The best hotels in the Maldives with overwater bungalows, including top-notch restaurants and soothing spas

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Fiji’s got them, Tahiti too, you can even find a few scattered around South East Asia but nowhere so does overwater bungalows better than the Maldives. Here, the most seductive of honeymoon hideaways come with private infinity pools, bubbling whirlpools, whoop-whoop water slides, dining tables set above glass-bottom floors, ceilings that roll back to reveal a glitter bomb of stars, and unfettered access to the clear, bath-warm Indian Ocean and its throngs of multicoloured corals and fantastical sea creatures. Here’s our pick of the best hotels in the Maldives with overwater bungalows, suites and villas to suit all budgets, from boat-shaped sleeping quarters and traditional huts on stilts to contemporary new kids on the block with private decks and romantic whirlpools under the stars. 

Located in the southern Dhaalu Atoll, this far-flung tropical island resort has taken its design inspiration from Maldivian lagoon life and the results are sensational. Eye-popping organic architecture flows through the resort, from the powerful curves of the Whale Bar to the twisting conch-shell-shaped boutique to the lobster-shaped spa with six overwater treatment rooms positioned in the pincers. The 77 villas are split into three categories: entry-level garden villas concealed in the jungle; peak roofed beach villas hugging the blinding white shore; and vast overwater villas, the best of which face west towards the sunset and expansive Indian Ocean. All are huge and every single one comes with a butler and its own private swimming pool.


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£
585
Small though this island is, its natural beauty provides huge allure. Shifting sands, pronounced tides and its come-and-go sandbank mean its composition is magically mercurial. COMO’s pared-back aesthetic blends in tastefully: the spa is furnished with simple wicker chairs; the shaded yoga pavilion’s dark-wood floors contrast beautifully with the ocean; swing seats hang from palms. The idyllic little island’s 34 overwater villas extend from cute Dhoni Water Villa cabins shaped like traditional Maldivian boats to expansive retreats with private pools. They are understated, sophisticated and arguably among the most beautiful villas in the Maldives.


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£
487

Soneva Jani

Noonu Atoll, Maldives

9
Telegraph expert rating

This Robinson Crusoe-style getaway is the bucket-list holiday of dreams. The 25 luxurious overwater villas come in seven categories starting with a One Bedroom Water Retreat (with no slide due to the low tide), up to the Four Bedroom Island Reserve with a massive pool. The resort is decked out in white-washed wood, and muted tones with splashes of purple and green to complement the crystalline water seen from nearly every angle. The Gathering building serves as the main dining area, with multiple levels of seating and a slide to zip down between courses. This massive structure also holds the four-room spa, the kid’s centre, the gym, a private tasting room and the gift shop.


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1,353
Six Senses Laamu achieves a neat trick of seeming organic and sustainable while offering the utmost decadence. Woodwork features heavily, especially with the stilted ocean villas which stretch out from the island into the Indian Ocean. Guests are requested to stay barefoot the entire time they are in the resort – unless they’re wearing flippers for snorkelling. The resort is home to six bars and restaurants. Vegetables and herbs are grown on-site where possible and, if you don’t mind munching on fish you may well have seen earlier in the day around the reef, the seafood is first rate. If you’re the sort of person who believes that dinner can only be enjoyed when adhering to a strict dress code, this probably isn’t the place for you. The spa is first rate.


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£
538
Breaking the traditional Maldivian mould, this ultra-modern, playful resort has gone for a contemporary, super yacht-inspired design with blindingly white architecture, vibrant pops of red and pink and a youthful, energetic vibe. The 67 two-level villas perched on stilts over the Indian Ocean or on the beach are huge even by Maldivian standards, with bright nautical décor accented by pops of pink. Spacious living rooms feature comfy sofas and day beds, a guest bathroom and floor-to-ceiling windows and doors leading out to a private sun terrace with infinity pool and lounge area. The crowning glory is the rooftop deck where guests can host an intimate dinner party with a private chef or watch a film under the stars.


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£
848
When Jean-Michel Gathy designed Cheval Blanc Randheli, he raised the benchmark the world over for sumptuous, yet tasteful, villas; vast in scale, yet detail driven, where guests are immersed in sensory hedonism. Accommodation ranges from overwater villas, island villas and beach garden villas. Each features a sleek swimming pool, hammock, loungers and a huge daybed. Feeling generous? Plump for the owner’s villa with four bedrooms on its own private island plus a one-bedroom cottage nearby. Interiors throughout the rooms draw on driftwood and shells, ceramic pieces by Gaia and petrified wood. A dedicated majordomo (butler), looks after you and plans your day.


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£
4,316

JOALI

Muravandhoo, Maldives

9
Telegraph expert rating

If JOALI were a person, it would be Lauren Bacall – cool, classy, sophisticated and seductive – but with an added warmth that is utterly irresistible. This is also one of the most sensuous resorts you could hope to visit – it’s all about delighting the senses. The enormous villas, exemplary service, exquisite food and fabulous amenities exceed most people’s expectations by some considerable margin. There are 73 villas in six categories, starting with a spacious suite on the beach and culminating in a deluxe three-bedroom overwater apartment with two pools. All villas have traditional thatched roofs, sea views and an infinity pool. Most villas have outdoor baths and showers.


