Maldives Island Getaway for the whole Family

Maldives is often perceived as a romantic honeymoon paradise and might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of family friendly destinations.  I was surprised to find out that the Maldives actually has family friendly resorts where kids can enjoy just as much as the adults. We did a week-long trip to the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi resort which for us was the best family friendly option in the Maldives. And btw, for those living in Saudi Arabia, the Maldives are now just a 5 hour flight away from Riyadh and Jeddah directly to Male international airport on Saudi Airlines! Saudis also get a visa on arrival to Maldives (no need for advance procedures) so it’s really the best option when you want to get to a paradise island resort quickly and easily from Saudi Arabia.

The Maldives is an around the year destination thanks to its warm climate, there is a slightly rainier season during the summer monsoon. We had one rainy day during our stay in April and honestly it did not affect the day negatively at all. We just chose different kinds of activities. The clouds actually are nice and cooling during the midday sun and the kids were able to play on the beach longer that day.

Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Resort

The resort we stayed at is called Sun Siyam Iru Fushi which is located in the Noonu Atoll, easily reached by a 45 minute seaplane ride from the capital Male. The resort is Maldivian owned and it’s the only resort on the island so you have the whole paradise island and the surrounding lagoon and reef to yourself. The Iru Fushi island is not very large, you can walk around it in about 30 -45 minutes depending on your walking speed (for us it took like 2 hours to do reach halfway because the kids were obsessed with hermit crab hunting). On the other hand it’s not too small to make it feel crowded, when we were there the resort was almost full, yet it seemed like we were the only people there. Except when we went to breakfast buffet, that was probably the only time there was sign of other people around, and even then it didn’t get overly crowded.

The Seaplane Transfer

From the moment we stepped out of the airplane in Male, all our needs were met by the friendly Sun Siyam staff. They directed us to our connecting flight on Trans Maldivian airways directly to the resort. From the main terminal in Male we took a short car ride to the seaplane port, located just a few km away from the main airport. Our Saudi airlines flight had been late, (more on the Saudia flight later on in this post) so they had the seaplane waiting on us to arrive and we were able to take off right away.

The seaplane ride itself was an incredible experience, we watched the sun setting from the plane and the turquoise and blue water surrounding the picturesque islands below. It was really interesting to see the pilots in the cockpit flying the plane. Some of the pilots were actually barefoot! The staff was very friendly and helpful. The seats on the plane are small, but comfortable enough for such a short flight. It was not at all a bumpy or rough ride, despite my initial concerns having flown on small aircrafts over the Caribbean which have sometimes been extremely rough.

The kids really enjoyed the flight and the moment we landed on top of the water was so amazing for them. I would say the seaplane flight itself is an experience you should have once you’re in the Maldives, because seeing the islands from the air will truly take your breath away! The feeling when the plane touches down at the island is magical. Watch the seaplane ride video on my instagram here: Seaplane over Maldives 

We were greeted by the smiling Sun Siyam staff at the seaplane dock at the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi resort. A golf cart took us to our beach villa. We had chosen a split stay between a family beach villa for three nights and a pool water villa for the last three nights because we wanted to experience both and see which one we liked more.

In hindsight I would say the beach pool villa was a far better choice for us because we had the children with us. At the time they were 4 and 6 years old, so being on top of the water with opportunities for them to fall in while you look away was a bit stressful. With older kids it would make more sense to stay on the water villas. I would love to go there again and spend the entire vacation in the beach pool villa, it’s definitely the best family friendly option.

The Pool Beach Villa 

The first part of our stay was in the family villas on the beach which have their own private pools. Check out the official pictures of the Family Deluxe Beach Villa with pool by clicking here. This villa was literally like the dream vacation hideout for a family with small kids who adore the beach and the pool. You could literally just stay at your villa all day without getting bored. Our kids would not come out of the pool at all we had to bribe them out every time.

