Finding your barefoot hideaway in the Maldives

Lauren Hill

Senior Contributor

Powder-soft sand, lush flora and turquoise water: the Maldives is everything you imagine it to be, but with so much more to experience. Dive down to encounter abundant ocean life, sail across azure waters and sleep in the overwater villas of this archipelago’s superlative island resorts. A chain of 26 remote atolls, the Maldives encompasses almost 1,200 isolated coral islands. Some of the world’s most luxurious island resorts are hidden among these largely uninhabited pockets of land. ASMALLWORLD Private ensures you have the best experience possible here, beginning with deciding on which island, and atoll, to make the journey to.

As a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve, the Baa Atoll is celebrated for its dazzling marine life. Days here can be spent scuba diving and snorkelling over thriving coral reef and catching sight of dolphins and turtles, but it’s also worth timing your visit with the wildlife seasons. Each year, May marks the arrival of hundreds of manta rays and whale sharks, which gather in these waters for almost half the year to feed on the plentiful plankton. Take a speedboat ride to the shallow lagoon best known for these sightings, Hanifaru Bay, to swim alongside these giant marine creatures.

The Baa Atoll is flanked on one side by the Ali Alif Atoll, which encompasses North Ari, with the Raa and Noonu Atolls to the other side. The Ari Atoll is said to have some of the best diving in the Maldives with turtles and dolphins year-round, whale sharks making an appearance throughout most of the year, and manta rays coming through between May and November. The idyllic Noonu Atoll then introduces you to array of other marine species, from grey reef, leopard and guitar sharks to stingrays, spotted eagle rays, barracuda, turtles and morays.

The islands of each atoll benefit from their far-flung isolation, allowing you to truly unplug and unwind, whether you’re speeding across the waves and diving into turquoise waters or simply making the most of your time in one of the world’s most lusted after barefoot hideaways.

ASMALLWORLD Private is working closely with three of these island hideaways to give you exactly what you want from a dream holiday in the Maldives.

Finolhu, Baa Atoll

Stay at the retro luxury resort Finolhu for its idyllic setting in the marine-life-rich Baa Atoll and fun design taking inspiration from the 60s and 70s. Designed to create emotional connections through music, interiors and architecture, Finolhu sets its restaurants, bars and pool area apart with quirky design touches, music, and live entertainment. The spa even has pastel-coloured beach huts where you can have a massage to the music of whichever musical legend your hut is dedicated to. 

The four restaurants and two bars include the island’s most distinct dining spot, the Crab Shack, which you reach by strolling from the main island over a sandbank, while the overwater and beach villas here combine classic island-chic with the same playful touches you see throughout the rest of the resort. The island has a wealth of motorised and non-motorised water sports, privately guided diving experiences, and imaginative excursions including marine biology trips.

Finolhu, Baa Atoll

W Maldives, North Ari Atoll

Playful, vibrant and full of life: W Maldives is for luxury travellers who want to combine escapism with a fun vibe. This five-star private island resort gives you the white sand, tropical foliage and turquoise water you’ve been yearning for, but here it all comes with a Let it Glow design aesthetic inspired by the glow-in-the-dark jellyfish and luminous plankton seen in the shallows of the private island. 

Contemporary pool villas incorporating this design inspiration sit facing the ocean and perched above the water. A collection of restaurants and lounges serving cocktails and grilled seafood then accompany the Maldives’ only underwater club, an infinity pool lined with cabanas and a serene overwater spa. You can kayak, windsurf and snorkel straight from the island’s shores, set out on the W Private Yacht and join excursions including a private Robinson Crusoe picnic experience.

W Maldives, North Ari Atoll

Cheval Blanc Randheli, Noonu Atoll

Widely considered one of the Maldives’ most luxurious resorts, Cheval Blanc Randheli is as stylish as they come. Sprawling villas designed by prominent architect Jean-Michel Gathy line the beach and sit over the water, with design accents incorporating driftwood and shells, high thatched roofs and infinity pools. Each villa is exceptionally generous in size — the four-bedroom villa even has its own island. The resort also has a separate island for its spa, which is only accessible by the resort’s dhoni, with the two US Open and Paris Masters standard tennis courts found on another of the resort’s islands, Maakurandhoo.

Each of the five restaurants and four bars then fuses the chicest possible indoor-outdoor space with dining experiences drawing on fine French gastronomy and culinary specialities of the Italian Riviera and Japan. For something more personal, request a sandbank picnic or dinner under the stars. Activities such as water sports are well catered for and whether you want to spend your time sailing, diving or exploring UNESCO-protected sites, you can expect all experiences to come tailor-made.

Book your bespoke Maldives escape with ASMALLWORLD Private, our high-end personalised travel curation service.

Cheval Blanc Randheli, Noonu Atoll

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