Is Traveling To The Maldives Worth It?

With Christmas, New Years, and the most popular week to vacation about 11 months out, I know many readers are in the midst of choosing their destinations and booking their award tickets before they’re gone. I likewise know that many hope and dream to go somewhere as remote and exquisite as the Maldives but are hesitant for one reason or another. Here are my thoughts on and words of encouragement to go to the Maldives and the Park Hyatt, where we stayed for five nights this past December and January using points (25,000 Hyatt points per night).

A review of the resort, reviews of the park villas, pool villas, and water villas, and a methodical breakdown of the points and cash needed to take the trip have all been written about on the blog over the past year.

Park-Hyatt-Maldives-4

That leaves the question – is it really that special? What makes it different from other island vacations? Don’t Americans have Hawaii for that? Or perhaps the Turks and Caicos?

Island beach vacations are my favorite, and I’ve taken quite a few over the years in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Hawaii, Southeast Asia, and most recently the Maldives. I can say without a doubt my trip to the Maldives was the most spectacular and incredible of all. Other favorites include Anguilla, the Big Island of Hawaii, Mykonos and Spetses in Greece, and Bali, Indonesia, to give you a sense of my diverse and varied tastes and experiences as I compare the Maldives to them.

And yes, spending the New Year with Ben undoubtedly influenced my favorable opinion, but you are all hopefully taking these vacations with people you care for and want to create special memories with. I suppose that’s not a given, but I’m hopeful…!

So what is it exactly that made the experience worth the jet lag, the really, really long journey (West Palm Beach to New York to Abu Dhabi to Male and then two more flights and a boat transfer within the Maldives)? The natural beauty of the island, of course!

The Location and Size

I just complained about how long it took to get to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa, but the extremely remote location of the island, just ten miles north the Equator, is perhaps THE defining feature. It’s literally a bump of sand in the middle of the Indian Ocean. You can walk around the circular cay in fifteen minutes, the highest point can’t be more than seven or eight feet above sea level, and the only things visible on the horizon are other tiny islands off in the distance, which I had to point out to Ben since his eyesight isn’t great.

When I opened my phone to try and pin our location on a map, I appeared to be floating in the ocean because the island is so small it doesn’t render. The Big Island is so large you can drive around it for hours, and even smaller islands like Anguilla or the BVIs can never be known by a visitor in the way that Hadahaa can. Within a matter of a day, I had become acquainted not only with the resort but also with the entirety of the island.

Park-Hyatt-Maldives-3

The Sand

This is an important feature of every island vacation that I often forget to consider. I actually don’t like sand much. For one, it’s itchy. It also manages to find its way into every crevice and crack of your phone, jewelry, watch… I usually rinse it out of my hair for days after going to the beach, especially if I take a tumble in the waves. That said, I always prefer soft sand to rocky beaches and stones. The Maldives are renowned for their sandy beaches, which make walking, sunbathing, and swimming in the shallow water of the perimeter all a joy. There were no boulders, rocks, stones, or even pebbles to speak of at the Park Hyatt. There were reefs, though…

Park-Hyatt-Maldives-7

The Water

The water was perfect for snorkeling and exploring aquatic life. The reefs in the Maldives are particularly healthy and vibrant, as they haven’t been damaged by pollution and human life the way so many reefs at resorts often have. They were teeming with fish and both shark and sea turtle sightings were the norm.

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset

If you are terrified of sharks, fear not – they were on the small side, but still pretty incredible to see. I’m fascinated by sharks, as two guests at the Park Hyatt learned when they saw me running up and down the shore underneath a dock and asked if I had lost something. No, I hadn’t lost anything, I explained. I was running into the water looking for a shark I had seen circling, duh! They were kind and indulged my oddity, although I’m sure the sight was laughable.