Our family beach villa was in a really perfect location on the island, very close to the sea with a breathtaking view to the picture perfect beach. We could see the ocean while sitting on our terrace, with the kids frolicking in the pool in front of us. Optionally we could sit on the beach chairs or our own beach cabana while the kids played with sand toys and swam in the ocean. You can even watch the kids in the pool from inside the villa. It’s as if the whole thing was planned keeping in mind the parents needs!

The beach pool villa is really perfect. I would highly recommend investing the extra money for this villa, especially if you’re looking for a holiday of just spending quality time with your family in full relaxation mode. The privacy at the villa is also superb for those seeking for a private area to swim with their kids. The few people we ever saw walking on the beach can’t view the pool thanks to the beach cabana built on a small hill which blocks the view nicely.

So the setup was perfect for families with small children you need to keep an eye on them all the time. There is also enough privacy from the surrounding villas thanks to the trees and bushes so all you see is your own little garden and the view to the sea. The beach villas have amazing enclosed backyards too, they have a swing, a jacuzzi, an outdoor rainwater shower and of course normal showers as well. The toiletries are provided from the luxury Thalgo spa. It’s like having your own private spa! The room itself was spacious and beautiful.  Two extra beds had been setup for the children and they had thought about every little detail we might need. Each villa is assigned their own butler and they help you with any requests you may have.

The Infinity Pool Water Villa

This was my first experience to stay on an overwater bungalow, I had always dreamed of staying on one of these when I go to Maldives. Overwater bungalows are something you can’t really do anywhere else in the world in the same way (maybe some remote Pacific Island like Bora Bora) so the Maldives is the best place in the world to get the overwater stay experience. We stayed in the gorgeous infinity pool water villa. Once we stepped in we were totally in awe. It’s even more amazing in person and the images just do it justice. Your own private hideout in paradise surrounded by the beautiful blue hues of the water.

The water villa was very spacious, with a master bedroom and separate living room which they’d converted into a kids bedroom for us. The kids bedroom even had a glass floor window they could watch fish directly from their beds! Everywhere you’d look the stunning turquoise water was there. The bathroom is like a small spa, a jacuzzi with views to the sea, a rainwater outdoor and indoor shower and a dressing room all in one large space. Robes and slippers were provided for the whole family.

The best part of the villa is of course the dock. They have placed walls so that people from the neighboring villas can’t see to your dock. It feels like you’re the only one there. Kids jumped straight into the pool but they didn’t want to get into the ocean. It was a windy day so they were intimidated by the waves. There’s also a strong current which will take everything to the right of the villa, which we discovered after one of the kids decided to throw our fins and snorkels into the ocean and I had to swim to fetch them. The kids spotted a pair of barracudas (the size of an adult) hanging out under our bungalow, so after this there wasn’t any chance the kids would’ve gotten in the water anymore :D

I’d recommend the overwater villas for families with older children to make the most out of it. For us it was a little bit stressful in the end to be constantly monitoring the kids movement on the dock. It’s just not designed for the needs of parents with small children, for example there’s a “blindspot” behind the other room on the dock where the kids went once and we couldn’t find them! It was a terrifying feeling when we suddenly didn’t see them anywhere and they didn’t reply when called. But all along the little rascals had been hiding behind the wall, with a bag of gummy bears they took without permission from the minibar :D

For couples the overwater villa would absolutely perfect though, the ultimate privacy, views and romantic setting. The stunning adults-only infinity pool is located right next to the dock which leads to the infinity pool water bungalows. For families with younger children, the pool villas located on the beach are the best choice! They’re also closer to the large family pool area.  I’m supper happy that I got to scratch the ‘Maldives overwater bungalow-stay’ off my bucket list, it’s a very special experience that I think should definitely be done once in the Maldives.

We were able to go snorkeling from our villa once when the kids were at the Kid’s Club. It was around the time the tide was coming in so the water was a little bit murky with shifting sand, but we saw a good amount of fish in the lagoon. The coral around this area was sadly mostly dead, you’d need to go further out to the reef to see more color and life. The snorkeling was better from the dive center where you can access the reef easily. The snorkeling equipment is provided free of charge from the diving center. 

The Restaurants

The Sun Siyam has 14 different restaurants and bars. The breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet is served at the large buffet restaurant Iru which is located in the center of the island. The best thing about this buffet setup is that they have thought out really well how to accommodate different types of guests there without anyone getting disturbed by the other. We saw solo travelers, honeymoon couples and families all dining there. Normally it would be a catastrophe for a honeymooner to find themselves dining among a bunch of toddlers but the great thing is that there’s actually an entire family section located on the other side of the restaurant!

In the family dining area they have a playground and the kids own buffet during lunch and dinner. This helps parents tremendously, we could actually enjoy meals (and even finish our food) while the kids played nearby. Plus you don’t have to take the kid to the main buffet area to run around because their food is right there.

The buffet restaurant had delicious dishes all made from the freshest ingredients (lots of organic stuff and specialty diets are covered!) and they change the theme every night. The kids loved the homemade organic ice cream which they could eat as much as they wanted after finishing their meals. They got to take it out from the ice cream machine themselves and there was a different flavor every day! It was a great motivation for them to finish their meals because they knew they could go to the ice cream machine afterwards ;)

The other restaurant we enjoyed dining at with the kids was the Islanders Grill located directly on the beach. While we waited for the food the kids could just walk around and hunt for hermit crabs and seashells so we didn’t have to worry about them disturbing anyone or not being able to sit still that long. I’d definitely recommend the beach restaurant as the best option for a la carte dining with the kids, they serve Maldivian cuisine and you can order fresh lobsters as well.

On a couple of occasions we used the resort nanny service which is charged per hourly rate basis. One of the employees from the kids club came over to our villa and watched the kids for a few hours so we could have a parents only dinner, which was such a luxury! To come all the way to this paradise island and not be able to have a romantic dinner at the beach would be such a waste. The kids really loved their babysitter Cecilia, they still ask about her and miss her. When we ate out just the two of us, we chose the restaurant Trio located over the water for the maximum romance factor.

Komas Kids Club

Having a kids club at your hotel is naturally on the top of the list for parents when choosing the best family friendly resort. The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Kids Club Komas Kids Paradise was one of the best resort Kid’s Clubs I’ve seen yet. The facilities are located inside a large enclosed area where the kids have plenty of activities to choose from. The staff is so friendly and you can immediately see that they are people who take into consideration each child’s individual needs. We felt very comfortable leaving the kids there daily for a few hours. Especially the hours when it gets too hot and sunny to hang out in the beach or in pool, the kids club offers a great break for kids (and adults lol).

You can drop off your kids (4 years and up) there for as long as you like free of charge. The Kids club opens at 10 am and closes 6 pm daily. There are professional people working there and they even have their own little kiddy pool so you can leave the kids swimsuits in a bag with them and the staff will help change them. There’s also a outdoor climbing and soft play area, a library/ TV room, a play room with role play outfits, play kitchens, games and toys for all ages. A nap and quite room for kids to rest in. They have a menu there so the staff can order food for the kids as according to parents instructions.

In the afternoon they take the kids to the Ice Cream shop La Cremeria by the beach for their daily scoop of complimentary ice cream. The Kids Club has daily activity schedules and arts and crafts they do something different daily. Our kids could not wait to go there each day! That already tells how much they actually enjoyed it, instead of feeling they were just ” dumped” there for the parents convenience. It’s great for parents to get this few hours break each day and enjoy reading a book, snorkeling or whatever activity or inactivity you chose.

Watersports and Activities 

Speaking of activities, what I loved about the Sun Siyam is that you can make your stay there as active or inactive as you want. For those into water sports, the resort offers you complimentary non motorized water-sports, and you can borrow snorkelling equipment for your stay too. The kids club will lend you some sand play toys for your stay too, which I wish we had known because we bought very pricey sand toy kit from the resort shop on the first day. Having the sand play toys keeps the kids busy for hours so for us it’s like a necessity. The other water sports they have are banana boats, paddle boats,  jet skiis, the new flyboard and many different types of activities to chose from! In case you want to do something out of the sun there’s an air-conditioned game house with billiards and other games. You can also take a walking tour of the island, it’s like a tropical paradise inside the island.

Other activities you can do at Sun Siyam is participate in the various trips they offer, we went on the Sunset fishing trip and it was a lot of fun, especially since my kids are slightly obsessed with fishing! Everyone caught a fish and some of the guests who caught large enough fish even had their own catches grilled and made for dinner for them.

My husband wanted me to add that he did also catch a fish big enough for grilling. The only problem is we only got the head and the rest of it had been eaten by barracuda on its way up!

Sun Siyam also have their own diving center where you can take courses and dive on the house reef or do diving trips to further locations which I’d definitely recommend. The lagoon water was surprisingly slightly murky in the area in front our beach villa, and there wasn’t much coral around. I’m not sure why this was the case but we did see a boat nearby that we were told was “making sand” (from the looks of it probably by crushing larger rocks /coral) and it caused the water on this side of the island to be less clear as we saw on the opposite side.

The snorkeling was still great, at least my husband who is not very experienced in snorkeling found it amazing and had no complaints. We saw huge barracudas, angel fish, batfish and other reef fish just outside our water villa. Ive been a scuba diver for almost 20 years and admittedly I might be somewhat spoiled as a diver. From my expectations and experience, the resort lagoon and reef was a bit of a disappointment in terms of visibility and coral. Don’t take me wrong it’s not bad at all, but I’d highly recommend taking the dive and snorkeling excursions out to other diving sites if you’re very into diving. If you’re looking for a resort specifically aimed at divers, opt for the Sun Siyam Aqua Vilu Reef resort which is all about the amazing house reef.

Thalgo Spa 

The Sun Siyam also has a spa which we visited for a family massage! It was actually a surprisingly nice experience. I had not expected my kids to be able to settle in and stay still for that long and let themselves be massaged. But they actually did and I didn’t hear a peep for an entire hour!  The spa staff had planned it initially so that the children would be in one spa treatment hut and us parents in the other but the kids got nervous about it, which is understandable because they had no idea what a “massage” would be like since they never had one. (Our kids were 4 and 6 at the time). So we ended up doing mommy and daughter and daddy and son massages. We were all so relaxed and ready for bed after the massages. I had a hot stone massage which did wonders to my tense back muscles. The kids had chocolate massages and they still talk about that time they were covered in chocolate. The spa itself is so tranquil and serene, you will feel like you’re the only person there it’s really well designed for privacy and ambiance.

The Thalgo spa staff is absolutely lovely and friendly and they seemed to genuinely love to treat the clients big and small! I went a second time with my daughter for a mommy and daughter mani-pedi. My daughter was so stoked about her nails (she chose a different color for each nail) that she wouldn’t put her hands down for many hours after the treatment in fear of ruining the nails! It was so funny to watch and a very memorable experience for her, that time she got to come to the spa with mom.

Our favorite part of the stay was probably just hanging out at our own beach villa and pool, spending quality time together as a family. We did visit the family pool one day and it was awesome too. There’s a shallow area that has been sectioned out for the smallest swimmers, and beautifully landscaped pool built with the same black lava stone as the villa pools. The kids were obsessed by the little white stones which line the pool, they would drop them on the bottom and go find them. They’d do this for hours on end! Which was nice for the parents :) Another great thing about the family pool, there’s an Indian restaurant and a poolbar.

This is another very smart solution from the resort, they opted for two separate pools, an adults-only infinity pool by the ocean and a family pool with waterfalls, bridges and a shallow kiddy area in the tropical garden. This means adults and those honeymooners can enjoy the zen sunset view pool in peace and quiet while the families can splash and play in the family pool without having to worry about disturbing other guests. Perfect solution for everyone.

