*This article is brought to you in collaboration with Away Holidays.
It’s the ultimate paradise destination for virtually every type of globetrotter. But what are the best things to do in the Maldives?
Holidays to Maldives are associated with dreamy beaches, over-water villas and complete relaxation so if you’re planning a trip there, I’ve got no doubt that’s on the cards for you! However, for those who have itchy feet and want to explore a little outside your island resort, I’ve got you covered.
This guide takes a deep dive into all the most fun things to do in the Maldives so you can plan your trip to utopia with ease.
1. Scuba dive into an underwater world
Diving into the underwater wonders of the Maldives is an adventure like no other. The crystal-clear turquoise waters offer an unparalleled scuba diving experience. Beginner dives are available in more sheltered reefs, but being well-versed in the PADI Open Water Diver Certification will allow you to get the most from your exprience.
For an extraordinary underwater journey, head to the South Ari Atoll, renowned for its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. The period between January and April is optimal, with excellent visibility and calm seas. Maafushi Island, nestled in the atoll, is a diver’s paradise, featuring spectacular coral gardens and the chance to encounter majestic whale sharks.
Another must-visit for avid divers is the Vaavu Atoll, particularly in the months of May to September. Here, Fotteyo Kandu, a famous channel dive, showcases breathtaking underwater landscapes and the chance to spot hammerhead sharks in their natural habitat.
Not a diver? Don’t worry – snorkelling tours are abundant in the Maldives too, particularly given some of the shallower reefs surrounding the atolls!
2. Visit Maafushi Island
As mentioned above for its diving scene, exploring the charms of Maafushi Island is also an absolute delight for those seeking a mix of local culture and pristine beaches. Nestled in the South Ari Atoll, Maafushi offers a unique Maldivian experience beyond the luxurious resorts.
A refreshing escape from the typical tourist spots, Maafushi Island allows you to immerse yourself in the day-to-day life of the Maldivian locals. Wander through the narrow streets, lined with vibrant houses and interact with the friendly islanders. Don’t miss the chance to visit the local shops and markets, where you can purchase traditional Maldivian crafts and souvenirs, or visit the Old Mosque.
Maafushi boasts a designated Bikini Beach, where visitors can enjoy the sun, sea, and sand without any cultural constraints. Engage in water sports like snorkelling or paddleboarding, and discover the rich marine life just a few meters from the shore. The island’s clear waters make it an ideal spot for underwater adventures!
3. Relax at the world’s first and only underwater spa
The Maldives is full of experiences like no other! The world’s first and only underwater spa is located within the Huvafen Fushi resort and promises a sensory journey as you’ll enjoy your spa treatments surrounded by the Indian Ocean’s vibrant marine life – although over-water treatment rooms are also available .
Picture yourself in a glass-walled treatment room, gazing at the dance of colorful fish and coral formations while experienced therapists pamper you with a range of rejuvenating treatments. From signature massages to holistic wellness rituals, each experience is heightened by the unique underwater ambiance, creating a serene escape that transcends the ordinary.
4. Swimming with whale sharks
Embark on an awe-inspiring adventure in the Maldives by swimming with the gentle giants of the ocean – whale sharks. This extraordinary experience takes you into the heart of the South Ari Atoll to Alifu Dhaalu Atoll, Maamigili Island and Dhigurah, renowned hotspots for encountering these majestic creatures.
Swimming with whale sharks is one of the most unbelievable experiences I’ve ever done on my travels and of all the best things to do in the Maldives, this would undoubtedly be one. However, make sure you choose a company who are committed to preserving the natural habitat of the sharks. Green flags to look out for include non-guaranteed encounters – some locations across the world artificially feed whale sharks to keep them in the area – and no touching allowed.
The best time of year to encounter whale sharks is during the southwest monsoon season between May and December.
Read about my experience swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines.
5. View the bioluminescent plankton
Dive into the magical world of bioluminescent plankton, a natural phenomenon that transforms the Maldivian waters into a mesmerizing display of light.
Several islands across the Maldives offer the chance to witness the ethereal glow of bioluminescent plankton. Opt for secluded spots away from artificial lights to enhance the visibility of this enchanting phenomenon. Vaadhoo Island, part of the Raa Atoll, is particularly renowned for its luminous shores, although it does happen all over the islands between June and October.
To make the most of the experience, consider a nighttime snorkelling adventure but remember to keep it responsible by minimising the use of artificial lights and avoid disturbing the eco system.
6. Toast to sunset on a picturesque boat trip
As the golden hour descends, board a traditional Maldivian dhoni or a luxurious yacht and set sail into the tranquil waters. The gentle lull of the boat and the panoramic views create an atmosphere of serenity, making it an ideal escape from your hard days of lounging on the beach and snorkelling.
Choose from options including island-hopping sunset adventures or take a private tour if you’re honeymooning – some even come with onboard dining for an extra touch of magic. Keep a lookout for dolphins gracefully dancing alongside the boat too!
Don’t have time to read the rest right now? Pin it for later!
7. Fly high on a parasailing adventure
A nerve-wracking adrenaline adventure or a heavenly float above paradise? Whatever your thoughts on parasailing, the Maldives has to be the place to do it, right?
The best time of year to go parasailing in the Maldives is between November and April, as this is outside the monsoon season. After all, a few exceptions aside, calmer seas make for better watersports!
Baa Atoll comes highly recommended for parasailing and tons of other activities too. You can check out the best hotels in the area via Booking.com (the Genuis discounts always reel me in) – Reethi Beach was a really popular choice at the luxury online travel agent I used to work at!
8. Enjoy a romantic dinner on a sandbank
Sandbanks are undoubtedly one of the most photographed phenomena in the Maldives and for good reason. These stunning strips of white sand give you the experience of your own private beach – one that is ever-changing and may never be the same each time you visit!
Surrounded by the gentle lapping of the Indian Ocean and the soft glow of the setting sun, this intimate dinner setting is a testament to the unparalleled romance the Maldives has to offer. Many resorts arrange this exclusive experience so opt for a clear night to maximise your stargazing opportunities and remember to bring a light cover up with you – the temperatures do tend to cool in the evenings!
9. Explore in a glass-bottomed kayak
Do you want to enjoy the mesmerising marine life without swiming? Glide over vibrant coral reefs and crystal-clear waters in these transparent kayaks for a slightly surreal yet serene experience.
Resorts that offer use of clear kayaks include OZEN Reserve Bolifushi, Soneva Fushi (this one is on my bucket list!), Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas and eco-friendly Gili Lankanfushi.
10. Uncover the delights of Addu Atoll
Nestled in the southernmost reaches of the Maldives, Addu Atoll stands as a captivating destination offering a distinct blend of natural beauty, historical intrigue, and expansive landscapes.
Addu Atoll is renowned for its unparalleled biodiversity. Dive into the crystal-clear waters to discover a thriving marine ecosystem or dive the British Loyalty wreck, a former oil tanker that was torpedoed in May 1942 and March 1944 respectively. Many also visit Maradhoo on Addu Atoll for manta ray encounters!
Unlike some of the smaller Maldivian islands, Addu Atoll’s islands are known for their size which makes them perfect for scenic bike rides through the lush landscapes.
11. Explore Malé
Most visitors to the Maldives never actually venture to the country’s capital city – even Malé International Airport is catually located on Hulhulé Island rather than Malé island.
It’s far from your classic image of the Maldives’ tiny atolls: the city is incredibly densely populated and really built up, but there are some great sights to see that’ll get you away from the scorching sun for the afternoon.
Rather than staying in the city, most resorts can organise day trips to Malé to attractions like Hukuru Miskiiy, one of the country’s oldest, most ornate mosques, or you can people watch on the city’s urban beach, Henveiru. It’s not the same as the paradise-esque resorts, but it’s a taste of real Maldivan life.
12. Snorkelling with sting/manta rays
An experience high on my personal bucket list is snorkelling with stingrays and manta rays. Komandoo Island, located in the Lhaviyani Atoll, is renowned for Manta Point, a popular site for encountering manta rays with many resorts in the atoll offering guided snorkelling trips here.
Baa Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is home to Hanifaru Bay, a marine hotspot famous for aggregations of both manta rays and stingrays. Snorkelling in this protected area provides a unique opportunity to observe these magnificent creatures feeding and interacting in large numbers.
If you’re looking for a more unique experience, how about a personalised snorkelling trip with a marine biologist? You’ll want to check out Velaa Private Island in Noonu Atoll for this more conservation-focused trip.
