With its endless palm-fringed beaches, icing-sugar sand and fluorescent turquoise lagoons, the Maldives is home to some of the most breathtaking coastline in the world. Made up of 1,190 coral reef islands - 200 of which are inhabited - this heavenly hideaway is situated south west of Sri Lanka, and a four-hour flight from the UAE. A destination synonymous with natural beauty, it's hardly surprising that it has seen its tourist industry turbo-charge in recent years. But unlike many fashionable beach destinations, the Maldives, which is known as a honeymooner's haven, has retained its untouched appeal. And while this serene escape, dotted with super-luxe resorts, offers every ingredient for a memorable honeymoon it would be a mistake to give newlyweds the monopoly. This dreamland offers plenty of activities to keep even the most adventure-hungry weekend escapees busy.
Water sports are enormously popular throughout the islands. With some of the most eye-catching coral reefs in the world, the Maldives is a well-established diving destination. There are plenty of scuba centres, and amateur and skilled divers are well taken care of. For those who have yet to undertake a commercial diver training course, snorkelling trips are available and you can expect to come into contact with turtles, stingrays and sharks on an average oceanic escapade. If you're keen to try more adrenalin-induced activities, wakeboarding, jet skiing, paragliding and windsurfing are also available.
The Maldives boasts an abundance of both inhabited and uninhabited islands and, as a consequence, island hopping is a popular pastime. Local tour operators provide group packages, but if you are eager to experience something with a more personal touch, it's advisable to arrange a trip through your hotel. The majority of resorts have access to a dhoni (a small motor boat or ferry), which means they are able to arrange individual excursions to suit your needs. For those who enjoy immersing themselves in local culture, a trip to the small but interesting capital of Malè is essential. For those who enjoy immersing themselves in local culture, a trip to the small but interesting capital of Malè is essential.
Budget As you might expect from a fantasy island-style destination, the Maldives is somewhat lacking in low-cost accommodation. But if you're keen to explore the capital, there are a few hotels in Malè that won't burn a hole in your pocket. Athama Palace Hotel is a five-minute taxi ride from the Malè jetty, where passengers are dropped off from the airport ferry. Each room is ensuite, with cable TV and a safety deposit box. Doubles from Dh250 a night, inclusive of breakfast, based on two sharing. (+960 331 3118).
Mid-range Located approximately 35 minutes by air from Malé International Airport, Holiday Island Resort is a four-star retreat that delivers value for money. As well as an array of water sports, including canoeing, banana boat riding, windsurfing and water skiing, guests can take advantage of day and night fishing, dolphin safaris and island hopping expeditions. Doubles start at Dh600 a night, based on two sharing (+960 668 0011).
Luxury Set over two islands - Dhigufinolhu and Veligandu Huraa - and nestled amid five acres of tropical grounds, the Anantara Resort Maldives is the ultimate island hideaway. Choose between one of the stylish stilted over-water suites, which have become so synonymous with the Maldives, or a beachfront villa. Either way, you're moments from sparkling clear water and lush coral gardens. A beach villa starts from Dh1,900 per night based on two sharing (+960 664 4100; @email:www.anantara.com).
If you're eager to inject a little romance into your evening, travel by seaplane to Meemu, which is a newly accessible atoll in the Maldives. Here you can pre-book a private candlelit supper at Chaaya Lagoon Hakura Huraa Resort (@email:www.chaayahotels.com). Alternatively, indulge your castaway fantasies with a picnic on a deserted beach. Charter a dhoni through your hotel and be whisked off to one of the many deserted islands that scatter the Maldives. Each resort varies in price and menu. It's best to inquire on the day. For those looking for something a little more traditional, head to Anantara's Fuddan Fusion Grill, which is famed for its Maldivian dishes. Sample a mouth-watering fish curry - a local speciality - while watching the sun set over the aquamarine sea (+960 664 4100).
Emirates Airlines (@email:www.emirates.com) flies from Dubai to Malè International Airport for Dh3,500. From there, take a speedboat to your holiday hideaway.