A guide to the best beaches in the Maldives

It’s hard to separate the Maldives from their beaches, mostly because they’re one and the same. Wedged in the middle of the Indian Ocean, this island nation is strong in numbers and offers just as many beaches to match.

That means thousands of ways to get comfortable on these blindingly white sands, though we have a feeling that stretching out underneath the ever-warm sun will do the trick just fine.

A breakdown

The tropical island country of the Maldives is made up of an incredible 1,190 beaches scattered across 26 atolls, or islands formed from coral.

And these aren’t just any beaches we’re talking about – they’re composed of beyond-white sand and shockingly blue water that regularly stays above 25°C, the kind you must see to truly believe.

As the Maldives is comprised of coral islands, the islands are ringed by vibrant coral reefs that house an incredible array of marine life. Most of the islands are, well, islands unto themselves, in that they’re accessible only by boat or seaplane, except for some of the westernmost islands in the Addu Atoll, which are connected by bridge.

Only around 200 of the islands in the Maldives are inhabited, while a further 90 or so are reserved for resorts. That leaves around 900 islands that are blissfully uninhabited, waiting for you to spread out and call them home.

Things here are kept as laid-back as they come, until the bioluminescent plankton that visits many islands in the Maldives wash ashore – you’ll know they’re there because they glow in brilliant neon blues that light up the night.

As for the islands that do have facilities on them, they’re usually centred around the beach, as it’s without a doubt the highlight of any trip to the Maldives. From tables and chairs quite literally on the sand, waterfront spa treatments and loungers in prime sunbathing territory, beach experiences here really have no limit.

Snorkelling and scuba diving

The Maldives boasts an amazing underwater ecosystem comprised of more than 180 coral reef species and a further 1,100 species of fish. That’s only in addition to the species of sea turtles, dolphins, molluscs, whales and so on. As you might have guessed, this part of the Indian Ocean is one of the best for scuba diving and snorkelling to spot all these beings.

There are diving schools scattered across the islands, though your resort should have, at the very least, snorkelling gear to lend out. Once beneath the surface, you can look forward to seeing anything from barracudas to eagle rays, pufferfish and angelfish. There are also boat tours you can join specifically geared toward spotting dolphins gliding through the waves.

The Maldives is also a top spot to see the elusive whale shark. They’re the largest fish species in the sea, though they’re generally harmless to humans. Whale sharks can be seen year-round within the water surrounding the Maldives, and they tend to favour the western islands, especially the South Ari Atoll.

Beach hopping

Though hopping between Maldivian islands is completely possible, most holidaymakers tend to stay close to home as their resorts are largely self-sufficient. However, if you’ve got your eye on a specific beach – or two, or three – one of the easiest ways to get around is via a traditional sea-fishing boat known as a dhoni.

They’re quite old school as far as boats go, and the sailors that navigate them usually do so by the coral and the stars instead of a GPS. On top of this, because many of the bigger resort islands are surrounded by smaller islands, you can usually arrange a day trip to a nearby island through your hotel.