It wasn’t all that long ago when travel meant a trip to the supermarket. Now a delirious yearning for distant shores is making many globe-trotters bolder. If Greece was thronged by Americans this summer, Uzbekistan and Bolivia suddenly beckoned, too. Call it “carpe diem traveling”—if not now, when?

Perhaps no destination is more yearned for than the Maldives, an aquamarine-and-sapphire scarf of a country floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Located just southwest of India and Sri Lanka, it’s composed of around 1,200 small coral islands and sandbanks (200 of which are inhabited) and has a total land area of 120 square miles. Its capital and largest city is Male, where residents live in one of the world’s most densely populated places.

At Kudadoo, remoteness takes on new meaning.

It’s also a mesmerizingly beautiful country where the tourism industry has been growing rapidly, drawing more than 1.6 million visitors in 2014 before such numbers plummeted during the pandemic. (They are on the rise again.) No wonder the international airport in Male is currently undergoing an expansion, and its new Chinese-built seaplane terminal whisks away international visitors to their resorts, many of which occupy a single, small island. When guests arrive at their final destinations, they mostly stay put, with the exception of going out to sea on a diving or boating expedition.

Aside from the fascinating logistics of creating a world-class luxury experience on a tiny sandbar of an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, these Maldivian hotels have a low-key edginess that comes from the diversity of their guests. In addition to Europeans and Israelis, the islands are hugely popular with people from booming countries such as China, India, and the United Arab Emirates, where so much of the world’s new wealth is now being coined.

The sublime accommodations at Kudadoo.

This demographic and the cutting-edge design and comforts at Maldivian resorts make the islands a bracingly 21st-century destination, especially in contrast to the Caribbean, which for many Americans is as safe and familiar as a warm soak in a Kohler bathtub. Stepping outside of this slightly frumpy comfort zone is only one of the many reasons why the Maldives is a much more exciting destination for a beach holiday than the Caribbean.

The Caribbean islands have their own intriguing cultures, but most of their hotels and resorts cater to Americans’ tastes and habits for the simple reason that U.S. travelers have been their main market for such a long time. So the availability of Sweet’N Low, Splenda, and Tide laundry soap doesn’t come as a surprise.

At Kudadoo, a restful night’s sleep is practically guaranteed.

The other problem many Caribbean hotels face is their ongoing struggle to develop a service culture that reliably and cheerfully delivers excellence. In contrast, resort jobs in the Maldives are highly sought after by the country’s well-educated youth, and the government mandates that at least 50 percent of the staff at all hotels be Maldivian. (The rest come from India, Indonesia, China, and other countries.)

Call it “carpe diem traveling”—if not now, when?

Since it’s a very long trip to the Maldives, one’s hotel should be a place to fall in love with at first sight. This is exactly what will happen on arrival at Kudadoo. It requires a 40-minute flight on a seaplane, but it’s worth all those hours in the air.

Bradley Calder, who was general manager of the resort during my stay, and his Polish wife, Agnieszka, greeted me warmly at the main lodge. The striking building was designed, like the rest of the 15-villa resort, by New York–based Japanese architect Yuji Yamazaki. Remarkably, it is the country’s only fully solar-powered resort.

An embarrassment of aquatic riches.

“We’re working constantly to make Kudadoo the most environmentally friendly and sustainable hotel in the world,” says Calder. From the angled roof of black, V-shaped photovoltaic panels to the cute little bamboo cocktail straws—the hotel is largely free of plastics—each element of the experience has been designed with sustainability in mind.

It’s impressive, but then so is the cosseting minimalist elegance of its 350-square-foot wooden villas, which are built over water and reached via a horseshoe-shaped wooden deck. Each one comes with a private butler on call 24-7 and is ingeniously sited to make for a completely private experience in what is already one of the most private settings for a holiday in the world. Coupled with the A-A-A (anytime, anywhere, anything) ethos of the service and hospitality, the beauty and comfort of these quarters mean many guests sequester themselves for their entire stay.

Dinner with a side of sunset.

Rustic in style and decorated in gentle earth tones like the best Japanese ryokans, these villas come with private outdoor soaking tubs and massage tables, outdoor showers, white marble-lined baths, four-poster beds, and a lounge area with a stocked wine fridge and bar. In the highly improbable event that you can stop staring at the vast rippling azure waters of the Indian Ocean, there’s even a television.

Since Kudadoo is an all-inclusive experience, guests will quickly begin to spoil themselves rotten. Why not have a midnight supper of spicy tuna sushi (the Maldives lands some of the world’s best tuna), grilled local lobster, coconut rice, and a well-chilled bottle of grand cru Chablis on the deck by one’s private infinity pool after a salt-and-ground-coconut-shell exfoliating massage? Add in a floating breakfast on the beach a few hours later, followed by some Jet Skiing and guided snorkeling. Then perhaps finish the day with a sunset dolphin-watching cruise, followed by a candlelit Maldivian seafood-barbecue dinner on a private sandbar. Or just slump into that greatest and, for most people, rarest luxury of all: doing absolutely nothing whatsoever.

Real life feels very far away here.

The Maldives’ first resort, Karumba, opened in 1972, and today the country is home to more than 160 resort hotels, many of which are owned by luxury-hotel groups, including Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton. There are many more to come as well. Recently, an outpost of the Cheval Blanc hotel opened on Randheli Island, and Capella hotels, among many others, will open a luxurious new resort on the North Male atoll in 2023. For the moment, the Maldives retains its sense of magic and specialness. But in the wake of all this expansion, will it stay that way forever? Let’s just say that it’s probably best to get there as soon as possible.

Alexander Lobrano is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL. His latest book, the gastronomic coming-of-age story My Place at the Table: A Recipe for a Delicious Life in Paris, is out now