Heaven is indeed a place on Earth — and it’s in the Maldives. Dotted with dreamy lagoons and ridiculously lavish resorts, these Indian Ocean islands spoil visitors with private butlers, overwater villas and beaches so white you have to squint.
But paradise, a collection of about 1,190 tiny atolls 600 miles southwest of Sri Lanka, comes with a hefty price tag. Most of the hotels are on remote isles reachable by puddle-jumper flights or private boat transfers from the capital, Male. With air transfers and rare packages that include meals, a five-night trip for two can easily cost up to $10,000, so it makes sense that this fantasyland caters to wealthy honeymooners, jet-setters and bucket list seekers who undertake the 24-hour journey from New York City.
Which begs the question: Is it even worth the expense — or the time?
Yes, if only for the endless parade of jaw-dropping attractions beyond natural beauty and high-end hotels. There are one-of-a-kind activities, from underwater yoga to glass-bottom Jacuzzis, exclusive to the archipelago. These only-in-the-Maldives experiences justify the long trek — and they’re worth every penny.
In 2016, Hurawalhi resort opened 5.8, the world’s largest underwater restaurant, sunk 20 feet in a lagoon. Tables are cleared out in the mornings to transform the space into a studio where yogis hold warrior pose as tropical fish, manta rays and reef sharks swim past the windows. It’s the only all-glass, underwater yoga studio in the world (open to all, it’s $65 per class).