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 look to be 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.
michele h peterson says
Six Senses Laamu looks incredible! I was wondering if you saw a lot of sharks in the water? In Tahiti there were many small sharks ( which made me reluctant to go in the water even through they were so small they likely couldn’t do much damage).
Eric Stoen says
Yes and no! We didn’t see any sharks at Six Senses, but we’ve seen a lot of them at Soneva Fushi (where we are right now). When we go in the water to get close to them they scatter, so I can’t see that they’re dangerous? Or maybe they’re going to get their friends and then come back and eat us…
We’ve been to Soneva Fushi too. Which one did your kids like the most?
Eric Stoen says
My son liked Six Senses a lot better than Soneva Fushi. At Soneva he missed the overwater villa element, and his bicycle kept breaking down. Plus the sunset hammock experience is far nicer at Six Senses. I’ll do a blog post at some point. Soneva Fushi is ranked even higher than Six Senses Laamu on TripAdvisor, but at roughly twice the price, I didn’t think it was worth it. Great kids club though.
Dianne Sivulka says
Great post Eric! As Bora Bora is our all-time favorite turquoise blue water destination, we just might have to consider this instead for our next trip. The trouble is the distance! Thanks for all the information.
Wow. It looks so amazing. Adding it to my bucket list.
Does your wife do trips alone with the kids for their birthdays too?
Do the ones at home get jealous at all?
Eric Stoen says
Nope, she doesn’t travel with the kids individually. Well, she’s welcome to, but she likes when we travel as an entire family and she likes life in California, so she’s not looking for excuses to fly away.
The kids say they don’t get jealous. They all get a turn. If anything, they may get inspired to add a destination to their next trips if our experience somewhere was amazing.
My husband and I loved the Maldives, but would only take our boys along for an exemplary ocean experience (snorkeling/diving). Did you consider reviewing the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru? I’ve read it has mantas rays and whale sharks?
Eric Stoen says
I wrote to Four Seasons to look into staying there and they never wrote me back. I’ve heard good things. I would guess most Maldives resorts could organize excursions to see rays and sharks though? Six Senses Laamu even had boards in the front office counting all of the recent ray signings. It was up to almost 3,000 when we were there.
Jean Farrell says
Wow, just wow! What a slice of paradise. Sad you wasted that tub, though. I would have taken a good long soak.
Jean Farrell says
I just showed this to my daughter (she’s 13). I specifically showed her the bathtub (my family all know how I am about baths). She was horrified, and said “but what if someone swam underneath?!”
Eric Stoen says
Ha! Nope, there’s so much privacy at the villas, no one will be swimming near you.
Ryan Biddulph says
When I was 9 years old I got an Atari cartridge game LOL. What a trip! I found the tipping point interesting. Good for you being generous. I also get folks not tipping because they figure it isn’t customary but keeping that sweet cash flowing, whether a dollar or 20 smackers, helps us and helps the folks serving us too. A USD goes a long way in many parts of the world. Sometimes we forget this. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Oh Excellent!! We will have to do this once the twins are older!! Looks like a slice of heaven!!
Thanks for this terrific post. We loved our French Polynesia trip because we could snorkel from our deck. Did you see others snorkeling from the platform? Could you see marine life from your hammock? We love shallow water snorkeling on our time schedule. Taking a boat ride is fine but if we can do it ourselves we like to have the freedom of jumping in and out when we feel like it:). Could you tell if you can do that at Six Senses?
Thanks in advance
Eric Stoen says
Hi Virginia. We saw fish from our villa deck, but not an overwhelming number. The snorkeling was far better from the platform at Chill Bar, by the sunset hammocks. I saw people in the water there all the time – no boat required.
Amy Locurto says
Wow! This looks amazing. I pinned it because this is definitely on my bucket list!!! I love traveling with my kids and just found your blog. So happy to find another blogger who likes taking their kids on adventures.
balayi villasi says
It is a great post for us to take holiday with kids. thanks for sharing. We read your article with my girl together. when she saw your photos especially kids club, cycling, kayaking and playing frisbee at the beach, she wants to go there. So we will prefer Maldives for our next holiday. Overwater villas seems fabolous.
I am so thrilled to have found this! (Funnily enough, I found it searching for Hong Kong with kids). We’ve actually already booked our family trip at Six Senses for next August! I was concerned that we might get bored (my 7yo specifically), but your post has completely reassured me! We’re taking on Singapore before and Hong Kong on the way back. Can’t wait to continue to explore your blog!
Eric Stoen says
You’ll have a great time! We’re going again next month, stopping in Singapore on the way back for a couple nights. Can’t wait to be back at Laamu!
You mentioned tipping, is that something you did daily, or just all at the end of your trip?
Eric Stoen says
No, there’s no daily tipping. No need to carry around money. We just put tips on our account at check-out.
Was it easy to get from Laamu to Soneva Fushi. I am contemplating splitting my trip to the Maldives between both resorts. Or would you just recommend sticking with one?
Eric Stoen says
There was no short-cut. We took the Six Senses boat from Laamu over to the Kadhdhoo airport, flew to Male, met the Soneva rep, hung out in the Soneva lounge for a little while, and then took a float plane to the resort. The entire transfer, resort dock to resort dock, took four hours.
I would say to stick to Six Senses Laamu. We love the Soneva brand, and really enjoyed Soneva Kiri in Thailand, but Soneva Fushi was a letdown right after Six Senses. It was more expensive, there was no overwater element, the island seemed confusing to navigate, and our bikes kept breaking down. If you visit both, please let me know your thoughts! We may be in the minority. Or go to Soneva first for the island experience and then end in an overwater villa at Six Senses. That would probably be a better way to do it.