How to find the best Resort for your Family Holidays to the Maldives
The Maldives is an absolute dream destination. Shimmering sea in various shades of blue and turquoise, walking barefoot in fine sand all day, lounging under shady palms, and bathing in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. And while snorkeling, discovering the unique underwater world. Sounds like paradise? It is, indeed. But experiencing all of this with the family? For some, it's considered too exhausting due to the long flight, too costly, and environmentally challenging to digest. Nevertheless, we gave it a try and tested two resorts with our three children (8, 15, 15) that share sustainability, wildlife conservation, and family-friendliness as essential themes. Here is our report. Plus a checklist at the end of the article.
CEO and Founder
After a somewhat sluggish overnight flight (hardly anyone slept) with Emirates and a layover in Dubai, we arrive early and somewhat weary at the international airport of Malé. Upon arrival and baggage claim, we are promptly greeted by a resort staff member and taken to the seaplane terminal, where we have to check our luggage again. Then, we head to the Trans Maldivian Airways terminal and the exclusive lounge of Le Méridien. Many hotels in the Maldives, stretching almost 900 km from north to south, are only accessible by seaplane due to the long boat journey. Hence, this terminal exists, and many resorts have their own lounge, which is quite pleasant with small treats, fresh coffee, and, upon request, a shower for guests.
Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa is located on a roughly 9-hectare island in the southeast of the Lhaviyani Atoll. It captivates with lush vegetation and powdery white sandy beaches. The seaplane journey is uncomplicated, about 35 minutes in a small propeller plane, which may not be for everyone, but it's a small adventure and a truly enticing sight to see the countless islets in the turquoise waters from above. The Maldives consist of 1196 islands, of which 220 are inhabited by locals and another 144 are used for tourism purposes.
The family-friendly Le Méridien opened on September 1, 2021. It features 141 villas, 300 staff members, six restaurants, a 24/7 fitness center, a kids' club, and a dreamy spa.
In a conversation with the hotel director, Thomas Schult, I learn about the resort's sustainability efforts. It boasts the largest greenhouse of any resort in the Maldives. Here, salads, herbs, and some vegetables are cultivated, saving on expensive logistics since everything, from ice to cucumbers, would otherwise have to be brought to the island by boat or seaplane. Additionally, all organic waste is composted and used as fertilizer for plant and garden work. The water cycle is also organised sustainably with a seawater desalination plant and cistern in the greenhouse. Solar energy is also utilized, with cells on employee houses and some restaurants. In good sunlight, the system covers up to 30% of the energy supply. The rooms are well-insulated and equipped with intelligent air conditioning; if a window or door is open, the system turns off, ensuring no unnecessary energy consumption. Except for the Japanese restaurant Tabemasu (highly recommended!), all restaurants operate without air conditioning and are located outdoors.
The resort offers a lot for children and teenagers. There is a kids' club, free for those aged four and above, where toys can also be borrowed. Nannies take children on excursions to search for shells and create crafts. The diving center has top-notch equipment, and snorkeling can be done either right outside the door or on a guided tour. Most activities offered allow families to gather unforgettable experiences together. We snorkel together, my husband and one of the twins go diving, we take a sunset dolphin tour and see so many dolphins that we can't count them all. At the water sports center, all non-motorized sports equipment can be borrowed for free, and the staff is so enchanting that they truly anticipate our every wish.
We were particularly impressed by the competent staff at the local diving center Sub Oceanic - both when snorkeling with the eight-year-old and when diving (even with some beginners in the family) we felt well looked after and saw some wonderful animals.
For parents, there is also much to enjoy: twice-daily yoga at sunrise and sunset, wonderful spa treatments, with a special highlight being the view windows beneath the treatment tables, revealing the underwater life. While enjoying a massage, one can observe stingrays, which is undoubtedly a highlight for the young guests as well. Children up to 12 years old stay for free in the resort. The resort is flexible with extra beds in various room categories, providing up to two additional beds. Perfect for families are the Beach Villas with direct beach access, a private terrace, and a small pool. We felt infinitely comfortable and would come back anytime.