As much as I love Anguilla, I can’t say the Caribbean has ever been warm or calm enough to swim for more than ten or fifteen minutes. The water clarity and temperature in the Maldives is ideal for enjoying the ocean. It’s cool enough that it provides a respite from the heat, which reached the upper 80s around lunch, but still warm enough that one could swim and snorkel all day. For those who are a bit weary of the water (I’ll include myself in this group ever since I watched a shark attack in a POOL in Jaws), the clear, shallow water is both beautiful and calming. Even Ben, who calls the ocean the “shark’s house” went swimming often!

Park-Hyatt-Maldives-2

And the Park Hyatt?

As I think back to the trip and what made it so unique, it comes down to the nature of the island. The Park Hyatt Maldives, in terms of the facilities, the rooms, the staff and service, and the food were all superb, yet these are not the aspects which are pronounced in my memory. When you travel to a fantastic resort and leave with memories of the island itself, of its sunsets and water and paradise, you know you have a winner.

Park-Hyatt-Maldives-6

Comments

  1. For me, the Maldives was a once-in-a-lifetime-get-there-before-global-warning-swallows-the-island-nation destination. It was beautiful, the water was clear, the destination exotic and unique; but it’s not all that special, in my opinion. None of the Maldivian culture (whatever that actually is) is leeched from the main island and Male, and one is pretty much trapped on the small island on which one’s hotel is located. I much prefer the culture to be found in Bali, India, Thailand and other regional destinations. If I simply want a beach vacation, that’s what Puerto Vallarta is for. 🙂

    That said, I’m glad I went, but have no desire to go again.

    Thanks for the writing this, Ford.

    Eric

  2. The number of crabs running across the sand was a bit startling to me — especially in the dark. I lived in fear of stepping on one.

  3. Ford, my wife and I went for our Honeymoon and loved it. Question, how does the Maldives stack up against Fuji et.al? Thanks for a great article.

  4. “As much as I love Anguilla, I can’t say the Caribbean has ever been warm or calm enough to swim for more than ten or fifteen minutes.” Caribbean not warm enough for you? Have you ever been in the he Mediterranean Sea? It is crazy cold compared to Caribbean.

  5. I just came back from the PH and loved it. I would go again, but three or four plane rides is so much travelling and adjustment from Seattle. I’d go back just for the water and the beach and quietness. Wife, I think, wants more action and people to chat with.

    Happiness to me was going swimming at dawn or dusk from my villa into the sea and just hanging out with no-one around you.

  6. Great post, Ford! I don’t see the sharks coming for you as badly on this one.

    Some quick armchair psychology, though, if you all will humor me. Since meeting Ford, we have heard Lucky’s:

    – “Favorite Starpoints Redemption Ever” (Al Maha)

    – “Favorite use of points EVER!!!” (Adele)

    – I’m moving to LA because it’s the best city ever (paraphrased)

    – Maldives is the best island vacation ever (Ford)

    I’m happy for you both. And it’s hard to see the reality warp when you are in it (I have been lucky enough to be in it as well), but try to realize you are seeing the world through some very rose-colored glasses right now. There is NOTHING wrong with this, and I hope you enjoy it!!! But just realize your readers aren’t getting the apotheosis of balanced and fair coverage, like Fox News.

  7. Heading to the Maldives in early September, but only spending 3 nights at the Park Hyatt. Hopefully that will be enough time to relax, though the many flights to get there are probably going to seem like a bit much. But, once and a lifetime and climate change and all that — I really want to go now.

    Spending the rest of the two-week trip in Sri Lanka and India.

  8. Not a single word about the situation on the Maldives, on poverty, surging islamism and worsening human rights. I understand that jetting around the world in first class increases the risk of being trapped in your own little luxury bubble, but at the same time, this post takes ignorance to a new level. I am not saying that one should not travel to the Maldives, but even for “20-something Angeleno” I would expect a bit more awareness and and ability to reflect. It’s not all about the sand, the water, and how servile the staff is.

