to Male (airport code MLE) and from there, you’ll have one more leg, either by speed boat or sea plane, depending on where you’re staying. Speedboat is the cheaper option by far, but a sea plane…is a sea plane and it was amazing to see the Maldives from the air. Your resort should arrange this last leg of transportation for you, but you’ll likely pay for it separately. Also, if you’ve got time and/or budget, I’d do a stop over in Hong Kong. You can get the highlights in a couple of days and take care of jet lag at the same time.
Choosing a resort: Most resorts are their own private islands, so you need to do your research and figure out what you want. For me, I had two main criteria. 1) I wanted an over-the-water villa (like I said, once in a lifetime) and 2) it needed to have a reputable dive center. This helped narrow things down quite a bit. Then it was a matter of reading reviews and budgeting. I actually booked three different hotels to hold the rooms while I did more research.* Ultimately, I chose the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi. It used to be a Hilton, apparently. And we did four days (three nights) which was perfect for us.
While this resort required transfer by sea plane (which, as stated is PRICEY), the room itself was significantly cheaper than any other water villa I found at the time AND the resort had an awesome dive center (they actually have a few locations throughout the Maldives. More on the dive center in a bit.
A few other pointers:
1) Due to our arrival time (10pm) in Male, I booked us at the Maldiva Inn and arranged for an airport transfer. While I could have booked something closer to the airport, I’ve learned through lots of experience that a little distance from the airport generally gets you cleaner and safer rooms for about the same price. Worth the 15-20 minute drive. The airport transfer was $10 each way. While this was necessary due to arrival time in Male, it was super helpful budget wise. We saved a ton on that night and were at the resort around 8:30 am the next morning. We wore our bathing suits on the plane as we planning on not being able to get into our room until the regular check-in time. We were pleasantly surprised as our room was ready around 10:30 am.
2) Food is EXPENSIVE. I’ve talked to other friends who’ve been to the Maldives and read 100s of resort reviews…doesn’t matter where you go, it’s pricey. My advice is to do what we did: book your room with breakfast included. There are all inclusive options and if you really want to not worry about it and you’re going all out, this could be the right option for you. For us, we had breakfast included (and it was good!) and loaded up in the morning. Then we did protein shakes for lunch (yes, I packed protein shakes for every day and two shakers), so the only meal we were paying for separate from the room rate was dinner. And that was still expensive! Just be prepared. For two of us, with a few drinks (even without the alcohol, I’m a firm believe that island vacations necessitate fun beverages) throughout the day and dinner it was around $150-$200 day (we always did dessert…this was vacation after all)! I will say that while the food definitely wasn’t worthy of the pricing had we not been on a remote atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it was quite very good.
3) Budget for your activities so there are no surprises. Nothing worse than arriving somewhere and not being prepared. My niece was doing the open water portion of her dive certification and I was accompanying her on all dives, so I priced all of that out so I knew what I’d be spending. I also knew we wouldn’t just want to lay on the beach or by the pool every second we weren’t diving. Our resort had a number of free activities, provided you had experience. I wanted to do paddle boarding (but neither of us had really done it before), so I budgeted for a 30 minute lesson and after that, it was free to use the equipment.
4) I unintentionally chose a resort that had an adults only pool. I’m not sure if the resort we chose was especially kid friendly (wasn’t looking for that info), but there were quite a few kids. I’m not opposed to children in theory, but I mostly only have patience for the ones I’m related to when I’m on vacation, so the adults only pool was unexpectedly awesome!
5) For diving (if you’re a diver), because I knew I’d be joining my niece on her open water certification dives, I really didn’t worry too much about specific dive sites. There are probably amazing places that I could have focus our trip around, but with the limitations of a new diver, I just decided to not even research it and assumed the diving would be good wherever we went. Ignorance is bliss and we saw amazing stuff, so I feel really good about that decision.
6) We had some extra time between our sea plane arrival back in Male and our flight from Male back to Hong Kong. Our butler (yes, we had a butler) was super helpful and arranged for a tour of Male which was actually really cool. The tour guide didn’t charge us anything, but we paid him $20 for about a 30 minute tour (it’s a small little downtown).
*I use booking.com for almost all (like 99%) of my hotel booking. I know there are other websites out there (that may be better and or cheaper), but I love their app, I’m happy with the prices, and they have pretty true-to-point reviews. Plus, because I use them so much, I get an additional 10% off frequently and welcome drinks at most hotels. Small thing, but I love it. I also never use the non-refundable booking option. I’ve learned through experience that it’s worth it to me to pay a little more to know I’ve got some flexibility in case my plans change OR I find a different hotel that looks better.