Before moving from the United States to Europe seven years ago, I took many vacations on the beaches of Caribbean islands. Last year, my husband and I went to Ao Nang, Thailand, also lovely. But nothing has rivaled our trip to the Maldives two years ago. Though there more than 100 resorts to choose from, I would pack my bags again for Kuredu Island Resort tomorrow if I could — and so should you.

Snorkeling and scuba diving you can’t experience anywhere else

Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, underwater visibility can be more than 100 feet and water temperatures range from the upper 70s to mid 80s. Abundant coral reefs, shipwrecks and sea life await snorkelers and divers of all skill levels.

In the chest-deep water just beyond our waterfront villa, we encountered reef sharks, titan trigger fish, Napoleon fish and mature sea turtles. On a boat trip to nearby islands, we snorkeled with mantas. Better still, Kuredu has a house shipwreck, where we glimpsed grouper the size of small cars, sting rays six feet wide and giant moray eels, without needing a boat.

The sanctuary of an overwater villa

The Maldives is one of a handful of destinations in the world offering overwater accommodations. The pretty penny paid for an upgrade to one of these is worth the money when the view from your bedroom window is nothing but pristine ocean stretching to the horizon.

At Kuredu, the overwater villas were on the quieter side of the resort. After dark, the deck walkway was bathed in soft blue track lighting, so that we could see the moon and stars. We drifted off to dreaming as waves crested below the bungalow each night.

Seeing the Maldives from a seaplane

From the Malé airport, guests are transported to the islands via ferry, speedboat, seaplane or commercial fight, depending on the resort. After an international flight, it was tempting to look for a resort with a short transfer time, but we were drawn to the idea of riding in a seaplane for the first time.

We arrived in Malé mid-afternoon, exhausted after our long trip from Frankfurt. We headed for the bathrooms to change from the winter clothes we had worn on the flight (it was February and below freezing in Germany). Relieved to be in shorts and flip-flops, we were escorted to the Kuredu lounge at the airport and served complimentary snacks and beverages while we waited for our seaplane. Once onboard, the plane engines roared, and we splashed across the surface, picking up speed. Within five minutes of take off, we could see chains of overwater villas stretching from nearly every island. You cannot truly appreciate the beauty of the Maldives until you have seen the islands from the air.

Barefoot for a week

Most resorts, including Kuredu, are footwear free. Initially, I was bummed about not wearing fabulous heels and sandals, but it made packing easier. When we stepped off the seaplane at the dock of Kuredu, we took off our shoes. The entire island is sand, including the floors of the open-air restaurants, bars and reception areas. After only a few minutes, we became accustomed to being shoeless and felt like kids again. Our feet protested at the end of the week when we put shoes on and boarded the seaplane bound for Malé.

Beach life

Often, globetrotters forget what it is to relax on vacation. Itineraries are packed with activities, sites and little down time. Maldivian resorts have enough to keep guests busy, but they also provide all of the elements to encourage rejuvenation, like daily turndown service, spas, onsite dining with late breakfast times and numerous dinner seatings, pools, entertainment and more. Most have established their own time zones to maximize daylight hours.

We slept in, arriving at breakfast shortly before the menu switchover to lunch. We spent afternoons reading, soaking in the sun and listening to the ocean on our villa deck, cooling off with frequent snorkeling excursions. After watching the sunset, we dressed for dinner and ate fresh seafood and spicy Asian dishes at our beachfront table. I always saved space for a full plate of desserts to sample from the buffet. We walked along the shore to look for the bioluminescence, plankton glowing shades of fluorescent blue and green. Before bed, we drank froufrou liquor-infused coffees at the pier, spotting eagle rays, large nurse sharks and other impressive fish swimming in the illuminated lagoon.