The Maldives, a collection of more than a thousand islands in the Indian Ocean, is known for its clear emerald waters, beautiful beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see, and of course, luxurious overwater bungalows. With features like these, the archipelago makes for an idyllic sanctuary where guests can snorkel, scuba dive, swim, and savor some truly unforgettable sunsets. Aside from being one of the most stunning island getaways in the world, the Maldives is also a perfect addition to an itinerary for travelers visiting magnificent South Asian cities or Middle Eastern capitals.
For those planning to visit the Maldives, there are certain things to keep in mind. To be fully prepared for your trip — whether you’re in the planning stages or are already lounging by your infinity pool in the Baa Atoll — here are nine mistakes to avoid in the Maldives.
1. Visiting Only One Island
The first thing to know about the Maldives is that most resorts are situated on their own private island — in fact, one island, one resort is the typical approach for hotels within the archipelago. This makes sense geographically, considering the Maldives is home to at least 1,192 uninhabited and 200 inhabited islands. Whether you tour multiple islands by staying at more than one resort over the course of your vacation, or you charter a boat or take a day tour to an adjacent atoll, make sure to island hop while visiting the destination.
2. Assuming the Maldives Can’t Be Budget-friendly
The Maldives has a reputation for being an exclusive, ultra-lavish destination. But it’s actually quite possible to visit the Maldives on a budget — even the airfare isn’t prohibitively expensive, if you scout out connecting flights through Europe or Asia. To cut down on expenses, stay at a local guest house or affordable hotel, like the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma. As for attractions on a budget, life in the Maldives doesn’t have to be all about chartering yachts and diving off the deck of an overwater bungalow. There are many ways to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Maldives: You can plant coral to help conserve the Maldivian reefs through a number of ongoing initiatives, many of which are set up by affordable resorts, like Summer Island, where guests can take part in planting pieces of a 3D-printed reef for just $5. And while folks staying at a resort may be able to snorkel along the property’s house reefs, those opting for a rental home can easily snorkel on select public beaches instead.
3. Not Going Until Your Honeymoon
Thanks to its dreamy overwater bungalows and romantic sunsets, the Maldives will always rank as a top honeymoon destination. But this isn’t a place you need to save for your honeymoon or a romantic getaway with a partner. The Maldives is just as well-suited for a girls’ trip or family escape. In fact, many island resorts in the Maldives cater specifically to families. And more than being a spot for couples, the Maldives is a place where you can relax and leave your real-life worries at home — and that luxury shouldn’t be reserved solely for honeymooners.
4. Not Considering a Liveaboard for Part of Your Trip
The Maldives has 158 liveaboards — also known as localized cruise ships, houseboats, and the like — that offer sea safaris around the pristine waters and coral reefs. The liveaboards come with a wide range of accommodations and facilities, including personal chefs, dive and surf instructors, and other staff members depending on the type of liveaboard you book. Travelers can even rent out the entirety of a yacht, houseboat, or small cruising vessel, and then customize the staff to their requirements — perhaps adding an on-site masseuse or sommelier. Renting an entire liveaboard vessel can also make for a perfect distanced vacation — you have the space all to yourself and can tailor your vacation such that, apart from the staff and the other guests in your party, you won’t see another soul.
5. Avoiding the Local Culture
Because the Maldives is known as a beach destination, its South Asian influences are often overlooked — a plight that often befalls many South Pacific islands as well. The culture here is a unique melting pot of Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Middle Eastern, Indonesian, and African influences. This heady blend can really only be experienced here in the Maldives. You can witness the Maldivian culture firsthand by attending music and dance performances or sampling the local cuisine rather than just sticking to resort food. You can also arrange a day trip to a nearby village island to learn more about the traditional way of life.
6. Forgetting the Reef-safe Sunscreen at Home
The Maldivian islands sit on the equator, which means the sun’s rays beat down at a 90-degree angle. In other words, the sun is exceptionally strong and your sunscreen should be waterproof, packed with SPF, and constantly reapplied. Also, be sure to pack sun protection like hats, visors (they’re making a comeback), and light, breathable, full-sleeve shirts and long pants for when you need extra coverage. When visiting any destination where the native reef is a main attraction, reef-safe sunscreen is crucial. To support the ongoing environmental initiatives to preserve the Maldivian reefs, purchase reef-safe sunscreen before traveling to the islands.
7. Not Considering an All-inclusive Resort
When scoping out accommodations in the Maldives, don’t forget that food and alcohol are expensive. You’re on an island in the middle of the sea, so it costs a lot to transport your favorite spirits. For this reason, many tourists choose an all-inclusive resort — even though the nightly rate and resort fees may be higher than some of the budget hotels, it bundles the cost of food and drink into the price of your stay.
8. Not Combining the Maldives With a Trip to Southeast Asia or the Middle East
Located in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a remote tropical paradise that’s actually quite accessible from major Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian hubs like Dubai (a four-hour direct flight from the Maldives) and Sri Lanka (a three-hour flight from the Maldives). Thanks to a fantastic range of flight deals in partnership with airlines and carriers like Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar Airways, the Maldives can be easily tacked on to a trip to Dubai, Sri Lanka, or any destination that flies directly to either port (think: Singapore, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, or Doha).
9. Skipping the Bioluminescent Views
Did you know the Maldives is known for having shores that illuminate at night, lit up by bioluminescent plankton? In addition to boasting diverse sea life, including manta rays, whale sharks, and more than 2,000 species of fish, most islands are visited by bioluminescent plankton at certain points throughout the year. To experience this magical light show, you’ll want to visit during plankton high season (mid-summer to mid-winter), when the bioluminescent organisms line the shores and create a glow-in-the-dark effect at the water’s edge.