Scattering the idyllic crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean, with pristine white beaches, romantic sunsets, swanky water villas and holistic spa havens - it's no wonder the Maldives are among the top honeymoon destinations in the world. A recent survey conducted by honeymoon specialists Kuoni bagged the Cruisoe-chic islands the number one spot.
Almost 200 luxury resorts now scatter the magical archipelago of 1190 tropical islands and coral cays, most recently Velaa Private Island, thought to be one of the most exclusive - and expensive - destinations in the world. Even if you step down a star or two this perfect luxe escapism doesn't come cheap. Almost all food and beverages (bar bananas, coconuts and fish) are imported - resulting in sometimes steep bar and restaurant prices. When you check out of your little piece of paradise beware - the bill might transport you back to reality long before the seaplane.
These super-luxe resorts don't do bog standard 'all inclusive' - they're far too chic. But they do do 'special packages'. Special packages that could in fact halve the cost of your stay...
Lily Beach Resort & Spa
Affordable Luxury: The Platinum Plan
A short and, I always think quite glamorous, 25 minute seaplane flight takes us down to the stunning South Ari Atoll - not only does the region sport some of the best diving spots in the world, it's also heart of the famed 'Maldivian escapism' - neighbouring islands are few and far between...
On arrival at Lily Beach a beaming gathering of staff greet us as from our Dhoni, as a Maldivian drummer bangs a hypnotic welcoming chant. The quintessential paradise island spans just 600 meters long with a palm fringed perimeter of white sand beaches, turquoise waters, scattered secluded beach villas and a tail of contemporary water villas. One end of the island houses the Turtle Kids Club - and at the other, a chic sunset cocktail bar, fine dining restaurant and tranquil grown up infinity pool, creating a perfect family/romance balance and idyllic escape for all.
Beach Villa 153 is a large & stylish studio room with a extremely comfy kingsize bed and lounging area - a terrace with daybeds leads to tropical gardens and on to the pristine sprawling white sand beach. Facilities include a HUMONGOUS open air bathroom (a retreat in itself) with a double Whirlpool bath, monsoon wet room and Molton Brown products. Facilities include: Flat screen TV, free wi-fi, Nespresso and a fully stocked (inclusive) mini bar with soft drinks, wine, beer and snacks.
The Tamara Spa by Mandara sits in a pretty 'palm' of water villas at the top of the island. The circular reception and spa shop is hub to seven branches of water treatment suites - all with relaxation decks and individual Jacuzzis. Facilities include a steam, sauna and manicure suites.
Balianese Massage - whilst sipping fresh ginger tea I'm offered a choice of aromatic oils, Mandara, Tranquility, Harmony or Island Spice. I opt for tranquility - a good anti-jetlag option I'm told. A warm blend of lavender, ylang ylang and canaga oils are poured on to the skin, and a combination of rolling wave like movements are used to "calm the mind" - then thumb and palm pressure techniques are used to ease tension. A pressure point, shoulder and head massage conclude the holistic journey! I don't know about anti-jetlag - I, unusually, nodded off.
An array of water sports are on offer - from kayaking and snorkelling in the wonderful house reef - to diving trips and manta and whale shark excursions. Other activities include tennis, volleyball, fitness classes & children's activities at The Turtle Kids Club
Lily Maa for lavish breakfasts, buffet lunches and themed dinners - including my favourite - Indian Ocean with fresh reef fish grills and curries. Tamarind for overwater Asian-fusion fine dining. Wave for grilled lobster, Aqva Pool Bar and Vibes Bar for sunset cocktails, snacks, burgers, pizza and salads. Spirit Bar & Lounge for laid back aperitifs and stargazing digestifs.
Seaplane transfers, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks (including one fine dining option per stay). Limitless alcoholic and soft beverages - including mini bar, cocktails & premium brands. Two complimentary excursions per stay. All non-motorised water sports and snorkelling equipment.
Fish feeding at the jetty - every evening at 9pm where you'll spot huge tuna, moray eels and sharks. A snorkelling trip to the beautiful 'Nemo-esque' coral garden reef.
Affordable Luxury: Dine Around All Inclusive
If seaplanes and isolation don't float your boat, then Kurumba could be your perfect piece of Maldivian paradise - a short 10 minute speedboat transfer from the airport - the resort aims to get you from plane to room within 2 hours. It's close proximity to the busy capital Malé diminishes the isolation & quietude that many of the islands have. Whilst maintaining a laid back tropical feel along the beaches and inner island - there's a lively buzz around the bars, restaurants and hub - and it's the only island in the region to host guest DJ party nights!
