Ultimate Maldives Travel Guide & Review of the Riu Atoll
Travellers, holidaymakers, and those just seeking a luxury escape will often dream of a trip to the Maldives. Many people don’t even know where the Maldives are or think it is out of their budget. But, don’t be deterred. Paradise is calling, and it can be surprisingly affordable. This Maldives Travel Guide will give you everything you need to know about taking your dream holiday on the Riu hotel and resort or other similar luxury islands.
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Maldives Travel Guide | Quick Links
Quick reference guide
Which Maldives Island to Choose?
The Maldives is a series of tropical islands (over 1000) set within the Indian Ocean, just south of Sri Lanka. This location is known for its luxurious vacations, white sand beaches, palm trees, and crystal clear waters.
This spectacular destination is formed by 26 natural atolls, each containing a slice of paradise. Atolls are coral formations that typically have a reef that fringes a central lagoon and houses a handful of small coral islands. Only about a quarter of the islands are habited, with approximately 90 of them home to tourist resorts.
The Maldives resorts are typically luxurious, exclusive, and cater to those who like a stress-free, all-inclusive experience. However, it is hard to know where to stay and which island is best with so many Maldives Islands to choose from.
This Maldives Travel Guide reflects my experiences at the Riu Palace Maldivas, located on the private island of Kedhigandu on the Dhaalu Atoll. That being said, many of the resorts have similar all-inclusive facilities.
Travelling to the Maldives Islands
If you’re travelling to the Maldives internationally, you will probably land at the Male International Airport (Velena) in the capital. But, unfortunately, the travel doesn’t stop there. Depending on your final destination, it is likely you will still have a lot of travel ahead.
The best time to visit the Maldives islands in the Indian Ocean is between December and March, as this is the dry season, but this is also the peak time and most expensive.
Check out the best travel resources online for useful links and recommendations to help you plan your travel. I have selected a few great Maldives deals for you to consider below:
- 5* all-inclusive Maldives escape with diving – NAKAI Dhiggiri Resort, Dhiggiri, Vaavu Atoll .
- Tui Package Holiday to Riu Palace Maldivas – if booking during summer, use code SUMMER to get up to £100 off.
Maldives Travel Guide to Domestic Flights
Travel to any of the Maldivian islands will usually require a domestic flight. The flight is not long, and the small airlines could easily rival the quality you expect from your local travel providers. However, they run a somewhat irregular schedule for such a popular holiday destination.
If you’re booking a package holiday (like I did with Tui), it will probably include a disclaimer to say that the domestic flight time cannot be guaranteed. Unless you’re lucky or book a flight separately, you will have a long wait. For example, we waited 5 hours for our flight to Dhaalu airport.
However, TUI gave us free access to the airport lounge, which helped save money. In addition, the lounge was comfortable and provided light snacks and hot and cold drinks, which helped ease the pain of another long wait. To purchase lounge access separately costs around $45.
5 Tips for Domestic flight travel
1) Check the domestic scheduled flight time before you book. While the schedule might change, it will give you an idea of how long you might have to wait if this information isn’t already provided.
2) Splurge for the seaplane transfer. If you book your flight separately, pay a little extra for the seaplane, which will actually land on the sea!
3) Avoid late international flights home. While you might think that you get a full extra day on vacation, this is not the reality. If other tourists are catching flights much earlier than you, you will need to leave the Riu atoll at the same time. This can mean a really long wait at the airport (mine was 7 hours!).
4) Don’t under-estimate the airport security. The local airports are really strict about what you can pack. I had small nail scissors confiscated from my hand luggage and several people got their hold bags searched because they had packed lighters or cans of beer.
5) Visit Male. If you have time on your hands, you can easily catch a short boat or taxi to Male, the capital. Remember that the Maldives is a Muslim country, so be respectful and ensure you dress appropriately for the culture.
Airport Transfer Guide
If you’re not arriving at the seaplane terminal, you will need to catch a coach to the harbour. The Riu hotel and resort were well organised and waiting for us when we got off the plane. The luggage was taken separately and arrived promptly for departure. The bus was slightly cramped with little room for hand luggage, especially if you’re a tall person like me. It doesn’t take long, though, and you’ll be so excited to finally be ending your journey to paradise that it won’t bother you too much.