13. Visit Thoddoo island
Most of the fruit in the Maldives is grown on Thoddoo island, but it’s also one of the most rustic and authentic islands popular with tourists.
It’s one of the quieter islands in the Maldives so whether you choose to hire bikes, take sunrise boat trips or simply relax on the beyond stunning beaches (including two bikini beaches) you’re in for a relaxed experience.
14. Go fish
The Maldives is renowned for its world-class fishing experiences, attracting anglers from around the globe. Whether you’re an avid sport fisherman or a novice angler, the Maldives offers an array of fishing opportunities, from traditional hand-line fishing to thrilling deep-sea excursions.
The best time for fishing in the Maldives varies depending on the type of experience you seek. The dry northeast monsoon season, from December to April, is ideal for enthusiasts aiming to catch prized game fish such as tuna, wahoo, and sailfish in the open waters.
Alternatively, the wet southwest monsoon season, from May to October, presents excellent conditions for those interested in bottom fishing and reef fishing, targeting species like groupers, snappers, and barracudas. Resorts and local operators across the Maldives offer tailored fishing trips, providing the perfect opportunity to savor the thrill of the catch amid the breathtaking backdrop of the Indian Ocean.
15. Splash out on a scenic flight
Don’t fancy a parasailing adventure but still want to experiene those world-famous views over the Maldives’ tiny islands? A scenic flight is a higher end experience that will definitely have you splashing the cash, but you won’t forget it in a hurry either.
If you’re staying at a resort that’s too far to get a water taxi from Malé, your package may even include seaplane transfers – a win win!
16. Dive to Maldives Victory
We’ve already talked about how spectacular the Maldives is as a diving and snorkelling destination, but the Maldives Victory is an underwater experience on another level!
This cargo ship (built in Liverpool FYI!) sunk just off the coast of North Malé Atoll in 1981 and since has become an incredible diving attraction. You’ll need to be an advanced diver with deep dive eperience to visit the wreck but if you are, prepare to see a wreck covered in corals and spectacular sea life from turtles to pufferfish. Check the best time of year to dive here, as visibility can vary month to month.
17. Afternoon tea
Walk into any coffee shop, café or restaurant on any island around 16:00 and you’ll find a buffet of treat-size delights known as hedika. Savory nibbles include vegetables, tuna, egg and potatoes while you can enjoy sweat treats like pancakes and sponge cakes as a mini dessert.
18. Learn about the history of Utheemu
Utheemu island was home of the revered national hero Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu. The Sultan fought an eight-year war to drive out the Portuguese invaders who occupied the Maldives from 1558 to 1573, then ruled the islands for over a decade afterwards.
Several islands offer tours to the Sultan’s childhood home, a really well-preserved 500 year old wooden palace! Of all things to do in the Maldives, a trip to Utheemu offers the chance to learn about one of the country’s most significant historical moments.
19. Surf’s up!
Embark on an exhilarating surfing adventure in the Maldives, where azure waves beckon enthusiasts to ride the Indian Ocean’s swells. With consistent and world-class surf spots scattered across the atolls, the Maldives has gained recognition as a surprisingly great surfing destination.
The best time for surfing in the Maldives is during the southwest monsoon season, from April to October, when powerful swells grace the Central Atolls, such as North and South Male Atolls, as well as the Atolls of Meemu, Thaa, and Laamu, where reef breaks like Chicken’s and Coke’s offer thrilling rides.
For those seeking milder waves, the outer Atolls of Addu and Huvadhoo provide a more laid-back surfing experience. Numerous surf resorts and charters cater to surf enthusiasts, offering a perfect blend of world-class breaks and the paradisiacal beauty of the Maldives.
20. Relax at the paradise beaches and resorts
And finally, it wouldn’t be an article about the Maldives without a mention of the powder-soft, white sand that gently meets the turquoise waters. The Maldives beaches are a world-famous sanctuary for those seeking ultimate serenity. From the popular stretches lining resort islands to secluded corners on local atolls, each beach in the Maldives offers a unique slice of heaven.
While the best time to revel in the bliss of Maldivian beaches is during the dry season, from November to April, you can generally enjoy the paradise-esque strolls along the shoreline all year round, minus the odd shower or two!