So is Maldives worth it? I would say most definitely YES, especially if you always wanted to experience the Maldives and go there with your kids, the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi is the best resort to choose for families with children. Kids under 12 stay for free at Sun Siyam Iru Fushi and they even dine for free at the restaurants when eating with parents.

 

Flight on Saudia

The Saudi Airlines direct flights are great if you’re short on time and want to save money (our flights were just 1700 SAR return per person). The Saudia direct flight is a good option if you want to reach an exotic paradise island from Saudi Arabia without having to deal with the change of flights, especially important point for parents traveling with small kids!

One thing to note with the Saudi airlines flight, it’s actually a connecting service to Sri Lanka (we only realized this on the plane when the pilot announced it). So this means the flight will most likely be full of people on their way back from Makkah (Umrah & Hajj pilgrims) especially if you fly around the times of Ramadan Hajj, obviously.

What’s noteworthy regarding Hajj and Umrah pilgrims is people often catch all sorts of communicable diseases on Hajj, which is perfectly normal anywhere in the world where millions of people congregate, but not something you necessarily want to face whilst in a small shared airspace with hundreds of people who got sick.

We were really concerned once we noticed that most of the people on our flight had a really, really bad sounding cough. Not some little sniffles or a common cold, but I’m talking about a dreadful, MERS sounding cough and they all kept coughing like NON STOP. The last thing you want just before your much awaited Maldives dream vacation would be a virus which has the potential to leave you bedridden for a week. Thank god we all managed not to catch whatever the group had. Just make sure to take care of hand hygiene especially after using any public toilets and touching door handles!

The other consideration for taking this flight is that most of the pilgrims are often on organized trips by agencies, who will book up the seats on the plane beforehand. We tried to check in as early as possible but despite that we didn’t find any seats next to each other! Which is of course a concern when traveling with two small kids. Luckily on the plane the flight attendants arranged our seats so we managed to get two and two together. So make sure to secure your seat selection when doing the booking.

Another thing that really annoyed me on the Saudi airlines flight is that their entertainment system was not working during our entire flight. With two kids who can’t wait to watch a movie on the plane, yeah that would be really crappy realization. 5 hours is a long time with kids on a plane. Plus the added one hour waiting at Riyadh inside the aircraft for the flight to take off made it a 6 hour flight. It was a morning flight so there’s no chance the kids would sleep. Anyways our kids are frequent flyers and the flight went like a breeze. For kids not used to air travel it might be a different story.

If these would’ve been the only problems we had during our Saudi airlines experience I probably would not even bother to mention it, but on the way back things got really interesting when at check in desk the staff first refused to let my husband on the plane in shorts (he was allowed on the exact same shorts when GOING to Maldives from Riyadh), and we had to get our already checked in luggage back so he could change. They also looked me up and down (my arms and legs were fully covered) and said I had to cover with abaya at the check in desk, in Male. The staff was so rude and completely ignorant of the fact that abayas are not even required at the arrivals in Saudi Arabia. Despite that I usually put mine on in the plane before disembarking anyway.

Edit August 2017: Saudi Airlines announced its ban on shorts and sleeveless shirts in their aircrafts. So make sure to cover up!

In our case it was really a disaster with the already at this point very exhausted kids to have an additional half hour just standing there at check in desk for the sake of the shorts. All the hassle actually made us so late we barely made our flight! On the plane we realized that AGAIN the entertainment system did not work on any of the monitors. As usual, they also had run out of chicken option on the flight and thanks to this the kids got meals they refused to eat. Because the staff at check in had made us so late, we had zero time to shop for souvenirs or “emergency snacks” as I call them for the kids to have on the flight.

These might sound like small details to forget and indeed they are and have long been forgotten. But at the moment when you’re experiencing all of it with those two kids, you just really wish for the airline’s service to go smoothly and at minimum for the services promised to be available. Not only for the comfort of yourself and kids, but actually for the sake of everyone on the flight!

