To some travellers, the Maldives is a place to escape, unwind and cast away any thoughts of the outside world. To others, it’s a place to challenge themselves, push the limits and experience the extraordinary.
Whatever your sense of adventure, there’s every chance you’ll find it in the Maldives. The island nation draws all kinds of travellers to its glistening shores, who travel in search of natural splendour, high-end luxury, exhilarating surf and so much more.
Get ready to find your tropical adventure with these eight things to do in the Maldives.
1. Surfing and SUP
Ask any serious surfer about their top 10 dream destinations and chances are the Maldives makes the list. The region is world-renowned for its countless picture-perfect waves that break over shallow coral reefs, and the surf charter expeditions that chase swells across the archipelago.
While most of the famous breaks in the Maldives aren’t suitable for beginners, the region also boasts an abundance of first-timer friendly waves. Ask your resort about which areas are best for beginner board riders.
For a more relaxed day on the water, stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is a less intensive board sport that’s great for all ages and abilities. You’ll love gliding over crystalline waters teeming with wildlife.
Insider tip: Tidal shifts surrounding the islands can cause placid waters to turn into raging torrents in a matter of minutes. So whether you’re an experienced surfer or just finding your feet, always seek the advice of local lifeguards and resort staff about safe regions to surf and paddle board.
The Maldives is equally as magnificent below the surface as it is above, with coral reefs that dazzle with a kaleidoscope of colours and swarm with a mind-boggling diversity of marine life. So it’s no surprise that the country is often ranked among the best snorkelling destinations in the world.
Most resorts will offer snorkel equipment and tours of surrounding reefs, often referred to as the “house reef”. Islands like Athuruga, Angaga and Thudufushi have good reputations as destinations with great resorts and lively house reefs.
However, if you’re more serious about your underwater adventures, it may be worth booking a snorkelling charter with a local tour operator, that can reach further-flung atolls.
Insider tip: A “liveaboard” boat charter is undoubtedly the best way to experience a true Maldivian snorkel trip, however it’s no casual commitment. Sea sickness, close quarters and uncertain weather can quickly take the shine off a boat trip; leaving you wishing you were comfortably back on land.
3. Foodie experiences
Exciting foodie adventures don’t always come easy in the Maldives. The remoteness of most resorts often means that you’re restricted to what’s on offer from the resort kitchen, and many of these tailor their menus to cater to the tastes of their international guests.
If you’re lucky, your resort menu will include some local favourites like garudhiya (fish broth), handulu bondibai (sweet sticky rice), and mas huni (mashed tuna, coconut and onion).
Venture beyond the resort walls to the streets of Male, the nation’s capital, and you’ll be free to dive headfirst into the local cuisine. There are several authentic restaurants in Male, featuring dishes that reflect the country’s Indian heritage, and local markets that’ll give you a first-hand insight into the fishing economy.
Insider tip: Maldivian street food can be an exhilarating carnival of fresh seafood, spice, curry and rice, however don’t forget your street food safety.
Laying the first ever footprint on the shore of a virgin beach may seem like a fantasy, but it’s very much a possibility in the Maldives. With over 1,000 islands in the country and many more likely undiscovered in the outer atolls, there’s boundless room for exploration in the archipelago.
However, getting to these outer islands is another story, and best left to experienced locals with serious equipment and provisions. Most travellers find the beaches surrounding their resort more than enough to satisfy their thirst for tropical beauty.
Some famous strips of sand include Bikini Beach on Rasdhoo Island, Reethi Beach in the Baa Atoll and the gin-clear waters of the Nika Island beaches.
Insider tip: The tropical heat is not to be underestimated, so ensure that your holiday packing list includes the tropical essentials like sunscreen, zinc, aloe vera, a hat and a beach cover up.
The nutrient-rich waters of the Maldives make it a haven for all kinds of marine wildlife, including manta rays, turtles, reef sharks, dolphins and countless species of fish.
Like snorkelling, liveaboard boat charters offer a truly immersive diving experience. But for the more casual diver, single-day charters offered by your resort can provide some equally enchanting underwater experiences. According to PADI, some of the premier dive spots in the country include:
- Ari Atoll
- Dhaalu Atoll
- Faafu Atoll
- Laamu Atoll
- Baa Atoll
- Haa Alif Atoll
Whether it’s beholding the majesty of great whale sharks, gliding alongside a school of manta rays, exploring pockmarked lava coves or sweeping rainbow reefs, you’ll find unforgettable diving experiences in the Maldives.
Insider tip: Diving is by no means a casual sport. It requires proper training, equipment and guidance from experienced professionals, which is why you should always book with a qualified instructor if you don’t hold an open water diving certificate.
6. Cultural tours
The Maldives isn’t all about the beach chair, the buffet and unspoilt natural beauty. Maldivian culture is a colourful product of its Indian ancestry, Islamic faith and island lifestyle, and is worth exploring in any way you can.
Male is small in size and population, but the capital is brimming with intriguing architecture and cultural sites. The Hukuru Miskiy mosque, for example, dates back to 1658 and is constructed from striking coral stones.
Booking a cultural tour of the city is a fantastic way to soak in the sites and learn more about what makes the small capital tick.
Insider tip: With all of its bikini-clad tourists, adventure sports and relaxed island atmosphere, it’s easy to forget Maldivian culture is quite conservative. Take note to observe local etiquette, like wearing modest clothing outside resort walls.
7. Wellness retreats
The Maldives is one of the most awe-inspiring places to unwind, reflect and tune into your physical and mental wellbeing.
As such, the Maldives is rich in wellness retreats, which range from casual to staggeringly expensive. The World Spa Awards named Anantara Veli the Maldives’ best wellness retreat of 2018, with other nominees including COMO Shambhala Maalifushi, LUX South Ari and Six Senses Laamu.
Insider tip: A fully-fledged, adults-only, ultra-expensive wellness retreat might be out of reach for many people. However, there are several ways you can practice some more mindfulness during your travel that won’t break the bank:
- Limit your screen time
- Drink less alcohol and coffee
- Wake up for the sunrise each morning
- Enforce a policy of no phones at the dinner table
- Take time to mediate – there are plenty of apps that can help guide you
8. Local markets
You won’t find the same variety of luxury stores, gigantic malls or bustling boutiques in the Maldives as you would in other shopping destinations. However, there are still some rewarding shopping experiences to be found if you know where to look:
- The Male local market: Open early and closing late, this is your one-stop-shop for fresh produce and local fare.
- Centro Mall: About as modern as shopping experiences get in the Maldives, the Centro Mall is your place for a few high-end stores, salons, spas and brand outlets.
- Boutiques: Island Bazaar in Male is a popular choice with tourists, making handmade products and artworks, from cushions to bags. Oevaali Art Shop, also in Male, makes products inspired by the ocean and the seaside, such as candles, accessories and jewelry.
Insider tip: The Maldives is regarded as a safe and welcoming place, with polite and even shy locals. However, wherever there’s an abundance of tourists, there’s also likely to be a few opportunists and petty thieves. Keep your valuables close when visiting the busy areas of Male.
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