The Maldives: what to see and do. Barefoot luxury and boutique bungalows on idyllic private beaches

Why go

The Maldives must be one of the most romantic places on earth, with some of the world’s most idyllic beaches, jaw-dropping sunsets and crystal-clear waters for snorkelling and scuba diving.

It’s made up of more than 1,000 tiny islands, with most resorts occupying their own white-sand island. Many have house reefs, so you can dive off your water bungalow straight into the most beautiful underwater world. The Maldives is synonymous with luxury retreats, chic resorts and a growing number of family friendly resorts.

What to do

Maldives. Snorkelling from water bungalow. Velassaru Image Bank 620x349
On some Maldives islands you can snorkel straight from your water bungalow

It’s all about sand, sea, sun and your snorkel. Watersports lovers will be smitten. Enjoy paddle boarding, sailing and jet skiing in crystal-clear waters.

Book your Maldives holiday on High50 Travel

Where to stay

Maldives. Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru. Ocean view pool villa 620x349
Ocean-view villa with pool at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, on the Maldives’ North Male Atoll

Depending on how long you are staying, you might want to choose a resort closer to the airport to minimise travel. In this case, the five-star Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru is a half an hour speedboat ride away and has shimmering shores and sea turtle-feeding experiences.

Maldives. Shangri-La Villingili resort. Water villa bedroom 620x349
A water villa bedroom at the Shangri-La Villingili resort

For a far-flung paradise setting, head to the most southerly island in the Maldives and stay at the stunning Shangri-La Villingili resort, which even has the Maldives’ only nine-hole golf course. You may have to take a short plan ride from Male to get there but the resort is one of the best.

Our tip? Push the boat out and stay in a water bungalow. There is truly nothing like waking up to the turquoise water all around you. Or, if you seek bare-footed bohemian luxury there’s nowhere quite like Gili Lankanfush.

Where to eat

Maldives. Etesian Restaurant outdoor. Velassaru Image Bank 620x349
Outdoor dining at Etesian Restaurant on Velassaru

Unlike most holidays you don’t wander down to the town for dinner and most visitors always dine on-site at their resort. Do some research and ensure your hotel offers enough variety for your liking. Quite a few resorts offer pop-up dining experiences, where you can dine on the beach or in picturesque spots around your island with just your holiday companions.

On the menus is lots of fantastic fresh fish, and you’ll see many Indian dishes alongside influences from Thailand. As almost all produce is imported to the islands, dining can be expensive, but resorts often offer competitive full-board options.

Maldives. Sunset Cruise. Velassaru Image Bank 620x349
A stunning sunset cruise off Velassaru

Getting around

Unless you’re keen to stay on a couple of different islands, chances are you’ll be on one resort for the duration of your visit. Transfers from the airport are either by speedboat, seaplane or plane and are usually organised by your resort.

Book your winter sun destination with High50 Travel

When to go

December through to April is the dry season and you’re guaranteed good weather and the best sunshine, with Christmas the busiest time for resorts. Monsoons hit from around July and the islands get a fair bit of rain, but the climate remains humid.

Three things we like

Maldives. Aerial overview. Velassaru Image Bank 620x349
The aerial view as you fly in to the Maldives: blue sea meets turquoise lagoons and white beaches
  1. This is a destination that truly lives up to the brochures. The sea, sunrises, sunsets, beaches and snorkelling really are that beautiful.
  2. For those in search of rest, relaxation and luxury touches, the Maldives is the place to go. From massages on glass beds where you watch the fish beneath you to yoga at sunrise on a pier looking out across the glistening Indian Ocean, it’s absolutely magical.
  3. The view from the plane as you fly in. There are barely words to describe the awesome sight of thick blue sea swirling into countless turquoise lagoons that kiss the sugary white beaches beneath you. If you take a seaplane get the window seat for a closer look.

Something we don’t like

Male is the busy capital of the Maldives and is reminiscent of a miniature Bangkok. It couldn’t contrast more with the peaceful islands that surround it, with thousands of mopeds flying around and a thick muggy cloud of pollution. It’s not advisable to linger here so meet your connection swiftly and press on to your island of choice.

Don’t miss

Maldives. Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru. Turtle spotting 620x349
Turtle spotting at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru

Stingray feeding happens before sunset on several of the resorts.

Wild dolphins frequent these shores and lots of resorts offer boat trips to see the beautiful animals in their natural habitat.

The underwater world! You can see everything from sharks and mantarays to lionfish and puffers, not to mention exotic underwater plants and the mesmerising seabed itself. Experienced divers can venture further and explore the numerous reefs and wrecks.

Travelling with family

Despite its high-profile reputation as a honeymoon destination, the Maldives also holds large appeal to families. Most resorts have play areas and activities to keep little ones entertained, babysitting services and family suites.

Maldives. Shangri-La Villingili resort. Endheri Pool Bar 620x349
The pool bar at Shangri-La Villingili resort

High50 insider tips

  • Leave your toiletries at home as all resorts stock their bathrooms with an intoxicating selection of tropical-smelling shampoos and moisturisers. Make sure you bring sun cream though, as this is surprisingly expensive.
  • Remember that despite being well equipped for tourism, it’s still a Muslim country so you’ll need to dress appropriately if you visit the capital or non-resort islands. Be sure to cover shoulders, legs and chest. Alcohol is prohibited unless you’re on a resort island.
  • If you want to really escape and feel like you’re on a paradise island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, pick a resort that is at least a 20-minute boat ride from Male. Older resorts tend to be closer to Male and you don’t want your idyllic beach view to be slightly marred with the lights of central Male in the distance. A reasonable transfer away from hectic Male will ensure you get an escapist, far-flung feel.

Need to know

  • The average flight time from the UK is ten hours.
  • The timezone is five hours in front of the UK (UTC/GMT +5) but bear in mind that several of the islands have their own timezone.
  • The local currency is Maldivian Rufiyaa but almost everywhere accepts US dollars.
  • Tipping isn’t customary here. A discretionary percentage will be added to your final bill instead.
  • You’ll need a two-pin plug socket.
Maldives. Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru spa image 620x349
There are spa treatments a-plenty (this is at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru)