The Ritz-Carlton Maldives

Sustainable Hotels in the Maldives: The C&TH Guide

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Long haul sustainable travel is a contradiction that’s tricky to overlook. Over in the Maldives, the Indian Ocean archipelago that defines dreamy island getaways, sustainability is critical: rising sea levels as result of global warming mean that this low-lying country could disappear in a matter of years. The easy option is to simply stop travelling to the islands – perhaps to stop travelling altogether. But to abandon nations that are so reliant on tourism – in the Maldives, tourism accounts for 28 of GDP and 90 per cent of government tax revenue – is just as ill-informed. Though overtourism is an urgent problem, the Maldives relies on this industry for its economic survival. Thus, increasing sustainability initiatives and ecotourism are a lifelines for the ecological survival of the archipelago. When visiting, consider how you can make a positive impact – financially or physically – rather than leaving the negative results of your visit in your wake. If you’re in need of ideas, we’re here to help. Here is the C&TH guide to sustainable hotels in the Maldives.

Read the C&TH Responsible Tourism Guide

The C&TH Guide to Sustainable Hotels in the Maldives

What to Look Out For When Picking a Resort

  • Check for sustainability credentials, and try to find the resort’s sustainability plan – if there isn’t one, that’s clue enough
  • Research how the resort was constructed: have they been sustainable from the start, or are they greenwashing now that they have opened?
  • Check the resort’s attitude to plastic. On some islands, single-use plastic is completely banned
  • Research the resort’s contributions to the local economy, local businesses, and any local charities
  • Are there any environmental initiatives at the resort that guests can get involved with during their stay?

What You Can Do To Help

  • Use environmentally friendly products, like reef-safe sunscreen
  • Leave plastic packaging at home, or take it home with you when you leave
  • Eat meat – including some seafood like oysters and fish like Atlantic salmon – in moderation (or avoid it completely), as it has to be flown in or shipped to the Maldives

Sustainable Packing Guide

Sustainable Hotels in the Maldives

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Six Senses Laamu

Best For: Switching Off

Six Senses Laamu

Six Senses Laamu was voted best hotel in Asia in the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2022. This accolade alone may be enough to ensure that this secluded and somnolent island retreat in the relatively remote Laamu Atoll is top of many people’s bucket lists. Like a moth to the flame, newlyweds are drawn to the Maldives, but if you are past the first flush of post-nuptial bliss and have children in tow, Laamu is also a sure bet. 

As with all Six Senses, the Laamu resort is not show-offy but nonetheless luxury seeps through its every pore. On arrival, you’re asked to remove your shoes and you won’t put them back on until you leave – Six Senses is all about reconnecting with nature. There are 97 heavenly villas, each of which was built with an environmental ethos and respect for local culture in both construction and design; the majority are overwater with a handful scattered on the beach. 

The food at Laamu is mouth-wateringly delicious no matter where you choose to eat, but Leaf, perched on stilts above the organic garden, deserves an honorary mention as does the cinema under the stars where younger guests are fed, watered and entertained every night while adults enjoy dinner in peace. At The Den, children are treated to a host of absorbing activities from setting sail on a treasure island cruise complete with water cannons and marauding pirate ships, to joining the Junior Marine Biology Programme. Young, old, exhausted with young children – the island is intoxicating for everyone.

BOOK IT: Sunset Laamu Water Villa from £1,339 B&B based on four sharing. sixsenses.com

Family Friendly Resorts in the Maldives

LANKANFUSHI Maldives

Best For: Balance

Gili Lankanfushi

A speedy 007-style speed boat ride from the airport ensures that you reach paradisiacal ‘no shoes, no news’ Gili Lankanfushi as quickly as it takes for you to shake out your crumpled clothes from the flight. In just 20 minutes, you’ll be greeted at what is widely regarded as one of the best resorts in the Maldives by the Gili staff and introduced to your personal Mr or Ms Friday who will cater to your every whim throughout your stay (even teaching your five-year-old to drive a golf buggy). 

There are just 45 palm-thatched villas made from sustainably sourced teak, pine and oak, the biggest of which is the vast Private Reserve accessible only by boat. All are plastic free and replete with stonking stereos, endless seating areas for lolling around in and bicycles for leisurely rides through the jungly island. 

