“OMG, I have always wanted to go there!”
“Why are you flying half way around the world to go to a beach?”
I love talking travel, but no place elicits the same three comments more than the Maldives. It has become an inside joke for my husband and I as we can tell a lot about the person based on which comment they make when talking to us about this country.
The Maldives are NOT just another beach destination. From the moment you see the atolls from the plane window, you know you have entered a dream place. The difference starts the moment you leave the arrivals lounge at the airport – you are whisked away to your island paradise either by one of the many boats in the large marina just outside the airport or by one of the plethora of sea planes.
Our paradise home of choice was Como Cocoa Island in the South Malé Atoll. There are many outstanding places to choose from, but we chose Cocoa Island due to our adoration for the Como brand as we are obsessed with their Turks & Caicos resort, Como Parrot Cay. We spent nine unbelievable days at this tropical wonderland, choosing not to island hop.
Cocoa Island is a tiny island, accessible only via private boat with permission to dock. After a 30-40-minute boat ride, we were warmly greeted by some of the senior resort staff. They told us all about the island and all the while we were wide eyed and blown away to realize we were standing on paradise!
The first thing you see when taken to your room is the amazing teak wood villas all in a row over the water connected via a boardwalk. Some of them are shaped like houses, others are shaped like dhoni boats which made for an intriguing part of the design.
All the villas are over the water to allow for some amazing unobstructed beach access all the way around the island – some of the largest to be found in the Maldives.
We spent so much time saying, “Look! Look! Look!” just from the short walk via the boardwalk from our villa to the bar. So many fish to see just by looking down into the crystal-clear water. Snorkeling was like entering another world as the fish and coral are like small cities just outside of the villas. My husband opted to scuba dive and he found entire large schools of fish that made movies like Finding Nemo come to life.
Tearing ourselves away from the pristine, white sandy beach that usually were occupied by just the two of us, we did spend time at the spa, operated by the world renown group – Como Shamabala. Discreetly placed so you can enjoy the island but have complete privacy.
We took a sunset cruise and were entertained by spinner dolphins – the first time we had seen those in person. It was another “Look! Look!” moment. We did try to go on the whale shark excursion, but weather was not cooperating with us. Whale sharks are the largest fish species and the excursion a must do to see these rare creatures!
After lazy days, where the only decisions were what we wanted to drink, order for food and which part of the beach to make our home for the day, our last day came much faster than we anticipated, and we found ourselves sighing constantly in regret knowing that reality was coming whether we wanted it or not!
A few tips and tricks about the Maldives:
Expenses – Yes, you can read all kinds of articles about doing the Maldives on the cheap. But, for Americans, who are investing in time and money to fly half way around the world, it is not worth it to scrimp on this trip. In terms of how to budget for the trip, know that food and beverage costs per day are almost as much as the daily room rate at some of the hotels. Whether you choose an all-inclusive option or not, the food cost is expensive.
Hotel Types – Because the high-end resorts are on their own islands, it is critical to do a lot of research on where you will be “marooned” for your time there. Or if island hopping, how the timing will work out.
Environment – The islands making up the Maldives make it the lowest elevated country in the world. Large land masses are few and far between but trash from boats is a problem. One factor to analyze in your decision should be how the resort handles their environmental footprint since each island is responsible for its own electricity, potable water and sanitation.
Drinkable Water – The water in the Maldives is filtered desalinated sea water and is devoid of many of the minerals needed to stay hydrated. It is fine to use for showers, brushing teeth, etc but if the resort does not provide bottled water, bring supplements to add to the water for yourself to avoid dehydration.
Sunscreen – This place is not the time to skimp on sunscreen. You are incredibly close to the equator and there are very few places, other than the villa, spa and bar to escape from the sun. And, your local convenience store is not just a 5-minute walk away!
Weather – The rainy season is May – October. We arrived just as June was starting and for the most part had nice weather but usually had rain showers once a day. We did have one day of just intense rain – when you stay in overwater bungalows – rainy weather with wind creates a new experience of like being in a boat but grounded in a house!
Religion – The Maldives officially are Muslim in religion. However, each island chooses how to handle the rules so typically alcohol is served, and it is okay for women to be uncovered. Our island had a tiny mosque but no adhan, call to prayer, broadcasted as that was heard from the next island. Be mindful of the Muslim culture when on Malé, the main island and capital of Maldives.
Envy – Be envious of those people in Asia and the Middle East who can get to any one of the fabulous resorts in the Maldives via short flights! It is worth every minute you are in an uncomfortable airline seat to get to this amazing place!
All photos belong to: @michaelblachly