Clouds billow in the turquoise sky and palms sway in the jungle backdrop as you wriggle your toes in ribbons of the fine white sand and take a front-row seat on a giant granite boulder.
Although it’s synonymous with celebrities, honeymoons and five-star hotels, for many visitors the main attraction of the Seychelles is its idyllic beaches and languid lifestyle. But this archipelago of 115 islands, many of which are uninhabited, is also nicknamed the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean because of its many rare and endangered species of plants and animals.
This is the place to dive, without crowds, amidst graceful turtles; stand among a million squawking sooty terns; or gaze into the knowing eye of a 200-year-old giant tortoise.
While some smaller islands are home to only one private resort, the larger ones have many. Each island is paradise — the dilemma lies in choosing one.
Best for Luxury: Maia Luxury Resort & Spa, Mahe
Barefoot luxury is the overriding theme at this exclusive resort where thatched roof villas have private infinity pools and personal butlers. Overlooking the secluded sandy cove of Anse Louis on the island's southwest coast, service is top notch — there’s a staggering 230 staff for just 30 villas — but without unnecessary pomp and ceremony. While extravagant gold facials by La Prairie can be booked at the Balinese-style spa at an additional cost, this is an all-inclusive resort with some packages featuring complimentary champagne, private yoga and scuba diving. Guests can spend their days lounging on the beach, exploring the 12-acre resort by foot, kayaking around the cove, snorkeling or taking private boat or helicopter tour to surrounding islands including Praslin, La Digue and Felicity.
Best for Honeymooners: Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa, Mahe
Proving that you don’t have to spend a small fortune to experience paradise, Hilton’s smallest property, with just 39 rooms, is situated adjacent to the island’s best beach, Beau Vallon. All rooms have ocean views, while some new deluxe villas have private infinity pools too. Those who want to live like 007 can book the Ian Fleming Suite—the author was inspired to write For your Eyes Only after a trip here. Honeymoon packages with special privileges, including free spa treatments, are available.
Best for Budget: DoubleTree by Hilton Seychelles – Allamanda Resort & Spa, Mahe
The Seychelles may be famed for their five-star properties, but affordable options are prolific too. Some of the best four-star resorts are found scattered on the jungle-clad main island of Mahe — 20 miles long by five miles wide — which means no additional costs for internal flights or ferries. This boutique property lies 20 minutes from the international airport in a photogenic spot on the quiet southern coast and has all the perks of a luxury resort, including a spa, private beach, gym and pool. Snorkeling and diving feature prominently here, and numerous day trips can be taken to surrounding islands or to the nearby capital Victoria, known for its Creole architecture and vibrant market.
Best for Divers: Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, Silhouette
This scenic property is situated within Sainte Anne Marine National Park and equipped with a National Geographic PADI dive center. The island's sheer granite cliffs are home to some incredible dives with frequent sightings of blue-spotted rays, white-tip sharks and hawksbill turtles. Underwater visibility is excellent, even to depths of 115 feet, and night diving is possible here, too — typically best from October till the end of May. Day ferry trips are possible from Mahe, which is 12 miles away.
Best for Families: Raffles, Praslin
The Seychelles second-largest island has plenty to keep kids occupied, with some of the best beaches, many of which are sheltered by a reef with calm seas safe for swimming. This hotel has direct beachfront access to Anse Takamaka and is also close to picture-perfect Anse Lazio, famed its signature powder sand, palm trees and granite boulders. This family-friendly hotel has its own kids club and a creche for younger ones, but the main advantage is that it's perfectly located for day trips. Boat tours to other islands, including La Digue and Aride, teach little ones about the indigenous flora and fauna, while a trip to Curieuse will bring them face-to-face with 500 giant tortoises. The hotel is also close to the UNESCO-listed Valle de Mer, where a nature trail weaves through a jungle that's home to many species of lizards and rare birds such as the Seychelles’ national bird, the black parrot.