The essential guide to the best places to visit in this stunning, tropical paradise.
The Maldives is famous for its beauty, but did you know that it’s also the lowest country in the world, with no point rising naturally above 6 feet on any of its 1,192 islands? With crystal waters, sparkling white sands and an abundance of mangroves and palm trees, it’s the ideal tropical getaway, whether you’re holidaying with the kids, honeymooning, or travelling with friends.
Surrounded by coral reefs and rich with marine life, this tranquil paradise is made up of 26 atolls made up of islands – and almost every hotel in the country occupies its own!
When choosing where to go in the Maldives, you’ll want to think about what type of holiday you’re looking for, whether you’re prioritising privacy, want a romantic setting, or would like lots of fun family activities. Almost everything can be enjoyed here, whatever your budget and taste, from museums to beach dining experiences, through to one of a kind scuba diving experiences with dolphins!
With so much choice on offer, planning your Maldivian trip can get confusing, so we’ve picked out a plethora of locations to suit every kind of vacation from bustling to the more secluded. Read on to find out more about the marvellous Maldives, and discover our top recommendations for where to stay and what to do…
North Male Atoll – the No 1 Maldivian destination
North Male or Northern Kaafu is the main atoll in the Maldives, so if you’re after a place with plenty to offer, this destination must be high on your list. Renowned for having the brightest coral reefs in the Maldives, it has world-class diving and water sports – and if you check out the eastern part of the atoll, you’ll find some first class surfing locations too.
North Male has eye-catching white sands, lush plants, and clear, warm seas, along with the widest possible selection of accommodation and entertainment. There’s something for every budget here, from value-for-money guest houses, to 5 star all-inclusive hotels, and luxurious adults only resorts.
The capital city of Male is located in the southern corner of the atoll, as is Velana, the main international airport – staying in North Male is super convenient, as most resorts can reach the airport quickly and cheaply by speedboat!
Best for: Activities, nightlife, amenities and convenience. There’s something for everyone here but if you’re wanting total isolation, you might want to go further afield.
Distance from Velana airport: Approximately 30 miles, though some islands are nearer or further away. The airport is reachable by a 10 minute speedboat ride from the capital city.
North Male Atoll Resorts and Hotels
Best for luxury:
If you’re looking to indulge you’ll love the Baros Maldives, as this 5 star resort offers fine dining, private beaches, a spa, house reef snorkelling, diving and more.
Best for couples:
Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa is an adults only resort that offers 4 star service and all-inclusive packages. The resort is known for its a la carte dining and outstanding dive centre and is extremely popular with honeymooning couples.
Best for surfing and diving:
EM Beach Maldives – located in Himmafushi, the renowned surfing and diving spot, this guesthouse is perfect for surfers as you’ll find waves of every size. Here you’ll enjoy 4 star service at highly affordable prices, with airport transportation and a concierge, plus you’ll have a great base from which to walk the island’s surf break.
Best for families:
Bandos Island Resort and Spa is superb for families, as it has a children’s club, playground, and even a full time babysitter! With 4 star service, house reef snorkelling, diving, and all inclusive packages, plus 2 kid’s pools, it’s the ideal place to stay if you need to keep both adults and little ones amused.
Season Paradise, located in the stunning island of Thulusdhoo, has an infinity swimming pool, spa, on-site gym, and restaurant. This award winning 4-star hotel offers you a true taste of luxury at some of the best prices in the whole of the Maldives.
North Male Activities
Visit Banana Reef, a protected marine area and famous diving spot, where you can dive or snorkel with barracudas, snappers, and manta rays, or check out idyllic Bikini Beach on Thulusdhoo Island.
Pay a visit to the National Museum, then check out stunning Sultan Park, where you can relax surrounded by the lush tropical vegetation. After that, why not spend a lazy afternoon browsing one of Male’s many local market’s before popping into one of many restaurants to round out your day to perfection?
South Male Atoll – Relaxation and Exploration
South Male Atoll is the second most popular atoll in the Maldives and it’s home to roughly 30 islands. As it’s split off from the capital Male and the airport by the Vaadhoo Kandu channel it offers more privacy, while still giving you an easy connection.
This atoll has a superb selection of places to stay, play, and relax accommodation, at lower prices than can typically be found on, North Male. South Male boasts beautiful clean beaches, turquoise lagoons, and soft sands – and a huge choice of watersports activities, so you can snorkel, swim and dive.
Best for: Value, relaxation, water sports, and more privacy than the main atoll but with easy connection to the airport.
Distance from Velana airport: 15.5 miles, making most islands just a 25-45 minute speedboat ride away.
South Male Resorts and Hotels
Best for snorkelling and budget travel:
Biyadhoo Island Resort is great for travellers on a budget, with a 3 star rating, in house chef, snorkelling at one of the most acclaimed house reefs in the Maldives, diving, and beachfront views.
Best for couples and watersports:
The Anantara Veli Maldives resort and spa is an adults only location with a 5 star rating, open air cinema, 7 restaurants, and many water sports activities, including surfing, deep-sea fishing and sailing.
Best for families:
The 5 star Hard Rock Hotel has available private terraces with direct beach access and a selection of great restaurants, so you can feed the entire family. Here you can snorkel, dive, kayak, sail and windsurf, or take a relaxing swim in the spacious outdoor pool – and there’s a kid’s club so you can take a break while the children play.
South Male Atoll Activities
Check out Gulhi beach, dubbed the most beautiful in the Maldives, and sunbathe in relative privacy, or, if you’re after some underwater life, book a half day trip to Maafushi Island to go snorkelling and dolphin watching, then enjoy an all inclusive picnic lunch.
For an extra special romantic meal, visit one of the many beach restaurants for an al fresco meal as the sun sets, or visit Arena Water Sports and embark on a boat tour, or try your hand at paragliding or water skiing.