Guide to Boat Transfer
If you’re staying at the Riu hotel & resorts, you will also need to catch a boat. Similar to the bus organisation, it was well organised and there waiting for us. We chose to sit on the boat’s top deck so we could feel the sun and heat and have unobstructed views. Although, if you prefer the shade, there are seats indoors. It takes several minutes by speedboat, but it is not a long journey.
What to expect at the Riu Hotel and Resort
The island has two sides, the Rui Palace Maldivas and the Hotel Riu Atoll. The critical difference is that the amenities on the Rui Palace side are more luxurious. For example, the standard water bungalows have outdoor baths. You can also use the facilities from the Hotel Riu Atoll, but the atoll guests cannot dine in the restaurants, etc., on the Riu Palace side.
While both sides have a vast selection of stunning water bungalows with private pools, there are also garden/balcony suites. However, you will find most Maldives Travel Guides indicate similar options across other resorts.
The garden suites in the Maldives Riu Palace open right onto the beach into a tropical paradise. Stunning. While the water bungalows provide luxurious privacy directly over the ocean. You can even have a bath as the sun goes down.
Guide to Food and Drink at your Maldives Resort
Being vegetarian, the food at the Riu hotels & resorts was, unfortunately, one of the most disappointing parts of my visit to the Riu Palace.
Reservations are required for al-a-carte restaurants, and it can take a few days to get a booking. Also, the cooking station had similar food every day and the al a carte restaurants didn’t cater well for vegetarians either.
There are swim-up bars, and regular bars, one of them is even open 24 hours. There are also premium spirit options. Unsurprisingly, the better you tip, the better your drink tastes!
Maldives Travel Tip: book the restaurants as soon as you arrive, or even beforehand if you can! Don’t be afraid to ask the chefs to make something special for you if you have dietary requirements.
Entertainment Options at the Riu Hotel & Resort
Now, this really will depend on the resort. But, at the Riu Palace Maldivas, you can expect sunset DJ’s. At the Hotel Riu Atoll, there are also live bands in the evening. In addition, both sides will have pool/beach related activities during the day.
At the Riu Palace, the entertainment programmes are pretty poor as there wasn’t much variety. A guide to the Maldives is to go with the idea that you will make your own entertainment and socialise!
Maldives Travel Guide to the All Inclusive Activities
Many of the resorts provide inclusive water sports such as snorkelling, paddleboard, pedalo and kayaking. The Riu Palace also gives you a free taster of scuba (in the pool), which is worth taking up if you’ve never done it before. The water centre is over on the Riu Atoll side.
Additionally, the Riu Palace Maldivas has a wellness centre, 24-hour fitness centre and optional beauty treatments and spa facilities.
Excursions and tours
All Maldives resorts have a wide range of excursions and tours on offer, such as jet ski, scuba diving, boat trips to uninhabited islands, snorkelling in the deep sea, and dolphin watching tours. Some of these will be shared with other travellers; however, you can also book private tours.
Depending on your resort, you will likely only have to swim a few meters out and find coral reefs bustling with colourful fish. The best place to snorkel at the Riu hotel & resort is at the far end of Riu Atoll.
In the blue waters of the deep sea, there are even more species of fish. However, it is sad to see coral reefs so badly eroded and is a reminder to use safe ocean lotions to minimise the effect on the Indian Ocean sea life.
Booking the Maldives for a special occassion?
It isn’t the Maldives without there being many different packages for honeymooners, engagements, and weddings. I often saw romantic private tables on the Riu Palace beach, amongst the palm trees with soft lighting illuminating the beautifully decorated flowers. While you can book these things, the location itself is romantic. You really don’t have to do anything elaborate for the Maldives to feel special.
Maldives Travel Guide, Final Thoughts
I have travelled the world extensively, and there is nowhere quite as beautiful and serene as the Maldives. It feels like you’ve escaped into a completely different world. My overall view of the Riu hotel & resort is positive and I recommend it. Best of all, I managed to get a great deal on the package in peak season which made the experience all the sweeter. Take a look at the links below to see the latest deals:
Have you been to the Maldives? I’d love to know if this Maldives Travel Guide helped your trip. Let me know in the comments.