With white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, Maldives is a dream destination for anyone. It is also a pretty pricey destination, so to many, it’s a once in a life time trip too.
So, should we fork out for an expensive getaway in the Maldives? This is a question I have been asking myself for many years – especially as we have travelled to nearby Sri Lanka almost every year for the past 6-7 years. And after many years of wondering, we finally went to the Maldives for a 1 week holiday in May.
Now that we’ve been there for a week, I think I have the answer. Read on to find out.
There are a few things that makes a holiday in the Maldives different to anywhere else.
First, the Arrival.
If you are going to the Maldives, you will be flying into Male international airport. This is an amazing experience in itself. As you come into land, you can see many of the beautiful atolls, scattered in a chain (“Maldives” mean Chain of Islands). Each island has a white sandy beach and a turquoise lagoon, surrounded by the deep blue Indian ocean. It is a sight unlike I have ever seen.
Once you land, then it’s a speed boat or sea plane ride to your hotel. There aren’t many places in the World where the transfer to your hotel is a once in a lifetime experience in itself, so this is something that sets Maldives apart from the rest of the World.
Almost all Maldives resorts are set on their own island, so beach access is limited to hotel guests and staff (so in essence, you have a private beach). A typical Maldives resort will have beach villas located close to the water front. A number of them also have over-water villas, set on stilts above the water. During our time at Meeru Island Resort we stayed in both types of villas.
A beach villa will offer you easy access to the beach and the sea. However, many other exclusive beach hotels in the region will offer you a similar experience, but for a lot less money. (Here I’m comparing mainly to places such as Nilaveli Beach hotel, Maalu Maalu, Jungle Beach in Sri Lanka).
We found that everything else – food, drinks, snorkeling & diving, facilities and service in the Maldives to be comparable with our experience at Sri Lankan hotels.
In other words, if you stay in a beach villa, you could get a similar holiday elsewhere for less.
However, an over water villa is a whole different ball game, due to several reasons:
Instant access to water
An over water villa provides instant access to the sea via a set of stairs. The water is only 10 steps away.
You get a completely unobstructed view of the ocean. A beach villa will also provide a sea view, but it is not as a clean and clear cut.
Most villas, whether it is on the beach or over water are very secluded. However, the over water villas are even more secluded, as you can guarantee that no one will “walk” past your veranda.
The beach villas are surrounded be vegetation, so at dusk there are mosquitoes (especially during the rainy season). But with an over water villa, as you are out at sea, there are no mozzies to bother you.
Your own personal aquarium
For me, this is the best reason of all. If you get an over water villa that is further out to sea, it will give you the chance to see a much larger variety of fish, compared to staying by the beach. We saw stingrays, several different types of sharks, turtles and many other types of fish, all in the space of a few hours.
What also makes a real difference is at night – the underside of the over water villas have floodlights which illuminate the water, and its like having your own personal aquarium right under your feet, with unlimited selection of fish.
Now, before you go an book your next holiday in an over water villa, there are a couple of disadvantages to be aware of as well:
- Access to the beach is less easy, so if you are one for building sand castles, this is not for you.
- Downside of not having trees around – there is less shade, so if you burn easily in the sun, think carefully about staying in an over water villa.
- Of course, they are more expensive.
In case you are wondering about other countries with over water villas or bungalows, and how the Maldives compares to them, I did a bit of research on this too. Several South Pacific Islands (Tahiti, Bora Bora, French Polynesia etc.), the Caribbean (Jamaica and St Lucia) and several Central American countries (Mexico, Panama, Honduras) and Malaysia also offer over water villas. But except for Malaysia and Central America, they are all more expensive compared to the Maldives. And on the more cost comparative options, the beach and the water don’t look nearly as nice as in the Maldives.
So, what are the downsides to a holiday in the Maldives? (Other than the cost of course)
You go to the Maldives for the beach and the sea, and not much else. A holiday in the Maldives is not one for you if you are a culture tourist (and like me want to visit lots of attractions, and tick things off a list).
It is also the first time I have been somewhere I couldn’t really get a feel for the culture and the history of where I was. When you land at Male airport, you are whisked off to your hotel on its own island, and from this point onward, you could be anywhere in the World. Excursions to the Capital Male and nearby islands are available, but we weren’t able to take any excursions due to bad weather. The closest we got to experiencing Maldivian culture was when the hotel had a Maldivian night during the week.
Another disadvantage (which my husband insisted on adding) was that where we stayed, the beer choices was very poor. There were only 2 generic largers on the menu and no ale or stout (or any German or Belgian beers) were available. We did find that the wine selection was better though.
So, going back to the question – it is worth it?
I would say it is worth it, but ONLY if you go for the over-water villa. If not, in my opinion, you can get a better holiday in one of the other destinations in the South Indian sub-continent. Better still, I would say to get the best of both Worlds, combine a short stay at an over water villa in the Maldives with a longer visit to another nearby destination such as Sri Lanka, South India, Malaysia etc. This would allow you to combine sight seeing with a relaxing beach holiday; and limiting the time in Maldives will keep the costs at bay as well.
Have you been to the Maldives? Did you think it was worth the cost? Please leave a comment below and let me know.
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