Last summer was the most un-summer-like summer of our lifetime. The typical seasonal rites-of-passage — such as beach holidays, cocktails on the waterfront and barbecue parties — suddenly became a risky venture as America’s coronavirus count surged into the millions and deaths went into six figures.
Even an international escape to a low-risk country remains nearly impossible, as a majority don’t want visitors from the number-one COVID-19 nation.
However, since it’s been a terrible year, maybe it’s time to tick one off your bucket list. The Maldives, one of the world’s most tourism-reliant countries, is welcoming Americans.
An exotic paradise consisting of over 1,000 atoll islands in the exquisite Indian Ocean, it conjures up alluring visions of over-the-water bungalows in crystal-clear, coral-filled seas. If Aaron Spelling’s “Fantasy Island” was a real place, no doubt it would be in the Maldives. This is the year you deserve to splash out and treat yourself to a trip of a lifetime.
What most people don’t realize about the Maldives is that it is a Muslim nation ruled by sharia law, which strictly forbids alcohol, women’s bikinis and dogs. That nice bottle of Scotch you bought at a bargain price in duty-free will be confiscated upon arrival.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that your holiday will be dry. Since the majority of resorts are located on their own private islands, they are able to override the rules.
If you stay on an island where locals reside, however, there will be no bars or pubs and as a woman you should dress modestly. If you prefer mingling with the residents, there are still ways around this. Some resorts offer all-inclusive day passes for $100 and up, with boat transfers included. During my first two days of holiday on busy Hulhumale island, I chose this option for an afternoon.
For the bulk of my trip, I stayed at on the charming island of Maafushi, a great spot for diving with a thriving local scene. While the island has a fenced-off beach where shoulder- and knee-baring swimwear is permitted, there’s no place to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or down a beer after a long day underwater.
To circumvent this, there’s a floating bar docked 500 meters offshore. This cruise ship-like bar and restaurant was easily spotted from the isle’s main dock.
With a quick call, a small skipper boat was sent to transport me free of charge. Once I arrived, I had a choice of indoor seating or chilling on the outside deck, where you could watch a spectacular sunset. Compared to the luxurious resort, the prices were a steal: $5 for a beer and $8 to $10 for a cocktail.
Despite the Maldives’ strict alcohol laws, there is a de facto national cocktail: the Maldivian Lady. Its origins are murky; a few different resorts claim to have made the original. But wherever you’re able to find cocktails in this nation, you’ll most likely find a Maldivian Lady on the drink list.
This tipple fits the bill of an ideal beach drink — tall, cool and fruity, with a sunny hue. It’s forged from orange and pineapple juices with a punch from rum and apricot brandy, along with some splashes of grenadine for color. The fresh pineapple’s sweetness is balanced with the citrus orange and the deep notes of the brandy, all poured over refreshing crushed ice. After sampling a few of these on a floating bar, you’ll definitely earn your sea legs!
But no need to worry about getting home. The same little boat will deliver you back to dry land. And on an island small enough to walk around in 20 minutes, it’s not too far to stumble to bed.
The Maldivian Lady
3 oz. white rum
2 oz. apricot brandy
2 splashes grenadine
3 oz. orange juice
4 oz. pineapple juice
Mix the ingredients in a shaker. Add to a glass with crushed ice. Garnish with a cherry or a pineapple.