"Tropical oasis," "paradise on earth," "bucket-list destination": Get ready to trot out the clichés, because when it comes to the Maldives every one of them is accurate. The sheer beauty of the coral reefs, the translucent ever-changing colors of the Indian Ocean, the isolation, indigenous vegetation and friendly people are legendary, and rightly so—the Maldives lives up to the hype.
Many nations around the world have miles of pristine, white coral sand and balmy turquoise seas, but few compare to the Maldives. Its 1,200 islands are spread out over 26 coral atolls; the combined land of all the islands is little more than 100 square miles. That means you are rarely more than a few steps from the beach. Many of the villas are built on stilts out over the water, so you may actually have to walk onshore in order to get to the beach. Besides curling your toes in the sand, many people come here to sample the Maldives' world-class dive spots. Others simply snorkel among the endless coral reefs. There are so many coral atolls here that our English word derives from the Maldivian name atholhu.