Top 10 best hotels in the Maldives accessible by boat

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today: Best hotels in the Maldives that can be reached by boat

Together with the Seychelles and French Polynesia, the Maldives is my favorite beach destination on earth. Sugar white sands, crystal clear lagoons, lush tropical islands, a sentational underwater world, amazing overwater villas and unrivaled luxury make the Indian Ocean archipelago the ultimate desert-island paradise on earth. The most phenomenal resorts in the country are located further away from Male International Airport and can only be reached by a seaplane transfer. Although flying on board a seaplane in the Maldives and admiring the picture-perfect archipelago from a bird’s eye perspective is one of the ultimate experiences that the destination has to offer, this may problematic for some visitors:

  • Travelers with a fear of flying.
  • Travelers with a limited amount of holiday time, let’s say less than 4 days (since getting to and from the resort by seaplane can take a large chunk of your holiday time on the day of your arrival and departure, including several waiting hours at the airport).
  • Travelers arriving in the Maldives after 3 pm (since seaplanes only operate during daylight hours).

If you find yourself in one of these scenarios, you’re better off staying at a resort in the North or South Male Atoll, which can be reached by a boat (either speedboat or a yacht), with a transfer time varying from 15 minutes to one hour. Due to the proximity to the airport, some of these resort experience more boat traffic and noise levels as compared the more remotely located resorts in other atolls. Also, several of the resorts in the North and Male South Atoll are built on artificial islands, whose beauty cannot compete with the lust beauty of natural islands in the other atolls. Here’s my selection of the 10 best luxury hotels in the Maldives that can be reached by boat from the airport.

There is more information below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite hotel in the North or South Male Atoll in the comments section.

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COMO Cocoa Island is an intimate private Maldives island resort with 33 overwater suites allowing you to slip right into the turquoise lagoon to explore an exceptional house reef. Encircled with powder white sand, the carefree, understated luxury experience includes holistic wellness treatments at COMO Shambhala Retreat, South Indian-influenced cuisine and world-class diving. From its personalised service and sophisticated cuisine to its distinctive design, authentic culture and calming spa, this Maldivian luxury resort works hard to tailor the experience to their guest’s needs. The hotel can orchestrate customised cruises to neighbouring islands and beaches; plan private dinners at secluded locations; arrange yoga, diving or snorkelling; and create adventures for families travelling together.



Escape the frenetic pace and chaos of everyday life, in to luxury’s very own lap at Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Maldives. Away from the sparkling lights of Male, this hotel is spread across the Emboodhu Finolhu island in the middle of one of the largest lagoons in Maldives. Renowned for its rich flora and fauna, this tropical isle, also known as the Three Coconu Isle, is situated amidst beautiful coral reefs and only a 15 minute speedboat ride from the airport. This postcard-perfect getaway offers 64 sea-view villas and suites that are luxurious and lavish. Here, time stands still, and yet, there is never a dull moment. Within this oasis of calm set in paradise, guests lounge by the infinity pool or at their private beach, laze in a hammock over the blue waters, or just lay below the stars at night. Pure bliss.

  • Hotel websiteTaj Exotica Resort & Spa
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD resort credit).



Imagine paradise. Tropical island sands. Swaying palms. Endless turquoise waters. Open your eyes and you will be in Naladhu, a gorgeous resort sharing a ridiculousy clear lagoon with its sister resorts Dhigu and Veli. Maldivian for ‘beautiful island’, Naladhu offers a mosaic of timeless moments on the blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The resort is very exclusive as it has only 20 expansive villas and houses, each with a magnificent private pool fronting the azure Indian Ocean, unsurpassed comfort, and a graceful elegance that never goes out of style. The Ocean Houses are on the sunrise side of the resort overlooking the open ocean. They offer a greater feeling of seclusion than the Beach Houses that face the turquoise lagoon.



Four Seasons Resort Kuda Huraa is an enchanting garden island – a half-hour speedboat ride from Malé – that offers a sophisticated and innovative choice of recreation, escapism and conservation. The resort comes with and Island Spa sea sanctuary, Tropicsurf coaches and guides, and waves that host the annual Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy. Its sister property, Landaa Giraavaru, lies to the north: a 44-acre wonderland in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The luxury catamaran, Four Seasons Explorer connects the two via 3-, 4- and 7-night cruises, plus private leisure, surf and manta ray charters. The latest addition to the Maldives, Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah, Baa Atoll, opened in December 2016 as the group’s first exclusive-use private island: off limits to everyone else, limitless to you.