Addu (Seenu) Atoll – The ideal romantic getaway
This romantic heart shaped island was made for couples looking to get away from it all, and as the southernmost atoll in the Maldives, it’s perfect for those wanting an authentic taste of island life. This Atoll is small – around 18 kilometres wide and 15 kilometres long, with just 4 inhabited islands, and 20 smaller deserted ones.
Home to Gan International airport, and the capital city, Hithadhoo, and globally acclaimed for its exciting wreck dives, it’s rich in history and marine life, with large coral colonies and an abundance of rays, sharks, and turtles that can be sighted year round.
The perfect blend of privacy and activities, there’s plenty to see and do – sightsee the remnants of an English frontier attempt, taste the local dining at a cafe, or go diving in the blue ocean and spot giant manta rays with wingspans of up to 5 metres!
Best for: Romance, privacy, adventure, watersports, and scenic views.
Distance from Velana airport: It’s 1 hour 10 minutes by plane to the main airport, but only 7 miles to Gan International Airport so you’ll be better off booking a direct flight there if you can. If you fly into Gan, most places on Addu Atoll are reachable in 14 mins by speedboat or car.
Addu Atoll Resorts and Hotels
Best for families:
The Equator Village resort is framed by sparkling seas and pure white sands and offers affordable all-inclusive packages. With an outdoor swimming pool, ocean front rooms, water sports, and private tennis court and beach area, it’s 4 star rated and is the ideal pick, if you want to stay entertained in style.
Best for a romantic holiday:
Located in the heart of Addu City, and within 5 minutes of Gan International Airport, Clove Beach is a gorgeous 3 star guest house with stylish rooms and the chance to scuba at over 30 dive sites. Book a romantic sunset boat ride, check into the on-site spa for a massage, or rent a bicycle and explore together, for a memorable trip that neither of you will forget.
Best for value and watersports:
Enjoy private beaches, outdoor bbqs, scuba diving, island hopping trips and snorkelling at Wave Sound 3S, a sleek 3 star, 7 room hotel, nestled amongwhite sands. With great prices and airy rooms with views of the crystal oceans, this affordable piece of paradise is a superb destination for an activity packed adventure.
Addu Atoll Activities:
Addu Atoll offers some of the best places to go diving with manta rays in the Maldives but while you’re here, why not go on an exciting sunken ship dive too, as The British Loyalty Wreck is just a 25 minute boat ride away, between the islands of Maradhoo and Hithadhoo.
The prime areas for snorkelling are the Kandihera, Koattey, and Hulhumeedhoo reefs and bicycles are widely available for hire, so you can discover this atoll at your leisure. For a truly unique experience, hire a speedboat to take you to a deserted island, where you can explore, then enjoy a meal on one of the neighbouring islands.
Baa Atoll – Isolation and world-class biodiversity
Baa Atoll is home to mangroves, coral reefs and the biggest population of manta rays in the world and this stunning area has so much biodiversity it’s been designated a Unesco Biosphere Reserve. Its sparkling waters host some of the largest reefs in the Indian Ocean and if you go scuba diving, then as well as rays, you’ll see many colourful reef fishes, sea turtles, and even a whale shark or two!
Stay here and you’ll enjoy almost total isolation, while still being able to reach Male airport in just 30 minutes by seaplane. Visit the Unesco Bioreserve, or hit Hanifaru Bar between June- November and snorkel with hundreds of manta rays as they feed on plankton, for a once in a lifetime experience.
Best for: Isolation, marine life, watersports and unique experiences.
Distance from Velana airport: 30 minutes by domestic flight, then a 5 minute speedboat transfer.
Baa Atoll Resorts
Best for couples and luxury lovers:
Vakkaru Maldives is a 5 star deluxe resort in a luxurious tropical hideaway, set in a location with no other island in view. Enjoy uninterrupted views of white sands blending into turquoise lagoons, go diving at the in-house reef, and dine at the stunning restaurant Isoletta, with trees that grow through the tables. Take a romantic candlelit dinner by the pool for the ultimate in intimate luxury – and don’t forget to check out the overwater spa with glass floor, where you can see parrotfish swim below.
Best for families:
With a children’s playground, outdoor pool and private beach area, onsite watersports and a spa, the Atholhu Residence in Fedendhoo is great for both adults and children alike. Located just 100 yards from Fehendhoo Bikini Beach, this charming eco-friendly property has a 4 star rating and offers a variety of bookable day trips that the whole family will enjoy.
Best for watersports:
With beachfront villas, and a watersports centre that offers snorkelling, diving, sailing, and more, plus a private beach, spa, and an outdoor gym, Finolhu is a 5 star resort that’s ideal for lovers of ocean action. Over half of the villas have their own pool, and there’s a choice of 3 top rated restaurants, while the kids club, art centre, and outdoor play area will ensure little ones are happy.
Best for budget travel:
With a variety of purse-friendly diving and snorkelling packages, the 3 star rated Violet Inn boasts beautiful views of Hanifaru bay, sleek looking rooms, and an in-house restaurant.. It’s the perfect place to stay if you want adventure, as the hotel offers multiple day trips that you can pick from, including turtle watching, island hopping, and snorkelling with sharks!
Baa Atoll Activities
While you’re in Baa Atoll you must visit the marine protected area at Hanifaru bay, a UNESCO protected sanctuary where you can swim and snorkel with manta rays and sharks To extend your underwater adventure, why not take a submarine tour, so you can stay submerged for longer?
Take time to relax in the beautiful Devarana Spa in Mudhdhoo, book a 3 day yacht trip around the islands of Baa Atoll, or enjoy a magical sunset dinner cruise aboard, where you can enjoy a 4 course meal and gaze at the twinkling night sky.