  9. I certainly can understand why the Maldives appeals to so many as the superlative trip of a lifetime. It ticks the right boxes for most people for one reason or another–or several!

    It doesn’t tick the right boxes for me, though. I’ve not been but have considered it several times. For me, a beach holiday is something I can enjoy for no more than maybe 3-4 days top…and even then I need some other activity or distraction or I get bored. Scuba diving can provide that, but scuba diving quality is critical for me–and the diving by the Maldivian 5 star resorts isn’t always as world-class for an experienced diver as most travel bloggers like to suggest or assume. Only by going on a live-aboard can one truly be likely to get world-class diving in the Maldives. The net result is that it seems an awfully long trip for me to go from California to the Maldives simply to enjoy beautiful sand and clear blue waters amidst a luxury resort. The truth is that I can enjoy that same experience a lot closer to home. I can enjoy that and more activity and sights in Indonesia or Australia reef resorts or the Syechelles, which still are easier to reach!

    Most people dream to go where they see others dreaming to go. That’s fine. I begrudge no one going on holiday wherever it is they desire to go. But I am not among those who count the Maldives as the dream beach destination that it is for most.

    As for those criticizing our author for getting the chance to experience such luxurious resorts in scuh exotic destinations, please stop. The point of a travel blog is to share and inspire, and that is all our author is doing as per his opinion. If you don’t like his opinion, you can either ignore it or choose to stop reading his blog. Criticizing him for having opinions and having the opportunity to experience such wonderful things reeks of noting more than bitterness and envy…and passive aggressiveness.

  10. The Maldives water temp is slightly warmer than Anguilla in the winter (2-4 degrees depending on the month) but is pretty much the same June-Dec. Other Caribbean locations are warmer in the winter and more or less the same as the Maldives. There is incredible sand across the Caribbean too.

  11. Been twice, want to go back.

    Been to many other islands (Bali twice, Langkawi, Bora Bora twice, Moorea twice, Rangiroa, Little Cayman, Rarotonga, Aitutake, Phuket twice , Koh Samui, Hawaii 2 dozen times).

    If you want a pampered Robinson Crusoe experience, it’s definitely worth it – other than going back to the Cook Islands, it’s the one I want to return to most. If you get bored in a beach vacation, then no.

  12. I probably haven’t travelled as much as – and certainly not as much as Lucky – but I have been fortunate to have travelled to the Maldives, French Polynesia and Thailand in the past 2 years. As much as my wife and I loved our time in the Maldives (we stayed at the Conrad and at the Taj Exotica), we believe that French Polynesia and Thailand are better suited for our style of traveling. Here is what we thought:

    Pros
    Maldives: Very secluded, you feel almost like royalty. At our visit Scuba Diving prices at the Conrad were very reasonable and the dive sites outstanding. Conrad has a very good house reef (supposedly the one at PH is even better), while at Taj our perception was of a friendlier overall service (on Virtuoso rate). We went on high season and sometimes we felt like we were on a desert Island with just us on it.

    French Polynesia: You can design your trip choosing among the several different Islands and experiences can be vastly different during our visit we went to Tahiti, Bora Bora, Rangiroa and Fakarava. Even though Bora Bora is usually considered the jewel of the crown my favorite Island from our visit was Rangiroa. In Bora Bora we stayed on points at the IC Thalasso and it is a super nice property – though not as luxurious as the properties at the Maldives – and we really enjoyed being able to also talk to locals and the possibility to go to the main village, etc. Bora Bora is also very expensive (the other islands are more reasonable), but we managed to balance expensive meals at the resorts with some reasonable ones outside of the resort. Rangiroa and Fakarava have some of the most amazing scuba dive sites on earth!

