April 25, 2018
Once, the Maldives was seen as the preserve of honeymooners and child-free couples, with very few under 18s splashing in the pools or crashing around the restaurants.
No longer, writes Joanna Booth. Parents who visited as couples have shown themselves keen to return with the kids in tow, and hotels have stepped up, offering kids’ clubs and family rooms alongside overwater villas and elaborate spas.
There’s plenty that makes this Indian Ocean idyll a natural fit with families, from the year-round sunshine and powder-soft sandy beaches – which double as sun lounger and sand pit for parents and tots respectively – to the safe, warm, shallow lagoons that ring almost every island.
And the one island, one hotel model also gives added security to parents seeking peace of mind, and means older children can be allowed a level of freedom to rampage unsupervised that could prove problematic in busy mainland resorts.
A successful family holiday in the Maldives is all about choosing the right hotel. With small children, a remote island is not for you. International flights land in Male, and after more than 10 hours on the plane, a short-ish transfer is key.
Choose a resort that is either a seaplane flight or a boat journey away, not both – despite the fact both are pleasant experiences, by this point you’ll be desperate just to get checked in.
Once on your island, there won’t be the usual opportunities to go outside the hotel for meals, snacks, ice creams or activities – there’s no one else to provide these things.
Parents who hate saying no should consider booking an all-inclusive stay, which will prevent any stressful refusals or spiralling costs during the holiday. Look out for packages that include activities as well as food and drink, particularly if you’re travelling with teens.
Atmosphere Kanifushi offers complimentary excursions and non-motorised watersports in its package, while at Constance Moofushi there’s everything from on-demand ice-cream and in-room Playstation 3 consoles for the kids, to afternoon teas and champagne for mum and dad.
When it comes to accommodation, leave those signature over-water villas to the honeymooners, so you’re not worrying about scurrying kids skidding over the side of the jetty. Beach villas are your best bet, where children can launch themselves straight on to the sand while you look on from a lounger. If the budget will stretch, private plunge pools are perfect for cooling off.
Larger families will be able to find accommodation that offers them the extra space they need, with options including Anantara Dhigu’s two-bedroom Family Villas and Lily Beach’s interconnecting Family Beach Villas.
Stop the budget from spiralling with free child places. Keep an eye out for kids stay and eat free deals and family packages, which are offered by hotels such as LUX* South Ari Atoll, Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives, Bandos Maldives and Holiday Inn Kandooma Maldives.
With no option other than your hotel, selecting a property with restaurants that will suit your family is essential. Grazers, greedy-guts and picky eaters will be best-served with a buffet-style main restaurant, allowing them to try the occasional Maldivian speciality – coconut-laced seafood curries are a winner – alongside well-loved staples like pasta and burgers.
A poolside restaurant will be a hit at lunchtimes, so kids can get back to splashing while parents linger over a glass of wine. And if you’re travelling with younger children, don’t forget to check out the room service options for those nights when you don’t want to bother with a babysitter.
Beautiful white-sand beaches and warm, safe seas come as standard in all Maldivian hotels, but for activities beyond this, a great kids’ club can be the difference between a brilliant holiday and being ‘boooooored’.
Read the fine print carefully before you book. Check the age range – it is most commonly from four to 12, with clubs catering to younger or older much thinner on the ground – and the hours of operation, depending on whether you’re just looking for a couple of hours off, or want a seamless, morning-til-night service.
Activities on offer tend to be extensive and creative. At Per Aquum Niyama, for example, the Explorers Club – which takes children as young as 12 months and is free to over threes – has its own splashpark, playground, trampoline and kitchen, and activities from cooking classes and coral adoption to beach Olympics and a snorkel safari.
Constance Halaveli Kids Club, meanwhile, has some of the longest opening hours in the Maldives, keeping kids from four to 11 occupied from 9am to 9pm, with treasure hunts, crab racing, arts and crafts and mini-discos, plus its own kids’ menu.
Four Seasons Landaa Giravaru, One & Only Reethi Rah and Meeru Island Resort & Spa have teens’ clubs with water sports, team sports, movies and console games, but bear in mind that for independently-minded older children, simply choosing a larger resort with plenty of activities may be the answer. Meeru ticks this box, with two games rooms, a watersports centre, dive centre, a museum about the Maldivian way of life and a huge array of excursions on offer, including one sightseeing trip to the capital, Male.
1. Unlike many destinations, it’s better to over- than under-pack for the Maldives, particularly when it comes to basics like sun-cream, or baby essentials like nappies or formula. You can’t nip into a supermarket, and hotel shops, while pricey, are not always well-stocked.
2. Contact your hotel before you arrive and ask about the location of your villa. If your little ones are light sleepers, avoid being placed right next to bars and restaurants. If the kids like their independence, ask for a villa not too far from the main pool and kids’ club, so they can run backwards and forwards from the villa easily.
3. Treat the airport transfer as part of the holiday. Even tired tots will enjoy peering out of the seaplane window and counting how many islands they fly over, or keeping their eyes peeled for dolphins from a speedboat. If seas are choppy, sit at the back of the boat – the ride is smoother.
From nabbing the best views to sweet talking your way into an upgrade, improve your chances of getting the best hotel room – without paying through the nose – with these expert tips.Read more about Ask the experts: How to bag the best hotel rooms
Subscribe now for hand-picked holiday deals, inspiration and the latest travel tips, straight to your inbox.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides valuable up-to-date travel advice for British citizens abroad. It is the best resource for reliable safety and security information. You can also find other important details, such as local laws, passport information and visa requirements. Stay safe abroad – check the FCDO before you travel.