The Best Private Islands, Yachts and Underwater Experiences in the Maldives

How to get even more out of an unforgettable excursion to this gorgeous tropical nation.
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Glorious over-water living at the exclusive Soneva Jani

Glorious over-water living at the exclusive Soneva Jani

When it comes to private islands, well-heeled travelers to the Maldives are spoiled for choice. You can rent or purchase one with a beautiful house on it, but buying out an entire private island resort may be the most baller move of all. Essentially you can “own” a world-class five-star property for the duration of your stay. And it’s not just lesser-known brands that offer this opportunity. Take The Nautilus Maldives, which opened in 2019. It’s the only Maldivian member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux association, which includes some of the world’s finest luxury hotels and resorts, and which maintains an extremely high standard for wine and cuisine.

Located in the Baa Atoll, The Nautilus is home to 26 beach and ocean abodes situated like private residences in one of the Maldives’ most picturesque locales. You don’t need to occupy every one of them; just luxuriate in knowing that you and your guests are the only ones allowed to do so. You’ll be attended to by a private butler—there is one assigned to each ocean dwelling—while the property’s five-star dining is described as “unscripted” and “about liberating the palate;” even the menus are mere suggestions, offered as “inspiration only.”

Hurawalhi Island Resort is a picture-perfect example of what a Maldives escape should look like.

Hurawalhi Island Resort is a picture-perfect example of what a Maldives escape should look like.

Practically the only thing equal to, if not better than, a buyout of The Nautilus would be a buyout of Kudadoo Maldives Private Island by Hurawalhi, named the best new luxury resort in the world by Luxury Travel Intelligence in 2018. The members-only online resource for affluent travelers cited the entirely solar-powered private island property’s posh overwater residences, of which there are only 15, as well as its host of luxe amenities. These include 24-hour butler service as well as wine and cheese cellars, a spa, private beach, an infinity pool and a high staff-to-guest ratio. 

Now all you have to do is choose 50 of your closest friends to join you in paradise.

Setting Sail With the Four Seasons

The Four Seasons has more than one impeccable luxury hospitality offering in the Maldives including five-star beachfront resorts and a private yacht with a posh suite that rivals anything on land

The Four Seasons has more than one impeccable luxury hospitality offering in the Maldives including five-star beachfront resorts and a private yacht with a posh suite that rivals anything on land

Not all of the Maldives’ most exclusive experiences are found on land. The Four Seasons Explorer is a 128-foot luxury yacht operated by the famed hospitality brand that you can live aboard in high style while sailing between the enchanting islands of Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru, both home to five-star Four Seasons resorts.

The brand offers three-, four- or seven-night cruises aboard the well-appointed three-deck catamaran, which takes you through the incredibly beautiful UNESCO Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve.

Aboard the luxe Four Seasons Explorer yacht

Aboard the luxe Four Seasons Explorer yacht

Each itinerary—with names like Aquariums and Caves, and Sharks and Shipwrecks—features diving schedules arranged so you can view the maximum amount of vibrant undersea life, including manta rays, whale sharks, dolphins and pilot whales.

Culinary and cocktail offerings onboard are unrivaled, with chefs and stewards to see to your every need. Only 22 passengers can embark at any one time, and the onboard accommodations include posh staterooms that rival anything you’ll find along the way; the 484-square-foot upper-deck Explorer Suite offers panoramic windows, contemporary teak furnishings, and a signature Four Seasons Bed. Best of all, you don’t even have to get out of it to enjoy the glorious sunrise and sea views.

Under the Waves Is The Place To Be

Hurawalhi Island Resort's 5.8 Undersea Restaurant 

Hurawalhi Island Resort's 5.8 Undersea Restaurant 

In 2018 the Maldives made headlines for something that you would normally only see dreamt up by a set designer in a Bond movie—the world’s first underwater hotel residence. The Muraka at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort is more like an entire semi-submerged villa than a mere suite, with two levels, one above the waterline and one 16 feet below it. Under the waves is a bedroom, bath and living room, while topside, there’s a second bedroom, living room, dining room, entertainment space, infinity pool and sundeck.

Rates start at $22,000 per night, and you have the option of enjoying luxe services like a seaplane transfer, private chef and even VIP customs clearance. The property also has an underwater eatery, Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, so you can continue the vibe, which boasts 180-degree panoramic views of the surrounding vibrant coral gardens. Time to find out if lobster and Wagyu beef taste even better when consumed underwater.

The Muraka at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

The Muraka at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

Late last year, the Pullman Maldives Maamutaa Resort was planning to follow suit with two villas with underwater bedrooms, and we expect more primo properties to jump on the below-the-waves bandwagon in the months to come. Hurawalhi Island Resort's 5.8 Undersea Restaurant is already a big draw. And the Niyama Private Islands Maldives resort also has its own form of undersea entertainment. Called Subsix, it’s a sort of submerged supper club, accessed via speedboat and a three-tiered staircase that descends to nearly 20 feet below sea level.

On your descent, you’ll find Italian chandeliers made to resemble coral, while inside there’s a giant clam-inspired bar, and seating designed to look like sea anemones, while the ceiling is covered in swathes of suspended oyster shells, making for a truly surreal nightlife experience. You can order a bottle of Dom Pérignon and sip away while watching an incredible parade of sea creatures, including parrotfish, butterfly fish, moray eels and hawksbill turtles, float past in place of the supermodels one might find at a nightclub in Miami.

Subsix at Niyama Private Islands Maldives

Subsix at Niyama Private Islands Maldives

Since it’s essentially a glass box two stories underwater, there’s probably no danger of making too much noise—the fish couldn’t hear you anyway. Just try not to get deep-sixed.