These beautiful islands regularly top the list of Forbes’ Dream Destinations.
perhaps it is because of the Maldives’ unique, away-from-it-all isolation and the fact that this edge-of-the-world archipelago resembles most people’s idea of paradise: beaches of white sand perfection, luminescent turquoise waters and dazzling coral reefs. Here’s our ultimate guide to help you plan the perfect Maldives holiday.
This blog is a comprehensive guide on planning the perfect Maldives holiday, to find the information that’s relevant to you, use the handy content links below:
- Where are the Maldives
- Why choose the Maldives
- Maldives’ logistics
- Holiday Types
- Sustainability and responsible tourism
- What to do in the Maldives
- Twin Center stays
- All Maldives Blog Posts
Where are the Maldives?
The Maldives are a collection of 1192 islands located southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. The islands are grouped in atolls; the northern atolls are more traditional, the southern atolls give a greater feeling of isolation. From the northern Raa Atoll which is one of the deepest in the Maldives with overhangs, drop-offs and underwater caves – a scuba divers delight – to the more southerly Laamu, one of the most beautiful and untouched atolls. Each resort is its own private island and there’s one suitable for every type of holidaymaker: couples, honeymooners, families, and groups of like-minded friends and every type of holiday: adventure, adrenalin, romance and relaxation.
Your atoll awaits
With so many atolls from which to choose, where do you begin? While it might be crucial for marine biologists to be able to distinguish the myriad minute differences between each atoll, for most holidaymakers matters are a little more straightforward.
Maldives Atolls map
Broadly speaking the more closely grouped islands of the northern atolls offer a more traditional Maldivian experience as they are the least developed region of the Maldives. Although there are fewer island resorts there is still huge diving and snorkelling potential, with shipwrecks to discover alongside manta ray feeding areas, diverse marine life, and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
The southern atolls are less closely grouped together and give a greater feeling of isolation. Pristine dive sites are a major attraction. Many of the newer resorts have opened here and although they may be further from the capital there are good air links via several new airports.
Why choose the Maldives?
Some resorts offer peerless luxury, others focus on charm, character and authenticity, but even the more modest properties will feature multiple dining options and spa facilities, and all-inclusive facilities and meal plans allow full control of the budget. Wherever you choose to stay customer service is universally excellent. Personalised greetings are delivered in beautifully spoken English from staff who, owing to high staff to guest ratios, regularly outnumber guests.
The resorts superb water clarity affords some of the world’s best diving and snorkelling. Coral walls dazzle, underwater caves delight, and you can mingle with brightly coloured tropical fish in waters so warm no wetsuit is required. There’s no better place on earth to discover turtles, manta rays, and many species of shark including the magnificent whale shark. With so much natural beauty to observe, indolence can feel remarkably guilt-free. This is a destination that specialises in extraordinary escapism and unrivalled relaxation. The best thing to do is just go with it and enjoy a uniquely unforgettable holiday of a lifetime.
Aerial View of the Baros Maldives
When to visit
For hot, dry, sunny days the best time to visit the Maldives is from January to April. Daytime temperatures are consistently between 30 and 32 degrees. Sun can be expected for between 8 and 10 hours a day. Water clarity for diving and snorkelling is excellent and the surfing season begins in March. Any showers should be short-lived. As this is peak season it’s best to book early.
May to October are months when rain is more likely and there is a risk of storms, but the temperatures are still warm and there are usually long spells of bright sunshine. Plankton in the water may reduce visibility for divers, but it does attract manta rays and whale sharks from June to October.
September and October are invariably the wettest months, which is reflected in hotel prices, but are a good time to make the most of the resort facilities. November brings the wet season to a close and December is a popular choice for almost guaranteed winter sun, but this is reflected in the hotel prices.
When it comes to hotel prices the peak season is Christmas and New Year and the months from November to April. For more affordable hotel rates consider travelling in the off-peak shoulder season which runs from early May to late September, with May and June being the least expensive. Travelling in the shoulder season could mean more inclement weather but you can still catch some beautiful sunshine, and given the unpredictable nature of weather, might just prove to be a masterstroke.
Maldives’ logistics: helping you to plan carefully
Images of Maldives may be very familiar, but there are important finer details about this South Asian island nation that will be helpful to you at the planning stage of a holiday.
At a glance
Flying time: from London 11½ hours
Main arrival airport: Velana International Airport, Male
Time difference: GMT+5 hours, but this may vary from resort to resort
Currency: Maldivian Rufiyaa although US Dollars, Sterling and Euros are widely accepted
Language: Dhivehi is the native language but English is very widely spoken
Visas: Not required for UK passport holders, unless stay exceeds 30 days
Telephone code: +960 followed by the local number
Electricity: 240 volts, many resorts feature standard 3 pin UK sockets but do take a universal adaptor and maybe pack an extension lead for extra plug points
Taxes: An ecological tax of $6 US per person per day is charged at resort accommodation (this is being checked at the moment as it might be included in our prices)
Seaplane arrival at Joali resort
Between November and April British Airways will fly you direct to Malé from London, or enjoy regional departures with one stop from Birmingham, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle flying with the following airlines: Emirates, Etihad, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, SriLankan Airways or Turkish Airlines.
Book Business Class with Emirates and chauffeur service in the UK is provided. Alternatively Classic offer the services of Tristar Worldwide chauffeurs. We can also book ACE Handling’s VIP meet and greet service: a personal assistant to help at the airport. Cabin upgrades and enhanced flight services are available. When Business Class is not selected lounge facilities may still be booked. Classic Collection Holidays also enjoys partnerships with fully licensed airline companies specialising in the provision of private jets.
To minimise jet lag set watches to Maldives’ time on boarding the plane, drink plenty of water and make sure a spa treatment for your first or second day in resort has been pre-booked. On arrival in Malé, and once you have cleared customs, our local team will be there to welcome and assist you. On departure they will help you with your luggage and guide you to the airline check-in desks.
- Manage your budget and mix it up. Arrive by seaplane, return by speedboat or domestic flight, and share your time between beach villas and overwater villas
- For shorter holidays speedboat transfers save on waiting times and budget
- On shorter holidays pre-book activities and excursions to avoid disappointment
- Carefully consider meal plans and all-inclusive options; extras can be expensive
- Think about booking accommodation with a private pool whether that’s a beach villa or overwater
- For seaplane transfers arrive no later than 15h30 in Malé
- Book the fast track immigration option on arrival
- Pack reef-safe sun cream products but don’t import alcohol
- Buy a pre-paid sim card on arrival at Velana International Airport, Malé
- Check the time at your resort, it might be different from Malé
- Pack a short extension cable for extra charging sockets
- Bring your own snorkelling and diving gear to avoid hiring costs and a short wetsuit or lycra rash vest for UV protection
- Pack dry bags, wet bags and waterproof cameras and phones
- Observe dress sensibilities when visiting inhabited islands, and be aware that topless sunbathing is not permitted anywhere
- Drones are not always welcome, if you’re thinking of taking one, please check before you travel
What to pack and dress codes
Reef-safe suntan lotions can be an expensive purchase in resort, so buy beforehand. Avoid sunscreens which contain chemicals that are harmful to coral and marine life. Pack snorkel, surf and diving gear to save on local rental costs. Take sun hats, sunglasses, minimal tropicalfriendly clothing, swimwear, sarongs, sandals, flip flops and dive shoes. The Maldives is the perfect place for holiday reading; pack books or profit from the hotel library. Pack personal care products, toiletries and a small first aid kit.
If you plan to travel to inhabited islands, take something light that covers from shoulders to knees to respect Muslim sensibilities. Don’t forget waterproof mobile phones or cameras and dry bags, to keep valuables beach safe, and a wet bag to separate wet items from dry ones after time spent on the beach, around the pool or snorkelling. Some hotels allow barefoot dining and casual wear in restaurants, others don’t. It’s best to check individual resort dress codes before travelling.
Within resorts there is no need to carry money at all. Everything can be billed to the room and settled by credit card prior to departure. Only a small amount of the local currency, Maldivian Rufiyaa, might be needed on a visit to a local inhabited island, although US Dollars are also widely accepted.
Speedboats, seaplanes and domestic flights
Once customs have been cleared passengers are welcomed by a local English-speaking representative with a name board and assisted with their onward travel arrangements. It’s a short walk to the speedboat jetty where the resorts’ boats await. Transfer times vary from ten minutes to an hour, although we recommend shorter journey times for young families. Speedboats are operated by the individual resorts and are the most cost-effective option for onward journeys to resorts. Boarding is straightforward as the jetty is close to the airport terminal and luggage allowance is not an issue. Once aboard, relax and enjoy the waves, wind and sea-spray until your resort heaves into view. Look out for surrounding islands and dolphins en route.
For seaplane transfers it’s a short drive to a dedicated terminal where you can relax in an air-conditioned lounge with WiFi (connectivity speeds may be slow) and enjoy soft drinks and snacks until the onward flight is ready. Should a specific hotel not have a lounge facility, they can be booked. Seating is unallocated on seaplanes and the window seats have the best views. The seats can be hot so keep a sarong handy to cover them.
A seaplane transfer is an amazing experience and allows quicker coverage of longer distances. There are stunning views, on water takeoffs and landings, and barefoot pilots. As seaplanes only fly during daylight hours it’s best to arrive into Malé as early as possible – certainly no later than 15h30 – to limit your chances of an overnight stopover in the capital. Seaplanes seat up to 15 passengers, can fly direct to a resort or may make up to a maximum of three splashdowns. Per person hold luggage allowance is 20kg with a 5kg limit on hand luggage. Seaplanes are not wheelchair accessible. Seaplane return transfers are confirmed 24 hours before departure. To enjoy both sea and air travel, and to save on costs, book a seaplane on arrival and a return boat transfer.
A smaller terminal, close to the international terminal, caters for onward transfers by domestic flight. Our local staff will be able to assist with checking in your luggage. In some cases a domestic flight combined with a speedboat transfer can be a more cost-effective option than a direct seaplane. Compensation for the loss of view comes in the form of increased onboard comfort.
Check the time
When you arrive at your resort do make sure you’re on the correct time: resorts may choose to be one or two hours ahead of Malé time to make the most of sunlight hours. It’s good to know the right time before your departure day.
Complimentary WiFi is available in the vast majority of resorts, however some resorts will not have full connectivity everywhere on the island. To avoid consuming data, buy a pre-paid sim card or two – available from the two mobile network providers at Malé airport – before joining transfers.
Consider all-inclusive options, not just for meals and drink plans, but also for any daily activities or excursions that may be included. Extras can be costly so an all-inclusive plan might represent better value. And when it comes to excursions it might be best to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Compare prices for watersports and water activities, and also check the distance of the coral reefs from the resort to verify whether you can reach by swimming a little or have to book a boat for snorkelling or diving.
Tipping is not common practice in the Maldives and therefore is not an obligation. If service has been commendable feel free to tip, but it’s entirely a personal choice.
Things to consider
Should holiday plans include a visit to local islands and Malé, rather than just staying within the resorts, it’s important to respect Muslim sensibilities regarding dress: keep shoulders to knees covered. Topless bathing is not allowed anywhere in the Maldives. Some local islands do have beaches reserved for visitors where swimwear is permitted. Local islands also have restrictions on public displays of affection and homosexuality is taboo there too. Alcohol is available within the resorts, but importing it to the country risks confiscation and a fine. Similarly, avoid bringing in religious or sacred texts. The fasting month of Ramadan – known locally as Ramazan – is observed by the Muslim population, but there is no detrimental effect on resort services. Ramadan starts on or around 01 April in 2022, lasts for 30 days, and begins approximately 11 days earlier in each subsequent year.
The Maldives are hugely Instagrammable and very social media-genic, however many of the resorts operate a no drone policy in consideration of the privacy of their guests. And tempting though it may be to take some souvenirs, it is illegal to take any form of shell, sand or coral from the islands.
The Maldives is the perfect destination for island romance. There are stunning sunsets and clear, starry night skies, brilliant blue lagoons filled with spectacular marine life and impossibly powder-soft sands and swaying coconut palms. Add to these intimate dining, serene spas, beautiful overwater or beach villas with private pools and a host of further exquisite experiences.
Spa and Wellness
The serene settings provided in the Maldives offer the perfect backdrop for spa and wellness activities and facilities. From heavenly treatments, holistic therapies and relaxing wellness rituals performed by highly-skilled therapists to luxurious spa sanctuaries that are magnificently set over turquoise lagoons, by pristine white sands, nestling in verdant jungle vegetation or indeed under the ocean.
The Maldives is the ideal destination to create the fondest of life-long memories. Traditionally the destination of choice for honeymooners and couples seeking an island paradise, the Maldives is more and more becoming a firm favourite with families as well, with plenty of family friendly accommodation options.
Considered for many years as one of the world’s definitive honeymoon destinations, it’s perhaps surprising that so few of the Maldives’ resorts are officially recognised as adult only. With an increasing number of families choosing to spend time together in the archipelago, finding an adult only property is a little more difficult than you would expect. True adult only properties are really quite rare.
Whilst there are supremely luxurious ‘money-no-object’ resorts in the Maldives, there is also a good choice of excellent resorts offering all-inclusive holidays at more affordable prices. At first glance, an all-inclusive option may look expensive, but given the amount of food, drink and activities that are often included, it can be the best way to enjoy your holiday to the full, secure in the knowledge that you’re getting the best possible value.
The big debate…do you stay on the beach or over the water?
Upgrade costs between beach and water villas can vary hugely depending on the chosen resort, and in rare cases, such as Constance Halaveli and Six Senses Laamu, the overwater experience may be the cheaper of the two. So compare prices and check facilities to ensure that the upgrade to a water villa is good value for money.
There’s much to be said for feeling the perfect talcum powder white sand between toes, and if there are young children in tow, a beach villa might be the best option. Beach villas give direct access to some of the world’s finest beaches and the warm waters beyond without having to navigate steps. For Beach Pool Villas, Vilamendhoo Maldives offers conspicuous value for money.
If you’re undecided, or simply want to experience the best of both worlds, our holiday experts will be happy to help you arrange a few nights in each.
Overwater family pool villas, Vakkaru Maldives
Sustainability and responsible tourism
This fragile archipelago is uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change; more than 80 percent of the islands stand less than one metre above sea level.
Preserving the beauty of the islands
To preserve the beauty of the Maldives for future generations many hotels have developed ecological initiatives in which they encourage local communities and guests to participate, inspiring people to travel in a more eco-friendly, sustainable way. At the vanguard of this movement is Soneva, a luxury hotel group that manages two private islands: Soneva Fushi in UNESCO listed Baa Atoll, and Soneva Jani in Noonu Atoll.
To eliminate imported plastic-bottled water, Soneva was an early adopter of desalination. Many resorts now feature their own desalination and water bottling plants. Desalinated water undergoes further filtration before being mineralised, chilled and served as still or sparkling water in recycled, sterilised glass bottles. The saving on importing bottled water and reductions in single-use plastics has been dramatic.
Both Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi source ingredients for their restaurants from their own kitchen gardens and mushroom caves. Soneva Jani’s So Wild plant-based restaurant relies on drought-resistant vegetables and plants that are grown on-island. This is the same for Soneva Fushi’s In the Garden restaurant. Whilst not plant-based the menu here features sustainably caught fish and white meat.
As waste disposal is a major issue for the islands, Soneva has also pioneered waste to wealth centres. Waste is sorted into different categories and either recycled or repurposed into valuable products. Ketchup bottles make beautiful sculptures that are then sold at the island’s art studio. Tin cans become door handles. Glass and cement become building blocks and Styrofoam is turned into surfboards.
The surfboards link into the Soneva Ocean Stewards Programme which teaches local children how to swim so they can learn to surf and to snorkel in the hope that they’ll explore the reef, understand its importance to marine life and tourism, and help to protect it.
Getting involved with ecological initiatives
Rising sea temperatures and increased UV light penetration cause coral bleaching, but the coral can recover. The award-winning conservation work by Anantara includes marine biologist-led coral regeneration programmes which have been in place for more than 10 years. Water conditions have improved, coral predators have been removed around Anantara’s three South Malé atoll properties and super corals introduced. The resorts offer guests the chance to dedicate part of their holiday time to attach fragments of rescued coral to ropes and mesh frames within the coral nurseries of Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort and Anantara Veli Maldives Resort which has led to extraordinary coral growth.
Gili Lankanfushi Maldives is one of the Maldives’ most eco-conscious luxury resorts. Buildings are made from sustainable woods, organic toiletries are dispensed from refillable earthenware containers. There’s eco-friendly bedding and reef-safe sunscreen. Their innovative Powered by Plants Programme introduces new plant-based menus and sweet vegan treats. Their coral regeneration program has created 220 underwater corallines which guests can sponsor.
Four Seasons Maldives has some of the region’s most ground-breaking ocean initiatives, including coral propagation, turtle and dolphin rehabilitation and manta ray research; guests can research manta rays, plant corals and participate in wildlife monitoring dives.
And as one is never too young to embrace sustainability, many resorts host some of the most imaginative and inspiring children’s activities and programmes including dolphin trips with marine biologists, presentations on turtles and manta rays, and coral adoption schemes.
These emerging eco-friendly practices are often a collaborative effort among the resorts and guests. They add an extra special dimension to a holiday to the Maldives and give hope for the future.
Sea turtle and manta ray conservation at Six Senses Laamu
Photo ID is not just for humans. In the Maldives photo ID for sea turtles has been in use since 2018 to help study the foraging and nesting sea turtle populations of Laamu Atoll. Sea turtles possess unique patterns of facial scales, similar to human fingerprints, which can be used very reliably to identify individual turtles. Identifying individual animals is important in understanding their ecology and behaviour, as well as providing estimates of population sizes for conservation efforts. Laamu Atoll, in 2020, had a population of identifiable turtles nearing 600.
Two species of turtle are frequently spotted at Laamu, green sea turtles and hawksbill. Gaadhoo, an uninhabited island 4.5km east of Six Senses Laamu, has long been identified as one of the most significant green sea turtle nesting spots in the Maldives. Six Senses is working hard to eliminate egg poaching which remains an issue on Gaadhoo. The team also works to free turtles that become entangled and accidentally captured in abandoned fishing gear.
Four facts about sea turtles:
1. Some sea turtles are vegetarians: adult green ones survive on seagrass and algae.
2. During incubation, warmer temperatures and darker beaches result in more female hatchlings, while cooler temperatures and lighter beaches favour males.
3. Unlike their land turtle relatives, sea turtles cannot retract their head and flippers into their shell.
4. Using slight variations in the magnetic field turtles can travel huge distances – some have recorded 12,000 mile round trips – but still return to the exact beach where they were born.
What to do in the Maldives
The Maldives are well known for their stunning beauty and unique experiences, but with so much to see and do it can be hard to know what will truly constitute an unforgettable holiday. In the following blogs posts you’ll find our suggestions for the best Maldives experiences, to help create your own perfect holiday as defined by your preferred leisure interests, activities and pursuits.
When it comes to longer holidays don’t settle for one destination when more can be visited and discovered. Travelling long-haul can be so much more relaxing when you extend your holiday or break up the journey. Enjoy completely different cultures to enrich your whole holiday experience.
Dubai is renowned for its strikingly modern architecture, superb hotels, shopping and hugely diverse leisure experiences. The UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi has plenty to explore including Ferrari World, The Louvre Abu Dhabi, Warner Bros World and the opulent and dramatic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Doha offers sleek skyscrapers and superb restaurants as well as a traditional souk, grand old forts and centuries of history at the immersive Museum of Islamic Art. Greater contrasts to the islands of the Maldives would be difficult to find.
Before heading to the tranquil island life of the Maldives take in fascinating Istanbul; the only city in the world to straddle two continents. It’s a vibrant and historic blend of Eastern and Western cultures. Alternatively, add some exotic Asian culture to your island odyssey. Malaysia is a tempting twin-centre possibility with direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Male taking just under four and a half hours. Kuala Lumpur is a heady and enticing mix of the ancient and modern with skyscrapers, historic monuments, glitzily oversized shopping malls, hectic markets and irresistible food stalls.
For further exploration of the Indian Ocean embrace the island differences between the Maldives, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka. Just 90 minutes’ flying time separates Male from Mahe, the largest of the Seychelles’ islands. Take a hiking tour to the summit of Morne Blanc, visit stunning national parks and exotic botanical gardens and celebrate the colourful charm of the bustling capital Victoria. Given the one hour flight time from Male, Sri Lanka is a popular twin-centre choice where you can savour mountain peaks, rainforests, tea plantations and temperate hill stations as well as the tropical climate of the coast.
Private tours and safaris
Before flying onto the beckoning beaches of the Maldives experience a tailor-made private tour of Sri Lanka visiting the ancient cities, rock fortresses, national parks and beautiful temples of Sri Lanka. There are also elephants, leopards and crocodiles to spot. Alternatively head to Kenya on safari and take in some of the finest wildlife viewing in Africa. Join a private tour to spot the Big Five, take an exhilarating hot-air balloon ride, and enjoy days that start with champagne bush breakfasts and end with sundowners. Fly onto the Maldives from Nairobi via Doha or Dubai. Sri Lanka or Kenya twin centres make an excellent choice for a honeymoon or a special, celebratory holiday.
Two islands, one holiday
If you put aside a day for travelling on a longer duration holiday, you can divide your time between two different resorts to experience more of the Maldives. There is the opportunity to travel between different atolls, although this would likely involve transfers from your first resort back to Male and then an onward transfer via speedboat, domestic flight or seaplane to your next location. Alternatively, you may find sufficient variety staying at contrasting resorts within the same atoll, where resort to resort direct boat transfers would negate the need to travel via Male, thus saving time.
In South Male and North Male Atolls book a thatched-roof water villa at Velassaru Maldives, a sociable resort with plenty of restaurants bars and a daily entertainment schedule, followed by a few nights staying in a beach villa on the quieter, smaller and more traditional resort of Baros Maldives known for its fine cuisine flourishing house reef. Although in different atolls both properties are a short speedboat ride from Malé. Away from the bright lights of Male, South Ari Atoll has a more Robinson Crusoe experience. Take a seaplane and divide your time on lively Constance Moofushi Maldives with the more restrained Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Other easy access South Ari twin centres include combinations of Lily Beach Resort & Spa, Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa, Mirihi Island Resort and Drift Thelu Veliga Retreat. Lots of different hotels within Baa Atoll work very well together. Combine the more forgiving prices of properties such as Finolhu Baa Atoll with higher-end options like Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas or Vakkaru Maldives. On Raa Atoll pair Adaaran Prestige Water Villas with beach villas at Heritance Aarah.