3 ways to enjoy the island archipelago—from the luxe to the adventurous.

As a Pioneer

Pretty much every Maldivian resort claims to be the first to do something. But while others compete to add more and more shiny new amenities, Maalifushi by COMO really has gone out on a limb: earlier this year, it became the first luxury resort to open in the remote Thaa Atoll, meaning you can be among the first to explore the pristine waters stretching off in all directions. Hardcore surfers have long known that the nearby Farms break is world-class (the season runs from April to October), but the resident marine biologist and dive masters are still discovering new spots to explore every day. We finished our PADI at Maalifushi and such was the diversity of sealife that it basically ruined diving for us forever. The resort itself features 50 rooms and suites, 15 villas on land and over water, as well as three restaurants, including sunset views from Japanese fine-dining spot Tai. It’s stylish without being overbearing, and its sheer remoteness makes the whole thing feel like the best of adventures. Rates start from US$650/night ($820), including transfer by domestic airline (it’s an additional US$550 ($700) per person for the seaplane)—the airport is a 25 minute speedboat ride away, from where it’s 35 minutes back to Male. Find more info here

Like Royalty

If uncomplicated luxe is what you’re after (and let’s face it, most visitors to the Maldives are) then Huvafen Fushi is hard to beat. Just 30 minutes by private speedboat transfer from Male, it’s even feasible as a weekend break from Singapore. It’s smaller (just 43 bungalows) than many of the bigger name resorts, meaning more personalized service and few people around to interrupt your tropical daydreaming (unsurprisingly, it’s a celebrity favorite). The big draw here is LIME, the world’s first underwater spa: both it and the resort have won their share of design awards, and Huvafen frequently tops the glossy magazine best-of lists. But it’s not all glitz and glamour—one of our most memorable experiences was feeding stingrays by hand as the sun went down. We also saw more sharks here than anywhere else (in the diving world that’s apparently a good thing). Rates start from $1,048 for a double room, including breakfast for two. Book through Mr and Mrs Smith and you’ll also get Champagne and fruit on arrival. Find out more here

On a Budget

Don’t be fooled by the Maldives’ reputation as a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon destination—thanks to Tigerair (see below) it’s cheaper than ever to get there, and there are a growing number of affordable accommodation options if you’re willing to forego extreme luxury (and, on the local islands, alcohol). Since 2009, locals have been allowed to open their own guesthouses, and now beach houses and homestays go for as little as $50/night through Airbnb. We’ve heard good things about the Amazing Noovilu Guesthouse ($163/night, including three meals), which offers excursions like manta watching and dolphin spotting from $50 and is accessible via a 1h20min public speedboat ride ($25) from Male to Mahibadoo (find the schedule here). Another option is to book with Secret Paradise who also offer local island-hopping packages (using public ferries) from US$450 ($570) for three days to US$1,099 ($1,390) for eight days.

Essentials

GETTING THERE

The cheapest direct flights to the Maldivian capital Male are with Tigerair. Fares vary depending on the season but expect to pay around $400. You can also get there with Singapore Airlines, from $780 return.

Once you’re there, most of the top-end resorts will help with transfer to and from Male. To travel between resorts you’ll typically need to go back through Male.

VISA, CURRENCY AND TAX

Free visa permits are issued on arrival. US dollars and credit cards are used at all resorts. In local islands you’ll want rufiyaa ($1=12MVR). Note that most room rates do not include tax, which from Nov 1 increases to 22.4%.

WHEN TO GO

Temperatures are usually 26-30°C, with the high season from January to March. Mid-May to November is monsoon season, so you can expect some rain.