The Maldives with Kids
For my son’s nine-year-old trip with me, he chose the Maldives. This wasn’t a surprise – he’s always liked remote islands and turquoise waters. The only issue was with the distance. The Maldives are almost exactly halfway around the world from California, 12 time zones away. Not a major problem – that’s what airplanes are for – but you wouldn’t want to head there for a one-week school break. We chose to go the day after he got out of third grade.
We could have traveled west or east to get to the Maldives. It’s usually faster to travel east with the wind, so that you’re flying from California to the Maldives over Europe and the Middle East and then returning home over Asia. However there’s no airline that will let you fly that routing, so for the best prices you usually have to return home the same way that you came. We chose to fly from LA to Tokyo on United (11 hours or so), and then on to Bangkok on ANA (another six hours). We spent three nights in Bangkok (at the incredible Peninsula Bangkok), more or less recovered from jet lag, and then flew to Malé, Maldives on Bangkok Air (four hours). Returning home we flew to Singapore on SilkAir (four hours, slightly out of our way), spent two nights there, and then flew back to LA via San Francisco on United (17 hours of flying with a two-hour layover).
Six Senses Laamu
We wanted to stay in one overwater villa resort and one island resort over the course of eight nights. There are a LOT of different choices in the Maldives, but for the overwater villas we went for Six Senses Laamu. The simple reason why: I stayed at Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman last year on my around-the-world trip with my 10-year-old and loved the resort. Also, Six Senses Laamu is priced lower than other resorts but looked incredible. As you can tell from the title of this article, we were extraordinarily happy with the choice. It’s our new favorite destination in the world.
Flying from Bangkok, we arrived into the capital of Malé and were met by a Six Senses rep. He walked us over to the domestic Maldivian Air check-in, got us boarding passes for our flight to Kadhdhoo, and then took us the waiting lounge. We had a decent lunch there and then boarded our prop plane bound for Kadhdhoo, roughly forty minutes south of Malé. The flight was uneventful.
At Kadhdhoo, we were met by another Six Senses rep who walked to the dock a couple of minutes away. We boarded a speedboat and twenty minutes later pulled up to Six Senses.
At Six Senses Laamu you’re assigned a GEM – a Guest Experience Maker, kind of like a butler. It’s very low-key though, so don’t be intimidated. Our GEM, Ali, gave us a quick tour and then drove us our to our overwater bungalow (number 14 on Jetty A).
A note: on the boat to the resort, we removed our shoes and we didn’t put them on again until we arrived back at the airport four days later. The jetty got a little hot, but we were generally on bicycles so we only noticed it once. But the no-shoes thing is fully optional. If you want to throw on flip-flops or wear shoes, no one will stop you. We enjoyed the bare feet.
These are very well-designed villas. There’s a central bed area, and immediately behind it there are two sinks. There’s a separate toilet room complete with a glass-bottom opening to view fish. Then there’s an open-air shower and bath area, including a clear tub over a glass floor, an upper-level nook to watch the stars, and the deck. We LOVED the deck. There are two seating areas, plus two lounge chairs, two over-water hammocks/nets and a ladder down to the water. There’s a second ladder around the side that takes you straight to the shower/bath area.
I have no idea how these compare with other Maldivian bungalows as far as luxury goes. I would guess they’re somewhere in the middle of the spectrum? To us our bungalow felt perfect – comfortable luxury with an amazing view. We spent a lot of time in the hammocks.
But we didn’t spend a lot of time at the bungalow, because waiting for us right outside were two bicycles with personalized plates with our initials. The kid-sized bike was perfect for my nine-year-old.
Being at the end of a very long jetty, my son was a little nervous about riding on the boardwalk – understandable as there are no railings and a 3-4 meter (9-12 foot) drop to the water. So we walked the bikes to the island, rode around the island (literally, there’s a path around the island), and got completely comfortable. Then we rode back to the villa. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous watching him and constantly thinking about how I would get his bike back up to the boardwalk if he rode over the side. But in four days, he never came close. We did the roundtrip between the villa and island anywhere between five and ten times a day, and we kept coming up with new excuses to ride. It was that much fun.
Below is my handheld iPhone video of my son riding from our villa to the beach.
