Ever since I saw a picture of a gorgeous villa perched over the bluest water, I knew I had to go to the Maldives one day. I’m not saying Marc and I got married just so we could have the most amazing honeymoon in the most beautiful place, but I’m also not not saying that…
Kidding, of course! Or am I?
Okay, moving along, both Marc and I knew the Maldives would be our honeymoon destination since long before we were even engaged. But once he put a ring on it and the whole thing became a reality, I started to panic a bit. I had absolutely NO idea how to plan a trip like that from scratch.
That’s part of the reason we delayed our honeymoon the eight months that we did. I knew I would not be able to adequately plan a honeymoon while I was in the throes of wedding planning.
I had, of course, planned trips before. But they typically centered around an all-inclusive in Mexico or the Caribbean and involved a quick package search through something like CheapCaribbean or Travelocity. And while that led to some amazing and relaxing vacations, it was just not going to cut it for the Maldives.
A few months after the wedding I finally sat and down and got cracking on planning our honeymoon. I did not know where to start and contemplated using a travel agency. But then the thought of having to find a travel agency started to feel overwhelming and I decided I might as well just get overwhelmed with the actual planning. Not the planning of the planning.
So, I did what any normal human being living in 2018 would do: I started Googling. I also had been given the name of a couple resorts where friends of ours had stayed, so I looked those up as well. Slowly I started getting an idea of how the Maldives is actually laid out and what the resort experience really involves.
For reference, the Maldives is a country made up of 26 natural atolls with over 1,000 islands. Those atolls are grouped together in a narrow ring shape. And, for the most part, each resort is located on its own island.
By knowing that I was then able to focus in on the area of the Maldives and the price point that I wanted. Over the course of about two weeks I narrowed all our options down to the resort we chose, and within a week after that we booked our stay at Grand Park Kodhipparu.
All of the pictures in this post are from the Grand Park Kodhipparu. We absolutely loved our stay and highly recommend the resort. The staff was exceptionally friendly and welcoming and did everything possible to make our visit perfect. We stayed in a Lagoon Pool Water Villa and did not purchase a meal plan (more on that in Number 5). And while we were there during the high season and the resort was very booked, we often felt like we were the only people on the island. It was incredible!
The end result was better than either Marc or I could have imagined, and all of my hard work paid off! But you shouldn’t have to start from scratch if you’re planning a vacation to the Maldives. Here are some of my tips to turn the dream into a reality:
1. KNOW YOUR BUDGET
This is so important because a trip to the Maldives will not be a bargain. I’ve seen some people talk about how to do the Maldives on a budget, and while it might be possible, I think it’s unrealistic if you are coming from somewhere as far away as the United States. Just to get to Malé likely involves a stop in Dubai or Abu Dhabi and a total travel time of 16-20 hours or more. That requires not only a lot of time and energy, but those tickets won’t come cheap.
So, if you’re going to all of that trouble just to get there, you are already out of “bargain” territory, in my opinion. From there you will need to determine the amount of money you are able to spend on a resort. You can pay anywhere from hundreds of dollars a night to tens of thousands of dollars a night. We fell in the “hundreds of dollars a night” category and still got a luxury experience.
2. THINK ABOUT HOW YOU WANT TO GET TO THE RESORT
Obviously, you will need to fly to the Maldives. For this you will land in Malé. But the journey is not over once you arrive in the capital. Since every resort in the Maldives is on its own island you will have to get there from the airport.
This is actually a very seamless process. Someone from your resort will great you at the airport and then get you to the resort either on a speedboat or a seaplane. Both transfer options are located right at the main airport.
The resorts that are closer to Malé (located in the southern atolls) will use a speedboat, while the resorts located on islands in the northern atolls will use a seaplane. Note that the further you are from Malé the longer it will take to get to your resort, and the more expensive the transfer will be. We were a 20-minute speedboat ride from the airport and the transfer was $180 per person roundtrip. A typical seaplane transfer will cost upwards of $450 per person roundtrip, so take this cost into consideration when setting your budget.
I knew we did not want to take more than 30 minutes to get to the resort and I also didn’t want to spend more than $200 per person to get there, so I was able to narrow my focus to the resorts in the southern atolls.
3. PLAN THE DATES ACCORDINGLY
Like any tropical destination, the Maldives has a wet and dry season. If you are able, my biggest piece of advice is to plan your trip during the dry season. This is from December to April. During this time, you get the best guarantee that your trip will be filled with beautiful sunshine. I know people who have gone during the wet season and had spectacular weather. I also know some who had rain the entire time they were there during the wet season. So, it’s definitely a risk.
The prices will be higher during the dry season, so you will need to weigh what is more important for you. I felt that if we were going to spend that kind of money in the first place then I needed to know we had our best shot at perfect weather.
4. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
Okay, cool, so you know what part of the Maldives you want to visit but how do you find the actual resorts? I found each of these websites to be really helpful:
Once you’ve found a few resorts that fit your needs and interests I highly recommend checking out their individual websites. Not only will you be able to find even more information about the amenities offered, but you will also be able to check out rates for your stay. Often resorts will have promo codes that can only be found if booked through their website. This may mean the cheapest option you will find is booking through the resort.
Make sure you check the rates through a variety of sites. I ended up booking our stay directly through the resort’s website because it offered the cheapest price I could find thanks to an “early bird” promotional discount they were offering.
5. SELECT MEAL PLANS
Many resorts will offer some type of meal plan. A night at our resort, Grand Park Kodhipparu, came standard with breakfast included. From there you could add a plan that included lunch and dinner, and even an all-inclusive.
Once we had finally chosen our resort, I spent the most time trying to figure out if we needed to add a meal plan. I emailed the resort ahead of time and was told we could make that decision once we arrived, so I held off. And I’m glad I did.
In the end we didn’t go with any additional meal plan, and it worked well for us. But I made sure to calculate the cost of each meal plan per day and weigh that against the amount of food and drinks I estimated we would need. If we had wanted meals with multiple courses and several drinks each day, then the all-inclusive would have been more cost effective. But for just three standard meals and 2-4 drinks each per day, we were better off on our own.
6. DO NOT BRING ALCOHOL
I learned this from a friend who learned it himself, the hard way.
The Maldives is a dry country. However, the resorts are able to serve alcohol. As you might imagine, since it isn’t readily available, wine and booze can be very expensive. If you think one way around this is to bring your own, think again.
Because the Maldives is a dry country, they will inspect all bags when you arrive at the airport in Malé and they will confiscate all alcohol they find. That lovely bottle of duty-free champagne you bought at the airport on your way? Say goodbye.
7. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE AND DO BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
There are so many things to do when you get to the Maldives, and that includes the option of doing nothing at all. Heading in I knew our resort let you rent snorkeling equipment for free, so we didn’t have to worry about that. In addition, most resorts will have a dive shop that organizes all types of activities and excursions from scuba diving to snorkeling trips, to renting paddleboats.
If you are interested in sea life, the biggest draw for the Maldives is whale sharks and manta rays. You can go on excursions for each specifically, but there are never any guarantees you will see anything.
We didn’t have any activities planned ahead of time and ended up booking our only excursion the day of. While it worked out in the end, I wish we would have planned further in advance. Because we decided so late in our trip to do the excursion it almost didn’t happen. No other guests were interested in the trip that day, so we ended up having to go with a private tour, which cost more.
We went out on a snorkeling excursion to see manta rays and we were not disappointed! We saw at least five of them and they swam around with us for over 40 minutes. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
Excursions will involve an additional cost, so keep that in mind ahead of time. Think about what activities you might want to do and then check out your options with the resort the first day you arrive. This will help you make a plan and get the most out of your vacation.
If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask! You can drop a note in the comments below or shoot me a DM on Instagram or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’ve already been to the Maldives, let me know if you have any other tips to share!
Photos by Laura Behnke and Marc Fowler