It may be more famous for honeymooning, but the Maldives also has resorts that are fantastic for families, writes Adrian Neville.
10 of the best family resorts
When tourism to the Maldives began in 1973, children were never part of the equation. The earliest visitors were more adventurers than tourists. They were mostly Italian, German and Swedish and their preferred activities were diving and spear-fishing.
The latter was soon outlawed, but diving remained the staple of most resorts for decades, until the establishment of the honeymoon market and the rise of ever more luxurious resorts.
The change came with the crash of 2008. European numbers dropped off markedly, and back then, there was no Chinese market. The resorts quickly cottoned on to the fact that labelling themselves ‘family-friendly’ could boost business.
Initially, this meant little more than a willingness to put extra beds and cots into the rooms. Now things have changed. Many of the better-run resorts continue to add specific amenities and activities for children – and there are a few that are truly family-focused.
1. One & Only Reethi Rah
Although at the very top end of the market, this is a brand that has children and families at its very core. Beach Villas can accommodate one extra child and Duplex Beach Villas, two. For large families, the grand beach villa has space for four children.
When it comes to clubs, KidsOnly is for four to nine-year-olds and OneTribe for nine to 11-year-olds. They have their own section of the resort with a separate clubhouse, pool, dining and entertainment. ClubOne, for 12 to 17-year-olds, has dedicated staff to help the teens enjoy their own tennis court, rock-climbing wall, smoothie bar and golf simulator, as well as adventures and excursions.
The resort is a 75-minute boat ride from Malé airport.
2. Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa
In a sign of the changing times, Centara Grand was purpose-built for families on the former German dive island of Machchafushi. It is in South Ari Atoll, a 25-minute seaplane flight from Malé or – and this is invaluable to guests arriving after dark – a 15-minute boat ride from the regional airport Maamigili.
Both the beach rooms and water villas are tailored for families, with either a mezzanine level or a whole children’s area with bunk beds. There is a children’s pool, a good kids’ club, and an ‘E-Zone’ with games and consoles.
The resort’s biggest plus is the staff, who are trained to be wonderful with children. Centara Grand is frequently voted the best family-friendly resort in the country, and its all-inclusive package is certainly one of the best and most inclusive.
3. Lux Maldives
Also in South Ari Atoll, Lux is very close to Maamigili airport. It’s an upmarket family resort with a stylish and fun vibe, and can-do service. Its quirky innovations include exotic-flavoured ice cream from retro parlours and mobile carts, and cinema nights on the beach.
Play is the all-day kids’ club for three to 12-year-olds, while Studio 7 is for 12 to 17-year-olds. There are eight categories of rooms and even the smallest can accommodate a small child.
As well as standard all-inclusive, the resort offers a premium ‘Lux-It-Up’ package, which is great for families as sports and wellness are also included.
4. Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma
This South Ari Atoll resort is reached not by a flight but by a 40-minute speedboat ride. It is a mid-priced resort that has worked hard to create a bubble of fun and activities for families.
The island is not well endowed with beaches and most activity revolves around the large shallow pool and restaurant deck, with live entertainment ranging from bands to quizzes.
The complimentary kids’ club for four to 12-year-olds opened in December with an air-conditioned indoor area and outdoor splash pool. Babysitting can be organised at a charge.
Apart from the larger suites, there are several interconnecting beach rooms for families. At certain times of year, the resort is popular with the Chinese market.
5. Bandos Island Resort & Spa
A speedboat transfer of just a few minutes means an extra saving for guests of this good-value mid-priced resort. The good kids’ club caters for three to 12-year-olds, while there are lots of sporting options for older children, including squash.
With 215 rooms and a family-friendly reputation, there are usually plenty of children around for clients’ kids to make friends with. There is a kids’ pool but everyone is also tolerant of children playing in the main pool. The island is good for smaller children, as it has a lot of shade, with tall palms along the paths and around the rooms.
6. Meerru Island Resort & Spa
This is similar to Bandos, as a large island with many rooms – 286, in fact – and lots of shade, but with the added bonus of a big lagoon that is ideal for paddling around. Although there is no kids’ club, families tend to congregate around the main pool, between the bars, and this is where friends are made.
Families are put in the Jacuzzi Beach and Garden Villas near this area, all of which can accommodate a third bed. Priced in the high middle bracket, Meeru has developed a devoted following for its friendly staff, happy atmosphere and huge range of sports and activities, including golf, tennis and football.
It is a 55-minute speedboat transfer from Malé airport.
7. Kuredu Island Resort & Spa
With 383 rooms, Kuredu is even larger than Meeru, and is also an active and sporty spot. Kuredu would be more suited to older children, especially those into watersports, snorkelling and diving.
The large watersports centre has its own deck, beanbags, games and ice-cream parlour, and is a friendly and fun place for kids to hang out. Like Meeru, there are areas of the island reserved for adults, but this serves to bring families together in one place to meet and make friends.
Families are placed in the villas near the main pool, which can accommodate a third bed. The many sports options include a good pitch-and-putt course and driving range. Seaplane transfers take 40 minutes.
8. Filitheyo Island Resort
Although this mid-priced, 125-room resort hasn’t been particularly set up for families, it has nonetheless developed a deserved reputation for child-friendly holidays – especially for families who like unstructured time.
A huge canopy of mature palms gives shade and a lot of space for play in the island’s interior and around the rooms.
Accommodation-wise, a few interconnecting Superior Villas are available on request. There are no concrete paths but sandy tracks everywhere, so guests can spend their entire holiday in bare feet if they wish.
The beaches are broad and fine, while the large pool has a shallow area and a wide deck. The resort, on Faafu Atoll, is a 35-minute seaplane flight plus a 10-minute boat journey from the airport.
9. Four Seasons Kuda Huraa/Landaa Giraavaru
These two resorts are in the top price bracket and although not quite as comprehensively set up as One & Only Reethi Rah, the thoughtfulness of the programmes, the dedication of the staff and level of service is extraordinary.
Kuda Huraa is near Malé airport, just a 25-minute speedboat ride away, whereas Landaa Giraavaru is on Baa Atoll, and takes 40 minutes to reach by seaplane. A concierge is ready to tailor-make the family holiday, while Four Seasons has a blog called Have Family Will Travel, which acts as a forum for families to discuss what’s available to do.
Beach and overwater family villa options are on offer. The key selling point for Kuda Huraa for families with teens might be the country’s best surf breaks nearby and in-lagoon lessons. For Landaa Giraavaru, it would be the Unesco World Biosphere Reserve of Hanifaru Bay, with its manta rays and whale sharks.
10. Diamonds Athuruga/Thudufushi
These sister island resorts in South Ari Atoll attract a lot of Italian guests, and as a result, a relaxed attitude towards children pervades.
Although there aren’t organised kids’ clubs, the staff and guests in these resorts are totally relaxed with any number of children running around. They are very much a part of the resort, which itself has the feel of a big family on holiday.
The resorts offer excellent all-inclusive packages. Both resorts have two-bedroom water villas, while Athuruga also has two family bungalows.
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