The iconic picture of the Maldives is rows of charming overwater bungalows, with thatched roofs and stunning views of clear, turquoise waters and pristine white sand beaches. Those bungalows are great for Instagram, but there is so much more to do in the Maldives. A nation of islands off the coast of Sri Lanka, the Maldives is made up of 26 main atolls, with over 1,000 islands. This exotic paradise is full of incredible wildlife, beautiful landscapes, and rich cultures to be explored.
Whether you want your Maldives vacation to be a relaxing, romantic getaway, or an action-packed adventure, there are so many amazing activities to add to your trip. Here are the best, can’t-miss things to do in the Maldives.
Charter a Yacht and Go Island Hopping
With so many islands in the Maldives, you would be crazy to just stay on one resort island! For a luxury experience, take a yacht trip around the famous Ari Atoll for snorkeling, relax on the beaches of uninhabited islands, and paddleboard around the peaceful waters, protected by the island atolls.
Island hopping is also a great way to check out the many luxury resorts in the Maldives, grab dinner at the best restaurants on the islands, and see and be seen in this playground of the rich and famous.
One of the most popular places to swim with the whale sharks is the South Ari Atoll. There is a channel south of the atoll where whale sharks frequent, and tours out of Dhigurah, Dhangethi and Maamigili will take you along the channel to experience this once in a lifetime chance to swim with whale sharks.
See the Bioluminescence in the Maldives
One of the most unique wonders in the world, the Maldives are home to rare bioluminescent plankton. These plankton can gather along the shores of all the islands and emit a beautiful blue glow, lighting up the waves and beaches.
One of the most popular places to see bioluminescence is Vaadhoo Island in Raa Atoll. You won’t see bioluminescence every day, but if you’re lucky, you can catch it on your trip. Experts say that June through December is the best time to try to catch it, and that the time just after a full moon will give you the best shot of seeing the waves light up!
Relax at an Underwater Spa
The Maldives are known for their beautiful, crystal clear waters, falling in gentle, relaxing waves against the shore. The luxurious spa, Huvafen Fushi, embraces the beautiful, peaceful waters to create one of the most unique spa experiences in the world.
Nestled eight meters underwater, the spa features panoramic views of the surrounding coral reef. Huvafen Fushi maximizes the amazing underwater experience with custom crafted spa packages of massages, facials, and body treatments.
Experience the Local Culture
The hundreds of small islands in the Maldives create tight knit communities united by a common culture and a relaxed, island way of life. The Maldivian culture is a rich fusion of Indian, Malaysian, Sri Lankan, Arab and African influences.
There are two types of islands in the Maldives–resort islands, populated only by resorts and their guests, and local islands, where tourists and locals mingle on public beaches and eat at local restaurants. When visiting a local island or leaving a resort area, be respectful of the Muslim Maldivian culture. Be sure to wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders, take your shoes off when you enter a home or business, and refrain from PDA when out in public.
Try Windsurfing in the Maldives
The pristine, calm waters in the Maldives’ reef protected atolls are perfect for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Whether you’re a beginner learning to windsurf or you’re a pro looking for the best experience, nothing beats the sun-soaked turquoise waves along the reefs and atolls of the Maldives.
The best places for windsurfing and kitesurfing are islands with large, shallow lagoons and long stretches of sandy beaches. Surf schools from South Ari Atoll to Laame Atoll to Centara Ras Fushi offer everything you need to explore this beautiful area by windsurfing.
Swim With the Whale Sharks
The Maldives is one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks, which reside in the warm coastal waters year-round. These elusive creatures can be hard to spot elsewhere, but in the Maldives, whale shark watching tours can be found across the islands to learn about, spot and even swim with whale sharks.
Spend Some Time in Malé
Arriving international flights fly into Velana International Airport in Hulhulé, a manmade island just across from the capital of the Maldives, Malé. Spend some time in Malé when you arrive, to get to know the Maldivian way of life, before hopping a boat or seaplane to head to your next destination.
The Malé Fish Market is the center of energy in the city, where the catch of the day is pulled in fresh from the nets. Check out the amazing array of fish, and head down the street to where vendors sell colorful island staples like papayas and yams. After you’ve stocked up on tropical fruit, head to the Old Friday Mosque, built in 1656 it is the oldest mosque in the country.
Snorkeling with Manta Rays
The Maldives is known for having some of the most amazing snorkeling in the world, with beautiful living reefs surrounding the picturesque islands. The reefs are home to corals, anemones and shells, as well as all kinds of reef fish like clownfish, angelfish and parrotfish.
A unique feature of snorkeling in the Maldives is the large colonies of manta rays that live year round in the atolls of the Indian Ocean. These majestic rays are the largest rays in the world and snorkeling with the rays is a true bucket list experience. Just off Baa Atoll is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which is a popular feeding ground for manta rays and the perfect place to hop in and snorkeling alongside these amazing creatures.
Try Dining Underwater
One of the most unique experiences to try in the Maldives is underwater dining. The subaquatic restaurant at the Conrad Maldives on Rangali Island is five metres deep under clear blue water. You’ll be dining beside turtles, rays and schools of beautiful reef fish, watching the currents play and light rays shine through the water.
The Ithaa Undersea restaurant offers exquisite cuisine of fusion from around the world, and fine wine and cocktails all day long, so you can stay for drinks and linger at this incredible underwater experience.
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