For those who like to burn more calories than it takes to raise a margarita glass, you’ll find some of the best surf in the region. And don’t miss snorkelling the reef with the resident marine biologist. An early morning tennis lesson with the island’s pro is a great way to justify a day spent in a hammock slung between swaying palms or working off the cheese and wine experience in the underground cellar (there are over 500 wines and champagnes down there), complete with an extraordinary table hewn from a huge piece of driftwood deposited on the island by the 2004 tsunami. Basically, you’ll never want news or shoes again. Bliss.

BOOK IT: Villa Suite from £1,450 per night. gili-lankanfushi.com

Image (c) Kerry Dean

Soneva Fushi

Best For: Luxe Sustainability

Soneva Fushi

When Sonu and Eva Shivdasani opened this, their first Soneva resort nearly 30 years ago, it was a game-changer. Not only because of its barefoot luxury concept but also the ‘slow life’ philosophy which has always had sustainability at its core. Recent initiatives include the Eco Centro with everything from mushroom-growing huts to a station where coconut shells are turned into charcoal for the restaurants. There’s also a Soneva Foundation programme to create a one-hectare coral nursery – the largest in the Indian Ocean. The island is all jungle living, with thatched ocean-facing villas that each have their own pool. Cycle along sandy paths to the dive centre, The Den (the kid’s club with a pirate ship and rooms dedicated to Lego, music and dressing-up) or to the Glass Studio for a glass blowing session. Supper experiences include ziplining through the trees to Flying Sauces and Fresh in the Garden, a year-long residency by Danish chef Mads Refslund (who co-founded Noma) based around fire and ice. A gorgeous getaway that is continually evolving in ever-more creative ways.

BOOK IT: Seven nights half-board from £7,979, including seaplane transfers and international flights, until 17 Dec 22. turquoiseholidays.co.uk

Eating Your Heart Out at Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani

a scuba diver propagating coral

Best For: Hands-On Sustainability

Fairmont Maldives

Fun-filled and educational, the newly launched Sustainability Lab at Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi allows families to create special keepsakes – from cute turtle keychains to functional stationery ready for back-to-school – from ocean salvaged waste. For budding animal lovers, there’s also the Turtle Ranger programme, in which young guests join the resident Marine Biologist to monitor critically endangered Hawksbill Turtles, release hatchlings into the ocean, and plant new coral. fairmont.com

Review: Fairmont Maldives

OBLU SELECT LOBIGILI maldives

Best For: Romance

Oblu Select Lobigili

Opening earlier this year, Oblu Select Lobigili is a new adults-only resort situated in the Maldives’ North Malé Atoll. Offering a castaway experience that is within easy reach, you can feel the sand between your toes within 15 minutes of the airport. Don’t let this proximity to the airport dishearten you, as the island offers guests plenty of luxuries, including fantastic food and fine beaches. 

Romance rules here – ‘loabi’ means love and ‘gili’ means island in the Maldivian language of Dhivehi. There’s even a mini heart-shaped island moments from the shoreline for intimate wedding ceremonies and private dining. 

For a relaxed and stress-free Maldivian experience, the ‘Lobi Plan’ offers more than your typical all-inclusive, from sunset fishing and spa treatments to an unlimited minibar. A bright, cheerful aesthetic can be seen throughout the romantic island with bubble-gum pink buggies, fuchsia sun loungers and candy pink and white beach towels. The resort has one of the largest underwater restaurants, an open-air spa and a choice of beach and water villas for a tropical getaway.

BOOK IT: SunNest Beach Pool Villa from £605. coloursofoblu.com

Image (c) Kerry Dean

Anantara Dhigu Maldives

Best For: Watersports

Anantara Dhigu

When it comes to warm welcomes, Anantara Dhigu knows how to put on a fanfare. Greeted by a host of clapping staff, drums and ice-cold coconut drinks, it’s an accurate indication of what to expect from your stay. A more lively alternative to its Niyama sister hotel but also sharing a lagoon with two other Anantara properties – Veli and Naladhu (so there’s other restaurants, bars and activities to discover) – the resort is a lesson in family fun combined with some much-needed relaxation. 

Just 30 minutes by speedboat from Malé, nestled in a shallow turquoise lagoon, the island is a playground for activities such as paddleboarding, surfing or joining an excursion to swim with nurse sharks for the afternoon. But if you need to recoup from a busy day at the water sports centre, there are 110 beach villas and over-water suites to retire to, plus a lovely spa with excellent coconut-based treatments. Whether it’s reclining with a good book on the swinging sofa on the terrace beside your pool or watching the sun set from your private sun lounger on the beach, there are plenty of cosy nooks to enjoy (the photogenic lagoon hammock is a must if you can wait your turn).

