Dining in the Maldives can be a very indulgent experience indeed. Each resort has multiple restaurants concentrating on various types of world cuisine. Not surprisingly, seafood is a prominent fixture. Vegetarians won't go hungry, though! When planning your trip to the Maldives, you'll need to keep in mind that the islands and resorts are spread out over a vast area. This means it's usually not possible to hop from place to place for a meal, and you'll need to choose your base accordingly. Read on to be tempted by our pick of the best restaurants in the Maldives—many of which are destinations unto themselves.
Best Underwater Dining: Ithaa Undersea Restaurant
The Maldives is renowned for having several transparent undersea restaurants—yes, you can dine under the water and watch sea creatures (including sharks) swimming all around you! Ithaa Undersea, 16 feet below the surface at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, was the first one to open. It provides an intimate experience with only 14 tables. Fusion cuisine is served according to set menus. Be prepared to fork out around $100 per person for a glass of bubbly and some canapes during Champagne hour (11 a.m. to noon), $260 per person for lunch, and $400 per person for dinner. Tax is included, but alcohol at lunch and dinner is extra.
Best for Families: Thila by Kurumba
Thila is the award-winning signature restaurant at Kurumba Resort, on Vihamanaafushi Island in North Male Atoll. This versatile, semi-outdoor dining spot dishes up a sumptuous continental breakfast, and contemporary Maldivian grills and decadent desserts for dinner. It's a gourmet restaurant, but the mood is relaxed, and there's a special menu for kids. Choose from a table on the beachfront terrace, deck over the water, top floor balcony, or among the palm trees. The island is conveniently located a short 10-minute speedboat ride from Male.
Best for Seafood and Steak: Sea Fire Salt at Anantara Dhigu
One of the most popular restaurants in the Maldives, Sea.Fire.Salt is a fine-dine steakhouse restaurant that specializes in freshly caught Maldivian fish and grilled meats. It's positioned over the lagoon at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort, on Dhigufinolhu Island in South Male Atoll. The grilled seafood Platter will get you a spectacular assortment of king prawns, scallops, lobster, and sea bass atop a slab of pink Himalayan salt. Seafood-lovers will swoon! A wide range of exotic flavored salt is also provided to elevate the taste of the food. Coconut salt, thyme salt, saffron salt, and even blue cheese salt are some of the options.
Best for Vegetarians: Just Veg by Atmosphere Kanifushi
Atmosphere Kanifushi Resort in remote Lhaviyani Atoll has the first fully-vegetarian resort in the Maldives. If you think vegetarian food is bland and unappetizing, you'll think again at Just Veg. There are plenty of surprising experimental flavor combinations with cuisine from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and the Indian Ocean regions. The menu can be customized to suit vegans too. The best thing—it's all-inclusive in the resort's premium Platinum Plus Package. A scenic 30-minute seaplane flight from Male is required to reach the island.
Best Garden-to-Table: Botanica at One&Only Reethi Rah
Brent Savage, an influential Australian chef, has partnered with the One&Only Reethi Rah resort to helm the property's leafy outdoor eatery. As its name suggests, Botanica focuses on creating imaginative dishes from organic ingredients that are grown in the resort's vegetable garden or locally sourced. The food is prepared in a manner that retains its goodness and enhances its natural flavor. Showcased on the new menu are rare items such as Maldivian rock lobster, pickled wakame seaweed, sea succulents, and finger lime. A candlelight dinner in the garden, accompanied by the aroma of fresh herbs, is a highlight.
Best for Traditional Maldivian: Guduguda at The Standard
Trendy boutique U.S. hotel chain The Standard recently opened a resort on Huruvalhi Island in Raa Atoll, a 40-minute seaplane flight from Male. In keeping with the brand, this playful resort is anything but standard. Its signature Guduguda restaurant features Maldivian cuisine—a rarity at resorts in the Maldives—cooked by local women in an open show kitchen. Locally-caught seafood and fragrant coconut-milk based curries are served on low-slung tables. Guests are encouraged to eat with their hands and dress up in traditional Maldivian attire on offer.
Best for Gastronomes: Aragu at Velaa Private Island
Chef Gaushan de Silva gives Asian twists to Modern European cuisine at Aragu, the signature restaurant at ultra-luxurious Velaa Private Island in Noonu Atoll. The chef, who once worked for the Jordanian royal family and various Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, has crafted an innovative bespoke tasting menu that's based on each diner's personal preferences. You'll get to select from a list of global ingredients to be incorporated into the menu. Expect the unexpected, for sure! Velaa Private Island also has the Maldives' highest restaurant, Tavaru, in a white tower 72 feet above sea level.
Best for Ocean Views: Muraka at Mirihi Island Resort
Many restaurants in the Maldives sit over the water, and Muraka is no exception. It's situated at the end of a long wooden jetty at Mirihi Island Resort in South Ari Atoll. However, what makes it stand out is its exclusive setup, with a row of widely-spaced tables and lounges right next to the ocean. Sunsets are particularly stunning. The rustic-style restaurant also has an open-floor section in the center, where waves gently lap against the wood, and passing marine life can be observed. The cuisine is mainly seafood and grills, although a vegetarian menu is available as well. Wine aficionados will appreciate the extensive wine list, perfect for pairing with the food.
Best for Romance: Terra at Waldorf Astoria
Terra is one of a record 11 restaurants at the swanky new Waldorf Astoria resort, on Ithaafushi Island in South Male Atoll. It has a collection of seven secluded private bamboo dining pods, or nests, strategically layered and tucked into the foliage. Dinner at the restaurant comprises an extravagant multi-course contemporary tasting menu matched with an excellent wine list. The cost of this exceptional experience? About $360 per person for the meal, with taxes included. Alcohol is extra. A 30-minute boat ride from Male will get you to the island.
Best Informal Dining: Seagull Café
Leafy and airy, Seagull Café is the best restaurant in capital city Male if you're looking for comfort food. The restaurant started as one of the Maldives' first gelaterias decades ago, before later expanding over two levels. Its spacious top floor overlooks the street and a mosque and is sheltered by a huge tree that grows up through the middle of the property. On the menu are all-day breakfasts, pasta, burgers, soups, salads, sandwiches, curries, noodles, and grills. Of course, gelato is still available, and it makes a great dessert. Do be aware that alcohol isn't permitted in Male. The restaurant does excellent coffee and fresh fruit juices, though. It's centrally located on happening Fareedhee Magu, a major road in the city.