    Thailand: Massages, food, tours, they are generally very cheap (to the point of having a little bit of a guilty feeling at some massage places), the culture abounds, beaches are great and scuba diving is also Top Notch. We stayed in Laem Tong in Phi Phi and liked not to be at the madness that people usually say that the village is, and Khao Lak is also awesome – especially the diving – though sand is darker (brownish) than Phi Phi Islands. Mixing the beaches (either at the Andaman Sea or the Gulf) with cultural cities like Chiang Mai is our favorite way to travel.

    Cons
    Maldives: No interaction with local culture, it is a resort destination (this might be a pro for some people). Super expensive and one is “imprisoned” at the resort. Even on points our final bill was very, very, very expensive, we would not been able to afford going there if it were not for the miles and points.

    French Polynesia: also expensive; however there are alternatives out of the resort as I mentioned. Much more difficult to get there on miles and points (we lucked out business on the way in and 4 nights at the IC Thalasso, but only economy was available on the way back) it is not as secluded as the Maldives and even in Bora Bora the resorts are not as luxurious as in the Maldives.

    Thailand: beaches and places will be overcrowded sometimes and you have to plan accordingly – for instance we arrived at Maya Bay very early and left when the crowds were arriving – and sometimes tourists are not well behaved (at least in our standards). Hotels and resorts that align with our tastes are usually not available on points.

    Would we go back to the Maldives to experience the PH: Yes!!! However, in out list of priorities, the order would be Thailand>French Polynesia>The Maldives

  13. I used to want to go to Maldives, but I changed my mind after my friend went as a couple. He was upgraded to OWB for FREE and he still didn’t enjoy the whole experience that much. Yes it was beautiful, but he was ripped off big time for food, and mostly crappy ones at that. The weather also wasn’t the best in early Jan.

    However, I am speaking as someone who went to Bora Bora (and loved it). If you haven’t done one of those paradise vacations, it is worth it. However I would definitely pick Bora Bora given what I’ve heard – you can hike up the volcano and enjoy cheap food on the main island (we did every night).

  14. The Maldives and the people that visit suffer from the same problems of many, but not all, Caribbean islands. Indigenous culture, sights, and food have been whitewashed, pasteurized, and torn down for the almighty tourist dollar leaving only tiny pockets of what it once was (if any is left). They are filled with cruise ship tourists and/or the all inclusive resort-ers and very seldom world travelers. Like many tourist destinations; I went, I dove, I wont go back. Give me some place with real local culture and food and experiences. If you like pre-packaged and sanitized experiences it is for you!

  15. for those of us that don’t have Hyatt points, can anybody comment on either SPG, Marriott, Hilton, or IHG properties in the Maldives? I have lots of points in all of these 4 programs.

  16. I’ve been there 3 times now. The only bad experience was the last time. It was brutally humid with zero breeze. You did not want to leave to go eat, only to go into the water.

    The Sheraton doesn’t compare unless you want to see The Maldives trash island burning 24/7 while they complain about global warming, but the water is still really nice and they added a Sheraton Club which saved hundreds on booze and food AND it was air conditioned.

    Sorry, Hyatt, but I don’t like eating outside when it’s hot and brutally humid with no breeze.
    Yeah, I’d go again…and remember you are only 90 minutes from visiting India

  17. No desire to go to the Maldives, but I get it for those that do. Lucky, you got me curious about your mention of big island Hawaii. Favorite area? Favorite hotel? Or house rental? Favorite activity? My wheels are turning for a family vacation in 18 months or so.

  18. If I want just an absolute luxury resort experience, I go to the Maldives. There’s varied choices of resorts to fit all styles and budget. From North America, it is indeed a long way and I suggest ‘resort-hopping’ to make the trek worth it. Fortunately for those in Australasia, it’s getting cheaper to head to the Maldives as more carriers fly to Male. It’s also this reason that I feel it’s becoming too touristy. Your privacy and feeling of exclusivity greatly depends on the resort you choose.
    If I want a complete island getaway experience – the culture, nature, and the sea – I prefer Tahiti. Not as much selection of resorts compared to the Maldives, but this is also what makes it much more ‘exclusive’ and unique, in my opinion.
    And yes, I agree, swimming in the Indian Ocean is much more inviting and warm. The Pacific (in Tahiti) runs hot and cold at times. But love the diving in Tahiti.

