The Maldives is a celeb-studded destination that seems inaccessible to the average traveler. But the good news is that heading to the Maldives isn't such a far-off dream, even for world travelers on a budget.
Whether you're backpacking around Asia or jet-setting to every exotic destination you can think of for a touch of affordable luxury, the Maldives makes an ideal stopping point.
Here, we'll cover everything you should plan your trip around—from when you should go to where you should stay and more.
Go To The Maldives For Ocean Breezes And Beach Days
While you'll no doubt find plenty of culture, great food, and even shopping here, the highlight of the Maldives is the excellent weather and showstopping beaches. After all, celebrities like Joe Jonas spend an inordinate amount of time on the beach and on yachts in the Maldives, and their example is one to follow.
The other highlight of the island destination is the thriving sea life. You can spot gorgeous coral islands, vibrant lagoons, and plenty of water-based excursions like snorkeling and diving. You can also swim with manta rays!
Visit Outside Of Monsoon Season
Because the Maldives is an ocean destination (though it doesn't show up on every world map!), you can expect some crazy weather throughout the year. That said, CN Traveller claims that the best weather and seasonal attractions take place between November and April. The high season is December through March, while monsoon season is May to October. Skipping monsoon season sounds good to us!
Center Your Stay In Malé, The Capital
Because the Maldives is comprised of 200 inhabited islands (plus 97 with tourist resorts and over a thousand other islands and coral atolls), it can be tough to figure out where to stay. But a safe bet is the capital, Malé, which is home to a population of nearly 150k people.
You'll find colorful buildings, lots of mosques, a bustling market near the harbor, and more. Plus, Velana International Airport lies on Malé, making your airport-to-hotel travel a bit easier (you can take a ferry to the mainland!).
Stay At Somerset Hotel Or Novina Hotel In Malé
Choosing a hotel near the northern coast of Malé is probably a safe bet. From there, you can explore the local fish and produce markets, hop on a ferry to explore more in the area, and walk to local spots like Sultan Park and Republic Square.
The Somerset Hotel, for example, is a four-star property that's near local attractions like Masjidh Al-Sulthan Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al-Auzam mosque and Hukuru Miskiyy, the oldest mosque in the Maldives (circa 1656!). Novina Hotel is a 3-star spot that's more affordable at around $50 per night but is still close to the main highlights of Malé.
Try Local Dishes For Maldivian Flavor
As Visit Maldives explains, the Maldivian culture pulls from many other Asian influences, both in terms of culture and food. But there are select Maldivian dishes that are island specialties, like Maskaashi, a dish that combines coconut flesh, dried tuna, sour mango, and spices.
Other exotic tastes include Theluli Bankbukeyo, which consists of fried breadfruit chips. Fish chips (or Kulhi Roshi) are also a common tea-time dish, Visit Maldives notes.
Choose An Island And Walk All Over
The highlight of staying in Malé is that you can walk just about everywhere. As US News explains, the capital city is about 2.2 square miles, which means your legs probably won't even get tired walking it from end to end.
Island hopping is a bit tougher because the ferry network isn't that great, the publication explains. But you could travel to other islands with a private charter, or take your chances (and leisure time) with a ferry ride.
Visit The Oldest Mosque In Malé And See The Sea
The historical landmarks are great, sure, but the key highlight in Malé is the water. From surfing to flying kites on the beach to getting a close-up look at the thriving coral reefs, there's so much to see just off the coast of the Maldives. You can swim with mantas, of course, and also see The Shipyard near Lhaviyani Atoll.
There are also preserves (like Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve) and Addu Nature Park, but you'll need to plan carefully to make time for it all (and traveling to and from the southernmost atoll to see the sights).
Save Your Rufiyaa For Tipping
The Maldives uses the Maldivian Rufiyaa, and you should be ready to tip everyone from your scuba instructor to your waiter to the bellhop at your hotel. Lonely Planet explains that you'll usually have the same set of staff for your stay—so tipping at the end of each week is totally acceptable. Resorts, however, usually add a ten percent service charge, so keep an eye out for that and budget accordingly.
Fly Out In March For The Best Savings
Flights aren't the cheapest to the Maldives (which is understandable given its isolated location), but Kayak says your plane ticket will be the most affordable in March. Tickets start at just over $700 in that season, while the high (and expensive) season is summertime from June to August.
Visit Beaches (But Don't Just Stay On The Sand)
On Malé, there aren't as many beaches as on the smaller (and more remote) islands. That said, you will find spots like Artificial Beach, a protected swimming cove that's ideal for travelers with kids. There's also Varunulaa Raalhugandu, a beach perfect for surfing that has lots of stones and spots to sit and stare out at the ocean (and the China Maldives Friendship Bridge, which reaches all the way to the stretch of island that's home to the international airport).
Sure, lying on the beach is an essential part of your Maldives vacation. But don't spend too much time sitting in the sand—there's so much more to explore just off the coast.