© Rhonda Carrier: Zac getting into the swing of things at Kurumba

Our Favourite Child-friendly Resorts in the Maldives for Family Fun and Marine Ecology

By Rhonda Carrier

Hand in hand as we move through an otherworldly landscape of neon-bright marine life, Zac and I exchange glances through our snorkel masks. At times we gesticulate to each other: at a barracuda here, a manta ray there. And isn’t that a moray eel slithering between those corals? At one moment, I follow –unobtrusively – a little turtle whose shell glitters gold in the rays of sunlight piercing the skin of the ocean. He seems to play with me, diving deep beneath me then swimming up alongside me, eyeing me placidly, unfazed by my presence. These are the moments of which memories are made, that sustain us when times are less lovely.

'In the Fairmont's Sustainability Lab, we see in action initiatives to benefit both the environment and local communities, mainly through the recycling of plastic waste into useful items and souvenirs to sell to visitors. Uniquely, the resort even has a coral regeneration project, the Coralarium – an underwater art installation by Jason deCaires Taylor, semi-submerged to provide a home to fish, crustaceans and other marine species.'

It was the 1970s when I first went to the Maldives, aged 10, when there were only three resorts in the archipelago and no other children to be seen. There truly was a desert-island feel to it back then. Now my youngest son Zac is 14 and I’m back to experience the Maldives in a different era – a different era of my own life and a different era in the life of the planet. It’s been nearly half a century for me, while the Maldives celebrated its 50th anniversary as a tourist destination in 2022.

But while the Maldives’ attraction for couples has always been clear, what will Zac think of it? Beyond its beauty and the excitement of speedboat and seaplane rides, will there be enough for him to do?

This was among the original five resorts and the very first one to introduce overwater villas – which are now a feature of almost all Maldives resorts. Zac adores it, despite being too old for its lively kids’ club. First up is the snorkelling expedition along the edge of the stunning house reef, described above. It’s led by the resort’s marine biology team, who have an eco centre here with displays about the local environment and the conservation projects they’re involved with. Genuinely horrified to read about the effect of plastic pollution on the wildlife of the Indian Ocean, Zac vows to make the best use of Kuramathi’s refillable bottles and water stations supplied by their own filtering plant.

We go on another boat trip, this time at sunset; Zac is delighted when a shark swims so close to us he can almost reach out and touch it. We kayak and paddleboard from the water-sports beach, and we snorkel some more together off our Deluxe water villa, amidst stingrays and black-tipped reef sharks (neither of which pose any danger) or along some of the island’s many dedicated channels.

But perhaps our favourite spot of all is the resort’s glorious sandbank – a whole mile of it curving out into the Indian Ocean. Our top pick among the infinity pools, meanwhile, is at the Champagne Loft Bar, with views of a lagoon populated with meandering sharks, sunset vistas and sparkly underwater lighting after dark. 

Sadly, pandemic restrictions still in place during our stay mean we can’t visit the neighbouring island of Rasdhoo –so close to Kuramathi that we can hear the call to prayer from its mosque five times daily. But under normal circumstances you can take a boat trip over from Rasdhoo for an insight into daily life on this locals’ island.

Part of the joy of holidaying with a teen is just going with the flow, and you can do that at Kuramathi with its 11 fantastic restaurants, including a barbecue shack, an overwater seafood eatery, a posh Italian and a wonderful Thai spot. With food available all day, we felt free just to take things as they came and not to schedule anything – surely the essence of any great holiday

Siyam World  
With nearly 500 villas (some with their own waterslide into the Indian Ocean - “Wheeeee, watch this, Mum!”) and a great array of restaurants, bars, pools and other facilities – from a floating water park to a riding stables – the largest resort in the Maldives makes it impossible to be bored. And that goes doubly for Christmas and New Year holidays, when the entertainment is simply astounding - think Santa on jet blades in the pool, fire shows and more. The kids’ club here is the biggest and best equipped I’ve seen in the Maldives, and coming soon are a karting track and a zip-line.

siyam world coral planting

Marine biologist replanting coral at Siyam World © Rhonda Carrier

But for me, staying at Siyam World was mostly about getting to know this destination a bit better. We spent time with the marine biologists, learning about dolphin conservation and also planting coral onto frames then snorkelling out to watch them being lowered onto the seabed to help sustain the reef. We also headed to a local island to get a feel for the ‘real Maldives’, and to see where our tourist dollar goes – the group’s sustainability program, Sun Siyam Cares, helps build mosques and schools. Seeing kids in classrooms and meeting the headmaster of a school in the process of being expanded was something that helped the Maldives make much more sense to me.

The Standard
Oozing hip, this is another great Maldives resort with teens but also for those with younger children too, who can run around the place without being told to calm down – such is the laidback vibe. 

Again, although there are kids’ club and teen activities, for us it’s really all about getting out on the water here; we take a boat trip out to snorkel near a pod of dolphins. Also fun is hurtling around along the boardwalk on our complimentary resort bikes to our colourful overwater villa with its discoball-fitted bathroom with a huge eggshell bath and a transparent floor over the water, its mood lighting in various funky hues, and its ‘play wall’ with flippers, masks, a huge pink rubber ring and all the practicalities needed for making the most of the water. 