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£
1,372
This chic resort on Sirru Fen Fushi – or ‘secret water island’ – offers a blissful blend of creamy white beaches and lush forest reaching out into untouched ocean. The island’s 120 chic villas offer an overwater, jungle or beach setting. With vaulted ceilings above expansive beds, coral-shaped rugs, macrame finishes and ornately carved furniture, the standard offering comes with direct access to the beach, along with plunge pool and outdoor bathtub. The overwater villas are decked out similarly, but here, vast copper tubs sit inside spacious bathrooms, with double vanities, suspended rope and glass bauble chandeliers and uninterrupted ocean views.


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£
499
This elegant tropical reimagining of the original Raffles Singapore is a refreshing change in the Maldives; think breezy verandahs, checkered floor tiles, striped monsoon blinds, lazily turning fans and louvre windows. The beach is a perfect ring of platinum sands, haloed by watery ribbons of turquoise, aquamarine and royal blue and coral reefs teeming with colourful fish. More than 20 resident hawksbill turtles have been identified as living around the island and it’s almost impossible not to bump into at least one of them during your stay. Alternatively, you could stay on Meradhoo’s overwater retreat, a loop of villas and leisure facilities sitting completely separate from the island, reached via a two-minute boat ride.


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£
646
Modern and minimalist, there’s not a hint of traditional Robinson Crusoe-style thatch and timber at this contemporary resort, which feels more French Riviera than Maldives. Social spaces include a glitzy infinity pool and the buzzy Emperor Beach Club (home to a café, wine cellar, general store, games room, artist studio, fashion boutique and photography studio). The whitewashed, minimalist ‘homes’ are perched on stilts over the Indian Ocean, on the pristine white shore or 12 metres high amongst the treetops, each with a private lap pool. Bright white interiors feature abstract prints, sleek lines and natural wood furnishings while huge bathrooms come with double monsoon showers, egg-shaped bathtubs and indulgent Aesop toiletries.


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£
634
A grown-up, sophisticated retreat conveying a sense of tropical grandeur with its coconut boulevard (a long sandy path lined either side with towering palm trees) leading from the arrival jetty to an enormous two-level open-air reception. Traditional Maldivian architecture is complemented with chic contemporary interiors, while the resort’s dazzling white sandbank stretching out into the Indian Ocean adds the wow factor. Ultra-private Maldivian-style beach and water villas feature steep thatched roofs, coral walls, snuggly beds and cosy living areas in island-style turquoise and sand hues as well as enormous bathrooms with twin vanities, indoor and outdoor showers, separate bathtubs and organic toiletries.


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The Nautilus has all the tropical hallmarks of the Maldives you’d expect: white sand pathways, lofty palms and stained wood boardwalks. This is the epitome of ‘barefoot luxury’ – it would be easy to cast off your flip-flops on arrival and not feel the need to put them back on until the moment you depart. There are 26 beachside and overwater houses – quite close together but that’s not unusual for the Maldives – found beachside or on stilts overwater. All have private pools and high ceilings with wooden bead chandeliers and conical-shaped roofs. One particularly impressive feature of the overwater houses is the glass flooring in the living room – guests can look down to fish buzzing among the stilts.


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£
1,517

Kanuhura

Maldives

9
Telegraph expert rating

By Maldivian standards Kanuhura is large. The island’s ample size, and the fact that it’s completely ringed by dazzling white sands, means you never have to look far to find a patch of paradise to yourself. Generously spaced across the island are 80 villas, 60 right on the beach and a further 20 stilted over the water. All are big and bright with a sunny Californian vibe – whitewashed woods, geometric prints, some with flashes of coral, others with splashes of turquoise and teal – as well as zen-cool outdoor bathrooms and wooden decks rolling straight onto the sand or into the sea. Kanuhura has enough activities to keep you busy for weeks on end, and there are five bars and restaurants to choose from. It’s ideal for families, couples and solo travellers.


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£
338
Milaidhoo may not have the flashy décor or jaw-dropping amenities offered by its competitors, but it excels in providing a sense of place. The spa, small boutique, restaurants and bars cluster on one end of the island, while the beach-front villas and diving centre are dotted around the other half. A wooden bridge connects to a series of overwater villas, built on stilts above turquoise waters.
Everything here prompts you to take off your shoes (as many guests do) and reset your mind to island time. The occasional rustling of leaves (coming from the odd lizard zipping across the path) and chirping from birds provide a calming soundtrack, while sea lettuce shrubs and hibiscus plants provide plenty of shading and privacy between villas.


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£
1,078

Contributions by Grace Holliday, Jenny Johnson, Jamie Lafferty, Mary Lussiana, Katie Lockhart, Adrian Neville, John O’Caellaigh, Simon Parker, Venus Wong & Xenia Taliotis

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