BOOK IT: Doubles from £450 half-board excluding taxes. anantara.com

Soneva Jani So Primative alfresco dining table outside in evening on beach

Best For: Wellness

Soneva Jani

The second Soneva outpost in the Maldives, this island is underpinned by the same sustainably driven values as the original (Fushi) yet cleverly has its own character, too. The majority of villas are overwater. Those on the Chapter Two side were added in 2020; they are dreamy, each with a huge deck, pool and a slide that whooshes you straight out into the crystal-clear ocean. The big news is this year’s launch of Soneva Soul, an all-encompassing wellness concept which combines ancient healing philosophies (for instance, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine) with innovative treatments such as nutrient IV therapy and cryotherapy, and honed-in programmes that range from meditation to yoga and sleep (rolled out at Soneva Fushi, too). 

Restaurants include toes-in-the-sand Crab Shack for a seafood lunch and Overseas by Mathias Dahlgren (known for his two Michelin-guide Stockholm restaurants Matbaren and Rutabaga) where dishes include deep-fried tofu and broccoli, and tuna served on shiso leaf with soy. Spend days dolphin spotting and snorkelling, or come here to simply fly-and-flop in complete privacy.

BOOK IT: Seven nights half-board from £8,799, inc. seaplane and int. flights, until 17 Dec 22. turquoiseholidays.co.uk

The Ritz-Carlton Maldives

Best For: Smart Design

The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands

With solar panels, a dedicated plant for still and sparkling water, and having been built with sustainably sourced timber, the Ritz-Carlton Maldives has been eco-conscious since conception. Home to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment Program – collaborating with the world-renowned oceanographic explorer, environmentalist and film producer – the resort offers guests the chance to explore the ocean depths, or even join leading scientists and marine technologists on bi-weekly drone flights – a Maldives’ first – to observe the precious sea-life of the surrounding ocean. Inspired by the ancient Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang energies, the spa offers everything you could want, but with a sustainable edge and Bamford’s holistic treatments and products. ritzcarlton.com

Read More: Is This The Most Relaxing Spa in the Maldives?

closer aerial view of huts in turquoise sea

Best For: Lie Ins

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

When you arrive at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, you step into an Instagram picture of unparalleled views and an abundance of flora and fauna. The first international hotel to open in the Maldives, it has just completed a major transformation of the tiny adults-only Rangali Island. All 50 of the thatched-roof overwater villas have been redesigned for indoor-outdoor living with direct access to a private sun deck, complete with pool and staircase leading to the turquoise waters below. 

There’s also a brand-new gym, and the Over Water Spa has had a stylish makeover. Taking personalised service to the next level is The Muraka, billed as the world’s first undersea residence and boasting a master bedroom that doubles as an aquarium – watch reef sharks glide past while you brush your teeth. Another thrilling first is undersea restaurant Ithaa, offering panoramic views of the surrounding coral garden and a fusion menu featuring local seafood. 

With a total of 12 restaurants, prepare to feast your way around the resort. There’s no shortage of activities either, including snorkelling safaris, diving, windsurfing, catamaran sailing and dolphin cruises.

BOOK IT: Beach villa from £405 per night. conradmaldives.com

niyama maldives crescent

Best For: Kids

Niyama Private Islands

It’s not hard to see why Niyama has so many returning guests. Spanning over two kilometres, the island is an oasis of tropical woodlands and secret lagoons. Separated into two adjoining islands aptly named Chill and Play, the resort is well equipped for both families and couples with spacious water villas (complete with popcorn makers and very Instagrammable decor), one of the largest kids’ clubs in the Maldives and hammock-lined remote beaches for some ‘me-time’. 

Although Niyama provides every guest with a personalised bike to explore the island (and work off the sizeable buffet breakfasts), your personal butler can also ferry you from A to B in a buggy if you’d prefer a star-lit ride after dinner. For a more exclusive al fresco experience, try Asian street food on the beach at Niyama’s Took Took, or Rum, Ribs and Reggae at the resort’s Surf Shack for a fun alternative to your nightly meal. Rainy days (and there certainly are some) call for Active, the resorts cosy hideaway kitted out with board games, painting classes and must-see movie nights.