There are four restaurants at Six Senses Laamu: Zen, basically overwater Japanese; Leaf, the resort’s signature restaurant located in the garden; Longitude, in the central area, where breakfast is served every morning; and Chill Bar, also in the central area. We ate dinner once at Chill Bar, twice at Leaf and once at Longitude – a seafood buffet. We were on a half-board meal plan with breakfast and dinner included. If we hadn’t had meals included, main courses were anywhere between $25 and $40 each, with full meals around $100 per person not including wine – expensive, but less than we’ve seen elsewhere in the Maldives. Kids’ meals were less expensive – $10-20 each or so. There’s also the Sip Sip Pool Bar, where we had lunch most days. Whether we were at Chill or Sip Sip for lunch, meals for the two of us (non-kid-food) and a bottle of water added up to $70-80 with taxes.
The resort’s menus with current pricing are here.
The Ice Cream
In addition to the resorts restaurants, there’s an ice cream parlor with 40 or so types of ice creams and sorbets. And it’s all free! We stopped by several times a day, of course. My favorite: Coffee Oreo. My son’s favorite: Chocolate Cookie.
The Pool and Games
Even with unlimited swimming from our villa, we enjoyed spending time at the pool, just a short bicycle ride away. There are also games on the beach next to the pool, including ping pong, beach bocce, corn hole, and giant Jenga. A lot of them are in the shade, so it’s perfect for kids.
Honestly, the only official activity that we did at Six Senses was the kayaking (free). They have a lot of water sports, including diving and snorkeling, plus all sorts of excursions, but we were having so much fun at our villa, swimming, cycling, playing Frisbee and playing games that my son didn’t feel like signing up for anything else. When we go back we’ll do more.
The Kids Club (The Den)
We’re not a kids club family, but we stopped by the club a couple of times to see what was going on. There’s always a wide range of activities, even when there are virtually no kids staying at the resort. They also had a customized journal waiting for my son, and they came by the villa to give him a going away present – even though he hadn’t participated in any activities! Really nice touches. Don’t hesitate to stay at Six Senses Laamu with kids!
Other than the bicycles, our favorite part of our stay was watching the sunset every night from the overwater hammocks at Chill Bar. Seriously, I’ll return to Six Senses Laamu just to sit there every night. We typically arrived at 6pm, had drinks and (complimentary) snacks, and relaxed until heading to dinner at 8pm.
Things We Loved
- The bicycles with custom license plates
- Sunset from the hammocks at Chill Bar
- Frisbee on the beach (we always travel with a Frisbee)
- The wifi. We unplugged a lot, but when I did need to get work done or upload posts to social media, the wifi was excellent – far faster than I would have expected.
- Jumping off our deck into the water
- The service – excellent all around. The smiles and conversations never seemed forced.
- The bicycles
- The bicycles
- The bicycles
Things We Didn’t Love
There honestly wasn’t anything that we disliked about Six Senses Laamu. It’s probably the first time I’ve stayed anywhere that I didn’t see something that could be improved.
Six Senses Laamu is priced far lower than I would expect given how perfect it was. As with everywhere else, there’s a peak season and a low season. December through April sees the least rain and the most visitors (primarily Europeans), so prices are higher. May to November is monsoon season, with sporadic rain and fewer visitors. We traveled in June and didn’t see a drop of rain in eight days in the Maldives. But the week before we arrived, there were heavy rains for days. You never know what you’re going to get.
Prices right now (low season) for overwater villas start at $545/night for two people. The overwater villas can accommodate up to three people, so a family of 4-6 would require two villas. There are beach villas for families, and the resort encourages families with small children to stay on the beach, but honestly, I wouldn’t want to visit and not stay overwater. We went to Bora Bora with a four-year-old and were comfortable with her in our overwater bungalow. And the Six Senses has bicycles with trailers so you could even stay at the end of a jetty and be just fine traveling back and forth with young kids without walking.
There are always special offers available. The best deals right now look to be good through September 30, 2017. I would guess those will reappear next year as well between June and September.
Tipping is an awkward subject, but I get questions about it all the time. At Six Senses Laamu we tipped our GEM US$25/day. We tipped our room person $15/day. For the GEM, a good range is anywhere between $10 and $30 per day. For the room steward, maybe $5-20/day. But it’s completely optional.
Length of Stay
We stayed four nights. I wish we had stayed eight. We moved on to another Maldives resort after Six Senses Laamu and didn’t like it nearly as much. I’m not sure how anything could have compared?
Maldives vs Bora Bora vs Palawan
This was our third overwater bungalow experience, after Bora Bora and Palawan. My post comparing Bora Bora and Palawan is here. I may do another post comparing all three, but right now I would opt to return to Six Senses Laamu over Four Seasons Bora Bora or El Nido Miniloc Island. Bora Bora probably has the best view, and is the fastest/easiest to get to from California. El Nido has the best prices, especially factoring in food and activities, and we loved the excursions. In every other category, though, I would give the edge to Six Senses Laamu.