Unrivalled luxury, stunning white-sand beaches and an
amazing underwater world make Maldives an obvious choice for a true holiday of a lifetime.
Maldives are nestled halfway between Indonesia and Africa, and attract travelers seriously committed to communing with the sparkling turquoise tides. Made up of 26 atolls spanning 1,190 different islands (of these, less than a third are inhabited) the Maldives are like one giant jigsaw puzzle of sandbars and lagoons. An impressive number of marine species have made their homes in the surrounding reefs and, as a result, the Maldives are particularly popular among scuba divers.The Maldives are where people come to experience island life at its most relaxed — and most beautiful. Whether you’re criss-crossing coral reefs in a glass-bottomed boat, or dozing off in your private overwater bungalow, the chances of returning home disappointed are slim to none.
Maldives is home to perhaps the best beaches in the world; they’re on almost every one of the country’s nearly 1200 islands and are so consistently perfect that it’s hard not to become blasé about them. While some beaches may boast softer granules than others, the basic fact remains: you won't find consistently whiter-than-white powder sand and luminous cyan-blue water like this anywhere else on earth. This fact alone is enough to bring well over a million people a year to this tiny, remote and otherwise little-known Indian Ocean paradise.
Resorts for Everyone
Every resort in Maldives is its own private island, and with over 100 to choose from the only problem is selecting where you want to stay. At the top end, the world’s most exclusive hotel brands compete with each other to attain ever-greater heights of luxury, from personal butlers and private lap pools to in-room massages and pillow menus. It’s not surprising that honeymooners and those seeking a glamorous tropical getaway have long had the country at the very top of their wish lists. But there’s also plenty of choice beyond the five- and six-star resorts.
Maldives has undergone seismic change in the past 10 years, since inhabited islands have been opened to tourism and locals permitted to build their own guesthouses. Travellers no longer have to stay in resorts and remain separate from the local population, something that kept backpackers away for decades. Island hopping by public ferry, speedboat and domestic flights has opened up this incredible country to visitors on almost all budgets. A number of islands in Male and Ari atolls are now big centres for a booming guesthouse industry, with dozens of options on each.
With some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world, the clear waters of Maldives are a magnet for anyone with an interest in marine life. The richness and variety is astonishing; dazzling coral walls, magnificent caves and schools of brightly coloured tropical fish await you when you get down to the reef. In deeper waters lurk manta rays, turtles, sharks and even the world’s largest fish, the whale shark. The best bit? The water is so warm many people don’t even wear a wetsuit.
Getting Around Maldives
The best way to get around the Maldives is to walk. The capital city of Male is about 2.2 square miles, and whichever resort you pick will be walkable as well. Island-hopping at your own leisure really isn't the best option since the ferry network is not very extensive. That said, if you are traveling by yacht, you'll be able to navigate these waters. Once you arrive at Velana International Airport (MLE) on the island of Hulhule', you’ll most likely be escorted by a representative from your resort to the island where you are staying. You will have to take a ferry, a seaplane, a speedboat or some combination of the three to reach your final destination. This final jaunt is sometimes included in the cost of your hotel stay.
For the rich and famous, this is one of the best ways to travel. Yachts glide through this archipelago and provide the best access to remote islands and isolated reefs. Many resorts have their own docks for the convenience of seafaring travelers. You can charter a yacht once you get here or you could simply bring your own. Keep in mind, licensed tour operators can bring you to islands that may usually off-limits to tourists.
Maldives Luxury Yacht Charters
Luxury Yacht Maldives
If you are trying to get somewhere in a hurry, take a seaplane. Your resort may use one to transport you to and from the airport. On these brief jaunts, you'll enjoy a scenic bird's-eye view of the reefs and islands. For an island hop by air, compare the rates of Trans Maldivian Airways and Atoll Transfer.
Trans Maldivian Airways
The local ferry network is very limited and while schedules are published, ferries are often late and sometimes may not even show. Since this mode of transit is pretty unreliable, it is not recommended.
Speedboat transfers have become increasingly popular in the Maldives. Some resorts will arrange for speedboat transfer and in some cases you may book speedboat transportation independently. Prices vary by resort and distance.
You'll also spot some taxis in Male', and these can be useful if you have luggage or get caught in a thunderstorm. You can either hail a taxi or call for one. A trip usually costs around 20 rufiyaas (about $1.30) with a 10 rufiyaa (about 65 cents) fee for bags.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MALDIVES
December through April is the dry season, and the most popular time to visit the Maldives. This can make hotels slightly more expensive, but it’s also when you can enjoy a guaranteed streak of gorgeous, storm-free days. Moreover, dry season makes for better visibility (think: crystal-clear snorkeling and underwater diving). No matter what time of year, travelers can expect balmy temperatures in the mid-80s.
Is it Expensive to Visit Maldives?
In most cases, the answer is Yes. A vacation in Maldives can be cheap and it can be expensive too. It really depends on the type of accommodation you book, the food you eat and the activities you prefer to do on this island paradise.
WHERE TO EAT
In 2005, Ithaa became the world’s first all-glass, undersea restaurant. Though the trend has spread, travelers can still enjoy a seafood feast at the intimate, 14-seat restaurant. Everything on the menu is sustainably caught. To eat here, however, you must be a guest of the Hotel, Conrad Rangaliand reservations are required well in advance.
Thila Restaurant in Vihamanafushi
Thila Restaurant is perhaps the most famous fine-dining restaurant in the Maldives. Aside from having a menu that ranges from classic Maldivian dishes to European cuisines, Thila also offers its guests a breathtaking view of the ocean. There’s nothing better than enjoying a full course meal of classic local cuisines while staring at the best sight that the Maldives has to offer. Thila is located in Vihamanafushi of the Kaafu Atoll, just north of Malé International Airport island.
Just Veg by Atmosphere in Kanifushi Island
From its name alone, you can probably already tell that Just Veg by Atmosphere is a vegetarian restaurant. Much like most restaurants in Maldives, this one has an excellent location, facing the sea in a secluded edge of Kanifushi Island of the Lhaviyani Atoll. If you’re not a vegan and you’re wary of pure vegetable meals, Just Veg by Atmosphere is a good place to try some vegan dishes out.
Family Room Cafe in Hulhumale
If you’re craving for some pastries, or a cup of coffee, Family Room Café in Hulhumale, Kaafu Atoll, should be your first stop. Known as serving the best cup of coffee around, this café is perfect for families and a large group of friends. However, if you simply want to enjoy some time to relax alone, Family Room Café is open for you as well—and its fast Wi-Fi will surely come in handy.
Sea Fire Salt in Dhigufinolhu Island
Sea Fire Salt Restaurant is perfect for romantic dinners. It’s a seaside restaurant that specializes in seafood and several Mediterranean cuisines. If it gets a little chilly during the nighttime, you can order a bottle of wine. Sea Fire Salt is one of the few restaurants that serve alcohol.
THINGS TO DO IN MALDIVES
Walk around. Having a walking tour is one of the best ways to enjoy the Maldives. The islands in the country are relatively small and are suitable for such activity. Capital city Malé is a great place to walk around. Go to the National Museum, and scurry over to the bustling Republic Square, which is just less than a kilometer away.
TRY LOCAL FOODS
Venture out from what’s served in classy restaurants and visit smalltime food joints. Maldivian meals use a lot of coconuts, fish, and starch in their food, so going food-stall hopping wouldn’t be too heavy on your tummy! Masroshi is a classic savory snack that you should try.
SUNBATHE AND UNWIND
You’re in Maldives, a tropical paradise. Not going to a beach will mean missing out a lot! Veligandu Beach is one beach that shouldn’t be missed.