  19. I love isolation and would thus truly love to experience a stay at Jumeirah Dhevanafushi in Maldives. However, for now, I must be content with the Seychelles. We’ll be there in March. I was hoping we would be staying at either Fregate Island or North Island. But…no. My partner insisted that we stay on the “big” island of Mahe as he doesn’t share my alleged desire to “play Ginger and Maryann on some grossly expensive Gilligan’s Island.”

    No matter! I now have a new obsession. I am nagging to go to a desert resort in the UAE or Oman for Christmas so that I may frolic with goats, gazelles and falcons during the day and gaze at the stars at night.

  20. The Maldives look and feel like the ultimate tourist trap: very nice but not uniquely so yet where tourists are charged 10 times as much.

    Probably worth for those who have more money than sense, or whose major reason for travel is to brag about their trips to the Joneses. There are plenty other places you can get the same experience for far less than US$10-25k / week [and this only covers local transportation (a rip-off), local lodging (a rip-off) and local food and beverages (a rip-off), airfare is extra]. Southeast Asia is a very *inexpensive* place to travel, so the Maldives stuck out as a huge rip-off.

  21. I’ve been to the Maldives twice, the Conrad and the PH. I don’t want to get into a debate on the humanitarian reasons on why people shouldn’t go there. After the second trip, where I stayed at the PH. I’m done with the Maldives.

    Visiting the Maldives is like dating a girl for her looks. You’re all excited at first then you realize there is no substance behind the beauty and get bored. That’s Polly the best summary.

  22. Well, most trips of this sort are worth it if you’re traveling first class on someone else’s dime…;)

  23. I’d be curious on Ford’s take on the Hawaiian islands. Despite this being one of the most popular points/miles redemptions, it’s hugely under-reviewed by travel bloggers. And I don’t think Lucky has ever visited the Big Island or Maui.

  24. I had been debating on where should I use my precious hard saved miles for a “once in a life time” vacation and ended up picking French Polynesia for Christmas 2014 over Maldives. Reason was for the number of hours in the plane to get there, it didn’t make sense to stay for 4 days and if we stayed longer in one island resort, we would be bored! We picked FP so we could at least visit more islands in one trip and be able to “get out” of the resort to experience the culture!

    Since then we fell in love with the South Pacific and made a trip back for Christmas 2015! We picked Cook Islands….Aitutaki was amazing! Food was great, prices were affordable, and the most friendly people ever! It was truly a hidden gem so please don’t limit yourself to just Bora Bora or Maldives!

  25. @Ford

    Sorry, but there reefs in the Maldives are not healthy. There have been several large coral bleaching episodes. The PH has been spared due to it’s location, a lot of the resort further north was hit hard.

    Google “maldives coral bleaching” for a lot more information.

  26. I just got back today from a short stay over CNY at the PH Maldives. I thought it was worth it but then again, I “only” flew from Singapore to Male to Kooddoo and not all the way from the US.

    While I had read up on the political situation, I wanted to make sure to also see the “real” Maldivian life (and by that I don’t mean the USD200 PH trip to a neighboring island). We spent a day in Male to see the other side from resorts and beaches.

  27. Have you ever considered the W Resort Maldives? Any comparisons you’ve heard? We are going to Maldives for 4 nights and can’t decide between the two. Rates are roughly the same. We are Hyatt Diamond / SPG Platinum. Been to Park Hyatt before and loved it, but can’t decide if worth trying the W.

  28. Hi. Has anyone been to the Maldives and/or Conrad end of November (Thanksgiving week)? I am thinking of going this year but am reading conflicting things about the monsoon rains. Any experiences/thoughts? Thanks very much

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *