15 Incredible Things to Do in Maldives (Aside from Lazing in the Beach!)
The beaches in Maldives are out of this world, but there’s more to this island nation than beach bumming! Here we’ve compiled the best things to do in Maldives, as suggested by travel experts.
- 1. Go on a snorkeling trip
- 2. Visit a sand bank
- 3. Scuba dive
- 4. Swim with whale sharks
- 5. Swim with manta rays
- 6. Wakeboard
- 7. Go on a sunset dolphin cruise
- 8. Fish at night in the Indian Ocean
- 9. Ride a sea plane
- 10. Stay in an overwater bungalow
- 11. Treat yourself in a luxury day spa
- 12. Yoga retreat
- 13. Enjoy traditional Bodu Beru drumming
- 14. Explore the local markets in Male City
- 15. Try out fresh foods
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1. Go on a snorkeling trip
One of my favorite things to do in Maldives is snorkeling. I’ve been to this island paradise twice now and strongly believe you need to get in (and under) these crystal clear waters to realize how special this country is.
While staying on local islands I was able to do a snorkeling trip with a local operator for just $30, and it included lunch on a sandbar! We stopped at three incredible snorkeling locations and even sailed back into the sunset while dolphins swam alongside the boat. The water is so clear and rich in marine life, it makes the Maldives one of the most memorable places I’ve ever gone snorkeling. If you’re staying in a resort island, you can often walk right in off the resort reef and snorkel all the way around your resort. All resorts also organize day trips to other resort islands or reefs to find the best post!
Expect all your Finding Nemo dreams to come true at once.
Price range: Joiner trips starts at $30 / Private snorkeling trips start at $100.
2. Visit a sand bank
By Travel Stained
You’ll already be completely shellshocked by the incredible beauty of the Maldives, but for a really astonishing experience, visit a sand bank. These drops of pristine white sand are usually located far from any other land masses and surrounded by crystal clear water as far as the eye can see. Sand banks (aka sand bars) are so ephemeral that they disappear and reappear over the course of 24 hours. Some even disappear completely!
Many resorts and tour operators offer sand bank picnics or excursions as standalone events or as part of an all-day tour. Prices will vary depending on where you book. If you’re looking for a luxe experience, book through a resort like Anantara. Keep in mind though that prices will run around $100 just for lunch.
We booked our sand bank visit as part of an all-day tour on Maafushi — a Maldives local island. After comparison shopping, we found the best service and price through the Whiteshell Inn. There, we paid $45 each for an entire day trip, which included transport by speedboat, 2 snorkeling sites, a picnic lunch on a deserted sandbar and a dolphin safari.
Price range: All-day tour including snorkeling starts at $30 / Luxe sand-bank trips start at $100
3. Scuba dive
Having just returned from Maldives, the one thing I think you can’t miss when visiting any part of the Maldives is the amazing scuba diving. I was not a scuba diver and once I saw the underwater life when snorkeling, I decided this was the place to have my first try. I completed a Scuba Discovery introductory course and then went with an experience diver out to the ocean to explore the house reef surrounding our resort, the Park Hyatt Maldives.
Once I got in the water what I had learnt in the resort pool came to me really naturally. I was in awe of what I was seeing around me. I was excited to see a turtle which was my top animal I wanted to see while scuba diving. My husband is an experienced diver however he hasn’t dived in a while, he was still ok to dive unattended. I was monitored by our experienced dive instructor at all times. We stayed underwater for 40mins and on our way back to the pier, I had already decided we were having another dive before leaving.
The next day we headed out on a Dhoni (traditional Maldivian fishing boat), about 30 mins from our resort island. We jumped off the boat and straight onto the Thali Reef in the middle of the Huvadhoo Atoll. The water was amazing and crystal clear. The sea life was abundant, schools of fish everywhere I looked. We saw reef sharks, more turtles and native Maldivian clown fish. It was the best experience I’ve ever had and I can’t wait to get myself PADI certified.
Price range: Starting at $70 for introductory course.
4. Swim with whale sharks
One of my favorite wildlife experiences was in the Maldives when I went swimming with whale sharks. These giant fish — yes, a whale shark is neither a whale or a shark — can be found in the plankton-rich waters of the Maldives. One of the reasons I decided to do this activity here is because they do not feed the whale sharks in the Maldives to keep them close. This means you have to find the whale sharks before you can actually swim with them.
I stayed in the Southern Atoll of Mahibadhoo and my guesthouse offered swimming with whale sharks as an activity for $140 per person. It is more expensive if the boat is not full as the whale sharks are about an hour boat ride from there. We were able to swim with three different whale sharks during a two-hour block. There were a few other tourists there but it wasn’t too bad.
Price range: $140 per person.
5. Swim with manta rays
In fall to winter of every year, the large pelagics, specifically manta rays, make an appearance in Hanifaru Bay, northeast of the local hub island of Dharavandhoo in the Baa Atoll. What makes this “bay” so unique is that it is not surrounded by land, but instead by a submerged coral atoll. Due to local wildlife regulations, you are only allowed to swim for an hour with the Manta Rays.
Price range: $60 if booked on Dharavandhoo, more if booked at one of the nearby resorts.
By As the Bird Flies Blog
During our stay at the family-friendly Kandima Maldives Resort, my partner and I went wakeboarding one afternoon. We’ve been wakeboarding several times before in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, but this was our first time in the Maldives. Most resorts in the Maldives will offer watersports to guests and I believe most will have wakeboarding and water-skiing as options, especially in the bigger resorts like Kandima.
The reason going wakeboarding in the Maldives is a great thing to do is because the water is warm (and beautiful!) so it doesn’t matter if you fall in, and also it will be quick and easy to do, as you should be able to just hop on a boat and then head out into the ocean, rather than traveling to a water park or a special lake.
If you’re new to wakeboarding, it’s also easier to do on smooth water which the Maldives can be famous for (but I still recommend choosing a day when there’s not much wind and the water is calm) and while it’s not going to be a cheap activity, you may get some really valuable one-on-one teaching.
It’s also true that wakeboarding is physically tiring and so once we’d each done a few sessions each we were exhausted and ready to head back to the beach to relax again!
Price range: $60-100 per session.
7. Go on a sunset dolphin cruise
By Mum on the Move
One of our highlights of our trip to the Maldives was a sunset dolphin cruise. We have done dolphin cruises in other countries before, but nothing compared to this. One of the advantages of the Maldives is the relative isolation of each, meaning when you head out to sea on a boat, you practically have the ocean to yourselves!
Within about ten minutes of setting off on our speedboat from the resort, we met up with a pod of about 50 dolphins. We then followed them around (they followed us around) for around an hour and half. And what a playful bunch they were! Racing along the bow of the boat, flipping up in the air – they put on quite a show!
Most resorts in the Maldives will be able to arrange this for you. We booked ours from Soneva Fushi Resort. It really is such as beautiful experience and definitely one not to be missed.
Price range: $50-80 per person.
8. Fish at night in the Indian Ocean
By Go Eat Do
You don’t have to be an experienced angler to participate in a night fishing excursion off the Maldives. Maldivian fishermen provide novices with tips on how to catch fish.
Boats depart from the jetties of resorts in the evening, shortly before sunset. The fishing trips provide fine views of the sun setting over the Indian Ocean, so it’s worth taking a camera.
As darkness descends, lamps hung over the boat attract fish. Over the course of a couple of hours you use a reel to cast and draw in your line. It’s fishing at its simplest, out on the ocean. Anything that’s caught is brought back to the resort’s restaurant and grilled with spices.
Price range: About $50 per person.
9. Ride a sea plane
When people talk about Maldives, they are actually referring to a collection of more than 1,200 islands, or archipelago, located in the Indian Ocean. These islands are scattered across more than 800 kilometers from north to south, which means that there are only a few ways to travel between islands and from the airport to your hotel.
Though you could opt to take a local ferry or speedboat, the Maldives is actually home to the world’s largest seaplane fleet and you can get to your resort in no time flat by hopping on one of these planes. The experience of taking off and landing on water is extremely unique, but the absolute best part is the aerial views of the aquamarine Indian Ocean and hundreds of little islands and atolls below you – make sure you get a window seat!
Price range: Cost varies depending on how far away your hotel is from the airport, but expect a 30-minute journey to cost approximately $200.
10. Stay in an overwater bungalow
Staying in an overwater bungalow is definitely one of the best things one could do in the Maldives. It’s a dream that many travelers around the world have on their bucket list.
I had the same dream until last year, when I was able to travel to the Maldives and stay in several overwater bungalows. I can honestly say, that it’s just as amazing as you imagine.
When staying in an overwater bungalow, you’ll most likely have direct access to the ocean via your own private stairs. The more luxurious options also comes with its private pool. It’s amazing to go snorkeling from your own private bungalow!
I especially recommend Kandolhu Island Resort.
Price range: $600-800 per night
11. Treat yourself in a luxury day spa
By 3 Kids vs the World
Having just come back from the Maldives, I have to say one of my favorite experiences was the day spa. We recently returned from the Park Hyatt Hadahaa Maldives and after a mammoth 37-hour travel time, we arrived in paradise and all was forgotten after stepping into Vidhun Spa on our first day.
On arrival you are welcomed with a chilled coconut juice with a splash of lime and cracked pepper while you complete the required paperwork. You are then escorted by your professional massage therapist to the treatment villas. There are 5 on site, each named after a traditional Maldivian plant or flower.
The villa could double as another villa should they ever need to expand, they were so large. Not only did you have the treatment room but the outside area of the villa which included a separate bathroom to change and later wash off the excess oil before putting your clothes back on the day. The massage was sensation, they use very high-quality oils that smelt divine. Afterwards we relaxed with a herbal tea in the outside cabana before showering and redressing.
Price range: A single massage starts at $140 & couples package at $395.
12. Yoga retreat
Maldives isn’t the first destination that comes to mind when it comes to yoga, but this is a growing practice in the country with resorts offering yoga sessions. You can exercise your body and spirit while breathing fresh ocean breeze and looking out over a blue vista.
You can choose from multi-day yoga retreats or sunrise or sunset yoga sessions offered in-house by resorts.
Price range: Depends on the yoga package. Some resorts offer a yoga retreat including a seaside accommodation, meals and transfers.
13. Enjoy traditional Bodu Beru drumming
If you really want to experience the Maldivian heritage, one of the best ways is to enjoy an evening of Bodu Beru drumming.
This artform sees local men drumming intricate patterns on a double-ended drum, accompanied by traditional local singing. Groups of drummers provide the beat for an evening of dancing, demonstrated by the locals — and then ready for guests to join in! Stamp your way across the sand — the rhythms are too infectious and the locals too persuasive to sit still for long. Or even have a go at drumming yourself — it’s far more energetic than it looks!
We experienced Bodu Beru on the island of Dhiggaru in Meemu Atoll, but it can be found all over the Maldives. Ask your local guide for advice, and to help set up an evening of rhythm and laughter!
14. Explore the local markets in Male City
By The RTW Guys
The Maldives always conjures up an image of perfect beaches and resorts. But each journey to this paradise on earth starts in the bustling capital of Male City.
Male City is an underrated place and is often skipped by visitors after they arrive. The town is an exciting, living capital, and most Maldivians live and work in this tiny island. You can check out the Grand Mosque, as well as the artificial beach and many museums, to name a few things to do in Male City.
Our favorite place to visit was the Maldivian local market, which is not far from the ferry terminal. At this market, you can find fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fish and meat products on sale from hundreds of vendors. It is an exciting market to explore.
We particularly enjoyed the Aadu Bondi, a coconut candy delicacy that tastes like toffee. Or, you can always grab a fresh coconut on the spot from one of the vendors.
15. Try out fresh foods
By Nomadic Boys
One of our favorite things to do in the Maldives was trying the delicious fresh food. We stayed on a local island called Thoddoo in a guesthouse, where we were able to try out locally sourced meals.
The Maldives are of course surrounded by water, so fresh fish is a staple in the diet. Coconut also grows in abundance, so with a mix of the two, they create delicious meals. One common Maldivian breakfast dish is called “mashuni”. This is shredded coconut with tuna and onions, eaten with roshi — which are like Indian rotis, except they’re made with all-purpose instead of wholewheat flour.
Fresh fruit are also very common in the Maldives, in particular papaya. They grow everywhere, and are famous for being one of the most delicious in the world. They were certainly the best we’ve ever tasted!
That concludes our list of best things to do in Maldives! Do you have anything else to add? Let us know in the comments below!
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Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).