Sarah Bolton on 04 May 2009
Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to go on an educational trip to the Maldives. With the Maldives being a popular destination for honeymoons, anniversaries and luxury exotic holidays, it was a wonderful opportunity to see some of the islands for myself, and see what the different hotels have to offer. We visited a total of 8 properties, and did in-depth "site inspections" of each one, to give us a real insight into them. It was extremely useful to see these as although they are all 5* properties, each one of them is different in style, location, size, facilities, and the clients that they are aimed at. We also experienced all forms of transfers, including domestic flights (from Male to Hanimaadhoo), speedboats, luxury yacht cruisers and seaplanes - all of which are amazing and should be viewed as part of the holiday experience. Seaplanes, although more expensive than speedboats, are a fantastic way of seeing the Maldives and its atolls, islands and colours.

We flew into Male with Emirates Airlines (via Dubai), landing in the early hours of the morning. Having not visited the Maldives before I hadn't realised how easy transfers were, and how slick the operations are between the airport and the hotels. All the hoteliers have stands at the airports and have staff waiting to meet their guests off their flights and take them to the appropriate place for their transfers - whether it is to the speedboat harbour just outside the arrivals area, or to run you round to the other side of the terminal for the seaplane dock. (NB Seaplanes only operate in daylight hours, however speedboat transfers operate at any time).

Although we were visiting at the start of what is deemed to be the rainy season, we had a full week of beautiful sunny days and high temperatures (the only rain occurring as a wonderful tropical storm in the early hours of our last night - and this cleared up before sunrise). Speaking to the hoteliers, they were all saying the same thing, that like many places worldwide, there now seems to be no distinct dry and rainy seasons, and that the Maldives really is a year-round destination.

I'll try to summarise my thoughts on each hotel:

Four Seasons Kuda Hura on North Male atoll - only a 25 minute speedboat transfers, making it an ideal location especially if arriving in the early hours of the morning - possibly making this the 1st of a twin-centre holiday. Tranquil, elegant, garden/beach setting. Unique point: spa situated on its own island, which is accessed by a small dhoni (traditional boat)

Cocoa Island on South Male atoll - a small island, with rustic-style accommodation and aimed at those people seeking peace and quiet, and a holistic/spiritual holiday. Unique point: all accommodation is situated over the water, including some shaped in the form of a large dhoni.

The Beach House at Manafaru on Haa Alifu atoll - the most northerly of all the island resorts, offering a real feel of being in the tropics and in amongst nature, but with very contemporary accommodation and dining. The waters around the north are supposed to be some of the best for marine-life. Unique point: excellent facilities including an "Amazon" swimming pool.

Island Hideaway Dhonakulhi on Haa Alifu atoll - in the north of the Maldives, the shallow waters around the island offer the most amazing snorkelling opportunities. Unique point: everyone has a bicycle to get around.

Baros Maldives on North Male atoll - exclusive feel with no children under 8 accepted. Recommendation: try the degustation menu at The Lighthouse - where every dish has been paired with an exceptional wine.

Kanuhura on Lhaviyani atoll - very friendly, welcoming feel for all age groups (kids are particularly well catered for). Wide range of facilities and restaurants, and one of the best watersports centres we saw. Recommendation: have dinner at the Veli Cafe - and look out for the resident heron.

One & Only Reethi Rah on North Male atoll - large island with many beaches and facilities. Accommodation is out of this world in stunning Asian inspired villas. Unique point: has one of the top spas in the world.

Huvafen Fushi on North Male atoll - a wonderful natural island. Unique point: have a treatment at the world's only underwater spa, with amazing views of the coral reefs outside the windows.

To summarise: a wonderful group of islands, which are well-worth twin-centring to give contrast.