Synonymous with idyllic beaches, barefoot luxury and romance, the Indian Ocean’s top hotels are broadening their appeal, says Sam Lewis

Island Hideaway, Dhonakulhi
This luxury resort re-opened in September following a huge refurbishment including deluxe over-water villas with Jacuzzi swimming pools. Guests can dive the Dhonakulhi reef daily — it’s only 30-90ft from the shore — for a chance to see manta rays, dolphins, turtles and whale sharks, or take a boat to see over 20 more dive sites within 60 minutes of the resort. A popular resort for couples and newlyweds, facilities include a nightclub, two tennis courts, a gym and spa with 12 treatment rooms.

Ayada Resort
Restless types should look no further than Ayada Resort. The Southern Atoll region, has world-class surf breaks, including Love Charms, 5 Islands and Tiger Stripes. And for those who prefer activities on land, there’s badminton, tennis, football, volleyball, yoga and Pilates. With all that exercise, guests will need to refuel
— an easy task with seven restaurants to choose from. Aches and pains? The resort’s 37,674sq-ft spa and health club by ESPA should do the trick.

Atmosphere Kanifushi
Opened late last year, this five-star all-inclusive resort has the first Olympic-sized pool in the Maldives, but most go to laze on the island’s long sandy beach. Each one of the 150 beachfront villas and suites features a minibar, restocked twice a day, plus free sun screen and insect repellent. Just a 30-minute seaplane ride from the airport, it’s suitable for couples and families, with interconnecting villas and a kids’ club.

Four Seasons Resort, Kuda Huraa
Surfers are flocking to this resort to attend its surf school and take its seaplane ‘surfari’ to catch some of the best waves in the region. Others join the resort’s snorkel shark safari or help resident marine biologists with sea turtle and coral reefscaping projects. There’s a serene spa on a separate island reached by dhoni with a range of Sodashi treatments by day, and at night rituals are tailored to guests’ star signs. The Indian restaurant Baraabaru is rated one of the best in the region.

Anantara Kihavah (pictured)Unknown
Few resorts can claim to have their own outdoor cinema where you can lie back on a king-size bed under the stars and watch the latest blockbuster while sipping Champagne and eating chocolate strawberries. Bikes are provided to help guests get around and make the most of the many facilities. Dive, windsurf, play tennis or volleyball, try a yoga class, attend a cookery course, or take a wine-tasting session in the world’s only underwater aquarium cellar with 300 bottles from 20 difference countries, including a $14,000 Petrus. Gen up on fish — name 10 species correctly and a free bottle of Champagne will arrive in your pool villa.

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