We tested the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa as our second option. It is only 15 minutes by speedboat from the airport, making it perfect for families who want to arrive at the resort quickly after a long flight and avoid another flight in a seaplane and the additional costs associated with it.
The Sheraton is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year; it was one of the first resorts to open in the Maldives and made the destination famous. It is located on a densely and beautifully tropical island, has seven different restaurants and bars, 176 rooms, a small island where the spa is located, and a lush garden where daily yoga takes place. The staff at the Sheraton is incredibly attentive and charming, and there's an extra contact person for German guests who takes care of their needs.
What makes the Sheraton particularly special is its commitment to wildlife and nature conservation. With the program ”Adopt-a-coral”, offered in collaboration with the environmental organization Reefscapers, the resort supports the propagation and settlement of corals, thereby promoting marine life. On-site, as a family, you can book the ”Adopt-a-coral” activity with a marine biologist, learning how to fill a frame with coral fragments and then releasing it into the sea during a subsequent snorkeling session. For this frame, you take on a sponsorship and are constantly informed about the growth of the corals. This sponsorship is highly recommended for families with children because they learn how important corals are, how they grow, and how to protect them.
In the Sheraton, we stayed in two beautiful and spacious beach villas (one for us and the 8-year old, the other one for the twins) and ate almost every evening at a different restaurant. We felt very comfortable, and the program — from the ”Adopt-a-coral”-program to snorkeling with sharks — was fantastic and adventurous. The vegetation on the island is impressive, there are so many different trees and plants that you sometimes feel like you're in the jungle. We learned how to climb palm trees to harvest coconuts, went through all the plants and trees with the resort's botanist, witnessed the sunrise and sunset, went on a SUP tour in the lagoon, and even saw turtles, stingrays, and blacktip reef sharks while snorkeling. We participated in sunrise yoga and learned how to weave palm leaves into hair wreaths.
We ate a lot and well; our favorite restaurant was Sea Salt with a view of the sea, but we also tried the Indian restaurant. We played a lot of table football and billiards and beach volleyball and water polo. At lunchtime, we liked to eat at the Mexican restaurant on the beach. My personal Maldives experience was more impacted by Le Méridien, especially because it is on an island far away from everything and surrounded only by the ocean. In the Sheraton, the feeling is somewhat cosmopolitan; you see the skyline of Malé, you are closer, and depending on the wind direction, you might hear the planes sometimes.
Would we come back? Definitely. A stay in paradise makes time forget, and so the one week felt much longer than a "normal" family vacation. This may be due, on the one hand, to the many great experiences and, on the other hand, because we never turned on the TV once, and our smart phones rested most of the time in our rooms.
Checklist: Which Resort is Suitable for Your Family?
- Consider in advance the acceptable travel duration for you and your children and how many layovers the trip requires. Keep in mind that many resorts can only be reached by seaplane from Malé airport. Especially when traveling with small children, it may be sensible to choose a resort reachable by boat from the Malé airport, easing the arrival and departure. Seaplanes also only operate during daylight hours, and the costs must be factored in. The round trip costs approximately 500 euros per adult—roughly half for children. For a family of four with a toddler and a teenager, this amounts to almost an additional 2000 euros.
- Discuss what the focus of your family trip should be. Do you want to experience a lot, or can your family get excited about a particular activity? When selecting a resort, ensure that the desired activities are offered. Not every hotel has an intact coral reef or a certified diving station. Register for membership and we will personally advise you on finding the best resort for you and your family.
- Check your budget and carefully consider which resort can best meet your needs. Some resorts offer all-inclusive packages, including all meals and drinks, while others charge extra for many things. Keep in mind that food and drinks in the Maldives are very expensive, as each ingredient must be individually transported by boat or ship.
- If traveling with small children, ask yourself if childcare is important to you. Sheraton and Le Méridien have a kids' club and also offer nanny services.
Photos: private, as well as © Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa and © Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa