Updated January 28, 2021
(Published April 25, 2018)
By Joanna Booth
Once, a holiday in the Maldives was seen as the preserve of honeymooners and childfree couples, with very few under 18s splashing in the pools or crashing around the restaurants.
But that’s no longer the case. Parents who visited this Indian Ocean idyll before having kids have shown themselves keen to return with the little ones in tow, and hotels have stepped up, offering kids’ clubs and family rooms alongside overwater villas and elaborate spas.
There’s plenty that makes the Maldives a natural fit for a holiday with children, 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.
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, which 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 ten hours on the plane, a shorter transfer is key.
Choose a resort that is either a seaplane flight or a boat journey away, not both – though both are pleasant experiences, by this point you may just want 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 – in general, 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.
When it comes to accommodation, leave those signature over-water villas to the honeymooners. Beach villas are your best bet for a family holiday in the Maldives, 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.
Atmosphere Kanifushi is a great resort for families, offering babysitting services, complimentary excursions and non-motorised watersports in its package, while at Constance Halaveli, there’s everything from ice-cream- and pizza-making days, to afternoon teas and champagne for mum and dad.
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.
If you’re looking to do the Maldives on a budget, keep an eye out for free child places. Kids stay-and-eat-free deals and family packages, offered by hotels such as LUX* South Ari Atoll, Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives, Bandos Maldives and Holiday Inn Kandooma Maldives, can help keep your spending down.
For a family holiday in the Maldives, selecting a property with restaurants that will suit your whole brood 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 family nights in.
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 twelve, with clubs catering to younger or older harder to come by – 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 Niyama Private Islands Maldives, for example, the Explorers Club – which takes children as young as twelve 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. Older kids can get stuck into their favourite games on the resort’s Xbox and PlayStation or practice their (virtual) swing or in the immersive sports simulator rooms.
Constance Halaveli Kids Club, meanwhile, has some of the longest opening hours in the Maldives, keeping kids from four to eleven occupied from 9am to 9pm, with treasure hunts, arts and crafts and mini-discos, plus its own kids’ menu.
Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, 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 older children, simply choosing a larger resort with plenty of activities may be the answer. Meeru ticks this box, with games rooms, a watersports centre, dive centre, a museum about the Maldivian way of life and a huge array of excursions on offer, including a sightseeing trip to the capital, Male.