The writer was hosted.
The Maldives is an archipelago of approximately 1,190 coral islands grouped in a double chain of twenty-seven atolls situated in the Indian Ocean. Less than 200 islands are inhabited, and out of those, 160 are resort islands. Famous for brilliant blue water, soft white sands, and romantic over-water bungalows, this island nation tops many a travel bucket list.
If you’re considering The Maldives as your next vacation spot, here’s a list of things to do in The Maldives. There’s more than just admiring the beauty of the scenery, although the 360 views of the ocean are quite captivating.
Is it “worth it” to go to The Maldives?
This is one of the questions I’m most often asked, and my answer is unquestionably YES. This beautiful island nation ranks tip top of my travel experiences. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful white sand beaches, and I approached my trip to The Maldives with the idea that, of course, it would be lovely but not quite expecting the level of total and complete wow that I got.
If you can handle the long trip, the year-round warm weather and gazing out at the turquoise water from an over-water villa is absolutely worth the time and price. Don’t be surprised if you come away telling everyone that this is your best vacation ever.
Non-motorized water sports
I visited three different resorts managed by Sun Siyam Resorts – Siyam World, Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, and Sun Siyam Iru Veli. Sun Siyam operated six luxury resorts in The Maldives and Sri Lanka. Each Sun Siyam property I visited had non-motorized water sports included in the resort/room fees.
Stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, and kayaking in the resort lagoons were available any time during the day. Windsurfing was also available, but guests had to possess a current windsurfing license, and there was a fee associated with getting the license.
Each resort had a house reef with colorful fish and other marine life. I saw sea turtles, reef sharks, and manta rays. It was seriously the best snorkeling I’ve ever experienced.
If you’re already scuba certified, the crystal clear waters of The Maldives is a wonderful place to enjoy the sport. Most resorts offer lessons as well. Siyam World offers a free, short, beginner scuba orientation held in one of their pool which is long enough for you to see if you want to pursue further instruction.
Motorized water sports
While I think The Maldives is a perfect backdrop for all things chill, if you need to amp up the thrill level a bit, there are more high-octane options available. From jet skis to flyboarding, there are several adrenaline-packed ways to enjoy the ocean.
Take a Maldivian cooking class
I took a Maldivian cooking class at Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, and it was a blast. Three friends and I had lots of time with a local chef and got a crash course in what types of spices were typically used in Maldivian cooking. There are some elements of Maldivian cuisine that are reminiscent of food from India or Sri Lanka but the Maldivian food has a unique flavor all its own.
The best part about our cooking class is that the kitchen served our creations to us for a delicious lunch. This is also a great opportunity to have a more intimate conversation about local culture and customs.
Take part in a sustainability initiative
I took part in a coral planting at Siyam World and helped plant a coconut tree at Sun Siyam Iru Fushi. These activities are easy to sign up for at the resort and help reduce the tourism impact on the islands. Although tourism is The Maldives’ main industry, helping to ease our environmental impact is easy and educational and will make a difference to the islands after your vacation is done.
Our coral planting class included some education about coral restoration, and then we got in the water and placed our rack of new coral with the help of the resort’s marine biologist. We also had a mini guided snorkeling session to check out the house corral reef and the sea life that inhabits the waters near the resort.
Spa it up
I had spa treatments at both Sun Siyam Iru Fushi and Sun Siyam Iru Veli, and both were unique and luxurious spa experiences. Iru Veli’s spa is located in a series of overwater bungalows and the treatment rooms have clear plexiglass inserts on the floor so you’re treated to ocean views while you’re blissed out on the massage table. There is no better combination.
Although you’ll likely be content to hang out near your beach villa or overwater bungalows, there are many choices for excursions if you want to venture out. From exploring offshore coral reefs to parasailing, there won’t be any shortage of excursions to choose from in The Maldives.
Sunset cruise or dolphin-watching cruise
Some resorts offer complimentary cruises, and others charge an additional fee. This varies depending on the amenities offered on an excursion. A more private cruise with champagne and canapes will be pricier than a larger group cruise with fewer frills. You can’t go wrong with the scenery either way.
Depending on the season, excursions to swim with whale sharks might be available.
Take a boat ride to a native island
This is an opportunity to experience Maldivian life and culture outside the resort islands. Your resort can arrange an excursion to one of the local islands.
Book a private island beach picnic
We did a private snorkeling excursion followed by an intimate beach picnic and swimming from a private island away from the Iru Fushi resort. The prices for an excursion like this – usually $300 a person and up – put this in the splurge category but I thought it was absolutely worth it.
We had a lively group of friends for our private island day and we had a fun lunch and a lazy afternoon swimming. If you’re in the Maldives for romance or family fun, there’s a large expanse of beach for you to do whatever you choose.
Tour one of Sun Siyam’s farm islands
We took a boat to a farm island near Sun Siyam Iru Veli to explore one of the resort’s farm islands. Since importing food and other goods is expensive, the resort group grows as much of their food as possible. If you are interested in where your food is sourced from, this is a fun, educational experience, and it enhances your perspective of what type of challenges this island country faces when it comes to sustainable food practices.
Spend a day getting to know Malé
Since you’ll likely transit through Malé coming and going, why not spend a day sightseeing in The Maldives’ capital city? You can approach it as a day trip or spend an extra night or two in Malé. Fun things to do include exploring the Malé Fish Market, the National Museum, and the Old Friday Mosque. While Malé isn’t as serene as the resort islands, a visit gives you a different insight into Maldivian culture and people, and there are some lovely sandy beaches near the city’s resort hotels.
If you have time, check out Hulhumale, a reclaimed island near Malé. Known for its opportunity for watersports, the artificial beach of Hulhumale is made possible by pumping sand from the sea.
Not just for honeymooners and romance seekers
While the vibe of The Maldives is naturally compatible with amor, the beautiful weather and variety of water activities make this a great choice for a friend group getaway or a peaceful solo break for someone seeking solitude with a backdrop of gorgeous scenery. I saw mostly couples with a smattering of families here and there, so I wouldn’t recommend The Maldives for a solo traveler seeking to mingle, as everyone seems to stay primarily within their own group.
Getting to the Maldives
If you’re flying to The Maldives from the United States, you’ll likely land in the capital city of Malé. I flew from Dallas Fort Worth on Qatar Airways, connecting through Doha. The flight from DFW to Doha was a whopping 15 hours and the flight from Doha to Malé was five hours, which makes for a very long travel day. But that’s not all. You’ll likely take a seaplane from Malé to your resort unless your resort is a short boat ride away from Malé. If you book into one of the Sun Siyam resorts, the resort has their own comfortable lounge at the airport and will make sure you get on the correct transportation from there.
This South Asia independent country is Islamic. According to government data, the population is 100 percent Muslim, although you’ll likely encounter a more diverse population at the resorts. Although alcohol is served at the resorts and guests are free to wear bathing suits and beach attire, it bears to keep in mind that this is a conservative country. Guests are prohibited from bringing in pornography or any apparel or other items that might be considered suggestive or offensive. Pork products are also forbidden.
It is possible to hop from one resort island to another, and your resort butler or concierge can assist you with this. I went from Siyam World to Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, and it was a seamless transfer. The two resorts are a five-minute speedboat ride from each other, so this is a great pairing if you want to experience different resort moods.