With seemingly endless Maldives resort options spread across 1,000 islands, how do you actually choose where to stay? Not all Maldives family resorts are created equal!
With its crystal blue waters and picturesque overwater villas the Maldives had been on my travel “bucket-list” for a long time, so I was more than a little excited when LUX* South Ari Atoll invited us for a visit, taking all the planning and hard work out of it for my husband and me.
Although we traveled as a couple, it turns out that LUX* South Ari Atoll is as family-friendly as it gets, with both a kids’ club (for children 3 to 12) and a teens’ club (for ages 12-17). Throw in an endless array of activities – everything from movie nights to an arts and crafts studio to treasure hunts for secret messages in hidden bottles around the island – and fun perks like complimentary ice cream and your next family holiday will be well and truly sorted. Read on for all the deets on this stellar Maldives resort, mamas!
Getting to The Maldives and LUX* South Ari Atoll
With convenient and direct daily flights to the Maldives on Singapore Airlines, tropical paradise is only a 4.5-hour flight away from Singapore. Once you land at Malé airport you’ll either need a speedboat, a seaplane, or a combination of both to transfer to your island resort of choice. LUX* South Ari Atoll is a little further out and requires a seaplane transfer. It was a super easy connection once we landed; upon exiting the airport we found the hotel kiosk and the staff directed us through the sea plane process and transported us to the fabulous LUX* waterfront lounge to wait for our departure. If the private lounge was any indication – with its tasty snacks and comfortable amenities – we were in for a real treat once we got to the island.
The sea planes are quite exciting and an adventure in their own right. Once we were up in the air the views were amazing. I loved looking out the window at the picturesque blue water dotted with sandy island resort after resort. It was a 25-minute direct flight, but felt much shorter.
Sassy Seaplane Pro-Tips:
- Seaplanes can be a little loud. If you are traveling with kids that have sensitive ears I recommend ear plugs or noise canceling headphones to lessen the noise.
- Don’t forget to have your camera handy and get a window seat! You will definitely want to take pictures out the window.
- The seaplanes are also not air-conditioned and can get a little stuffy, so dress appropriately.
- Maldives seaplanes don’t fly at night so if you arrive in the evening you will need to spend the night in Malé. I recommend arriving as early in the day as possible to avoid this. There is also an option to take a 20-minute domestic flight to another local airport and then a 10-minute speedboat to the resort; we ended up needing to do this for our departure due to a mild storm.
LUX* South Art Atoll Maldives Resort Overview
One of the many things I loved about LUX* was that they have truly invested in thoughtful ways to surprise and delight guests to make their stay memorable. Case in point: a disco bathroom that you just have to see to believe! The resort has a refreshing laid back luxury vibe that focuses on embracing spontaneity and enjoying the moment which I very much resonated with.
My favorite unexpected feature was that they hide 25 “message in a bottles” around the island daily, with prizes like a complimentary massage. It was so fun watching grown adults hunt for “treasure,” all while pretending not to. We definitely got into it and went on a hunt and found one that we could redeem for fresh coconuts. As a side note, this is also an excellent way to keep kids busy and ultra-aware of their surroundings!
Other surprising unique experiences included a “Tree of Wishes” where guests can write their wishes down on a ribbon and participate in an island ritual. Plus at the end of every year they take all the wishes from the tree and one lucky wish participant will win a 5-night stay to a LUX* resort. There is also a library on the island with 500 books and cozy nooks to read in to indulge your inner book worm.
LUX* South Ari Atoll Dining Options
Choosing a resort in the Maldives with diverse restaurant options is a must (especially if you are going for a longer stay), since you are generally limited to the resort. LUX* did not disappoint in the food department! With a choice of eight restaurants and five bars there is really something for everyone. During our 3-night stay we had Italian one night, a private Teppanyaki performance the next, and Indian food on our last night. I definitely could have stayed quite a while longer and not tired of the choices.
Weeks later I am still day dreaming of their amazing brunch spread. It is among one of the best breakfast spreads that I have ever seen (and I have seen a lot!). From homemade kombucha, made-to-order juices, vegan and gluten-free options, homemade ice cream (yes for breakfast!), Asian selections, fresh fruits to all the pastries and SO much more, the choices truly felt endless.
Worried about getting a good cup of coffee in the middle of the ocean, mama? Café LUX*’s baristas will keep you fueled throughout your stay and they even roast their own coffee.
A Maldives Resort that’s a Kid’s Paradise
This is one of those special places that really is the best of both worlds: if you have kids you will love it, and if you don’t (like me) you will also love it. There is so much to do that your kids will definitely be talking about this vacation for years to come!
