Just Back: A Family Vacation to The Maldives

Stacey Loftus Cohen, a senior luxury travel advisor with Royal Travel & Tours, took a family vacation to the Maldives and is back with great advice onhow to select two resorts for those with varying interests.

Kids growing up? Check. Harder to get the calendars to align? Check. Getting the chance to take my four children on a bucket list trip? Check. Check. Check.

The Maldives has always been high on our collective list of places we wanted to see. As my older children were graduating college and beginning their real lives, I wanted this trip to be one for the memory books. And having just returned, the Maldives did not disappoint.

Stacey Loftus Cohen
Stacey Loftus Cohen says, “For anyone considering
going to the Maldives, prioritizing your wishes will be
helpful in determining which resorts and which atolls
would be best to maximize the enjoyment of your
(Photo Courtesy Stacey Loftus Cohen)

A trip of this distance requires specific planning and since we had limited time, I wanted to be sure that we could maximize our time there. For reference, the Maldives is made up of over 1,200 islands, with only about 200 being inhabited. The Maldives is also organized in clusters or atolls, of which there are 20. As we were only going to be in the Maldives for a comparatively short trip and I wanted to stay at two different properties, I was thoughtful about how and where we could do this best.

Our outbound journey began in Chicago where we were able to escape a day before the frigid temperatures paralyzed the skies. We flew via New York-JFK to Doha, Qatar, where we had a short layover before continuing on to Male, the capital of the Maldives. From Male, we took a sea plane over to Vilamendhoo Island Resort and Spa, our first resort in the South Ari Atoll of the Maldives.

In researching where to go, I took into account what was important for my family. Each one of my kids had specific wishes. My two oldest children are scuba-certified and I wanted to find a property where scuba and snorkeling were exceptional. All of us were also interested in the chance to swim with whale sharks, so I searched for properties where that would be possible. Vilamendhoo has one of the best house reefs in the South Ari Atoll and this was a huge plus for us.

It is a known secret that taking a sea plane is a great way to have a “free” sightseeing flight over the gorgeous azure waters and the various other islands of the Maldives. Upon landing at Vilamendhoo, we were greeted warmly by the staff with a non-alcoholic welcome drink and cool towels. Fortunately, one of our rooms was available when we arrived in the morning, so we were able to change and start to enjoy our vacation. We stayed in the over-water bungalows and it was just as breathtaking as imagined.

Stacey Loftus Cohen with family
The family was only going to be in the Maldives for a comparatively short trip, so they wanted to stay at two different properties. (Photo courtesy Stacey Loftus Cohen)

The resort at Vilamendhoo is divided between a younger family area with beachfront villas and the more adult-area of the resort. Since my children are all over 18, we were staying at the adult area, which included the over-water bungalows. The resort had buffet-style restaurants as well as two different bars where you could order à la carte items. And, since it was Festive, they had a number of additional great offerings and activities for the guests.

Immediately upon arrival, we went to the dive shop and rented snorkel equipment for the duration of our stay. We also signed up for a whale shark excursion and a sea turtle and manta ray excursion. The resort also offered a complimentary sunset sail for their guests to enjoy once during their stay.   

Every morning at Vilamendhoo started with putting on our bathing suits and snorkeling directly off our room. We swam over to the reef where the resort had marked “openings” and we would snorkel along the reef that circled the island. On the edge of the reef was a drop off, just like in "Finding Nemo" and it was along this reef that we saw incredible sea life. We were able to see all types of beautifully colored fish, sting, eagle and manta rays and many black and white tip reef sharks. We even had a private impromptu audience with a sea turtle for about 15 minutes with only us in the area. It was absolutely mesmerizing and a unique way to start the day.

The Maldives
The Maldives is made up of over 1,200 islands, with only about 200 being inhabited. (Photo Courtesy Stacey Loftus Cohen)

Following our morning snorkel, we would have a wonderful breakfast and make use of the amenities at the resort. Vilamendhoo has a fitness center, a tennis court and a spa for their guests to enjoy. The sunset cruise was a perfect way to finish our day and we were accompanied by many, many spinner dolphins showing off their acrobatic skills to the excited shrieks and applause of all of us on the boat. The excursions to see the whale sharks was also a successful one as we were all able to snorkel alongside these magnificent creatures. Their size can be startling, but these gentle giants are nothing to fear. We also were able to swim with a manta ray and a sea turtle on our excursion, but that experience pales in comparison with the private turtle experience we had on the hotel reef.

After four activity-filled days at Vilamendhoo and an extravagant Christmas celebration, we said goodbye and traveled by speedboat transfer to our second resort, LUX* South Ari Atoll. I did not want to lose a day changing properties and transferring with a speedboat is the most time-effective way to see a second resort in the same atoll.

LUX* South Ari Atoll
AT LUX* South Ari Atoll, every morning, the staff would
hide bottles with messages and gift certificates for those
lucky enough to find them.
(Photo Courtesy Stacey Loftus Cohen)

We were greeted with the same friendly welcome and cool towel and we quickly settled in our over-water bungalows. I knew that LUX* would not have the same reef encounters but that it would be a more luxurious experience with fun offerings for families with children of all ages. For example, every morning, the staff would hide bottles with messages and gift certificates for those lucky enough to find them. The certificates ranged from a bottle of prosecco to a parasailing experience. Since this island was long and narrow, LUX* had a continuously running golfcart-style tram that would ferry the guests from end to end. There was a wonderful variety of restaurants from Middle Eastern, Italian, Continental and Asian with  à la carte ordering as well as a coffee shop and ice cream parlor.

Although LUX* did not have a reef directly off shore, they offered daily trips to a nearby house reef for the guests with plenty of fish in residence. In addition, they also had a great dive shop with scuba and snorkeling trips, paddle boarding, parasailing, hoverboard and jet pack experiences. LUX* also had a large fitness center, tennis courts and outside play area with bocce, ping-pong, etc. There was plenty to keep us busy and as we were with Vilamendhoo, we were sad to say goodbye to LUX*.

The Maldives
In researching where to go, Loftus Cohen took into account what was important for her family. Each one of her kids had specific wishes. (Photo Courtesy Stacey Loftus Cohen)

Although the Maldives was quite a long distance to travel, it was definitely worth the experience. Both resorts were at capacity yet it never felt crowded at all. The service was impeccable and we were able to make real connections with the staff and other guests. For anyone considering going to the Maldives, prioritizing your wishes will be helpful in determining which resorts and which atolls would be best to maximize the enjoyment of your trip.

Visiting two resorts was perfect for our family to have two different experiences in one glorious trip to the Maldives. Great family vacation for all of us? Check!

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