Wander around the beach
First things first: beaches in the Maldives are divided into ‘bikini beaches’ and public beaches: bikinis (and thongs) are forbidden on public beaches by local law. One must cover oneself. But since the Maldives have almost 1200 coral islands (1192 to be exact, spread over a chain of 26 atolls), you will be spoilt for choice for bikini beaches. Rasdhoo, in the North Ari Atoll, is recommended for combining beach bars, pristine sand and shallow snorkelling. For an alternative local experience, try Gaafaru Island on the Kaafu Atoll. The island is mainly populated by Maldivians, the beach is never crowded and you can swim with the turtles.
Discover the little shops in lovely Himmafushi
Going to Himmafushi is one of the best things to do in the Maldives if you want to discover what life is like here. It’s a great place to buy handicrafts, see boat builders making traditional dhoni and generally immerse yourself in island life. It is also a great spot for surfing.
Go to the Malé fish market
Although not for the squeamish – you’ll be stunned by the smell of fish to begin with – this place has an incredible soul and energy and offers a taste (and smell) of real Maldivian life. Seeing the catch of the day coming in from the harbour, being amazed by the size of the tuna and groupers, looking at the huge octopuses: the Malé fish market is one of the things that will stay with you the most in the Maldives.
Visit the National Museum
Art lovers looking for something to do in the Maldives should pay a visit to the National Museum. It houses an impressive collection ranging from Buddhist times to the present day. Inaugurated in 1952, it is the country’s first national museum. From traditional robes to armour, coins to ornaments, it holds an array of relics that provide an excellent introduction to the island’s history.
Experience some dream diving
With an average sea temperature of 28°C, 5% of the world’s coral reef area and an abundance of marine life, the Maldives offer some of the best diving in the world, with numerous centres offering introductory and refresher courses and PADI certification. And of course guided dives on coral reefs and in wrecks. Try the famous Maaya Thila site to see whitetip sharks circling the reef: it is six metres and you can dive down to thirty, with overhangs, caves and exciting passages.
Explore a nature reserve
Located in the Addu Atoll, the southernmost point of the archipelago, Eedhigali Kilhi e Kottey is the largest nature reserve in the Maldives. With 28 regularly sighted bird species, including the white tern that only lives on this atoll, it is a must-see for nature lovers. And even if you can’t tell a canary from a toucan, it is a relaxing and very pleasant way to discover another side of the islands.
Discover the ancient history of Isdhoo
The island of Isdhoo in the Laamu Atoll (not to be confused with Isdhoo in the Gaaffu Dhaalu Atoll) is home to the most interesting archaeological sites in the Maldives: an ancient burial mound known as a hawitta and Buddha images. Head to the northern tip to admire the mound: it is thought to be the remains of a Buddhist stupa. Thanks to research by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, the island is likely to reveal more ancient surprises. Meanwhile, it is also a great place for diving.