Deluxe Ocean Front Villa 174. Set a hop and a skip from the sunset beach bar (perfect for early evening cocktails!) The contemporary studio villa with outside seating and a double daybed - leads directly on to the snowy white beach. Facilities include indoor and outdoor showers, a twin tub, Molton Brown products, mini bar and flat screen TV with iPod dock. A complimentary Kurumba beach bag and flip flops are yours to take home!
The Vela Spa is set amongst serene tropical gardens in the middle of the island. Eight treatment and relaxation rooms are surrounded by hypnotic water falls and candlelit walkways. Managed by passionate local ex-therapist Xubba, the spa has recently introduced holistic treatments based on 'Dhivehi Beys' (traditional Maldivian medicines that incorporate ancient herbal remedies to treat a wide range of ailments).
Vela Signature Massage is a holistic massage using one of the old Maldivian herbal secret recipes. Warm pumices containing the herbs are used in combination with coconut and rapeseed oils to work away any tension. The herbs are thought to penetrate through the muscles to disperse knots and tension. I'm always curious when it comes to secret remedies - I want to know the ingredients! Especially as this particular secret blend did actually seem to ease my permanent scapula knot...
Individual & group yoga and meditation, tennis and a wide variety of waterspouts. Arts & crafts at The Majaa Kids Club.
An impressive & eclectic restaurant village including Vihamana for buffet breakfast and themed dinners, The Hamakaze for delicious grilled lobster and sushi and Kurumba Mahal for top notch Indian curries! There's also Chinese, Italian and Moroccan options.
Speedboat transfers. Breakfast, lunch and dinner at participating restaurants and a wide range of alcoholic, cocktails and soft beverages throughout the day. One complimentary excursion and laundry service, 50% discount on in-villa dining and mini-bar.
The Backstage Tour - which takes you around the staff village and heart of the island. You'll discover how the island runs, included water filtering and recycling and how the coconut oil is made for use in the spa and the kitchens!
Affordable Luxury: Velassaru Indulgence
A favourite amongst young, cool honeymooners and hipsters, Velassaru is the perfect destination if you're looking for a sleek & sophisticated isle. Just 20 minutes by speedboat from Malé, with ultra-luxe water villas, sprawling white beaches, star-lit infinity pools and super-chic laid back bars. Velassaru encompasses Crusoe-escapism with a cool café del mar vibe.
Water Villa 420. A huge super-luxe studio room with chic minimalist décor and floor to ceiling windows for panoramic ocean views leads though to a dressing area and large bathroom with freestanding tub and indoor and outdoor showers. Both rooms lead on to a private 'chill out' terrace with bean bags, day beds and direct access to the lagoon below. Facilities include flat screen TV & iPod dock, l'Occitaine products, Nespresso, wine cooler and mini-bar.
With an Asian inspired décor, The Velassaru Spa by Pevonia houses 10 overwater treatment water suites sitting each side of the state-of-the-art hydro area with a bubbling infinity jet pool, steam and sauna rooms and a relaxation deck with stunning sunset views.
The Velassaru Signature Massage begins with a foot cleansing ritual and deep relaxing aromatic inhalation. Warm homemade coconut oil is applied, then 'hands on' rolling movements and wooden massage pestles (made from the islands coconuts and palm wood) are used to release tension from the shoulders and spine and stimulate positive energy. The treatments ends with a Indian head massage. Pure. Coconut. Bliss.
A wide variety of water sports.
Five dining venues, including Turquoise for buffet breakfasts and à la carte lunches. Teppanyaki for exquisite sushi and Sand for romantic Pan-Asian oceanside dining. There's also a pizzeria for poolside and take out pizza, and the wonderful Chill Bar for posh tapas, sunset cocktails, chill out tunes and hypnotic horizons.
Speedboat transfers. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. A good range of alcoholic, soft beverages and fresh juices during meals. A complimentary excursion and daily use of snorkelling equipment and an ocean kayak.
The Sunset Cruise - lounging on bean bags, sipping champers and munching canapés on the open air Dhoni idly watching the sun go down...
Kuoni (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) offers a seven night tailor-made itinerary to the Maldives including:
Three nights at the 5-star Lily Beach Resort in a beach villa, two nights at the 5-star Velassaru Maldives in a deluxe bungalow and two nights at the 5-star Kurumba Maldives in a deluxe room. Holiday includes flights with British Airways from Gatwick, accommodation on all inclusive basis and group transfers in resort. Prices for 2014 are from £2,792 per person, based on two sharing.
Words: Lisa Stokes