Snorkelling at The Standard Maldives

Snorkelling at The Standard Maldives © Rhonda Carrier

Our favourite dining spot at The Standard is Gudugada, with traditional Maldivian specialities served overwater as we sit on floor cushions clustered around low tables and eat by the light of the moon. As a parent and a bit of a hippy, I also take a liking to the overwater spa with its fantastic sound-healing sessions taking you even further away from the world for a while. Read more about The Standard Maldives for families.

Established by an Italian tour operator seeking a genuine Robinson Crusoe experience for his clients, this is the resort that kicked off tourism in the Maldives when it opened in 1972. When I came, in 1978, it still had only a few rudimentary wooden beach huts, a single restaurant, and a ping pong table – and a handful of German naturists on the beach, undelighted to see kids here.

Today ‘Coconut’ (as the name means in the local language Dhivehi) is a completely different kettle of exotic fish. A sister resort to Kuramathi, it’s much smaller and also has the benefit of being much closer to the mainland – a 10-minute speedboat ride as opposed to 90 minutes to Kuramathi (although you can also pay extra for a quicker seaplane transfer to Kuramathi). How you feel about this depends on whether you want a truly remote, castaway feel to your Maldives holiday – from Kurumba you can see the buildings of Malé and planes going in and out of its international airport.

Zac loves it – perhaps slightly less than Kuramathi, but he loves it all the same. The food, especially in the Thai restaurant, is fantastic. Thila restaurant with its lantern-lit overwater terrace is quite simply overwhelming both in terms of its setting and its cuisine – innovative contemporary seafood including the likes of chilli lemongrass octopus and Maldivian lobster curry.

We go out on another dolphin-watching cruise and see an insane number leaping all around us, and we take out paddleboards from the water-sports centre. Unusually, Kurumba doesn’t have overwater villas, but we love our private-pool villa nestled in its own walled garden where we watch the fruit bats swooping overhead. Read more about family holidays at Kurumba in the Maldives.

Fairmont Sirru Fen Fushi
This is the most luxurious of the places we stay in the Maldives, but it also has incredible eco credentials – which we hear all about in its Sustainability Lab, where the resident marine biologist tells us all about his hopes for all Maldivian resorts and the government to start working together to avoid greenwashing and make real progress. We also see in action the Lab’s own initiatives to benefit both the environment and local communities, mainly through the recycling of plastic waste into useful items and souvenirs to sell to visitors. Uniquely, the resort even has a coral regeneration project, the Coralarium – an underwater art installation by Jason deCaires Taylor, semi-submerged to provide a home to fish, crustaceans and other marine species.

We also enjoy a cookery class here, zoom around on our bikes and swim in the longest infinity pool in the Maldives (at 200m), while I sneak in some time to indulge in a lovely massage in the airy spa and an early-morning alfresco yoga class while the sun rises up over one of the sugar-sand beaches. This time we have a beach villa and are thrilled by our large garden with its own pool, opening directly on the beach with its scurrying hermit crabs.

Other Fun Maldives Resorts for Families
Hard Rock: Part of the global brand of music-themed hotels and restaurants, this is particularly great with teens, with free use of Fender guitars and record players. The colourful two-bedroom family suites with bunk beds sleep up to six, and there are energetic kids’ and teen clubs in addition to one of the largest water-sports centres in the Maldives.
LUX* South Ari Atoll: This is another hip option but one with in-house marine biologists who run eco-tours showcasing its conservation work in this Marine Protected Area. As well as nearly 50 dive sites within easy reach, there’s snorkelling on the house reef, kayaking, jet-skiing, traditional wooden dhoni cruises to discover rays, caves and shipwrecks, and much more besides. Read more about family holidays at the LUX* South Ari Atoll.
Soneva Fushi: The Maldives’ original eco-friendly resort and the one that leads the way, this is one of the world’s top resorts and a good place for extended-family getaways and multigenerational holidays (some of its villas have up to nine bedrooms!), and many have specially designed kids’ bedrooms and waterslides. There’s even an on-site observatory, the option of camping Bedouin-style on a sandbank, and a tech-free kids’ club to encourage younger guests to run wild.
Vakkaru: Another fantastic choice for multigenerational holidays, with residences with up to four bedrooms and plenty to keep kids entertained, this is a place to get active doing everything from water sports to workouts in the overwater gym with its outdoor deck, volleyball, yoga and Pilates. 
Conrad Rangali: This resort featured on Time magazine’s list of 'The World's 100 Greatest Places' and includes a villa with a master bedroom 5m below sea level. It’s split into two islands, one for families with young children with a kids’ club including junior marine adventures and culinary workshops.

See our guide to family holidays in the Maldives. To book your Maldives family holiday today or for more inspiration and news of special offers, call us on 020 3633 0653 or fill in our enquiry form.

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