The remoteness of the Maldives makes it a prime destination for a socially distanced vacation. The country’s 1,192 islands stretch across more than 540 miles, and the many private island hotels are so spacious that you won’t have to worry about anyone encroaching on you at the beach.
While you may have to maneuver several flights to reach the turquoise waters of this picturesque paradise, the entry requirements aren’t prohibitive. You won’t need to furnish a negative coronavirus test, and there is no mandatory quarantine. But if you have had contact with someone with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case or if you’ve had a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath within the last 14 days, it’s advised not to travel to the country. (Since travel restrictions can change, double check with local governments before booking.)
Masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer use are encouraged at the airport and in transit. On the plane, you’ll fill out a health declaration card. Then upon arrival, a complimentary 30-day tourist visa will be provided, and there will be thermal screening.
But the minute you dig your toes into the perfectly soft sand and see those momentous views, the long journey will be forgotten. Start planning your next trip to one of these Forbes Travel Guide-approved havens.
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort
Status: reopens October 1
There’s plenty of room to sprawl out at this 22-acre all-villa oasis in the southern Dhaalu Atoll. The whale-shark-shaped Whale Bar stands out with its unique architecture and overwater, open-air setting. The Maldives hotel will add creative options for socially distant dining with its new Floating Rituals. Soak in your villa’s private plunge pool and staff will serve you a floating tray of breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. The St. Regis says that the meals will take you on a gastronomic journey all over the world.
The hotel also will increase its bespoke private dining offerings with more experiences across Vommuli Island. You’ll be able to enjoy a lavish starlit dinner along the shore or an elevated dinner and a movie amid your own beach backdrop.
For even more privacy, opt to have the St. Regis’ first private island hotel all to yourself. Earlier this year, the property launched a buyout that can accommodate up to 154 guests for a customized experience and access to the resort’s restaurants and bars, watersports center, fitness center and custom yacht.
Velaa Private Island
Velaa draws in adventure seekers with adrenaline-pumping activities like kite surfing, flyboarding and jetovator riding (it’s like a flying water bike but without the pedaling). You also can celebrate special occasions at the boutique hotel. Take the plunge with one of the wedding or vow renewal packages (by law, non-residents cannot marry in the Maldives). All include a wedding planner, photo shoot, private beach barbecue after the nuptials and more, but the Umurah package includes a sunset cruise on a yacht. Velaa can tailor the festivities, even if it’s only a party of two.
For those not interested in a wedding, come for Halloween. In time for the holiday, Velaa will unveil an escape room, where you must solve puzzles in a series of spooky rooms to break free. And British soul singer Beverley Knight will perform October 28.
Or make up your own holiday and take advantage of the spa’s new five-, seven- and 10-day wellness experiences, which include fitness (with HIIT training, stand-up paddleboarding and more), nutrition (a personalized meal plan), mind (yoga and meditation) and spa (massages, high-intensity focused ultrasound or HIFU body sculpting) components.
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru
When you want to go beyond typical watersports, check into the Four Seasons. Its Baa Atoll is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, which means it’s a place to learn about nature in sustainable ways.
In particular, you can learn about manta rays — the Maldives has the world’s largest recorded population of reef manta rays (nearly 5,000). “We’re delighted that sightings were so abundant in 2019, and with the quieter waters of 2020, we’re hoping for record sightings this season,” says Dr. Guy Stevens, the founder/CEO of the Manta Trust, the leading manta ray conservation organization (which has a residency at the hotel).
Manta ray season runs through November, and the hotel offers several ways to see the giant creatures. Sign up for the Manta-on-Call service and you’ll receive a “manta phone” that rings whenever there are nearby sightings. Then a speedboat will zip you over to the spot for a snorkel.
You also can become a manta ray scientist for a day. You’ll work with the Manta Trust to take ID photos, record data, free dive to see the animals and perhaps help name a new manta.
Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas
Status: reopens October 1
Big changes are afoot at Anantara. The five Beach Pool Residences wrapped up a $2.5 million renovation in April. Each has a Kajan thatched palm roof, a Balau hardwood deck and newly enlarged pools lined with Sukabumi stone. A tropical vibe pervades the interiors with rattan details, straw carpets, teak wood furniture and a water wall in the bathroom. Each residence boasts its own spa room and a gym as well.
The newly refurbished Two Bedroom Over Water Residences will be revealed in October. Similar to the Beach Pool Residences, these accommodations come with their own spa room and gym and sport the same aesthetic.
Inside the spa, partake in new wet and dry facilities, including infrared saunas and plunge pools. The Cocoon Medical Spa will expand its immune-boosting treatments, such as vitamin IV infusions. Anantara also plans to hire a nutritionist to help retool its restaurant and bar menus.
Speaking of which, Mediterranean eatery Manzaru will get new poolside cabanas and a gin bar. And Asian restaurant Spice has replaced Salt, adopting a more neutral wood palette and a revamped menu.
Status: reopens October 1
This bohemian Five-Star enclave knows how to make everyday outdoor events so fun, you won’t want to go back indoors.
Start your day with orange juice and breakfast at the shore as the waves caress your feet. At night, attend a private dig-in dinner, where the staff will dig chairs and a table into the sand and then neatly outfit them with covers and cushions so that you can comfortably nosh on lobster by the light of lanterns and candles (the meal is followed by an outdoor movie screening).
If you crave more active pursuits, try night diving. Open only to experienced and certified divers, the session includes a 25-minute boat trip to a night-dive spot and 45 minutes to explore underwater. You’ll have special lamps that attract nocturnal sea life, including spider decorator crabs, turtles, shrimps, morays, sharks and more.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Status: reopens September 28
While the hotel resides on two islands connected by a 3,200-foot bridge, The Muraka is like an island unto itself, removed from the rest of the Conrad. The hotel’s most opulent accommodation, the three-bedroom Muraka is the world’s first underwater residence. The pièce de résistance is the master suite, which sits 16 feet below sea level and has ceilings and walls made of glass for an unparalleled look at the marine life.
For an over-the-top villa option, the hotel rolled out a new Muraka VIP Experience Package that includes a butler, a chef, a wave boat, breakfast, a bar with unlimited beverages, a set of special experiences (one example: you’ll take a cruise with the executive chef, get aromatherapy treatments and become a marine biologist for the day) and private seaplane transfers.
Even if you don’t go for the same accommodations that Paul McCartney stayed in, the hotel’s overwater villas and recently renovated Deluxe Beach Villas (the underrated spaces come with a garden, plunge pool, outdoor lounge bed and beach access) will still put you in the lap of luxury.
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa
This Five-Star hideaway made numerous upgrades just before the coronavirus became a worldwide pandemic. It debuted new Deluxe Beach Pavilions with a Pool in December. Nestled in its own garden, each pavilion features a fountain trickling into a sizable plunge pool. The interiors look modern with bright white, pearl gray and touches of bougainvillea pink.
The hotel also unveiled a new Reef Club in October. Visit the open-air restaurant to savor Italian fare like fritto misto and rigatoni di mare under the trees in an oceanfront garden, under the stars on the deck or beneath arches amid mosaic murals.
The Island Spa got a facelift with an expanded jetty arrival to the sliver of land, redesigned relaxation areas with a pond and a brand-new yoga pavilion. But you’ll want to come for the new rooftop terrace. There you’ll be among the treetops and stars for the Night Spa ritual, which is only conducted once daily (for an individual or couple). The 150-minute service helps you find inner calm with a gigartina algae bath, flower essence wrap and lava shell massage.