For my latest travel destination, I wanted to go somewhere completely off the grid.... somewhere totally exotic where I could stare for miles and miles and not see another soul in sight. I wanted to be able to walk for yards into the warm, turquoise blue ocean and still see my feet beneath me. I yearned to sit for hours on end with my toes buried in powder-like white sand with the hot sun pounding down on me. I wanted to completely unplug and fall off the face of the Earth for a few weeks... so needless to say, I found Heaven on Earth in The Maldives. In fact, that now seems like an understatement.
The View from my over-water bungalow at NIYAMA Private Island Resort.
THE LOW DOWN:
The Republic of Maldives is located smack dab in the middle of the Indian Ocean just southwest of India, and East of Asia, and is composed of more than 1,000 coral reefs and about 2,000 really small islands called atolls. Sitting right at sea level, it is a paradise for divers and water sports enthusiasts with its famous, pristine, warm waters and rich marine resources. When I say it really looks this amazing in real life, I'm not lying. This beautiful place really looks like the screen saver that you are staring at right now in your office cubicle.
The view of NIYAMA Private Island Resort from the air taxi.
Things to know before you book your trip: The Maldives is a very conservative Muslim Country and many things are banned from entry there. When you are at a private resort the rules are not as strict, but if you do decide to venture off and visit a local island - know that alcohol, nudity, spaghetti straps, bikinis, public displays of affection, homosexuality and inappropriate language are all strictly prohibited. As with anywhere you go, it's always best to respect the local laws and culture.
I discovered that The Maldives is a destination for honeymooners and love birds upon landing at the Male' Airport... and I was the only single person on the entire Island and resort where I was staying!!! I highly recommend if you are traveling to The Maldives, you do so with someone that you really, really love and don't mind spending A LOT of alone, quiet time with. It got pretty lonely at nights - I'm not gonna lie. And with all the honeymooners - hate to say it - it was a tad bit depressing on my single girl vibe, which put a damper on all of the really amazing things I should have been enjoying with someone I really cared about.
Another note: The Maldives are an extremely expensive travel destination. I wouldn't be writing this blog post if it weren't for the fact I had over a million frequent flier miles to cash in when I decided to book my trip... (thank you 8 years of China travel hell).
With that said and out of the way, here are my super-awesome highlights from the most incredible trip in the most beautiful place on the planet!
HOW TO GET THERE:
The local air taxi - Maldives Air
Be prepared to invest an insane amount of travel time just to get there... it took me 52 hours, 5 plane changes, and an overnight stay in an airport. It is such a remote place! Then once you are there, plan on another day just to get caught up on your sleep and complete your recovery and acclimation to the jet lag. I normally don't suffer from jet lag - but this was no joke. I was so bummed to find out I woke up "the next day" and it was 21 hours after I had arrived at the resort.
In The Maldives, each and almost every atoll is its own resort, and the only way you can access these atolls is by boat or an air taxi (a plane that lands on water). I highly recommend spending the little extra money on the air taxi - the views are breathtaking, unforgettable and Instagram-worthy. I thought it would be a great experience to arrive by air taxi, and depart via boat, but in hindsight, I wish I would have spent the extra money and taken the air taxi both ways. The boat ride was about three hours long compared to the 30 minute flight, the water was extremely choppy, and I couldn't control the other passengers around me that were suffering from sea sickness. It was an awful experience I hope to never repeat.
Landing at The Sun Island Resort
WHERE TO STAY:
I decided I wanted to experience more than one resort during my lengthy stay, so I booked eight days at Sun Island, and another five days at NIYAMA Private Island Resort. Both were completely different experiences, and both at completely different price levels. I really believe you get what you pay for, and although Sun Island was nice, it was hardly the level of NIYAMA Private Islands Resort.
Sun Island is all-inclusive, which is what initially attracted me to it. The thought of having to spend an additional fee for every cocktail, activity, and meal was really a turn off, and I had such amazing experiences in the past at all-inclusive resorts. The reviews online were good, and the photos looked amazing, so I thought, why not?? Ugh. First off- the rooms were really outdated and in need of some attention and love. It was like staying at a Best Western located in a tropical wonderland. The food became very predictable after the second day, and the amenities available were not up to par as described on the website. I was very disappointed, but at the end of the day, I didn't let this bring my vacation down. If you asked me if I would ever go back to Sun Island, I wouldn't even think twice responding a hard "NO."
On the other hand, NIYAMA was an unparalleled experience. First Class all the way - from the beautiful accommodations, to the service, to the activities.... NIYAMA was the most amazing vacation, and I would do it over again in a heartbeat. There are two islands that make up the resort - one called PLAY, and one called CHILL; both self-explanatory. If you are a family, on your honeymoon, or even single, this resort has something for everyone to enjoy.
WHAT TO DO:
If adventure is your bag, then you MUST go to The Maldives. I swam with hammerhead sharks, went night snorkeling, dived with whales, paddled through an octopus garden, and touched sea turtles. The Maldives is undoubtably "nature's playground." There are countless activities to choose from, including water sports, scuba diving, fishing and boating, just to name a few. And many of them are included in your stay at the resorts! It really is an incredible place if you want to explore all that the beautiful, vast ocean has to offer.
Adventure Tip: Make sure you account for weather conditions if you plan on enjoying all of the ocean activities. As with any tropical destination, storms can come without notice. For three days of my trip, my plans were ruined by thunder, lightning and rain storms. This makes for murky water if you are going to dive or snorkel (enter lobby bar, three days in a row). The snorkeling photo below was taken during a storm. It was a waste of a day being cold and wet on the boat and zero visibility in the water.
Snorkeling all day, every day.
Nightly Tiger Shark feeding was so COOL!
If relaxing is more your speed, The Maldives have got you covered too! I spent days on end - alone, mind wandering, staring out into the ocean, toes buried in the sand... not a care in the world. Of course, I had a fruity tropical cocktail in hand, but every moment I was enjoying peace and quiet, and much needed rest and relaxation. The swim-up bar was so much fun at Sun Island. It made my trip just that much more enjoyable. I wouldn't even have to get out of the water, put on a towel and flip flops to get another drink - it was so convenient and it made socializing at the pool so much fun!
Relaxing hit all new levels in The Maldives - I would bask in the hot tub twice a day, and take full advantage of the numerous soaking tubs around the Island. Seriously, I just moved from one body of water to the next. There were countless spa experiences and treatments to choose from. I did a blissful hour and a half fusion massage that recharged my body and mind, and left me ready to face the long voyage home.
You could find me at the swim-up pool bar.
A different scene at the NIYAMA Private Island Resort pool
THE LAST WORD:
All in all, The Maldives was a FABULOUS experience that I would do again in a heartbeat. It really is Heaven on Earth - the most beautiful place I have ever been. I can't wait to return someday with someone that I love and can share all of the wondrous beauty that The Maldives have to offer. Enjoy your trip!
Cheers, Meghan Fabulous
The Republic of The Maldives:
Sun Island Resort & Spa:
NIYAMA Private Island Resort: