Consider a trip to the Maldives, and more than 130 resorts vie for your attention. The choice is overwhelming - and perhaps worrying when you consider the environmental impact. Gaze out from atolls such as North Male and you'll see a traffic-jammed "boatorway" rather than serene ocean-scapes; this is the M25 of the seas. That being said, if you expand your search beyond the headline islands, the choice of resort (and the views) get better.
Fifty years ago, the Maldives wasn't as popular as it is today. In 1973, a local Maldivian group took a risk and launched the Indian Ocean's first luxury dive resort on Baros, where dazzling sands and coral lagoon still draw travellers today. The owners remained - and remain - fiercely independent, and three years ago they launched the positively paradisiacal Milaidhoo, a minute island getaway.
It's an adult Nirvana: children under the age of nine are not allowed, there are no water slides, beach volley or Zumba classes, and all motorised water sports are also banned. You can walk around the island on a footpath in about eight minutes - or 15 if you want to stay on the perfect, natural-sand beach.
Stay in one of the resort's Beach Pool villas or smaller Water Pool villas and you'll rarely need to visit the reception area; every whim is taken care of by magical Jameel and his colleagues. Milaidhoo achieves the highest level of luxury in the most discreet and unobtrusive way. Unlike at other top-end resorts, luxury comes naturally here. There's a cushion for your back because staff saw you hold it one morning; a dolphin-spotting trip because your partner mentioned it. No place on the resort ever feels full or crowded; you have to seek out others rather than bump into them. This is what serenity feels like.
With a spacious atmosphere, high ceilings, a large walk in dressing room, indoor- and outdoor-showers and a beautiful bathtub, the Beach Villas are Milaidhoo's most sought-after accommodation. Each benefit from a large pool and all but three face the sunrise (the others enjoy vistas of the sun dipping below the horizon each evening). We recommend booking one that opens out onto the beach. Water Villas are similarly beautiful, if slightly smaller, and most of them face the sunset.
What's for breakfast?
If there were a prize for the best breakfast in the Maldives, Milaidhoo would get it. Expect a seemingly endless array of fresh breads, muffins, cakes, cheeses, hand-cut charcuterie, juices, smoothies and more. Gluten-free, vegan and other dietary requirements are well catered for.
How about lunch and dinner?
The breezy Compass Pool Bar is a favourite among guests in search of cooling cocktails (try a beer-based tipple) and light bites - the Thai beef salad a must. Serving an international menu (try the prawn linguine), the Ocean Restaurant is a great lunch option, though the shoreline setting can get a little hot. Come evening, guests are spoiled for choice with dinner options. The Shoreline Grill does what it says on the tin - exceptionally well. Expect masterfully grilled meat, fish, crustaceans, and vegetables (or all of the above). The Chef's Table here specialises in teppanyaki; it's fun, entertaining and delicious. Nevertheless, Milaidhoo's star culinary offering is Ba'theli, named after the Maldivian boats that ploughed the trade routes, and three of which are built into the shoreline - one a kitchen, another the restaurant and a third a sunset bar. The menu here will make you rethink Maldivian food. The chef's perfectly spiced sea bass is stunning, and best enjoyed a cold glass from the restaurants' superlative wine list.
Is there a bar?
The Compass Pool Bar is prime drinking territory, with open space by the pool, fans, swinging chairs and low couches. Sunset at Ba'theli is profoundly romantic though, so let your mood guide you.
Serenity Spa is made up of divine over-water treatment rooms for singles and couples, as well as outdoor baths. There is also a peaceful yoga pavilion - join daily sessions at 7:30am or use it in private throughout the day. The Pool Room is fun, even if the music is shared with the (well-equipped) gym - it can feel a little too enthusiastic after dinner. A variety of self- or wind-propelled water vehicles are available, including kayaks, paddle boards and catamarans.
Things you should know
The House Reef is stunning, housing varieties of marine life that you'll struggle to find anywhere else. Dip beneath the surface and you'll see myriad schooling fish, lobsters, sharks, rays, clownfish, you name it. Caves are to be found a little deeper too. (Guests from other resorts aren't allowed to dive here). It's well worth taking the Nemo Tour, led by the resident marine biologist - she'll happily take lots of photos for you too.
Within a short walk you will find…
… the villa from which you set off; Milaidhoo Island is tiny. If you have access to a boat, explore the surrounding Unesco biosphere reserve of Baa Atoll, where manta rays swim in shallow waters and diving opportunities are among the most amazing in all of the Maldives.
Alessandro Tomé is a contributing editor at Spear's Magazine.