I often get strange looks when I say I have travelled solo with my son to over 15 islands in the Maldives over the last six years. Though epitomized as a honeymoon destination for its stunning tropical beauty, Maldives also makes for the perfect family getaway. But with over 150 resorts to choose from, selecting the right property is key, especially if you are holidaying with kids. Here are some pointers that will help you pick a child-friendly resort in the Maldives:
Seaplane or speedboat?
If you’re traveling with an infant or over multiple flights to reach the capital Malé, it’s best to pick a resort that is a speedboat ride from the airport. Speedboats are not particularly bumpy, but if you plan to visit during the Maldivian monsoons (June to October) check if the property has larger speedboats, which will be more comfortable.
Some resorts further away are accessible only by seaplane or domestic flights after arriving in Malé. (There may also be a short speedboat transfer from the seaplane to the resort jetty). This will add both to the overall time in transit as well as the cost of the trip.
The tradeoff is that resorts further away from Malé will be more secluded without oil tankers, local boats and speed boats passing by. The remote islands are more likely to have the Robinson Crusoe experience you’ve always dreamed of. And for older children, the thrill of an aerial ride over the picturesque islands is an unforgettable experience in itself.
Tip: Choose an island about an hour away by speedboat to get the ideal trade-off between a remote island experience and convenience of the commute.
Maldives with kids: Beach villa or water villa?
The innumerable villa categories with their varied views may seem confusing at first. The difference in room classification tends to be based on their location:
- Set back on the island (Garden or Island villas) or directly on the beach (Beach Villas)
- Over the water on the lagoon side of the island with shallow turquoise water (over-water villas), or facing the open ocean (Ocean villas), which usually are the premium categories
Make sure to check the room descriptions on the hotel website or discuss options with an experienced agent as each property categorises rooms in their own way and has their own hierarchy. In some cases, beach villas may be counterintuitively higher up in the classification than water villas.
The water villa experience is a quintessentially Maldivian one and a must especially if the island has a house reef and your children can snorkel. You can step down directly from the water villa to spot stunning marine creatures—manta rays to turtles to reef sharks. Some islands in the Maldives are reclaimed, or artificial islands, and hence have a lower chance of spotting marine life so a quick check on whether it is a natural island is advisable before booking a water villa.
Water villas have direct access to the island lagoon via a narrow staircase, which poses a safety hazard for young children. The water villas are arranged on either side of a wooden walkway open to the lagoon, so young children will require supervision while accessing the villas. Hence, most properties have a minimum age criterion for water villas so reconfirm with the property before booking these. There are resorts that are well-equipped with safety measures like proper railing and child safety locks over the deck and villa. These will allow children of all ages provided you sign a waiver. Families with young children will enjoy beach villas facing shallow island lagoons.
Upgrading to rooms with a better position on the island, with private pools or jacuzzis and preferential views (think sunset views vs sunrise views) can alter the budget considerably. Also keep in mind that the islands vary greatly both in size and the number of rooms (ranging from 30 to over 200 rooms) and a smaller island doesn’t necessarily mean fewer rooms. The more premium islands have a lower accommodation density meaning fewer rooms in a given island area and hence more privacy.
Tip: Sunset water villas with private pools are our pick if you want to splurge on the perfect Maldivian experience.
Maldives with kids: Is there enough for the tots?
Unlike other vacation destinations, in the Maldives you are restricted to your island for activities and entertainment. If you would like to have some me-time as parents choose one of the islands where kids can enjoy their time with the resort staff while you indulge in diving, spa treatments or just enjoy some dolcé far niénte in paradise. If quiet evenings aren’t for you, there are resorts that offer lively family events including karaoke, live music and club nights, treasure hunts, quiz nights etc.
Most islands have interesting activity schedules for kids, which aren’t limited to indoor kids clubs but include group snorkelling, beach Olympics, scavenger hunts, hermit crab races and even after-sunset events like bonfire and marshmallow nights, movie nights and PJ parties.
If you want to introduce your kids (eight years and older) to diving, make sure you choose an island that offers the PADI Bubblemaker introductory course to diving. For older children, some properties even have rock climbing, spa treatments, painting studios and dedicated teen clubs and gaming centres.
Tip: To make it an immersive learning experience for kids, choose an island with a coral adoption program or marine discovery centre where kids can contribute their bit to the environment by planting a coral or learning about rehabilitating sea turtles and other marine creatures
Maldives with kids: full-board meal plan or all-inclusive?
Unlike standard bed-and-breakfast packages, in the Maldives choosing a package with meal inclusions is a wise choice given the cost of food and beverages. In the Maldives, your meal options range from buffets to dinners by Michelin star chefs. Most small islands have only a couple of restaurants, so if you have fussy eaters or are limited by food restrictions, do research your options.
Make sure you read the fine print when it comes to meal inclusions, as these vary considerably. A full-board includes all buffet meals, which are usually restricted to the all-day dining restaurant and usually don’t include even non-alcoholic drinks. After a couple of days, you will crave both variety in food and a change of scenery. This meal plan does not include room service or snacks. So carrying light packaged snacks for in-between meals for kids is a good idea.
An all-inclusive plan, on the other hand, would include all meals, mini bar inclusions. evening high tea, drinks, even complimentary kids club activities, non-motorised water sports or kids spa treatments. This way, you don’t have to worry about all the extras during the holiday. These packages also include a-la-carté meals at specialty restaurants unlike the full-board package so you have a more varied choice. Though these were generally offered only at budget resorts; in recent years, several luxury all-inclusive resorts have opened up.
Self-catering isn’t an option as most standard villas only have an electric kettle and only larger ultra-luxury family villas or private reserves with multiple rooms have a kitchenette or a full-fledged kitchen, usually along with a resident chef.
Tip: Choose an all-inclusive plan on an island that offers a variety of restaurants with both a-la-carte and buffet options. There are several properties that let kids below 12 stay and eat complimentary, and have a separate kids’ menu. Look out for these.
Maldives with kids: What’s the plan for medical emergencies?
Most resorts will have a resident doctor, or share one with another resort in the proximity. However, for a serious injury or illness it will be necessary to go to Malé, or to a local hospital at the nearest atoll capital.
Access to even basic medication is both expensive and difficult. Hence, ask about the nearest medical facility, travel with medical insurance and carry a set of medicines, which your child may require in case of a contingency.
There are, however, islands with access to state-of-the-art medical facilities such as ultrasound, X-ray equipment and a decompression chamber (for divers), round-the-clock nurses and even dentists. If your child is planning to pursue the Bubblemaker or a diving course for the first time do check on the facilities available.
The most common risk is long exposure to direct sun. Invest in a coral-safe high SPF waterproof sunscreen, sun-proof rash top or full-coverage swimsuit, and make sure children stay well-hydrated!
Tip: Two simple but essential items to pack besides a medical kit for children are snorkel shoes to avoid cuts and bruises from corals and shells during beach play or snorkelling and an all-natural insect repellent.
Overall with a little more attention to detail, asking nuanced questions and research based on your specific preferences, you can pick the best Maldivian resort for your next family vacation.