Side note: I’m really tired of reading all these cranky people complaining online about how kids act badly on airlines, when sometimes they have no clue what the background of a whining child might be. To those people I just want to say- do consider that the crappy service of the airline might be contributing to a child behaving “badly” (also known as an over-tired, hungry or otherwise uncomfortable kid). Even though MOST parents (sadly not all) do EVERYTHING humanely possible to contain, calm down and keep their kids as quite and happy as possible, sometimes unexpected things happen and some things are simply out of control no matter how much parents prepare.

So what I suggest is that if the above mentioned factors will most likely ruin part of your holiday experience, you’re probably better off flying with Emirates or Etihad (or Qatar Airways if they lift the ban) with the added one stop.

Sun Siyam resorts

As for the destination, I’d say we would absolutely return to Sun Siyam resorts, and especially to the Iru Fushi if I were with my kids. The service is so excellent we would not hesitate to go to the same place again, even though I hardly ever do this as a frequent traveler.

As a diver I would love to try out Sun Siyam’s Aqua Vilu Reef resort. If I had the chance to go with my husband only or in a group of friends I’d try the Sun Siyam Olhuveli resort. At all times in the resort we felt welcome, at home and completely relaxed. The main worry of the day consisted of what and where are we going to eat today? Which is not at all a bad worry to have.

For parents, it’s really the best option in terms of the offers they have periodically for families, the free meals for kids, kids stay for free and the way the entire island is designed to cater for the families with the children.

I’m sure all parents had this feeling at some point, when you went to a hotel pool or restaurant and felt you’re bothering the other guests that don’t have kids. We didn’t get this feeling at Sun Siyam and that really makes such a big difference because you can completely relax knowing you’re not being a nuisance. I actually cannot remember ever having such a carefree attitude to how my kids were behaving at any hotel ever! No wonder they have won several awards for being family friendly!

For the kids this was really like a dream vacation. What our kids love doing most- swimming, fishing, searching for seashells and crabs on the beach. Eating unlimited amounts ice cream and yummy foods. Spending quality time with mom and dad. That sounds like paradise to me :)

To book your stay at the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi I highly recommend you book directly from their site www.sunsiyam.com and check their special offers. Look out for the meal plan upgrades which are of great value! The Sun Siyam resorts offer luxury accommodation with a more affordable price. For example the beach villas start at 297 dollars per night on the bed and breakfast basis which is a really awesome deal for the Maldives!

As for the meal plans I highly recommend going for the all inclusive option. We normally like to stay on half board basis at hotels so we have that one meal as optional in case we don’t feel very hungry and would not eat lunch anyway. But we noticed after the first day it would’ve been more economical to take the all-inclusive, mainly because the additional drinks itself became very costly (if you’re going to drink anything other than water which is complimentary) and our kids just became super hungry by lunch time and we had to order food for ourselves in order for the kids to eat free. So in the end we ended up spending much more on food and drinks than we had planned. You can expect to spend about 30- 80 dollars per person per dish plus drinks, so one extra meal for the entire family of four (assuming you’d want appetizers/ desserts) could end up costing almost 200 dollars. Then times that by two for lunch and dinner. A glass of wine would cost around 14 dollars and a beer is 8 dollars. Adding everything up and you’ll go over the price of the all-inclusive, which is 520 dollars per night in the beach villas. This is a very common price range in the Maldives, they say you pay extra for the special location.

 

How to get there:

From Riyadh:

Saudi Airlines direct flights to Male (connections service to Colombo) twice a week.

Etihad, Emirates and Gulf air to Male.

Check out the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Online Booking Offers

T: +960 656 0591
E: 
info@thesunsiyam.com

They have an awesome offer for Eid al Adha– up to 50% off and meal plan upgrades!

You can follow Sun Siyam Iru Fushi resort on Twitter here and on Instagram here 

**Our accommodation on halfboard basis and seaplane transfers were provided by the Sun Siyam resort.

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