The Maldives: A beginner's guide
The Maldives has been on my holiday hit-list for as long as I can remember. However, when I finally got the chance to go, I realised that what I know about this island nation could fit on the back of a very small postcard: the capital is Malé; the beaches are idyllic; the weather is lovely. Click on to discover what I learned from my once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Lesson one: set your holiday style
I'd always assumed that Maldives resorts were pretty much interchangeable, but that's not the case. Different resorts have very different personalities - some are particularly family-friendly, others are particularly strong on spa-ing, for example.<br /><br />I stayed at One&Only Reethi Rah, which perfectly suited my personal getaway priority: privacy. This is one of the larger private islands, with 12 delicious beaches sweeping across six kilometres of coastline. Each morning, I sauntered down to the ocean in my PJs for a pre-breakfast paddle without another person in sight.<br /><br /><a href="https://www.oneandonlyresorts.com/one-and-only-reethi-rah-maldives" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">oneandonlyresorts.com</a>
Water Villa, One&Only Reethi Rah
When you've chosen your resort, think carefully about accommodation options, too. <br /><br />Water villas, perched on stilts above the ocean, look great and are hugely popular with honeymooners. However, I loved staying in a beach villa, with a pool, outdoor dining area, shaded daybed and hammock. My advice? Book one week on the water and one on the beach.<br /><br />
Water Villa, One&Only Reethi Rah
Grand Beach Villa, One&Only Reethi Rah
Each villa at One&Only Reethi Rah comes with bicycles, allowing you to zip around the island at ease. If, like me, you're disinclined to use pedal power - believe it or not, I've never learnt how to ride a bike - you also get a mobile phone, so you can call for a chauffeur-driven golf buggy wherever you are.
Lesson two: Investigate off-peak
High season in The Maldives is December to April, as that's when you'll get the best weather. I made my trip in the more wallet-friendly low season, meaning the temperature was still high but there was a greater chance of rain. Indeed, there were a few epic downpours, but I wasn't too bothered - I was quite happy reading my Kindle, sprawled on the massive, comfy bed. Sun-lovers may not see things quite the same way, of course, so think about how disappointed you'd be if you didn't get consistent blue skies.
Lesson three: Work that budget
Whatever season you choose, The Maldives can still be pretty pricey when you get there, as almost everything has to be flown in - factor in spending money when you're calculating your honeymoon budget. <br /><br />Remember, staying at a private island resort means you won't be able to steal away to a local restaurant for the odd less-spendy dinner.<br /><br />Check what's included in your rate - activities such as watersports are unlikely to be included.
Lesson four: Get ready for romance
When you're working out your budget, do factor in extra funds for special experiences. The Maldives really is made for romance - those perfect views, that soft sand, those balmy evenings - and most resorts make the most of the stunning setting with with dining à deux ideas for newlyweds. At One&Only Reethi Rah, I particularly loved lazy breakfasts in the privacy of my villa, but you could also have a private beach dinner under the stars or supper aboard a traditional boat. <br /><br /><br />
Lesson five: Think beyond the beach
I have to confess, before my trip I was concerned that I'd get a bit bored being on one island the whole time. Thankfully, there were plenty of distractions at One&Only Reethi Rah. The Maldives are known as a diver's paradise, and the PADI scuba centre was perfect for both absolute beginners and keen scuba-holics. You can also hire a pedal and snorkelling equipment, and head off to explore the wonders of the house reef. For a glam aquatic experience, I'd recommend the dolphin-spotting catamaran tour.<br /><br />Back on dry land, there's an artist's studio with creative classes, a climbing wall and - my favourite - a stunning spa. There are five excellent restaurants and three bars - Fanditha is a must for watching the sunset with something cold and delicious.
There are places in life that are so over-hyped that they cannot fail to disappoint. Not so The Maldives - these islands really are as amazing and honeymoon-perfect as everyone says. Yes, it's a pricey destination; yes, it's a long flight. But if you're planning a holiday of a lifetime, a Maldives island resort is hard to beat. I say: go.