Choosing the best islands in the Maldives for your holiday can be challenging. Composed of more than 1,190 islands within 26 atolls, it might seem an overwhelming task to decide on the right Maldives paradise to suit your needs. An island nation, nestled in the crystalline waters of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has long been a favourite of honeymooners. Whether you’ve just tied the knot or are simply looking to unwind on the idyllic Maldives beaches, you can’t go wrong with a holiday to the Maldives.
Something to keep in mind whilst planning your trip is that most islands are private. These tiny private islands are owned by the resorts. When selecting your perfect hotel, you will most likely be choosing your own private island paradise too! On the other hand, there are larger inhabited islands that offer a more rustic, local experience. These are a great choice for those who enjoy immersing themselves in the local culture.
Generally, the further you venture from the capital of Male, the more expensive the accommodation. Therefore, the Maldives offers something for all kinds of travellers, from luxury over-water villas to dynamic island metropolises. Deciding on the best islands in the Maldives depends on your tastes, but no matter where you choose to visit, a trip to the Maldives is sure to be the holiday of a lifetime!
Ari Atoll: Best islands in the Maldives for sea life
Wherever you venture in the Maldives you’ll encounter impressive sea life, but the South Ari Atoll is famed for its large concentration of whale sharks. One of the largest atolls, Ari is composed of 105 islands. Furthermore, 20 of these islands are designated private resorts, so you’ll have plenty of accommodation options to choose from. Just a 30-minute seaplane ride from Male, Ari Atoll is a paradise for scuba divers and snorkelling enthusiasts. The islands create a natural circular shape around a central lagoon, creating a unique marine environment. In fact, the protected marine area of the Southern Ari Atoll is one of the best places on earth to see whale sharks.
Vaadhoo: Best island in the Maldives for natural wonders
One of the inhabited islands of the Raa Atoll, Vaadhoo is home to a little known natural phenomenon. As the sun goes down, the shoreline of Vaadhoo island illuminates with a mythical blue-hued glow. This natural wonder, known as bioluminescence, is the result of microorganisms in the water. All along the coast, the water lapping at the shore is dotted with glowing blue lights, making for an unforgettable sight. The best time to see this phenomenon is between July and February, especially during a New Moon when the sky is at its darkest. If you need more reasons to visit Vaadhoo, the clear waters surrounding the island are perfect for underwater pursuits and the island has a great selection of accommodations to suit different budgets.
Baa Atoll: Best islands in the Maldives for diving
One of the more populous atolls in the Maldives, Baa Atoll is a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. With a thriving coral reef, Baa Atoll has an eternal appeal for diving enthusiasts. In fact, it’s home to one of the worlds largest concentrations of manta rays. Larger species such as whale sharks and dolphins are also abundant. Furthermore, sea turtles and hawksbill turtles are frequently sighted in the waters surrounding Baa Atoll. Situated in the west of the Maldives, Baa Atoll consists of 75 islands. Eight of these are designated as private resorts.
Male: the capital of the Maldives
In stark contrast to the tranquil atolls, the capital of Male is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The gateway to the country’s luxury resorts, Male is home to a population of more than 200,000, packed into an area of just 3.20 square miles. It’s home to all the amenities you’d expect for a capital city, such as high-rise offices, shopping malls and museums. This might not sound like your idea of paradise, but it’s one of the best islands in the Maldives to experience Maldivan life. Here, you can encounter impressive Islamic architecture, discover Maldivan history and browse the exotic produce on offer at the local markets. It’s also a great jumping-off point for exploring the different atolls, with boat and seaplane connections to just about any of the islands in the country.
Thoddoo Island: Best island in the Maldives to experience local life
Thoddoo Island is unique. In fact, it’s one of the only islands that does not belong to an atoll. Measuring 2 kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide, Thoddoo is one of the largest islands in the Maldives. If you prefer a simple holiday experience or are travelling on a budget, Thoddoo is a great choice. Home to beautiful white sand beaches, it is also well-known for its fruit plantations. Watermelons and papayas are among the important produce grown on Thoddoo. Visiting this inhabited island is the chance to experience real Maldivan culture. You can meet the locals, visit the farms and immerse yourself in everyday Maldivan life. Furthermore, a variety of guesthouses on the island offer modest yet comfortable accommodation.
Adu Atoll: Best islands in the Maldives for a little bit of everything
Adu Atoll is home to the inhabited islands of Hulhudhoo, Meedhoo, Maradhoo, Feydhoo, and Hithadhoo. It offers an authentic experience of Maldivan life, alongside amazing diving opportunities. Furthermore, it is the only Maldivan atoll to lie in the southern hemisphere. Although the journey from Male can take over 1.5 hours by seaplane, the chance to visit one of the less touristy parts of the country is well worth it. You’ll still find a selection of luxury resorts here, but these islands are also home to everyday Maldivan people. This offers you the chance to get to know the local life and sample authentic Maldivan food.
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