Luxury Family Holidays Handpicked for Parents

Maldives family-friendly holidays

Most luxury travel buffs will know that the Banyan Tree brand has been synonymous with luxury, spa-filled romance for many a year. Unfortunately, such peace-orientated bliss isn’t always compatible with a family holiday. But, fret not. Angsana is Banyan Tree’s younger, funkier (and dare I say cheaper) little sister and, in the Maldives at least, it’s possible to let the family run a little wild at an Angsana resort whilst soaking up Banyan Tree treats just a short island hop away.
 Angsana Ihuru dock by night
Angsana Ihuru is a bite-size paradise island just 20 minutes by speed boat from Male airport, which itself is a 10 hour direct flight from London. A perfect circle, the impossibly turquoise Indian Ocean washes over white sandy beaches, which rise up to a small mound of palm trees. Nestled in those palm trees is everything you need to completely kick back at Angsana Ihuru. Thatched cabins with sandy gardens lead down to the sea; each is defined by outdoor bathrooms and pretty bedrooms.  A beachside restaurant and bar serves everything from barbecued Red Snapper to spaghetti hoops – popular with little ones the world over, it seems. A shaded spa with individual and couple treatment rooms can be found and there is a Padi Gold standard dive centre offering diving, snorkelling and watersports, all just moments from the island’s house reef, complete with the full cast of Blue Planet. Holidays don’t get much easier than this.
 Angsana Ihuru beach
What Angsana may lack in some facilities (there’s no pool or kids club), it makes up for in charm and simplicity so it’s absolutely family-friendly. Staff are attentive throughout and a strong eco ethos creates a natural sense of humility – refreshing when compared to some of the more brash Maldivian resorts. This is especially true when it comes to marine conservation – guests are encouraged to get involved in coral protection, coral planting and species spotting from the start.
  Angsana Ihuru restaurant
For our weary, holiday-ready heads and over-enthusiastic toddler, a few days on Angsana Ihuru was all about settling into our little beach cabin and embarking on mini-adventures – scouring beaches for shells and crabs, running around the island in just 10 minutes, splashing about in bath-like, warm water and watching hungry reef sharks hunting from safety of the jetty.
 Angsana Ihuru family
Although there’s no formal babysitting service, several of the girls that work on the island were more than happy to watch our two year old for a couple of hours here and there, giving us the chance to snorkel, sea kayak, grab a sundowner or indulge in the spa. The proximity of everything also made it easy to capitalise on nap times, each of us taking it in turns to switch out between marine-based adventures and crashing out in the hammock.
 Angsana Ihuru jetty
Whether eating on our patio or in the restaurant, high chairs, bibs, cooked-to-order food and other toddler-based dining paraphernalia were always on offer.  A candlelit BBQ seafood extravaganza on our own patch of beach one evening provided a welcome respite to early restaurant meals, especially when a couple of Eagle Rays joined in flapping about just meters away.
 Angsana Ihuru jetty view
Any danger of cabin fever was easily crushed with the free ferry shuttling back and forth to the larger Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru island resort, just a mile or so away. If the boat trip alone isn’t enough entertainment for all the family, once on Vabbinfaru there are further watersports, beaches and marine life on offer. Every afternoon, the resort’s conservation-orientated Marine Lab offers ray and baby turtle feeding demonstrations alongside informative talks about the different species and conservation issues. Dining at Vabbinfaru’s Ilafathi restaurant also made a nice change to food routines – especially since the food is more upmarket than that at Angsana.
 Angsana Ihuru dusk
Proximity to Male makes this little island the perfect spot to soak up some Maldivian underwater adventure and beach living for a few days on the way to or back from other destinations. That said, we could have easily whiled away a whole week simply enjoying the no nonsense routine of sea, sand, sun and sleep.
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Soneva Fushi is one of the Maldives’ largest island resorts, and one of the most family-friendly. So much so, that it was recently shortlisted for Best Long-Haul Accommodation for Families in the Family Traveller Awards. Holly Tuppen was lucky enough to sample their Robinson Crusoe-style luxury with her two year old in tow.
For people like me (not filthy rich), Soneva Fushi is a once in a lifetime experience. Sadly, my two year old won’t remember what was, probably, the most magical holiday he will ever go on. But that’s not to say it hasn’t had an impact – one month later and he still gets excited seeing sting rays and turtles whenever we go near open water and I’m convinced Blue Planet is watched with a little more intensity. For myself, it is still (and will be for a long while) my happy place when London seems unbearably hectic and life is filled with more chores than joy.
Soneva Fushi son
Whereas some Maldivian resorts are designed for a quick ‘fly and flop’ experience, often tied in with Sri Lanka or Dubai, Soneva Fushi is a destination in its own right. The island takes 45 minutes to circumnavigate by foot (many take only 10 mins) and having been an island resort for over 15 years, the vegetation is lush and dense. The owners, Sonu (who founded Six Senses) and his wife Eva, have been involved every step of the way and they have embedded a sustainable ethos throughout. Within an hour of us arriving at Soneva Fushi, shoes became obsolete and the barefoot luxury vibe was fully embraced.
Soneva Fushi beach
My fear of ‘getting bored’ on a tiny tropical island was completely futile. Sunbathing is not my thing, but I could happily while away a couple of weeks at Soneva Fushi. I spent hours weaving around the island’s sand paths by bike past the giant banyan trees and dodging scuttling lizards beneath a canopy of greenery alive with birdsong. That was my favourite part of every day. Beyond the villas there’s plenty to explore – a house reef full of marine life, beaches for all occasions, an outdoor cinema, a garden growing everything you could imagine, an observatory, a fabulous kids club, a dive centre, a sensational spa, the yoga retreat and eco centre – the list goes on.
Soneva Fushi bikes
Our personal ‘Mr Friday’ worked out our interests and planned as much or as little action as we liked for each day we were there. A key component of said ‘action’ was obviously eating and drinking. With seven dining options throughout the island and much of the produce made or grown on site, food is a serious past time. A special mention should go to fresh sushi, the chocolate room, homemade sorbet, breakfast juices, Fresh in the Garden jungle-top feasts, sunset cocktails and the beachside BBQs. In between such delights, we lounged on our own private beach, snorkelled with a marine biologist, learned to free dive and enjoyed sunset dolphin cruises.
Soneva Fushi villa
Often catering for families that lead busy, urban lives, Soneva Fushi’s ethos is very much embedded in traditional family values. This is a place for kids to be kids again and for adults to switch off and get involved as much as they like. The kids’ club, The Den, factors in ‘family time’ throughout the day and children are made to feel very welcome throughout the entire island. Childcare is top notch, even when kids are too young for The Den which, for those old enough, offers everything from music lessons to snorkelling trips.
Soneva Fushi kids
Villas come in all shapes and sizes, each providing guests with their own slice of island paradise. Living in one of these villas was a complete break from the norm – simple but beautiful inside and out with huge open air bathrooms, sandy gardens and sea views. Our two-bed Soneva Fushi Villa Suite had every luxurious touch we could want, whilst also feeling simple and calming. It was also big enough not to have to worry about a restless toddler. The outdoor saltwater pool offered the perfect respite to the afternoon sun and our upstairs terrace was a little haven for evenings spent stargazing. If holidays are about luxuriating in a more simple existence filled with childlike excitement, then this place has hit the nail on the head.
For more information click here.
For more Maldivian family-friendly accommodations click here.