Set on the private island of Lankanfushi in the North Malé Atoll, Gili Lankanfushi (formerly known as Soneva Gili), Maldives is an intimate coral island in a sparkling lagoon, with jetties threading across the water out to spacious villa accommodations. This luxury hotel is just a 20-minute boat ride from Velana International Airport at Malé, the capital of the Republic of Maldives. Here your idyllic personal hideaway is one of 45 spacious, rustic overwater villas, sustainably and exquisitely designed and crafted from natural wood and glass. The tranquil private resort feels like home, a place where lasting memories are made with Gili.
  • Hotel websiteGili Lankanfushi
  • Other accolades: Gili Lankanfushi also features in my top 10 list of the most spectacular hotel bathrooms in the world.
  • Tip:get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, Maldivian Tapas served with one glass of Champagne per person, a 30 minute spa treatment for two,  $100 USD food & beverage credit, early check-in, and late check-out; with a minimum 3 nights stay guests receive $100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
    • With minimum of 5-nights stay, guests also receive complimentary combined round-trip airport transfers).
  • Review: read my review of Gili Lankanfushi here.



A sanctuary for socially and environmentally conscious travelers, Patina Maldives boasts 90 exquisitely appointed one-, two-, and three-bedroom beach and overwater villas, plus 20 Fari Studios, designed by renowned Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan. And with nine restaurants and bars, plus three on-site food trucks, you’ll have your choice of sustainable cuisine from sunup to sundown. Even the experiences have an eco-friendly focus with activities like seeding coral reefs, adopting injured sea turtles, and observing wild dolphins.

  • Hotel website: Patina Maldives
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD resort credit).
  • Review: coming soon



If butler-serviced villas, private infinity pools, and overwater hammocks sound like your kind of getaway, put The Ritz-Carlton Maldives at the top of your wanderlist. You won’t find typical thatched-roof villas here. What you will find is 100 modern yet minimalist accommodations, plus seven restaurants and bars serving an array of global cuisines (including mimosas, bloody mary, and prosecco served with breakfast). There’s also a tennis court, dive center, kids’ club with napping pods and a children’s pool, as well as a floating spa perched right in the center of the lagoon.

  • Hotel website: The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, $100 USD resort credit and a one hour professional portrait session, with one free photo selected).
  • Review: coming soon



Nestled among white sands and crystal blue waters, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi hotel is a 45-minute boat journey from the Maldives’ international airport. From 11 celebrated dining venues, including Michelin starred chef Dave Pynt, Zuma Maldives and Terra, the only private hand-crafted bamboo dining pods in the Maldives, a world-class spa sanctuary, the first aqua wellness center of its kind in the Maldives, and an exclusive private island, the resort offers a plethora of activities for all generations. Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi features 119 beach, reef, and overwater villas with private pools, including the private island, complemented by world-class facilities for a unique and memorable stay.


Surrounded by the sapphire seas of the Indian Ocean, Jumeirah Maldives Olhahali Island is a secluded sanctuary dedicated to all things luxury. The intimate hotel is located on the northernmost tip of Maldives’ North Malé Atoll and is easily reachable by a 60 min boat ride or 15 min seaplane flight. Each of the 67 expansive villas features a private rooftop terrace, infinity pool, and 24/7 butler service. The overwater spa offers decadent signature rituals inspired by Ayurvedic tradition. And activities ranging from yoga classes and underwater photography excursions to a beachside splash park (and babysitting services) ensure a rejuvenating stay for everyone.
  • Hotel websiteJumeirah Maldives Olhahali Island
  • Other accolades: Jumeirah Maldives Olhahali Island also features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in the Maldives.
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, $75 USD resort credit, a personalized welcome amenity and card from the GM or Hotel Manager, enhanced recognition through VIP status at all touch points throughout the guest experience, and complimentary one way airport transfer to suite guests).
  • Review: read my review of Jumeirah Maldives Olhahali Island here.


One&Only Reethi Rah is a place where joy comes alive – an exquisite Maldivian haven that celebrates life to create magically unscripted stories for the world’s most discerning guests. Spacious secluded villas with ocean views and private verandas are placed along the shore. Restaurants consist of Reethi Restaurant, for international dishes; Hoshi, for Japanese cuisine; Botanica, for natural fare; Rabarbaro, for Italian fare; and Fanditha, for Middle Eastern dishes. The spa’s tailored treatments take place in a private pavilion. Enjoy water sports, tennis, football, an art studio, snorkelling, pools, a KidsOnly Club, and teen activities. The ultraluxe hotel is a 45 min boat transfer from the Maldives’ main airport.

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  1. Strongly disagree with top 3…Waldorf is the best…food, service and villas win by a large margin…think one and only 2.0…Jumeirah definitely below these two and an acquired taste.

  2. @Ash: The Waldorf Astoria is built on a set of artificial islands, hence why it is not my favorite 😉

  3. Just back from Waldorf Astoria. Very disappointed. Service very commercial. Only money in their eyes and they show it very obviously.. island is too huge, uncomfortable and not cozy . So many Russian staff who is mostly not friendly at all . Food very so so . Skin amenities is the shame – extra charge for aloe or sun lotion 🥴🥵.. very bad .
    I like Ritz the most

  4. I found Jumeirah to be very underwhelming. The former Jumeirah’s (Vittaveli and Dhevanafushi) had a lot of character. I feel the new one has no character at all and quite bland.

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