Upon arrival each kid is given a small plush toy and a Little Explorers booklet. Kids can collect stamps by doing designated activities like going on a boat trip. When they complete all the activities in the booklet, they are given a big plush toy featuring some of the local marine life (not going to lie, I wanted one).
Kids ages 3 to 11 can also enjoy the kids’ club called Play, which is complimentary and open from 9am – 7pm daily. Kids can enjoy a range of activities including: coconut bowling, treasure hunts, a special ‘Cake Boss’ activity, pizza making, bingo and so much more! Plus on arrival at Play, kids are given a complimentary t-shirt, cap and bag. Have a kid under the age of three? Not to worry, babysitting is also available for children aged 1 and up (for an additional charge), so you can take a much-needed break of your own (perhaps a spa treatment or two?).
You and your little ones will also enjoy indulging in ice cream at ICI, the resort’s homemade ice cream shop, with 32 different flavors and toppings galore. Calories don’t count on vacation, right? You can also catch the ICI tricycle cruising around the island throughout the day for some complimentary treats to cool off.
At LUX* South Ari Atoll there are SO many family-friendly activities, like Cinema Paradisio which is an outside movie under the stars complete with popcorn. They have two showings on the nights that it runs, one geared for kids and one for adults. During our stay we caught a showing of Paddington and the setting was magical. Kids and adults alike can also let their imagination run wild at the Junk Art Studio. They host creative workshops where guests can make gifts and handicraft items using various recycled items that they can then take home. In the workshop that I attended we painted coconut shells (pictured above).
The resort also has an onsite medical guest clinic should you or your children require attention during your stay. Talk about peace of mind while being off the grid!
LUX* South Ari Atoll Accommodations
With 193 private villas, LUX* is one of the larger Maldives resorts, yet it still has a way of feeling private and small. From the iconic picturesque overwater villas with private pools, to beachfront villas, there is something for everyone. We stayed in one of their entry-level beach villas steps away from the ocean.
Families would probably most enjoy the Family Lagoon Pavilions, which are 2-bedroom beachfront villas that can accommodate up to six people. Alternatively, most of the rooms at LUX* can easily accommodate a kid on the daybed, which can be made into a bed.
- Spring for a bicycle rental during your stay! At 1.8km long, this is one of the larger islands in the Maldives and while you can definitely walk or hitch a ride on the complimentary carts, biking is just so much more fun and freeing. Plus they have bikes for kids and bikes with child seats available.
A Maldives Resort with Activities Galore
As with any vacation you can be as active (or as lazy) as you want. If chilling out in your private villa or at the beach or pool is all you want to do, then you will certainly reach peak relaxation. If you feel like being a bit more adventurous, then LUX* has a host of activities to keep you entertained, including yoga, tennis, village excursions, kayaking, stand-up paddleboards, boating, jet-skiing, fishing and more! The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down, either ,with offerings like Bingo and quiz nights, disco parties and live music.
During my time at the resort I enjoyed a Maldivian Master Chef Cooking Class, a whale shark-watching excursion (sadly they evaded us), a coffee latte art workshop at Café LUX*, and a complimentary snorkelling excursion to the house reef. My husband enjoyed some SCUBA diving with the 5-Star PADI dive centre onsite at the resort while I indulged in a massage at the LUX*Me Spa. Having been recognized as the 2019 winner of the Best Luxury Resort Spa in the Indian Ocean, it’s the perfect place to for some pampering!
The resort is also a photographer’s dream playground. From secluded sand bars to overwater hammocks and swings, there are tons of picturesque spots to snap a photo (or fly a drone!). If you have older kids and teens, they will definitely enjoy the many Instagrammable photo ops. My husband and I took advantage by biking around the island scouting the best spot for our holiday photo cards.
LUX* also makes it super easy to get the perfect family photo with Photofanatics, which is their on-site photography service. We did a 45-minute complimentary photo-shoot with one of their photographers at a few key-spots around the island, but you can also stop in to ask them photography related questions or learn cool techniques to make your photos pop. The Maldives also has some of the most unreal sunsets that I have ever seen – a truly spectacular way to end a day in paradise.
Would I go back? Definitely! People say that the Maldives is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but LUX* certainly makes you want to be a repeat visitor. I liked the LUX* concept so much I would also consider checking out their sister Maldives resort on the North Atoll, and their other locations like Mauritius, China, Turkey and more! Plus they have a property opening soon nearby in Vietnam, among other locations. Note that there’s currently a special “Hello 2020” promotion on where you can get 15% off your stay through October 2020 (book by 31 December 2019).
Rates at LUX* South Ari Atoll start from US$771, with additional half-board, full-board and all-inclusive options available. Seaplane flight is compulsory and priced at US$390 per person (round-trip).