BOOK IT: Seven nights for £4,199pp for a Beach Villa on a half-board basis including seaplane and flights. Until 22 Dec 23. turquoiseholidays.co.uk

Joali Being maldives beach house

Best For: A Health Kick

Joala Being

‘The Maldives? On your own?’ Until recently a solo trip to couples’ heaven was the preserve of those who’d been jilted but refused to let a good honeymoon go to waste. Activities included angrily emptying the minibar while shouting at the sea. But times have changed and there’s a new kid on the block, here to meet self-serving needs of a new health-conscious breed. 

Joali Being, the brand’s second property, claims to be a trailblazer: ‘The first dedicated wellness retreat in the Maldives.’ A world-class squad of naturopaths, therapists and nutritionists have been gathered to deliver wellbeing experiences, scientific therapies and diagnostic services in a whopping 39 treatment rooms. And it’s a joy to look at: temple-like ‘biophilic’ architecture is given a pastel palette – teal, pink, sand white – and decked with natural-fibres and miles of blonde-wood rattan. One of a combination of Joali Being’s ‘Four Pillars’ – mind, skin, microbiome and energy – are chosen for you during a consultant assessment, which then dictates everything you do and consume for the duration of your stay. The end result? ‘Weightlessness’. Much better than a husband.

BOOK IT: Villas for two from $2,142 per night B&B. Five-night Discovery Programme from $1,665pp. joalibeing.com

patina maldives

Best For: Design Mavens

Patina

Swapping typical Maldivian rustic charm for a sleek, minimal aesthetic, Patina is an interior design haven. The man-made island resort is just over a year old and is quickly becoming a Maldives hotspot loved by both millenials and families alike thanks to its slick art installations and clean lines. Expect to find neutral décor in the rooms and villas alongside subtle tropical prints, thoughtful textures and organic amenities before watching dolphins leaping in the lagoon from your private terrace and infinity pool. 

Cementing itself as a forward-thinker, the resort even has its own luxury super-yacht, Adastra, worthy of a James Bond villain that can be hired for a stunning sunset cruise. Guests are treated to complimentary ice cream from the Tuk Tuk Gelato as well as bikes, a snorkelling set, stand-up paddle board and kayaks for the more adventurous.

With an impressive kitchen garden (the burrata salad is testament to its alfresco efforts), outdoor cinema and plenty more exciting upcoming plans in the works, Patina is certainly one to watch.

BOOK IT: One-bedroom Beach Pool Villa from £1,785 on B&B basis, including transfers and up to two children can stay for free. patinahotels.com

Amilla Maldives Resort & Residences 6 bedroom apartment

Best For: Disrupting The Norm

Amilla Maldives Resort & Residences

Amilla Maldives Resort & Residences (previously Amilla Fushi) continues to be a true disruptor of the traditional Maldives experience thanks to its brilliant white minimalist cuboid villas along with a private marina, which feels much more Miami than Maldives. And then there’s the glitzy infinity pool, buzzy Emperor’s Beach Club and a spa and wellness village with offerings like Sensora light, sound and vibration therapy.

More recently, the resort has taken things a step further with a sustainability programme that goes far beyond banning plastic bottles to include The Nut – a dedicated coconut processing facility that utilises waste to make everything from cold-pressed virgin coconut oil to coco peat for the gardens. There’s also Cluckingham Palace, home to the happiest chickens in the Maldives. amilla.com

Milaidhoo Ocean Residence

Best For: Ocean Protection

Milaidhoo

Located in the UNESCO world biosphere reserve, Milaidhoo participates in the Green Globe certification process, which sets strict standards on environmental actions as well as ethical business behaviour, fair trade and compliance with international best practices and standards. While they encourage guests to undertake sustainable practices – like wearing reef safe sunscreen, leaving shells on the beach rather than taking them as souvenirs, and taking plastic bottles home to be recycled – Milaidhoo does a lot of the heavy lifting.

It has: a state-of-the-art water and STP plant to ensure no contaminants enter the ocean and to re-use grey water; eco-friendly laundry detergents; a coral reef regeneration programme; partnerships with local charities; and a comprehensive sustainability plan. Carefree relaxation indeed. milaidhoo.com

Read our full review of Milaidhoo Maldives here

Featured Image: Ritz-Carlton Maldives