8 The Most Amazing Overwater Villas In The Maldives

This year marks the idyllic Indian Ocean nation's 50th year of tourism, and there are now over 150 resorts welcoming guests with a cold towel and a coconut, or other signature treats. Best of all, these resorts are environmentally conscious, with features ranging from water desalination plants to reef restoration projects. Are you ready to book that trip? Here are 8 of the best Maldives overwater villas.

Kudadoo Maldives
Kudadoo is one of the Maldives' smallest and most sustainable resorts, with only 15 overwater residences powered entirely by solar panels. It was designed by Yuji Yamazaki, a Japanese architect, and has a modern ryokan aesthetic, particularly in its onsen-inspired bathing area. The materials used in the latticework wood patterns are sourced from sustainably managed forests in New Zealand, Canada, and Indonesia. Each residence includes a plunge pool, a glass-bottomed deck area for viewing parrot fish, and a private butler to get you anything you want, at any time.

Soneva Jani
Aerial views of Soneva Jani's winding jetty and private water slides have become synonymous with the Maldives, thanks to social media. However, Soneva has become synonymous with sustainability.

Its never-ending initiatives, such as its Waste to Wealth programme, Eco Centre, carbon-neutral status, beef-free menu, plastic-free policy, and sprawling organic on-site garden, position it as a world leader in sustainable luxury. Its 51 Water Retreats range from a one-bedroom with no slide (due to low tide) to a four-bedroom palace perched above the Indian Ocean's crystalline waters. Each is made of sustainable, whitewashed wood, has endless plush seating areas, and, with the exception of two, has a retractable roof for stargazing. The resort is divided into Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, each side easily accessible by speedboat, electric bike or butler-driven buggy. At the newly-opened Chapter 2, it’s an all-inclusive experience, including spa treatments at the new Soneva Soul spa.

The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands
The majority of the 100 villas at this new five-star island retreat are on the water. Each is uniquely circular in design and outfitted with distinct, vertical wooden slats made from sustainable timber shipped over from Austria and Germany, channelling the motion of the ocean. The majority of the resort's villas have solar-paneled roofs, and management hopes to have all 100 of them installed by 2023. The resort is perennially popular for Americans using points to book a stay, but you'd never know it with so many people spending time in their villa. Guests can spend the entire day relaxing in their villa's infinity pool, reading on the luxurious loungers, or snorkelling off the expansive outdoor deck.

If underwater activities are your thing, The Ritz is the first Asia Pacific resort to feature Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of The Environment program. These highly skilled marine biologists show guests how they use drones to spot and cut off fishing nets caught in reefs and track stingray behaviour. They also lead guided underwater sessions, including an illuminating night snorkel.

The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort
The St. Regis' 44 overwater villas are designed to resemble the manta rays that swim beneath them. The bathrooms are modern and minimalist, with slick marble floors, while the bedrooms are lined with bright, Scandi-style timber. The beaded room divider and sea foam green decor give the sleek space a tropical feel.

Book the John Jacob Astor Estate for a family holiday if you don't mind a major splurge. This three-bedroom overwater villa is the island's largest accommodation. It doesn't get any swankier than this, with a gym, cinema room, three pools, and private massage rooms in each bedroom. Behind the glitz and glam, the island has its own fully automated bottling plant to remove plastic water bottles from the island. Alongside it is a recycling plant and organic waste compost used to fertilise the island’s organic herb and vegetable garden, which provides the resort with 100% of its mint and basil.

InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort
This IHG resort opened in 2019 and offers 81 beach, overwater, and lagoon accommodations (a clever hybrid of the two categories). Its 24 striking overwater villas feature infinity plunge pools and soaking tubs with sublimely serene views. Each is a beachy design delight, with grey concrete floors and white brushed walls offset by creative pops of colour like yellow, rope-woven room dividers, blue-two-toned rugs, and stylish, yet understated, orange furniture. The resort collaborates with Manta Trust researchers to aid in the education and conservation of these giant, playful fish and their habitat, which has a noticeable juvenile manta ray population in the atoll's Maamunagau Lagoon.

Velaa Private Island
The 47 exquisitely custom-made villas and residences on this pristine island are difficult to fault. They were built in 2013, and they look brand new, with every inch perfectly finished by a team of European craftsmen. Velaa means turtle in the local Dhivehi language, so turtle motifs can be found throughout the villas and the island. Tumbled travertine covers the bathrooms, and mirrors strategically placed make the already spacious rooms feel even larger. Throughout, there are thoughtful aquatic touches such as a fish scale accent wall made of clam shells and puka shell-lined mirrors. Apart from leading one of the Maldives' largest coral regeneration programmes, Velaa's Green Awareness Program provides sustainable tools and education on green waste management practises to every local island in Noonu Atoll.

Gili Lankanfushi
This barefoot island paradise is a quick 25-minute speedboat ride from Velana International Airport. The island's stellar service, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, is a big part of its charm, but its overwater villas aren't far behind. The 45 sustainably-built villas are divided into ten categories, with some featuring pools and others featuring multiple bedrooms. The resort's Crusoe Residences are unrivalled in terms of seclusion. These seven thatched-roof villas stand out in the turquoise water. Sure, adventurous guests can swim there and back, but why would you when you have your own boat? In addition, a team of drivers is available at all times. Known for serving some of the best vegan food in the Maldives, chef Harinath Govindaraj takes guests on tours of the organic gardens ending with a vegan feast prepared in front of you. The resort is also starting a chicken farm for daily fresh eggs.

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
The Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi begins with style. It's one of the larger five-star resorts in the Maldives, and it's only a 45-minute luxury yacht ride from the airport. Among the 118 accommodation options are 55 overwater villas and two standalone Stella Maris villas.

While the interiors are elegant and modern, with a signature glass-bottomed closet floor, you'll want to spend all of your time outside, soaking up this slice of paradise. The outdoor space in the overwater villas is larger than the indoor space, with an infinity pool large enough for laps, a swinging daybed, a cabana, and multiple overwater hammocks. A two-story deck with a dining area and BBQ station is available in the ultra-luxe Stella Maris villas. When you do decide to leave the villa, join the resort’s marine biologist in making and planting a coral line in the coral nursery. Guests who adopt coral will receive photos and updates on its growth every three months until its planted in the house reef.