Thought the world’s flattest country was all about fresh fruit cocktails and overwater bungalows? Well, you’re right. But that’s not all the Maldives has to offer active travelers. The remote 1,190 islands that make up the country of the Maldives may not be high in elevation, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ample opportunities for adventure. Most exciting activities found here will involve water—the country sits in the middle of the Indian Ocean, after all—but you don’t have to be an expert swimmer to enjoy them.
You do, however, need an adventurous spirit. While some travelers may consider a small dolphin-watching boat ride to be an adventure, others won’t be satisfied until they’re doing backflips 20 feet above thee ocean surface on a flyboard powered by extreme water pressure. And others may want to bunk up under the sea with only curious sharks for company.
With nearly 1,200 islands, travelers are bound to find some new activity to try to stimulate their sense of adventure. Remember, adventure is relative—if paddleboarding above a coral reef is enough to get your adrenaline flowing, then that’s just as much of an adventure as skydiving (which you can also do.) The Maldives is a country where you can do as much or as little as you like while on vacation, so don’t feel pressure to fill your days with activities—especially since it’s also the perfect destination for doing absolutely nothing all day.01of 10
Take a Seaplane Ride
They’re loud, shaky, small, and bounce like a paper plane in strong winds – and that’s all part of the adventure. Sure, tiny seaplanes may not be for everyone, especially if you have long legs. But they’re a primary mode of transportation in The Maldives, where a “one island, one resort” mentality means you’ll almost certainly be crossing lagoons and oceans to transfer between hotels. Since seaplanes only fly around 10,000 feet high (or less), the views are stunning. In the Maldives, the turquoise, circle-shaped lagoons look like natural polka dots against the deep blue of the ocean. You’ll likely want noise-cancelling headphones for the flight. The main airline in the country for seaplanes are Trans Maldivian Seaplanes and Maldivian Aero.02of 10
Scuba Dive With Sharks
It’s no surprise that an island nation this remote has amazing scuba diving. The reefs are healthy, which keeps them covered in fish and plankton. That, combined with occasional currents, creates the perfect habitat for pelagics like sharks and manta rays. The country’s Rasdhoo Atoll is especially well-known for hammerhead sightings during their migration season (roughly December through March), though sightings are possible year-round. Rasdhoo Divers runs trips to sites around the Rasdhoo Atoll for both certified and non-certified divers.03of 10
Go Whale Watching
Though sharks truly pose very little danger to divers, not everyone wants to risk being in the water with one. But if you still want to see some massive animals up-close, go whale watching instead. You’re likely to spot bottlenose dolphins and jumping spinner dolphins year-round, but if you want to see blue whales, you’ll need to be there November through May. Humpbacks are most often seen June through November. Kaani Tours on the island of Maafushi in the Kaafu Atoll runs whale and dolphin-spotting trips, among other options. By the way, if you have more time to spare, you can volunteer for two weeks on a whale shark research boat (yes, they’re technically sharks.)04of 10
Go Parasailing Above a Lagoon
Why go under the water when you could go far, far above it? There’s no better place to try parasailing than on the calm, impossibly blue waters of the various island lagoons. The best time to parasail in the Maldives is from around November to May (the dry season), as the winds are calmer and water is clearer, making for better views. But you can parasail year-round; there’s no “bad” season. When parasailing, you’ll be roughly 500 feet above the ocean floor and sail through The air for around 15 minutes, depending on weather conditions. Nearly every major resort offers parasailing tours, so check with your hotels’ activity desk or water sports operator. 05of 10
Dive 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Well, maybe it’s more like 100 feet. But you can go for a ride inside an actual submarine from many of the Maldives’ luxury resorts. Many high-end resorts have their own sightseeing submarines with glass windows, allowing guests to get a scuba-diver’s-eye view of the marine world without getting wet. Try Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru for a once-in-a-lifetime deep dive, or if you’re not quite ready to dive all the way under, opt for a hotel with a “semi-submarine” experience, which will take you just below the surface without being entirely submerged. Try Kuramathi Maldives if that’s more your speed.06of 10
Catch a Wave at a Surf Break
Water in the lagoons of the Maldives is generally fairly calm and shallow, but get outside the lagoon, and you’ll find some of the best surf breaks in the world. If you already know how to surf, sign up for a guided surf tour and let the pros take you to the best spots. If you’re new to the sport, head to one of the smaller breaks with a guiding company and their instructors will show you the ropes. And don’t worry if you fall in: the water is reliably 80 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. The brand new Kuda Villingili is a moderate-to-high end option near several breaks, while Samura Maldives is a great budget option.07of 10
Dine Under The Indian Ocean
The underwater restaurants of the Maldives are an adventure in two ways: both because you’ll be 20 feet below the sea in what amounts to a glass bubble in the ocean, and because you can try Maldivian food, which you won’t find too often in the United States. Sub Six at Niyama Private Island is pretty darn amazing, from the three-story staircase you’ll descend to enter to the warm octopus carpaccio, served with chili dressing and squid-ink crackers. Be sure to go for lunch so you can see the underwater water around you. Further to the north, Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at the Conrad Maldives is pretty astonishing, too, thanks in part to an entirely see-through ceiling.08of 10
Flyboarding is one of the world’s newest sports and you can bet you’ll have an audience watching you from the shore as you give it a try. You’ll have a flexible, cube-type device (the flyboard) connected to your feet. Then, the water pressure on the hose connected to the flyboard is turned way, way up, and the water pressure will send you flying 15 to 20 feet in the air. It’s hard, but once you have the hang of using your body to steer, you’ll be able to flip, fly, and leap across the lagoon surface. But wear a helmet, as you’ll likely crash a few times in the process. Try it at Lux North Male Atoll or Meeru Island Resort, among others.09of 10
Learn to Freedive
If you love the idea of seeing the underwater marine world but aren’t keen on the whole “breathing underwater” thing, freediving may be for you. In an introductory freediving class, you’ll learn techniques and strategies for holding your breath long enough to dive deep below the surface—don’t be surprised if you can make it 30 feet or more after the end of your lesson. The Maldives is one of the best places in the world for freediving as the water is extremely warm and quite clear—visibility of up to 100 feet or more is common. Your freediving instructor will provide the gear you need (like masks and weights), though you may want your own rash guard or long-sleeve swim shirt if you’re prone to getting cold. Most scuba diving shops also offer freediving classes.10of 10
Sleep Under the Sea
Dining underwater not adventurous enough for you? Then taking it a step further and sleep under the sea at the Conrad Maldives. By booking the Muraka Villa (starting price around $50,000 a night), guests can sleep 15 below the surface under a domed roof. The underwater room is part of a larger villa that also includes two above-ground rooms, a huge private deck with an over-the-water infinity pool, and private butler service. Muraka means “coral” in Dhivehi, the primary language of the Maldives.