EXPLORE MALDIVIAN MARINE LIFE
There are plenty of things to enjoy underwater as well. Prodivers Maldives in Kuredu and Maldives Passions in Maafushi Island are two of the most recommended diving schools. Providers offer nighttime diving.
WHERE TO STAY
Mirihi Island Resort
Address: Mirihi Island Resort, Maldives
Just a 30-minute-ride on a seaplane from capital Malé, Mirihi Island Resort is located on the small Mirihi Island of the Southern Ari Atoll. With talc-white sands and clear water, this resort offers water villas: overwater bungalows that protrude from Mirihi Island’s shores. Get an unobstructed view of the horizon on your villa’s balcony, and get breathe in plenty of this beach paradise’s air.
Velaa Private Island
Address: Republic of Maldives, Maldives
With 18 overwater private villas and an exclusive, Romantic Villa, Velaa Private Island has a relaxing ambiance. This resort has its own spa house, babysitting services, and even an outdoor pool. It also offers airport transport and complimentary breakfast meals for certain packages.
Nothing beats a holiday by spending an hour or two in a spa house, or some time alone in a hot tub by the ocean. Getting to Baros Maldives is just a 30-minute boat ride from Malé. If you arranged to be picked up, the hotel can transport you for a shorter 20-minute ride. If you don’t feel like pampering yourself in a spa house, it’s okay to hang out in your beachfront balcony. The waters are so clear that there’s no need to snorkel your way to see the teeming marine life.
Address: Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, Maguhdhuvaa Island, Maldives
Each villa in AYADA Maldives in the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll has its own outdoor pool and butler services. With six restaurants and bars, guests can indulge in its wide range of cuisines. Staying in a spa, chilling out on the deck, and swinging peacefully on a hammock by the sea are just some of the things you can do here in this secluded island resort.
Shopping in the Maldives
There aren’t many big malls in the Maldives like the ones you can see in Manila. However, there are plenty of small souvenir shops in each island that sell a variety of souvenirs, ranging from Maldivian woven mats to t-shirts. The small Rasdhoo Island, for instance, has five souvenir shops. There also plenty of hawkers around where you can haggle for prices. Island Bazaar in Malé is a European-style shop that might interest you as well.
Local fish markets also abound and are present in each inhabited island. Although you can’t bring home a fish for a souvenir, seeing the bustling Maldivian markets firsthand is a souvenir in your memory that will go a long way. Shopping last-minute in Duty-Free in the Malé International Airport before leaving can also be an option.
Maldives Travel Tips
- The Maldives is a predominantly Muslim country, therefore you have to make sure to observe its customs. Specifically: observe the dress code in public areas. Women and men should cover their thighs, and women should cover their shoulders. This should be strictly observed when you plan to visit mosques. On the other hand, most resorts allow any kind of clothing. Make sure to always consult with your accommodation about this.
- Don’t schedule flights that arrive on a Friday. Friday and Saturday are weekends in the Maldives. Most modes of transportation and local establishments close during these days to observe custom. Make sure to consult with your travel agency so that you arrive on a weekday morning.
- Riding a ferry is the cheapest mode of transportation, and is more culture-immersive. Seaplanes are generally for the tourists. The downside of ferries is that they travel infrequently per island, and stop operating completely on the weekends. However, if you chance upon one, it will give you the best Maldivian experience.
- The Maldives is a tropical country, so expect that March will be the hottest month and January the coldest. August and September are generally the rainy months, and there will be lesser crowds. If you plan well enough, you might chance upon a nice, rainy weather on a weekend, and enjoy the seclusion of one of the resort islands as if you own it.
- There are relatively few ATMs in the country, so make sure to bring ample money. If you plan on staying in a resort during your entire stay, then money won’t be a problem. However, if you plan to explore more of the country (i.e., walking tours, budget apartments), then make sure to have enough to cover you up. Most local, small-time shops won’t accept dollars.