I’ll caveat this post by saying that if the Maldives is on your bucket list and it’s been your dream to go, you should go! It’s an absolutely beautiful part of the world, and you will undoubtedly love it. The overwater villas are unique, the water color is unreal, and the fact that most islands only have one resort on them is pretty neat.
With that being said, if you’re considering the Maldives among other options there were definitely some elements I didn’t love that I think you should take into consideration. I bucketed them into these 3 categories:
- Travel time
Most people have to travel immense lengths to reach the Maldives because it is so remote and very far away. To give you an idea, it took me about 36 hours of travel time from my house in San Francisco to arrive at the resort. My first flight was 15.5 hours from San Francisco to Doha, my second flight from Doha to Male was 4.5 hours and my 3rd flight was a 45 minute seaplane transfer that made a stop at another resort before arriving at the St. Regis. Keep in mind, you have to do that all again on the way home. 😉
The fact that it is so hard to reach, might be a draw in and of itself. Some of my most memorable vacations have been in far-flung destinations, but the Maldives felt like a step further. It felt isolating. About 20 minutes into the seaplane transfer to the resort, it hit me that we were going to be staying in the middle of nowhere in the Indian Ocean. It also crossed my mind (more than once during our stay) that this would not be a place you’d be able to leave quickly in case of emergency.
It will surprise no one that the Maldives is an expensive vacation spot. The multi-flight itinerary, mandatory seaplane transfers, food, and activities really start to add up quickly. Plus, there is a hefty tax on everything. A lot of the prices seem justifiable given the remote location, and everything from the furniture to the food has been imported. I am all for a “When in Rome” mentality about vacation costs, but spending hundreds of dollars at every meal starts to get old and can detract from the stay. Here is a rough breakdown of what you could expect to pay for meals for 2 people not including alcohol:
I read in some reviews that the Maldives lacked culture, but I didn’t really understand what that meant until I arrived. About 50% of the resort staff is Maldivian, which was nice. However, there isn’t anything about Maldivian culture infused into the experience. This might be different at other resorts, but that was my experience at the St. Regis.
Trying local cuisine is always one of my favorite parts of traveling, so I was disappointed there wasn’t any local cuisine on offer. The restaurants on property served Asian, Middle Eastern and International cuisine mostly.
And lastly, which may sound obvious, but there isn’t any action or Maldivian life happening to observe/participate in other than the resort. It makes sense, since the only thing on the island is the resort, but it’s worth pointing out.
Considerations about where to go instead
None of these points will be surprising if you’ve looked into visiting the Maldives, but I think it’s worth thinking hard about what you actually want to get out of your vacation. Here are 2 alternatives to consider:
- Far-flung, but you can get there in 2 flights
- Reasonable prices once you arrive
- Rich history and culture that is easy to observe/participate in
- Similar overwater villa accommodations to the Maldives
- Polynesian hospitality
- Prices and transfers to the resort might be similar in cost/effort to the Maldives
* I’ve never been to Bora Bora, but it is often compared to the Maldives. I guess I know where I need to go next now!